Monday, September 27, 2010

Tagine cooking

If there was a Nobel prize for a kitchen appliance, I would vote for the person who invented the Tagine! For the uninitiated, Tagine is a clay dish with a cone shaped lid traditionally used in Moroccon cuisine.

Tagine actually refers to the cooking process, the vessel and the dish all in one. The ingenuity of this process lies in the infusion of flavours slowly cooked in this "oven" without allowing any steam to escape. Trust me,the flavours of any dish cooked in a tagine is highly intensified and moisture is retained leaving the meat moist and tender.

It must have been the SBS Food Safari program that introduced me to the Tagine and I instantly fell in love with its beautiful terra cotta colour and elegant shape. I went out and bought my first tagine the very next day and I have since made it a point to cook a tagine dish at least once a week. Unfortunately, my dear Amir broke the conical lid and I now use the base for decoration in my kitchen.

Its been quite a long search and I was getting desperate for a replacement as we have been without a Tagine for nearly two months. The hubby was hinting that he misses his favourite weekly Tagine. So I ventured out today to Myers and lucky for me, they had this cute red Tagine for sale at half the original price!

The top photo is my new Tagine and the one of below is the older tagine which has served us well.

I have tried cooking both lamb & chicken recipes and both are equally delicious. I'd like to think Tagine cooking is very healthy as very little oil is used.
Here is a simple Tagine recipe that I often use. I actually got this recipe booklet along with the first Tagine that I purchased.

Just a little tip, when you are looking to purchase your tagine, may I recommend choosing the base that is deeper, so when you cook your dish, it will be able to hold more gravy and it will not spill over as most tagine dishes uses at least 1-2 cups of water.

Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas & Capsicum

250g canned chick peas
8 pieces chicken
2 red capsicum ( chopped)
4 fresh sweet chilies (deseeded & chopped)
2 tbsp Olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/2 ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
250 ml water


Heat oil in Tagine, add garlic, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt & pepper and stir. Add chicken pieces and brown chicken on high heat.Add chickpeas, capsicum & water.
Cover and bring to the boil, lower the heat and cook for 45 minutes.

Uncover tagine and simmer for another 10minute and serve with rice or cous cous.

Note: one of the tips I picked up from the SBS Food program was the chefs in Morocco actually soak the chicken pieces in vinegar and salt for 10-15 minutes, this makes the chicken tastes better as it would get rid of any bacteria & actually firms up the meat. Once you are done soaking the chicken ,you have to rinse with cold water just to get rid of any traces of vinegar.

Lamb Curry

I remember the first time I started work, it was an international food week at the office. I decided to cook my family favourite, the lamb curry and three years later, my mates at the office still talks about that plate of curry I brought with me. And so tonight I meticulously measured the spices required for this mix for my friends so all they need to do is use the premixed spice when cooking their lamb curry...what are friends for right?

Rogan Josh literally means Red Curry and the deep red colour is achieved from the tomatoes. The curry is very versatile and can be served with plain rice or biryani or with the Malaysian Roti Jala/Lacy Crepe (I will post the recipe for this soon).

So here is the recipe and do enjoy!

Lamb Curry: Rogan Josh

* Around 500 grams lamb/beef curry cuts
* 1 tsp minced ginger
* 1 tsp minced garlic
* 1 teaspoons salt.
* 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
* 3 teaspoons garam masala
* 2 teaspoons ground coriander
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 2 dessert spoons of plain natural greek style yoghurt
* 1 teaspoon of red chillie powder (more if you like it hot)
* 2 medium onions - finely chopped
* I can of peeled plum tomatoes

Throw in the finely chopped onions and stir fry until the pieces start to go soft and translucent. Then add in garlic and ginger and keep stir-frying.
Then add all the quantities of ground spices and keep frying - the mixture should be dry-ish - and this is called "dry-frying" - or "pot-roasting". Fry for a few minutes until the heavenly aroma fills up your entire house - and then add the chunks of lamb. Keep stir-frying!

You should stir-fry for around 5 mins on high heat until the meat has fully browned. Then throw in the tinned tomato.

Stir it all about and let it cook for a few mins before adding a couple of large dollops of plain natural yoghurt. Stir it all in and then put the flame on high to bring it to a boil.

Then put the lid on and immediately transfer to the lowest possible flame burner. Come back after half hour - take the lid off and give it a stir - and then put lid back on and let it simmer for another half hour. Repeat this for around one and half hours - and you will notice that the consistency of the mixture is a bit thicker - and the colour is bit redder/browner .

At this point it's done! Taste it in order to see if any more salt or chillie powder needs adding - and make sure that the lamb pieces are tender - not chewy! Then sprinkle on a generous handful of freshly chopped coriander leaf and stir it in. Let it rest with the lid on for 5 minutes and it's ready to serve!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seafood Paella recipe

The Pakistanis/Indians have their biryanis, the Jordanians with their Maaqloobah & there's Bukhari rice which originated from Arabia. All these are basically rice dishes slow cooked with meat/chicken/fish and a variety of spice mixes closely guarded and handed down through generations.

The Spanish version of rice in spices is called Paella and if you click the title, it will link you to a very simple Seafood Paella recipe. I had prepared this tonight; using a piece of Mackerel steak cut into cubes and frozen Marinara seafood pieces as I did not have fresh mussels or prawns.

The best thing about Paella is probably the crust, where all the flavour settles and the spices are intense. Compared to the other meat and rice dishes, paella uses only two spices Saffron and Paprika and yet the flavour is rich and the aroma is so inviting.

Paella recipes actually varies from region to region in Spain. Regardless of which recipe you may use, the end result is always a winner!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thai Chicken Stir Fry

This is one of my favourite recipes because it is really easy to prepare yet so delicious especially when served with plain rice.

I actually timed myself when prepping the ingredients. Chopping up the fresh ingredients took only 5 minutes and chopping up the chicken pieces another 2 minutes.

Add another 5 minutes for cooking time and you have your dinner under 20 minutes flat.

I normally have these basic ingredients in the pantry. So I dont really need a trip to the supermarket. Kafir limes leaves are best kept in the freezer in a ziplock bag, and it retains its flavour up to a year (trust me, I have tried it). I don't normally freeze lemongrass as I have plenty in my backyard.


1 stalk lemongrass - chopped 1 cm
1 large onion - sliced
1 cm ginger - julienned
1 clove garlic - sliced
1 fresh chili - sliced and de-seeded
2 tomatoes - quartered
400 gm chicken pieces
5 pieces of kaffir lime leaves
3 tbsp oil
!/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

Heat oil on high and stir fry all ingredients except chicken and tomatoes until onions are translucent. Add chicken pieces and fry until chicken is cooked through ( 3-4 minutes). Add 1/2 cup water and tomatoes. Heat through and add fish sauce if available. Serve with white rice.

Note: You can shorten the cooking time if you wish to just use Tom Yam Paste instead of the fresh ingredients.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Never forgetting my roots

I am always trying my best to instill in our kids that we are first and foremost Malays, no matter where we are. Never to forget our roots, our heritage, our culture, values and beliefs. Part of that culture is of course the food that we eat.

For the uninitiated, Malay food is often prepared with lots of onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric and sometimes galangal. Lets get to know these three commonly used roots/tuber. I will not elaborate on the health benefits of these tubers as you can easily wiki/google them and read for yourselves.

As far as flavours, the ginger (halia) is used to spice up curries, rendangs, or even in drinks, evident in the famous teh tarik halia (ginger flavoured milk tea). I will share with you a ginger tea recipe that is both yummy and very good for your digestive system. Ginger can be kept up to 2 weeks or more in the refrigerator.

The turmeric or "kunyit" in Malay is commonly used in powder form for coloring in curries, for marinating meat or fish and one of the most important ingredients in the famous Masak Lemak Cili Padi (Turmeric in Coconut Gravy). Turmeric leaves are also used in rendangs, or used in grilling fish and a variety of dishes for its unique flavour. Similar to the turmeric root, it can be kept in the fridge up to 2 weeks or even more or longer in the freezer.

Last but not least is the galangal or the Malay word is "lengkuas", which closely resembles the ginger in appearance but not its flavour. It does not keep as long because it tends to dry and harden within a week in the fridge. Also used in dishes like laksa johor or kerutuk daging/ayam. Do not throw out your galangal when its hardened. What I do is grate then root and you get powdered galangal which serves just as well in curries and does not lose its flavour.

So here is my favourite ginger tea recipe:

Spiced Ginger Tea

1 stalk lemon grass cut the tip leaving the white part
1 stick cinnamon
1 clove
3 cm ginger, peeled and sliced

Simmer in a pan with 4 cups water for 10 minutes. Serve hot with honey.

Enjoy your cuppa!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Roast Chicken

Everyone loves a good roasted chicken....I know I do. Even the roasted chicken at Coles has tempted me more than one occasion..LOL! Which is motivation enough for me to try the multiple roasted chic recipe on the web..Last night was no exception..felt like a roasted bird dinner and lo and behold this one from Emeril Lagasse caught my eye for its simplicity and ease to prepare. I had to add my fave veg, the sweet potatoes as I noticed the baking time of 40 mins is the usual time I take to roast my sweet potatoes to perfection.

A tip for those who wish to try this recipe. Do leave the skin on the potatoes as it turned out the "naked" potatoes forms a crust which prevented the juices to be absorbed. Left the garlic cloves unpeeled too, but sliced on top. The flavours of the basil & lemon is a definite winner and as I didnt have any fresh rosemary, I just use my Masterfoods Tuscan spices which was sent to me compliments of Masterfoods (I received a box full of Masterfoods goodies from the folks at Mars food....thanks Glenn!)

Click the link as the title and you will be taken to the recipe at the Food Network website. This one is definitely a keeper! And BTW, I omitted the wine as I don't normally cook with alcohol. I didn't think it needed it anyway!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Almond Cookies

We celebrated Eid a week ago but I am still in a festive mood. Besides having plenty of rendang, ketupat, satay, laksa johor, lontong and the likes, my sweet tooth yearns for one of my favourite deserts, the Greek wedding cookies or better known as Kourambiedes. I normally buy this at the market and kids just love this, except it is a bit pricey when I have to pay 10 dollars for a dozen. Off to google I go and got an easy enough recipe and tried this out for our Eid celebration. This mixture yields 5 dozens which is quite a lot, and I have put my personal touch to the original recipe as the original calls for raw almonds. I thought it would nicer to have the roasted almond flavour. The verdict from the family...."mom, this is better that the one we get from the market". I am a happy camper :)

Almond Cookies

500 gm unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp vanilla extract
*4 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup raw almonds
Pure icing sugar for dusting

Roast almond in a preheated oven at 150 C for 15 minutes. Leave to cool and chop in food processor until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Beat butter & sugar in an electric mixer until fluffy and white. Add egg yolks and continue beating. Remove bowl from mixer and add vanilla.
Add chopped almonds & mix well. Add sifted flour one cup at a time until dough does not stick and easily shaped.
Shape into round marbles and bake on a lined baking tray in a preheated oven at 160 C for 20-22 minutes until golden brown.
Leave to cool and dust with pure icing sugar.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Salam Aidilfitri/Eid Mubarak

It's the new moon of Syawal and its a day of celebration, a special day for all Muslims. I remember growing up, Syawal brings us scrumptious banquets of beef rendang, rice cubes (compacted rice boiled in palm leaves), satay & peanut sauce. Biscuits and sweets to feast on all month long. New shoes, new outfits, packets of money for us kids as gifts from visiting relatives. All of this possible by the grace of the Al-Mighty who showers us with His blessings.

Every year, my mum would prepare the mandatory rendang, alternating between chicken or beef from one year to the next. Its no surprise that Rick Stein named this the top ten curry of all times. The ingredients may vary from region to region in Malaysia but the kind that my mum prepares uses very basic ingredients, slow cooked to perfection and as my husband puts it so succinctly, "the taste of Raya (Eid) in one bite". So here it is the humble rendang for you to try.

Beef Rendang


2 kg beef or chicken pieces
500g onions
4 tbs chili paste
6 cloves garlic
4 stalks fresh lemon grass (chopped finely)
4 cm ginger
2 cans of 500ml coconut cream
2 tbsp salt
1 piece of turmeric leave or 2 pieces kaffir lime leaves(optional)
2 tbsp kerisik* (toasted coconut pounded)- optional


Blend onions, garlic, ginger, chilli paste and chopped lemon grass in food processor.
Heat wok/scan pan. A non stick surface seems to work well as you would not need to keep stirring the gravy for the next 2 hours.

Pour one can of the coconut cream and stir on low heat until cream bubbles and oil surfaces (10 minutes). This method is a healthier alternative than actually adding processed cooking oil when caramelizing your spice paste. Some recipes calls for adding "kerisik" to the end of the cooking process. However, converting the coconut cream into oil achieves the same nutty aromatic flavour from adding the "kerisik".

Add the blended spice paste onto the oil and keep stirring until paste turns aromatic. Turn up the heat and add beef or chicken to sear and seal the meat in the spices.

Once all pieces are seared, turn down heat to medium. Keep stirring until juices are reduced and lower the heat and cover the pan until the lowest setting for 30-40 minutes to tenderize the meat and gravy is reduced to half.

Add the second can of coconut cream to the pan,mix well and cover the pan for another 30 minutes on low heat.

The gravy should be further reduced and the oil should separate at this point. It is really up to personal taste how "dry" you like your rendang. That's the beauty of this dish, it is good on all levels, and it keeps for several days as long as you keep re-heating it and the drier it gets, the more developed the flavour.

Add fresh turmeric leaves or kaffir lime leaves. Stir through.

Its good with plain rice, or rice cube, nasi lemak or my personal favourite; with a slice of white bread.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Father's Day Feast

Its Father's Day here in the land of oz. So, I asked Sam what sort of menu he would want for dinner. Seems like he is in a mood for simple good old fashioned Malay fare of Pajri Nenas (Pineapple Curry),Sambal Ikan Bilis goreng (Fried Anchovies in Chilli and Peanuts), Onion Omelette and Triple layer choc cake for dessert.

No problem, have done these dishes a thousand times but it will be my first time to try out Donna Hay's Buttermilk Choc Cake ( see earlier post for link to recipe).

So here's the recipe for the delectable Pineapple Curry/Pajri Nenas, always a winner!

Pajri Nenas

1/2 sweet fresh pineapple (or 1 can of pineapple)
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 curry leaves
I cup coconut milk
1 large green chili, sliced in two
1 packet of beef curry powder, mix with 1/2 cup warm water to create a paste
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon kerisik (coconut paste, see earlier post on how to make this your self or can be bought at Asian Grocers)
1 cloves
2 cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
1 star anise
Sugar & salt to taste

1. Heat cooking oil in a pot, fry the shallots, garlic, curry leaves, grated ginger & spices for 1-2 minutes
2. Pour curry paste in, stir vigorously. Let it cook for 5 minutes. You may add a little bit of water, but not too much. Don't worry if it looks too dry here as you will add the coconut milk soon.
3. Add in pineapples, green chili and coconut cream, stirring. Cover for 10 minutes or until the pineapple softens.
4. When pineapple is soften, add the kerisik (coconut paste), sugar & salt. Stir until it dissolves and cover, let it simmer until the curry thickens, about 30 minutes on medium heat.
5. Pajeri is ready when the curry has thicken. Serve warm with steamed rice.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The tradition around the later part of Ramadhan, when Eid-ul-Fitri, the celebration to end a month of fasting draws near is for mums to start baking cookies or goodies for this joyous occasion.

My mum is no exception, she would spend days in the kitchen baking, making cookies and the aroma that fills the house was a bit hard on a kid who is holding up her was not an easy feat, I must tell you. But the fruit of your patience is a sweet one...come iftar time, to savour those cookies is a welcomed treat.

I dont know about you but when posed this question, are you a sweets or savoury type of answer is a definite savoury!

So here's sharing with you my most favourite Eid-ul-Fitri delight/snack, the rempeyek - peanut in a crispy batter topped with anchovies and spices.

125 g rice flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp whole cummin seeds
1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds
2 cups anchovies
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 partially roasted peanuts

Mix all the ingredients together except for the peanuts and leave batter to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a small pan until its hot, scoop half a ladle of batter, add some peanuts & top with 1-2 anchovies to the batter.
Pour batter into oil in a circular motion, let batter set before turning to fry the other side. Snack can be removed as soon as it has hardened, need not to be golden brown cos it has to be browned in the oven.
Repeat making the snacks and when all is done, brown in a 180C pre heated oven until they are golden brown and crispy.