East Malaysia Cooking Trip – Part 1

brinjals

Hello my blogger friends, greetings from Hong Kong! For those who have been following my blog, I’ve finally settled down in this city that never sleeps. It’s been more than two months since my last post and I hope you will still get to see this in your reader or email 🙂

I am preparing to start cooking and baking soon but for now, I would love to share with you an amazing trip that I’ve made before my move. For this trip, I get to stay with my relative in Sarawak, East Malaysia who owns a little vegetable garden right in front of the house. Of course, you know my itchy hands wouldn’t leave those gorgeous plants alone. Hee hee!

chinese squash

These are oriental squash which are great for making clear soup with dried scallops and pork short ribs. Boil them together for an hour and all you need is just a little salt to flavor it.

be different

While most squash are long and straight, some just prefers to be different.

robot oven

dough in robot oven

I would like to introduce this powerful oven that looks more like an alien in scifi films which can pre-heat to 220C within 10minutes. The only thing to be careful is that the heating element is at the top so attention is needed to avoid the crust of my bread from getting burnt. Yes, I baked bread with it and the result is very satisfying.

foccacia

I made this foccacia bread with dried Italian herbs using that robot. It was really crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The bread was very well received and before I knew it, the pan was empty.

12 hour overnight poolish 

150g strong flour, 150g warm water, 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix everything together  and let it ferment overnight.

Main dough

278g strong flour, 150g warm water, 1 & 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, dried Italian herbs, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 2 tablespoon olive oil, poolish

Mix everything together and work your dough till it is smooth. Let it rest for 45 mins. Stretch and fold the dough and let it rest for another 45mins. Pre-heat oven to 200C and bake for 20mins. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano if desired.

harvesting egg plant

I just can’t keep my hands off these gorgeous brinjals or long eggplants. I’m so lucky that they are at their best when I was there. Green on the inside with no seeds yet.

pasta with brinjals

With limited ingredients, I turned the brinjals into this pasta dish.

brinjals, cut into circles

red chili, chopped

1 onion, chopped

italian herbs

1 big lime juice

olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

your favorite pasta

Fry brinjals in olive oil till caramelized and set aside for later use. With the same oil, saute onions till caramelized and put in red chili, sea salt and pepper. On another burner, cook pasta to al dente and keep some pasta water. Back to the frying pan, add in lime juice and pasta water follow by a good handful of italian herbs. Put in pasta, brinjal and toss well. Serve with grated parmigiano and perhaps more chili.

It’s been a great trip. I’ll share more recipes in part 2 okay?

Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce

mussels in spicy tomato sauce

Hello my friends! Hope all is well and that you have not forgotten me. Its been a while since my last post or rather since I last logged on to this site. And I’m deeply touched when a couple of you specially wrote to ask about me. I’ve been busy making some changes to the next stage of my career/life and will need to take another break from sharing my recipes after this till I’ve settled down in another city.

This is a really simple and flavorful dish to make.

big fat mussels

finely chopped garlic

black pepper

sea salt

finely chopped fresh chili (the hottest you can find)

tomato sauce

fresh basil

olive oil

white wine

Heat up olive oil in a pan over medium heat and throw in garlic, chili, pepper and salt. When aroma fills the air, put in mussels follow by a glug of white wine. Once the alcohol evaporates, put in tomato sauce follow by fresh basil and cook for another minute or two.  Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Hope you will like it. Take care everyone. I’ll be back!

Aglio Olio with Prawns

prawn pasta 2

I am surprised to miss out publishing this recipe that I make most often. I just love the juice of the prawns clinging onto the pasta in every mouthful.

Medium size prawns, vein removed

Cherry tomatoes

Chopped Chili

Your favorite pasta

Fresh basil

White wine

Olive oil

Garlic, chopped or sliced

Crushed black pepper

Sea salt

prawn pasta 1

Heat up a good amount of olive oil over medium-high heat and fry prawns till cooked. Remove prawns from pan. Turn down the heat to medium and fry garlic and chili using the same oil. Put in tomatoes follow by salt and pepper. Once tomatoes are soften and the fragrance of garlic fill the air, pour in white wine and let the alcohol evaporates. Add sweet basil follow by some pasta water to thicken the sauce. Add pasta which is already cooked to al dente follow by the prawns and all the juice. Mix well and serve with parmigiano if desired.

ARTISAN BREAD

After a success in baking my first basic bread following the recipes from two beautiful bloggers Anto and Kenley , I got adventurous and tried the now popular artisan bread or bread in a pot.

Artisan bread is really easy to make but unfortunately, it just wasn’t the kind of bread texture that I like. My first try botched with the dough being too wet. After adjusting the amount of ingredient, my second attempt turns out well.

The crispy crust was what I wanted but not the internal. Unless I am doing it wrong, the inside of artisan bread is gummy even when it is well done. I did some research and found out that it is due to the long rising time which produces loads of gluten that contributes to its texture.

If you happen to bake it better, please share your experience with me. I would love to know more.

I have always been intimidated by baking but now that I’ve started, I am in for it to try more recipes.

¼ tsp yeast

1 ¼ cups of warm water

1 ½ tsp salt

3 cups of flour

In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt and flour. Mix all ingredients well, cover with moist towel and leave it to rise for 8 to 12 hours. Sprinkle flour on worktop and fold the dough a few times without over working it. Sprinkle cornmeal, flour or oats into bowl, put the dough in and cover with moist towel to rise for another one hour. Preheat oven with a pot to 475F/245C. Transfer dough into pot, cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove bread from pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. 

BASIC BRUSCHETTA

Ever since I discover my love for Italian food, I don’t think I can part with olive oil, tomatoes and basil anymore. Just these basic ingredients combine to create a simple dish can make me a very happy man.

It’s another lazy Sunday with a gentle November sun. After a fruitful run up the hill opposite my home followed by my favorite bowl of steaming hot tasty prawn noodle soup from the food center for breakfast, I simply refuse to move for the rest of the day. It was until my hungry stomach wake me up to lure me into the kitchen.

Bread is mostly available in my kitchen with cherry tomatoes chilling in the fridge and fresh basil along my corridor. I wanted some extra flavor so I took the trouble to blend some garlic with olive oil and spread onto pieces of French bread before grilling.

For some reason I just feel like tasting lots of olive oil and basil that day. So I tear up the basil into big pieces instead of chopping them fine.

Simply with crushed black pepper, sea salt and chopped cherry tomatoes, I indulge myself to a satisfying lunch accompanied with lemonade made from fresh lemon juice, salt, sugar and soda water.

SWEET PEPPER WITH GARLIC & BASIL SAUCE

It should be more than 15 years ago when I saw an Italian lady making this dish on TV. Back then I have not really started cooking and certainly not able to appreciate the taste of sweet pepper. In fact I remember red pepper was quite unusual at that time. The green ones are more commonly used in Chinese cooking.

I was curious why the lady needs to grill the pepper over stove fire and remove the skin but I could not get any answers so I did not bother about it till recently when this whole scene suddenly flash by my mind. That’s when I know it’s time for me to try it.

I did some research and found out that the skin is believed to be difficult for digestion. That’s why it is normally being removed in Italian cooking. I used the same method as describe above to remove the skin only to realize it is really messy and the stains that need to be scrub clean from the stove is crazy.

During my second attempt, I cut the peppers into half and remove the seeds and membranes before placing them skin side up and grill it in an oven pre-heat at 220 degree Celsius for 20 minutes. It turns out the skin tears off by itself without any effort. The texture of the pepper becomes really smooth with all the sweet juices that come out from it.

Sauce

Good extra virgin olive oil

Finely chopped garlic

Chopped sweet basil

Black pepper

Sea salt

Balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients together. Cut pepper into bite size and mix well with the sauce. It taste even better after chilling it in the fridge for an hour.

COOK FEEL LOVE

Some of my friends comment that my recipes are not precise. I did not include measurements for the amount of ingredients or seasoning used. The fact is I don’t do that when I am cooking.

I prefer to cook with feel instead of going by the ‘rules’. For a same dish, the amount of seasoning depends on the different quantity of main ingredients for that day. There are times when I may not get to buy enough beef for meatballs so I used more pork or maybe some chicken. Pork is cleaner while chicken is sweet so I got to adjust the amount of salt or pepper accordingly. A pinch of sea salt taste different from rock salt and their taste varies when it came from different regions.

The touch of seasoning will differ again depending on who you are cooking for. Everyone’s taste bud varies. And if I am cooking for my mum, I may stew the meat a little longer so that she won’t have to chew that much. But the sauce may be gluier because of the longer cooking time so I will need to add extra stock or wine to get it right. I have definitely not make the grade many times before I can sum up my experience to finally create it accurately for most dishes.

I always believe seasonings and herbs are meant to enhance the natural taste of the main ingredient. Not to overpower it. Love all ingredients and they will combine beauifully like magic to love you back.

portobello mushroom recipe

aglio olio

garlic, finely sliced or chopped

your favorite pasta

white wine

olive oil

dry herbs or fresh basil

sea salt

black pepper

parmigiano cheese

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt and put in pasta to cook till al dente. At the same time, heat up olive oil in a pan, put in garlic to infuse the oil. Add salt, pepper and herbs. When the aroma fills the kitchen, pour in white wine follow by some pasta water. Drain pasta, put into pan and mix well. Top it up with portobello mushroom and grated parmigiano.  

WINE FOOD MUSIC

I cook with music and it must be there from the moment I draw my knife. I normally keep my mini hi-fi tuned to our local station Class 95FM with non-stop love songs from the 80s and 90s. These are songs with the power to arouse my emotions and awaken all my senses  to create the right aroma, taste, texture and color for my dish with love.

Along with music, tasting a glass of wine when I am cooking increases the sensation to elevate the whole process to a different level. It keeps my momentum going when I need to take short breaks while waiting for the fragrance of the garlic to infuse into the olive oil or when my marinara sauce is simmering away with fresh basil, onions, garlic and Italian canned tomatoes.

Something that adds to the happiness is to appreciate all the ingredients in front of me. I give huge respect to the farmers who had put in hard work to plant, rear and cultivate all the beautiful produce that are able to help me create my dish. No ingredients are to be taken for granted. Every grain of rice, every dash of black pepper is precious and should be treated with great value.

When you cook with passion and love, people can taste it.

CHICKEN FILLET WITH PESTO SAUCE

 

I’m so glad to have explored making fresh pesto sauce (Click here for the recipe). Once you have it in your fridge, you can create any dish you can come up with. This time, I blend it with pan fried chicken fillet.

Chicken fillet, cut into bite size

Pesto paste

Cherry tomatoes

Olive oil

Sea salt

Black pepper

Prepare pesto paste by adding extra virgin olive oil to create a smooth sauce.

Here’s a tip when using stainless steel pan for frying. After heating up pan with olive oil, sprinkle some salt before putting in chicken fillet. This will help to avoid meat sticking onto pan while frying. Fry fillet for three minutes on each side and add black pepper.

Off heat and stir in pesto sauce. Garnish with chopped cherry tomatoes and serve immediately.