Sunday, 31 July 2011

Out with the old, in with the new.

I have moved to a new site, so head over to http://www.kitchenincidents.com and check it out.

Crumpled Bow will still be around in case you want to find anything here but will no longer updated.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you again :)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A cure for the hot weather: Cold Soba.

These past few months have been unbelievably hectic, which is why I haven't been blogging as much lately. Now that there's a baby in the house, I don't get to spend that much time doing the things I love to do. Sometimes, even finding the time to just sit down and have a decent meal is hard.

Common scenario: just when I'm about to relax and enjoy my food, Yusuf starts to wail. Next thing you know, my meal is forgotten and I get stuck in this endless cycle of feeding, cleaning, bathing, pacifying and all the other tasks that come with having a baby. On top of that, there's the housework and let's not forget, the older kids.

It's crazy!

Needless to say, I am all for shortcuts, and I am thankful for all the things that make my life easier. For instance, the ready-made products stashed in my kitchen cabinet.There are times when you desperately want to prepare a meal quickly without any hassle and I seem to be having those moments a lot lately.

Which brings us to my latest discovery: Ninben Tsuyunomoto. It's bottled tsuyu made for lazy homecooks such as yours truly.

For those who don't know, Tsuyu is the soup base or dipping sauce for noodles and other Japanese dishes like tempura. Its common ingredients are dashi (broth or stock made of dried kelp and fish), soy sauce and mirin (japanese rice wine).

Reasons I love this product (other than the taste).

1. Unlike most tsuyus available in the market, this one does not contain mirin, so it's great for those who do not consume alcohol.

2. It's triple concentrated and has to be diluted with water (read: cost effective)

3. Easy to prepare- just add water to the sauce.


What I like to use it for is as a dipping sauce for cold soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles), especially when the weather is insufferably hot... like it is now.


To make this dish , what you need to do first is cook the noodles. Soba noodles are usually sold in packages consisting of 3-4 bundles per pack.Unless you're greedy, a bundle is usually enough to serve 1 person.

Put the noodles in a pot of boiling water and boil them until they are completely cooked, post al dente. Once cooked, transfer the noodles to a colander/ strainer in the sink to drain out the water. Then, place the colander under cold running water and vigorously rub the noodles. This is to get rid of the extra starch and also the floury taste. Once this is done (You'll know it's done when the water that runs through the colander is no longer cloudy), drain the noodles, and serve them on a plate/platter/ tray (whatever you have) ideally with some ice cubes (the operative word here being COLD soba).




Now, the sauce. What you do is pour a bit of sauce into a small bowl, about 3 tablespoons per person. Mix it with cold water and you're good to go. The ratio for the dipping sauce is 1 part Ninben tsuyu to be thinned out with 3 parts of water (1:3). But of course this is just a general guideline. Just like in any other recipes, let your taste decide. Add more or less water according to your liking.

As condiments, you can add strips of seaweed or if you don't have that, spring onions will do. To eat , just take a small portion of the noodles using a pair of chopsticks, dip in the sauce and and slurp them. Yes, I said slurp. Japanese style.

There you have it. Cold soba with dipping sauce. Quick, simple, and easy.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Yusuf

Meet the latest addition to our family, Yusuf.

Yes, you heard it right. YUSUF.I don't know why, but some people just couldn't believe we chose that name.

Yusuf was born on the early morning of Valentine's day, last month. Despite what most people think, both Syah and I did not not choose to have our child delivered on that day. Coincidentally the doctor said that it was the best time to have my c-section, so deciding that he knew best, we followed his advice.

People say that things don't always turn out the way you want them too. Although the operation went as well as I prayed for, the same couldn't be said about Yusuf. A few hours after his delivery, Yusuf was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care unit where he was diagnosed as having congenital pneumonia. Being the little warrior that he is and more importantly with the grace of Allah S.W.T, he managed to get through it all in the end. I was relieved beyond words the day Yusuf finally got discharged. Even though things are crazy hectic right now, I am so glad to have my baby Yusuf at home with the rest of the family.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Thai Stir Fry Beef with Basil.

If people were to ask me to name my favourite Thai dish, Pad Krapow (stir fry with holy basil) would be it. Not only is it quick and easy to make but it also tastes great. What's best about Pad Krapow is that you can make it with any kind of meat you have in hand be it chicken, beef and even seafood like prawns and scallops.

The type of basil used is mentioned in the name itself, which is holy basil (Bai Krapow). If you, like me, have difficulty getting hold of this herb, then you can substitute it with Thai sweet basil (Bai Horapa), though if this is the case, then what you'll be making is in essence, Pad Horapa (stir fry with Thai sweet basil). A Thai friend once told me that if you're going to utilize a different type of basil than the one called for in the recipe,then the name of the dish should be changed too following the kind of basil used, as each bears a taste, which is distinct from the rest. This might not be obvious to us, but trust me, the Thais can tell.

While they may come from the same family, Thai holy basil has a more pronounced taste when used in cooking compared to Thai sweet basil. That said, Pad Horapa is equally delicious, though less intense in flavour.


To make this stir fry dish for 2, what you need to do first is heat about 5 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium heat. Once hot, throw in about 8 cloves of garlic (chopped finely) and some bird's eye chillies. The amount of chillies used depends on how hot you want this dish to be. I would usually throw about 5 thinly sliced chillies in mine.

Once fragrant, put in the meat of your choice (about 300 grams). I used minced beef for mine. Alternatively, you can use sliced beef if you want. I've always preferred minced beef. Makes it easier on the chewing.


Stir until the beef is cooked (it should be brown in colour), before adding some oyster sauce and fish sauce (about 2 tablespoons each), a teaspoon of sugar and a splash or two of soy sauce for a little colour. At this stage, you can also add some chicken stock if you want. There's no point in telling you how much to use as chicken stock comes in many forms, each with its own direction. Start with a little stock, add more if necessary. Lastly, turn off the heat before throwing in a handful of basil. Stir, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve it on top of a bowl/plate of steaming jasmine rice alongside a slice of lime and a fried egg, sunny side up preferably the egg yolk still runny (this is a must if you want to experience the delicious effect of the whole dish)




Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Carrot Cake with Brown Butter.

For the past one month or so, my sister Yam has been raving non-stop about a little eatery in Ipoh that according to her, "serves the best carrot cake ever!" In fact, this is the reason why she and her friends keep returning to the said place.

Naturally, after having to hear her talk about it all the time, I found myself washed over by an intense craving for carrot cake. Had I been living in or somewhere near Ipoh, I would have tried out the cake myself. But alas, that is not the case. So I opted for the next best alternative. I baked my own cake.

After browsing through numerous recipes, I decided to go with the one by former pastry cook, Barbra Austin. It's actually an adaptation of the recipe in Gourmet's Best Desserts. Barbra replaced some of the oil called for with brown butter.

Now you may think I've been living in a cave all this time when I tell you that up until a week ago, I had never heard of brown butter. Ever. It was something new to me, which was the reason why I picked this recipe.

I notice that most top rated carrot cake recipes often include ingredients like crushed pineapples or flaked coconuts and while I'm sure they taste good, I just wanted to try something different.Plus, I've always loved butter. The more, the better. Beats vegetable oil any time.

Although time consuming, I felt that the cake wasn't too hard to put together and since I have been on a walnut kick lately, I decided to add some to it (the recipe does not include nuts of any kind) Surprisingly, it turned out better than expected (as usual, the pessimist in me was convinced that I'd botch the recipe on my first try). The cake was really good. In fact, I had just finished the last slice a few day ago, and am already thinking of baking another one soon :)

Ingredients:

4 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup melted brown butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
generous pinch each of nutmeg and cloves
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups loosely packed grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

For the frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar.
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch (20-23cm) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. To make the cake, sift together the flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. With a mixer, beat the eggs until they are pale and frothy (they need not increase dramatically in volume). With the mixer running, drizzle in the oil and melted butter, then the vanilla.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and mix carefully until just combined. You can just do this by hand.

4. Fold in the carrots, raisins and walnuts, then divide the batter between the two pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the surface springs back when gently touched. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

5. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar (do this on low speed to avoid a dust cloud) and mix until light and silky. Add the vanilla.



Saturday, 15 January 2011

Brownies with Spinach and Carrots.

Like some parents, both Syah and I have to deal with a child who is a picky eater.

Like some parents, we too find mealtimes to be a bit stressful sometimes. If we try to serve something healthy, I can assure you, our attempt will only be strongly resisted by a curly haired rebel named Zara.

As much as I enjoy cooking, preparing meals for the family can sometimes be challenging as I have to come up with something that everyone will enjoy eating and at the same time nutritious.

Sure, I can whip up a batch of chocolate mousse and know that by the end of the day, there'll be no leftover, but what kind of a mother would I be if I only feed my kids junk food (trust me, if I could do that, I would. The only thing that's stopping me is this thing called parental guilt). I used to tell myself, that if only cupcakes, ice cream, puddings were packed with as much vitamins and minerals as fruits and vegetables, life would be so easy.

Then I came across this recipe by Jessica Seinfeld.

At first,I was a bit sceptical as I browse through the list of ingredients. Carrots are still tolerable but spinach? In brownies? Forget about feeding a 3-year-old, even I wouldn't force myself to eat this thing.

But I was desperate. So desperate that if a bomoh tells me that he could make Zara eat her vegetables with as much enthusiasm as she eats chocolate cakes, I would have hired him to do the job.

Hehehe... just kidding... *hesitates for a moment* No no... I wouldn't. Really.

With this in mind, I decided to give these brownies a try.

It was messy. The whole baking project. What with all the pureeing and with 2 underaged, overenthusiastic assistants eager to lend a hand, I found myself spending more time cleaning up the kitchen than making the brownies themselves.



This is what the whole mixture looks like, in a pan (duh..), moments before being placed in the oven.



Jessica says to bake them for 35-40 minutes, but I only baked mine for 20 minutes, as I've always preferred my brownies to be extra gooey and fudgy. Although not specified in the recipe, I decided to add some walnuts and raisins for the extra crunch and flavour.

Jessica also warns against eating the brownies warm, as the spinach flavour will still be present, so I let them cool before digging into them.

Personally, I wouldn't call them the best brownies I've had so far, but for something that was made with vegetables, and used very little butter and only egg whites, I thought they were pretty good and not forgetting, deceiving as the chocolate covers any hint of spinach or even carrots. It seemed to be just chocolate (in my case, chocolate, walnuts and raisins). Texturewise, I would say that they're different from the regular brownies. There's no crusty top nor chewy center, but still, (texture aside) I thought they tasted quite nice.

The most important thing of all was that they're a healthier alternative to the normal brownies and both my kids seemed to love them. This recipe might just be a keeper after all :).

For the recipe, Please click here.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

On Profanity.

A couple of days ago, as I was queuing at the cashier counter in Carrefour, the lady in front of me, all of a sudden exclaimed (in a voice, that was so loud, I think everyone in Carrefour heard it) to the guy manning the cash register, "F**K! Dia ambik trolley I." while she pointed to another guy who was mindlessly pushing an empty trolley away to the opposite direction, most probably unaware of the whole brouhaha he was causing.

A number of heads turned to look at the source of the commotion. The cashier, in response looked taken aback and so did I , I think.

Call me a prude, but for a moment there, I was too shock to even move because of that little outburst.

Just to make it clear to you, that was not my first encounter with profanity,but maybe I didn't expect it from someone like her. This woman seemed poised, classy at first. She was wearing tudung and looked like one of those... wanita melayu terakhir, that was, until she cursed. After that, my impression of her changed.It then occured to me, that to openly use profanity does not make us look cool like some people seem to think, it drags us down to classless. More so, if you are a lady.

I don't want to be all preachy here. Sometimes I do curse, especially when there's no one around (I think many of us do this) , but I can't remember the last time I did it openly, especially now that I am a mother ( Lagi nampak buruk...). I guess there is a time, place and occasion for everything and while filthy language is acceptable in the bedroom or in private conversations between close friends, there are other places where it just isn't.

Okay, so maybe the aforementioned lady had a bad day, and had reached her boiling point when the trolley was taken from her. I think we can all relate to that. Since I don't know her, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she would not have dropped the f bomb had her day went well. But what about those who constantly swear. So much so that each of their sentence seems to be interlaced with curses.

This takes me back to a couple of years ago, when I was at klcc. I went to the ladies where I stumbled upon a group of teenage girls, who were all hogging the mirror, adjusting their heavily applied makeup and chatting to each other at the same time. Mind you, their extremely skimpy attires and the horrendous makeup were not as disturbing as their language. I'll just spare you the details but suffice it to say that the swearing would make even sailors blush. Judging from the constant usage of bad words, it's as if they were scared that the message they were trying to convey would be lost if dirty words were not included in the conversation. And they were so loud that a few ladies (and even a few small kids) were already throwing disapproving looks at them, which of course were ignored.

I don't know what everyone else thinks, but to me, the only real message these girls were trying to send across was "look at me, I know a lot of bad words, I'm cool."