Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ending festivities on a sweet note

This is what Malaysians would call being 'gatal' meaning having 'itchy' fingers or fingers that can't keep still. Not only did I make two types of rendang for Hari Raya, but also some Pineapple Jam Biscuits, which started off as tarts and mutated into biscuits.


There's no real story to this other than me just wanting to eat Pineapple Jam Tarts - just like the rendang - and since I have pretty high standards for tarts I decided to make them myself... on Hari Raya evening... while watching NCIS Season 6. I do so adore Mark Harmon and have done for a long time, so watching back-to-back repeat episodes - while rolling biscuits - was a blissful way to spend a quiet evening at home. (That and the earlier remark should give you an inkling of just how much time I spend in front of the TV in a week - almost zero!)

The idea for these biscuits came from here. I didn't however follow the recipe for the pastry because I couldn't bring myself to use that much of Condensed Milk. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE Condensed Milk, but only in my hot drinks and to make into a faux dulce de leche for Banoffee Pie. (Though I'm quite sure I'm going to break this rule soon when I attempt making the Kueh Lapis Batavia/Spekkoek, but let's not talk about that now.)

Let's talk about these lovely biscuits. They were lovely. Buttery, crumbly, short kind of lovely. I'm so happy they didn't end up in the dustbin, where some of my more uncontrolled baking experiments go.


That said, the endless rolling of jam and dough made me restrict myself to baking only one tray that night, with the remainder left for the next day. I KNOW you can make these smaller and more delicate-looking. That was the initial aim. However, mine turned-out roughly the size of ping-pong balls and ultimately looked similar to Penang's famous tau sar pneah. Maybe I should call these pineapple pneah?

PINEAPPLE JAM BISCUITS

450g Plain Flour
230g Salted Butter, cold and cubed
3 or 4 tablespoons Icing Sugar, sifted
A pinch of Salt
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
1 Egg Yolk
2 tablespoons Condensed Milk
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

500g Pineapple Jam

1 Egg
Vanilla Essence
Some Black Sesame Seeds

In a large bowl, mix the Plain Flour and Salted Butter with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the Salt and Icing Sugar. Using your fingers, gently mix both through the Flour/Butter mixture. Make a well in the centre of the Flour/Butter/Salt/Icing Sugar mix and put the Vanilla Essence, Egg Yolk, Condensed Milk and Oil in. Using your hands, bring everything together to form a ball of dough that cleanly leaves the sides of the bowl. Set aside. 

Roll Pineapple Jam into little balls and place them on a plate. 

To assemble the biscuits, take a pinch of dough, roll it into a ball and then flatten it out with the heel of your palm. Place a ball of jam in the centre and carefully close the dough around it. Lightly pinch any holes close and roll the dough/jam ball until the dough looks nice and smooth. Place it on a very lightly greased baking tray. 

Repeat until all the dough and jam is used up. 

Crack the Egg in a bowl and add in a drop of Vanilla Essence. Mix until well-combined. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg wash and sprinkle some Black Sesame Seeds on them.

Bake the biscuits in a 150 Celsius oven for about 20 - 25 minutes or until the egg wash looks a light golden in colour. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray. Once cool, store the biscuits in an airtight jar. 

Notes

  • You may have a little dough or Pineapple Jam left over. Put it in a container and store in the fridge. Use up the dough within 5 days. The Pineapple Jam can be left longer if it is a sweet jam. If it is sour, then use within 2 weeks. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Rendang Tok

31 July 2014 - Updated the photo.

So I said in the previous post that I wasn't going to attempt rendang again anytime soon, but I did. What was I going to do with all that Galangal and Kaffir Lime Leaves anyway? 

This time round I made a Rendang Tok. My version of it anyway, which is give-or-take some of the spices. I liked the look of Ummi's rendang, so that's the recipe I used with a little tweaking.

Some people liked this more than the previous version! Well well well. That's not too bad. Looks like my rendang cooking skills are not too shabby after all.

No nice photos unfortunately, because I was tired from all the prep and stirring towards the end. Also, while the Beef was cooking in the oven, I made some very quick, very delicious Pineapple Jam Biscuits


RENDANG TOK

Meat Marinade
800g- 1kg Beef Brisket, cubed
3 teaspoons Tamarind Paste
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt

Dry Spices (to dry roast and grind fine)
2 tablespoons Coriander
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Fennel
1 tablespoon Black Pepper

Wet Spice Paste (to blend)
20 dried Red Chillies, soaked in hot water and drained
1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
4 medium Red Onions
4 cloves Garlic
1 thumb-sized piece Ginger
1/2 thumb-sized piece Galangal
3 stalks Lemongrass

Other ingredients
500ml thick Coconut Milk
70g Kerisik
6 Kaffir Lime Leaves
3 Star Anise
4 Cardamon pods
Palm Sugar, to taste
Salt, to taste
Oil

Meat Marinade
In a large bowl, mix the Salt, Sugar and Tamarind Paste together. Add in the Beef cubes and toss till well mixed. Set aside. 

Dry Spices
Dry roast the spices over medium heat till aromatic. Cool and then grind into a fine powder in a dry spice blender. Set aside.

Wet Spice Paste
Slice, cut or snip all the spices. Put all the ingredients into a blender. Add a little water to get the blender going and blend until you get a paste. Set aside. 

Cooking the rendang
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add Oil. Then add the Wet Spice Paste, Star Anise and Cardamon. Fry spices for a minute. Then add in the Dry Spices and Kaffir Lime Leaves. Fry a few minutes more until slightly aromatic. 

Add in the Beef and stir until the meat is well coated with the spices. Then stir in all of the Coconut Milk. (The Coconut Milk should just cover the meat) 

Cover the pot with its lid and place in a 160 - 170 Celsius oven for about 1 hour or until the meat is slightly tender.

Remove pot from the oven and then transfer the contents of the pot into a wide flat-bottomed wok. On low to medium heat, stir the gulai until the Coconut Milk starts evaporating little by little. This should take about 20 - 30 minutes. Just before the 20 - 30 minutes is up - when there's still liquid in the wok - add in the Palm Sugar and Salt to taste. 

Lastly, add in the Kerisik. The mixture will suddenly start thickening. Keep stirring until the liquid is evaporated and the Oil starts floating to the top and sides of the rendang

Switch off the fire, cover the wok with its lid and let it sit on a cooler part of the stove until it comes to room temperature. Before eating, warm the rendang up a little and serve with hot boiled rice or nasi himpit or lemang.    

Notes
  • I used my trusty cast-iron Le Creuset pot for the first part of the stove and oven cooking. It helped make the meat nice and tender. I then switched to a wide flat-bottomed wok.
  • You can use just one pot for the whole cooking process, but then you have to stir for hours until everything comes together. I prefer to forget the rendang for at least an hour, so into the oven it goes. I'm just a bit lazy like that. Also nothing stuck to my pot or wok, which made washing up a breeze.  
  • I would use slightly less Kerisik the next time, as I felt 70g was a little bit too much. 




Monday, 28 July 2014

Selamat Hari Raya and a tale of Beef Rendang


It's Hari Raya. The time of the year when one eats all the goodies of the season in the form of nasi himpit, lemang, kuah kacang, kueh, and of course rendang

There are all sorts of rendang, but I'm not going to get into that today. What I am going to get into is that a week ago I realised I might actually miss out on all these goodies especially the rendang. Now, I don't celebrate Hari Raya, but going without rendang during the season was just impossible to deal with. So I decided to make my own. 

This is not my first attempt at rendang and as I do love a good Beef Rendang, I've tried to make it before but not quite so successfully. It's quite an effort to get the flavour and tenderness of the meat right. 

Armed with research from here and here, I made what I think is the best rendang I've ever made, ever. It had a gorgeous flavour and above all, the meat is fork-tender. Both use similar ingredients with the exception of the quantity called for and two or three additional spices.  

There were a few stressful moments while making this dish though.

First, I panicked and kept checking on it every five to ten minutes, when the recipe said to leave it well alone. (This is when I sent an S.O.S. to a friend on Facebook to find out if I should be looking at it cook every few minutes or not. I was told yes, a little bit too late!) Why? Because I finally DID leave it alone only to find at the end of the first hour that the bottom was starting to get burnt. Oh dear, oh dear.

So after a quick check on the tenderness of the meat, I turned on the oven and into it went the pot for its second hour of cooking. 

After the second hour was up, the contents of the pot went into a flat-bottomed wok for caramelising, 'frying' of the Spice Paste and reducing the gravy.

All in all, the rendang took about three and a half hours to make from beginning to end, including prep time. I was relieved and tired once it was done. The dish was delicious this evening with some boiled rice, but hopefully better tomorrow once it has a chance to have a good night's rest. This and a Butter Cake is what I'm taking over to Aunty Jaibun's later today.

Don't think I'd repeat this anytime soon. Maybe next year Raya is soon enough? 

BEEF RENDANG

1.2kg Beef Brisket, cubed
2 teaspoons Salt
4 teaspoons Sugar
3 teaspoons Tamarind Paste
80g *Kerisik

Spice Paste (to be blended)
4 medium red Onions
6 fresh Red Chillies, de-seeded
28 dried Red Chillies, soaked in hot water and drained
2 thumb-sized pieces Ginger
1/2 thumb-sized piece Galangal
6 cloves Garlic 

Other ingredients
2 teaspoons Turmeric Powder
6 Kaffir Lime Leaves
4 stalks Lemongrass, bruised
4 slices Galangal
5 tablespoons Palm Sugar
2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
4 tablespoons Oil
1 litre Coconut Milk, divided

In a large bowl, mix the Salt, Sugar, Tamarind Paste and Kerisik together. Add in the Beef cubes and toss till well mixed. Set aside.

In a blender, blend all the ingredients for the Spice Paste. If needed, add a little water to get the blender going. Blend until you get a fine paste. Set aside. 

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add Oil. Then add the Spice Paste. Fry the Spice Paste for about 1 minute and then add all the other ingredients into the pot. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add 750ml of the Coconut Milk. Add the Beef and stir through until the meat is well-coated. 

Cover the pot and cook on very low heat for 1 hour. Add in the remaining Coconut Milk and adjust the seasoning. I then put the pot into a 170 Celsius oven to cook for a further hour or until meat is tender.

After the second hour of cooking. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer everything in it to a flat-bottomed wok. Turn the heat on to low and start stirring the rendang every 5 - 10 minutes to prevent any sticking. Keep stirring until the gravy reduces and changes into a darker, more chocolate colour. The rendang is done once the gravy dries up leaving the meat with a caramelised coating. Cover and cool in the wok. Before eating, warm it up a little and serve with hot boiled rice.

*Kerisik - Make your own kerisik by toasting about 80g of dessicated coconut in a dry wok until it is aromatic, brown and well-toasted. Transfer to a pestle and mortar. Pound the crisp coconut lightly until you get a semi-fine powder. 

Notes
  • This is my first time cooking Beef Brisket. It is so far the best cut of beef I've used to make a rendang.
  • I used my cast-iron Le Creuset pot for the first two hours of cooking. Next time I'd put the pot straight into the oven for the first two hours of cooking to prevent the rendang getting burnt.
  • I would experiment with slightly less Coconut Milk next time. I used Ayam Brand Coconut Milk
  • I didn't use the Dark Soya Sauce called for in Not Quite Nigella's recipe, as I wanted the dish to caramelise on its own. 

Now, just what do I do with all that Galangal and Kaffir Lime Leaves I had to buy?


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Nestum Butter Prawns

Yesterday was one of the rare occasions I ventured out for a wedding reception. As part of the Chinese sit-down course dinner at a gorgeous hotel in the city, there were some delicious Butter Prawns

Now, I love a well-made dish of Butter Prawns as much as the next person, but somehow when I'm all dressed-up and at a swanky wedding reception, the last thing I want to do is eat prawns. Why? Well, if you've eaten a Chinese course meal, you'll know that the prawns usually come with the shell on (because the flavour is best if it's cooked with it on) and the absolute best way to eat them is to use your fingers to get to the sweetly succulent flesh inside.

BUT... (and this is a big BUT) you'll ultimately end-up with prawn-smelling fingers that will trail you all the way home. No amount of hand-washing will get rid of the smell unless you're OCD enough to wash your hand about 10 times, and then too only if you're lucky. Prawns are like garlic that way.  

All I was brave enough to attempt eating last night were two prawns. Thank God for luxury hotels, because along with the Chinese soup spoon and chopsticks, the place settings also included forks and knives which helped tremendously while dealing with the prawns. Yay! Still, I ate only two and came home craving more. 

If you've eaten it before, you'll know that there are many versions of Butter Prawns i.e. Butter Prawns with butter and cream; oats; egg yolk floss; Nestum; etc. My favourite is - well - are all the versions! Who can say no to Butter Prawns anyway? If you're afraid of cholesterol, eat it in moderation maybe once or twice a year. It's a remarkably rich dish, so if you eat more than three or four prawns you're likely to feel quite sick and jelak


Anyway, to finally get to the point. I decided to satisfy the craving. I bought some prawns and made Nestum Butter Prawns. I followed a recipe I found here, which even has a very useful Youtube video showing you how to make it. 

NESTUM BUTTER PRAWNS
Adapted from KitchenTigress

Cereal Mix
3/4 cup Nestum 
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Skimmed Milk Powder

About 300g Prawns, medium (8 - 10 pieces)
(trim, de-vein, wash and dry completely)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 Egg, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons Plain Flour

Peanut Oil
30g Butter
6 - 10 sprigs Curry Leaves
1 Bird's Eye Chilli, sliced thinly (optional)

In a bowl, mix ingredients for Nestum mix and set aside.

In another bowl, mix Prawns with Salt, Plain Flour and Egg. In a hot wok, add a little Peanut Oil and saute the prawns until just cooked through. Drain and set aside. 

Let the wok cool down and then on low heat, add the Butter, Curry Leaves and Chilli. Fry until fragrant. 

The add Cereal Mix and stir until lightly golden. Curry Leaves should crisp-up as the excess moisture is absorbed by the cereal.

Add Prawns and toss until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. When the Nestum turns a golden brown turn-off the heat. Dish-out and serve immediately.