Yelly Eats

No to takeaway – yes to biryani

So for someone who works a 9-5 job (well, okay, it’s really 8:30AM to 5PM) with a 2-hour commute (return trip, of course), giving up ordering takeaway for Lent can be quite disastrous because there are days when you simply don’t want to cook and you’d rather have pizza or chicken or a Chinese or Indian.  But there you go.  I have given up takeaways for lent.

Alan, bless him, has found something interesting in the aisles of Asda though.  He found a biryani spice mix for under £1.  There were instructions on the box about how to prepare the biryani.  I was excited.  If I couldn’t order a biryani, I would make it myself.  Granted it wouldn’t be my spice mix…but how spicy could it be (surely not as spicy as that biryani I ate in New York – that was like a volcano exploding in my mouth).

So I followed the instructions on the box.  The cooking process was quite fun, actually.

Ginger and onionsOnce the biryani was cooked, I plated up.  I artfully topped the bowl with mint and coriander.  I was so excited!

Lamb biryani

Then it felt as if I had bitten into a birds eye pepper.  I tell you, I was thankful we had mango lassi with our biryani and leftover yogurt because I have never made raita that quickly!

The next chapter of this biryani story is me trying to make biryani completely from scratch.  I don’t want to not feel my tongue when I eat one of my favourite Indian meals.

Watch this space!  Recipe testing is on the horizon.

 

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Yelly Writes

For the love of Spam!

I injured myself yesterday and Spam was to blame.  No, not that spam, not the one of the emailed variety.

Spam

Yesterday was all about turkey (yes, I’m still trying to rid myself of the leftover turkey that was languishing in the fridge and not preserved cryogenically in the freezer)  fried rice and Spam.  All my joy and anticipation (turkey fried rice was a favourite) melted away when my forearm was splattered with hot oil from the frying Spam.  It hurt.  A lot.  And if I’m honest, I was more worried that my arm will look more speckled than usual because of the Spam battle scars!  My mom warned me yesterday to take care of the blisters as they might be infected.  So I will be careful…or at least, I will TRY to be careful!

But there it is.  Me injured (again) in the name of food and cooking!

cooking injury

Yelly Eats

Sweet and sour fish!

I few weeks ago, I finally managed to go to Hung’s in Chinatown in London, upon the recommendation of  London foodie, Helen Pang.  Helen has never recommended anything that has disappointed.  She was the one who introduced me to Gelupo Gelato and Gelupo is now a mainstay of my London trips–whatever the weather.  So when Helen recommended Hung’s, I made a mental note to try the food there.  I’m still, sort of, mourning the loss of Tai Ka Lok and I was still sort of looking for a restaurant to replace it in my list of absolute London Chinese restaurant maintstays.  The first visit to Hung’s was so amazing that when we went to London again a few weeks later, it was a definite must-go-to.

We had a lovely supper: braised mushrooms and pak choi, a portion of crispy pork, sweet and sour fish and boiled rice.  The sweet and sour fish was absolutely divine!  The fish was lovely and sweet and it kind of melted in your mouth!  I’ve been dreaming of Hung’s sweet and sour fish that I had to do something similar at home.  It was a pretty good idea because I had frozen basa fillets lounging in my freezer!

My mom used to make sweet and sour sauce from scratch, Filipino style, but I wanted to see if  I could make something closer to the Chinese style of making the sauce.  I googled it and found a recipe that was so similar to my mom’s that I knew it was going to taste really nice.  You can find the instructions for the recipe here.  It cooks in 5 minutes and you can add anything you want to it.  You just put together all the ingredients and cook it until it’s as thick as you want it to be.

  • 1/3 cup white or rice vinegar (Note: rice vinegar gives better results)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 4 teaspoons water

I breaded the fish before I fried them.  I sort of love breading anything really.  I do a little conveyor belt of the elements bowls of  seasoned flour (or cornstarch), beaten egg and breadcrumbs.  Depending on what you’re making, seasoned flour to me usually just means salt and pepper mixed in with the flour.  One tip I learned from either Nigella or Ina Garten (it was so long ago that I can’t remember!  It might even be Giada de Laurentis!) was to use just one hand so that you kept the other hand clean because breading things can be quite gluggy!

After breading the fish, I fried the fish to a crispy, lovely golden brown.  Make sure that you rest them on kitchen paper so that the excess oil is absorbed.

Then while the fish was cooling, I cooked the sweet and sour sauce.  Instead of adding the cornstarch right away, I added sliced onions and chopped red and yellow bell peppers and allowed them to cook slightly.  I added a few cubes of pineapple out from a tin.  A slight variation from the recipe, instead of using 4 teaspoons of water, I added 4 tablespoons of the pineapple syrup from the tin to dissolve the cornstarch and added that to the cooking sauce.

Once the sauce is at the thickness that you want it to be, you can assemble your dish.  To keep the fish lovely and crispy, I suggest just pouring the sweet and sour sauce over it.  And voila!  You have sweet and sour fish!

Yelly Writes

To bake or not to bake?

This was imported from my old blog and this was published on 24 September 2010.  Funnily enough, it’s that time of year again.  Series 3 of the Great British Bake Off starts tomorrow night at 8PM!

***

I am inspired to bake again.  And it’s all the Great British Bake Off’s fault.

The final show was a few days ago and am now itching to try a new set of recipes.  It probably wasn’t a good idea to watch Julie and Julia during the weekend because I am now inspired to do a Julie Powell–meaning I could try 1 recipe for every day of the year.  That would be expensive and very exhausting.  While I applaud Julie Powell for doing the amazing (and getting her writing kicked off after the blog), I don’t think I have the stamina and I want to remain friends with my finances.

I do have a book in mind, should I decide to do a Julie.  If she (Julie Powell) has Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which I also have but have only managed to leaf through twice since I received it as a gift on Christmas), I have Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course, which is a very scary, very thick book.  I may just put off Delia’s book for a while.  I like being able to convince myself that I have the capability to accomplish my goals and I think that setting myself to do every recipe in Delia’s book is setting myself up for a fall.  It is achievable but not right now.  Now isn’t a great time for me!  And somehow, I feel better after admitting that!

I also aim to try all the recipes in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  Realistically, I think the HBC would be a better bet since I’ve managed to try 6 out of the 60 recipes in the book (which always turn out perfectly!  if you dabble in baking, this is, seriously, a book that you should have in your cookbook arsenal!).

Shall we put it to a vote?  To bake or not to bake?

Yelly Eats

Arroz con Chorizo

Rice meals have always been comforting and very filling for me.  I love the paellas, congees and all sorts of rice-based meals.  My Tita Mila, one of my dad’s younger sisters, has been an inspiration for me to learn so many dishes.  I have fond memories of coming to their house for parties.  Her cooking was phenomenal!  I think it was at one of her parties that I first tasted paella.  And ever since then, I’ve tried to practice my way into duplicating what she did.  I’m not quite there yet as I’m not quite brave enough to cook with actual pieces of seafood (YET!), but I’m getting there.

About a decade ago, maybe even more, I joined the Del Monte Kitchenomics Club.  It was a recipe club established by Del Monte in the Philippines.  I think it was a good marketing coup since the recipes mostly contained Del Monte ingredients.  But I have them to thank for because it was through a recipe that I got in the post that I learned my shortcut paella recipe.  It was a chicken skillet paella recipe.  Over the years, I’ve improved on how short the shortcuts were and I’ve been working on improving the recipes.

I can’t quite call my rice dish a paella but I guess you could call it that because it has chorizo, chicken and seafood.  But I won’t call it a paella until I can cook with actual seafood pieces.  It’s really a rice with chorizo dish with seafood, so it’s really an Arroz Con Chorizo recipe.   But for anyone wanting to try the shortcut recipe, here it is:

300 grams chicken thighs cubed
125 grams chorizo sliced into rounds
250 grams arborio rice (you can always use ordinary rice, the shorter the grain the better)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion chopped
1 large green bellpepper chopped
200 grams frozen peas
1 tsp garlic granules (or 2 fresh large garlic cloves minced)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
800ml chicken stock (1 L water with 2 stock cubes boiled until it’s reduced to 800ml)
225 grams frozen seafood mix (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or shallow sauce pan.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and sautee until the onions are slightly transluscent.  Add the chorizo and sautee until the chorizo releases its oils.  The onion-chorizo mixture should turn slighlty orange (*NOTE: add the garlic at this point if you’re using fresh garlic, but only if you’re using fresh garlic).
  2. Add the chicken pieces and sautee until the chicken slices lose its pinkness.  Add all the spices: garlic, paprika, turmeric, pepper, cumin and cayenne pepper.  Mix until the spices are well-incorporated.  Lower the heat to medium and allow chicken to cook under a lid for 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and replace the lid and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add the arborio rice (I usually wash the rice once before I cook it, if I’m NOT using arborio).  Mix well until all the rice grains are covered with the juices.  Add half of the chicken stock and cover the lid.  Allow mixture to reach a slow boil, stirring occassionally.
  4. When most of the stock has been absorbed, add the remaining stock.  Add the frozen peas, green bellpepper and seafood pieces (the seafood pieces are optional).  Cook on low heat for a further 20 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  You may have to add a little more water if the rice requires more cooking (depends on how hot your stove gets).
  5. This will serve 4-6, depending on how generous your portions will be.
Yelly Eats

Recipe: Sautéed Aubergines

True story:  I was looking for eggplants in the market because eggplants are one of my favourite vegetables.  I knew I could buy it anywhere so I thought I’d look.  Eggplants in the UK are like eggplants in the US.  They’re big and fat.  I think they’re called Japanese eggplants in Philippine supermarkets.  But, I digress.  I can’t remember if it was actually in the Ipswich market or if it was at the shops, but I remember asking someone where the eggplants were.  All I got was a blank stare.  Then I remembered.  They don’t call eggplants here eggplants.  They call them AUBERGINES!  To make things complicated, this is the phonetic spelling:  br-zhn, br-jn

The easiest eggplant recipe (apart from slice thinly and fry and dip into soy sauce with garlic) is to sauté the eggplant in garlic, onion and tomatoes.  I find comfort in cooking this because it reminds me of home.  I think this became a quick favourite at home (my mom likes it, my brother loves it, my sister hates it and my dad can’t eat eggplant—even stevens!) because it works well as a rice topping.  It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s a vegetable!  I remember eating it with shrimp paste and rice.  Yum! 🙂

I cooked this on Sunday because Sunday was Day 1 of The Challenge.  Since I moved to the UK, I usually cook this with pork mince.  But in true challenge-facing spirit, I cooked it the way I used to cook it in the Philippines, sautéed with oyster sauce!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant, diced
  • 2 medium-sized salad tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a shallow pan.  Once the oil is relatively hot (not smoking hot though!), add onions.  Sauté until the onions are transluscent, then add the tomatoes.  The tomatoes should turn slightly mushy (if at this stage the tomatoes and onions look slightly dry, add a 2-3 tablespoons of water).  Add the garlic (my mom always taught me that you should add garlic first when sautéing, but so many chefs say that you add garlic last because garlic burns fairly quickly and adding garlic near the end of the sautéing allows you to control the intensity of the garlic taste in the dish).
  2. Once the garlic is slightly browned this is usually the stage where you add your meat (in my case, due to the challenge, I didn’t add any meat) and brown it.  Once the meat is browned, add your oyster sauce.  Simmer for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the aubergine and simmer, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes.  The dark purple of the aubergine skin should turn slightly brown and the flesh should take on the colour of the tomatoes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste (if the oyster sauce hasn’t made it salty enough for you).  To finish, add the sesame oil.

Serving suggestion:   Serve over a bowl of steamed rice.

Yelly Writes

Cookbook cooking

I started cooking when I was probably 8 years old.  I was left to my own devices one afternoon and I wandered into the kitchen.  I saw green beans.  I saw eggs and I saw pink food colouring.  And voila!  Pink scrambled eggs and crunchy beans were created!  It was horrible.  It had no salt or pepper.  I had no idea that you had to sautee beans with garlic, onions and tomatoes for it to taste nice.  But that was the (disastrous) beginning of my adventure in gastronomy.

My first adventure in cookbook cooking was creating what we Filipinos call “palitaw” which loosely translated means “to float”.  It’s essentially like a gnocchi made from rice flour and water, covered in sugar and coconut and and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.  It was a recipe from my fifth grade home economics textbook.  My parents had gone and bought my books a month ahead of school starting (so that we could cover my books in protective plastic and get me all sorted out for the first day of school).  Being the voracious reader that I was, I couldn’t stop my curious nature and I started looking through the books.  I had finished my English and Reading books already.  I’d read my Science book twice and the Maths, well, I was confident I’d be able to deal with things when school started (I wasn’t too interested in Maths!).  The last book that I hadn’t leafed through was my home economics text book.  It was then that I fell in love with cooking.  I read the recipe for palitaw and then begged my nanny to come with me to the  market so that I could buy the ingredients.  I surprised my parents that afternoon with a snack and coffee when they came home from the office.

And so my cooking journey began.

I rarely looked at books after that.  My mom was an excellent cook, but she was more instinctive and relied on tasting her food, instead of measuring everything out.  Everything I’ve learned, the basics, I learned by watching my mom and following her instructions.

My parents have got several cookbooks but none that I can really say I poured over in the way that I do the cookbooks that I’ve managed to adopt since I’ve moved to England.  I remember my bestfriend Maries having this amazing collection of cookbooks that I secretly coveted.  She cooked coq au vin from one of the books and I thought, wow, I’d love to do that.  Since I moved to England though, I think  To date, I have a collection of 27 cookbooks (which includes Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and  Delia Smith’s Delia’s Complete Cookery Course).  Mostly baking cookbooks as I seem to be better at baking more than anything else.  But I do have proper cookbooks that have recipes for mains and soups and such.

This blogging about food idea came about because of my friend Rhoda.  I talked to her about this book that I was “writing”.  She said why not have the (imaginary) readers of my (so-called) book (in the making) blog about their experiences about using my recipes.  A lightbulb switched on in my head.  Since I’ve got cookbooks, why don’t I blog about my cooking experiences?

And here we are.  I’ve begun this new and exciting journey.  The next thing to do is to decide which cookbook recipe to start with!