Gingerbread spice

thumb_img_6144_1024-aI’m thrilled to be invited to host a baking demo in a beautiful kitchen showroom of Rowenda in Kuala Lumpur on the lovely Sunday. I have an attentive audience that been working from their home, and also keen bakers too.

During this time of the year, also a time to indulgent yourself into delicious food; I felt I have got many excuses for the eating opportunity during this time of the year. This is time that warmth, contentment, welcome and friendship emanate from and are celebrated in the kitchen. I find it the most cogent expression at Christmas.

  • Holiday cake
  • Nut truffle
  • Chocolate pistachio fudge
  • Christmas mince pie

I would love to share this very special recipe of my gingerbread spice, You could use it in the mince pie dough, or any filling of pie. This is the most Christmassy spice! I could ever known for.

Get ready a sterilized jar that with lid. Mix in 2 tablespoons of ground ginger, 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of allspice, 1 tablespoon of ground cloves and 1 tablespoon of nutmeg. Cover the lid up and give it a good shake. ç’est tout!

Here are the links for the recipe that I had done in the demo.

https://andrewscookery.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/holiday-cake/

https://andrewscookery.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/562/

https://andrewscookery.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/chocolate-pistachio-fudge/

https://andrewscookery.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/humble-mince-pie/

Basil

IMG_2050AWriting this post to honour Doris Andrew, one of Andrew’s family member pass away two weeks ago. I will be missing your laughter, your accompany, your food. All these are going to lived in my memory forever. I remembered you enjoyed the pizza with the fresh basil on the topping, you said the leaf is the fragrance on top of the pizza…. I will be missing you, I love you!

Growing your own herbs is so fun to do at home, if you have some left over herb that you brought from market. I picked those mature leaves for cooking and I remain some of it, so I can plant them in a pot for my potted herbs garden.

I love the fragrance of sweet basil leaves, the smell of the Italian cooking. This delicate herbs has a very unique story behind back to Ancient Greeks. You may have noticed I had been away for long time and I didn’t update my blog. I been reading a lot of home grown produce for the past few months. I found one of the article written by Anne Del Conte regarding basil.  There is a wonderful story of it, and recipe are superb too.

A native of India, basil was known to the ancient Greeks and the Romans and flourished wherever it could find warmth, sun and sea breezes. In Boccaccio’s Decameron, basil is the symbol of love when the noble Lisabetta, whose brothers have murdered her plebeian lover, buries the lover’s head in a pot of basil, a story that is taken up some 400 years later by Keats in his poem ‘Isabella, or the Pot of Basil’. During the Renaissance basil is mentioned by Platina, who suggested using it in moderation. It was popular all over Italy, often kept in pots on window sills as it appears in some Renaissance paintings.

For hundreds of years, basil had been used around the Italian coast in salads, with fish and in tomato sauces. In the 18th century, Corrado is the first cookery writer to mention the use of basil to dress stewed meat and to flavour vegetable soups. Artusi adds basil to his tomato sauce which, he writes, is ‘good with boiled beef and it is excellent to make very pleasant a dish of pasta dressed with butter and cheese, or a risotto’.

Basil gained a wider fame when Pesto crossed the borders of Liguria to become one of the favourite pasta sauces of the world. But that didn’t happen until well after World War II. Apart from pesto and in tomato sauces, basil also gives an extra dimension to a Minestrone or a vegetable soup and it makes a delicious salad with tomatoes and mozzarella, insalata caprese.

There are many varieties of basil, including: the Genovese, with a very strong yet sweet flavour; the Napoletano, with rather crinkly leaves and a minty aroma; the Fine Verde Compatto, with very small leaves and more delicate scent; and the Mammoth, with very big leaves, the best for drying. However, basil does not dry well and its flavour changes considerably. The best way to preserve basil is to layer the leaves with olive oil in a sterilised jar, or to freeze the leaves.

Basil sauce Pesto

This famous sauce has its origins in Liguria, when the basil is sweeter yet more aromatic than anywhere else, thanks to the perfect balance between humidity and hot sun. It is indeed odd that the only speciality from Liguria that genuinely needs a local ingredient should be the one that has travelled all over the world.

There are two fundamental types of pesto: the pesto of the western Riviera and the pesto of the eastern Riviera. The former, which includes the classic pesto genovese, is stronger and simpler, the latter is more delicate, containing less garlic, some pine nuts, grated Pecorino and or Parmesan and other ingredients which make it less fierce. But, after that, there are as many recipes as cooks, and no Ligurian cook would actually know how much of this or that goes into it: it’s all a question of judgement and personal taste. The basil is pounded in a mortar with some garlic, salt and, if added, pine nuts or walnuts, the basil local extra virgin olive oil being added drop by drop. This at least, is the old-fashioned method; nowadays it is often made in the blender or food processor. Connoisseurs say this is to the detriment of its flavour, since the basil is being chopped by a metal blade. which might also warm the mixture, rather than pounded by wooden pestle. There is a more delicate version of pesto, in which some butter or cream is added, and the garlic reduced.

Pesto is traditionally used to dress Trenette, Trofie and picagge; to a Genoese it would be inconceivable that it should be used with any other shape of pasta. The pasta is often cooked with sliced potatoes and green beans and all three ingredients are dressed with pesto and eaten together. Pesto is used also to dress potato gnocchi or to give a local touch – one spoonful is enough – to a Minestrone  all genovese.

Make for 4 pasta or gnocchi
20g/ 2 1/2 tbsp pine nuts
50g fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
a pinch of coarse sea salt
4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp freshly grated mature pecorino cheese
125ml extra virgin olive oil, preferably Ligurian

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F.

Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 3-4 minutes, to release the aroma of the nuts

Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt in a mortar. Grind with the pestle, crushing all the ingredients against the side of the mortar until the mixture has become a paste. You can use a food processor or blender.

Mix in the grated cheeses and pour over the oil very gradually, beating with a wooden spoon.

Doris, this recipe is dedicated for you.

Breadcrumbs

breadcrumbsNever ever throw away a stale bread, otherwise you may throw away the most delicious thing. I used a whole stale bread including the crust, cut them into small pieces then put them in the food processor or blender, blitz it until the consistency that you wanted to achieve. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Spread the processed breadcrumbs on the Swiss roll tin, let it dry for 20 minutes (to drying it further) while waiting for the oven to heat up.

There is several type of breadcrumbs you could make it yourself.

  • White breadcrumbs – Remove the crust from some stale bread and rub it through a fine wire sieve, using the palm of the hand.
  • Brown breadcrumbs – Put the crusts or any pieces of the stale bread there may be into a moderate oven, and bake them brown. Then crush them with a rolling pin or pound them in a mortar, pass them through a fine sieve, and keep them in an air-tight tin.
  • Mollica (Italian) breadcrumbs  – Soft breadcrumbs: the inside of a loaf or roll, as distinct from the crust. Mollica is used principally as a binder in Polpette and Polettoni, in fillings for Ravioli and other pasta shapes and in stuffing for vegetables, fish etc. In Calabria and Sicily fried breadcrumbs are the main ingredient in many pasta sauces as a substitute for the more expensive Parmesan. The taste is, of course, different, though not necessarily less good, but the appearance is similar. There is one dish in southern Italy, in the poor regions used this breadcrumbs, even still serving today.

The French breadcrumbs (panure in French) are made from fresh bread and are soft and large-crumbed. Dried breadcrumbs (chapelure in French) are finer, made from bread that has been dried in oven or slightly stale, or by drying fresh breadcrumbs and crushing them. Browned breadcrumbs are dried crumbs that are lightly toasted. (Alternatively, the bread may be baked until browned before it is crumbed.) Breadcrumbs are used in cooking for coating food or as a topping for dishes. They are also used for binding mixtures or thickening soups or sauces.

  • Coating with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are used to coat delicate foods before frying, typically fish or seafood, chicken breast fillets, croquettes or fritters. Dry white crumbs do not absorb as much fat as fresh crumbs; they produce a fine, crisp coating and turn golden on cooking. The food is first dusted with flour, then dipped in beaten egg and finally coated with breadcrumbs. This gives a secure coating, ideal for soft mixtures which may melt during frying. Less delicate items can be moistened with melted butter or milk before a fine layer of crumbs is pressed on – this is useful when baking or grilling (broiling) the food. Dishes coated with fresh breadcrumbs must be cooked slowly so that the crumbs do not brown before the foods are properly cooked. The French are prefer their fresh breadcrumbs, making that misnomer!

If you had a very tired or lazy day, you could even ignore the step of drying the bread in the oven. You can cut the crust off and cut the bread into chunks and lacerate  into crumbs in the food processor, and then leave the crumbs in a shallow bowl or spread them out on a plate to dry and get staler naturally. You can keep breadcrumbs in a freezer bag in the freezer and use them straight from the frozen. An average slice of good bread without crusts, should be weights 25g; this in turn yields approximately 6 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.

Spaghetti Spice

IMG_0071Do you ever think of a simple ingredient to adding into your pasta and it gives a different dimension to your dish and everyone is asking about the secret recipe of the ingredients of it. Well, I got the answer for it! I picked it up from Nigella’s cookbook, I had tried it. Hmmm! It is a wonderful SOS to have  in your store cupboard, it only takes less than 2 minutes to get it done.

I find this is great and charming present, you can attached a label to the jar, with instructions for use, namely that for each 100g of spaghetti (uncooked weight), 2 teaspoons of the mix should be sprinkled into a tablespoonful of olive oil in the still-hot pan once the pasta’s drained, then the spaghetti should be tossed back in, along with 30ml to 60ml or 2 to 4 tablespoons of starchy cooking water.

As given precise weights below in an effort to be helpful, but basically you need to think of using – in weight not volume – 1 part dried parsley and garlic to 2 parts chilli flakes and 3 parts sea salt flakes. I know this sounds as if the chilli will dominate but remember that the chilli flakes weigh more, as it were, than the dried parsley, so that even though you have double the weight of chilli flakes, the volume of parsley is greater, it goes without saying – or ought to – that you should try to get the best-quality dried herbs that you can find.

Makes to fill 4 x 110ml or 4fl oz jars

  • 15g dried parsley
  • 15g garlic granules
  • 30g dried chilli flakes
  • 45g sea salt flakes
  1. Mix the ingredients in a bowl and then, when you’re happy everything’s thoroughly combined, fill your waiting containers, close tightly and attach instructions for use, if so desired.

Benefit of green tea with lemon

P1170053AFor me, this is smoothing my soul and it does help you to burn fat too. If you have a new year resolution plan about the waist line and spend less time in the gym, I think this is the way to go.

Most people will choose the diet tablets or supplement to helping them on this. I always believed these natural ingredients is much better than the man-made supplement and tablets. Yes. I am fusty when it comes to food, but at least I know what am I eating, that is truly important. We don’t lived as slave to be looking good, but we should lived enjoyable with everything. Most of my lady friend are worrying consuming food, the word they like to said Oh no! I can’t have this is too fat! Otherwise I have to work so hard in the gym or on the thrill mill for hours. That is not the way to live your life in the mental anguish with food, there is always a way out once you enter a room. I have some tips for you to workout less and still can burn fat but do let me share some information about green tea and lemon.

Green tea increases the metabolism. The polyphenol found in green tea works to intensify levels of fat oxidation and the rate at which your body turns food into calories. It apparently helps regulate glucose levels slowing the rise of blood sugar after eating. This can prevent high insulin spikes and resulting fat storage. Good for diabetes.

Green tea also works on the lining of blood vessels, helping keep them stay relaxed and better able to withstand changes in blood pressure. It may also protect against the formation of clots, which are the primary cause of heart attacks. It can reduce the risk of esophageal cancer, but it is also widely thought to kill cancer cells in general without damaging the healthy tissue around them. Green tea reduces bad cholesterol in the blood and improves the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol.

Some studies shown, it is said to delay the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Studies carried out on mice showed that green tea protected brain cells from dying and restored damaged brain cells. Also tooth decay,  studies suggests that the chemical antioxidant “catechin” in tea can destroy bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections, dental caries and other dental conditions. If you regular consumption of green tea is thought to reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

Surprisingly it works for depression, Theanine is an amino acid naturally found in tea leaves. It is this substance that is thought to provide a relaxing and tranquilizing effect and be a great benefit to tea drinkers. Tea catechins are strong antibacterial and antiviral agents which make them effective for treating everything from influenza to cancer. In some studies green tea has been shown to inhibit the spread of many diseases. Green tea can apparently also help with wrinkles and the signs of aging, This is because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Both animal and human studies have demonstrated that green tea applied topically can reduce sun damaged.

Since both are a good ingredient for health and it is natural, do consult with your doctor before you can consume as your daily routine consumption. Have a nice tea!

Home made pancetta tasting

P1170045AIt has been week after week I waiting for this cured meat to be tasted, it is firm to touch as it feels solid, the colour of the red meat had became dark maroon. I believed it soaked up all the red wine and it smell absolutely great.

Finally, I going to pan fry it for tasting, I don’t know how to slice it thinly like the butcher did, and I don’t have a good curving skill either, so cut it into cubes will do. Cured meat content higher salt as it is part of the curing process, alcohol added is to give it a flavour and cure. You could reduce the salt but it is a risk. I cooked it in non stick pan, once the meat hit the pan the fat will release when frying, no extra oil is needed. Pan fry it until golden brown and remove the pancetta onto a plate that lined with kitchen towel to absorb the exceed grease from the meat. Then I tip a bit of frozen pea into fat until is soft. It does made a different with bits of green over the meat. Do remember no extra salt needed for this as meat was cured with salt. I maybe shouldn’t say this, I the first pancetta hit in my mouth I bites the pancetta with fat, it burst! The meat is very tender and succulent, juicy as well because of the fat. I been mentioned the word “fat”, indeed pancetta need fat to protect the meat while curing process begun. It sort of seal the meat after the herbs, salt, alcohol was absorb into the meat, that is where is fat and skin come in useful to seal the meal and starting the curing process.

Most people are terrified when I told them I curing my own meat, and the first thing in their mind, curing is butchers specialty, how could a household could do it? And being a raw to deal with and a lot of risk if didn’t done it correctly. It is always got alternative to do something, not necessary to follow the butchers’ way, think of the shortcut and whichever tool or equipment you got there.

The reason I cured my own meat, is it being too expensive to buy it from the local butcher as he charged me MYR70 (£13) for three slices that is less than 100 grams, that is how I do it myself instead. Well, it won’t be very Italian pancetta, I know this is going to be a good one, indeed it is. If you like to the same here is the delicious recipe.

https://andrewscookery.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/cured-meat-pancetta/

Although it took longer time to cured than cooking it, it is worth to have a go for it, you may fall in love cure the meat in your household. Hope you going enjoy it!

Meat ball pasta

P1170019ASome bits and bobs in the fridge and freezer that will really become a wonderful meal, do you know most people tend to throw away some leftover that maybe just few days old in the fridge. Something got to change this habit, the leftover ingredient over here is three pork sausage, one very wrinkle lemon, (very doubtful if it still have lots of juice, I only need its zest, I save the ever last bit of lemon for washing up later) three slices staled bread about two days old, (tip the staled bread in food processor or tear it by hand and crumble it since it is dry and staled) semolina flour around about 50 gram. The rest is are store cupboard standby such as tomato purée and canned plum tomato. You will be surprise this could feed three greedy people. But right now is only me eating, so I make extra meat ball with bolognese sauce to keep in the freezer for a standby or emergency meal.

I am too lazy to break down the detail of the recipe but I will just write how I do with these ingredient and the cooking step in paragraph, I still got the washing up to finish off.

Ready to get your hands dirty. First, cut the sausage and tear off the skin of the sausage, put them into a glass bowl use your hand to mash the sausage up until it breaks like a mince meat, then season it with pinch of sea salt, black pepper. I do feel like to have extra heat in the sausage; I added about half teaspoon of cayenne pepper. That’s what I want. Grated some lemon zest just to give a fresh citrus taste to the meat, sprinkle the bread crumbs, semolina flour. Finally to crack one egg to bind them together by hand, although is a mess; I do enjoy it! Once is all mix up, pinch it about the size of your thumb and start roll it into a little meat ball shape and place it on a flat surface tray. If you have children to help you on this you could make 40 meat ball easily, because they got small hands. I had made mine slightly larger.

Pour two cans of plum tomato into a pot. Half fill each empty can with water and swirl and clean the can then pour it into the same pot on the high heat. Slightly mash the tomatoes and stir it occasionally with a wooden spoon to avoid it stick at the bottom of the pot. Season it with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile the sausage is cooking, in a sautee pan, fry the bacon without any oil because the fat of the bacon will release during cooking. I like my bacon golden brown and crispy then I place the cooked crispy bacon on plate line kitchen towel to absorb any exceed grease. Use the same pan that still hot with bacon fat, mince two cloves of garlic into the hot fat. Now you can tip in the meat balls to fry them until brown at the outside around 6 to 8 minutes on medium heat, it depends on the size of the meat ball that you had rolled. P1170022ABy the time meat ball is nearly finish its cooking time. Check the pot of tomato the liquid should be reduced to thicker consistency, turn the heat up. Add a splosh of sherry and give it a stir, shortly in about least than a minutes you will smell the alcohol is evaporating then is the time you add the meat balls into the pot and turn the heat to medium and cook them gently and stir it ever now and then and make sure the sauce is covering the meat balls.

Bring another pot of water to boil, at the boiling water point add sea salt then give it a stir and tip in the pasta of your choice, whatever pasta you got in the cupboard. Cook it until al denta. Roughly 8 to 10 minutes for the dried pasta; fresh one should be 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and coat the pasta with olive oil and tip the pasta onto serving plates. Spoon the bolognese sauce and meat ball on the pasta, then crush the cooled crispy bacon on top. Voilà!

P1170026AI made extra bolognese and I let it cool in the pot and spoon it into a freezer bag, and I keep it in the fridge for maximum 2 days, in the freezer for 1 week. Thaw it overnight if you stored them in the freezer then pour it in a pot and reheat it. That will be another meal. Saving your cost as well, hope you enjoy it.

Echalions AKA Banana Shallot

P1160655A

I was very exciting when I found this shallots in local supermarket and it is rare! It also known as Echalions, Shallot Figaro, or scientific name Allium cepa of Aggregatum Group. Commonly know as Banana Shallot.

Echalion taking Britain’s kitchens by storm.  This versatile British vegetable, which is a cross between an onion and a shallot, has become the darling of professional kitchens, celebrities chef all over the country because it is so easy to prepare.  And now the secret is out and echalions have found their way onto our supermarket shelves.

They are easier to peel than a traditional shallot. Echalion is the result of a subtle mixture of the intrinsic qualities of the onion and the shallot. From each one, the Echalion has retained only best qualities. These large, oval bulbs have amber-coloured skin that can be peeled back to reveal juicy, white meat that combines the ease of an onion with the sweet, subtle flavour of a shallot.

Top Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, chef/patron of Restaurant Tom Aikens in London explains: “The versatile Echalion can add a subtle hint of flavour or be the main ingredient for any recipe calling for shallots. They are perfect for braising with meats, roasting with vegetables or with soups. Finely chop and add to broths and sauces, or sauté with mushrooms”, says Tom

British grown echalions are usually available from September to Mid-May.  They are grown in the Eastern counties of Britain (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk) where the sandy soil and warmer temperatures provide the ideal growing conditions.

There is no particular reason why you can’t use the banana shallots instead of onions, though they are not a substitute for red onions. You may also find that you need 2 banana shallots instead of a regular onion due to the size difference and milder taste. However they are more expensive than onions and if a strong allium taste is required then you may prefer to use regular onions. You can also substitute banana shallots with regular shallots – just use 2 regular shallots for 1 banana shallot, and do cook slightly more quickly than regular white or yellow onions.

To make it easy to peel, you could cut the root end off and blanche in boiling water for 3 minutes then grip firmly from the ‘leaf-end’ and squeeze the shallot out of its skin – holding with a cloth helps.

Croûton

P1160607ACroûton, choice of my snack. although my croûton not evenly brown on the side. I do like a bit of white but normally you will have all side brown. I used up some leftover stale bread about 4 days old. I like it less salt and more herbs. Is worth a moment to rustle up this and it is useful to have it in kitchen whenever you feel like having a salad and you have some croûton to garnish.

First, cut off the crusts of 4 slices of stale white bread, then cut into crouton sized cubes. Next, they need coating in the oil mixture, and I find this easiest to do with a freezer bag. Pour into the bag 4 table spoons of sunflower or olive oil, half a teaspoon of sea salt, a dried herbs of your choice, I used two chopped sprigs of rosemary. Then tip in the cubed bread, seal the bag and give it a good shake around to make sure all of the bread is well coated with oil.

Place a non-stick saute pan in medium heat. When is hot tip in bread, strring, until golden all over. When is place it on a baking tray to cool before storing into air tight jar.

Believe me, once you done it once you may keep topping up all the time. Then you will have handy croûton whenever youu need one.

Garlic infused oil

P1160368ANo fuss garlic oil, one of my favourite cooking oil the reason is sometime I can be a bit lazy to chop garlic or mince the garlic with garlic press. I rather have this on my kitchen table and can use it at when I feel like to have some garlic flavour in meals.

I am making this 500ml of ordinary garlic oil with 1 whole garlic bulb separated into cloves, no need to peel the skin, just rub off any loose pieces of the skin. Make sure the bottle of olive oil got some room for the garlic cloves, give it a shake every now and then; leave it to infuse for at least one month before using them.