Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Asian Style Garlic Mushrooms

The wet pavement outside my window, the gray skies, the wind that ruffles the (few) trees on my city streets…these are the things that make me want to entrench myself in the kitchen and make things like soup and stews and braises.  I have a slab of pork belly in the freezer from a new purveyor that I am itching to roast long and slow, and to attempt to finally get the crackling right.  This weather makes me want to roast a whole chicken in my cast iron pot, tucked into a milk bath with some sage and lemon.  I want to make banana cake, or a messy apple galette, and eat this warm out of the oven.

These are the things that run through my head when the weather takes a melancholic turn. 

When, really, I should be thinking of (finally) getting some proper rain shoes…or paying more attention to remembering to stick an umbrella in my car.

Anyway.  Warming, slow-cooked, hearty meals will need to wait because one's workload does not necessarily listen to the weather reports.  Deliverables don’t realize that the rains just beg for a 7-hour shoulder of lamb to be lovingly cooked.  And as I rush back home to a mountain of emails, a grossly over-sized to-do list, and 30 minutes to get something on the table, I know (with much regret) that these drawn-out, dawdling dishes will just have to wait.

If you find yourselves in similar situations, as I know a lot of working mothers do, then this is for you.  It is a simple and easy (and delicious!) stir-fry that is ready in minutes.  It can be paired with almost anything.  And it can be later built upon to make other dishes.

Also, as a bonus, mushrooms still do seem like “rainy day” food, calling to mind wet forests and cozy hiding places.

Asian Style Garlic Mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 250 grams Shiitake mushrooms
  • 250 grams Oyster mushrooms
  • 250 grams Shimeji mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
  • 1-1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • optional: sesame seeds for garnish

- Bring a skillet or wok to medium high heat.  When hot add the canola oil and swirl the pan.  Add the garlic to the pan and let this sauté a bit, just until they release their fragrance but before they brown. 
- Add the shiitake mushrooms to the pan and toss to coat with the garlicky oil.  Fry for a couple of minutes then add the oyster mushrooms.  Toss and fry for a couple minutes more then add the shimeji mushrooms.  The pan may seem dry, and if so just add a tablespoon or two of water.  And make sure to keep tossing the mushrooms around so they all get evenly cooked.
- When the mushrooms have softened, add the Chinese 5 spice and mix well.  Then add the soy sauce and sesame oil and mix thoroughly.  Remove from heat and garnish with sesame seeds if you have them around.

When I made this we had it with fried bangus (milkfish) on one day and as a side for steak on another.  But really, it can complement a plethora of dishes, or, on its own piled on some brown rice, or atop some soba noodles, maybe with a squirt of chili oil, serve as a tasty vegetarian main course. 

Another thing you can do, if things are extra busy, is make a double batch and use it throughout week in different dishes.  Here are some ideas:
- Heat some of the mushrooms with cream in a pan to turn it into a pasta sauce
- Fold some mushrooms into egg for a tasty omelet
- Pile on toast and top with a very runny fried egg and a drizzle of sriracha for a quick lunch
- Add it to some broth, along with some sliced vegetables and egg noodles for a comforting bowl of noodle soup
- Use them to top a salad
- Bulk up a veggie stir-fry with them
- Add to a pan of bistek Tagalog at the last minute
- Warm and pile onto bruschetta for surprise guests
- At the end of the week add it, along with other leftovers, to a big wok of fried rice!

These mushrooms are from the charming folk at the Ministry of Mushrooms, where I get most, if not all, of my fresh mushroom needs.  They deliver boxes of lovely mushrooms (you can choose a mix you like, or all one kind) right to your doorstep…need I say more?  If you are a busy human like me “we deliver” are magic words.  It’s also nice to support local purveyors.  Plus, their mushrooms are indeed fine, fine specimens.

Hope you are having a great week and that this recipe saves you a bit of time…time to do your nails, or have an extra game of tag with your little ones, or time to send off a blog entry!  One of these days I promise a slow-cooked something…until then this will have to do.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Singapore Cooking Cookbook Giveaway...We Have a Winner!!

I hope everyone is having a great Friday, and looking forward to an even greater weekend!  Before we all go off into our own weekend shenanigans though I wanted to finally announce the winner of my latest cookbook giveaway!

As mentioned in this post, I, along with the generous folk at Tuttle Publishing, are giving away a copy of Singapore Cooking by Terry Tan & Christopher Tan to one lucky reader.  I've already made some delicious Kari Ayam from this book and I'm looking forward to cooking from it even more...especially making spice pastes from scratch, as well as pretty much everything under the "Marinades, Chutneys, Sambals, and Achars" chapter!!

So, without further delay, the winner of the Singapore Cooking cookbook is....Midge of Midge in the Kitchen!  Congratulations Midge!!  I just know you are going to make good use of this cookbook and I can't wait to see what you whip up.  We can compare notes! :)

I'm off now to get things, doctor's appointments, and all the rest.  I'll be back next week with an easy mushroom dish you can prepare quickly and then use in so many ways.  Until then, wishing everyone a fabulous weekend!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pea & Bacon Soup (with bacon bits and garlic croutons)

We are beset by rains once again.  It's typhoon season and another big one has just hit us.  Actually, more than big, she was strong...and ravenous.  She flew in Wednesday morning and left havoc and debris in her insolent wake.  I feel lucky that we have a roof over our heads, a safe place to hunker down during these times.  We watched the wind whip the trees and the rain come down in slanted sheets while we were in our pajamas, dry behind our windows.  Little C’s eyes were round saucers as typhoons are very much new to her 4-year-old consciousness. 

It wasn't just the trees that bore the brunt though.  The storm brought our electricity down as well.  Some of my friends have yet to get their power back.  Some even lost water.  And those of us whose lights are back still experience scheduled rotational power outages.  This is not even to mention those that have had homes and property damaged.  Once again we find ourselves with the task of rebuilding, picking up after yet another storm.

I am grateful our area remained relatively unscathed save for some battered trees and broken branches, and that we haven’t lost power for too long.  We don’t have a hoard of emergency supplies, but we do have our flashlights, extra batteries, water, and a few go-to pantry staples.  Some of which go into this dish.  Here’s a little something for a “rainy day”.

Pea & Bacon Soup (with bacon bits and garlic croutons)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped + 1 clove finely minced
  • 150 grams + 100 grams slab bacon, chopped
  • 500 grams frozen peas
  • 3-4 cups water (750 ml – 1 liter)
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 slices day old bread, chopped

- Heat a pot over medium high heat.  Add the oil and when this is hot add the onions and the 4 cloves chopped garlic.  Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, taking care not to brown the garlic.
-  Add the 150 grams bacon and let this fry, stirring occasionally, until some of the bacon fat has rendered, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the peas and toss, just until it loses its frozen appearance.  Add 3 cups water (to start) and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.  Take this off the heat and let it cool a bit.
-  When the soup has had a chance to cool slightly transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to process until smooth.  Place the soup back on the heat and season with the salt and pepper to taste.  If it is too thick for your liking then add more water.
- While your soup is cooking, or while it is cooling, you can make your bacon bits and croutons: Heat a skillet over high heat.  When hot, add the 100 grams chopped bacon and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is starting to brown and crisp at some edges.  Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the rendered fat behind still on the heat.  Into the hot fat add your bread and the 1 clove minced garlic.  Fry, tossing, until the bread is crisp and golden.  Remove from pan and set aside.
- Serve the soup with the bacon bits and croutons to go over each serving.

I call this rainy day food for two reasons: firstly because who doesn’t like hot soup when it is gloomy and wet outside?  And secondly because it is made with ingredients I usually always have stashed away…which is really all you have left to use when a howling tropical cyclone is keeping you from going anywhere.  Frozen peas and bacon are fixtures in my freezer.  Bacon is a savior in so many situations…especially when you need to perk up a blah dish.  Frozen peas ensures that you always have a vegetable at the ready, even if you haven’t had time to buy fresh from the market.  I need to mention though that there is a third reason: I absolutely love both!

On the same note as these “freezer staples”, I guess I should mention here the bread for the croutons.  I never throw bread out…even the straggling last slices, or hardened ends.  I toss everything into a bag and keep them in the freezer (actually I freeze all my bread…they stay fresher that way).  If you have old bread in the freezer you will always have a way to make croutons and breadcrumbs.  Fight food waste!

This soup is good on its own but is really extra special with the bacon bits and croutons so try to have them together.  If it’s a stormy day then you won’t have much else to do.  This is also excellent with some truffle oil drizzled on top, if you happen to have some around.

I hope you are ok wherever you are…that your power is up, the pieces picked up, the house dry, and that you have something warm and sustaining on your table.  Wishing you all a restful weekend!

P.S.  Due to all that’s been happening, and power being down for so many, I’ll be extending the deadline for entries for my Singapore Cooking cookbook giveaway to next week.  You still have a chance to win!  Just leave a comment on this post…that’s it!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kari Ayam Spicy Chicken Curry & A Giveaway

We just got back from a short but sweet holiday in the vibrant, energetic city of Hong Kong.  Although I am an absolute island girl, and I do enjoy the great outdoors (as long as no sports or creepy-crawlies are involved), I am also a city girl (as contradictory as that may sound) -- I love tall buildings, busy streets, and concrete jungles.  And as far as cities go, Hong Kong is pretty amazing.  It is a tiny little island teeming with activity and action…from executive offices high up in the sky to back rooms in sketchy alleyways, there is always something happening in Hong Kong.  I’ve always thought that while other cities may have different beats, Hong Kong has an electric current.  You can feel its hum as you walk the streets, everyone and everything going just five paces faster than you, no matter how hard you try to keep up.

The trip was a spur the moment ticket purchase, a couple of months back when the airline had one of their crazy sales where everything is 75% off.  So I decided to book us for C’s birthday weekend…just us.  We hadn’t had a trip all to ourselves since our little ones came along and I thought, Little C being 4 and Little H being 1 and my mother having moved in 8 floors above us, that it was about time. 

It was a wonderful four days filled with tramping around the city for fantastic food (you can see just how fantastic on my instagram), sleeping in (oh glorious luxury!), not having to clean up after ourselves, eating cherries in bed, setting our own pace, popping in and out of shops, enjoying random coffee stops, spontaneous laughter and uninterrupted conversation.  I really believe that, just as me-time is important in any relationship, couple-time is important for any family.  I think all mamas and papas need to be able to take some time alone and recalibrate, and I’m very grateful we had the opportunity to do it.

Now it’s very much back-to-work mode over here but I am refreshed and invigorated from this weekend jaunt.  And although I have a mountain of work to plod through I haven’t forgotten my promise of a giveaway…and truth be told have been so excited to share this with you!

Staying in the vicinity of Asia, I will be giving away one copy of Singapore Cooking by Terry Tan & Christopher Tan.  I have been pouring over all the recipes and decided on this to try out (for now…more to surely follow).

Kari Ayam Spicy Chicken Curry
  • 1 large chicken cut into 10-12 pieces (I used the equivalent amount in chicken thighs and drumsticks)
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 3 cups (750 ml) thin coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
Spice Paste:
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Grind all the spice paste ingredients together to form a paste.  Add water as necessary to keep the blades turning.  Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat and fry the potatoes for 4-5 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove and set aside.  Add the spice paste to the wok and stir-fry for 6-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
- Add the chicken pieces and stir well.  Add the coconut milk, salt, sugar, potatoes, and simmer, partially covered, for 40-50 minutes or until the chicken is tender.  Serve hot.

Note: You can substitute 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, and 3 cardamom pods for their ground counterparts.

I served this topped with fried onions and toasted pine nuts – it’s not totally traditional but I thought it was a good complement.  This recipe makes for a lot or rich, creamy sauce so it is perfect paired with mounds of steaming rice! I admit, I have very few qualms about using spice pastes from a packet or bottle but made-from-scratch spice pastes, as in this recipe here, are truly so much more aromatic.  If you are pressed for time, you can make this a day before and store it in the fridge, so the next day it’s simply a matter or throwing everything together.  I haven’t tried it yet but I suspect you could freeze the pastes too, providing for even further in-advance preparation.  Making more spice pastes from scratch is definitely something I want to experiment more with.  In fact, the chapter of Singapore Cooking that I am most excited to explore is the first one, entitled “marinades, chutneys, sambals and achars” – delving into all kinds of condiments and flavorings.

And by sometime end of next week, one of you will be exploring these chapters too! As before, no complicated rules for this giveaway.  Just leave a comment on this post or drop me an email and that is it.  At the end of next week I’ll be putting your names in a hat and will pick the lucky winner!

So we are once again back at the week’s end…I hope you have something lovely and restful planned.  I’m planning to pop in on Yummy Eats tomorrow, so many delicious things in store!  Are any of you going? :)

Best of luck to everyone who wants to win this cookbook!