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Weekend Cooking: Sausage Meatballs with Gravy

This was a recipe I made a long, long time ago for Hari Raya celebrations, and at the point of time I haven’t started blogging my culinary exploits just yet. The recipe is from Emeril’s Potluck, and as you probably can imagine, this makes a potluck-sized batch.

Aside from the Essence which you may want to invest some time in (really worth the effort), the ingredients for this recipe are fairly easy to find. The Italian Seasoning and various types of canned tomatoes are available even in hypermarts like Tesco, and you can find the fresh sausages at the more upmarket grocers such as Village Grocer or B.I.G. What I found slightly more challenging is finding canned tomato sauce, but this can be substituted by pureeing canned stewed tomatoes.

I also splurged a bit on San Marzano canned whole peeled tomatoes; these are Italy’s best tomatoes, grown on volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius. Look for the words “Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino” on the can, which is supposed to indicate that these San Marzanos are the real deal. If the can doesn’t have any English on it, look for the words, “pomodori pelati interi” which means whole peeled tomatoes. San Marzanos are known for their sweetness and low acidity, which makes them perfect for making tomato soups and sauces. And my oh my, the investment really paid off.

The San Marzanos gave the sauce such a rich flavor and sweetness, I didn’t have to do much else to make the dish taste good. It was as if I made completely different recipe from the one last time, just by switching this one ingredient. So worth it!

Bring this to a potluck, San Marzanos and all, and I assure you it will be a hit at any gathering. Enjoy!

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Steak and Mushroom Pie

When I first started cooking I basically had one go-to chef for most recipes I wanted to try – Emeril Lagasse. In the beginning I focused more on so-called Western dishes – pies, pasta, and casseroles – and one of my earliest attempts on pies was this steak and mushroom pie.

Last time I followed the recipe to a T (non-alcoholic ingredient substitutes aside), but this time, with more experience I’ve given it my own spin and also used my Philips electric pressure cooker to ensure the meat is tender and succulent.

Be sure to use a deep dish pie pan for this, as there is a lot of filling. The crust is wonderfully crispy, and its buttery aroma will fill your kitchen as the pie bakes in the oven. The tender beef and crispy beef breakfast strips is super hearty, perfect when paired with crusty country bread. Enjoy!

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Weekend Cooking: Braised Duck Legs

Tesco started stocking more than just whole ducks – whole legs, necks (for stock, I’m guessing), wings, and very rarely, breasts. I grabbed a bag of duck legs out of impulse, and after letting them sit in the freezer for a while, I searched the Internet again for ideas, and found this interesting recipe on SOS Cuisine.

I searched high and low at all the upmarket grocery stores for herbes de Provence, with no luck. It’s not easy to mix your own either, because you needs some exotic stuff like lavender and whatnot. Finally I found it at the most unexpected place possible – Tesco Online. It didn’t even cost much. Score!

This recipe was fairly easy to make, no need to make any special rubs, simple ingredients you can easily find at hypermarkets, and simple steps. Even if you couldn’t find the herbes de Provence, you can always sub with whatever herbs you have on hand, a mix of thyme, rosemary, basil, marjoram, oregano and tarragon.

Best of all, it is really delicious despite this simplicity, and can be a strong addition to your repertoire of dinner recipes. Give it a try!

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Ramadan Cooking: Eman’s Chicken Mandy

It’s the last weekend of Ramadan. Gosh, time really flies.  I wanted to make Chef Wan’s briyani gam with chicken kuzi, but I was missing a few ingredients and I’ll only be going to the market tomorrow.  Since I’ll also be eating out tomorrow, if I wanted to make something, tonight was my only window of opportunity to do so.  I decided on Eman’s chicken mandy, which I’ve been meaning to try for quite some time now.

I fell behind schedule and ended up rushing to have it ready for buka puasa, so this time I skipped the smoking process and completely forgot the fried onion and cilantro garnish.  Flavour-wise I think this was great, and the rice to water ratio was pretty spot on.  The original recipe called for saffron coloring which was supposed to give the chicken a nice reddish tone, but since I don’t have any on hand and have no idea where to get it, I’m thinking of using smoked paprika next time.

Will definitely make this again.

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Ramadan Cooking: Karnataka-style Chicken Briyani

Last Ramadan I was binging on Middle Eastern recipes, but this year I stumbled upon this YouTube channel called Get Curried and was intrigued by their selection of Indian recipes.  At first I wanted to try their butter chicken, but it’s the weekend and I should do something fancier and Mom also suggested I try making briyani.

This isn’t like the briyani I’m used to here in Malaysia.  The video says this is a style specific to the Karnataka state of India, and even then looking at the comments there are a bunch of Karnatakans claiming that theirs is more authentic than the rest, so I can’t comment on that.  Nonetheless the mixture of flavors from the yoghurt, cilantro and mint, and the heat from the cili padi was really interesting and yummy, and I loved how the rice turned out nicely moist without being mushy.

I found the planning stage most exciting when making this.  I started off by mixing the saffron milk, then prepped the ingredients for the green paste.  After marinating the chicken I set a small pot of water on the stove, and prepped the rest of the ingredients while the potatoes were boiling.  I soaked the rice, then put the pot of water for the rice on the stove, and started on the gravy while waiting for the water come to a boil, which would take about as much time as required for soaking the rice.  By the time it was time to add the chicken to the pot, the chicken has been marinating for an hour as planned.  So all the tasks were timed quite nicely and the dish was ready 10 minutes before it was time to break fast.  It was a lot of fun for me.

Do try this out, whenever you’re feeling like a different style of briyani.

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Ramadan Cooking: Shrimp Scampi Pasta

I found some really nice (albeit expensive) shrimp at B.I.G. recently, and at the same time was having such a craving for pasta.  I’ve mentioned previously that I really love the shrimp scampi at Tony Roma’s, although over the years they seemed to have modified the recipe or something and even that has lost its appeal to me.  I’ve tried making it myself once before, using Tyler Florence’s recipe, but I found it to be just so-so.  This time, I stumbled upon this recipe by Rasa Malaysia and decided to work from there.

This being an Italian dish, the original recipe called for white wine, so as always I subbed it with apple juice.  I sometimes would dilute apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar as a substitute for white wine in soups and pies, but I found that in pasta dishes vinegar might make it turn out too acidic.  I also like to use cilantro instead of parsley especially for seafood dishes.  I doubled the amount of cayenne for a bit more heat.

The results were fabulous! Everyone had seconds.  When attempting this recipe, be sure to have all your ingredients on hand, measured and ready to go.  Once your shrimp is in the pan work fast – as soon as the shrimp turns fully opaque remove the pan from heat, to make sure they don’t overcook.  Give it a try!

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Ramadan Cooking: Moroccan Lamb Soup

I bought some lamb cubes some time back and never got around to cooking them.  Since it’s Ramadan and the evenings have been so rainy of late, I wanted to make something comforting and soupy.  Besides, Mummy is watching her health more carefully and no longer eats any red meat, so even though she’ll avoid this dish, it is just one of the many dishes we served with rice for our buka puasa meal.

I loved the broth, so flavourful yet the spices are not overpowering.  I flooded my rice with it, and i imagine this soup would also be excellent with bread.

The original recipe was intended for lamb shanks, but since I wanted to use up the lamb cubes in the freezer I just used that.  The meat turned out a bit tough even after simmering for 1 1/2 hours, so I wonder if I’ll give it 30 minutes in the pressure cooker next time.   Because it was already time to break fast and the meat wasn’t as tender as I had hoped, I skipped the shredding step.  Will make this again, using a couple of good quality shanks I hope.  Yums!

Adapted from a recipe on taste.com.au.

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Weekend Cooking: Paella

Tesco had some good shrimp and mussels in stock, and I really wanted to take my lovely Le Creuset casserole (thanks Tiff!) for a spin, so I decided to try making and perfecting a paella recipe.

I’ve made this twice now, but am still not fully satisfied with the results.  The first time I felt that the meats were not adequately seasoned and there was just way too much rice.  The second time, I used a bit too much liquid so the rice turned out a bit mushy.  Flavor-wise I think the rice was nice, but I really need to get the rice to liquid ratio right.

The following recipe has been tweaked with my notes on what I’d do differently next time.  From the base recipe I added a few more herbs to the stock mixture, and salt the chicken and shrimp a little for a bit more flavor.  I found using beef bacon resulted in a less salty dish and additional salt might be required, so I tried smoked chicken breast and it gave a nice smoky taste to the dish.  I also chopped my onions and bell peppers using a food processor, for a finer cut as well as to save me a lot of time. I’d use a spicier sausage next time, though, for a bit more kick.  Italian just tastes too herby and mild for me.

Try it out!

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Weekend Cooking: Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya

After cycling through quite a few Middle Eastern dishes of late, I decided to revisit some of the old recipes I made but never got around to properly document.  This jambalaya recipe based on the one by Emeril Lagasse was particularly nostalgic for me, because this was one of the first dishes I made when I started cooking at home about 6 or 7 years ago.   There was a time when Kak’mbang going back to our hometown meant having takeout or delivery every day.  This dish was my first home cooked dinner for my family, and it was the start of many many more thereafter.

This dish is fairly foolproof and not difficult to make. All you need is patience, because you’ll be spending around 40 to 45 minutes stirring the stuff in the pot almost non-stop.  The result is a light, healthy one-pot meal, great for potlucks and gatherings.

The ingredients aren’t anything too fancy either – I usually get my Italian sausages from B.I.G. lately, but I used to frequent Village Grocer and I think theirs actually taste better.  Village Grocer also carries chicken Chorizo sausages as far as I know, and you can use that for a slightly spicier flavor.  Unlike commercially packed, mass market sausages which are very firm (and cooked, I’m guessing), premium sausages like those at B.I.G. or Village Grocer or the ones by Victoria Crest are raw and therefore can be quite challenging to slice when thawed.  I usually prefer to slice them when frozen to maintain their shape.

Enjoy!

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Weekend Cooking: Smoked Duck and Sausage Gumbo

I’m really trying hard to clear out stuff from my freezer.  It doesn’t help that I keep buying new ingredients, I know, but I still try.  I had a few smoked duck breasts sitting at the bottom of my freezer for ages, and I knew I had to make something that would do them justice.  I’ve used them in risotto before, and considered using them in aglio olio.  But I wanted to use them all up in one go, so I decided on this gumbo recipe I found on Saveur.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect when making this.  The ingredients looked simple enough, and given the rather tedious step of making a dark roux, I went on with it hoping it wasn’t for nothing.  When I finally tried it, served over steaming hot white rice, I was so pleasantly surprised.  The flavor was rich and dark and smoky and went so well with the plain rice.  All of us went for seconds.

The original recipe made a lot, so I halved the recipe and used ingredients I had on hand (and actually available in KL/Malaysia).  I couldn’t find mesquite seasoning anywhere, and making your own still seems like a pain, so I used barbecue seasoning instead.  The goal of this recipe is to create as much of that wonderful smoky flavor as possible, so do not sub that smoked paprika with sweet or hot (all three offer quite different flavors anyway), definitely use smoked duck instead of fresh, and find some good quality smoked sausages.  I made the mistake of using cheapo “smoked” sausages (see pic below), and was rather disappointed by the really meh texture, which resembled fishballs instead of meat and gristle.  The next time I make this (and I definitely will), I’ll use Victoria Crest’s smoked chicken sausages instead, which is available at the more upmarket grocers like B.I.G. and Village Grocer.  I’ll also be making the potato salad as well, which I hear is excellent when paired with this gumbo.

Try it out! Well worth the effort.

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