Thursday, February 28, 2008

MPH Sale

To the uninformed, there is a sale in MPH, 15% off all books plus additional 5% until tomorrow, 29th Feb. Generally I no longer buy from MPH, as I prefer the straight 10% discounts offered by TIMES or POPULAR, but this deal piqued my curiosity. Oh the discount applies to MPH Card Holders, and CIMB/DIRECT ACCESS Credit Card holders.

Oh and for every RM70, you get a RM5 voucher. Pretty good hor. Only problem I had was finding enough books to total RM140 after a 20% discount. (Do the math, you need RM175 worth of books to get two vouchers).

I've been eyeing this particular book for awhile, since Boolicious and Paprika got me hooked onto this PAGEONE series.

There are a few rather delectable looking recipes here, so keep your eyes peeled for my attempts at culinary contentment. With the purchase of this book, I find that I have no more books left that I really want to buy, except perhaps Dorie Greenspan's From My Kitchen to Yours, and only because it is so widely propogated by my idol, Masak-Masak.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Domestic Goddess' Mint Choc Chip Cookies

Since I couldn't get a massage appointment with masseur of my choice, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I caved in to my kid's request for me to make chocolate chip cookies. There was one particular recipe from Nigella Express that I have been meaning to try, because of the mint chocolate glaze, that sounded fascinating.

Anyway, these are REALLY easy to make, and I made them in the food processor. Honestly, the whole process, from measuring to popping them in the oven, took less than 10 minutes. Then again, I do work faster than most other people, ahem.

Adapted from Nigella Express

100gm butter
100gm brown sugar (original recipe 150gm)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or essence also can la in this case, it all evaporates anyway)
1 large egg

150 gms flour
35 gms cocoa powder sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

200gm choc chips

I find it easier to break them into 4 separate group of ingredients.

1. Blitz the butter and sugar in a food processor, until creamy. (the way I identify this in my machine, is, initially, the butter and sugar clump up. Once it evenly mixed, it forms a ring of lovely butter sugar mixture around the insides of the bowl)

2. Add in the egg and essence. Pulse a bit until well mixed.

3. Pulse in the dry ingredients. It should form a lovely cookie dough, that looks like a thick choc ice cream. Stir in the chocolate chip cookies until evenly incorporated. If you are using a small food processor, I guess you'll have to scoop out the dough into a bigger bowl and mix in the chocolate chips.

4. I used a 15ml rounded tablespoon, (those half round ones) as prescribed by Goddess, and managed to get 22 cookies. (book says makes 26). I guess mine were heaped tablespoons.

5. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 12-14 minutes.

6. Let the cookies cool in the tray for a few minutes. Do not be alarmed if they come out really soft...cookies are like that. They're soft when hot, and get hard when cold. Much like nipples.

7. Transfer to cooling rack to completely cool. Then sprinkle the glaze onto the cookies while they're cooling.

Making the glaze.

75 grams sifted icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, sifted
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract/essence

1. Mix all in a glass bowl, until all ingredients form a lovely chocolatey glazy look. Zap in microwave for 30 seconds, (or take the hard way out and use a saucepan over low heat), to give it that final mix.

2. Use a teaspoon to zig zag the glaze over the cookies.

Verdict: Well, try to use bittersweet chocolate chip, or lessen the sugar. I found mine a tad too sweet, but lately I am finding MOST recipes, if not ALL, too sweet. However, it was a hit with the kids, and my son, thinking he's Michelin, bestowed upon me another imaginary star.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Top Chinese New Year Foods I've Had

Happy Chap Gourmet, all.

Sigh, after today, Chinese New Year will be over. Gone will be the heavy handbags, stuffed with angpows lest you bump into that relative or friend that has a brood of 10, the late nights of lifting hands to the gambling gods for a DOUBLE ACE, the smell of freshly minted notes, be they 1s, 5s, 10s or 50s....the startling sounds of the start of a lion dance, (as I am typing this, one has started down the road).

Rather than talking about individual restaurants, I think I'll just reminisce in passing the foods I've had in the last 15 days, and highlight those that I think are worthy of mention.

It's customary for us, at my inlaws place, to have a vegetarian lunch. I cant really understand the concept of chinese vegetarian, whereby they seek to replicate the real thing, by making it into mock meats. I guess in a way, it does widen a menu selection by a thousandfold. I mean, afterall, there are only so many ways one can serve a tofuburger, or a salad...but throw in vegetarian char siu, like the one below, and vegetarian mutton, and vegetarian prawns..... and whatever else, you get a infinity menu, basically. Let us just IMAGINE we're killing the animals, ........

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I love this charsiu, despite the screaming absence of lard.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This curry dish I think doesn't have any fake meats, so it is really vegetarian in content and thought.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This is a horrible picture, it looks like someone's regurgitated meal, but believe me, it tastes deeeevine. The vegetarian gods would approve. It's mutton curry, made from mushroom stalks.

Nothing like a plump juicy lobster cooked the Chinese way, in superior XO stock, to tickle and tantalise the palate. This was at the Equatorial Bangi, at the 7th day (everyone's birthday, aka Yun Yatt) hosted by my inlaws. The rest of the food in Equatorial Bangi, in the other outlets, I reckon are generally quite awful, but the Golden Phoenix does serve exquisite Chinese, if you know how and what to order. The lobster was fresh, and was probably waving its antennae around an hour before that trying to get astro reception.

According to Kylie Kwong, the most humane way of killing a lobster is to freeze it, so that it goes to sleep, and THEN, kill it.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This has to be one of the most divine desserts in a chinese restaurant that I've come across. Durian pancake, (more like dumpling) and the ping pei pumpkin with lotus filling. Now, durian pancakes are quite common, and used to be Lai Poh Heen's signature dessert. What makes a good one? For starters, no fake dairy cream mixed with the durian puree. 2ndly, even if it was cream, (real cream, straight from the mammaries of a cow), it should only be a hint of it. I like my durian strong, and bold. Thirdly, the filling should be cold as possible. Fourthly, the crepe skin should be thin as possible, so you don't feel like you're eating a badly made giant durian wantan with skin thicker than an insurance agent.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Note how the filling is a gorgeous duriany yellow. Apparently they added custard, but only a hint of. Absolutely gorgeous.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not as Yee Sang-ed out as some may think. My first yee sang was on the Monday before CNY, (by which time some people had like had it up to their ears with it), and since then, I haven't really had it all that many times.

Of the restaurant ones, my favourites were the ones in Overseas Restaurant, and Equatorial Bangi.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

But of course, my favourite yee sang are the home done ones, because we always chuck in a whole can of THIS:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Top quality abalone from the mexican seas. Copious amounts of this stuff, that of course, really, is good enough to eat on its own. And we usually do serve it separately.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Abalone with a hint of yee sang.

Paying tribute to our favourite edible mammal, that oft misunderstood, sometimes reviled, sometimes adored, porcine creature that has spawned classics such as the 3 little pigs, Charlotte's web, etc.

The Yoke Pai in Overseas. Yummy. Fat and lean, just the way God intended, and meat falling off the bone in a lovely sauce, complemented with fried man tau. (buns)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A platter of waxed meats, Lap Mei, with the special rice in claypot. A lot of pork, I know. Well, eating this dish about once a year is about right. It is very sickly rich, (in a non dairy way), and salty too.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And specially for Lyrical Lemongrass, the Lemon Tart that I meant to pass you a slice of. (okay, this isn't really under the CNY Foods category, it's just that I made it for one of the CNY meals).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nigella Lawson's Chicken Mughlai

I've never really been very ambitious to try anything to do with curries, because of the inordinate amount of work involved, if you do it from scratch. That means no using of curry pastes, etc. And furthermore, our cook at home makes wonderful curries, so why bring sake to Japan, or why bring waffles to A&W?

However, I've always been curious to try THIS particular recipe, because 1. It's by Nigella Lawson, and curry is afterall, England's National Food. 2. She looked so seductive making it, I wondered if I could look sexy too. 3. I was hosting dinner for friends who've eaten my stuff countless times, and I had run out of repertoire. Like a has been lounge singer who keeps repeating New York New York every night.

So, I actually made an almost entirely new menu, when I hosted dinner for the Woman I Am Scared Of. (she insisted I cook for her, and she wanted to meet my "new friends", so any of you old fellas out there reading this, you weren't invited not coz of me).

The dinner menu was something like this. Paprika's Lasagne Al Forno Con Melanzane, minus the lasagna sheets, since I couldn't fit them in, and therefore only used egg plant as the layering. Sorry to plagiarise your recipe dahlink.

(Photo courtesy of Lyrical Lemongrass, since I forgot to take)

For soups, wife made a shrimp bisque, also her first time. Not something you'd want to attempt without domestic help. Peeling 2 kg of shrimp is not my idea of culinary fun.

For mains, we had Pan Seared Scallops on a bed of Aragula and Frisee, With Balsamic Honey Mustard Dressing, accompanied by Quails eggs, A Zuchinni and Mushroom Pie, Store Bought Briyani Rice, Embellished with Wasabi Cashews and Plump Golden Raisins, and Nigella Lawson's
Chicken Mughlai .

Here's the recipe.

Group 1
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried chili

Group 2
4 tablespoons ground almonds
1/2 cup water

Group 3
5 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 bay leaves ( I omitted, coz forgot to buy)
4 cloves

Group 4
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1.7 kg boned chicken thighs, each cut into 2

Garlic & Onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 onions, finely chopped

Group 5
1 cup Greek yogurt (beyond my budget, so I used Nestle Natural Yoghurt)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream

Group 6
1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Group 7
3/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted, to garnish

1. Process of blend group 1 ingredients, and add group 2 until it forms a gloriously orangey paste.
2. Fry the chicken pieces until slightly brown, just to seal in the juices.

3. Using the remaining chicken oil, and vegetable oil, fry the garlic and onions. Chuck in the group 3 ingredients.

4. Add the paste (group 1&2) and fry together until the aroma hits you like the sweet embrace of a buxom woman.

5. Add the yoghurt, half portion at a time, chicken stock and then the cream.

6. Add the chicken pieces, and simmer for about 1/2 an hour. Take off the heat, cool and refrigerate. Best when kept overnight, or longer. Before serving, sprinkle toasted almonds. Serve with basmati rice, pilaf rice, or BRIYANI, which you can easily buy anywhere.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Max Revisited

When dear wife of dear fellow gym buddy asked me for suggestions for her husband's surprise birthday party, somewhere cosy, with good food, and privacy, the first place that sprang to mind was MAX'S KITCHEN, along Tengkat Tong Shin.

Oh, by the way, Happy Chinese New Year to all the descendants of the Middle Kingdom. My criteria for angpow giving, lest any of you should ask, is pretty much the same criteria that applies to children; Unemployed, Unmarried, and Virgin. If you qualify, let me know.

Back to subject at hand. yeah, Max very kindly offered to open specially on a Sunday to cater for this party. And this is even without having to name drop Precious Pea's name.

Despite Bukit Bintang being closed for that pre-election crap "National Chinese New Year open house", the jam wasn't too bad, but I ambitiously circled the place looking for a carpark within a 20m vicinity, but ended up wasting a lot of time, and having to walk in the end anyway. Not that I mind walking, I love walking, but in the correct gear. Not with 4 bottles of wine in tow.

The guests were all surprisingly punctual. Anyway, the menu looked staggering, a seven course meal, with NO YEE SANG involved. Wow!!!

Well, maybe this gravlax thingie is the western equivalent of a yee sang. Lovely smoked salmon on a bed of crunchy tomatoes, and a lovely piquant sauce to complement it.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Scientific Name : Pastrami of Salmon, With Olives, Artichokes and Lemon Oil Laced Greens

I think the seared scallops are one of Max's signature dishes, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Just nicely seared, the scallops were plump and juicy, unlike some that look good but taste like distilled water.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Seared Sea Scallops WIth Dried Tuna Majoma, (probably pronounce Ma Yo Ma), Parsley Puree and Bell Pepper Salsa

If the other dishes were stars, this one is the DIVA. Foie Gras terrine with Unagi. Absolutely deeevine, unless you don't like unagi, (like the wife) in which case, avoid it like the plague. Melt in the mouth, the textures and tastes were a mini eruption of pleasure in the palate. Not to mention the dazzling sensation of your arteries becoming instantaneously clogged, similar to when one chews on the chee yau char of a hokkien mee. So good, so sinful, and all is right in this world.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Scientific Name: Unagi with Duck Liver Terrine with Sauteed French Chanterelle and Cepe Mushroom Ragout

This was followed (by which time I have to say, I was getting a bit full), GH MUMM Champagne - Baby Abalone Stew With Seared Tuna Loin, Sea Trout Roes and Basil Oil. I always confuse a loin and a groin, so was left wondering how a tuna could possibly have a groin. Unless it was a MerTuna. Very nice, all expensive ingredients, sure nice one la. Wonder how many trout our table deprived the world of, devouring all those helpless eggies, like the barracuda in Finding Nemo.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Ah, the mains, finally. We had a choice of.....

Atlantic Cod Fish Fillet, Oven Roasted on Slipper Lobster, - Cannellini Beans Cassoulet WIth Crisp Beef Bresaola. (help, help, translation please). Note how some locations, such as the Atlantic, lend credibility and class to a dish. Try putting, Straits of Malacca Pomfret Roasted On Fresh Mussels from beach facing the Tengku Ampuan Hospital on the Tebrau Straits.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Since I opted for the Escalope of US Veal Tenderloin (let us close one or two eyes to the whole brouhaha surrounding the controversy of veal rearing), on a Parmean gratinated asparagus with Cabernet - Mushroom Jus and Potatot Gnocchi, I didn't get to try the cod and slipper lobster. Initially, those of us who ordered the veal thought the cod looked better, only until we tucked into the first sliver of veal, which was OOOOH SOOO TENDER. Didn't care much for the potato gnocchi though. Not a real gnocchi gnocchi who's there fan.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The 3rd choice of main, which only 1 of 20 guest ordered, was the Chargrilled Lamb Cutlet accompanied by a garlic confit and port wine mint sauce. It looked sooo good, that the hostess ended up ordering a couple for all of us to try. It WAS really good, tender, succulent and no lamby smell that hits you like a smelly armpit hits you in the gym.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sometimes I think chefs are too adventurous for their own good. One bite into this dish, and my first thought was, argh, what a waste, 90% of the guest are NOT gonna like this. Warm Kataify Pastry Wrapped Goat Cheese with Four Berries Jam. Since I am quite fond of strong cheeses, I didn't mind this dish, while I watched the carnage of fainting women and men around me, like a fallout from a nuclear zone. What IS kataify anyway? Meehoon?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Petit Valrhona Chocolate Souffle, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Finally, the equivalent of the universal language of love, in the culinary world, CHOCOLATE. After the goat cheese massacre, everyone was loving this dessert.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The decaf coffee went down lovely-ly. A wonderful dinner, hosted by a most generous couple. Pity I had a diarrhoea-ed tummy, and was running to the loo in between every course, but I shall spare you the details of my tribulation.

Monday, February 04, 2008

King Crab With Legendary Lemongrass

After hearing SO much about this place, and missing numerous opportunities to dine here with famous food bloggers, I couldnt let up yet another chance pass, so when Unkaleong (of all people, since he ain't REALLY a flogger) organised a low sang here, I said yes, at the expense of leaving the brood of wife and kids to their own devises on a Saturday night.

It was with great effort that I dragged myself there though, as the residual alcohol from the late night before, a toxic combination of Vodka, Beer and Long Island Teas, was still lingering in the system, and the 4.30 am bedtime had rendered me semi zombified. It's great when you have livewires at dinners, so one doesn't really have to worry too much about conversation. We had the fabulous Baker Boys, as livewire.

Other people present were of course, Empress of the Floggers, Lyrical Lemongrass, the Ab Fab fella, who didnt flash this time, his friend and ex colleague from BKK (now based in Shanghai), the ex colleague's friend, our Fabulous Baker Boys, (hmmm, cannot use that title, on second thoughts, coz it spells FBB), aiya, the Just Heavenly Angels lah, (or the other mythical creature with wings), and their friend, who resides in Bahrain. I feel highly undertravelled in the presence of such nomadic company.

Yee Sang, the uniquely Malaysian dish, just like Yam Seng is also only done in Malaysian weddings. Singapore doesn't count la, after all, they share the same roots. Allan halted the waitress from drowning the Yee Sang with too much sauce, resulting in it looking a bit dry, but was actually perfect. I'm not entirely sure what the pink color fish was, could have been salmon, but its pinky hue made me wonder.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Presumably a steamed kampong chicken. Great hangover food. Clear and clean. (Unkaleong did the ordering). Not too tough, as some kampung folk tend to be.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This fish pieces dish in a lovely soup, riddled with golden needle mushrooms. Again, perfect hangover food. The fish was chewy, almost like chicken, according to Unka. The soup was sweet and full of wholesome goodness without smelling like dead fish.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I was actually yearning for the Pork Reef, (dunno if it's a typo), with preserved vegetables, I imagine to be something like Mui Choi Kau Yoke, but they had sold out, so offered us this instead. Braised arm of Pork, or was it leg? Well, leg or arm, it was quite good. The meat falls of the bone, and the meat was nice and tender.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Call me a freeloader, but I LURVE attending dinners when JHP are there, cos I know almost for sure that there will be a lovely sweet treat at the end of the meal. Sure enough, they didn't disappoint, with a lovely Sacher Torte. My mistake was having two slices, which rendered me in a Jabba The Hutt state after the 2nd slice. Short of leaving a trail of slime as I crawled to the car....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

For some reason, I didn't get a shot of one of the Master Bakers himself.... so I'll just have to put up two of the other half...