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What is Kaya?


 

         1. Hainanese Kaya        2. Nonya Kaya(Home)      3. Nonya Kaya(Store)        4. Hybrid Kaya

Kaya is a custard made with coconut milk that is popular in Singapore and Malaysia. Like regular jam, it is most often used as a bread spread (its technically not a jam since it is not made from fruit) at breakfast and afternoon tea. Because of its sweet taste, Kaya is also used as an ingredient is various local desserts in Southeast Asia from Thailand to Indonesian. If you are from outside the region, think of it as something like creme brulee in a bottle. 

The recipe for making kaya varies from household to household but typically involves cooking a mixture of 10 eggs, 500g of sugar and 500 ml of coconut milk over a double boiler, stirring frequently. Its pretty much the same as making a sabayon or custard, except you stand there cooking and stirring for a very, very long time.

There are two main types of Kaya. The more original variety is Hainanese Kaya (bottle No.1), Hainan being a large island of China. Many Hainanese ventured into Southeast Asia during the hey day of the British Empire. A lot of them worked as cooks (and tailors) in commonwealth cities and aboard British merchant ships where they encounted a thing called jam on toast. Over time, they invented their own ‘jam’, which became Kaya. That’s the reason you won’t find Kaya (or Hainanese Chicken Rice or Hainanese Pork Chop to name a few more examples) anywhere in Hainan today, they were invented by overseas Hainanese. The term Kaya was probably coined by the Malays, who refer to it as Seri Kaya. Hainanese Kaya is made with brown sugar which results in its distinct orangy colour. Some modern commercial formulations use honey instead.

There is another version of Kaya that is green; this is called Nonya Kaya (bottle No.2). How did this originate? Its another complicated story, also related to the Chinese migrants. When early Chinese migrants inter-married with the locals in Malaysia, they formed a sub-community called the Nonya. The Nonya add pandan leaves to a lot of their cuisine and when they learnt to make Kaya, they also added pandan to that. Their varierty of Kaya uses white sugar, but compensates for the loss of the caramelized taste by adding the juice from pandan leaves. This gives Nonya Kaya its unique flavour and fragrance. Commercially, food dye is added to Nonya Kaya (bottle No.3) to give it a darker green colour. Nowadays you can also get a hybrid Kaya (bottle No.4) that is made with both brown sugar and pandan leaves.

Besides spreading it on toast, how else can Kaya be used? Being very sweet, Kaya goes very well with salted butter and you can use it in place of syrup or icing sugar on pancakes, waffles and french toast. Kaya also works well as a filling in a Danish type pastry (for example you could replace the sesame paste of my Sesame Swirl Puffs with Kaya). Finally you can experiment with Kaya in those savoury dishes that require a touch of sweetness, such as in pan fried foie gras.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Desserts, Ingredients, Oriental

 

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Bread and Butter Pudding


(serves 10)
One of my absolute favourites, buttered bread soaked and then baked in custard. In a contest between Bread and Butter Pudding and French Toast, we see one of the rare instances where British cuisine triumphs. A great dessert made from simple ingredients, that can be made before hand, that can be made in large quantities with little effort, that can be eaten hot or cold; What more could anyone ask for?      

Ingredients

  1. Milk (800ml)
  2. Eggs (6)
  3. Butter (80g)
  4. Bread (1 loaf)
  5. Raisins (1/2 cup)
  6. Sugar (1/2 cup)
  7. Nutmeg
  8. Cinnamon
  9. Rum

Pre-preparation 

  1. A day before, slice your loaf into 3/4 inch slices. You can’t use pre-sliced bread as the slices are too thin.
  2. Next we do the ‘test fit’. Pick a shallow pyrex dish than can hold at least 10 cups. Arrange the slices once in the bakeware so you know exactly how many slices you’ll be needing. Overlap the slices like a stack of fallen dominoes and use a left right arrangement, as shown in the photo below. 
  3. Leave the bread in the fridge to dry out the bread, with or without the dish.
  4. Soak 1/2 cup of raisins in 3T of rum.

Preparation

  1. Its now one day later; spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Use salted butter as a bit savoury taste is essential. Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on the buttered side of the bread. Be generous with the butter, nutmeg and cinnamon as they are what gives flavour to the pudding.
  2. Arrange the buttered bread in the pyrex, the same way as before. Scatter 3/4 of the raisins between the slices of bread.
  3. Lightly beat 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks with half a cup of sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir in 800ml of milk and any of the rum not soaked up by the raisins. Put the whole mixture through a fine strainer to remove strands of albumin.
  4. Pour the strained mixture into the pyrex. The bread will float even when its wet (ever feed swans in a pond?) but their arrangement will make sure only a small amount of each piece sticks out. If you ignored me and arranged them like a brick wall, some pieces will be completely free floating now. If you ignored me and used a deep baking dish, all the bread will gather at the top now.
  5. Let the bread soak for half an hour. You will need to gently push the bread (with your palm) down once in a while so they become totally submerged. Even though they float, the idea is to make sure the portions above the custard are soaked as well. If you ignored me and used thin pre-sliced bread, the bread will begin to fall apart now.
  6. Preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  7. After the soaking is done, sprinkle the remaining raisins and 1T of sugar on the surface. Place uncovered into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.
  8. The bread will eventually be seen to puff up and this is a sign the pudding is close to being done. Wait a while more and the bread should begin to brown nicely, that is when the pudding can come out. Allow the pudding to stand for a few hours before serving.

Notes

  • Glazing the pudding is a nice extra touch and a chance to add an extra layer of flavour. When the bread puffs, this is the signal for you to brush on a layer of golden syrup, mapel syrup, marmalade etc. Place back into the oven after brushing on the glazing of course.
  • The best bread to use is supposedly brioche, i.e. a bread with a high egg and milk content. If you are unsure, this just means any bread that is yellow. Any bread that is tough or is made from whole grain will not work.
  • If you wish to serve the pudding warm, you still need to allow it to cool before you reheat it. I would normally serve warm B&B pudding with a vanilla custard sauce (made easily from custard powder). 
  • Some people swear that panettone, left over from christmas, is the best bread to use but i have never tried this. It helps of course that panettone conveniently has soaked raisins embedded in it to start with.
 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Desserts, English, Recipe

 

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Dry Poached Salmon, with Leek Custard


(serves 6)
This is a dry poached recipe, that is to say the salmon is placed in zip-loc which is then boiled. This results in wonderfully tender pieces of salmon. The meat is then smothered in a mild custard which makes the tasting experience smoother than ever. Finally the dish is topped off with a wig of crispy fried leek, which lends just the right touch of  savoury bitterness.

Main Ingredients

  1. Salmon Fillet (500g)
  2. Large Leek (1)
  3. Custard (Bird’s) Powder (1T)
  4. Butter (50g)
  5. Milk (1 cup)
  6. Dill Weed (1T)
  7. Cumin (1t)
  8. Vegetable stock cube (0.5)
  9. Cognac (1T)
  10. Oil for deep frying

 

Preparation – Custard

  1. Make some instant stock using half a stock cube, one cup of hot water, 1t of cumin and 1T of dill weed (I also substitute/add chopped taragon or cilantro depending on my mood).
  2. Mix 1T of custard powder with 2T of cold milk  and 1t of sugar in a mixing bowl while heating up 1 cup of milk in the microwave till it is hot but not yet boiling. Slowly add the hot milk to the concentrated custard mixture while stirring. Lumps form easily if you do this too fast, and if you do discover lumps, force the whole mixture through a fine strainer.
  3. Cut the bottom one third of your leek into rings which are as thin as you can manage (see photo).  Put the thin rings aside for deep frying later. Cut the rest of the leek lengthwise and proceed to julienne the remainder of the stalk into thick half rings.
  4. Pan fry the half rings in some butter till they soften. Turn the fire down to minimum and add the custard, then lighten the custard by slowly stirring in your pre-prepared stock. Add 1T of cognac and some pepper,  taste and use additional seasoning if required. When the mixture is at the right consistancy, remove from heat and allow to cool. Sprinkle in some chopped parsley for a better appearance if you fancy.

Preparation – Salmon

  1. Start by putting a large pot of water to boil.
  2. If your salmon still has skin attached, cut that off first. Its alright to retain the strips of dark meat under ths skin. Next, cut the salmon into pieces which are 1/4 inch thick . Keep in mind how you wish to arrange the dish before proceeding with this step. For the example shown I used a campfire style arrangement to better house the custard, so I poached my salmon in 3 inch wide pieces, before cutting them into fingers at the end.
  3. Brush each piece of salmon on both sides with some melted butter. Arrange the fish inside one or more zip loc bags such that each piece of salmon has contact with both sides of the bag. Use thin bags, not the freezer type. Press out all the air before zipping up.
  4. Cook the fish by immersing the zip loc bag(s) in water at full boil. For best results, poach one bag at a time, making sure there is at least 10x more water than fish. Cover and turn off the heat immediately after the bag goes in. Leave it in for about 5 minutes (this really depends on the size of your fish pieces) and thereafter set them aside to cool, unopenned.
  5. Deep fry the thin leek rings till they start to go from yellow to brown. They will continue to darken even after you turn the fire off so don’t over do this. Cool in a strainer and not the oil itself or they won’t be crispy.
  6. Finally, retrieve your salmon from the zip loc(s) and cut/arrange as required. Spoon generous amounts of custard onto the fish and top off with the crispy leek. You can serve this dish refrigerated or at room temperature.

Notes

  • Why do I use the dry poach method for this recipe? I’ve tried poaching in water, poaching in court bullion, poaching in bacon and milk. In normal poaching, the liquid leaches away the taste and natural oils of the salmon unless you poach the entire fish with skin intact. On the other hand, if salmon is cooked with direct heat, like in a pan, the high heat will over harden the salmon flesh. Dry poaching is the best way by far.
  • If the campfire is too tedious, you can also try a lasagna style with the custard sandwiched between the salmon.
  • For poached fish, its paramount that you use fish that has never been frozen.Buy cuts of salmon fillet which are rectangular slabs (i.e. not the type with bone and stomach cavity. )  
  • On the stock. The best option actually would be to use Hon Dashi pellets (bonito flavour) but since not everyone knows where to get it, I’ve substituted a vegetable stock cube in the recipe. BTW, its ok to use a chicken cube too, but not beef, lamb etc.
 
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Posted by on May 19, 2010 in Appetizers, English, Seafood

 

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Caramel Custard


(serves 8 -10)
Caramel custard is a perrenial english favourite at the dining table, undeservedly supplanted by its french cousin creme brulee in recent years. The creamy custard soaked in a bath of caramel is a delectable combination. And the beauty of it… because sugar is melted twice, the resulting caramel syrup maintains its consistency at all temperatures, so you can serve caramel custard either hot or chilled.

 

Ingredients

  1. Eggs (6)
  2. Milk (900 ml)
  3. Sugar (1 cup)
  4. Vanilla essence (2t) 

Preparation

  1. You can make caramel custard in individual portions or in one large pyrex / corningware container but the first step is always to assemble ovenware of the right volume (for the purposes of this recipe, I’ll be assuming you are using individual ramekins). As the caramel sets very quickly, there will be no time to deal with this math along the way. As a guide, your ovenware should be able to hold 1 litre of water. 
  2. Put one cup of plain sugar in a pan and under slow heat, stir until the sugar caramelizes. At first, the sugar will yellow a bit and start clumping together, and after about fifteen minutes, you’ll get a deep golden brown molasses. I wouldn’t use a non-stick pan as the sugar gets really hot.
  3. At the point where most of the sugar has turned into molasses (the remainder will caramelize by itself), drizzle it with a large spoon to layer the bottom of your ramekins. You have to work fast as a bitter taste will set in if you continue to heat the molasses too long but if you turn off the fire, the molasses will quickly thicken to the point where you won’t be able to work it. The molasses will harden immediately as it touches your cold bakeware so don’t harbour any thoughts about adjusting it later. Control the distribution as the caramel leaves the spoon. 
  4. There will be some caramel left in the pan at the end and you might wonder how you are going to clean it. Don’t worry, its basically still sugar and melts in plain water after cooling.
  5. Allow the caramel to cool in the ramekins and preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  6. Now for the custard, this is comparatively easy. Heat 900ml of milk in the microwave or in a saucepan. In a mixing bowl, beat 4 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks with 3T of sugar and then stir in the milk slowly. Add 2t of vanilla essence. Put the whole mixture through a strainer to remove the strands of albumin from the egg white.
  7. Break off and dispose of any of the hardened caramel on the sides of the ramekins and pour in your custard. Skim off any bubbles.
  8. Bake for 22 minutes or until the custard has just a slight tinge of brown, and then leave in the oven with the heat off for a further 15 minutes (without opening the oven door).
  9. Serve your caramel custard anytime thereafter.

Notes

  • If you want to go the extra mile, bake your ramekins in a baking tray of water and leave the heat on for the last fifteen minutes where its supposed to be off according to the recipe. This is more troublesome but it’s the classic way of doing it and it will get you the perfect ‘pudding’ look that you see in some cookbooks. I find the ‘baked’ look from direct baking gives your custard more character, so its the way I do it.
  • My experience is hot milk serves little purpose unless you are making a liquid custard but I heat the milk anyway as cold milk would affect the cooking time.   
  • I will usually make my caramel custard ahead of time and serve it chilled.  This also makes for a more condensed texture and gives the syrup time to work its way into the custard. 
  • You may also serve your caramel custard immediately as a hot dessert, although this is less common. It will have a lighter texture this way, if that’s what you are aiming for.
  • You also the option of serving the custard inverted on a plate, or in the bakeware itself, as pictured here.

 

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2009 in Desserts, English, Recipe

 

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