Foodiva's Kitchen: May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pull-Apart Tomato Bread with Feta, Garlic and Herb Filling

Our Brunei Armed Forces turns 50 years old today. It is older than our independent country, which is only 27. Yes, we are a young country... I was born when we were not yet completely autonomous and free. To celebrate the military's Golden Anniversary as well as honor the selfless men and women who have served to protect and maintain peace for this country, I'm going to bake something special today.

Pull-apart bread...I've been seeing a lot of them around lately - being written about, baked and I presume, eaten. What's going on? Is there a secret that bakers are revelling in which I'm totally clueless about? Those breads that I've seen via my computer screen sure do look good. My blogger friends, Nancy (Spicie Foodie), Gina (SPCookieQueen) and Lora (Cake Duchess) have all recently made their own versions of pull-apart bread. And then there were also several others' take on it that I dare to imagine this style of bread becoming the newest rage in baking. Step aside, macaron. Go on..scoot over, cake-pop. Your time is up. Pull-apart bread's here and it's going to rip our world! Pun intended, of course.

Friday, May 27, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Cardamom Rice Pilaf

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.
~Edward de Bono

The best rice pilaf (or pilau rice) I had ever eaten was at an Indian restaurant in Malvern. It was located down the road from my boarding school, tucked away at the base of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, UK. Or maybe it seemed like the best because of the memory tied to it and sometimes that's what the brain chooses to remember over everything else.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Still Hopeful - Black Sesame Macarons with Dragonfruit Cream Filling

I am sick and tired of the perfect macaronages going on around me. Can we even remember what life was like before Ladurée and Pierre Hermé Paris came along and showed us that food superstardom could be packaged as small, colorful and incredibly tasty discs? All of a sudden, I wanted in on the fun.

There has always been a wall around my mind where the thought of making macarons refuse to penetrate. It is odd, but I was intimidated... afraid to jump in and look foolish if I failed. Which is even more odd because being perceived as foolish is something that has never stopped me from living a full life, the funnest life. And I've failed at a lot of things, actually.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crispy Matcha Apam Balik (Crispy Green Tea Crêpes) with Raspberry and Crushed Nuts

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
Mark Twain

Here's a lovely foodtruck idea for you. Or rather, for those of you who operate a foodtruck business, in which case I am completely envious. A blogger friend of mine recently asked my thoughts on comfort food, and while I described to her two of my favorites, I forgot to mention this slice of earthly delight - apam balik. Literally translated, it means pancake turnovers, a very Malay street fare popular in the night/food markets of Brunei and Malaysia. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Beef Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad

“We are beginning to wonder whether a servant girl hasn't the best of it after all. She knows how the salad tastes without the dressing, and she knows how life's lived before it gets to the parlor door.”

Djuna Barnes

Two bacon-containing dishes two weeks in a row....sigh. What's a (non-bacon-eating) girl to do? Improvise, that's what. Although you'll be relieved to know that for this week's FFWD, I actually went with the meat part and used beef bacon. It's as fat-laden as actual bacon and was just perfect. End of fret session.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spicy Thai Inspired Millet

I was recently gifted a copy of An Epiphany of the Senses, a beautifully-compiled cookbook by my friend and fellow blogger, Nancy of Spicie Foodie. Inside, it contains delicious recipes that are a mix of her heritage (Mexican), her country of residence (Czech Republic) and strangely enough, Asian. I can only assume that her interest in Asian culinary influences stems from the fact that food from this region uses a cornucopia of spices for flavoring. Of course, I may be wrong so if you're reading this, Nancy, please feel free to correct me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

International Incident Party: Vegetarian Party Gumbo with (Vegan) Andouille Sausage

I very nearly headed over to New Orleans once because I heard the restaurants there served up crabs as big as dinner plates, but unfortunately, got detoured to Florida instead (not that Florida's any less lovely, mind). Anyway, the point here is that I missed the opportunity to sample authentic Louisianan Gumbo. Where I am living right now, Louisiana just seems very far away... even though it isn't, not really.

Imagine my surprise when Penny of Jeroxie blog announced the theme of this month's IIP - Gumbo. I had to Google it up to see how gumbo actually looked like and what ingredients made it up. While the most well-known gumbos apparently contains seafood or fowl with added sausage, there's also the meatless gumbo z'herbes that's composed of slow-cooked greens. I decided on a vegetarian version, one less complicated than gumbo z'herbes, with added Andouille sausage. Or rather, a vegan take on Andouille.   

Friday, May 13, 2011

FFWD - Spinach and (Not-Quite) Bacon Quiche

Before you ask, I don't quite know what possessed me to make a crust with those green strips sticking out at the top, but there it is. We all just have to live with it....besides, they didn't really make any difference to the overall taste of this quiche. A little bit of aesthetics (or eyesore, whichever side you're on) never killed anyone, it just makes you see things in a different way.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bread Pudding-On-The-Go: Hot Buttered Molasses Bread Pudding Muffins

My contribution for this month's Bread Pudding of the Month Club hosted by Victoria of Mission: Food is something of a take-out version of bread pudding. Wrapped in homemade muffin liners and topped with crunchy, buttery bread flowers, these bread pudding muffins are adorably shabby chic. Yes, not only interior décor, muffins can now enjoy a chic reputation as well....

I flavored this bread pudding with distinct-tasting ingredients - cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, molasses and vanilla. Coupled with the smell of heated bread and milk, the aromatically-laden muffins gave off the most amazing smell the day I baked them. I felt comforted simply just sniffing them, so can you imagine my joy after tucking into one (or two, or perhaps three) of these?

The paper muffin liners you see here were really easy to shape. I just cut 5 x 5 inch squares out of parchment paper, folded each into wide cones then pressed them down into the bottom of a muffin tray cup using my fingers. To demonstrate how easy this ahem...technique is, below is a super-cute video of two young ladies making cupcake liners using origami papers. You can also purchase them ready-made from Fancy Flours, they even come in a variety of lovely colors.

I really like the size and portability of this bread pudding. You can take it to work, to a picnic or have it in your gym bag to munch on after your workout (hey, why not? You deserve it). Apart from that, I also love the crispy, bread topping made from extra, cubed bread coated in butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. The crispiness of the toasted topping was a wonderful contrast to the moistness of the bread pudding underneath it. The muffin tastes really, really good when it’s warm and even better when it’s topped with a dollop of cream or a single scoop of ice-cream. I simply sprinkled some icing sugar on top and it was already quite divine!

Hot Buttered Molasses Bread Pudding Muffins
8 cups cubed bread
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses (black treacle)

3 tablespoons melted salted butter
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. Cut bread into approx. 3/4-inch cubes. Set aside two cups of the bread cubes for the topping. Add the rest to a large bowl.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses. Pour the wet mixture over the bread cubes in the large bowl and toss gently. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so that the bread has time to soak in the liquid.
4. Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cups. They should take about 1/2 cup each. Pour any remaining custard over the bread pudding/muffins.
5. For the topping, pour the melted butter over the remaining 2 cups of bread cubes (I cut mine into flowers here). Toss gently. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle over cubes. Toss gently.
6. Divide the topping evenly between each muffin, placing them close to the center of each. You’ll probably have about three or four cubes per muffin.
7. Bake at 325F/170C for 30 minutes, until they’re set and the top is golden and crisp. Dust, while warm, with a little powdered sugar.
8. Cool on a rack for five to 10 minutes, and then enjoy with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. If you’re not enjoying them right away, keep them refrigerated – they keep for 3-4 days.

Monday, May 9, 2011

For The Love of Polvoron & YBR

Since I first tasted polvoron a long time ago, I've been wanting to make it. If you've ever eaten these before, you'll know that polvoron is a soft, dusty, dense and magnificently crumbly shortbread of Spanish origin made from powdered milk, flour, sugar and sometimes nuts. When I finally remembered, I scoured the net for a really good, simple polvoron recipe. At around the same time, I miraculously discovered a tiny polvoron maker/press at my local baking supplies store (bearing in mind that I don't reside in a Spanish-speaking country here, nor do we have much Spanish influences. Well, apart from having an army of Argentinian polo horses, if you want to be pedantic about it). Talk about the planets aligning at the same time, hey!

 L-R: Dragonfruit, Matcha and Plain Polvorons

 The process: Gather, press, release and presto! Then wrap in cellophane to store.

I'm thinking that this would probably be my best recipe this month...but I haven't totally decided. You'll just have to wait and see if I have more tricks up my pantry! ;-) For those in the know, every month, I try to submit to the Your Best Recipe event hosted by that crazy-talented Mexican chick in Prague, Nancy of Spicie Foodie. If you haven't checked out my YBR contribution for April yet, please click Nancy's post here and look up the others too while you're at it!

Plain Basic Recipe (approx. 1kg)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup powdered milk (I used Anlene low fat, ultra-high calcium for geriatrics like me)
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup melted butter, cooled thoroughly

1. Sieve the flour into a thick-bottomed, non stick pan and toast on medium heat, stirring constantly, until flour turns light brown. Transfer the roasted flour in a bowl right away to prevent further cooking.
2. Add powdered milk and sugar into the mixing bowl, stir to mix. Then add the melted butter, mix with a spoon and press the flour to ensure there are no lumps.
3. Take the polvoron mold, fill it with the polvoron mixture by pressing down on the flour until it is fully filled. Press down hard to compact the mixture before releasing it from the mold. Add more butter if the mixture in not cohesive enough.
4. Carefully wrap a polvoron in cellophane or colored Japanese paper. Store in an airtight container.
5. If you want to try the different Flavorings, divide the polvoron mixture above into 4 portions (approximately 150g dry mixture each, before the addition of butter). Leave one portion plain.
To each of the other portions:
Matcha polvoron - Add 1 teaspoon matcha powder to dry ingredients, before adding 1/4 cup cooled, melted butter.
Chocolate polvoron - Melt 25g dark or milk chocolate in 1/4 cup melted butter, cool, then add to dry ingredients. You can also add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients before adding the butter.
Red dragonfruit polvoron - Scoop a tablespoonful of dragonfruit flesh, press through a small sieve into 1/4 cup melted butter. Stir until pink color is incorporated in the butter. You can also tip the seeds and remaining flesh in the sieve into the butter. Add this cooled butter mixture to the dry ingredients.

Friday, May 6, 2011

FFWD - Tourteau de Chèvre with Sesame, Figs and Thyme

Oh.My.Heavens. Chèvre. Isn’t that another word for Goat Cheese? The first goat cheese I ever tried was almost the last: someone I shared a lot of meals with once handed me a chunk of brownish chèvre and urged me to "try some of this amazing goat cheese”. I took a small nibble, and spent the rest of the week trying to get the taste out of my mouth. It really did taste like a well-aged goat carcass. Many years later I was finally emboldened to try a bit of fresh chèvre, and was delighted that I didn’t gag. Although I must say… I have never gotten too crazy in love with it either.

Until I was writing this post, I had never realized that opinions about chèvre were so polarized. There is something otherworldly about this cheese and it seems like you either love it or hate it. Now that chèvre is trendy, I can see how some goat cheese lovers might want boast that they are (goat cheese lovers) as a way of highlighting their foodie sophisticated-ness. On the other hand, I can also understand why many others seem to have an aversion to this cheese. A bit of surfing on the net revealed these gems relating to the taste of chèvre:
- "It’s like what the beard of the billy goat smells of since he has been "spraying" it." (Haha)
- "It’s unbearably musty and the smell reminds me of something mildew-y that desperately needs to be cleaned out."
- "It’s totally disgusting and gamey."

Goat cheese is definitely something that for many of us takes time to appreciate. So instead of tossing this week's French Fridays with Dorie’s Tourteau de Chèvre recipe to the "Try-Another-Day" bin, I decided to give goat cheese another chance. Dorie’s first-time experience with this dish swayed me, and I too wished for it to surprise me.

For the record, I sort of winged the measurements for the filling. Why? Because I have this adorable 4-inch springform baking pan that’s only slightly larger than my palm. And this being a goat cheese tart (meaning, I would be the only one within a five-mile radius who would be eating it), I decided to use the miniature pan for practicality's sake. The size dictated that I use only 1 egg, 200g of chèvre and no cornstarch and/or extra flavoring.

I couldn’t get hold of plain chèvre but did find a marinated version – I might have spotted unidentified herbs and red bell peppers in the marinade…eeks! Although Dorie’s recipe meant for this tourteau to be a dessert, what I ended up with was something in between sweet and savory.

 Ms. Jenny J, I stood under the hot, tropical sun with my tourteau and 5-inch heels - just for you.

Now don’t declare me insane as I’m about to throw this bag of logic your way. I made the crust with black sesame powder (ground sesame seeds) because of its pronounced nutty taste, and I did this because cheese normally pairs well with nuts. I’ve also never cooked goat meat in my life but the closest I have gotten to doing so is lamb, and whenever I’ve cooked lamb I always sprinkle thyme to complement its gamey flavor. Using this line of thinking, I’ve included toasted fresh thyme in this recipe - a little bit sprinkled on the crust and on top of soft, dried figs tied the flavors together brilliantly. A drizzle of acacia honey across the fig topping completed the dish.

Oh by the way, did you notice the really funky pink and black apron above? That was sent over by Ms. Jenny J. of Vintage Sugarcube, selflessly sharing her fabulosity across many oceans. We’ve been friends since I first started blogging nearly a year ago and I simply treasure her friendship and convent-school wit. If you haven’t yet discovered her blog, just hop over there and ogle at her over-the-top creativity (and hairdo!).

I’ve had tiny slices of this tourteau and while my expectations were not high to start with, the chèvre, with all the other flavor combinations, have managed to pleasantly surprise me. Still… and I want to be truthful when I say this… I can’t wait to return to the comfort of cow cheese ;-).

Interested to know how the other FFWD members’ tourteaus turned out and if anyone actually substituted the chèvre with something else? Click here to find out.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Cloth-Maker and Talam Ebi (Spicy Shrimp Rice Cake)

I've always been attracted to strong women. There I've said it - not with the intention, of course, of implying anything misleading about my sexual orientation, but with the intention of letting you know a little bit more about myself. Strong women, they always have a way of finding me. Which is something I find slightly odd, but I get to pick which ones should stay and inspire me, and which ones should go and continue to shape their lives with testicles in their brains. 

Over the course of my three careers, I've met a number of influential women... powerful beings in heels, they were. Most of them were intelligent, some were extremely beautiful (and knew it, used it) while many were too full of themselves to feel compassion beyond their well-powdered noses. Very few managed to serve as my source of inspiration. However, there have been one or two. 

When I was in my early 20s, I met one such woman. I was on a plane heading to Japan for work and just as I was starting to feel pleased at having a full row to myself, this lady walked out of the first class cabin and asked if she could sit next to me. There goes my extra leg-space, I thought. She explained that some young children were making a ruckus in her cabin and since she had a bit of a headache, she wanted to be someplace quieter - ironically that happened to be where I was, where the commoners sat. Anyway, she seemed nice and we quickly fell into a conversation. It turned out that she was a batik textile-designer, or in her words, cloth-maker from Indonesia on her way to Japan to exhibit some of her designs. We exchanged cards with the promise that next time we were in each other's countries, we would look the other one up. That woman's name was Josephine or Obin Komara (featured below in a recent Julius Baer advert) .

The following year, I found myself in Jakarta, also (sigh) for work. We arranged to meet and when I arrived at her boutique in my very unclassy jeans and black t-shirt, I was attended to by her snooty assistants who most likely thought I had come to ask for a job..LOL. Well, they certainly couldn't do enough for me once Bin came out and gave me the warmest hug! As I flipped though and wrapped myself with her luxurious silk batiks, I found out that it took at least 3 months to 2 years to weave a piece of cloth (they even breed the silkworms!) and that Bin employed around 2,500 artisan weavers and designers to help in their production. Needless to say, each cloth costs along the same lines as a high-end kimono. No way could I possibly afford them on my then paltry income!
All wrapped up in Bin Komara's signature batiks.

But I learnt a lasting lesson that day when Bin took me out for a stroll and then on to high tea at a prominent hotel. It seemed that everyone we met who knew her were falling over themselves to say hello or serve her in one way or another...and they genuinely looked like they enjoyed doing it. Then I saw what it was, this woman, who was both powerful and influential but best of all, fun to be with, seemed to wear her intelligence and compassion right on her bra straps. She looked people in the eyes and respected them back, no matter who they were. It was there and then that I decided that when the time came to grow up, I wanted to be just like Bin Komara.

Some of the biggest chillies I've ever seen... they were like huge, red fingers.

Bin fled to Singapore when the social and political unrest happened in Indonesia, and we sadly lost touch. I think of her often and subconsciously I may have bettered myself as a person because of her. I know this because people, even strangers, are always very nice to me and I often get the very best service wherever I go, be it a restaurant, an airline, a spa or a corporate organisation! Just ask some of my grouchy friends, they'll tell you it's true :-).

So what has this Ebi Talam recipe got to do with Bin Komara? Well, this is an Indonesian delicacy, for a start and I wanted to pay tribute to Bin's heritage. It's a colorful and tasty appetizer or finger-food and most joyous of all, it's people-friendly (especially towards those making it). Literally translated from the Indonesian language, Ebi means dried shrimp and Talam means tray, the tray here being the rice cake. The rice cake mixture contains coconut milk and aromatic pandan which give it a salty-sweet, creamy vanilla-ish flavor while the rice and tapioca flours turns this into a chewy cake. 

I used my silicone rose molds to form the rice cakes, but of course you can use anything on hand. Cups and muffin tins are also good options.

This rice cake mixture is steamed for 20 minutes and then simply topped with cooked dried shrimps spiced up with some chillies, garlic and spring onions. It's amazing how you find bits of sweetness, heat, fragrance and saltiness in every bite. Just like a strong woman I once knew, this dish proved to be quite an inspiration!

Talam Ebi
Rice Cakes
Makes: 4 (cup-sized)
100g rice flour
25g tapioca flour
350ml thick coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pandan leaf (optional)

Ebi Topping
50g dried shrimp, soaked and chopped finely
1 stalk spring onion, chopped
1-2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil

Rice Cakes
1. In a bowl, combine rice flour and tapioca flour, add about half of the coconut milk and stir until well combined. Set aside.
2. Place the remaining coconut milk, salt and pandan leaf and bring to the boil. Slowly pour this hot coconut milk mixture into flour mixture above. Stir with a spoon until it resembles a slightly runny pancake batter.
3. Pour the rice cake batter into small molds or cups until full. Place these in a preheated steamer for 20 minutes until thoroughly cooked.
4. Remove the molds from the steamer and leave to cool completely before turning out the rice cakes onto serving plates. Spoon about a tablespoon of ebi topping on each rice cake and serve immediately.

Ebi Topping
1. In a small pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Stir in red chillies and garlic and saute until fragrant.
2. Add the chopped dried shrimp, stir for 1 minute. Add in spring onion and sugar and cook for another 3 minutes until the dried shrimp is crisp. The topping is now ready for use.

Related Posts with Thumbnails