The traditional chicken curry at Christmas

On Christmas day, while the children are still asleep, I am already up and dealing with the chicken, curry paste, coconut milk and eggs that I bought the day before.  I like to buy the ingredients from the wet market and the one nearby has a shop run by an Indian lady who sells the curry powder mix, ground onions, garlic and ginger.

She told me to marinate the chicken by massaging the ginger and garlic paste into the thawed chicken for an hour or so.

Another important thing to do is the cook the curry paste in some oil in a wok to bring out the flavors of the spices.  I also realize that if that is not done, then the rawness of the ginger, garlic and onions can still be picked out.  Of course the caramelization of the onions will not occur as fully as it should.

 

Chicken curry

So here it is – marinated chicken in the pot.  What I had missed here is to fry the paste (portion that wasn’t used in the marinating).  So I did that in a separate pan.

 

Chicken curry

The outcome is this.  Notice I also added in hard boiled eggs – a tradition handed down from my family.  But I wonder where it originated from – lots of people are surprised when they scoop up an egg.  Hey, what do you expect from a pot of chicken?

The recipe

Part I – Ingredients

  • Chicken x1 (chopped to smaller parts)
  • Curry paste (For meats).  Preferably buy from a local wet market (if in Singapore).  The paste I buy has the dry curry spices as well as a separate packet of ginger-garlic paste and separate packet of shallot (onion) paste
  • I small packet of coconut milk
  • Spices – cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom
  • Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves
  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • 5 Potatoes, peeled.  Starchy or waxy are fine – both kinds add a different texture when attacking the potatoes.  However the starchy ones tend to break down faster but leave a nice thickness to the gravy.

Part II – method

  • Marinate the chicken with half the ginger-garlic paste for like 1 hour before.
  • Add some oil and brown the marinated chicken for about 10 mins and remove
  • Meantime, heat up some oil and add some whole spices (cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom) and fry till fragrant.
  • Add in the remaining ginger-garlic paste with the onion paste and add the curry powder.  Mix in the wok in a low heat till the fragrant.  I think that would be about 5-10 mins.
  • Add in the chicken and mix well till the curry covers the chicken well.  The chicken at this point would have started to cook and will break apart easily so its time to add in water and the peeled potatoes.
  • Add in water till it has a curry-like consistency of your choice.  I prefer mine like a gravy.
  • Now its time to cover the pot and leave the heat to low.  Slow cooking makes the meat more tender – the faster the protein denatures in the high heat will result in a rubber like consistency with rushed curries.  Open the pot occasionally to stir the curry.  After about an hour of this, the curry is about done.
  • Now stir in the salt to taste and finally add coconut milk.  I usually add about half of the packet but if you like the curry richer, then add the entire packet.  Its all about customizing it to your own taste.  Once all these have been done, you can add in the hard boiled eggs and garnish with a generous bunch of coriander leaves.  I think the ammonia from the eggs do something nice to the taste.
  • Note:  The coconut milk should be added in at the end.  I add salt at the end as the salt can draw out the water from the chicken at the start and leave it less succulent.
  • Coriander leaves top the curry off very well.
  • Now you can eat it.  Best with rice or for me, the french loaf.

For a more complete recipe from scratch, the page at rasamalaysia.com looks quite authentic.  But I think the idea is perhaps to keep this simple and then vary it according to your taste.  I remember meeting Otterman halfway up Gunung Belumut with a pack of curry powder and a packet of chicken so that he could cook chicken curry for his friends when they reached the summit and set up camp.

The curry chicken with hard boiled eggs is something of a memory vessel for me – my parents used to lug a huge pot of curry with hard boiled eggs, armed with several large baguettes (french loaves) and a long day of inspecting rock pools would end with some curry by the sea.

soccer by the beach

 

 

 

Ladies’ Kisses – almond cookies with chocolate in the middle

This almond cookie is easy to make and very very sinful.  After I baked it, the food frenzy that ensued was a blur.  I regret eating it, I think.  One can only eat two of these at a time.  We all had 3 or 4.

The recipe comes from this book called – The Cookie Book by Catherine Atkinson.  This book has nice pictures of each of the recipes written; I don’t understand cooking books without pictures.  The recipe can be found here in the blog: ” A year of cookies“.  (Interestingly the person who blogged this did just that – bake cookies 365 days!).  I can’t imaging doing that without getting sugar overload.  The sugars in some cookies can make up close to a quarter or a third of the calories in the cookie.  See how sugar cubes literally stack up in the calorie charts of different cookies here.

Ladies' Kisses

The dough is easy to make.  It’s just sugar, flour, almond, an egg, vanilla extract and butter.  It needs to rest for 2 hours in the fridge before you take it out and roll them into balls.

Ladies' Kisses

After you pop them into the oven to wait for 20 mins, you can melt the chocolate by double boiling, i.e., in a bowl over a pan of water that is being heated.

Ladies' Kisses

The cracks form on top of the cookies after 20 mins in the oven.  The smell of roasted almonds permeating the kitchen is quite something.

Ladies' Kisses

The fun part is to spread the melted chocolate in-between the cookies to make a sandwich.  This makes the cookie irresistible.

Ladies' Kisses

Freshly baked cookies are so distracting to kids who have to do homework.

Ladies' Kisses

I think I made them a bit bigger than its suppose to be but still I think the size is attractive.

Ladies' Kisses

This is one of the easiest cookies to make but looks like lots of effort been put in because the cookies sandwich the chocolate middle .  Excellent recipe and great tasting cookie too.  The almonds come through nicely and the smell highly delectable as the almonds get roasted.  They are a bit too sweet for me to have more than 2 at a time so I would suggest using a chocolate that is semi or non-sweetened.

 

 

Chocolate cake in a hurry

I got this recipe from this ABC Queensland website.  It’s super fast and easy to do and turns out pretty decent.  Moist enough and no bitter taste from the leavening (must be the sugar and Tudor Gold Cocoa powder.  The kids love to help out in baking and of course eat the cake. Cooking is an excellent way to bond with the kids.  I use a non-stick baking pan and I grease with butter.  I give the icing a miss though.  It takes about 10-15 mins to prepare and 30 mins to bake.

You need:
1 cup self-raising flour
2-3 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
90g. butter, melted
1 teaspoons vanilla essence

Method:
1. Pre-heat oven to 180deg.C. Grease a 20cm ring tin.

2. Sift flour and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire cake rack to cool completely. Dust cake heavily with icing sugar before serving, or if time allows, coat with chocolate icing.

Photo 18-12-11 5 13 34 PM

There is a cake frenzy in the back ground… even the lego characters are flat out on their back.  Cake has a nice crust on top, nice chocolately taste that is not too overwhelming and not dry at all.  I think I didn’t beat this cake enough though.

kueh bakar

I am pretty proud of this culinary achievement. Cooking is such a healthy distraction and it involves family. This kueh is cheap and good to make. I found making the pandan juice the most interesting… blending pandan leaves and straining the juice out. There is something nice about using pandan… very ethnic. I feel quite rooted.

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Chap chye recipe podcast

A year or so ago, I told my colleague that I would learn from my mum how to make chap chye and pass some over to her. Busy as we all are, I procrastinated until I felt it could not pass into 2010 (how to make someone wait for 2 years for chap chye? So, I decided to make a trip to the Mayflower wet market with my mum so I could learn which ingredients needed to be bought and from where… Its difficult to get this all from any supermarket so a visit to the wet market is a must.

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My mum, sis and I chillaxing out at the wet market over laksa, chai tao kueh and fish ball noodles.

Learning the recipe involved more than just the cooking. It meant having breakfast at the market with my mum and sis (who loves to tag along) and spending a lovely morning chatting away. Its something to savour… and somehow if you are mindful, it helps in the cooking process as well. No rushing.

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The finished product, a culinary treasure from the Peranakan heritage. It tastes good too.

All the ingredients should be in and none left out but I think the essential ingredients are the prawn head stock and the black fungus. The fungus imparts a nice woody and slightly pungent aroma to the dish.

Here’s a podcast of the recipe as narrated by my mum, I have taken the liberty of adding some music from the starfishstories.wordpress.com. I chose the song Ivan and I wrote for our friends Siva and Airani entitled “The mangrove tree”. I think the song goes well with the dish.

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Singapore. Download at ARCHIVE.ORG.

Recipe (text)
Heat up oil, fry garlic 2 table spoons
Dou chio (ground) – 10 tablespoons
Fry dou chio until wangi
Belly pork cut into small, fry until cooked
Pour in water (half) or stock (prawn head that is fried and boiled in water for 20 mins to make stock)
Put in white cabbage (kobis) cut big pieces

Giam tou kee (dried and long pressed bean curd) rendam for 15 mins or until softer
Sweet tou kee (cut into squares) rinse
Dried Lily buds tie 2 (cut off stalk) rendam (soak in water) for half hour and remove dirt.
Soft black fungus – bok zhee (50 cts worth; its soft). Soak until kembang (pluck out the stem)
Until comes to a boil.
Let it simmer for another hour or so until all is soft and mushy.

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This is a picture of the fermented bean paste that I used.

Barbecued Brinjal

 

A camp out just by the sea at East Coast. A barbecue is one of the most fun things to do. You are just in the flow and turning the food over and over, placing it on the plate and then eating it. A must have on the grill is of course a large eggplant/ aubergine/ brinjal (Solanum melongena)After it is nicely cooked over the charcoal, the tasty berry takes on the smoke of the charcoal and really is in a class of its own in terms of taste. Number 2 on the list would be sotong (can wikipedia “sotong”),   seasoned with just about any spice you can find and wrapped in tinfoil with a bunch of herbs… yummilicious.

This is then followed by setting up the tent, mats and a few candles lit on the sand and a kooning session under a Rhu tree, Casuarina equisetifolia, and the gentle sounds of the waves crashing nearby, staring into space, counting the stars, recounting them just to make sure the numbers are correct.

Seafood Paella

It was time to actualise this recipe that I had read in Rick Stein’s, “Fruits of the Sea”. So I experimented on a few poor souls who apparently said it was pretty ok. Couldn’t find risoto rice so had to settle for risoni (rice-shaped pasta) which actually soaks up the stock nicely and has a nice texture. Especially tasty are the clumps that are slightly burnt…

My “sous chef” did pretty darn well with the manga salsa from a book called “the beach house cookbook” by Barbara Scott-Goodman.

Of course this was in celebration of “Sea”-otter’s voyage on the Indiaman – The Swedish Ship Götheberg.