home made

The Accidental Butter

I enjoy cooking, it calms my mind and I didn’t realize until now how much I enjoy working with my hands. Also I do believe the way to H’s heart is through romancing his palate. But I hate washing and cleaning like no other. And worse, I hate cleaning the kitchen after a grand failure.
Accidental Butter
Whip cream is my Achilles heel. I know how easy it is to do, but I frequently overwhip it. One minute it is soft peak, then suddenly it starts to curdle. This morning, it jumped immediately from thickened cream to overwhipped, thanks to the Turbo button. I pray and hope there is a saving grace in overwhipped cream.

Luckily, there is.

(more…)

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Houston, We Have A Problem


I never knew making tortillas is so easy. I mean I’ve tried a couple of recipes before and always dumped them in the garbage bin. But this one.. man, this one is easy breezy like walking on a beach.

Of all my flat bread attempts (pita bread, naan, paratha, foccacia, even with dumpling wrapper), I think this is the one closest to the original version. Chewy and soft. I feel as if I’ve found a diamond as big as my toe.

Not a lot of kneading needed. And the dough is very malleable and soft. Very little work. Just knead a little then let the dough rest for 1 hour. Divide into 8 balls and let it rest for another 30 mins. Ta-daah. They are ready to be flattened and pan-toasted.





HOUSTON-STYLE FLOUR TORTILLAS
(from Lisa Fain’s The Homesick Texan Cookbook via Milk and Honey)
Yields 8

60 gr lard or butter
1 C (250ml) water
2 C (250 gr) plain flour, plus extra for working with the dough
1 tsp sea salt flakes

  • Put the lard (or butter) and the water into a small pan and put it on a medium heat to melt it.
  • Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the lard/butter and water mixture and stir until a loose ball forms.
  • Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes and you will end up with a dough that is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour. This resting period is crucial to the tenderness of the finished tortilla so don’t skip this step.
  • Once the dough has had it’s rest, cut it into 8 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Cover again and rest it for another 30 minutes.
  • After the dough has rested, place each dough ball one at a time onto a floured surface and roll it out until it’s thin, about 20 cm in diameter. Don’t overwork the dough, or you’ll end up with tough tortillas.
  • As you roll them, stack them on top of each other with a piece of baking paper between them to separate them and stop them from sticking together. Cover them with a cloth until you are ready to cook them.
  • In a dry cast-iron or non-stick pan heated on high, cook each tortilla for 30 seconds on one side, turn it over and cook for 1 minute on the other side. it should start to puff up a bit. Turn it back over and cook again for 30 more seconds.
  • Place the cooked tortillas in a basket lined with a cloth. Repeat the process with the remaining balls of dough.

Can I Tell You A Little Secret?

Next time you see a creme patissiere (cream pastry) that comes with little dots in it?


Step back, take a bow and know what you have in front of you is the fruit of a labor of love. Take heart that the custard is done with real vanilla pods. Which is not only more expensive and more flavorful and more natural. It is also less practical than vanilla extract or worse, vanilla essence.


I am very pleased with how this creme patissiere turns out. I am a bit skeptical, because it’s not sweet enough in my opinion. But I’m going to wait and see until I’ve assembled my mini fruit tarts glazed with lemon honey before I cast my judgement.

CREME PATISSIERE (CREAM PASTRY)
(source Joy of Baking)

1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 large egg yolks
50 gr white sugar
20 gr all purpose flour
20 gr corn starch
1/2 tbsp liquor (cognac, grand marnier, brandy etc)- optional

  • In a sauce pan with medium heat, bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling, until the milk starts to foam up.
  • While the milk is boiling, in a medium bowl whisk the sugar and egg yolk together. 
  • Sift in the flour and corn starch until you get a smooth paste. 
  • Once the milk is about to boil, remove from heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture while continue whisking. Temper the egg little by little (to avoid curdling), then finally pour in a steady stream. What you’ll have is a very liquid milk-egg mixture.
  • Remove the vanilla pod, slit it open in the middle to scrape the seeds. And dump it over the liquid milk-egg mixture and whisk to break it. 
  • Pour milk-egg mixture back into the sauce pan and over medium-high heat, heat up the milk-egg mixture till it’s about to boil. Do not stop whisking.
  • Once it boils, it will turn thicker like custard. Remove from heat and continue whisking until  you have a consistent paste. 
  • If you’re using vanilla extract and adding liquor, this is the time to add them.
  • If you have curdling, put it through strainer. 
  • Transfer back to a clean bowl, let it cool down and ready for use. 
Note:
~ Don’t throw away the vanilla pod. Instead wash it and let it dry. Once it’s dry, chuck it into a jar of white sugar. After a week or so, you’ll have the most fragrant white sugar in the entire ‘hood.
~ For adults-only party, I would strongly suggest adding liquor. It tastes so much better. I added rum on my batch.

I Made Codette

One of my 2012 Culinary Projects is to make homemade pasta in the four walls of my kitchen. Preferably one that doesn’t involve a pasta machine or chitarra. I have been aiming at gnocchi but well, to make it interesting and funny, I made codette from Domenica Marchetti’s Glorious Pasta of Italy.

It’s basically boiled spinach, pureed then mixed into flour, kneaded into a dough, before you start shaping them into a 10-12 cm length. It was very simple but it does take a lot of time shaping it. Best to do this on the day that you have a lot of things on your mind to sort through.

“I wanted to laugh when I saw ur pasta, I thought that u invented new green bean 😉 but then I ate, and its very gd for me. I’m not sure they need more cooking. So now I’m happy and thinking abt dessert 😉 I love u my super ratatouille chef 🙂 one day I have to make a movie w u 🙂 kisses :* :* “

Now you understand when I say I have a big boy at home.

SPINACH CODETTE WITH MINCED BEEF AND PEAS
(adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti)
serve 1 large portion

100 gr minced beef (or italian sausage, removed from its casing)
1 clove garlic, minced
3-4 tbsp tomato sauce – I used canned tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas
freshly grounded black pepper
salt
a quarter recipe of fresh spinach pasta – see note below

  • Make the pasta dough and let it rest as directed. Spread a clean tablecloth on a large work surface and dust with the semolina (or all purpose flour). This is where you will put the pasta once it is shaped.
  • Pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball and rewrap the remaining dough. Place the piece of dough on a work surface lightly dusted with semolina, and roll it into a rope about the thickness of a finger or fat breadstick.
  • Cut the rope crosswise into marble-sized pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into a thin strand 10 to 12 cm long and about the thickness of a skinny green bean. As you shape each strand, transfer it to the semolina-dusted cloth. Continue to shape the codette until you have used up all the dough. (If you are serving the codette the same day, you can leave them out on the cloth for up to a couple of hours.)
  • Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add salt & OO.
  • While the water is heating, heat up the pan and (without oil) spread over the minced beef. Use the back of your spatula to break it into smaller balls. Once they are half cooked and the meat fats has turned liquid, add in the garlic and toss. If it’s too dry, add some OO. Otherwise, if the meat is rich with fats, you won’t need any additional oil.
  • Saute the meat until it’s cooked through. Lower the heat to medium, add peas and tomato sauce, and stir occasionally. Season with salt & pepper. Once it’s ready, remove from heat and cover.
  • Carefully drop the codette into the boiling water and stir to separate the noodles. Cook the noodles up till al dente, about 15 mins (see note).
  • Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
  • Transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce.
  • Transfer the dressed pasta to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

SPINACH PASTA DOUGH
(source The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti)
makes about 455 gr

255 gr fresh baby spinach
2 extra large eggs
2 – 2 1/4 C all purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
2 tbsp semolina flour and more for dusting – see note below
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Pour 1 to 2 tbsp of water into a pot over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, cover, and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, or until wilted and tender. Drain the spinach in a colander set in the sink. When it is cool enough to handle, use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Put the spinach and 1 egg in a food processor. Process to a smooth puree. Scoop the spinach mixture into a bowl. Wash and dry the work bowl and blade of the food processor and reassemble the processor.
  • Put 2 cups all purp. flour, the 2 tbsp semolina flour, salt, and nutmeg in the food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the spinach mixture and the remaining egg and pulse until the mixture forms crumbs that look like small curds. Pinch together a bit of the mixture and roll it around. It should form a soft ball. If the mixture seems dry, drizzle in a few droplets of water and pulse briefly. If the mixture seems too wet and sticky, add additional flour, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse briefly.
  • Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface sprinkled lightly with semolina flour and press it together with your hands to form a rough ball. Knead the dough: Using the palm of your hand, push the dough gently but firmly away from you, and then fold it over toward you. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, and repeat the pushing and folding motion. Continue kneading for several minutes until the dough is smooth and silky. Form it into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

Note:
~ DM’s spinach pasta dough recipe makes for 4-6 serving of codette. For H and I, I halved the dough recipe.
~ To make one large serving of codette, I used only half of the dough, essentially making it only a quarter of DM’s dough recipe. I still have the other half in my fridge.
~ I didn’t have semolina flour, so I forwent* this and worked only with all purpose flour. T55 is the name here, I have no clue if it’s blanched or not.
~ I shaped the codette a day before, dusted them with lots of flour (so they won’t stick) and froze them. On the day of cooking, I dump the frozen codette immediately into boiling water.
~ DM said to boil it for 20-25 mins, I boiled it only about 15 mins maximum. I think. I was following the news on tsunami warnings in Aceh, Singapore etc – so pardon me.  But both H and I think it’s well cooked. It’s chewy with a bite.

Yes, this takes a lot of time making, but in the end, it worths every second. I love it and H loves it. I’m happy and he’s happy. What more can you ask for?

* forwent is the past tense of forgo. I actually had to google for it!

Milk Maid


If there’s ever a race “World’s most impatient person of the year” I will be within the top 10. Heck, that’s an understatement. I will be within the top 3! Have always been.


So if waiting for Saturday to come before I can buy the necessary ingredient is Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly, waiting for hours for the ricotta to pass through the coffee filters is Eminem’s Till I Collapse. I was on the edge, irritable, couldn’t concentrate on any single things and refusing to be cuddled and coddled. Why he married me, well, that’s a good question.

Before the first hour ended, I have transferred the ricotta cheese twice. From coffee filters to paper towel to finally cotton cloth to strain the liquid. Nothing is fast enough. David said 15 mins, mine even after 1 hour is still very watery.


This is me cleaning the pot with baguette. Half a baguette, standing by the stove, 2 mins top. Lick ’em dry.

This is me trying to be a little smarter.


This is four hours later. Yeah 4 hours, and still pretty runny. Sigh. I should really get those cheese cloth next time. Overall, it wasn’t disastrous, but it wasn’t a ricotta cheese that would fly with flying colours too. But I guess, it’s not too bad.

I changed the recipe a little because the cream sold here comes in a little box of 200ml.

RICH HOMEMADE RICOTTA
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

3 1/4 cups whole milk
200 ml cream
1/2 tsp coarse salt
3 tbsp lemon juice

  • Mix all ingredients in a pot and let it slowly boil. Once it boils, remove from heat. Let it sit for 5 mins before pouring over cheese cloth (I used coffee filters, the paper kind).
  • Let the whey sift through for 1-2 hours (depending how firm you want it to be). It is said that the cheese will firm up as it cools, so do not judge by what you have on your cheese cloth.

Last word, do NOT throw away the whey (the liquid coming out of your ricotta). Use it to make chicken soup (to replace chicken stock), to replace water when making bread or cooking rice. You can also use it for sports recovery drink from what I read.

Read Simply Recipe/ David Lebovitz here for different permutation to make ricotta cheese.

Update: Despite the ricotta looking watery, after transferred to a box and stored in the fridge, the ricotta is just perfect: it turns much denser after couple hours.

How Do You Cure a Broken Heart?

H : Can you find it?
Me : No, I think the shipment hasn’t arrived.
H : Have you checked every aisle?
Me : Yeah. Not only in Jumbo, but Casa Dos Frescos, InterMarket and Kero too. Luanda hasn’t seen Nutella in 6 months..
H : (sad face)
Me : I’m sorry sweetheart.

I don’t intend to win the Best Spouse Award 2012, but man, after rubbing and scrubbing the hazelnuts leaving my palms sore, I am sure I will nail it!

HOMEMADE NUTELLA
(adapted from Leite’s Culinaria)

1 cup hazelnut
340 gr milk chocolate
2 tbsp mild vegetable oil (I used soy oil)
2 tbsp sweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

  • Spread the hazelnut in a single layer and toast them for 12 mins in 175 C. Once it is cool enough to handle, bundle them with a large kitchen towel and rub to remove as much skin as possible.
  • In a bain-mairie, melt the chocolates.
  • Transfer the hazelnuts into a food processor and pulse till it turns smooth (as smooth as your machine allows), before adding the remaining of the ingredients. Pulse.
  • Once the chocolate has melted, drop couple of table spoonful into the hazelnut mixture and pulse. Repeat till you have added all the chocolate.
  • Transfer to a container, left to cool down on room temperature.

The nutella will keep up to 2 weeks, though I doubt mine will last that long.