My Favourite Mint Dressing

My favourite dressing with mint and yoghurt – I whipped it up last night for a lamb salad, for which it was perfect. I then fancied a cucumber snack today, et voila, another winning combo!

  • thick yoghurt, preferably Greek, 1 cup
  • mint leaves, two handfuls
  • ginger, fresh, 1 tsp grated
  • garlic, 3 cloves
  • lime juice, 2 tbsp (or more if you like things tangy)
  • salt, 1/2 tsp
  • pepper, grind of
  • shallot, 1, small
  • green chilli, 1 (optional)
  1. Bung everything in a food processor and whizz
  2. Consume immediately or refrigerate for salads

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March 31, 2009. Tags: , . Condiments, Salads, Sauces and Dressings, Spring, Summer. Leave a comment.

Creme Brulee

I don’t as a matter of habit make creme brulee in the middle of the week. All blame for today’s extravagance is to be placed squarely on the slim shoulders of my son, who has picked Creme Brulee, or Burnt Cream, as the topic for his French project.

So, this is what I’ve discovered helping with this very important 3rd Grade assignment. Credit for this luscious vanilla-infused pudding, the declared favourite of both my children since a time when they, as chubby-cheeked tots, demanded their gran for ”kwem boolay,” is claimed by the old nemeses, England and France.

A late 17th century Frenchman, Francois Massialot, who describes himself as a chef to royalty and “people of first rank,” details creme brulee in a cookbook, and, in a later book, renames the recipe Creme Anglais, or English Cream. Cambridge’s Trinity College is celebrated as the birthplace of the same. We may as well throw the Spanish into the fray with their crema catalana, which is flavoured with cinnamon.

A version with chocolate can be found here.

The dessert’s ‘brulee’ is a layer of luscious, hardened caramel on top – which gets this way from the process of grilling or burning sugar over the custard.

And so, here’s how you can recreate a slice of heaven in your kitchen. This unplanned mid-week dessert turned out absolutely divine :D—- (that’d be drool)

  • heavy cream, 600 ml
  • caster sugar, 1/4 cup
  • egg yolks, 6
  • vanilla pod, 1

Prepare the vanilla pod by slicing it, but not through, and using a blunt spoon to scoop out the seeds
– Add vanilla seeds and cream to a pan and allow to simmer for a minute and take it off the heat

– In another bowl, cream the yolks and sugar
– Add a little hot cream to the yolk-sugar mixture, then slowly add all the cream to the yolks, whisking continually

– Preheat the oven to 150C, about 275F
Sieve the hot custard into ramekins

– Place ramekins in a deep roasting dish, pour hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins
– Bake the custards for about 30-45 minutes. When done, they will be a little wobbly in the centre

– Allow to cool and refrigerate

– Remove the custards from the fridge hours later, or a day later, add about 2 tablespoons of sugar on each of them and place directly under a preheated broiler

– Grill, watching closely for a couple of minutes and remove as soon as the sugar has melted

– Once they’re outside the oven, the caramelized sugar will settle into a hardened layer on top

– Serve with a cast iron spoon and oversized bib to preempt dribbling

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March 25, 2009. Tags: , . Baked Goods, British, Desserts, Passover. Leave a comment.

Chilli Sauce (for Hainanese Chicken Rice)

I made Hainanese chicken rice last week thanks to a desperate craving. The dish is a stalwart and staple of the average food centre or hawker’s market in Singapore or West Malaysia, but practically impossible to find in North America.

Although I have discovered Penang, a restaurant chain that serves up authentic Southeast Asian Peranakan Malay and Chinese cuisine, there’s still a ten-mile gap between the place and I, via a horrendous highway. It’s only so often that I risk life and limb for a culinary yearning.

From my experience making it recently, I say with confidence that despite the simplicity of its appearance, Hainanese chicken rice is not the quickest of things to prepare in its entirety – comprising a voluptuous chicken soup, stock-infused rice, boiled yet flavoursome and tender chicken and accompanied by a gingery-chilli sauce. May not sound like much but the children and I regularly get a hankering for the stuff. Mr Diva Indoors enjoys the dish a tad less enthusiastically, as the chicken (necessarily) includes its bones.

This entry, unfortunately, isn’t about the chicken rice itself – a testament to how quickly the dish disappeared once I’d made it (greedy me and the kids!). With the relatively early dusks of late winter/early spring, it’s also been tricky photographing food in general in natural light as I am a determined low-tech photographer.

So, for now, here’s the yummy condiment. The rice will have to wait for another time!

  • long, red chillies, fresh, about 8-10 (see photo)
  • ginger, 1 1/2 inches worth
  • garlic, about 5 cloves
  • rice vinegar, as needed, approx. 1/4 cup
  • sesame oil, 1 tsp
  • lime juice, about 1 tbsp
  • salt, 2 tsp
  • sugar, 1 tsp
  • chicken soup, boiling – a few tbsp

  1. Prepare the chillies, de-stem and chop roughly
  2. Skin the ginger and chop, same as the garlic
  3. Place chillies, ginger, garlic, lime juice, salt, sugar, vinegar in small food processor and blitz to a vivid, red sauce, with no chunky bits
  4. Add sesame oil and whizz again. Add a bit of the chicken soup (boiling hot)
  5. As Gordon Ramsay commands, ‘Taste, and taste again!’ The final result should be hot but not overpowering, tangy and gingery
  6. Steam a clean jam jar to sterilize it and bottle the sauce
  7. Should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I use it as a condiment to pep up dishes, including turkey sandwiches 😀

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March 23, 2009. Tags: , . Asian, Condiments and Sauces. 7 comments.

Bananagram Pancakes

We love breakfast in this house. Pancakes are the No. 1 request, and they’re a great way to experiment with different ingredients to use in oven-baked cakes, being, as they are, little flat cakes cooked on a pan.

I’m always on the lookout to make the calories count and not all my experiments have made the cut. But this one did, and I (lacking any tall DNA to bequeath my offspring) find it supremely satisfying that the children have started their day with a protein-packed meal.

The surprise ingredient – which I didn’t immediately reveal to the family for fear of clearing the table too quickly – is gram flour, which comes from chickpeas or garbanzo beans. Proteinous gram flour is commonly used in South Asian-style savoury pancakes and works well with them, so I figured, why not?

  • gram flour, 1/2 cup
  • soy flour, 1/2 cup
  • wholemeal flour, 1/2 cup
  • ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup
  • eggs, 2
  • milk, 1 1/2 to 2 cups (as needed for a thickish batter)
  • salt, pinch of
  • orange zest
  • sugar, 1 tsp
  • baking soda, 1 tsp
  • baking powder, 1 tsp
  • bananas, chocolate chips or toppings of choice
  1. In a separate bowl, sieve together the flours and baking powder and soda
  2. Then, in bowl 2, cream the eggs, sugar and cheese with a handheld mixer
  3. Add the ricotta, zest, salt
  4. Lower the speed and add the milk and blended flours in gradual succession
  5. You are looking for a batter of a thickish consistency that will coat the back of a spoon
  6. Ladle a scoop onto your Pam-ed pancake pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips or banana slices. Chocolate goes beautifully with the oranginess of this pancake, but the yummy pancakes didn’t make as picturesque a photo 🙂

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March 22, 2009. Tags: , . Breakfast, Brunch, Kids Cuisine, Nutrition. 1 comment.

Anniversary on South Beach, Miami

Breakfast. Note the shadow of a palm tree on the plate ..

Miami vice 😉

Warning – chips are probably smaller than they appear in the picture! If the background looks like a dream, it’s because it was.

The anniversary couple.

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March 18, 2009. Musings, Stories. 1 comment.

Cookie Monster Cookies

My husband and I are (and boy, is this a big deal) going away without the kids for the first time since we’ve had them. For a good cause, no doubt – a decade of wedded bliss.

Along with all the excitement and building of suspense, we’ve been ridden with guilt. What with the “Why are you going away without us?” “Do you have to be alone on your anniversary?” and “Are you sure you’re coming back?” questions, my main man has found himself shopping for all manner of bribes. Today, for example, he came home with two Club Penguin sleeping bags that I know we will struggle to keep the children out of until the weekend.

I, meanwhile, have been unable to say No to any kiddy food requests. Here is one of those adamant Yesses – the boys’ favourite Cookie Monster cookies!

  • butter, 1 cup, melted
  • brown sugar, 1 cup
  • white sugar, 1/2 cup
  • wholemeal flour, 1 cup
  • plain flour, 1 2/3 cup
  • vanilla, 2 tsp
  • salt, 1/2 tsp
  • baking powder, 1 tsp
  • baking soda, 1 tsp
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 cup
  • chopped pecans, 3/4 cup
  • dessicated coconut, 1/2 cup

  1. Preheat the oven to about 190C or 375F
  2. Cream the butter and eggs, then add the sugar
  3. Beat till fluffy and butterscotchy
  4. In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt
  5. Slowly add the flour to the creamed butter/sugar mixture
  6. Stir in the coconut, nuts and chocolate chips
  7. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, then shape into balls and press into a cookie sheet
  8. Bake for about 11-12 minutes

COOKIEEE!.. um yum yum yum!!

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March 11, 2009. Tags: . Baked Goods, Cookies, Kids Cuisine. 2 comments.

Cajun Chicken Wrap with Roasted Peppers

For those times when you’re clean out of ideas, here’s a no-fuss one-dish meal. All you have to do is grill the veg and chicken. I particularly like having the oven do all the work so I can multitask – by doing the laundry, cleaning up after the kids or updating this blog!

  • chicken fillets, 2
  • red and green peppers, 1 of each
  • large red onion, 1, sliced
  • thick Greek yoghurt or sour cream, as needed
  • smoked paprika, for seasoning
  • cummin, 1 tsp
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  1. First, marinate the chicken fillets with a squeeze of lemon juice, some paprika, cummin and salt and pepper – or use ready-prepared cajun seasoning
  2. Preheat the oven with the grill setting on High or bake at 425F
  3. Grill the chicken and sliced red and green peppers and onions together on a tray lined with tin foil, drizzling them with olive oil first
  4. The chicken will be done in 10 minutes. Depending how you like your peppers, either start grilling them with the onions 20-30 minutes earlier or together with the meat, if you like a bit of crunch
  5. Allow the filling to cool a little
  6. Toast a wholewheat wrap on a heated pan, slather it with some sour cream or thick yoghurt and bung the chicken and grilled peppers and onions on top
  7. Roll it up and allow the yummy juices to dribble down your chin!

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March 6, 2009. Tags: . Dinners, Kids Cuisine, Mains, Nutrition, One-dish meals. Leave a comment.

Feel-good Apple and Banana Breakfast Muffins

This muffin has surprised me, in that the children regularly ask me to bake it and are proud of the fact that it’s relatively healthy. Made of wholemeal flour, it’s also chock full of apples, bananas, hazelnuts and I couldn’t resist that universal feel-good ingredient, chocolate. These are best eaten warm, but also wonderful as a lunchbag or after-school snack.

  • wholemeal flour, 2 cups, sifted
  • baking soda, 1 tsp
  • baking powder, 1 tsp
  • salt, 1/2 tsp
  • zest, of 1 orange
  • apple, 1, peeled and grated
  • bananas, 3, mashed with fork
  • milk, 1/2 cup
  • canola oil, 1/2 cup
  • egg, 1, large
  • brown sugar, 1/2 cup
  • chocolate chips, 1/2 cup

  1. Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl, ensuring the cold items are at room temperature
  2. In another bowl, process sugar, oil, egg, milk with the zest
  3. Sift the flour together with the soda and baking powder
  4. Add the flour to the wet ingredients, 1/3 at a time, mixing as little as possible but
  5. ensuring the elements all come together
  6. Bake in preheated 410F oven (200C) for about 15 mins. Insert a skewer to see if the muffins are done.

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March 3, 2009. Tags: , . Baked Goods, Breakfast, Brunch, Kids Cuisine. Leave a comment.