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Hold the meat: Spaghetti with roasted red pepper sauce

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I think I have eaten the equivalent of a normal year's intake of meat in the past week or so. I'm being a bit melodramatic, of course, but once a week is normal for me ~ it's unusual to eat meat every day and completely abnormal to have it for two meals in one day! But that's how I ate in America while visiting my sister and her family. And so it's spaghetti with roasted red pepper sauce today ~ I made and froze the sauce before I left on holiday. Got in at three this morning and had already planned what to eat. Talk about having food constantly on the mind!

Sourdough Surprises: Hot cross buns

Sunday, April 20, 2014

These buns were made in the USA with starter made in Malaysia. I am visiting my sister and her family in California over the Easter holidays and since I knew I would only be making these sourdough buns for the Sourdough Surprises challenge while I was here, some of the starter had to fly over with me. It behaved very well, and has produced these dual-nationality hot cross buns.

If I had made these in Malaysia, they would probably have contained some stout, a variety of spices and fillings. But my sister said to keep it child-friendly for her little girls, so it only has raisins and a light cardamom flavour.

I didn't follow a precise recipe. What I did was feed my starter twice. There was just over a cup of it after the second feeding to which I added an egg yolk, less than a half cup of brown sugar, ground up cardamom seeds, salt, and enough flour to mix to a soft dough. Then in went some softened butter and two cups of plumped up raisins. The dough was left to rise overnight, then I shaped nine buns, baked them without (I forgot!) an eggwash and later brushed on some jam to give them shiny tops. I would have preferred baked-in flour crosses, but my sister said to use icing instead.

I know I would have been more precise with weights and scheduling back home, but the buns turned out edible so I'm okay with them.
Happy Easter!

Upside-down cake in a ring

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is it right to mess with a classic? Should the traditional look of a pineapple upside-down cake be altered? Well, I think if I can get more pineapple in every bite, then it's forgiveable. Normally, the cake has full rings on it, but an American chef ~ darn it, I cannot remember who it was other than that it was a lady ~ gave this suggestion of using pineapple ring halves so that the whole surface of the cake would be covered in the fruit. About using a ring pan instead of a round or square one, well, I had to for practical purposes: the middle of my cakes sometimes don't cook because of my wonky oven. One final change to the classic recipe: it's not a sponge cake; it's made with a sour cream pound cake batter. A little heavier, but it still managed to absorb all the lovely brown sugar syrup.

Two-step mushroom lentil ragu

Monday, April 14, 2014

If portobello mushrooms weren't so expensive, I'd cook them three or four times a week. Unlike other fungi, portobellos don't disintegrate so easily or shrink when cooked in dishes like stews. They have such an intense flavour, even being compared to meat; and like meat, benefits from being seared before being added to stew-like dishes. That is what I did when I made this mushroom and lentil ragu: braise green lentils in a chilli tomato-based sauce; separately fry thickly sliced portobellos and flavour with soya sauce; combine the two components and simmer for a bit before tucking in. I served them (to myself!) with potato-cheese pierogies only because I had a stash of those and needed to clear out the freezer. Portobellos play second fiddle to no one.

Vacating the fridge and baking a pumpkin seed sourdough loaf

Monday, April 7, 2014

When Indra wrote a post on making seeded sourdough bread using some of my starter, she graciously pointed her readers to this blog and my post on making a seeded sourdough loaf for the first time using a leaven (both recipes from Dan Lepard) which I had cultivated for a while. I went back to that post and realised how things have changed. I've become more confident in how I use my leaven and I'm not afraid to try making a loaf without referring to a trusted recipe. There's much more to learn, but I'm happy with how far my sourdough loaves have come. A couple of days ago, I made that same loaf from so many posts ago. Wasn't happy that it was slightly undercooked, but here's the thing: I actually know the reason for it (lousy time management) and know what needs to be done to improve. I also know that slice needs a lot more butter spread on it than what's in the picture.

The Shift and a Lao brinjal dip

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's not working. I just can't seem to put in the time that I used to into this blog. So, things need to change. The purpose of this space needs to change. As with life, less clutter. Fewer words. Lists and instructions only when necessary. I want to remember what I baked on my day off, what I thought of cooking with those tomatoes I bought yesterday, how I felt when I ate what I cooked today. Recipes... they're just a guide ~ even for bread. I'll follow rules elsewhere, not in my kitchen. And so I kick off today with jeow mak keau, a Lao roasted brinjal dip. Roast brinjal, garlic, chilli till soft; pound everything together. Good with glutinous rice. Good tossed through long pasta. Good start to a much-needed change.