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Oven Baked Nonya Otak-otak

(serves 8)
Otak-otak is a terrine-like grilled fish delicacy from South-east Asia, an exotic spicy dish that works as a western appetizer. There are many varieties of Otak-otak from Thailand all the way down to Indonesia; this version is of the Straits Chinese style featuring coconut milk, popular in Singapore and Penang. Otak-otak is usually grilled in banana leaves and contains other ingredients uncommon in the Western kitchen, but I have worked out a modified recipe that resolves these issues.  

Ingredients

  1. White Fish Fillets (500g)
  2. Yeo’s Minced Prawns in Spices (2x160g tins)
  3. Coconut Milk (160 ml)
  4. Onion (0.5)
  5. Egg (1)
  6. White Sandwich Bread
  7. Lemon
  8. Cucumber
  9. Sherry
  10. Lemongrass
  11. Tarragon

Preparation

  1. Dice half an onion and pan fry the pieces on low heat in a pan with a dash of oil. When the onion begins to get limp turn up the heat and add the two cans of minced prawn to the pan and continue frying until you see bubbling. Sprinkle on 2t lemongrass and 1t tarragon and transfer the contents of the pan to a large mixing bowl when it has cooled down.
  2. Make a brine out of 1T salt, 1t sugar, 1T of lemon juice and 2 cups of water. Cut the fish into chunks and put them in the brine them for 20 minutes (and no more). Rinse and place the fish pieces on a tea towel to dry. You can do this concurrently with step 1.
  3. Cut 2 slices of plain bread into small cubes. If the bread is fresh and the crust is still soft you can keep the crust, otherwise trim the crust off. Pour in 160 ml of coconut milk over the diced bread followed by 1 egg, 1T of sherry and 1t of sugar. Mix well, then add the fish.
  4. Place a quarter of the fish and bread mixture in a food processor and give it a 2 second pulse (and no more) on low power. Transfer the resulting fish paste to the mixing bowl with the shrimp and onion. You want the fish paste to be coarse but even, so you cannot blend too much at a time. Repeat another three times to use up all the fish and bread. Stir  everything in the mixing bowl until you get an even colour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  6. Pour the seafood mixture into a medium sized casserole dish. The casserole dish should be big enough such that the thickness of the seafood is no more than one inch. Cover the casserole dish, if it doesn’t have a cover you can use aluminium foil snugly crimped over the top.
  7. Place the casserole in the oven. The idea is not so much to bake the fish but to steam it. After 40 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool. There will be bulge in the centre initially but this will flatten over time. What you have now is a seafood terrine of sorts.
  8. When the terrine is cold, and this can be several hours later or even overnight (in the fridge), put it back in the oven, this time uncovered, for twenty minutes at 200oC (390oF). This will boil off most of the free liquid, refine the aroma and give the Otak-otak a nice crust – as shown here.
  9. While still hot, cut the Otak-otak into slices and serve on untoasted plain white bread with some thin cucumber slices.

Notes

Yeo’s Minced Prawns in Spices

  • As the fish is cooked for an extended time, there is no point in using fresh fish. I typically use frozen pangasius fillets myself , they are cheap and readily available, but really any kind of white fish is fine.
  • Yeo’s Minced Prawn in Spices a.k.a. Prawn Sambal is a key ingredient that contains in a single tin every ingredient you need for cooking Otak you won’t find in your kitchen larder. Last time I checked, you can order it from Amazon. Its not the perfect solution, but its better than looking for ingredients like candlenut and galangal.
  • If you don’t like your food spicy, you can use just one tin of minced prawn instead of two, but you’ll probably have to add salt and sugar to compensate.
  • To bring your Otak-otak to the next level, you can add chunks of whole seafood to your otak-otak. For example you could brine a few scallops along with the fish, dice them and add them in step 6. Canned or bottled clams would work well also. 
  • Instead of bread, you can also serve Otak-otak with some white rice cooked with coconut milk.
  • The Thai version of Otak-otak has a different name, which is Hor Mok Pla.  
 
 

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Seared Scallops with a Duxelles Wine Sauce

(serves 4 – 6)
This recipe pairs Scallops with its traditional complimentary ingredients, such as mushrooms, wine and cream,  a combination that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Searing on a flavoursome crust is a great enhancement to pleasant but somewhat monotonous scallop flesh, but somehow when you sear scallops at home it never turns out quite right. To make seared scallops to restaurant standard there is no complicated technique involved. All you need is the right ingredients and the proper procedure ….     

Ingredients

  1. Large Scallops (18)
  2. Onion (1)
  3. Mushrooms (200g)
  4. Garlic (1T minced)
  5. Mustard
  6. Coriander Seed Powder
  7. White Wine (0.33 cup)
  8. Cream (0.5 cup)
  9. Tarragon
  10. Butter
  11. Lemon

Preparation

  1. Defrost your scallops ahead of time.
  2. Prepare a brine of 1T salt, 1t sugar, the juice of a wedge of lemon in two cups of water. Place the scallops in the brine for twenty minutes. Do not go beyond twenty minutes or the scallop flesh will become too salty.
  3. Rinse the scallops and wrap them in a tea towel to dry them as much as possible. Leave them there until step 7.
  4. Julienne the onion and dice the mushrooms into 1cm pieces. Mince a few cloves of garlic.
  5. Fry the onion pieces in a pan on a low fire with a dash of oil until they are limp, but not caramelized. Add 1T of minced garlic and stir fry for 1 minute further.
  6. Turn the heat up and add the wine, followed by the cream and 1t mustard, 1t coriander seed powder and 0.5t sugar. Stir till the mustard melts away and then add the mushrooms. Simmer until the liquid dries off enough to produce a thick sauce. Sprinkle on black pepper and salt to taste to complete your duxelles sauce.
  7. In a different pan melt a large knob of butter on high heat. When the pan is really hot and the butter darkens a bit, place half the scallops in the pan, and keep them cooking on the same side. Move the scallops around in a circular motion one at a time with tongs but do not flip them. Add more butter if the pan begins to dry. When you notice the searing along the bottom edges flip each scallop over and repeat the procedure until the other side gets seared too, then remove the scallops onto a plate temporarily.
  8. Sprinkle a pinch of tarragon on to the mushroom duxelles and begin reheating it.
  9. Do the same as step 7 for the second batch of scallops after adding a new knob of butter. When this lot is done, turn the fire off and add the first batch of scallops back into the pan. Stir fry for a short while with the fire off to coat the sides of the scallops. This will also serve to warm up the first batch.
  10. Spoon some of the duxelles sauce on each plate to form a bed for the scallops and then arrange three (or four for four servings) scallops on each bed. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • There is no point in buying fresh scallops, the frozen ones will do nicely. You should however buy the more expensive ‘dry’ (not to be confused with dried) variety that are frozen without additional processing. You can identify these by their colour, which is ivory white. ‘Wet’ scallops are those that have been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate to bloat their size. Thus type of scallop is toothpaste white because of the bleaching effect of the phosphates, and they shrink when cooked anyway. If you are unsure, you can’t go wrong with scallops from japan that come in a paper box.
  • Do not skip the brining. This is essential for two reasons. Firstly, it is the only way to put taste inside the scallop instead of on its surface; this is very important for big scallops. Secondly this removes extra water from scallops; if there is too much internal water, the scallops will get fully cooked and rubbery before they even start searing.
  • You cannot use vegetable oil to sear the scallops. Butter contains impurities which starts the browning process.
  • I did not specify a cooking time because this will vary with the thickness of the scallops and how well you like them cooked. I like to cook my scallops medium like steak so they don’t shrivel up, but its up to you. Use a lower fire and pan fry for longer if you like your scallops more cooked.
  • I made the diced potatoes in the photo separately, and they are not part of the recipe per se.
 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Appetizers, French, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Miso-Cured Chicken Wings

(makes 2 dozen wings)
Chicken wings are a party staple and a favourite among children, and the unique blend of Miso and honey will make your wings all the more popular. I have yet to meet a person who didn’t like my Miso-cured wings. The vast majority of Miso-flavoured wing recipes make you cook the wings twice, the second time after painting on a miso glaze. My method does away with this troublesome glazing procedure and cooks the wings in one go. Furthermore, curing allows the flavour of miso to penetrates all the way into the meat. 

Ingredients

  1. Mid-joint Chicken Wings (1 kilo)
  2. Red Miso
  3. Mirin
  4. Honey
  5. Turmeric
  6. Tahini
  7. Sesame Oil
  8. Soya Sauce
  9. Liquid Smoke (optional)

If you are unfamiliar with Miso, refer to this page. Similarly for information on Mirin, refer to this page.

Preparation

  1. You need to begin the day before. Defrost and rinse your wings.
  2. Leave the wings to drain in a colander or strainer for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Arrange the wings on half of a large dish cloth. Fold the empty portion over and press down gently to dry the wings as best you can. Unfold and allow the chicken to dry further while you make the marinade. You can place a sheet of paper towel between the chicken and the cloth to make the cloth easier to wash, but don’t try using paper towels alone or you end up using half a roll.
             
  4. In a ceramic bowl mix the following: 2T red miso, 2T honey, 1T mirin, 1T tahini, 1T sesame oil, 1t soya sauce and 1t turmeric. You can also add 1t of liquid smoke if that is your preference. (nb. the T’s for the pastes are heaped ones)
  5. As many of these ingredients are from the fridge you will need to microwave the mixture for about 15 seconds before they will can mix well. Alternatively, put the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water for a while. Stir and mash down with the bottom of a table spoon until all the lumps are gone and you end up with a smooth paste.
  6. Place the wings in a gallon zip lock and add the marinade. Squeeze out most of the air and then massage the bag and roll it around to get the marinade evenly over all the wings.
  7. Place the bag flat in the fridge overnight. Some water will be drawn out from the wings making the marinade a bit more watery, that is normal. Flip the bag over once every 6 hours or so to ensure the curing is even.
  8. The next day the wings will be cured. Arrange them on a wire rack in a tray(s) and allow the wings to warm to room temperature. The wings should not be touching each other. Don’t leave any splotches of marinade on the wings as these will become black patches of burnt skin as the excess sugar carbonizes in the oven.
  9. Preheat your oven to 180oC (350oF). Place the tray(s) in the oven for 20 minutes. The time may vary a bit from oven to oven, so decide when the wings are ready by visual inspection.

Notes

  • The issue with most marinades is they are too watery and they drip off when they heat up in the oven, hence the need to paint on a layer of glaze at the end. That’s why this recipe emphasizes keeping the wings dry, so do not skip steps for 2 and 3. The tahini and turmeric play an important role in keeping the marinade thick so do not substitute them for something else. Also do not add any additional liquid to the marinade.
  • You can also use a toaster oven. Set it to 200oC (390oF) and bake each batch for 25 minutes – the toaster oven is weaker than a regular oven, but can do the job – 8 wings at a time as shown in the photo.
  • You can also skewer the wings and cook them over a BBQ.
  • You can also use white miso, but you will need 3T instead of 2T as it is less salty. The white miso version is milder and sweeter. I typically use 2T white and 1T red when I make my wings.
 
 

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Caviar Egg Salad Amuse-Bouche

(serves 8)
The combination of the intense savoury flavour and crunchy explosion of caviar just can’t be beat, but caviar can be a tad salty. In this recipe, this saltiness is perfectly balanced by the mild taste of egg salad to make the perfect amuse-bouche. There are just 5 simple ingredients, making this little package of tastiness incredibly easy to make. You can easily scale it up to serve several dozen guests if you need a dazzling canapé for a party.       
 

Ingredients

  1. Caviar (1 bottle, 80g)
  2. Eggs (4)
  3. Shallots (1)
  4. Brioche (8 mini slices)
  5. Mayonnaise

Preparation

  1. Hard boil 4 eggs (i.e. 12 minutes or more). Allow the eggs to cool in cold water and then de-shell them. You can boil the eggs anytime before and keep them in the fridge.
  2. Put the each egg through a wire egg slicer three times. On the first pass, slice the egg as per normal but hold on to the ends of the eggs to keep the egg together.
  3. On the second pass slice the eggs lengthwise. It will be harder to keep the eggs together so do the slicing carefully.
  4. For the third pass you also slice the egg lengthwise but after rotating them 90 degrees. Hold the slicer over a large bowl to catch the falling bits as the egg will basically fall apart after you are done. The idea is to end up with little cubes of egg white. The yolk will disintegrate but that’s fine.
  5. Finely (and I mean finely) dice one shallot. You can use a quarter of an onion if you don’t have shallots.
  6. Add 2 heaped T of mayonnaise, the diced shallot, 0.5t sugar and a generous sprinkle of pepper to the diced egg and mix until the yolk has melted into the mayonnaise.
  7. Add half the caviar to the egg salad and mix some more. Place the bowl into the fridge for about an hour.
  8. Divide the caviar egg mixture onto the brioche. The brioche can be lightly toasted, or left untoasted if fresh.
  9. Decorate each amuse-bouche with the remaining caviar and serve while cold.

Notes

  • Caviar is not as expensive a delicacy as you might think, all you need to do is use a caviar made from a fish other than sturgeon. The cheaper varieties taste perfectly fine and in any case you might not want to use top grade caviar as a flavouring ingredient. The bottle I used (pictured right) was made from herring roe and has a retail price of under ten dollars, as will many other varieties.   
  • Besides brioche you can use any number of other things as the base. Be it a pastry or bread, just make sure it is not of the salty type. The Blini (essentially a mini pancake, second photo) or a Yorkshire Pudding are some alternatives.
  • The amount of caviar you reserve for decoration will determine the colour of your amuse bouche. If you mix the whole bottle of caviar in you will get a darker look as per the Blini photo.
  • For some colour you can add some chopped chives. The stark green specks will make the amuse-bouche look even more attractive. I really should have done that for the photo.
  • In case you were wondering, no that is not a giant ball of caviar in the top photo. It’s an optical illusion. It looks like a large slice of bread on a regular plate but its actually a slice of a mini brioche loaf on a small plate.
  •  
 

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Chicken A La King Risotto

(serves 6)
On a whim I decided to combine two of my favourite Chicken and Rice recipes, Chicken and Porcini Risotto and Chicken A La King. It turned out to be yet another match made in culinary heaven. The rich nutty flavour of porcini goes very well with the special brand of sweetness that comes with capsicum. The recipe also uses brined chicken breast to keep the chicken extra tender and separate from the rice.

Ingredients

  1. Dried Porcini Mushrooms (30g)
  2. Arborio Rice (1.25 cups)
  3. Brown Mushrooms (150g)
  4. Chicken Wings (4)
  5. Chicken Breasts (2 halves)
  6. Capsicum a.k.a. Bell Pepper (2)
  7. Onion (1)
  8. Garlic (1T minced)
  9. Butter (50g)
  10. Grated Parmigianino-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
  11. Cream Cheese
  12. Rosemary

Early Preparation

  1. Brine and poach chicken breasts as per the procedure given in this post. You can do this ahead of time and then warm up the chicken breasts in the hot stock before slicing them.
  2. Simmer 4 chicken wings in 4 cups of water with half an onion and 1t salt. Continue simmering until the meat is practically falling off the bone, adding water is necessary. You can also use 8 mid joints. Start making the stock at the same time you begin the brining.
  3. You also need to soak your porcini in 2 cups of water. Use cold water, as hot water will give the porcini a slight rubbery texture after it rehydrates. Keep in the fridge.

Preparation

  1. Bring your chicken stock to a slow simmer. Add the juices from the poached chicken breast and the porcini water (but not the porcini itself) to the stock pot.
  2. Cut the capsicums in half and remove the stem, core and seeds. Cut the tops and bottoms off and add them into the stock. Cut the sides into 1/4 inch squares and set them aside.
  3. Cut the brown mushroom into thick slices.
  4. Mince the garlic and julienne the remaining half of the onion into1/8 inch pieces. In a large pan, fry the onion bits on low heat in 2T of oil until they become yellow and limp. Add the garlic and continue pan frying for a minute.
  5. Turn up the heat on the pan and add the rice into the pan, stirring well.
  6. After another minute, add a ladle of stock (liquid only) to the pan and reduce the heat to produce a low simmer. Add the capsicum pieces to the pan at this stage.
  7. Stir until the risotto begins to dry, then add another ladle of the hot chicken stock. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. The stock pot must be kept simmering to avoid shocking the rice. Continue doing this for about 20 minutes.
  8. In the meanwhile grate the Parmigianino finely. Cut ¼ of a block of butter into 1 cm cubes and mix it with the grated cheese. Allow the butter to soften out in the open. This forms the mantecatura.
  9. Dissolve 1T of cream cheese in the last ladle of hot stock before adding it to the pan. Add both the brown mushrooms and the porcini at this stage.
  10. When your risotto is al dente you can let it almost dry up, after which you turn off the heat. Total simmering time varies a bit with the type of grain you are using, so rely on taste and appearance to decide if the risotto is done and not a timer.
  11. Stir in the mantecatura and let the risotto rest with the cover on for five minutes. Slice the Chicken breasts.
  12. After tasting, you may add a bit of salt or more grated cheese to the risotto as a final adjustment if you deem necessary. Arrange the sliced chicken over your plated risotto. Garnish with black pepper.

NotesDried Porcini

  • My first risotto recipe contains many of the finer points on making risotto, which I have opted not to repeat here. You should refer to that post if you don’ make risotto often.  
  • Capsicums comes in 4 different colours which have different tastes. Red is sweet and easiest on the taste buds, Green is an acquired taste as it is less ripe and bitter. Orange and yellow capsicums are in between the two. I would recommend you use red and orange for this dish.
  • For reference these are my Chicken A La King and Porcini and Chicken Risotto recipes.
 

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Szechuan Mapo Tofu (Bean Curd)

(serves 4)
Mapo Tofu is one of the easiest Chinese dishes to make and one of the first dishes I learnt to cook when I was a teen. It doesn’t require the finesse that comes with experience in cooking Chinese food, and it doesn’t require any Chinese cooking equipment. As long as you use the specified ingredients, the recipe is basically fool-proof and it also comes like it was made in a professional restaurant every single time.   
 

Ingredients

  1. Minced Pork (250g)
  2. Hard Tofu (500g)
  3. Spring Onion (5 stalks)
  4. Garlic (3t, minced)
  5. Toban Sauce
  6. Chili Sauce
  7. Tahini
  8. Peanut Butter
  9. Sesame Oil
  10. Corn Starch
  11. Soya Sauce
  12. Chinese Wine

Preparation 

  1. In a bowl stir 3T cold water with 1T soya sauce and1T Chinese wine. Add 1t corn starch and mix until the corn starch dissolves. Pour the mixture into the minced pork and mix well, followed by 1T sesame oil and a second round of mixing.
  2. Allow the meat to marinate for about fifteen minutes while you dice the spring onions into 1/8th inch pieces.
  3. Prepare a mixture of 3/4 cup cold water, 1T corn starch and 1t sugar. Set this aside for later use.
  4. Heat up 2T of Sesame Oil  in a large pan and stir fry the pork. Don’t put the meat in until the pan is really hot. Press down on the meat to make sure there are no large clumps. When the pork is cooked push the meat to the sides of the pan.
  5. In the hole at the centre of the pan add 1T of Sesame Oil, and 3t of minced garlic. When the garlic splutters, add 4t Toban Sauce and 2t Chili Sauce and mix in a circular motion.
  6. Next incorporate 4t of tahini and 2t of peanut butter into the Chili-bean-garlic mixture.
  7. Pour in the corn starch water you prepared earlier and stir everything together, including the pork. When the contents of the pan begin to boil, turn the heat down to low and allow the mixture to simmer.
  8. Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch cubes. Add this to the pan. Add the spring onion at this stage and continue to simmer, stirring lightly once in a while. When everything has boiled down to a rich sauce turn off the heat.  Taste to check if you need to add soya sauce or sugar, then leave the pan covered for a while while the dish matures.
  9. Reheat and serve with steamed white rice.

Notes

  • On the top left is the Toban Sauce, or Doubanjiang in anglicised Chinese. Its a paste of fermented beans and chillies that you must use to get the Mapo flavour right. You can find it at any Chinese grocer.
  • On the top right is the Chili Sauce I used, but you can use other types. Just make sure that its not the type that comes in a bottle and looks like ketchup. What you want is a pure sauce made from chilies with no starch or tomatoes added.
  • Tofu will come in blocks and it is best to just flip the tofu from the container onto your palm over the sink, discarding all the water that comes with the Tofu. Then cut the Tofu on your hand, with a butter knife. If you use a cutting board, some of the tofu is bound to disintegrate.
 
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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Main Courses, Oriental, Recipe

 

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Caesar’s Salad

(serves 3-4)
If there is one salad that everybody likes, it’s Caesar’s Salad. The Caesar is the salad for people who are not into salads; it’s got the taste of bacon, the taste of fish and also cheese. At the same time the Romaine lettuce doesn’t have the bitter taste of the greener leafy vegetables while the dressing is beautifully creamy. Everything that can be done to make a salad less like a salad defines the Caesar. In my version I incorporate the super salty slivers of anchovy that often catch you by surprise into the salad dressing itself.  

Ingredients

  1. Romaine Lettuce Hearts (2)
  2. Cherry Tomatoes (8)
  3. Bacon (4 rashes)
  4. Bread (2 Slices)
  5. Anchovy in Oil (10g)
  6. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (40g)
  7. Mayonnaise
  8. Mustard
  9. Vinegar
  10. Minced Garlic
  11. Vegetable Oil

Preparation 

  1. Slice 4 rashes of bacon into 1cm squares. Fry the bacon in a pan to render their oil. Turn off the fire when three quarters of the bits are hard and crispy, allowing the residual heat to brown the remainder. Spoon out the bacon, leaving the oil in the pan.
  2. Dice 2 slices of bread into 1cm squares. Stir the bread cubes in the pan to soak up the oil from the bacon. To make them into croutons, toast the bread pieces in the toaster oven for 15 min at 120oC to harden them and a further 3 min at 180oC to impart some colour.
  3. Mash 2 slivers of anchovy in their oil in a mixing bowl. You should end up 2t of anchovy oil suspension. You may need to heat the anchovy in the pan for them to disintegrate – see notes below.
  4. Peel and mince a few cloves of garlic.
  5. Add 1t mustard, 2t minced garlic, 2t vinegar and a pinch of sugar to the bowl and mix well.
  6. Add 4T of mayonnaise and mix well. Then add 3T of vegetable oil 1T at a time, stirring the oil in each time before the next spoon. This is your Caesar’s salad dressing.
  7. Cut each of the Romaine lettuce hearts into 5 equal sections. Open up the sections into individual pieces and place them in a large salad bowl. Cut each cherry tomato into half and add them to the salad. Spoon in the salad dressing and toss well.
  8. Separate the salad into plates at this stage if you are serving the salad individually.
  9. Top off the salad with the bacon bits and croutons.
  10. Grate your cheese and sprinkle over the salad.
  11. Finish with some black pepper.

Notes

  • Anchovy from a can will fall apart easily. Anchovy from a bottle is of a higher quality and requires heating before it will disintegrate into a suspension. I typically just heat the contents of the whole bottle of anchovies in a pan, mash them and pour everything back into the bottle after its cooled. This makes it really convenient to spoon out the anchovy suspension whenever I need it.
  • Add 1T of water to the salad dressing if you are not rinsing your lettuce.
  • Do not use extra-virgin olive oil as you don’t want the taste of olives in your Caesar’s salad. Use any kind of vegetable oil, or a light olive oil is fine too.
  • Follow the sequence given for making the dressing. If you add the oil before the mayonnaise, it will be impossible to get a smooth mixture.
 
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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Appetizers, Recipe, Salad

 

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