Wednesday, August 24, 2011
As I watched the final stages of a popular cooking show which attracted a large following across the country, competitors were plating up dishes with the help of mentors from fine dining restaurants not only to impress the judges but bringing their collective culinary skills to a different level. The competitors were no longer satisfied of cooking a simple dessert, they conjured up more exotic creations using all manner of fancy ingredients and all generously laced with a variety of spices and liqueur.
For a lot of us watching the show, it's far beyond our means to duplicate the dish at home. I do not mind fine dining whereas food portions are smaller but more visually appealing and unless it rises to its occasion, I would rather eat simply. Instead I have a yearning for a simpler time when dessert was made from a few common kitchen ingredients. This bread pudding recipe, from an old English neighbour is absolutely incredible and simple to make.
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups stale bread, torn into small pieces (Brioche works best)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1. In a saucepan, over medium heat, heat milk just until film forms over top. Combine butter and milk, stirring until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm.
2. Combine sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat mixture for 3 minute. Slowly add milk mixture.
3. Place bread in a lightly greased 1 1/2 quart casserole.
4. Sprinkle with raisins if desired. Pour batter on top of bread.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or until set. Serve warm.
Monday, August 15, 2011
The answer is leek has played a symbolic significant in their respective cultures. More so with the Welsh, since the middle of the 16th century, leek had been recognised as the emblem of Wales. Its association with Wales can in fact be traced back to the battle of Heathfield in 633 AD, when St. David, the principal patron of Wales persuaded his countrymen to distinguish themselves from their Saxon foes by wearing a leek in their caps. Thereafter it became the national symbol of Wales, and it is still worn by Welshmen on this day. As for the Chinese, leek is included in the traditional Chinese New Year food where each and every food in the list is a symbol of prosperity, good luck, health and long life for everyone at the table, either by its appearance or the pronunciation of its name. Don’t ask me why it is included in the list but I have held a long suspicion that it has gained its position through a language pun, the word for leek having the same sound as "count" in Chinese. Together with other good food to begin a new year, what is most appropriate than lets the counting of good blessing begins.
Although I am unable to buy Chinese leeks which have thicker leaves with a milder flavour and sweeten when cooked, I often replace it with Welsh leeks which are easily available in the supermarkets or stalls. Leeks are delicious in soups, quiche, pies, stir fries and pasta sauces. Always wash them before using them taking care to rinse any soil that may be lodged near the leaves.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Now that I have acquired my first tagine, I could hardly wait for my homemade preserved lemons to mature and soften enough to be used for the many Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes that call for preserved lemons, lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. Although it’s possible to buy preserved lemons at Middle Eastern shops here in Sydney making preserved lemons couldn't be easier and they taste far fresher than anything you can buy. It's quite easy to do, though it takes at least one and a half month for the maturation process before the lemons are ready to use.
Sea Salt, 1 dessertspoon of salt per lemon, plus one for the jar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Scrub the lemons clean with a kitchen brush and dry with paper towel. Cut into quarters but do not cut all the way in order to keep the lemon attached at the base. Pry open the lemons, and sprinkling each quarter with salt as you add and pack the lemons to the jar. Press right down on the lemons to squeeze as much juice out. If the lemons aren’t too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until they are fully immersed. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.I have placed a porcelain Chinese tea cup on top of the lemons to press and keep them under the lemon juice when the lid is put on the jar. Leave at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 6 to 8 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.
Monday, August 1, 2011
I am always asking my wife Jo not to add anymore new kitchen utensil or garget to the overcrowded storage cupboard until this Moroccan cookware is irresistible to be missed for a bargain. This latest addition is called “tagine” in Moroccan which refers both the conical shaped cooking pot, and also to the food prepared in it. It is definitely not going to disappear amongst the other utensils in the storage and I can see that it will be put in good use not only as a slow cooking pot but also to be used as a serving dish to present a stunning meal at a dinner party. I think that cooking in a Moroccan tagine is similar to the Chinese ceramic pot (sah pol) that somehow gives the dishes an indescribable ''extra' flavour. I can’t wait to use this tagine and try my hands in cooking Moroccan dishes that usually feature meat or poultry gently simmered with vegetables, olives, preserved lemons, garlic and wonderful spice blends like charmoula as a marinade for my family and friends.