Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 17 - Vietnamese - Chicken with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

Yes, I'm late. I'm sorry. Fitting blogging in around my life is harder than I anticipated. Uni's back, and I went away for the weekend - not making excuses... ok, maybe I'm making excuses. But, I'm blogging now!

This week's recipe came from delicious. Magazine, June 2007 edition - Chicken with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce. This is a great mid-week dinner recipe as it's nice and quick, cheap, and delicious. Although, and I'm not quite sure how, I did manage to create a lot of washing up with this recipe. I have a reputation for using the maximum number of dishes and utensils possible when cooking though, so don't let this put you off the recipe. I expect I'm the exception. And that's what dishwashers are for.

Chicken with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce - delicious. June 2007

1 tbs sunflower oil (or substitute peanut oil)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
125g brown sugar
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs tamarind concentrate
4 chicken breast fillets with skin on
steamed pak choy and white rice to serve

Heat half a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat, add ginger and stir for one minute - watch it carefully as you don't want burnt ginger. The ginger flavour is really mild, so if you're looking for a ginger kick, double the amount. I will next time.

Add soy sauce and brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add fish sauce and tamarind concentrate, reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes or until sauce thickens and is a dark caramel colour. I found it took no time at all to caramelise, but I think I had the stove up a little too high - it didn't seem to make a difference though. I still simmered it for the five minutes while I cooked the chicken.

Make three to four slashes in each chicken breast, about an inch apart so it depends on the size of your chicken breast, and season with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and cook for two to three minutes until golden brown. Turn and cook for two minutes on the other side, then turn skin-side down once more.

Reduce heat to medium-low, then add the sauce and cook chicken, basting, for a further five minutes or until cooked through. Serve with white rice and steamed pak choy, drizzled with the sauce.

Tip: Donna Hay (Modern Classics Book 1) taught me how to cook rice perfectly - To serve 4, put 1 1/2 cup long grain rice, 2 1/2 cups water in a pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook over a medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until funnels form in the rice and the liquid is absorbed. Set aside for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve. Ignore the instructions on the pack and follow these - you'll have perfect rice every time.

There you go, that's something by Kate.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Double Post Monday part 2! The Cookbook Challenge - Weeks 15 & 16

The weather has been frightful in Melbourne this weekend. You can see photos on The Age website here. Check out photo 37. There's a car under there. I saw it with about a foot to go. Funnily enough, I didn't end up going that way after all. 

Luckily we escaped with only minimal storm damage, unlike many other people as you can see from those photos. And the poor SES, they will have been working hard to help people, giving up their long weekend.

Well, this all meant perfect soup weather. Marie Claire's Kitchen produced a recipe for miso broth with somen noodles, shiitake and pumpkin.

Yep, more pumpkin - I don't know why I always have left over pumpkin...

Yet again, I didn't quite follow the recipe, and went with what I had in the pantry. instant soup mix, and soba noodles instead of somen. I think it still looks the same. And it tasted great!

Miso broth with somen noodles, shiitake and pumpkin
serves two

the cheat's (Kate's) version of Marie Claire's. 

3 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 sachets of instant miso soup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
150g pumpkin - 2 cm cubes
100 g soba noodles
2 spring onions sliced diagonally

Cover the mushrooms with 250ml hot water and soak for about half an hour. Remove, reserving the liquid, and finely slice the mushrooms.

Put the mushrooms, miso soup powder, soy sauce, pumpkin, reserved mushroom liquid and 500ml water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. 

I love these asymmetrical bowls I picked up in Garrards. 
They're perfect for soup
Meanwhile, cook the soba noodles in rapidly boiling water for approximately four minutes, drain and divide among two bowls.

I was disappointed these cooked so quickly. I loved watching them swirling around the pot!

Spoon the soup over the noodles and sprinkle the spring onions over the top.

There you go, that's something by Kate.

Double Post Monday! The Cookbook Challenge - Weeks 15 & 16

So, I log in today to post Week 16 (noodles) of the cookbook challenge. Turns out I hadn't posted week 15 despite what my, apparently faulty, memory was telling me.

So today's posts are Week 15 - Muffins - Pumpkin and Cinnamon Muffins - Bill Granger's Feed Me Now, and Week 16 - Noodles - Miso Broth with Somen Noodles, Shiitake and Pumpkin - Marie Claire's Kitchen. 

My muffin choice was based on what was lying around - there was about 200g of pumpkin left over in the fridge, and those little packets of sultanas in the pantry. Everything else, I pretty much always have in stock. 

Given my previous history with baking, here, here and here, I decided that Bill's advice to use muffin papers was definitely something I should follow. 

With the recipe calling for 330g mashed pumpkin, and I only in possession of 200g pumpkin, I made two thirds of the recipe. Your kitchen scales and calculator are your most valuable assets when doing this, otherwise, how do you get two thirds of two eggs? Break two in, weigh them, and then remove one third of the weight. 

These were a little dry. I think it's because, even though I was very accurate with my two thirds measurements for everything, it was everything except the pumpkin, so there wasn't quite enough to make them moist. I think these would be fine if you actually use the proportions specified. 

Pumpkin and Cinnamon Muffins
makes 12
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
95g brown sugar
80ml buttermilk (you can substitute 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and enough milk to make up 80ml - which I did)
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
80g unsalted butter, melted
330g mashed steamed pumpkin (about 360g uncooked weight)
70g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a 12 hole, 125ml muffin pan with papers.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine. Bill specifies just adding the brown sugar after sifting the other ingredients, but I find it gets lumpy so I always sift it too.

Combine the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter in a bowl, then add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

This will look very, very dry. But don't worry, then add the mashed pumpkin and sultanas. It will add a lot of moisture.

Divide the mixture evenly into the muffin papers and bake for 20 minutes. 

These aren't very pumpkin-y. They are a sweet muffin, so don't go thinking because they're full of vegetables they'll be savoury. Definitely sweet. This is probably the first recipe I've made by Bill Granger that I wouldn't make again.
Anyway, that's something by Kate.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 14 - Japanese - Japanese Eggplant Slices

Like most of the challenge participants, I don't have a Japanese cookbook either, and a few indexes of a few books didn't yield a lot of options. I turned to Stephanie Alexander's, The Cook's Companion, given it's claim of the "complete book". It didn't let me down, and produced a recipe for Japanese Eggplant Slices.

I prepared this for my lunch on Saturday, and didn't offer to share it as I was sure the offer would be greeted with a resounding "blech!". According to him, eggplant is not your friend. 

 Look how friendly they are!

I'm not convinced this can stand alone as a dish, however it would make a great starter, or part of a Japanese style buffet. 

The steps are basic, and the ingredients minimal - if I hadn't followed the direction to salt and stand the eggplant slices it would have been really quick too. The technique requires you to spread the flavoured chicken paste on to the eggplant and fry it in a pan - I was amazed, but it stayed put! I was paranoid about flipping it over and splashing it everywhere, so it ended up a little overcooked.

I'd probably put ginger and spring onions into the chicken paste next time I make it, as well as sprinkled over the top, just for a little added flavour - some garlic wouldn't go astray either - mmm, stinky garlic, my favourite. It was a teriyaki style flavour, but I like my teriyaki garlicky.

Here's a tip for fresh ginger - freeze the whole knob, skin on, and grate however much you need straight from the freezer. I find there's not even a need to peel it, provided you've washed it before you've frozen it. I never use a whole knob before they go rotten, so this means I always have fresh ginger, with no waste.

As far as quantities go for this, I used half of the amount of eggplant specified for the chicken listed, I think if you don't do this it will be fairly bland. I like eggplant as much as the next girl, but with such a small amount of chicken suggested per slice you'd really be wasting your time and might as well just fry plain eggplant.

I'll give you the quantities I used.

Japanese Eggplant Slices - The Cook's Companion, Stephanie Alexander

100g chicken mince
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin (or mirin seasoning)
fresh ginger, grated for sprinkling
1 spring onion, finely sliced for sprinkling
olive oil for frying
1 eggplant, sliced into 2cm thick rounds

Score the eggplant on one side, twice in each direction. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the chicken, soy sauce and mirin in a food processor, until a paste forms, chicken breasts were on sale, so I threw in a whole breast, and minced it in the food processor. At this point I'd add in a chopped spring onion, some garlic and a bit of ginger.

At this point it doesn't look so delicious

Rinse and dry the eggplant rounds well.

Spread the chicken paste on the scored side of the eggplant, and fry, chicken side down, for about 3 minutes on medium heat in plenty of olive oil. Turn, and cook for a further 3 minutes on the other side. 

Serve sprinkled with grated ginger and chopped spring onion.

There you go. That's something by Kate.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 13 - Love - Molten Chocolate Puddings

Love is.... serving chocolate pudding just the way he likes it - to his desk while he plays Battlefield on the computer on Valentine's Day.

Love is.... serving it undercooked because that's the way he likes it, despite the fact it will photograph badly for the blog.

Love is.... making a recipe that's from a book I've already used for the cookbook challenge, and a recipe I've made before, because he "loves chocolate pudding even more than chocolate mousse" - this was a big call from someone who rarely orders dessert, but if he does it's chocolate mousse. 

I came across this recipe when I was making Spicy Chicken Thighs from Bill Granger's Every Day for Week 10 of the challenge.  

Love is.... having made this recipe five times since Week 10 of the challenge, and it's only Week 13 now.

Ok, you get the point. This is why I chose this recipe for our love theme. And I stuck a white chocolate heart on it for bonus points - but didn't serve him that one, since he doesn't like white chocolate. See how much I love him?

This is a simple, molten centred pudding that I haven't had fail yet. The first time I made it, following Bill's cooking time instructions (10 minutes) it was only just firm and held its shape, you could probably cook it for 10 1/2 - 11 minutes and still have a gooey middle, but I cook it for 9 1/2 to get it the way he likes it. I like it either way, but tend to leave mine in the oven for the 30 seconds it takes me to plate his up, just for a little more cake, and a little less batter. I also always wish I'd made enough for two each!

Here's one I prepared earlier - about 11 minutes in the oven - I also didn't have it on the middle shelf, and it was a little too close to the bottom element, as you can see from the "robust" colouring.

Molten Chocolate Puddings - Bill Granger's Every Day
Serves two 
(but doubles well, just use four ramekins as they won't cook well as two larger puddings)

50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
50g dark chocolate, chopped
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon plain flour

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Butter two 250ml ovenproof ramekins and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water or in the microwave on 50%. While the chocolate is melting use and electric whisk to beat the egg, yolk and sugar until pale and thick.

 Isn't that cute? I have no idea how the shadow is trying to create a heart, but it's very suitable for Valentine's Day

Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture, sift in the flour and gently fold in. Spoon into the ramekins and bake for 10 minutes. Serve either in the ramekins or turned out onto serving plates.

There you go. That's something by Kate. Happy Valentine's Day!
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