Friday, 27 April 2007

Pot roasted chicken - ga roti

The novice cook PROUDLY presents:

At least now and then there is something decent coming out of my kitchen. This dish has always been my favourite. Ga` means chicken in vietnamese and the word ro^ti is supposedly derived from the French word rosti. When I was at home my mum normally roasted it in a mini oven while my grandma opted for the on-the-hob cooking method. I myself prefer cooking this particular dish in a pot as I love to pour the gravy over steamed white rice. The dish is also accompanied by some fresh tomatoes to give a refreshing taste to contrast the rather heavily seasoned chicken.
The marinade mixture used in this dish (for one person)include
1tbsp sugar, 1tbsp fish sauce, 1tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp five spice powder, 1tsp garlic, 2-3 chopped shallots (or 1 chopped onion)
-Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours
-Then, lift the chicken out of the marinade and fry in high heat for 7 minutes, just when the chicken starts turning brown.
-Turn the heat down to low, add the marinade, fry for 1-2 mins
-Pour just enough water to cover the chiken, stir and put the lid back on
-cook on low heat for another 45-50 minutes
Note: I also put a star anise in to make it more fragrant and being a mushroom junky means that I also include shitake mushrooms in the pot. The star anise really works wonder but I'm not too sure about shitake mushrooms in this dish. mmm
Anyway, enjoy.

The eyes can be deceiving...

I've wanted to make cassava cake for a while but was held back because there's not a single Filipino shop in town. So my quick thinking told me that I could try making it with tapioca flour instead, based on the premise that tapioca flour is somehow made from cassava roots;therefore, it should be the closest substitute I have in hand.
The result, was supposed to look like this:

Instead, mine looks like this:

D'oh! Don't let the eyes deceive you though. Mine tastes just as good (I would imagine). It is still soft, chewy and pretty moist.
At the end of the day, even though I don't make pretty cakes,at least I'm getting there (eventually).

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Currently craving for...

1) Cabbage Kimchi

2) Instant noodles

3) Tofu

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Chicken pie

Being a Brit, my hubby is incredibly fond of pies. This is the first time he's tried puff pastry though. Normally he makes his own short crust pastry but today he tried using the ready-to-roll puff pastry. The result was way beyond my expectation. Unlike short crust pastry, the puff pastry doesn't taste as buttery and heavy. Combined with chicken, leek and veg, it's a perfect lunch/dinner on a cold day.
I love my hubby's cooking...

Monday, 23 April 2007

Searching for a REAL gingerbread man recipe

Ok, I broke the rule of not baking ever again :sigh: Instead of my 45 minutes yoga session I was burying my head in doing gingerbread man. The recipe I got is from The Great British Kitchen, which, judging by the name, has to be the most original. So I followed the instructions:

"Serves: 16

350 Gram Plain flour (12 oz)
1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
2 Teaspoon Ground ginger
110 Gram Butter, diced (4 oz)
175 Gram Soft light brown sugar (6 oz)
4 Tablespoon Golden syrup
1 Egg, beaten
Currants, to decorate


Makes 16

Pre-heat oven to 190 °C / 375 °F / Gas 5.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Beat the syrup into the egg, then stir into the flour mixture. Mix together to make a smooth dough. Knead the dough until smooth, then divide in half. Roll out, half at a time, on a floured surface until about 5 mm ( 1/4 inch) thick.

Using a gingerbread man cutter, cut out gingerbread men until all the dough has been used up, re-rolling and cutting the trimmings. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Place the gingerbread men on greased baking sheets and decorate with currants to represent eyes and buttons. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Leave on the baking sheets to cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container."

Two things I notice:
1) baking at 190C is far too high, which resulted in half of my men (the ones on the inner part of the oven) being totally black and completely unpalatable.
2) the stated amount of sugar is far too sweet for my likings, so next time I would prefer to cut it down by half.

Except for the small incident of cremating half of my men, this little baking job has shown me that with a little bit of patience and COMMON SENSE, I can get back to learning to bake again...

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Banana loaf

The novice cook officially announce that banana loaf is going to be the last baking project for now. Since the novice cook's repeated attempt to make cookies ended disastrously, the novice cook has decided it's now time to call it quits. From now on the novice cook will leave all the baking jobs to the professional chef a.k.a the hubby.
Recipe for banana cake:
10 oz ( 275 g ) self raising flour; 4 oz ( 100 g ) butter or margarine; 6 oz ( 175 g ) soft brown sugar; 3 eggs; 2 large bananas; 1 level teaspoon cinnamon; 3 to 4 tablespoons milk; 4 oz (100 g) chopped apricots or walnuts ( optional )

Cream butter and sugar, add mashed bananas to mixture. Add beaten eggs one by one, add milk. Fold in flour and cinnamon. Bake for one hour at 350F degrees/ 180C degrees/gas mark 4, in a 2 lb loaf tin.
P.S: I always put tinfoil over the loaf tin after 35-40 mins to prevent the loaf being burnt on top

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Korean fusion food - or is it just a crazy idea from the novice cook?

Teczscape's udon stir-fry gave the novice cook an inspiration to try stir-frying udon for the first time. Thing is, the novice cook also wants to play with her food and in the true style of Ready Steady Cook, the novice cook was determined to make a mouth-watering dinner from random ingredients found in the novice cook's fridge, which include:
a packet of udon noodles, shitake mushrooms, pak choi, coriander, asparagus, chillies and prawns
The novice cook came up with the idea of marinating prawns in a soy sauce + oyster sauce + salt + pepper, then stir-fry the prawns for 3 mins, then set aside. All the other ingredients were stir-fried together, in the order of shitake mushroom-asparagus-pak choi- coriander then the cooked udon noodles were mixed in and the whole thing was seasoned liberally with sweet soy sauce + fish sauce + 1tsp oyster sauce.
Another 30 seconds and voila, the end-result actually tasted much better than what the novice cook had expected.
Mission accomplished. Who says playing with your food is not fun...

Monday, 16 April 2007

Food misconception - some people think they do but they don't know anything about Chinese food

We went to a Chinese buffet on Sunday night and I had to say I doubt it very much that I would ever come back there again.
As someone who comes from a Chinese/Asian background, I know how lazy restaurants over here are and how much they have compromised in Chinese/Asian cuisine just to suit Westerners' taste. The buffet dishes include:
1> siu mai
2> scotch egg
3> noodles (3 varieties)
4> fried rice (2 varieties)
5> veg stir-fry (4 varieties)
6> sushi
7> crispy roast duck
9> ice cream
10> mango pudding
Except for siu mai and mango pudding, nothing else is Chinese food in my opinion. The hubby was utterly disappointed with the supposingly crispy roast duck ,which turned out to be so dry and tough that I'd rather eat newspaper sheets than the so-called roast duck. And why on earth do they have to do CHIPS at a Chinese buffet. And what the hell is scotch egg doing in there anyway.
They're not Chinese food and they shouldn't be there. Grrrrrr :frustrating:
The veg stir-fry was also a flop, with most varieties of stir-fry being doused in a generic sauce which makes each dish tastes exactly the same.
I gave up eating after the 3rd plate (only because I had to pay for it so I had to make the most of it - a way of thinking that has been imprinted in my mind thanks to my mum)
I mean, my dear hubby has been to Asia and he knows how different REAL Chinese food is. He wouldn't even sniff at a Chinese takeaway these days. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law wouldn't know that the stuff she normally got from the takeaways are not REAL food. :sigh: I wonder how many Western people actually think Chinese/Asian cuisine only have roast duck, fried rice and stir fry.
I wonder if there is anything I can do to show people that Asian food is much more better than the Westernised junkversion of Chinese food over here...


It is pretty unusual for the weather to reach the high 20s in Manchester. To make the most of the sunshine, what is better than a BBQ.
The chicken is marinated in a honey+soy sauce+ a pinch of 5 spice powder for at least 30mins. The longer the better actually.
I heart BBQ

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Discovery of the year

Picture is illustrative only
I am totally addicted to dolsot bibimbap. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that making bibimbap at home is not as difficult as I'd thought. The first time I tried Korean food was a few years back and for some reasons I didn't have a very good impression of their cuisine. At the time I thought Korean food is just a passing craze popularised by Korean dramas. Kimchi was the only Korean dish that I loved then.
The second time I tried Korean food was when some Hong Kong friends organised a farewell party at a Korean cafe in Manchester and I had the chance to try cold buckwheat noodles then and I had to say it kind of cemented my serious doubt about Korean food. I just didn't understand how can something so tasteless like that is so much loved by many people. In hindsight, I suppose it wasn't a good idea to eat cold noodles in the middle of the winter so that could explain why cold noodles were so tasteless to me.
The third time I tried Korean food was we went on holiday to Hong Kong last year. We had never tried bulgogi before and it was so good that it made me completely change my mind about Korean food.
Needless to say I've been converted since and have also added udon, Ojingeo sundae (Tofu, egg, sesame, chili and vegetable wrapped with 1cm-wide pieces of steamed squid) onto my favourite food list and of course I am very eager to discover more about Korean cuisine.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Banh mi lover

I have just discovered a useless fact that the 'butter' I had been eaten as a kid in Vietnam wasn't actually butter. The soft, spreadable yellowy stuff that they normally spread on banh mi was actually ghee, an Indian clarified butter.
Apparently ghee was made by simmering butter in a pan until all water has boiled off and protein settled to the bottom. It does taste slightly different from normal butter.
Since I have been in the UK I have never attempted to make a proper banh mi. I have eaten baguettes as a substitute for banh mi but for some reasons ham and cheese baguette still doesn't taste as good as a banh mi cha lua. I suppose it's mostly to do with the fact that it is always more comforting to eat your 'childhood food'.
When I was at junior high school my grandma always made me banh mi for my lunch. The fillings were varied, ranging from the simple cha lua to siu mai in tomato sauce and sometimes spicy beef. Yummy. Just thinking about it made my mouth water again.

banh mi

Monday, 9 April 2007

seafood pasta

Easter Weekend - which can only mean one thing -it's the hubby's turn to cook. He whipped up this spicy seafood pasta and it tastes amazing. Nothing fancy, just tagliatelle pasta with seafood saute in a spicy tomato sauce. As a chilli lover, I even put a tsp of chopped chilli in afterwards and it worked a treat.
I love the weekend.
P.S: picture of the novice cook's kitchen:D

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Herb Blogging - Easy New-and-Improved Chicken Broth with star anise

I swear I must have come across this before while I was living in Vietnam. Thing is, I never cooked when I was in Vietnam. Yep, I was a spoilt-rotten kid who never had to lift a finger in the kitchen. I did enjoyed helping out in the kitchen but I didn't pay much attention to my mum's cooking and thus, at the age of 20-something, I still am a novice cook who struggle to do basic food when my mum at the same age was more than competent in doing elaborated food.
Anyway, back to the main story. I discovered these little stars when I was browsing in a Chinese supermarket last week. I picked a bag of star anises up and gave it a sniff. It was definitely familiar, I just couldn't make out what it was or where I had seen it before. I rang my mum and found out that star anise is one of the essential ingredient that made up the gorgeous, fragrant smell of the broth in pho
So a few days ago I decided to make my own chicken broth using star anise and a few more ingredients. I have never attempted to make chicken broth before due to my laziness and my tendency to rely on chicken stock cubes.
It is by no means the best chicken stock but the star anise does enhance the smell and flavour immensely and most importantly, it is incredibly easy to make.
So here is my very own new-and-improved chicken stock recipe:
1 chicken carcass
1 turnip
1 onion
1 carrot
1 bayleaf
1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised with a cleaver
2-3 star anise
5 black peppercorns
fish sauce to taste
Put all ingredients in a deep pan and pour enough water to cover the chicken carcass. Bring to the boil, skim all the brown bits that float on tops and turn heat down. Leave everything to simmer for at least 2 hours, skim off fat and brown bits occasionally.
I normally pour 2tbsp of fish sauce to taste as well at the end of the cooking process.
This chicken stock is easy enough for me to follow and the star anise definitely makes the broth much more fragrant than normal.
The more I know about herbs, the more I love them :D

Chewy Butter Cookies

I tested hoangtam's chewy butter cookies recipe today and as can be seen from the picture, I burnt the cookies a little bit. They still taste all right (better than what I'd expected anyway). To be honest I've never been good at baking and it really does help to boost my confidence with an easy-to-follow recipe like this one.
I specially made 2 heart-shaped cookies for the hubby, as an apology for...(ahh, never mind)
I'll definitely do this again...

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Confession of a noodle addict

I am an Oriental so noodles and rice are my staple food. When I was at home my mum had this unspoken rule that we should save noodle dishes till the weekend and just eat rice during the week (Don't ask, I haven't got a clue why she did that). Anyway it may be the reason for my apparent obsession with noodles.
I cannot survive a week without noodles. When I don't eat noodles I feel irritated and short-tempered, basically I have to eat noodles at least twice a week to satisfy my craving.
Yesterday I decided to make banh canh cua. However, I couldn't find the particular type of noodles that I need for the dish. So I asked a friend and she said I could substitute it with udon noodles.
Anyway, long story cut short, the end-result was a bizarre concoction of noodles, crab meat, egg yolk, shitake mushroom and chinese leaves in a spicy curried broth.

It is definitely not what I had in mind but luckily it doesn't taste too bad.
So I've learnt a lesson in cooking: when in doubt, ask for the recipe before starting on a dish that you have absolutely no idea how to make.
I will try again one day.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Cherry Shortbreads

25g glace cherries
100g self-raising flour
75g butter
50g caster sugar
*Cut the cherries into small pieces. Sift the flour and mix with the cherries. Cream the butter and sugar until soft(very important), add the flour mixture, work together with your fingers.
*Form into 12-14 balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake in the centre of a preheated oven (160C/325F/Gas mark 3) for 15 minutes. Don't over do it as it can easily be burnt.
*Take out and leave to cool down. Shortbreads get really hard upon contact with air so they may seem a bit soft when you first take them out. Don't worry that's absolutely fine.