Monday, 13 August 2012

Nyonya-ish Achar (Spicy Pickled Vegetable Salad)

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Achar/Acar, is a kind of Spicy pickled vegetable salad, commonly served with Chicken rice(which I'll be blogging about soon) and Nasi Lemak. It's spicy, sweet and sour flavour is really appetising and I even eat it on it's own. Not exactly a good thing as I ran out of it so quickly. I made this on a Friday evening and by Monday, it was all gone! Thanks to Mummy I can cook's recipe, it was simply delicious! How I wish I made more!!
There are several different ways of making achar, one being the Nyonya version. In this version, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflowers, tumeric, green chillis and sesame seeds are the essential ingredients and as you can see in the recipe below, I used pineapples which from what i heard is a big no no. However, I like pineapple as it imparts a nice touch of sweetness to the achar so I threw some in... opps!!... I also forgot to buy peanuts so I replaced these with cashew nuts and macadamia nuts...double opps!! you know why I put an -ish in the title. ;)

This recipe was adapted from Mummy I can cook's proper nyonya recipe so please head over there to have a look. 
Adapted from Mummy I can cook 

500g cucumbers
100g carrots
100g pineapple
100g french beans
1/4 cup of white rice vinegar
1/4 cup of unrefined cane sugar, to taste

For blanching/salting
1 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
1 cup rice vinegar + 1 cups water

For the rempah
150g (3-4 large) shallots
2 red chillies
2 green chillies
1 stalk lemongrass
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1 tbsp sunflower oil, for frying

To finish
large handful freshly toasted sesame seeds
small handful of crushed freshly toasted cashew nuts
small handful of crushed freshly toasted macadamia nuts

1. Chop all the cucumbers, carrots and french beans into finger-length batons.Chop pinapple into chunks. 
2. For the cucumbers, sprinkle over most of the salt and set aside to sweat. 
3. For the carrots and french beans, blanch very briefly in the boiling vinegar-salt-sugar solution, just long enough for the water to return to a boil. Drain and chuck into a very low oven to dry for about half an hour.
4. Pound/blend your rempah ingredients and then fry the paste in medium low heat till aromatic. Add the vinegar and sugar, bring to a boil, and then let cool.
5. While it's cooling, drain, squeeze and pat dry the cucumbers. Combine with the other vegetables/pineapple, sesame seeds, cashew nuts and macadamia nuts, then pour the rempah over, and mix well. Don't worry if it seems the marinade can't cover all the vegetables, they will start releasing their own liquid as they pickle/ferment (use non-reactive bowls or glass jars). Let the vegetables sit in the marinade for at least a day before eating.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Stripped back by Ben Spalding

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My current motto seems to be 'Will travel for food', having recently travelled all the way down south to Brockley Market and Fed by Tang Lunch. Another area that we decided to explore is East London, an area that's becoming a cool place to hangout with lots of street food markets, interesting restaurants, new coffee joints etc.

A great new addition to the east is Stripped Back, a pop up by Ben Spalding in Broadway Market. Having worked at Royal Hospital Road, Fat Duck, Le Manoir and most recently Roganic to name a few, Ben is definitely no stranger to the culinary world. He's using Stripped Back to showcase his style of cooking whilst doing research to set up a more permanent arrangement. Located in the London Fields Primary School carpark,  No reservations, raw, personal and stripped back cooking is what this is all about. 

Another highlight about eating here is seeing Ben and his sous chef, Steve in action! Somehow, I really enjoy observing chefs 'doing their thing'!
Ben Spalding
We arrived bright and early at 11am when they opened so we didn't have to wait too long to enjoy the food. First up was a refreshing fizz made with 42c below vodka and meadowsweet.

This came with a very very delicious yoghurt, muesli and malt bread which Ben took 3 years to perfect! And no, I wasn't too successful at getting the recipe from him! :P
The first course was the prettily plated right in from of us, Kentish Pearls cooked in yogurt whey, black truffles, roasted almonds and seeds. No salt is added on the finished product as Ben likes to season it in the cooking process making for a healthier dish. This is evident to as the potatoes was so delicious and probably one of the best I've ever eaten.  Soft, creamy and tasty especially when paired with the roasted almonds, made for an awesome texture sensation!

Next up was the Mall Tavern Smoked salmon, Razor clam and shiso broth with grapes, pickled carrot and coastal herbs. The amazing broth was light yet infused with so much flavour and another texture adventure with the thoughtfully put together ingredients! A total delight this was!

The 3rd wrap was one of Ben's favourite dishes, a Burnt wrap with Salt marsh lamb, ras el hanout, blowtorched baby gem lettuce and minted sourcream. A home style, warming and flavourful dish.

The dessert was Lightly set chocolate brownie custard with pecans, shortbread cream and strawberry juice. Very moriesh and luscious!
Lastly was a cola jelly with a hit of alcohol. A perfect way to end this very enjoyable meal!
The menu is changed constantly depending on the seasonal ingredients Ben sourced every week so it's definitely a place to go back to every so often. The meal costs £17.50 for 4 courses with a petit four. A bargain in my opinion as it's essentially fine dining style food.

Yes, I revisited Stripped back as it just had to be done. On this occasion, we also found out that Ben is planning a 6 month residency in a pub in Islington from Oct onwards so that's going to be real exciting! Follow him on Twitter at @John_Salt to be kept in the loop! He's also at @benspalding1 and @_strippedback

The menu was totally different this time but it continued with the theme of putting amazing flavours onto 1 plate. I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

Salad of english Vittoria tomatoes & homemade goats curd, bronze fennel, bread curls & mango juice

Cured and roasted Cod flakes, dark cauliflower cream, fried bacon. mallow juice flavoured with fig leaves 

Hot lamb broth, chorizo, coriander, Beans sprouts, red onion & peas

Sweetened Goats milk yoghurt toasted pumpkin seeds, maple syrup & wild blackberries

Peanut butter & jam fudge

Yet Another update!
Yes! I must be kinda addicted to Stripped back as I again made another trip back after watching Athletics at the Paralympics!

Salad of sun dried tomatoes & homemade goats curd, bread curls & mango juice

 Tea smoked salmon

Erin doing some smoking
Absolutely delicious Mushroom Duxelle filled Lumaconi. We've been inspired to recreate the filling.

Stunning Chocolate Banana Delice

Stripped Back
London Fields Primary School Playground
West Gate Street 
E8 3RL

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Kuih Dadar/ Ketayap or Pandan Crepe with sweet coconut filling

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I love all kinds of kuih (bite size desserts found in Singapore and Malaysia) and thought that they were usually quite tedious to make. However, thanks to Lisa of From My Lemony Kitchen, I learn that the Kuih Dadar was pretty easy and straightforward. It was indeed easy but alas, I lacked the crepe making skill that was essential in this recipe as you can see, my crepes were a little thick. I didn't have palm sugar(gula melaka) so I replaced this with brown sugar hence the colour of the filling isn't as dark as it should have been. On the whole, it tasted good but could definitely be better! I will have to practise making crepes, get my hands on some gula melaka and am sure they'll look as perfect of Lisa's original version! Soon enough anyway, Practise makes perfect yah?? ;)

Recipe from 'From My Lemony Kitchen'

Pandan Juice:
5 pandan leaves
1/4 cup water
1. Process the pandan leaves and water in food pracessor.
2. Pass through siever and retain juice

Crepe Batter:
120g plain flour
1 egg
300ml coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pandan juice above
2-3 tablespoons of water as required.
1. Mix the above ingredients in a mixing bowl to a smooth batter
2. Heat a non stick frying pan (small size if you dont have crepe pan).
3. Spray with some oil.
4. Use a small ladle or 1/4 cup, scoop the batter and pour onto the center of the hot frying pan.
5. Using a swirl motion, quickly cover the surface and form a thin layer of crepe.
6. When the edges starts to come off the side of the pan... gently slide or using a flat wooden spatula, remove onto a plate. 

Sweet Coconut filling:
(measurement is just an indication... adjust to suit taste)
90g palm sugar
1 knotted pandan leaves
1-1 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 teaspoon cornflour
50ml water
1. Melt the palm sugar in a pan with knotted pandan leaves. Add in dessicated coconut and stir until well coated.

Putting Crepe together: (Step by Step pictures can be found at From My Lemony Kitchen)
1. Using smooth side up
2. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling
3. Roll to cover filling
4. Fold in the two sides
5. Roll
6. Crepe is ready ...

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