Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bonnie & Her Boyfriend


Just a few weeks before we got Bonnie, our lovely neighbour also bought a boy puppy. His name is Bailey but we have nicknamed him Beelzebub for his naughtiness. Bailey is a Bichon crossed and about the same size as Bonnie but leaner.

They have been friends since they first met almost 2 years ago although you will not think they are by the noise they make sometimes when they play. He is very sweet with her and lets her drag him by the neck along the deck.

Once our lawn mowing contractor came to mow the backyard during their playtime, Bonnie huddled in the corner on the deck (she loves humans but she is not very keen on their power tools) and I saw Bailey licking her face gently as if to say 'Hey babe, it's OK. I'm here to protect you'.

He is a water baby, this boy, and loves to play with every water container he comes across. We have ornamental reed in water bowl on our deck and Bailey is very partial to this. When he was smaller, he used to be able to jump in the bowl to cool himself off. We have bought a small paddling pool for them last summer so he does not always try to have a skinny dip in our bowl and kill our reed any more. It might be that he has grown a bit too big for the bowl but the plant is safe for now.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Coconut Macaroons


I love coconut macaroons or Somanas which means gladness in Thai. I remember my grand aunt (who had huge influence on my interest in cooking - I will talk about her later) telling me that Somanas was another way to make use of the left over egg white when only yolks were needed for other main puddings.

However, I do not think she had ever made them. My mother bought Somanas from shops. In the old days sweet shops stored the macaroons in a huge glass jar with heavy glass lid (sometime wrapped in muslin) and picked out as many as you needed when customers bough it.

I toast dessicated coconut chips quite often for easy snack and for pudding topping. This morning I toasted them for Bob and as I had shredded coconut left over from chocolate truffles I thought I might as well toast it for macaroons.

I make my macaroons Thai-ish way with no flour. This recipe yields about 15 macaroons.

Ingredients
1. 1 egg white (size 6 or 7)
2. 80 grams shredded coconut, toasted (10 minutes in the baking tray in 160 degree (c) oven, stir from time to time so it gets brown evenly, keep an eye on it as it will brown quite quickly towards the end)
3. 60 grams caster sugar
4. 1 teaspoon of good quality cocoa (dutch ones are very good)
5. a pinch of salt

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (C)
2. Beat egg white until forming soft peak, gradually add sugar and then salt and cocoa powder.
I find it the egg white fluffs up better in stainless steel bowl.
3. Fold in the toasted coconut until combined and drop on the baking paper lined tray using 2 teaspoons. The mixture should yield 12 - 15 drops. Flatten them a little bit with back of the spoon.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Bob likes them crispy so I reduce the temperature to 160 (c) and bake for 5 minutes more but if you like them a bit chewy in the middle 12 minutes should suffice.
5. Leave them to cool in the tray for 5-10 minutes before transferring to the wire rack to cool completely. Pack in an air tight jar.

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Lazy Tuna Mornay



I did not know what to cook for dinner on Wednesday night. I flicked through recipe books, looked in the fridge and then freezer and then pantry and still had no idea. Then I looked up at the top shelf and saw a lonely can of tuna in spring water and thought aha I could make that Tuna Mornay. Canned tuna is so versatile. It is so handy to have a can or two in your pantry.
Some recipes call for onion infused milk but I was too lazy. You can use that if you like – just sit your sliced onion in hot milk with black pepper corn.
I just drained the tuna – save about 2 tablespoons then I diced the onion and fried it in butter until just soft. Then I added flour and made b├ęchamel sauce with milk, reserved tuna liquid and grated cheese, seasoned with stock powder (do not be afraid to use it – even Marco Pierre White uses stock cube in his sauce), salt & pepper and a bit of chilli sauce. I mixed this sauce with tuna and divided the mixture equally in a couple of 10cm ramekins.
For topping I used wholemeal breadcrumbs mixed with more grated cheese, cubed butter, salt, pepper & chilli powder. I baked them at 180 degrees (C) for 15 minutes and grill the top until golden brown and crispy. And the meal was ready in just a little bit over half an hour (including cooking time). It is a comfort food but you can also have green salad on the side for a complete meal.
For the above you will need the following ingredients.
1 185 gram can of tuna in spring water, drained and flaked (reserve 2 tablespoons of liquid for the sauce)
½ onion chopped
3 tablespoons of butter (plus 1 table spoon, cubed for topping)
3 tablespoons flour
¾ cup milk, you can add more if the sauce is too thick
½ cup grated cheddar (plus 2 table spoons for topping)
Chilli powder (sparingly)
A dash of Sri Racha Sauce or Tabasco
Salt & pepper to taste
Stock powder (optional)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Coffee Please



Our fully automatic espresso coffee machine of 7 years had been quite sick for almost a year but when we swicthed it on and off a few times it came back to life again. However, it was in a kind of coma for the last few weeks. It made only 2 cups at a time and refused to do more. I tried to do the old trick but it did not quite work this time. It still made just 2 cups and went into a fit. I had to give it a rest overnight before it agreed to make any coffee at all. We started looking for a new machine, maybe not fully automatic as we do not drink much coffee as we used to (4 cups a day) anymore.

Our neighbour has bought her new espresso coffee machine a few months ago. It is nice and sleek but you can only use coffee pods with it. It is good with no mess, this coffee pod only machine. I somehow have this kind of strange streak in me that I do not like to be left with no other choice. I know ground coffee can be a bit messy but a freedom to get messy sometime sounds good to me. We own a burr coffee grinder so we can ground our own coffee freshly in a jiffy. We also have an old pump machine (as a back up) but it only takes ground coffee (for us, coffee pods were unheard of 8-9 yeras ago).



So when the old faithful died last Friday, we went out to buy another machine. We had done a bit of research and we took to the idea of pump machines that would take both ground coffee and pods. We decided on DeLonghi Icona in black. It cost us only a fraction of what we paid for our fully automatic machine ages ago.

Not too bad at this stage. I drink too many cups just to get to know the machine. We are experimenting on different coffee pods. We made a mistake by ordering Dutch coffee pads, thinking they were the same as pods. These coffee pads are made for Senseo (by Philips) coffee machine which is not an espresso machine as such. I understand that this Senseo is to replace the old dripping style one. Coffee pad is just like teabag with loose ground coffee inside while coffee pod is tightly packed, pre tamped. However, we have tried using these pads with our machine using the bigger filter (2-cup filter) and the coffee comes out OK.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thai Sticky Rice Pudding


We just had dinner guests on Saturday. I had Thai-ish food on the menu. Seafood Green Curry using Thai Green Curry paste, Stuffed Omlette, Steamed Broccoli and oyster sauce and star of the show was our pudding; Sticky Rice Pudding.

Sweet sticky rice is common in Thailand. You can have it with ripe mangoes, durian and other 1001 toppings. My favourite is egg custard topping. When I was young (gosh, must be about a hungred years ago), the vendor would wrapped this gorgeous pudding in banana leave secured with a sharp thin bamboo. The banana leave also lent the content with that nice yummy aroma.

I came across this recipe from shesimmers.com. Leela is so clever with her easy approach to Thai home cooking. This recipe is just one example.

I use 3 size 7 eggs + 1 yolk when I cook this at home as New Zealand size 7 eggs are smaller than large American eggs. You can also use 4 size 6 eggs.

For sticky rice - this is how I cook mine.

- 1 cup sticky rice (glutinous rice) soaked in boiling water for 45 minute. Do not leave it too long otherwise the rice will become stodgy in the oven.

- Drain the rice and place in muslin line steamer, cook on boiling water for 15 minutes.

You can also make individual serving in 8 cm ramekins (pictured above). I have also experimented by steaming this pudding in ramekin for 20 minutes and the result is also good.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken Pot Pies


One of the reasons I come back to blogging again is the fact that many people have asked me for my recipes. I actually google a lot for ideas and recipes but it is not a bad idea to keep electronic record of what I cook well.

One dish that I have been asked a lot is Chicken Pot Pie. I got this recipe from food.com and it is called The Pastry Queen's All Sold Out Pot Pie by The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather.

I have tweaked it quite a bit but main ingredients are more or less the same. I like a punch and a kick in my pot pies so here you go:

Chicken Pot Pies (Adapted from
The Pastry Queen's All Sold Out Pot Pie by The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather)

Crust
1. 2 sheets of Frozen Puff Pastry (I use Pam's but Signature Range is also good - don't use Reduced Fat version please)
2. 1 egg, beaten to glaze

Filling
1. 1/2 Roasted Chicken, boned and cubed - I discard the skin but you can leave it on if you like. You can also use leftover cooked chicken or turkey.
2. Half onion, chopped
3. 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
4. 1 small to medium potato, cubed
5. 1 small carrot, cubed
6. 1/2 Capsicum, red or yellow but green is also fine, roughly chopped
7. 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted in microwave
8. 1/4 teaspoon Chilli Flakes, more if you dare but remember that we will also have chilli sauce in the sauce mixture
9. Salt & Pepper to taste (I use freshly ground black pepper)
10. Butter or canola oil to fry

Sauce
1. 60 grams butter
2. 1/2 cup plain flour
3. 1 cup chicken stock, I use chicken stock powder with 1 cup water (my favourite is Knorr's Chicken Powder available from Asian Groceries)
4. 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of Sri Racha Chilli Sauce
5. Salt & pepper to taste
4. 1/4 cup milk or cream

Method

Filling
1. Parboil potato and carrot until just cooked and then drained.
2. Sweat onion in a deep pan on medium heat until clear then add garlic.
3. Add capsicum and fry until soft.
4. Add potato and carrot and cook 3 to 5 minutes further until soft.
5. Stir in the peas.
5. Add chicken, chilli flakes, salt & pepper, stir to combine and set aside.

Sauce
1. Melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and cook until frothy.
2. Take the sauce pan off the heat and gradually add chicken stock. Stirring all the time until smooth. Bring the sauce pan back to the stove.
3. Add milk and bring the sauce to the boil. Take the saucepan off the heat , add chilli sauce, salt and pepper. The sauce should thick and creamy.
4. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetable mixture, stir to combine.
5. Divide the filling equally in the buttered ramekins up to 3/4 from the top. This portion will be enough for 6 of 8 cm ramekins. Leave to cool.

To make the pies
Leave the frozen pastry outside the freezer until thawed and soft enough to handle. Cut into circles a little bit bigger than your ramekins. Place pastry circle on top of the ramekin and crimp the edge neatly. Glaze with egg mixed with a little bit of water. Use the pastry remnant to decorate the top of the pies and then glaze again.

It is best to chill the pies for half an hour before baking to make sure that the pastry will puff up in the oven. Baked at 200 c for 20 - 25 minute until puffed and golden brown.



Relaunch


It has been nearly a year since my last post in October 2010. I could not say that I had been too busy to post but my interests lied elsewhere for a wee while. I also had an accident falling down the stairs in my own home at the beginning of 2011 - the first week of January - that resulted in my left arm being in cast for 6 weeks. After the accident I tended to hold on to the hand rail every time I used the stairs for a few months.

It was very annoying when you could not do many things by yourself with one good hand, even for the mundane things like clipping your nails (on your right hand) and opening the cans (I had learned to open the cans with one hand with can opener in the second weeks).

I try not take things for granted any more, especially my own health.

So I am now picking up what I have left in last October.......

Talking about pets, apart from Bonnie the dog, we also have a cat called Pipi (after the shell fish). She was one of our neighbour's cats that decided to adopt us 3 years ago. She thought the grass was greener on this side of the fence. Now she is No 1 cat in our home.

I was not a cat person. I did not mind them but never thought of having one of my own. Pipi has taken to me big time to my husband's surprise. Bob has always liked cats (he had 4 cats when we first met) although he is now more of a dog person. Pipi comes to my office many times in a day when the weather is not good and insists on curling on my desk or my lap so I have to put a tea towel on my IN tray for her and put her there whenever she is too pesky (which is 90% of the time). If it was sunny outside, I will not see her until it is time for her dinner.

Pipi and Bonnie get along, um mm, more like Pipi tolerates Bonnie - that is the better way to put it. It is so funny when they try to compete for my attention.