Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Toaster Oven Ribs

The secret to fall-off-the-bone ribs is a long, slow cooking process facilitated by an oven - which I don't have. What I do have is an oven toaster, which basically has two settings: on and off. But with an insatiable craving for pork ribs and a little kitchen hack knowledge, here's how you can make grilled pork ribs using a toaster oven...

Lest I get cried foul, I do have to add that this dish is finished off in the toaster. You'll need a steamer to cook the ribs first. And the meat won't fall off the bone, but it will be juicy and tender. The big pro to cooking this way is that your ribs will be done in half an hour, and not two.

Toaster Oven Ribs
Two pieces of whole pork spare ribs, or half a slab of baby back ribs (whichever is cheaper, duh)
One onion, sliced thin

3 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp worcester sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
(You could of course use store bought bbq sauce, but where's the fun in that?)

1. Mix marinade ingredients and divide in two portions. Marinade ribs in fridge for at least an hour using one portion.

2. Steam ribs for 10 min. In the meantime, preheat toaster oven. Grease oven tray with butter and layer with onion slices.

3. Baste ribs with second portion of marinade. Finish off cooking in the toaster for 10 min. Makes one serve.

Cost breakdown
Total cost: RM4 (One serve)
Pork ribs RM3
Onions and Marinade RM1

Tags: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Enchiladas are like wraps baked with lots of cheese, taco sauce and various fillings. I'm not sure if it a Mexican dish. After all, burritos are an American invention!

Not being a lover of kidney beans and meat, I was not sure how I would take to this but the good people at convinced me likewise! This is a fantastic recipe sans meat with plenty of sweet corn. Big yum and makes a great packed lunch.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

12 soft tortillas
1 red onion - diced
1 red capsicum - diced
1 zucchini - grated
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 large tomato - diced
310g corn kernels
400g kidney beans
200g taco sauce
3/4 cup tasty cheese

1. Heat oil in a frying pan, add onion, capsicum and zucchini and cook stirring for 3 minutes until slightly softened. Add chilli powder and cook for another 2 minutes.

2. Add tomato and cook until soft. Add the corn kernels, beans and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Remove pan from heat.

3. Grease a large baking tray and place about 3 to 3 and a half tablespoons of filling in the middle of 1 tortilla. To roll the tortilla, fold the bottom of the tortilla length-wise (it should look like you have a little half moon at the bottom of your tortilla) and roll tightly. Leave the top end open and place on the tray seam side down. Repeat until all tortillas are used.

4. Spread the taco sauce over the rolled tortillas fairly evenly. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until the cheese melts.


* Note: It takes a bit of practice to roll the tortillas without making it look like the Bride of Frankenstein spilled her guts. Be patient. If guts are everywhere, just spoon it into the top end of the tortilla and give the tortilla a bit of a shake. The trick is to roll it tightly so you won't have so much spillage.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, August 22, 2008

Soba Noodles with Tofu & Mushrooms

A recipe that unites my love for tofu, mushrooms and soba!

Extremely easy to assemble and a great winter warmer. Do note that you can use any mushrooms of your choice. Dashi Miso paste is available in Asian grocers.

Soba Noodles with Tofu & Mushrooms

(Makes 500ml of broth)

Mushrooms of your choice (Chinese, button, enoki, etc) - chopped
Dashi Miso paste
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
4 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 carrot (thinly sliced)
4-5 shallots (thinly sliced)
300g firm tofu (cubed and dried in paper towels)
Cornflour to dust
Soba noodles (cooked according to packet instructions)
Oil for frying

1. Make 500ml of broth according to the packet instructions. Simmer over medium heat.

2. Add the dark soy sauce, mirin, sugar, mushrooms, carrots and shallots to the broth. Leave to simmer.

3. Heat oil in a pan until hot.

4. Prepare a plate of cornflour seasoned with salt and pepper. Dip tofu cubes into flour and fry in pan until golden brown on both sides. Set aside on paper towels.

5. Assemble a steaming bowl of noodles: Place soba, a few cubes of tofu and pour broth over noodles and tofu to preference.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sweet Couscous

This recipe is unique in the sense that it is sweet and can be eaten as a meal or dessert.

Either way, it is extremely appealing for sweet tooths and cashew lovers; very filling and comforting on a cold winter night.

Sweet Couscous

250g couscous
150g sultanas
150g cashew nuts
50g butter
120ml honey
600ml boiling water
2 oranges (peeled) - optional

1. Place couscous and sultanas in a large, heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes until liquid is absorbed and sultanas are plump. Use a fork to separate the grains.

2. Heat a frypan, throw in cashews and stir quickly until roasted. Set aside.

3. Melt butter in a pan. Add couscous mixture and honey. Cook stirring well until heated through.

4. Serve pipping hot with pieces of oranges and roasted cashews.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Not-quite-Thai fish cakes

I was all psyched up about making Thai-style fish cakes, except when it came down to assembling it in the kitchen, I forgot the two essential things that made the fish cakes "Thai" - lemongrass and coriander. Still, it tasted pretty decent. Here's a shot of it alongside accompanying my pasta lunch.

The Not-quite-Thai fish cakes
500g white fish fillets (about 2 fillets)
1 onion
1 inch piece of ginger
2 small green chillis (removes seeds for a less spicy version)
Zest from 1 lime
10 mint leaves, chopped fine
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 egg
Oil for frying

Special equipment: Blender

1. Blend onion, ginger and chilli together into a paste. Drain of excess water and return to blender.
2. Add fish, fish sauce and eggs and blend to fine paste. Add lime zest and mint, mix well and refrigerate for an hour.
3. Shallow fry in hot oil at 200 degrees. Spoon 1 tbsp of the fish paste into the pan and press down with the back of your spoon. Fry until golden brown (approx 1-2 min on each side), drain well and serve. Makes 8-10 fish cakes.

Cost breakdown
Total cost: RM8.10++
Cost per serving: RM4.00++ (based on 2 serves)
Fish: RM6
Onion: RM0.30
Ginger and chillis: RM0.50
Lime: RM0.50
Mint: RM 0.50
Egg: 0.30


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kerang chowder

While was in the field I scored myself some local kerang or cockles which were quite huge - about three times the size of those you would normally get at the market. I suppose you could call them free-range kerang. In Singapore and Malaysia these are also called blood cockles, because they release a red liquid that is coloured by hemoglobin - yes, the same thing found in blood! I had a cup of good solid meat, so I decided to make a chowder out of it by adapting a vichyssoise recipe by Alton Brown. Make sure to thoroughly clean the mud-filtering cockles! Of course, you can use other edible bivalves available to you.

Kerang chowder

Meat from 1 kilo of Kerang or other shellfish (about 2/3 cup)
2 medium floury potatoes, diced into 1cm cubes
3 medium leeks, chopped
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
2 cups water or stock
Whole milk to taste
Special equipment: Blender/Food Processor

1. Kerang cleaning: Cockles are mud filters, which mean they should each be thoroughly scrubbed with a brush on the outside before they are sent to soak in slightly salted water for at least three hours. This will allow the molluscs to open up a little and let the dirt sink to the bottom. Steam the cockles for five minutes, de-shell and set aside.

2. Sweat the leeks with butter until tender, about 10 min in low heat. Add potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and continue to simmer for 30 min.

3. Run the soup through a blender with half of the kerang meat. Pulse until a smooth, thick paste.

4. Return soup base into pot and add remaining kerang meat. At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze your soup for later consumption.

5. To prepare: Heat soup portion with desired amount of milk - about two to three tablespoons does it for me. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 4 servings.

Cost breakdown
Total cost: RM6.10++
Cost per serve: RM1.50++
Potatoes RM1.10
Leeks RM1.50
Kerang RM3.50

Tags: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mamak squid

Inspiration for this fish came from the ubiquitous mamak stores in Malaysia. In KL, you can order your meat or seafood of choice to be deep fried to heart attack heaven. A 100-gram serving of squid set me back RM12. At home, I spent half of that to get four times as much. How? Buying your squid whole and cutting it at home really helps to bring down cost.

Mamak Squid
400g squid, cut into 1-cm rings (About 4 medium squid)
1 medium onion, julienned
1 tsp salt, tumeric, chili powder
Half a cup of flour
Oil for frying

1. Squid disassembly basics: Peel off thin outer skin, pull out head and tentacles, cut off tentacles just below the eyes (remove beak from tentacles and also discard head), remove plasticky quill-like backbone from main body. Chop body to rings and tentacles to bite-sized bits.
2. Season squid and onions in a bowl with salt, tumeric and chili. Cover and leave in the fridge for an hour.
3. Heat oil to 240 (C). Drain squid and onion mixture from excess moisture and then dredge lightly in flour. Deep fry until crispy, about two minutes. Drain and serve!

Cost Breakdown
Total cost RM4.20++
Cost per serving RM2.10++
Squid RM4
Onion RM0.20

Tags: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bocconcini & Tomato Pasta

Time to experiment with a new cheese!

Bocconcini is basically balls of young mozarella cheese soaked in water. Its not only yummy, its also a great source of calcium and iron. Its great to use in salads and even on pizza so just drain away the water and you're ready to go!

In this recipe (which I got from, I used bambini (baby) bocconcini which is half the size of the usual.

Bocconcini & Tomato Pasta

1 tub of baby bocconcini (220g) - halved
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
Extra Virgin olive oil
1 punnet of cherry or grape tomatoes
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon sugar
350g short pasta
Some basil leaves

1. Boil pasta.

2. While pasta is cooking, place the bocconcini in a large bowl with chilli flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well.

3. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add tomotoes and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Add sugar to the tomatoes and garlic and cook stirring until the tomatoes begin to wilt. Remove from fire and add tomatoes and garlic to the bocconcini.

5. By now your pasta should be done so add the pasta to the bocconcini and tomato mixture. Mix well.

6. Tear up some basil leaves (don't be stingy, basil gives the dish a very fresh crisp flavour and its really yummy) and toss well.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, August 08, 2008

Hokkien Mee

Depending on who you ask, Hokkien Mee has several incarnations. The Singapore version is a mixed seafood noodle dish fried then simmered in a seafood stock, invented about 40 years ago by Hokkien labourers. In Penang, it's a soupy prawn noodle dish. But its most commonly known incarnation (confusingly enough, found in Singapore as well) is a thick yellow noodles simmered in a black gravy. And very simple to make - although much of the flavour depends on the quality of the stock.

Hokkien Mee (serves 2)
1 packet (500g) of thick yellow aka Hokkien noodles
1 1/2 cup of homemade stock*
200g prawn, chicken, squid or combination (I used only chicken)
1 choy sum or spinach, chopped into large chunks
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp light soy
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp caramel sauce
Pepper to taste

1. Heat wok to high and mix stock with the oyster and soy sauces and sesame oil.
2. When mix starts to boil, add chicken pieces. When chicken changes colour, stir in noodles. Bring to boil.
3. Stir in caramel sauce. Reduce liquid by half, stirring constantly.
4. Add seafood, if using, and reduce sauce on high heat until there's only 20% of stock left or gravy becomes thickened to choice.
5. Turn heat off, mix in vegetables and serve immediately.

Cost breakdown:
Total cost: RM4.70++
Cost per serving: RM2.35++
Noodles RM1.80
Chicken RM2.50
Veggies RM0.40

* A seafood stock based on ikan bilis would be best. Stock cubes would be forgiveable.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tofu Don

A recipe dedicated to my love affair with tofu!

You can use silken tofu in this recipe, that is if you have a deep fryer. I found out that no matter how long you wrap your silken tofu in bundles of paper towels, it's really hard to dry out.

But if you're okay with facial injuries, then go for it!

If not, use the safer option: Firm tofu.

* Many thanks and love to Andi who created this recipe!

Tofu Don

320g firm tofu (cubed)
2 brown onions (sliced thinly)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably Kikoman)
3 to 4 eggs

1. Deep fry tofu cubes and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Pour the mirin, sugar and soy sauce into a bowl and mix until most of the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

3. Fry onions until fragrant and soft. Add tofu and half the liquid mixture.

4. Crack the eggs on to the tofu and mix quickly. When the egg is cooked, throw in the remaining mixture.

5. Serve with hot, steamed rice.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The $10 water filter

One of the most annoying things about living in Malaysia (as compared to Singapore or Australia) is that clean water does not come out of the tap. It's not drinkable, the colour's slightly off and if you leave it to settle for a while you can see sediment in the bottom. The kitchen tap has a water filter attachment to it, but I don't think it's been changed for a while so the water trickles q-u-i-t-e slowly. Rather than blow $50 - $200 on a filter that will last for up to six months, I took a cue from a couple of sites (see here and here) and cobbled one together for about $10. After a month of use, I'm happy to say that this filter removes all visible sediment from Malaysian tap water. =D

Interested? Here's what you need:
1. A large bottle that will be the chassis of the filter. It should have a narrow neck with a large body that can rest on top of your water collection jug of choice - I bought a 4-litre bottle of water, used the contents and recycled the bottle. It was the last bottle of water I ever bought!

Equal proportions (by volume) of sand and gravel. This is where the real filtration power lies. I also like to use different degrees of coarseness for both, so I have four layers of fine sand, coarse sand, small pieces of gravel and large pieces of gravel. Remember that the thicker the layers are, and the more layers you have, the more effective the filter is going to be. Where to get sand and gravel? They are literally lying around everywhere - I picked mine off from pits just outside my school. (You could also go to the beach - and it costs nothing!)

Cotton puffs

Coffee filter papers (entirely optional, see below)

Large pail and distilled white vinegar for disinfecting everything.

Once you manage to scrounge up everything in the parts list, it's time to assemble:
STEP 1: DISINFECT AND CLEAN EVERYTHING THOROUGHLY. Does the idea of relying on sand and gravel that you've picked out from the outside to give you clean water make you queasy? Me too, which is why the first step is to disinfect everything in a bath of water mixed with a little vinegar. The sand and gravel especially were soaked in disinfectant, then rinsed three times before thoroughly dried in the sun. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP.

STEP 2: PREPARE THE BOTTLE by drilling a small hole in the cap (that's where the water comes out) and cutting a large hole in the bottom (that's where water comes in - be careful of jagged edges and cover them with waterproof tape if they become a safety hazard). Disinfect these too.

Make sure the cap is securely screwed on and place the bottle - cap side down - onto the jug of your choice. Start with a opened coffee filter filled with cotton puffs into the neck of the filter. Wet the puffs and aim to create a level layer. Layer the sand and gravel with the finer grains on the bottom, followed by the coarser grains of sand, and then the small gravel pieces followed by the larger gravel pieces. I separated each layer of sand and gravel with a layer of coffee filters - I did this with the mind that I would one day have to change the sand, so the coffee filters would make my job easier.

STEP 4: FLUSH, TWICE. It's almost ready! Run the filter through two loads of water first to help the sediment settle and flush out any remaining undesirable elements. Only after that are you ready to use your nifty new filter.

REMEMBER: This filter only removes visible sediment from tap water, and not microbial elements. In the end, I still always boil the water that comes through the filter before drinking!


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Chicken & Mushroom Pasta Bake

First and foremost, I must apologise for the appalling nature of my photographs. I've don't have a digital camera so I rely on my 2 megapixel phone camera to do the honours!

Anyway, this dish is something I baked up out of curiousity and it turned out to be a fantastic winter-warmer. Lasts a good few days too!

The trick to this recipe is to use plenty of mushrooms. Also, make sure you use whipping cream as it takes away some of the richness of the dish.

Chicken & Mushroom Pasta Bake

3 to 4 chicken thigh fillets (diced)
1 1/2 to 2 cloves garlic (chopped and diced)
350g button mushrooms (sliced)
500g short pasta (penne, macaroni)
300 ml whipping cream
200g (or more) parmesan cheese (grated)
1 cup white wine

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cook pasta until al dante.

2. While pasta is cooking, season diced chicken with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Heat some oil in a pan. Fry up garlic until fragrant but not brown, then add in chicken. Stir fry until brown.

4. Add in mushrooms and white wine. Simmer over low fire for 2 mins.

5. Add in cream and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste then remove from fire and set aside.

6. Pour in cooked pasta into the mixture and mix well. Add in some parsley and 200g parmesan cheese. Mix well.

7. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish. Sprinkle with extra parmesan cheese on top and bake until golden brown.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button