Malaysian Monday 17: Acar

Monday, November 30, 2009

Acar (pronounced A-char) is the name of a vinegary pickled salad. Not too sure what the word actually means (probably vinegary pickled salad!). It is treated as a relish and usually served cold. Like most Malaysian salads, this one doesn’t really bear much resemblance with most “western”/anglo salads. And of course, quite a few additional spices and chillies are involved.



When I flicked through mum’s recipe books, it was amusing to note that the ingredients for this dish were listed by price. For example – sesame seeds 20¢, cabbage 30¢, red chilli paste 50¢ etc. Mum would visit the wet markets (almost) every morning to purchase fresh produce for the day’s meal. Market-goers could buy little handfuls of ingredients as needed. I remember watching as individual squares of tofu were wrapped up in newspaper or handfuls of beansprouts were fished out of the soaking bucket. And sorry squeamish readers – I would look on in fascination as live chickens were freshly prepared for the table.

The days of the wet market are seriously numbered unfortunately, as more and more people rely upon the convenience of supermarkets. Which is sad to see because the local marketplace was such a social hub. Mum was on a first name basis with all the stallholders (probably knew all their children’s names too). It’s pretty hard to get the same sense of camaraderie at the checkouts.

While Mum doesn’t get a chance to visit the markets daily anymore, she does try to squeeze in a weekly shop, so maybe there’s hope yet. Here’s to all markets in their many guises, may they stick around for a long time to come.




By the way, tomorrow’s EOWTTA will be postponed. Let’s just say L is for Laziness. Or Leaving Labour till Later to Lessen Likelihood of Lacklustre performance Level.


Acar
(Makes a small quantity, about 2 cups)
A thumb sized piece of belacan (shrimp paste), toasted and ground
A small piece of ginger (about 4cm long) – very finely shredded
2 red chillies – ground (deseed if desired)
A small piece of fresh tumeric – grated and added to the ground chillies

Vegetables: 1 carrot – cut into batons
            ¼ cup cauliflower florets
            ½ telegraph cucumber, sliced
            1 green chilli – deseeded and julienned
             Handful of beans cut into short lengths


3 tsp sesame seeds – toasted (grind 2  tsp and set aside 1 tsp for garnish)
1  eschalot   – finely sliced
4-5 cups water + about 5 tbsp vinegar (white) for blanching vegetables
extra vinegar – about ¼ cup or more to taste
Toasted ground peanuts for garnish
salt and sugar to season
Vegetable oil for frying





Bring the water and 5 tbsp vinegar to the boil and blanch each lot of vegetables separately. (There’s no real need to blanch the cucumber). Drain vegetables well, pat dry with kitchen paper.

Heat a little vegetable oil (about 1-2 tbsp) over medium high heat, in a wok or frying pan (make sure it’s large enough to hold all the vegetables). Fry the shredded ginger until fragrant and lightly golden. Remove and drain the ginger. In the same oil, fry the sliced shallots until crispy and remove. Be careful as the  eschalots  will keep cooking when removed, so remove as soon as they start turrning brown. If there is too much oil in the pan, remove a little then add in the chilli-tumeric paste and fry until fragrant.

Lower heat slightly, add in the shrimp paste, ginger, eschalot and ground sesame seeds, then add about ¼ cup vinegar or more to taste. Stir well, make sure the shrimp paste has dissolved. Add all the vegetables, stir and gently simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and sugar, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Remove from heat, stir in the rest of the whole sesame seeds. Leave to cool, then chill in fridge until ready to serve.  The acar will keep for about two days in the fridge, store in an airtight container.

Just before serving, sprinkle on some ground toasted peanuts.

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 : Thank-full-ness

Sunday, November 29, 2009

You know me, queen of the bad pun. Joking aside, when November's Foodbuzz 24, 24 ,24 ; call for entries was sent around, I knew immediately what I wanted to do. We were asked what our ultimate dinner would be and to partake of it sometime during the Thanksgiving weekend.


Having lived in two countries where this holiday is not celebrated, I’m unfamiliar with how one actually “does” Thanksgiving. But, the sentiment behind the celebration is something I wholeheartedly agree with. There are so many things to be thankful for in my life, and taking time out to appreciate them is a wonderful idea.

One of the things I’m grateful for is where I live. Like many Australians, the beach holds an immense fascination for me, and I am extremely fortunate to live within walking distance of one.






A picnic dinner by the beach with my family and our close friends sounded like the perfect way to celebrate.

It’s almost summer over here in Oz and of course the silly season is in full swing. Ladies in party frocks trot down city streets in the evenings, shiny baubles are up in the stores and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air.

When I first got to Australia, one of the many things I found extremely intriguing was the way Aussies do party food. During my first Christmas, I was confronted by a massive bowl of bright orangey-pink cooked prawns in the centre of the table. Now, prawns (shrimp) are a favourite of mine, but we’d always had them cooked in some interesting way - Butter Prawns for example, or Sweet and Sour Prawns, or my favourite, Asam (Tamarind) Prawns. But these Australian creatures were simply boiled and placed on the table to be eaten as is, with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce. Of course, I was instantly won over (it’s prawns we’re talking about here), but this food memory was not unique to me. My dinner party guest who hails from Brazil shared a laugh about her first surprise encounter with the boiled crustacean too. (These prawns are actually sold at the fishmongers, so no extra cooking is necessary making them a very easy party dish).



I put together a picnic menu to try and capture the essence of what I see as Aussie celebration food. There had to be prawns of course, and oysters.  Also something to “throw on the barbie (barbecue)” accompanied by bread and salads. And to finish – pavlova. There seems to be some contention with the Australianess of this favourite dessert, Apparently the Kiwis want it back, claiming they invented it first. Tell you what, how about you guys keep Russell Crowe and we’ll trade you the pav eh bro?


Of course, I couldn’t resist jazzing things up a little. The prawns were served with a homemade garlic aioli while the oysters were sprinkled with a passionfruit-lime “agar-jelly” and chilli. The bread was homemade wattleseed focaccia, the chicken for the barbecue was marinaded with bush tomato, and the pavlova took the form of a roulade. (Recipe for aioli, bread and pavlova below).


 Oysters with passionfruit lime agar and chilli. Imspired by a recipe in the Nov 09 issue of the ABC Delicious magazine. I changed it to suit my palate.



A smattering of rain did threaten to send the picnic indoors, but we got lucky at the last minute. The wind that had been howling all afternoon also calmed down - “the late evening glass-off” according to Mr. Kitchen Hand (a keen surfer). It turned into the most perfect balmy evening.


Aussie picnics aren't complete without the esky full of drinks (read:beer). This one is a baby sized esky. We had 4 eskies at the picnic ( this one, another large one for the drinks, one medium one for the seafood and the pavlova travelled in its own esky. "It's more stuff than we have ever taken camping!" remarked the long-suffering Mr. Kitchen Hand)


The seafood entrees went down very well and Mini-Critic Senior tried her first ever oyster au naturel. “I like the texture but not the taste”, was her verdict. That’s something we can work on kiddo! Mini-critic junior hooked into the prawns, ordering all the adults around her to “peel another one! Pwease” . And our friend E threatened to eat up the garlicky aioli by the spoonful.




Then we sent the boys off to do the barbecuing. For some reason I still haven’t quite fathomed, barbecuing is considered a bloke’s job. They’ll stand around the barbie, with beers in hand, singeing the sausages and charcoaling the chops. Luckily, Mr. Kitchen Hand is very adept at the art of the barbecue, and I was happy to release the chicken and mango skewers, kangaroo sausages (called kanga bangas), and green beans and asparagus into his care.




Free public barbecues were another item that I found very interesting as a newbie Aussie. I was amazed at how folks would happily cook their own food on these things and trust that the person before them had cleaned the barbecue properly. I was also surprised that these often exposed barbecue plates were not covered in bird-droppings! I later discovered that these barbecues are maintained by the local councils and someone is in charge of  regularly cleaning them. Phew!

The lads trekked back from the first barbecue area glumly – it had been decommissioned. Luckily, there are two other barbecue stations near our picnic spot, and they headed off in the opposite direction. What seemed like an eternity later, they returned with our food. It had taken them that long because only one of the two barbecue plates was working. At this stage, I was very thankful for patient friends! The mini-critics had kept boredom at bay by covering themselves in sand.

The winner for this round turned out to be the barbecued beans and asparagus. Mr. Kitchen Hand had sizzled them very briefly with olive oil and garlic, then squeezed lemon juice over them just as they came off the barbecue. The greens had a fantastic smoky flavour yet retained a  “snap” of freshness we found very appealing. The kids and J enjoyed the roo sausages and the bush tomato seasoning lent a distinctive, tangy flavour to the chicken.


As for dessert? Well, silence descended as everyone tackled the roulade. That is the best compliment of all I think, when food has the power to quell conversation.




We lingered after the meal, surrounded by fellow late-evening picnickers. As the night progressed we watched diners from the nearby restaurants stroll along the promenade enjoying the evening air. It was way past the kids’ bedtimes by the time we packed up and headed home but it was well worth it, truly an evening to be thankful for.



Thank you for letting me share it with you.

Watteleseed and Honey Focaccia


 

(adapted from a recipe found here. My mother-in-law sent me some packets of bush spices from the botanic gardens where she  works as a volunteer. I’d never used wattleseed before and it smelt very coffee-like in its “raw” form. We couldn’t quite taste the wattleseed in the finished bread and I would definitely add more next time. I thought there was an underlying earthiness and a hint of coffee in the bread but not sure if that was because I was actively looking out for it.)

300 ml warm water
2tsp honey
2tsp instant dried yeast
3 cups bread flour + more to dust/flour benchtop
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground wattleseed (will add more next time)
1tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp honey to brush onto top of bread before baking.

Stir the honey into the warm water. Add the yeast and set aside for a few minutes until yeast foams up. Put the flour, salt and watteseed into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the water mixture into the well, stir with a fork or spoon from the inside out, drawing the flour into the liquid. The mixture will come together into a sticky ball. Turn this out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough stops being sticky, and becomes elastic instead. I found that after a whole heap of kneading (10 minutes), my dough was still extremely sticky so I added an extra ¼ cup flour to it.

Form the dough into a ball, place in a well oiled deep bowl, and cover the top with oiled plastic wrap. Leave the dough till doubled in size. “Knock back” the dough, then gently roll it flat and place on a baking tray (I just used a baking sheet, but should probably have used a tray with sides). Leave until risen again then brush the top with a mix of the oil and honey (warm honey if too sticky). Sprinkle with salt if desired. I also poked a few decorative divots in the dough to ensure even rising.

Bake in a hot overn (about 200˚C) until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
(I actually made the dough up till it was put on the tray, then wrapped it in oiled plastic wrap and stored it overnight in the fridge. The next day, I brought it up to room temp and proceeded with the oil and docking procedure and baked it.)

Aioli




(Apparently traditional aioli doesn’t usually contain egg yolk and should really be made in the mortar and pestle. I did crush the garlic with a mortar and pestle, but stirred everything in a large bowl using a whisk. It worked very well and tasted great so I’m calling it a success. I adapted a recipe by Stephanie Alexander found in The Cook’s Companion)

1 egg yolk
3 cloves garlic
pinch of salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
about 1 cup or more olive oil

Grind the garlic cloves and salt into a fine paste in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a clean bowl, mix in the egg yolk carefully until well blended. Start adding the olive oil very little at a time (I glugged it out of the bottle about 1 teaspoonful at a time). Stir very well after each addition to make sure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Once it starts to thicken well, add olive oil in a thin stream and stir. Just before desired consistency is reached, add the lemon juice and mix well. Add more olive oil if needed. Store in fridge until required. I have seen recipes suggesting pressing a piece of plastic wrap over the top before storing, but I stored mine in a jar and it was fine.

Chocolate Pavlova Roulade with Raspberries and Mint.



(I’d made the original Pavlova roulade with toffee plums recipe found in my favourite Delicious magazine many times, always to rave reviews. Wanting to do something a little different I incorporated my favourite summer berry.  The addition of cocoa powder seemed to alter the pavlova consistency very slightly, it becomes a little less marshmallowy and slightly more cakey which isn’t really a bad thing, and probably not very noticeable to anyone who hasn’t eaten the original version).


For the pavlova:
5 eggwhites
20g cocoa powder (about 3 heaped teaspoons)
250g caster sugar
2 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

Preheat the oven to 160˚C – I actually baked it at a lower temp (according to my oven thermometer -250˚F) for slightly longer, turning the tray around halfway through. Grease and line a large rectangular baking tray  (I actually used a roasting pan).

Whip eggwhites until stiff. Add caster sugar a little at a time making sure to beat well after each addition. If the sugar hasn’t dissolved properly, the resulting pavlova will weep. I added the cocoa powder to the last lot of sugar and beat that in. Add the vinegar and beat it quickly in. I’ve made pavlova without vinegar before and it works fine but I like to think of the vinegar as a bit of extra insurance.

Bake as mentioned earlier until the top is just crisp but not brown and the middle is still marshmallowy. Touch the top to help decide if it’s cooked or not and shake the pan lightly, if it wobbles, it needs more time.

Let the pavlova cool in the tin


For the filling
About 300ml thickened cream, whipped with 2 tbsp icing sugar until peaks form
Handful of fresh raspberries
About 1 tbsp diced mint leaves.

Tip the pavlova out onto some baking paper, carefully peel off the baking paper used during cooking. Spread the cream over the cooled pavlova, sprinkle on the raspberries and mint. Starting from one short end, carefully roll the whole thing up as you would a swiss roll. Don’t worry if it cracks, it doesn’t really matter too much.

Once rolled, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Slice thickly and serve with extra raspberries. If feeling industrious, make a chocolate sauce to go with it.

To save the pavlova from getting crushed, I stored the plastic wrapped roll in a loaf tin in the fridge.

Note: make sure thickened cream is used as it contains a stabilizer. Pure cream may “water out” if left standing for too long.


Cook's perks : Trim off the sides 

Daring Baker’s Challenge November: Sure Can - noli

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holy Cannoli




Batman!




Christmas is only 28 days away!



Sorry for the irreverent intro, and yes, that is supposed to look like Batman. I’ve already had the following conversation:

MC Senior: What is that?
Shaz: That’s Batman. Does he look like Batman?
MC Senior: Um, I don’t want to offend you or anything but….NO.

Maybe if you squint your eyes a little, you know like those magic 3D images?

Anyways, let me just say that:
The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

And what a recipe!. I can honestly say I did not have a single issue with this month’s challenge. Except the issue of finding time to actually do it. But the dough was actually pretty quickly knocked together (I made half the quantity by hand) and the deep frying part was ultra quick too.

I omitted the cocoa powder called for in the recipe because I felt like it, and I forgot to add the sugar, but these steps didn’t seem to affect the results at all. The recipe also asked for marsala wine, or failing that, grape juice, but I still had bottles of pomegranate juice in the fridge (a gift from POM wonderful) so used that instead.



 Purple dough!

Having the right equipment helped enormously though. The pasta machine and I were reacquainted and worked together to roll out the dough very thinly. The trusty wok was the perfect deep –frying vessel.


Italian pastry cooked in Chinese implement by ex-Malaysian in Australia. How multicultural is that?

What I did lack were cannoli forms (moulds for making cannoli). Alternatives suggested in the Daring forums included clean broom or wooden spoon handles or cream horn moulds. Then Eve.eire put up photos of how she made cannoli forms out of disposable foil baking dishes. Aha! With the theme to McGyver playing in my head, I fashioned many, many cones out of plain ole aluminium foil. They worked fantastically!

 


Didn’t have much time to fool around with fillings so I made a very simple mascarpone filling (recipe below) studded with festive red glace cherries and pistachios. Freeze the leftover filling and you get Cannoli ice-cream!

 


Thank you Lisa for such a fun and very tasty challenge!For more elegant versions of cannoli, do visit the other Daring Bakers.



Mascarpone Cream Filling
(I threw this together but I think I may have been inpsired by Mr. Oliver at some point in time).

1/2 cup pure cream
Scant 1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp icing sugar
few drops orange blossom water
diced glace cherries and chopped pistachios to stir through.

Lightly whip the cream until the beater trails show. Stir the mascarpone with the icing sugar and orange blossom water until smooth, then gently whip it into the cream until well blended. Be careful not to overbeat. Fold through the cherries and pistachios.

Oh yes, the Cannoli angels heads were made by sticking a tootpick into a craisin (dried cranberry), then dipping it in white chocolate and drying it upside down on some baking paper so the chocolate would pool and form a halo.  Stick the toothpick head into cone opening.


Have a great weekend! (Do stop by on Sunday if you have the time – not telling why yet ☺)

Brown tops and sticky bottoms

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Calm down, I’m talking about le macaron here (are macarons feminine or masculine?).  Pecan Pie macarons and Sweet Potato Crumble macarons to be exact.

My first foray into the world of the macaron happened thanks to Deeba from Passionate about Baking. I’d eaten macarons, thought about macarons and ogled many, many macarons but had never been game to make any until Deeba’s tweets about her “feet quest” intrigued me so much, I had to jump in. With the post already written in my head, even titled - Midnight Macaron Madness, the Daring Baker’s October challengewas announced! So I sat on the post and went mental with macronage instead. I can now completely understand the obsession that takes over macaron fans (fanatics?).

So when Deeba teamed up with Jamie from Life’s a Feast and set up the great MacTweet, I was definitely in.




Here’s my contribution, inspired by Thanksgiving.

I’ve never celebrated Thanksgiving, but the word associations that spring to mind are pie and sweet potatoes (for some odd reason). And when I think of pie, it’s pecan pie, not pumpkin.

The Pecan Pie macaron was pretty straightforward, I substituted pecans instead of almond meal. Ratios I used are given below but for the method, I followed steps on Helen/ Tartelette’s blog, so I won’t post it here. (Interesting aside: ingredients are not usually subject to copyright protection but the technique or method of making something may be. There’s a great post written by David Lebovitz on the issue of recipe attributtion, which can be found here on the Foodblog Alliance).




These macarons had feet but only tiny ones, probably because the pecans were so oily. They dried out well though, but I ran into trouble when I tried to sandwich them with some caramel crème patisserie. Too wet! Luckily I only sandwiched a small test batch, so back to the drawing board. I made up a simple caramel buttercream - equal parts butter, brown sugar and icing sugar, in my case 50g of each. The brown sugar was a bit grainy but once I’d sandwiched all the macarons together, it wasn’t noticeable. I took them along to a gathering and they disappeared at the speed of light so I’m calling it a success!


The next batch of Sweet Potato Crumble macarons took me two tries. First up, I tried substituting some dried, powdered sweet potato into the macaron shells. Didn’t really work and I couldn’t taste the sweet potato flavour, plus they all ended up either really sticky (from a lower oven temp) or crispy brown on top (higher oven temp). Fail! We didn’t even try to eat this batch (well, I did sample a few just in case they could be salvaged ☺).

Next up, I tried to incorporate the crumble ingredients (breadcrumbs, dried powdered parsley and nutmeg) into the shells instead. I had an inkling this would work because I’d seen it done on Lemonpi,when she made toast flavoured macarons! They did dry out quite well, but I probably should have added a touch more breadcrumbs or almond meal because I struggled a bit with the brown top/ sticky bottom dilemma as the last batch but not as drastic. They look and taste fine, albeit a little bit chewier than usual. Sandwiched with a sweet potato buter, they are pretty darn tasty. Although I still think they don’t really taste sweet-potato-ey enough. Toasty certainly, but not quite potatoey.





Now back to more macaron scheming. To all the North Americans out there, have a very happy and sweet Thanksgiving!





Pecan Pie Macaron
60g pecans (well toasted and ground to a powder)
10g almond meal
135g icing sugar
20 g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
65g egg whites

(For macaron method, please visit either the MacTweet blog for a tutorial, or Tartelette's blog)



Sweet Potato Crumble Macaron

For shells
Breadcrumbs 30g (I used storebought as I had some in the pantry. I find it drier, and the salty flavour complements the sweetness of the macaron. If using home-made, make sure it is extremely dry).
Almond meal 40g (possibly needed a touch more)
1 tablespoon dried, powdered parsley
135g icing sugar
20g caster sugar.
65g egg whites

For sweet potato "butter"
There are many recipes online. For my version, I cooked equal parts (450g) sweet potato puree and sugar, with a couple of tablespoons water. (For sweet potato puree, steam then mash sweet potato and push through sieve. ) Season with nutmeg. Keep stirring puree, sugar and water over low heat until mixture is thick and jamlike.

EOWTTA*: K is for Kiwifruit

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

*Eating our way through the alphabet

I’m quite sure most of us have heard, seen and even tasted a kiwifruit, but did you know that it is considered an edible berry? And that it grows on a woody vine? The vine of Actinidia deliciosa to be exact.



This fuzzy little fruit used to be known as the Chinese Gooseberry, but some marketing whiz in the 1950’s decided that the name Kiwifruit would work better (owing to tensions surrounding the Cold War).  
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit has a high vitamin C content, higher than the orange. It is also a source of dietary fibre. Apart from the green fleshed kiwifruit, there is also a golden (yellow) version that is lower in acid.
Source: http://www.freshforkids.com.au/fruit_pages/kiwifruit/kiwifruit.html

Raw kiwifruit is rich in the protein-dissolving enzyme actinidin. This enzyme interferes with the setting process of gelatin which is why kiwifruit in jelly is a bad idea.

The enzyme also reacts with the proteins in dairy as I learnt through bitter experience (pun intended). Years and years ago (we’re talking couple of decades here kids), I was trying to make an unbaked kiwifruit cheesecake – yeah, gelatine AND dairy! Look, in my defence, there was no Google then ok? I ended up with a vile, bitter slurry! All that expensive cream cheese wasted (cream cheese was an exotic ingredient in tropical Malaysia). It was so pain-inducing I’ve never really tried to cook with kiwifruit ever again (except for this agar ).


Friends of mine swear by kiwifruit as a squid tenderiser though. They marinate the squid with diced kiwifruit and other seasonings before throwing it on the barbecue. Maybe this summer I’ll give that a go.


The kiwifruit seeds are also slightly bitter so care must be taken when pureeing the fruit. Cooking the kiwifruit first helps denature this dastardly enzyme.  This site is a good place to get more kiwifruit cooking tips.


The enzyme in kiwifruit doesn’t just play havoc with certain foods – it can cause quite severe allergic reactions too, especially in children. Reactions range from a rash and swelling of the lips up to wheezing and collapse.
Source:http://www.soton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2004/jul/04_101.shtml


It’s not all bad news though. Apparently consuming kiwifruit may be good for your heart. The summary of this study can be found here.


We actually enjoy the sweet/tart flavour of fresh kiwifruit and our favourite way of eating it is to slice it in half and scoop it out. The mini-critics love using the custom spoon/knife that we were given many moons ago when we purchased some fruit. Those kiwifruit marketing people certainly have a few tricks up their sleeve!


I like the vivid green colour that it lends to fruit salads and fruit platters. Here’s a fun way to make use of the green. Skewer a slice of kiwifruit, then a nectarine (or mango), then a red fruit like strawberry, to make healthy “traffic light” snacks. The tangy flavour of kiwifruit also means it can work well with savoury food, like in the salsa below.


  
Christmassy Kiwifruit Salsa
(More of an idea than a recipe) 

 Here’s a simple one I threw together using about half a kiwifruit, five just -ripe cherries and a sliver of red onion. Dice everything finely, toss with a squeeze of lime juice and a tiny pinch of salt if desired. This went very well with cold turkey slices. I would have added some diced coriander too if I had any on hand. Make this up just before serving otherwise the colours will all bleed together.

Malaysian Monday 16: Cendol

Monday, November 23, 2009

(a.k.a. A tale of two cendols and a small rant )




Boy, Monday came around quickly didn’t it? Will try to keep my post short and sweet today as I have the tendency to be a little verbose.

The weekend temperatures in Sydney meant there was a lot of this:





Which left hardly any time for other things. Luckily, the cendol (pronounced ch-en-dole) was very quick and easy to put together, and used lots of shaved ice. Perfect for when the temperatures were soaring (sorry Northern Hemisphereans ☺)





I’ve mentioned this dessert/ drink before. Cendol is a cold, sweet treat comprising green “noodles”, shaved ice, gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup and coconut milk. Other ingredients such as corn, red beans, glutinous rice or even durian are sometimes added to the mix.




The cendol “noodles” are made by cooking up a dough, then passing this dough through a cendol frame set over a basin of cold water. Since I didn’t have a cendol frame, I used a slotted spoon instead, which worked a treat.



 

 
The dough needs to be kept warm to get a smooth noodle (top). If you stop to take photos, then the dough gets cold and you end up with a squiggly noodle like the one at the bottom.


I’d never actually made cendol before because this is the sort of dessert most Malaysian wouldn’t really bother making at home unless they need to feed a crowd. It would be far simpler and cheaper to rock up to the nearest cendol stand or hawker centre when the mood strikes.

So I turned to a recipe found in a little book called "Hawkers Delight". The recipe looked kind-of right, with mung-bean flour as the main ingredient. I adapted the recipe according to my taste then found that the resulting noodles look exactly like cendol but the texture wasn’t quite there. The noodles were very “solid” and I remembered the cendol I used to have were more silky and slippery in texture.

So I hit the web and found another recipe published in a newspaper…hmmmm…it looked almost like the one I’d just attempted. I think I’ll pass thanks.


Then I found a recipe on Lily’s blog. This looked interesting, she used rice flour as the main ingredient, then the mung bean flour and a little bit of tapioca flour for the “springiness” found in many Asian desserts.  I quickly whipped it up (forgetting to add green colouring so the noodles ended up slightly paler than the earlier version). Voila, this definitely tasted more like the cendol of my childhood.


The better cendol is on the spoon on the left and the other cendol is on the right

I know food bloggers come under a fair bit of flak sometimes, but IMHO, they keep things real. I really don’t trust the recipes in that little book of mine anymore (I’ve tried a couple of them already and the results usually fall short. I wonder if they even tested any of these recipes!). And as for that published food columnist? Let’s just say I’m not a fan.

At least I know where I stand with most food bloggers. They’re not afraid to tell me if a recipe sucks, or if they tried and failed while attempting something. And they’re usually extremely helpful when I have a query, plus they’re fun to read!

Oh don’t worry you big publishing houses. I’ll still buy cookbooks and magazines, because I like to curl up on the couch and flick through the pages, dreaming of the next dish I’d like to attempt. Just make sure that the recipes do actually work ok?

(Mr Kitchen Hand refused to eat this, so no scores. I tried to score Mini-critic senior who muttered "yum, I ate the whole lot, bye!" before she scampered back into the paddling pool. Ah well)


(So, living dangerously in glass houses and throwing stones – if you have tried anything I’ve posted and it didn’t quite work out, can you please let me know so I can fix it? I’m not a trained cook, just a mad experimenter ☺. And no, I’m definitely not interested in  publishing a cookbook one day).

Have a great day !