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Vegetable Feast

Christmas greetings!

Much eating, drinking, and partying after,  I hope your digestion is still sound and well.

It feels right to do a vegetable dish today.

This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’ s cook book.  It requires a little bit of patience but it is well worth it, as it captures the beautiful flavors of fresh vegetable and would surely make you feel spoiled eating it.

Ingredients

1.  One large egg-plant (aubergine)

2.  Two zucchini (courgettes)

3.  One red capsicum (pepper)

4.  One bunch of asparagus

5.  A few  fresh basil leaves

6.  Two cloves of garlic, minced

7.  Olive oil  3 to 4 tablespoons

8 .  Red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons

9.   Salt and pepper

Method

1.  Slice eggplant and zucchini lengthways into long strips ( about 1/2 cm thick)

2.  Remove the wood end of asparagus and cut them in half

3.  Heat up a flat bottom pan (preferably a cast iron one) to high heat without any oil

4.  Put the whole capsicum into the pan and leave to slowly grill

5.  At the same time arrange some vegetable slices to cover the rest of the pan

6.  Dry grill the vegetable slowly adjusting the heat, turning them occasionally until charred and soft

7.  Remove the cooked vegetable to a plate and add another batch of  uncooked vegetable to the pan, while leaving the whole capsicum continue to cook

8. When all the vegetables are cooked , the capsicum should be thoroughly cooked by now with charred skin separating from the flesh

9.  Remove carefully the black skin on the capsicum as much as possible and open it up to scrape away the seeds. Tear the capsicum up into strips and add them to the other vegetables

10.  Dress the vegetables with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss it gently together

11.  Fold in basil leaves and garlic

Serve with a piece of grilled fish, you might think you are in heaven…

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I love fried rice. It is a dish that could change according to the appetite, the mood, the occasion, the season…and yet it is so easy to make!

But there is one dilemma.  The main component of traditional fried rice  is rice. The carbohydrate to protein ratio tends to be very high ( too much carbohydrate, too little protein).  For a lot of us in a sedentary working environment, or trying to lose some weight, excessive starch /rice provides unnecessary calories that could not be burnt off. Traditional fried rice also uses white jasmine type rice which has a very high glycemic index (too much sugar released into the blood stream too quickly causing insulin surge and potential diabetes).

So I made some modifications to this well-loved dish.

Remember when making fried rice,  all ingredients should have as little moisture as possible to avoid the dish turning out soggy. Long grain rice is usually better than the shorter grains as they have less moisture when cooked.

Ingredients ( for 1 person)

1.  Black rice, cooked, 100g to 150g (cooked weight): Sunrice black rice is available at Coles supermarket. Alternatively red rice or basmati rice can be used to lower the glycemic index. Rice is cooked and placed in an open container in the fridge the night before to  reduce moisture

2. Fresh whole prawns  0.5 kg ( frozen prawn meat is OK ) which makes about 250g prawn meat after shells and veins removed

3.  Garlic 1 clove, minced

4.  Organic butter

5.  Soy sauce

6. Fish sauce optional

7. Shallots, chopped

Method:

1. Pat dry prawns and season with sea salt

2. Heat a wok with some oil (coconut oil the best, when using olive oil make sure the wok is not too hot), add prawns to wok and stir till they turn pink and curled up. Sprinkle minced garlic and add a knob of butter to the prawns. Stir some more till you could smell the garlic then quickly transfer prawns to a bowl.

Note: prawns cook very quickly so take care  not to overcook them

3. Pour some more oil in the same wok (with the residual prawn flavor), add cooked rice (which has been in the fridge over night) and stir well till the rice is soft

4. Season the rice with some soy sauce to taste, and a few drops of fish sauce (optional)

5. Add the cooked prawns back to the wok and mix well with the rice. Sprinkle shallots in.

6. Serve with a plate of steamed vegetable to complete the meal

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This one is my favorite.

Ingredients: (for 4-6, makes about 20 omelette purses)

Free range eggs 12

Mince pork 250 g

Spanish onion 1, diced

Large Potato 1

Shallot 4 pieces

Garlic 1 clove, minced

Method:

1. Peel potato and shred it finely. Season shredded potato with sea salt and stand aside to let it sweat.

2. Mix mince pork, diced onion and garlic. Season mixture with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Mix well.

3. Beat 12 eggs thoroughly. Add to it diced shallot, 2 teaspoon of soy sauce, 2 teaspoon of salt.

4. Squeeze the water out from the shredded potato. Add potato to egg batter.

5. Heat fry pan with some duck fat or ghee, fry mince pork mixture slightly till 80% cooked. Let pork mince cool a little. Add the pre-cooked pork mince to the egg batter and mix well.

6. Heat clean fry pan with fat on low to medium heat, use a soup ladle to ladle  egg batter onto fry pan to make a pancake shape. When egg batter is firmly cooked, fold it in half to make a “money purse”. Continue to shallow fry for another minute until cooked. Make omelette purse one by one until all egg batter is used. Check and adjust heat frequently to avoid burning.

Served with a plate of vegetable, you have a complete meal with adequate protein from the pork/eggs and not excessive  carbohydrate from the potato.

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This is the ultimate coconut therapy! Those who are serious about introducing coconut in their diet must give this a go. It is also a good time to make some magical broth!

Whole chicken will be used because we not only need the chicken meat but also the bones, skin and tendons. (see post “Broth, Magical Broth). We also need 1 mature coconut.

It requires some patience and determination but the end result is worth all the troubles, because nothing comes from jars or tins could compare with the fresh coconut fruit cracked open by you!

The biggest challenge of this recipe is to open the coconut and obtain the coconut meat from the shell. After wrestling with a few coconuts and lots of research,  not to mention the bruises and cuts I endured on my hands, I can now share with you the most painless way to open a coconut and obtain the meat.

STEP 1: Roughly wash  the whole coconut. Find the three eyes on the husk. Push the pointy bit of a corkscrew into one of the eyes and screw down as you would with a cork in the wine bottle (you might need to aim the pointy bit at different angles to get in). Do it until you are right inside the coconut (you should feel a give). Wiggle a bit to make the hole bigger. Do the same to another eye. You need two eyes open to drain the coconut water (to equalize pressure inside and outside the coconut). Now find one chopstick and stick it into one of the eyes you have worked on and push it right in to make a proper hole. Pop the coconut upside down on top of a jar and let it drain all the coconut water out.

STEP 2: Once the water is all drained, you are ready to crack open the coconut. Hold a mature coconut in one hand over the sink.  Imagine the three “eyes” on the coconut being the north pole. Move down to the equator round the middle. You will not see any line there to indicate the equator but  there is a seam or a line of weakness along the equator in the coconut husk. Use the back of a meat cleaver and whack along the equator with solid force. Rotate the coconut as you are hitting it. Be patient because it would feel like nothing is going to happen for a long time and suddenly you feel something gives and you are there!

STEP 3: Put the open coconut in the fridge for a few hours. I usually leave it overnight. The chilling makes the coconut meat separate a little from the shell.  Without the chilling process, to get the meat from the shell is a practical nightmare! Remove the coconut from the fridge and break it into small pieces again using the back of a meat cleaver. Use a thin blade knife to get between the coconut meat and the husk to separate the meat.

Making coconut chicken broth from here on is a breeze.

Ingredients:

Whole chicken x1

Mature coconut x1

Dried Shiitake mushroom x1 handful, soaked (optional)

Method:

1. Wash chicken thoroughly and cut into 4-6 pieces.

2. Put chicken pieces, coconut water, coconut meat and mushroom in 5-6 liters of water.

3. Bring it to just about to boil (small bubbles appearing) and then turn the heat down to keep the broth merely boiling for 5-6 hours. Remember over- boiling destroys protein.

4. Season generously with salt to serve.

This broth can also be used to make soup noodles by adding noodles and vegetables of your choice, but I prefer to drink it as it is. Holding a warm cup of coconut chicken broth in hand, I am in heaven!

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The “Char Siu” Dilemma

DAY 1

Today  when I was preparing the “char siu” sauce in the kitchen, my Chinese national pride hit all time low. You see, “char siu” (Chinese BBQ pork) is a well known Chinese delicacy with very unique flavours. But Chinese normally do not make “char siu” at home as the recipe is considered a trade secret.  I always wanted to make my own “char siu” because that way I know exactly what have been put in. I am finally making the “char siu” sauce now from scratch but the recipe belongs to  “Masterchef” judge Gary Mehigan, a BRITISH chef (even though he was using the sauce to marinate salmon instead of pork)! Sigh… Anyway, thanks for sharing Gary!

Ingredients:

Pork fillet 500g (to achieve better result, cut fillets longitudinally into 2-3 strips)

Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine, brown in colour) 4 tablespoon

Honey 4 tablespoons

Brown sugar (fine) 2 tablespoons

Light soy sauce 2 tablespoons

Hoi Sin sauce (Asian food store) 2 tablespoons

Garlic powder 2 tablespoons

Five spice powder 1 teaspoons

Red bean paste (Asian food store) 2 tablespoons

Black Chinese vinegar (Asian food store) 4 teaspoons

Food colouring (omitted)

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients together till smooth. Put pork fillets in marinade. Leave in fridge for overnight.

2. Remove fillets from marinade and put into a baking tray.

3. Grill for 20 to 40 minutes (depending on the size of the strips) in moderate heat until cooked. Turn the fillet a few times and spoon the marinade onto the pork from time to time to keep it moist.

4. Slice into thin pieces and serve with stir fry vegetables.

DAY 2

I would like to report the end result of that recipe. The “char siu” turned out OK. Of course it did not look like anything I buy from the shops but that is expected as I omitted the food colouring.  But I prefer the natural colour anyway and overall the flavours are rich and satisfying. But did I have an authentic piece of “char siu” in my mouth? I am not sure. I would definately add a bit more soy sauce and even salt next time.  And you know what?  I am secretly relieved that British “char siu” is after all different to Chinese “char siu”. Phew! 

 Of course if you have coeliac disease or an anaphylactic shock reaction to wheat or corn, stay away from this recipe.

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You may be greatly disappointed if you think this is going to take 2 minutes to cook. But it is a recipe I invented for use when I am pressed with time.  It is relatively quick and  has all the nutrients I want for a meal packed in one bowl.

If you are really in a hurry, chicken thigh fillets or breast can replace the drumsticks. I just like the idea of making some simple stock from the drumstick bones. Fish fillets can also be replaced by other seafood of choice, like prawns or mussels. The noodle I use is made from 100% sweet potato flour so it is suitable for people who are allergic to wheat. Sweet potato has a low glycaemic index so it is good for weight control. You can find this noodle in Asian or Korean grocery stores but make sure you check the ingredients. Don’t be afraid to cook more noodle than you need as they can be stored in the fridge for the next meal. Omit mushroom if you have an allergy to it.

Ingredients: (For 4)

Chicken drumsticks x6

White fish fillets of your choice x2 (about 400g)

Shiitaki mushroom 1 pack (100g)

Chinese Buk Choy x2 bunch

Sweet potato noodles x 1 pack

Soy sauce 4 tablespoons

Sugar 2 tsp

Celtic sea salt 3 tsp

Five spice powder 2 tsp

Shallot sliced for garnish

Method:

1. Bring 2-3 litres of water to boil in a pot and add whole pack of sweet potato noodle. Cook until soft. Drain and set aside.

2. Using a sharp knife remove the chicken flesh  from the bone. Do that with all 6 of the drumsticks

3. Put bones in a stock pot and add water to just cover them. Let it simmer while preparing other parts of the dish

3. Cut chicken flesh roughly in to strips. Marinate with the soy sauce, salt, sugar and five spice powder. Stand a side.

4. Slice fish fillet into thick strips. Lightly season with sea salt

5. Slice shallot

6. Wash Buk Choy and tear it into small pieces. Let them soak in water while waiting for other things to get ready. Wash mushroom and remove stems.

7. Remove now the drumstick bones including the debris form the stock. Add chicken to it and bring it to boil again

8. Add mushroom and Buk Choy and bring it to boil.

9. Add fish strips and shallot cook for 1 more minute.

10. Season the soup generously with salt as the flavour will get absorbed by the noodle later.

11. Divide noodle in 4 bowls and ladle soup and its contents on top of the noodle and serve

Left over of this soup is great for breakfast the next morning.

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Moist Coconut Cake

This is the third level recipe for those who want to venture out further about introducing coconut nutrients into their diet. This cake is one of the few desserts I would approve for my patients who know how mean I can be when it comes to dessert prescriptions! (The other approved recipes of course would be the guilt-free chocolate cake and the cocochoc delight)

The flour in this cake is almond meal mixed with coconut flour so it is totally gluten free. Coconut flour is made from grinding down dry coconut flesh so it is 100% fiber and has virtually no calories. Coconut flour can be brought in good health stores or from the internet. No dairy or yeast is needed so is also dairy and yeast free.

The sugar I use this time is coconut palm sugar. It is made from the sap of coconut flowers. It has a rich mineral content and  a very low Glycaemic Index of 35 (meaning a very slow absorption of the sugar resulting in minimal negative impact on the blood sugar level, suitable for diabetes) compared with cane sugar of 68. You can buy them in Asian food stores. Be aware of the quality of coconut palm sugar as some  have cane sugar added to them so always check the label. Try to get the type that has been set in small blocks so it is easier to measure out different quantities you need.

Ingredients:

Full cream coconut milk 1 cup (1x  270 ml can)

Desiccated coconut 1/2 cup

Shredded coconut 1/2 cup

Coconut flour 1/2 cup sieved

Almond meal 1 cup

Coconut palm sugar 100-150 gm (approx.)

Eggs 4

Vanilla essence 1/2 tsp (optional)

Method (the following sequence seems to be the most time efficient)

1. Bring coconut milk to boil and remove pot from stove. Add desiccated coconut and shredded coconut to hot coconut milk and leave for 20 minutes.

2. Put palm sugar in a bowl and steam for around 15 minutes until melted (do not direct heat the sugar as it would caramelise).

3. While waiting for the above steps to progress, mix coconut flour and almond meal in a large mixing bowl.

4. Separate egg yolk from egg white.

5. Stir egg yolks one at a time into flour mixture.

6. Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

7. Beat egg white till stiff.

8. Take melted palm sugar out from steamer and let it cool a little but not too cold to become hard again.

9. Put desiccated and shredded coconut/coconut milk mixture now in a sieve and drain away excess coconut milk. Mix the drained coconut into the flour mixture.

10. Mix sugar syrup into the flour mixture. Add vanilla essence.

10. Fold in egg white bit by bit.

11. Pour flour mixture in baking tin and bake in a slow oven at 120-150 degree for about 1 hour

12. Stand cake for 15 minutes before serving.

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