Sunday, 24 January 2010

rice pudding

a really bad bout of flu = being cooped up in my flat for a week
o will have you know that when i am stuck at home i am like a caged lion, restless and grumpy and desperate to find something to do. after two days of making soup and four days of eating it - [the first day i made pinch my salt's accidental soup with chickpeas, coriander and ginger and the addition of chicken - on day three i made a mixed lentils and barley soup], i was really craving something more comforting and soul food-ish. and that's when rice pudding came to my mind.

a slightly warm bowl of creamy milky rice pudding with the grains thickened and bursting is the ultimate comfort food. i found a very basic recipe and added a couple of things that i deem essential. cardamom pods crushed to reveal their tiny black seeds, a grating of nutmeg, a couple of drops of vanilla and a pinch of saffron. between o and i and i we polished the bowl clean an hour of so after it came out of the oven.

i love the slightly darkened thick skin that sets on top of the rice pudding as it bakes.
here is what you need to make rice pudding at home.

4 oz pudding rice| 2 oz caster sugar| 1 & 1/2 pints full fat milk| 1 & 1/2 oz unsalted butter
a greased baking dish large enough to hold all the ingredients
a few drops of vanilla & some grated nutmeg
optional: cardamom seeds, saffron

and here's how you make it!
preheat oven to 130 degrees celsius (150 degrees celsius for non-fan ovens)
place the rice and the sugar in the greased baking dish. heat the milk until it is scalding but not boiling and then pour over the rice and the sugar. add the vanilla and cardamom and saffron.
cut the butter into small chunks and sprinkle on top and finish with some grated nutmeg.
stick into the oven and bake for an hour and a half to two hours until the rice pudding is golden on top.

cool slightly before eating. i find that sometimes it helps to add a little milk incase the pudding becomes too thick.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

jom makan

o loves curries rich with coconut milk and spice, and so i am always on the lookout for good thai, malaysian or vietnamese eateries. a biting cold monday night found o and i at
jom makan. this malaysian eatery is the equivalent of wagamama – although it doesn’t feature the communal canteen dining style, the waiter/waitress does scribble your order on the paper mats that have little bits of information about malaysia on them. it takes o and i a while to figure what we want since there is so much to choose from. strangely he forgoes the quintessential malaysian satay with its velvety peanut sauce for ayan goring berempah that he himself described as kfc-ish as it was bite size pieces of chicken deep fried to a golden brown and served with a chili sauce. we polish the bed of salad quicker than the chicken.

i assuage my craving for lentils with an order of roti dalcha. there is nothing more comforting to me than a bowl of a lentils the consistency of thick moreish soup with the heat of a little chili and some spice. at jom makan the roti dalcha is a bowl of lentils with little bits of potato and carrot and some spring onions and cucumber to add a spritely garnish. it comes with malaysian flat griddled bread called roti canai which is akin to a pakistani paratha (albeit a much less oily version of it). i recall my paternal grandmother’s paratha’s which were rolled out after being coiled and would flake as they were torn to be eaten. she would put less oil than the ones you got at roadside kiosks on drives to lahore or the ones served with chili laden omelet’s at holiday resorts in murree and nathia gali. i enjoyed every last bit, wiping the bowl clean with the roti canai.

o had a roti ikan masak lemak which is a rather rich curry of coconut milk and chili sauce, julienned green and red chili in which salmon has been poached with some broccoli, okra and potatoes. once again it is served with roti canai. i know when o loves his food because he goes silent and his eyes sparkle almost like a two year old with a hoard of his favorite candy.

because o loves all things sweet and sugary the traditional malaysian tea, served cold with sweetened condensed milk and the hot nescafe once again sweetened with condensed milk was a real hit with him. and as if that was insufficient a sweet quota he went onto eat what i would determine a complete food faux pa: crème caramel with a malaysian twist. don’t get me wrong, i am all for fusion cuisine but experimental crème caramel, especially asian renditions of them are nearly always a disaster. this particular one was set so hard, not slightly unsteady like a caramel should be. the syrup itself looked like the kind that you get in readymade packets and the malaysian twist of pandan leaves was conspicuously absent. i tried a bite and to me it tasted like condensed milk boiled till it was really thick and then set with a little cornstarch to denseness. o said it tasted like cheese after having eaten the whole of it. in any case i didn’t have high expectations of a malaysian dessert menu that boasted cheese cake and pandan flavored crème caramel.

that said, we would definitely recommend the entrees. they are really good and judging from the fact that some of the diners were malaysian, it would say something of jom makan’s ability to recreate near authentic flavours.

au lac vietnamese

it is about time that i gave au lac a review. this is a neighbourhood haunt. so fond are we of this vietnamese eatery that we eat in or take out from here. insofar as the authenticity of the food is concerned, there are mixed opinions about it – to start with the menu is a mix of chinese and vietnamese food, but all said and done the food is actually very tasty.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

keema mutter

if there is one thing i would like to do more of in twenty ten, it would be to cook more pakistani food. i’ve always been intimidated by pakistani cooking. it really isn’t as complicated as it seems. there is a fair bit of chopping involved (especially onions sliced very thinly) and the spices should always be fresh so storing in air tight jars as well as frequently checking the spice cupboard are a necessity. but generally pakistani food is a lot more forgiving on the chopping and peeling of veggies especially if they are going to masked in a curry. i have found that there are several important elements of pakistani cuisine: making sure that onions brown slowly and evenly, ‘bhuno-fying’ (sautéing meat until it is well cooked and browned) is what brings out its flavourful, without ‘dhamm’ (steaming with a cloth wrapped around the lid to make sure it fits perfectly and absorbs any liquid) rice will never reveal itself fully and scrimping on oil in dishes that call for it reduces the quality of the dish.

i am fairly confident at making peas pulao now so this weekend i forayed into new territory. this weekend i was craving keema mutter (minced beef cooked with spices and peas) so i put myself to the task using a recipe from fauzia’s pakistani recipes, a great online repository for beginners like me. i took my time over softening the onions in oil and adding the medley of spices and frying them to release their aromas and concentrate their flavours. i did play around with the recipe a bit so instead of cutting the garlic and ginger i pounded it in a mortar and pestle with coriander seeds instead of the powder. i find that bruised and bashed seeds are more intense than the powdered version. i also added a bay leaf when simmering the mince and once simmered the stir fried it for a couple of minutes to give it dark brown colour.

i used twenty per cent fat mince as mum always told me that a little bit of a fat won’t kill and adds more flavour. i have to agree with her. but i did put less oil than fauzia called for and it still tasted almost like my mum’s.

till the next time...