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Idul Fitri again

A big Minal Aidin wal Faidzin to y’all. Do forgive my mistakes, misdemeanors and mishaps. Including not posting for almost a whole month (Then again, that might be considered as doing a favor for some people).

Idul Fitri this year was a fairly quiet affair, but the pleasant routine of cooking together while exchanging tales of the past thankfully prevailed.

As promised to Shaheen of Allotment2kitchen, I will give the recipe for stewed pineapple or Pajri Nanas. I first thought it was an Indian dish, but apparently a search brought up a lot of Malay results. so I guess it’s a Malay dish? yet the ones in the internet are mostly pineapple curry, while this is more like a spice-rich soup. Oh well, whatever it is, it’s a good side dish to accompany spicy entrees such as curry. Or you can nibble it on its own like I did.

The original recipe says that you should make a bundle out of some kind of sheet to wrap the cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks, but I have just discovered that that was for mere aesthetic reasons and perhaps to prevent one biting into a whole clove. I personally prefer seeing the spices, and I think it’s worth the risk of biting them.

I must apologize beforehand for the low quality of the pictures. My camera acted up and I had to use the phone’s camera. Hope they will at least give a rough description.

Pajri Nanas

2 pineapples, skinned.

1 large cinnamon stick

4 cloves

3 cardamom seeds

6 star anises

around 150 gr sugar ( I used a bit of palm sugar as well)

Discard the hard, light colored core shown to face the camera. The diagonal cuts were used to remove the leftover black bits

remove the stalk, bottom and top of pineapple. skin the fruit using a sharp knife and remove the black bits (we call it the ‘eyes’) left. I do this by making diagonal slices akin to forming a sloping path from the top of the pineapple.

cut the fruit into six pieces, length-wise. Remove the hard parts in the center and slice the pieces into smaller ones.

place the spices at the bottom of a medium sized saucepan and put the pineapple pieces on top of them. cook in low heat. when the juice of the pineapple begins to deplete, start pouring the sugar stirring as you go and tasting it every now and then until you reached the desired sweetness.

There were plenty of ta’jil (fast breaking food) cooking during Ramadhan. Hopefully some of that recipes will make its way here as well. Happy Eid!

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Ramadhan again, a clear start?

Hullo, it’s been a year now hasn’t it? Fasting time has descended upon us again.

I am excited as usual (to me it’s simultaneously a month of challenge and serenity), but with a touch of anxiety. The doctor diagnosed me with throat inflammation a few days ago and I am worried that I might not be too fit to fast.

But I hope for the best. Meanwhile, I am trying to cut back on fried stuff because that’s what causing these throat troubles, apparently (that and exhaustion I guess). But it can be hard considering most of the food I ran into, at home or in warungs (food stalls) are fried, or stir-fried. Yes, we Indonesians love our oily treats.

So to feed myself on a Sunday and for the sahur (pre-dawn) meal, I looked into the Yasa Boga recipe book for a recipe that doesn’t involve frying. I decided to try the Carrot Soup.

For the stock, I bought some vegetarian stock powder in the organic store near my house. It’s quite pricey (around US$3 for a small container) but apparently quite potent. I only had to use like a quarter of a teaspoon for around 750ml of water.

As for the result…I am sad to say that I prefer stir-fries or at least a version of soup that requires one to sautee the spices before adding the water. Old habits are hard to break. or maybe next time I should add more spices to my liking. perhaps some pepper and coriander.

I made some steamed tofu to go along with the soup. but I made a mistake of not marinating it long enough. Next time. next time.

Carrot clear soup

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick-shape and size, roughly.

around 750 cc of veg stock

150 gr of mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used straw mushrooms)

half a nutmeg, hammered

three spring onions, cut into 3 cm slices

One teaspoon of chopped parsley leafs

Bring the stock to boil.

Add the rest of the ingredients. cook until the vegs are cooked to your liking.

And you’re done. serve with the parsley leafs.

the soup lasted two meals and it was quite filling.

Happy fasting!

The Cake Storage

Not everyone is lucky enough to have cakes to eat for their birthday. I got two.

The first one is a very special Apple Pie (so it’s not a ‘cake’, cake, but it was delicious!). The second one is a strawberry cheesecake I bought from the Cake Storage.

The last time I bought a cake was an Opera Cake, for the sake of mass appeal (in the house, I mean). But my favorite cake has always been cheesecakes. So I got my way this year.

The usual method would be to get one from the Cheesecake Factory, but I thought I’d try something new. I didn’t have to get out of my way to buy it because The Cake Storage was near the train station. Plus, it had a very convenient size option of 10×20.

I was surprised to learn that the “cheese” was also strawberry flavored. the one I a mused to is plain cheesecake with strawberries on top. So it raised the sweetness one notch. And I won’t say I dislike it (come on! it’s a strawberry cheesecake). But actually I’d prefer plain cheesecakes with fruits on top. Aaand…as I said before, not everyone is lucky enough to have cakes on their special day.

(Oh, and maybe you can place a special order to ask for plain cheesecake)

The Cake Storage also includes a restaurant, where I have eaten before but it was a long time ago. I saw their dining menu and it had several vegetarian options. Might try it out one day.

Conquering Chayotes, the dumpling way

This is a chayote.

It is commonly used here as one of the ingredients for tamarind soup, or as a savory stir fry or spicy coconut milk soup. Apparently it is also a common ingredient in Latin American dishes as well, as a quick net research revealed to me.

It also revealed that eating chayote can have many health benefits, such as reducing constipation, acne, and even reducing blood pressure and increasing intelligence. hmm.

Unfortunately, it is not one of my favorite vegetable. It has this strange, freshwater scent that I am not keen on. I used to avoid eating it in tamarind soup, but now I am more tolerant of the vegetable that is apparently a relative of squashes and cucumbers.

However, I am determined to make myself like it even more. Thus, I decided to incorporate it into one of my favorite dishes: steamed/boiled dumplings.

I browsed for recipes of vegetarian dumplings on the web, aside from using a recipe in my “Asian Vegetarian” cookbook.  None of the ones I found had Chayote in them though. So I decided to be creative.

On my first try, I used spinach, tofu, spring greens, a carrot and a chayote of course. On my second try, I omitted the spinach. The taste difference occurred more because of the seasonings rather than the spinach change, I think.

I first tried boiling the dumplings but it was a messy affair, and discovered that  it was easier to steam them (I was first intimidated by the thought, but it was fairly a piece of cake).

The dumplings stuck together when I tried to boil them

I also tried first to shape them into half-moon shapes but the parcel shapes were much easier to make. Plus, the edges don’t turn as dry as the half-moon ones.

The attempt at half-moon shaped dumplings

My first try at these babies revealed a lack of flavor, but I added more soy sauce on the second try, and, although my taste buds are a bit immune to homemade dumplings now, I’d say they’re not bad. Or maybe I should pay a visit to Crystal Jade for a comparative study soon.

Chayote Dumplings

1 package of gyoza (round) wrappers. The one I bought contained 16 sheets.

1 medium-sized chayote.

1 carrot

a bunch of spinach.

Four firm tofu cubes, or adjust to taste

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced finely

about 1 cm ginger, shredded

1 stalk of spring onion (optional)

salty soy sauce

Spicy sesame oil. or better yet, sesame oil and togarashi (dried chili)

Method

the foam from the chayote's sap

Cut the chayote in half, and rub the two halves in circular motion until white foam comes out. this is to get rid of the sap. keep rubbing until the surface of both halves feels somewhat coarse.

peel the chayote and dice it into small cubes.

wash, drain and cut the tofu into small cubes as well.

cut the spinach or any other asian greens you like into small shreds.

Peel and cut the carrots into small slices as well

heat some oil in the frying pan/wok, sautee the garlic and ginger. Add the soy sauce.  Add the ingredients, starting with the carrots, and stir-fry until the greens are limp.

let cool. meanwhile, prepare a bowl of water (to dip your hands in) and a working space to make the dumplings.

Place the stir-fried ingredients on the center of the wrapping, dip your fingers in the bowl and gather the edges to make a square-ish envelope.

I used an old-fashioned steamer like this:


so swiped some oil on the porous inset’s surface  and placed around five dumplings at a time and steamed them for a few minutes. And you’re done. Serve hot with the sauce. I used some chili sesame oil combined with a bit of soy sauce. But I think it would be even sweeter to use a mix of plain sesame oil with dried chili flakes.

Tofu Opor

Remember my previous post on the Masakan Sehari-hari cookbook? well I did my first (and second, actually) try at one of their recipes. I picked Opor Tahu.

Opor refers to a dish cooked with savory coconut milk soup. It’s similar to padang curry in terms of its richness but it is not spicy at all.

When you say  “opor” it will  almost inevitably be followed by “ayam” or chicken. And I have always disliked the dish even before I became a vegetarian because I found it hard to tolerate chicken cooked in non-fried ways, especially with the bones still intact.

So when I found the recipe for tofu opor in this book I was delighted, because I liked the opor soup nonetheless. To have it without the chicken, even the scent of it, would be marvellous.

On the first try, the people who tasted it said it needed more salt. I personally think not, but it WAS lacking in kick, although I wasn’t sure how. The second try was better, but the soup was too rich and it ended up so savory that it reminded me of our ketupat ketan (rice cakes) we have for Idul Fitri celebration. But I think, all in all, I’ve gotten the hang of  it.

Ingredients:

six cubes of yellow bandung tofu, or the firmest tofu you can find. cut into

Ingredients. The sorrel is the green little fruits beside the tofu

halves of triangles, fry.

one small potato (optional), peel, cut into medium-sized pieces, boil until half-done.

five bilimbi or tree sorrels (optional), make a gash along one side

three citrus leaves, torn

two salam (indian bay)leaves, torn

One stalk of lemongrass, hammered

750 cc of coconut milk (try not to have it too thick, although ready-bought ones are usually already the right consistency. i f too thick, thin with water)

Seasoning: Grind to a paste:

the paste. of course you can use blender and not mortar and pestle.

five small shallots

three cloves of garlic.

one table spoon of finely chopped galangal

one teaspoon of finely chopped ginger.

one teaspoon of finely chopped turmeric (optional)

three candlenuts, smashed and roasted (or fried without oil in a wok)

two teaspoons of coriander seeds, roasted 

half a teaspoon of cumin seeds, roasted

two  teaspoons (or adjust to taste) pepper , roasted

salt and a bit of sugar to taste.

heat up around two table spoons of oil.  sautee the paste, bay leafs, citrus leaves and lemongrass briefly until fragrant.

pour the coconut milk, let boil.

put in the tofu, potatoes and bilimbi. cook until soup thickens (around 10 minutes) .

Cookbook craze

My aunt lent me two of these babies from her casket full of cookbooks. I’m excited and found myself browsing again and again through their pages, planning to try this recipe and that.

Seri Menu Sehari-hari Tanpa Daging, written by Yasa Boga, Published by Gramedia

OK, so it might not be Veganomicon or some hip, ultra-healthy, radical eating guide.Many recipes still uses eggs and the writers even suggested that the readers use animal-derived stocks and the likes of oyster sauce to “enhance the flavor”  But the recipes in these “meat-less everyday food” cookbooks are quite easy to follow because they are based on Indonesian food and uses ingredients you can easily find in the neighborhood markets.  I’m pretty sure most of them can be modified to suit a vegan diet.

I may not go as far as to engage in a cookbook-conquering frenzy a la  Julie & Julia, but boy am I eager to get down and dirty with plenty of these recipes.

Banana flower and coconut delight

Hello there! Please excuse the lame post title!

I would like to share another recipe. This time using a gem of ingredient, the banana flower!

now that's intimidating

The recipe calls for:

– one banana flower

-shredded coconut flakes from one coconut

-a handful of chinese green beans

-a ground spice mix of around 5 shallots and 3 chilis

First, deal with the banana flower. I discovered that it was a bit similar to artichokes in terms of texture, layer, and even the milky flavor. Peel away the skin until it looks like this. take away the small flowery bits at top.

Slice the banana flower into small pieces, around 2 by 3, roughly

Cutting the peeled banana flower

The flower contains sticky sap, which is not good for cooking and consuming, so get rid of the sap by placing the slices in a straining pot, running it over water while squeezing the sap out of the slices for around 3 minutes. just grab a bunch each time and squeeze it a few times under the running water.

Slice the green beans into some 5 mm sized bits. boil the bits shortly, around 2 minutes time

heat a wok or a frying pan. throw the shredded coconut in, then add the ground spice mixture, stir for a bit, then add the banana flower and the green bean.

and you’re done!

I’m looking forward to experimenting more with the flower. hmm, maybe it’ll even be good with melted butter?