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Soya Sauce Braised Chicken


(serves 4)
Braising in soya sauce is one of the most basic Chinese cooking styles. My recipe is slightly modernized but its essentially the same Chicken In Soya Sauce that my mother used to cook for me when I was young. My ‘trick’ is to cook the chicken for only a short amount of time but have it soak in the braising liquid for a long time. The result is chicken that is really tender but still tasty. Its a great for to cook chicken if you don’t have an oven.   
 

Ingredients Soya Braised Chicken

  1. Chicken Leg with Thigh (4)
  2. Dark Soya Sauce (1/4 cup)
  3. Chinese Wine (1/4 cup)
  4. Onion (1)
  5. Maple Syrup
  6. Five Spice Powder
  7. Nutmeg
  8. Black Pepper

Optional Ingredients in photo

  1. Potatoes
  2. Bok Choi
  3. Egg
  4. Konnyaku Vermicelli (aka Shirataki)

Preparation 

  1. Defrost the chicken completely and pad dry with kitchen towels. Trim off any visible chunks of fat on the the thigh with a pair of scissors. The skin tends to shrink so leave any excess skin on.
  2. Marinate the chicken in 4T of maple syrup.
  3. Prepare your optional ingredients (see notes below) at this stage. If they require more than 7 minutes of cooking time, par-boil them for a while, otherwise, just cut them to the right size.
  4. Next, cut an onion into thick rings. Choose a pot which the chicken will fit snugly in a single layer. Stir fry the onions in the pot with 3T of vegetable oil over a very low flame.
  5. After the onion becomes soft and starts to caramelize, this will take some time, mix 1/4 cup dark soya sauce, 1/4 cup Chinese wine with 1 cup water and add this to the pot.
  6. Turn up the heat and bring to a strong boil. Add 1 heaped T of sugar, 1T five spice powder, 1T nutmeg and 1T black pepper.
  7. Arrange the chicken legs nicely into the boiling pot upside down and pour in all the left over maple syrup marinade. Top up with the optional ingredients to bring up the level of the liquid. Ensure the chicken is fully submerged. The vegetables don’t need to be completely covered as the liquid will be splashing about as it boils.
  8. Boil the chicken for exactly seven minutes. Leave the pot uncovered so the liquid can thicken and place the cover on only for the last 30 seconds. After turning the fire off, leave the pot covered for several hours, preferably overnight. This is the part where the flavour soaks into the chicken.
  9. You don’t want the meat to be overcooked, so remove the chicken first when reheating. When the braising liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat off before putting the chicken legs back in the pot. Give the chicken 5 min to warm up before serving.

Notes

  • You can swap in or add all kinds of other flavours to the soya sauce at step 6 depending on your preference, for example ginger slices, cinnamon, cloves.
  • There are many optional ingredients you can add to the pot with your chicken, just remember they must be of a type that does not adsorb too much flavour. For the photo I used potatoes, bok choy and shirataki, a yam based vermicelli which is already mostly water. Other possible options are chestnuts, yam and any kind of leafy vegetables.
  • If you don’t have Chinese wine, try sherry. My favourite for this recipe is actually sake. Do not skip the alcohol as it is needed to mellow out the soya sauce. It will evaporate anyway.
  • If you are using chicken breast meat, consider brining it first.
  • There will be lots of chicken-flavoured braising liquid left over. It is very useful. You can use it to braise additional vegetables that cannot be left in the braising liquid overnight, like eggplant, carrots, mushrooms. You can also use them to marinate boiled eggs (as in picture), as a BBQ marinade, to fry noodles etc. If you strain the liquid before storing it in an air-tight container in the fridge, it can easily last a fortnight (it should congeal into a gel).  
 
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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Chestnut and Garlic Soup


(serves 6-8)
There is nothing like some hot Chestnut Soup to warm you up when its chilly outside. The one problematic thing with chestnut soup is the sweetness of chestnuts. When it comes to this particular genre of soups, its very easy to cross the line from soup to dessert. Thats where the garlic and pancetta in my recipe come in.  All said, this is a simple recipe, with only a few ingredients, but the result is a whole bowl of yummy goodness. 
 

Ingredients Chestnut Soup

  1. Peeled Chestnuts (600g)
  2. Pancetta (150g)
  3. Garlic (8 cloves = 0.5 bulb)
  4. Chicken Stock Cubes (2)
  5. Bourbon
  6. Nutmeg
  7. Oregano
  8. Sage

Preparation 

  1. Seal the peeled chestnuts in a gallon zip-loc bag with most of the air squeezed out. Bash the chestnuts with a meat mallet or rolling pin till the chestnut is reduced to little bits.
  2. In a pot with 4 cups of boiling water, dissolve 2 chicken stock cubes.
  3. Add the chestnuts to the pot and simmer for ninety minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. In the meanwhile peel half a bulb of garlic and put the cloves through the garlic press for mincing. 
  5. Next, fry 150g of cubed pancetta on low heat in a pan until the fat has pretty much melted and the pancetta begins to crisp. Add the garlic and continue to fry til the garlic starts to brown nicely. Immediately turn off the heat and add a cup of water to stop the garlic from getting burnt.
  6. When the ninety minutes is up, your chestnut bits should have soften nicely. Blend the chestnut pieces into a watery puree using an immersion blender. Chestnuts are pretty tough so you’ll need to stir the blender around the pot on high power for about 30 seconds to whip the soup into a nice creamy texture.
  7. Add the contents of the pan into the pot and bring to a simmer again. Add 2t sage, 1t nutmeg and 1t oregano, 2T of bourbon. Maintain the simmer for fifteen minutes so the crispy pancetta can soak in some moisture.
  8. Towards the end, add water to bring your soup to the consistency you like. Sprinkle with black pepper, taste and add salt til the soup tastes just right. Garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.

Notes

  • Nowadays you can just buy peeled chestnuts but if you are starting off with raw chestnuts, cut a cross on the shell (so they don’t explode) and roast them in an oven for 20 minutes at about 200oC before peeling them.   
  • Chestnuts are naturally sweet so you’ll want to use the smoked or affumicata type of pancetta. Pancetta is seasoned with lots of herbs so they release a really nice complex taste into the soup. Don’t be tempted to drain off the oil that melts into the pan, that’s where the flavour lies. There is more than enough starch from the chestnuts to emulsify the oil so your soup won’t be oily.
  • Tip: add a teaspoon of miso in place of salt for that extra dimension of flavour.
 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in A Kobi Original, English, Recipe, Soups

 

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Linguini Quattro Formaggi


(serves 4 full portions)
Quattro Formaggi, the ultimate cheese lover’s (and vegetarian’s) pasta dish. Its deceptively plain appearance hides a treasure trove of flavour within. No meat or vegetables are used in its preparation, and all you need is a carefully chosen blend of four cheeses (that’s what Quattro Formaggi means) in a creamy sauce to please the palate. My recipe is easy to remember, 400g of cheese plus 400g of pasta plus 400ml of milk & sake. The four cheeses I use are common varieties: Roquefort, Gruyere, Edam and Parmigiano.  
 

Ingredients

  1. Roquefort (150g)
  2. Gruyere (100g)
  3. Edam (100g)
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano (50g)
  5. Linguini (400g)
  6. Milk (300ml)
  7. Sake (100ml)
  8. Onion (1/2)
  9. Almonds (1/2 cup)
  10. Chopped Parsley (3T)
  11. Honey
  12. Nutmeg
  13. Coriander Seed Powder
  14. White Pepper

Preparation 

  1. Remove the wax rind of the Edam and then cut both the Edam and Gruyere into 1cm cubes. Grate the parmigiano coarsely.The Roquefort will fall apart easily, so there is no need to do anything to it. Do this ahead of time and leave the cheese to warm to room temperature.
  2. Smash your almonds in a clear plastic bag using a meat mallet.
  3. Boil a pot of water for the pasta, with 1t of salt and a knob of butter.
  4. Julienne half an onion and pan fry with a dash of oil in a large saucepan until the begin to caramelize.
  5. Add 300 ml of milk and bring to a low simmer. Melt the Gruyere and Edam in the cream first, stirring frequently to prevent clumping. When those two cheeses have melted, add the remaining two cheeses followed by the sake. For seasoning, add 1t honey, 1t nutmeg, 1t coriander seed powder, 1/2 t white pepper and 2T chopped parsley.
  6. Simmer for a minute or two until the sauce is at the right consistency. It doesn’t have to be too thick as it will thicken as it cools. For most sauces you will add salt at the end but since cheese is salty, you will add sugar instead. Sprinkle on a bit at a time till you think the taste is right. The amount will depend on the types of cheeses you used.
  7. Boil the linguini till it is semi-soft. Drain and then add the pasta to the saucepan. Reheat while tossing the pasta in the cheese sauce til the pasta is al dente. You may need to add a bit of water if the sauce begins to dry up too much before the pasta gets soft enough.
  8. Plate the pasta. Sprinkle on the remaining 1T of parsley plus 2T of almond bits per plate.

Notes

Roquefort – a type of blue cheese

  • There are some websites that tell you you can use any 4 types of cheese you like. I disagree. You can swap in other cheeses but you have to replace each cheese with one of the same type. Its always 150g blue cheese, 100g each of melting and medium cheeses and 50g of grating cheese. The traditional Italian lineup would probably be gorgonzola + mozeralla + fontina + pecorino romano. You can check out what the alternatives are in my Cheese Page.
  • The cheese must be allowed to warm to room temperature or there is a chance some types won’t melt but become stringy instead.
  • The easiest way to get the right weight of each type of cheese is to look at the total weight of each package and cut out the appropriate portion by volume. There’s no need to actually weigh the cheese.
  • Nuts are one of the natural complimentary foods to cheese. I introduced some to provide added texture to the bite and to add a new layer of flavour. Even so, make sure you use meaty dishes for other courses to balance out the meal. You can also use half portions as appetizers.
  • White wine is usually added in this sauce but if sake was invented in Italy, I’m sure the originators of quattro formaggi would have used sake. Many types of white wine can make the sauce taste unnecessarily sour. I have tried many different types of alcohol and I’ve found that sake adulterates the taste of the cheeses the least. 
 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe

 

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Split-Pea and Ham Soup


(serves 8-10)
Have you heard the phrase ‘fog as thick as pea soup’? This is that soup. Split-pea and Ham Soup is a wholesome soup that has been on the menu in Northern Europe for centuries, if not longer. The Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians all have their own versions where split-peas are simmered till they disintegrate completely, leaving a gorgeous emulsion of peas suspended in ham flavoured stock. Kobi’s version doesn’t require a ham hock, so its particularly easy to make.  
 

Ingredients

  1. Dried Spit Peas (240g)
  2. Cubed Ham (150g)
  3. Pork Sausages (150g)
  4. Onion (1)
  5. Butter (25g)
  6. Cream (1/4 cup)
  7. Pork Stock Cubes (2)
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Mint Leaves

Preparation 

  1. Rinse the split peas briefly and then soak them in 2 cups of room temperature water.
  2. In a seperate cup of hot water, dissolve 2 pork stock cubes.
  3. Cut the onion into 1/4 inch bits.
  4. Slice each sausage down the middle and open them like a book face down to remove the sausage skin. Stir 1/4 cup of water into the sausage filling to loosen it up.
  5. In a large pot, fry the onion on low heat with a half inch thick slab of butter. When the onion begins to soften after about five minutes, turn the heat up and then add the wet sausage filling. Stir fry till the sausage begins to brown slightly – which means its fat has melted, then add the cubed ham and fry for another minute.
  6. Add the pork stock to the pot, followed by 3 cups of plain water, and then the peas including the water they were soaked in. Add 2t chopped mint leaves, 1t nutmeg, 1t sugar and 1t black pepper.
  7. Bring back up to a simmer again and maintain this for 90 minutes or so, at which time the peas would have disappeared. You’ll need to stir once in a while to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom. You’ll also need to add water from time to time as it evaporates.
  8. Before serving, reboil and stir in 1/4 cup of cream. Add salt incrementally (about 2t by my experience) till you are satisfied with the taste. Pea soup turns into a sludge when it cools down so always serve it piping hot.

Notes

  • If you are wondering why I’m using such and odd amount of split peas, its because 240g is half a pound and split peas more often than not come in half pound packs. It also happens to be 3 cups if you want to go by volume. 
  • One of the age-old problems with split-pea soup is: the amount of ham required to make a proper stock is 10x more than the amount of ham that should be in the soup when it gets to the table. The traditional way of resolving this is to use a whole ham hock for the stock, with a small part of the hock diced for the final soup itself. When I initially experimented with pork stock cubes, I found them to be too lean and eventually I discovered that adding pork sausage to the mix was the ticket. The sausage contains fat (and other pork parts that I don’t want to discuss) and this with the pork cubes simulates a ham hock stock nicely.
  • Pork stock cubes are popular in Asia and you should find them easily in a gourmet supermarket or Thai/Asian food store. If you really can’t find pork cubes, use chicken stock cubes boiled with spam instead. You’ll need to discard the spam before using the stock, but that’s still better than using a ham hock.
  • If you can’t find pre-cubed ham, ask for ham from the deli counter that is sliced 1/3 inch thick and criss cross that to get your cubes.
 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Recipe, Soups

 

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The Spice Page


The strange thing about spices is they all taste terrible by themselves but when mixed in minute quantities with food, out of nowhere they produce new depth, and make dishes more wholesome. I’ve only put in spices that I use regularly and this by no mean a comprehensive list. Hopefully, there’ll be new additions from time to time. This page is only a starting point, so don’t be afriad to experiment with different spices and foods, you’ll discover your own ‘killer combos’.

Spice 500

  1. Cardamon (also cardamom) is a spice from the Indian subcontinent, belonging to the ginger family. Cardamon has a unique bitter smoky flavour and being from India, they are naturally used in a lot of curried dishes, like biryani. In western cuisine, they are typically used to enhance the flavour of meat fillings, especially in savoury pies and pastries. They come either in whole seeds or ground seeds. I recommend using ground cardamom, because no one enjoys biting into a cardamom seed. Did I mention they are bitter? Use only a pinch at a time.
  2. Cinnamon is a tree bark that is dried and sold as sticks or as a powder. As a stick, it is used as a fancy way of flavouring Italian style cappuccino but more often than not, it is used in powder form. The ‘warmness’ of cinnamon makes it partner well with many hot desserts and pastries, especially those which contain cooked fruits like apple pie. Cinnamon is also used in baked savoury dishes, but less frequently.
  3. Cloves are the dried flower buds of a tree found in the former Dutch Indies. Its strong peppery bittersweet flavour makes it perfect for gamey red meat roasts (lamb, venison etc.). Its pointed shape and hardness allows it to be planted directly into the meat before baking. When used for soups, it is often planted into an onion for easy retrieval after it has surrendered its flavour. Cloves are a versatile spice, and they are also used in many hot alcoholic drinks like hot toddy and mulled wine.
  4. Coriander Seed powder, unlike cilantro, only has a mild citrus smell and also a relatively mild taste. This mildness makes it a good all-purpose spice and coriander is used with everything from coffee, to meat seasoning, to soups. It is also used as a base to be mixed with other stronger spices, such as in the case of curry powder. When you wish to add body to your soup or stew without substantially adjusting the taste, you can’t go wrong with coriander seed.
  5. Cumin seeds are usually ground up and used as the active ingredient in curry powder. It is used for specific dishes in a large number of different cultures but it is not used much in traditional western cuisine except for making creamy vegetable soups, especially cream of carrot soup. If your recipe calls for curry powder, you can more often than not simply substitute in cumin.
  6. Fennel Seed has been described as a mild anise, which themselves are described to have the taste of licorice. It is traditionally considered one of the best spices for fish dishes in old world cuisine. Nowadays many modern bouillabaisse recipes have substituted fennel seeds for fennel bulbs. Fennel seeds are also used in Italian sausages and Chinese five spices powder.
  7. Nutmeg is a brown powder ground from the seed of a tree by the same name. It has the appearance of an unrefined brown sugar like muscovado. You’d usually use it if you want to give a spicy kick to a egg dessert,  like custard or sabayon. It is also be used to marinate gamey meat and as an ingredient in hot alcoholic drinks like mulled wine. Mace is made from the outer cover of the nutmeg seed  and can be thought of as a milder form of nutmeg.
  8. Paprika is the bright red powder ground from dried sweet and hot peppers. It is however not as spicy as it looks. It is used most in Eastern European cuisine, in dishes such as Hungarian goulash. Paprika is also used to make chorizo, a type of sausage from the Iberian peninsula. That’s why they are so red. I don’t know why, but I usually use paprika when I am marinating lamb or chicken.
  9. Pepper – what’s there to say? Use it (black) all the time. Also try the japanese pepper powder, called Sansyo.
  10. Saffron is reputedly the most expensive spice in the world. Luckily you only use a little at a time or you end up with a cough mixture taste. Saffron can be bought in powdered form or in threads, which should be then crushed into powder. Saffron is a standard ingredient in French bouillabaisse and Spanish paella and certain yellow risottos.
  11. Shichimi Togarashi, translated as seven spices powder, is a japanese mix of pepper and chilli, with other ingredients such as tangerine zest and sesame seeds. Whenver a recipe calls for pepper or paprika, you can try using this instead to get that extra kick.
  12. Turmeric is a bright yellow spice of the ginger family that actually tastes like, well dried ground up ginger. It is used in many far-eastern dishes where the rice is dyed yellow. Turmeric also gives chutneys their distinctive yellow tinge. There is a misconception that turmeric can be substituted for saffron, but all they share is the ability to make things yellow.
 
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Posted by on October 8, 2009 in Ingredients

 

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