Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Konlo" Noodles

Is my absolute favorite breakfast back home in Malaysia. I think you already know that by now, I've blogged about it twice previously :P Seems like it's an annual affair, lol, check out the ones in 2007 and 2006! The char siu recipe is in there and it has never failed so far :)

It's probably the char siu (BBQ pork) that I'm more keen in, but nothing beats having them tossed with fresh egg noodles! This time, I decided to make some potato wedges for starters since we've got some leftovers ...

Not to difficult to make good wedges, all you need is some olive oil, salt, and even paprika/herbs if you like for the extra kick. Scrub them well and make sure you dry them properly with a cloth or kitchen towels. Slice them into wedges, thickness wise you can refer to the picture below for a good gauge. Important as you don't want them too burnt or undercooked! I had about 6 baby potatoes, sliced and lightly tossed in olive oil and salt, and grilled in the oven along with the marinaded pork for about 40 minutes at 200C.

The pork is crackling well about 20 minutes into the cooking, don't worry too much as it's usually the honey caramelising into the fat and having the burnt edges! When I did it the first time I was always too worried that my dinner will be black charcoal and constantly open and close the oven to check the meat, but this does impact the heating and the finishing of the meat. If the thickness is about 1-2cm, 40 minutes you'll be fine. You can flip the meat halfway through if desired

And the rest was pretty quick to prepare, just steaming some green beans (didn't have the right vegetable at the time, i.e. pak choy or kai lan - chinese style vegetables). But wedges turned out great, brown and crispy skin, but still soft inside. Good with some dipping or finger food. Fresh noodles took a quick 2 minutes boiling and strained under cold water (makes it more chewy, more "bite" so they always say). Didn't toss it with dark/light soy sauce as its naturally slightly salty. One special tip: adding a hint of sesame oil to toss with the noodles does add an edge to the dish - you get an extra nutty aroma and smoother noodles too!

Doesn't it look beautiful?

The Easiest Breakfast in the World

I don't know if this is British, or whether even it deserves to be categorized as a recipe, but it's one of my favorite breakfast since I love the versatility of eggs in cooking. Would have had one everyday if I didn't have this amazing 'ability' to produce extra cholesterol in my body :P

Anyways, its dead simple. Egg, bread and good ketchup. Eggs, any way you prefer, poached, fried, boiled (tho not so exciting this one). I like mine poached, and yes its tricky to get it poached right, but if you're in a rush of time or simply can't be arsed, you can microwave the egg in a minute. Just need to beat the eggs a little with a fork (don't overdo it), and place it in a flat plate/bowl in the microwave for about a minute. The flatter your plate/bowl, the better since it takes less time to cook evenly.

This took me 3 minutes to assemble :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

First Signs of Summer ...

Weather in London last weekend was perfect ... the kind where you can finally unbundle/unwrap, go around in shorts + T-shirts, have barbecues at your balcony, hangout in the park ... basically making you feel like La-la-la-laaa :)

The very first sneak peek into summer weather, and fair enough which doesn't last long, given the grey and cloudy week ahead. Hence apologies for this post being one week late!

Nevertheless, my menu last weekend changed to a lighter summer menu, given all my doner kebab craving lately, having discovering a good one just 2 minutes walk from my place.

Which relates to another important discussion ... why are doner kebabs so unhealthy? I always thought they were one of the healthier version of fast food given that they are solid (depending on shop quality) chunks of meat roasted slowly over a long time! Not until I saw this report in the Guardian paper today. Apparently it contains a serving contains an equivalent of a WINE GLASS FULL of cooking oil. Now how can THAT possibly be?!!

Checking on methods of making a doner kebab, here's what Wikipedia quoted:

"There are two basic ways of preparing meat for döner kebabs:
  • The most common and authentic method is to stack seasoned slices of lean meat onto a vertical skewer in the shape of a cylinder. The stack is cooked by radiant heat from electric elements or gas fired infrared burners. Often meat, tomatoes, and onions are placed at the top of the stack to drip juices over the meat keeping it moist.
  • Some cheaper shops serve a combination of seasoned sliced and ground meat cooked on a grilltop as döner kebab. In Germany the amount of ground meat is not allowed to surpass 60% (Berliner Verkehrsauffassung) "
The only way to reconcile this is that the research was based on the poorest quality of kebabs (second bullet point above).

And apparently one of the best (fast food category) in terms of low salt content was fish and chips. WHAT?! This sounds like a pro-British food campaign to me, :D. Ok, maybe not the fish, but chips are surely salty, but that result may arise given that the chips portions arent that large and tend to not be salted heavily as well since the Brits love theirs with vinegar. In relative terms to the junk food peer group of heavily salted processed meat burgers/sausages and pizzas, this result doesn't sound that absurd anymore, LOL

Ok, back from digression, where was I? *Summer menu* yes. Whipped up something simple for dinner, salad with turkey kebabs (not really the kebabs above). Salad was just a rough mixture of tomatoes on the vine, lettuce, carrots, roasted mushrooms and potato wedges. Marinaded the turkey for barely 10 minutes with grated ginger juice, honey, soy sauce and a little dash of sesame oil. Potato wedges are just lightly coated in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper just like the mushrooms and along with the turkey went for the oven treatment for 35 minutes or so.

Turkey was a little dry as expected since marinading time was too short, but the salad was great, especially with the smoky mushrooms that I love ...

Just in case any of you are interested in somemore kebabology ...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Finger Lickin' Good Factor

I've always hear comments that KFC in the UK doesn't taste as good as the ones in Malaysia. So this is to supplement What the Foodies' recent post on KFC in Malaysia. Sounds strange to me given that its an international chain and the food should be standardised. Well, the only way to find out is to try it out for yourself! For me, finding a partner in crime was easy, just tag along P who occasionally has to satisfy his fried chicken cravings...

So we got a Classic Variety Meal set, which was accompanied with the tagline:

When you love everything at KFC why not have it all? Original Recipe Chicken, Hot Wings, Crispy Strips plus fries and a drink really answer those KFC cravings!

Heh, it definitely reminded me of my childhood days, though I was more of a A&W fan then (amazing rootbeer floats!). One thing I noticed was that KFCs in the UK seem to have a reputation or at least give the impression of a lower quality food chain, than say in Malaysia. Back home, KFC, A&W and McDonalds seem to be on par in terms of food standards, restaurant upkeep and customer service. I was surprised that even the KFC branch in Leicester Square seem to be a little bit messy and run down, unlike the now newly refurbished McDonald chains. Seems like they're lagging behind the race ...

Anyways, back to the fried chicken. I love the crispy strips best! Strips of boneless breast fillets deep fried till perfection. Such a sinful creation since its so easy to eat them all if I'm given a bucket full of it. I think tastewise it's pretty similar to Malaysia, though not ordering coleslaw and mashed potatoes with gravy is probably the reason why most feel that its different to the familiar versions at home. And they have baked beans on their menu here too, strange...

The finger lickin' good factor is definitely a mystery. Will definitely try my own version soon, probably a BBQ one to suit the weather these days :)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Every Cook's Dream Dish: Lamb Stroganoff

This dish is probably one of those that I often call misleading ... Why, I hear you ask?

First, the name. Being such a ubiquitous dish in many cookbooks and the British menu, it was a slight surprise to find that it originated in Russia with the beef version, and has been popular in Europe since with many variations of it.

Second, it requires less types of ingredients than perceived. With a name like that, you'd think it involves a combination of millions of spices, ingredients that are in general expensive or hard to get.

Third, the method of preparation is easier than you think! There's no long hours of braising, watching over the oven times, or marinading required at all!

Isn't this essentially what we are all looking for in a recipe? A dish that provides minimal headache over the ingredients, tastes amazing yet so quick and easy to prepare? Not to mention that it's easy to cook in bulk (unlike stir fries), without sacrificing the flavors and results, perfect for a party? Not to mention that for this recipe can definitely fit into the menu of those health conscious too! So here goes:

Ingredients for two
300g Lamb fillet/neck strips/shoulder bits (I personally prefer fillets, as its a whole chunk of solid meat and not too fatty)
Mushrooms (as much as you like, the more variety the better, I used chestnut and closed cup mushrooms)
1 Onion
250ml of crème fraîche/sour cream (I used a reduced fat version)
1 Lemon (juiced and 1 tsp of lemon zest, or if lazy, bottled lemon juice)
3 tbsp paprika (or season to taste)
Salt (season to taste)
1 knob of butter (optional)
Olive oil

So, the meat is first cut into thin slices, about 0.5cm thick or finer would do. Then mix the paprika, and about 1-2 teaspoons of salt for a quick marinade. Mince the onions into chunky pieces, cut the mushrooms into bite size quarters or cross section slices (or whatever shape you fancy) and we're set to go! That probably takes 15 minutes max isn't it?

Time to cook! Heat up some olive oil, as usual. Then fry the onions until brown and soft. Scoop them up and set aside. Do the same for the mushrooms, but add the lamb pieces in when the aroma of mushrooms fills the air. It should be soft and smaller now, given that some moisture is lost. Add the onions back to the pan, and continue stirring them around for a bit before adding the crème fraîche, lemon juice and zest.

Now, the tasting bit. Which you absolutely have to do. Can't imagine a cook who doesn't taste before serving, pretty risky even for the pros. I tried mine, and found it slightly too spicy for a stroganoff, hence leveled off some of the heat with a pinch of sugar. Sugar works to counter a bit of saltiness too, as in this case you shouldn't add water to this dish as its meant to be creamy and thick. If desired, you can add a small knob of butter, it does add a nice creamy flavor to it.

When you're happy with the taste, serve with rice, and eat right away. In this case, I used wild red rice, has more of a nutty taste which I love, a nice change from the usual white rice. The whole process took about 30 minutes or less, great for those of you who are rushed for time yet still want to eat something wholesome and delicious.

There's another venison version of Jamie Oliver's website, with parsley and gherkins to match, will try that sometime soon! Now that summer's here, it's time to bring up the BBQ!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

La Paradeta in Barcelona

Man, just when I was boasting about how good the weather was last Saturday, this week I'm blessed with the irony of heavy rain throughout ... and Barcelona just lost to Man U in the Champions League too!

Ah well, let's forget about the football for a moment and cheer ourselves up with a bit with some more good foodie pictures in the Barcelona dining scene :P In Barcelona, seafood is the thing to go for, period. In a land deprived of fresh and reasonably priced seafood (Britain, fyi), La Paradeta, located at the heart of the trendy La Ribera area, is the place worth queuing for , for the marisco lovers out there.

This seafood restaurant has a unique fish market concept to it, in the sense that the crabs, squids, prawns, etc are all displayed in huge plastic tubs as below. In the true market style, you order your seafood by weight, and then simply select from a few simply styles of cooking: deep fried, grilled, steamed etc. What's great that you don't often get the unpleasant fishy smell of markets, which is a good sign as it means the ingredients are TRULY FRESH.

I was brought there by K, who has roamed Barcelona so many times that he's as good as a local. We had to queue outside before it opened at 8pm, and there was already a little queue outside of enthusiastic fans of the place. Never a bad sign! :) So there you go, we chose some mussels, prawns, squids and many other interesting stuff that I never knew roamed in the sea :P

And when the dishes came, I knew we, or rather I, had overdone the ordering since I was so excited to try so many things! Look at this gigantic plate of fried goodies! Haha, starting from the left, its fried baby anchovies, then fried baby squids and fried calamari. My favorite was the baby squid, though it was a pity that the calamari was a little too rubbery for my liking. Could have been better grilled, or I've just been eating them from left to right and just got tired of them. Despite best efforts, 3 of us couldn't finish that platter, whole heartedly agreed that there was way too much fried stuff. :P

And of course we had salad, artichoke heart salad to be specific. It was definitely great to do something towards the 5 a day intake, and it's probably a hit or miss for some on the bitter/sourish artichoke hearts, but I do like them, feels like sauerkraut and its very appetizing.

Mussels in tomato sauce was good too! Never was much of a mussels fan, but the sauce was great with some crusty bread ...

Highlight of the meal was definitely the grilled dishes. The giant succulent prawns and long bamboo clams, lightly grilled with salt, pepper and a little gentle squeeze of lemon juice ---> heavenly! Cannot emphasize enough how easy cooking is as long as you have fresh ingredients, the simplest methods will suffice for an amazing meal. So its not about the fancy kitchen gadgets at all, and cooking only becomes necessarily complicated mask poor quality ingredients really.

Always a good idea to end the meal with some funky desserts too! K brought us to this little shop (forgot the name unfortunately) nearby for some designer desserts. All I remember was both were chocolate and nuts based mousse (almond and hazelnut) as everything was in Spanish and it was simply just looks based choices, :D

So if you're a big seafood fan visiting Barcelona, do pay La Paradeta a visit - they do seafood good justice. Enough said.

La Paradeta
Comercial 7
El Born, Ciutat Vella
La Ribera

Nearest metro: Arc de Triomf
Opening times: 8-11.30pm Tue-Fri;
1-4pm, 8pm-midnight Sat;
1-4pm Sun