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?

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.

Kitchen Emotions

My profession in identifying and creating core emotions for tv promotion enables me to also connect up all the different emotions that leads me into cooking and baking.

It all begins when I often walk out from a restaurant feeling dissatisfied along with ANGER for paying high bills for lousy food and bad service in this city. And most of the time, what disappoints me is the way good ingredients are being treated poorly.

That is when the temptation and CURIOSITY of wondering if I can cook better food arouse my desire to take up the challenge and re-look at the function of my kitchen with a whole new perspective.

After numerous failures that eventually leads to a few good attempts with some recipes, the feeling of SUCCESS encourage me to create more to share with friends and neighbours which increases HUMAN CONNECTIONS without even noticing it. The reward is enormous.

Here’s a really simple recipe that makes me happy.

marinara w scallops

Pasta Marinara with Canadian Scallops

Canadian scallops

Sea salt

Black pepper

All-purpose flour

Olive oil

Heat up olive oil in a pan. Season scallops with salt, pepper and coat lightly with flour. Fry scallops for 2 minutes on one side and another minute on the other side.

For the sauce:

Fresh basil

Half an onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 can of Italian tomato

Black pepper

Salt

Olive oil

Heat up olive oil in a pot with onions and garlic. The fragrance from the onion and garlic will infuse into the oil when heated up together. Add salt to avoid onions from burning. Sautee till onion turns translucent. Add black pepper, tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30 mins.

Serve with your favourite pasta and top it up with the gorgeous scallops.

hk loaf 4

Now comes to baking. My FEAR of sending something into the oven and hoping it will come out good stays with me for many years ever since I failed terribly trying to bake a basic sponge cake.

It was until early this year when Anto from relaxingcooking encouraged me to bake my first bread. It is a big emotion of DARING to take up the challenge to start a bumpy journey which I am glad I did and to discover the many secrets of baking along the way.

hk loaf 2

I got to admit I am quite obsessed with bread baking for now and I just can’t wait to log this recipe in that uses ‘tangzhong’ mentioned to me by Jean from bentodays. This method creates a super soft loaf with a long lost flavor which brings me all the way back to my childhood days. Yum!

Soft white bread using ‘Tangzhong’

TangZhong:

50g bread flour

250g water

Cook on low heat and keep stirring continuously until it becomes sticky.

Main dough:

270g bread flour

30g sugar

4g salt

1 egg

90g tangzhong

60g milk

5g yeast

30g butter (soften)hk loaf 3

Mix all ingredients except butter. Put in butter when rest of ingredients is well mixed.

Knead the dough till it passes the window pane test. Form it into a ball and put it into a greased bowl.

Sprinkle some water on dough and cover. Let it proof for 45mins to an hour.

Pre-shape dough into three round loaves and let it sit for 15mins.

For the final shaping, roll the dough to resemble soft rolls and put them side by side in a loaf tin.

Sprinkle some water on top and proof for 45mins to an hour.

Brush with egg wash and bake at 170C in a pre-heated oven for 30mins.

hk loaf 5

AGLIO OLIO WITH DUCK LIVER

aglio olio w duck liver

I’ve always wanted to do a more daring pasta dish. Although this recipe works for me, it may not be for the fainthearted. And I think sesame oil is just the right ingredient to blend the flavors together. 

Duck liver

Fresh duck liver, cut to bite size

Minced garlic

White wine

Sea salt

Crushed black pepper

Olive oil

Sesame oil (must have)

Heat up olive oil in a pan and fry the minced garlic till it starts to brown. Put in duck liver follow by salt and pepper. Fry liver till almost tender and add a tablespoon of white wine follow by a glug of sesame oil. It is important not to overcook the liver or it will become hard.

Aglio olio

Your favorite pasta

Fresh chili

Shallots

Garlic

Cherry tomatoes (optional)

White wine

Fresh basil

Sea salt

Crushed black pepper

Put pasta into a pot of boiling salt water and cook to al dente. While pasta is cooking, chop up shallots, garlic, chili and fry in olive oil over medium heat. Add tomatoes follow by salt and pepper. When garlic starts to brown, pour in a glug of white wine follow by some pasta water. Add chopped fresh basil. When pasta is ready, toss it directly in the pan to soak up the sauce.

Serve pasta with liver and grated parmigiano if desired.

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.

PASTA MARINARA

I know this is one of the most basic recipes but this particular dish is special to me. Finally, after seven weeks, I get to use my fresh basil that I have planted from seed and this is not even the first actual harvest yet. Due to the lack of planting space along my small corridor in Singapore, I took the pain to remove these sprouts from my overcrowded pot to make way for those lucky ones which were left to blossom on.

Sauce

Fresh basil

Half an onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 can of Italian tomato

Black pepper

Salt

Olive oil

Heat up olive oil in a pot with onions and garlic. The fragrance from the onion and garlic will infuse into the oil when heated up together. Add salt to avoid onions from burning. Sautee till onion turns translucent. Add black pepper, tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30mins.

Cook pasta to al dente and drain away water. Add in enough sauce and stir to cover pasta. Serve immediately with extra sauce and parmigiano cheese. 

CREAMY CHICKEN PASTA CARBONARA

This is my first attempt on carbonara. Instead of bacon, I crave for chicken that day.

Pasta

Italian spaghetti no.3

sea salt

Chicken

300g chicken fillet

chopped onions

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

olive oil

1/4 cup white wine

chopped fresh tomatoes for garnish

Sauce

2 eggs

1/2 cup fresh cream

big handful of grated parmigiano cheese

pinch of sea salt

good amount of freshly ground black pepper

 

Bring a pot of water to boil and add salt. Put in spaghetti and cook to al dente.

While spaghetti is cooking, heat up olive oil in a pan and fry onions till it turns translucent. Put in chicken fillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry chicken fillet till slightly brown. Add in white wine.

Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl.

Remove pan with chicken away from heat, put in spaghetti follow by sauce mixture and stir well till sauce becomes silky. Sprinkle chopped tomatoes.

MEAT SAUCE SPAGHETTI

I tried a nice meat sauce spaghetti in Interlaken, Switzerland. Not knowing the recipe, I created my own version. This is a recipe for two.

Streaky Bacon, 50g

Mince Beef, 150g

Italian Canned Tomato, 1 can

Chopped Onion, 1/2 bulb

Chopped Garlic

Red Wine, 1/4 cup

Freshly Chopped Rosemary

Sea Salt

Freshly Crushed Black Pepper

Olive Oil

Heat up a pan with some olive oil and fry bacon till crispy then put aside for later use.

In the same pan, add in more olive oil and saute onion and garlic till golden brown.

Add in mince beef, salt, pepper and rosemary. Saute for 30 seconds.

Add in red wine follow by crushed tomatoes. Add in a little pasta water and simmer sauce for 8 minutes.

Toss spaghetti in the sauce with bacon and serve immediately with parmigiano cheese.

AGLIO OLIO

Just like creating a program promo, if you try to include too many selling points and messages in one spot, you will probably end up with a messy trailer that has too many things to say and lack focus.

Same as many beginners, when I first start to cook pasta, I like to put a lot of ingredients into one dish so that it won’t look pathetic. It took me some time before I learn to appreciate the noodle itself with olive oil and garlic.

Aglio (ah-lio – garlic) Olio (o-lio – oil) is the most basic pasta you can make in minutes. Life can’t get any better than to enjoy home pasta cooked to “al dente” toss in extra virgin olive oil with golden crispy garlic. I like to add some shallots as well.

Once done, it’s up to you to add in appropriate ingredients from fresh red chilli or cherry tomatoes to ham or even seafood.