Monday, June 30, 2008

Eggs with Curry Leaves

When I saw this recipe, I knew that it would taste good, because I have enjoyed the taste of curry leaves in other, Indian, dishes, I especially like the fragrance that comes when they are fried. We had no scallions, so we omitted those from the original recipe, I think it could only have been better than it did taste; we enjoyed it two ways, I ate it on bread, my beautiful Bride enjoyed it on rice.

Eggs with Curry Leaves
adapted from a recipe from Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp butter
1 tsp vegetable oil
5 to 8 fresh or frozen curry leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp minced ginger or ginger mashed to a paste
1/4 cup finely sliced shallots

Whisk the eggs in a bowl until very smooth, add the salt and set aside.

Heat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter or ghee and oil, and when the butter is just melted, add the curry leaves, ginger and chili and stir-fry briefly. Add the shallots and scallions, reduce the heat to medium, and stir-fry until the shallots are softened, about 4 minutes.

Beat the eggs briefly again, then pour into the hot pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and use a wooden spatula to gently fold the cooked edges of the egg in toward the centre of the pan. As the mass of egg starts to set, run the spatula under the central mass of egg and turn it over. Cook a little longer; the eggs should be just set but still soft and tender.

Durian Chips

We got a big package of stuff from Thailand, brought to us by a good friend from work, and the largest of the packages was this container of durian chips. Huge. Durian chips are similar to potato chips, they are made from mature durian, sliced very thinly, then fried in fresh vegetable oil until golden brown. For longer storage life, they are roasted in a hot air dry to remove some of the moisture.

My beautiful Bride loves these, and ate a bunch as soon as she opened them. They don't have a strong smell of durian, and, while they do taste like durian, it also is not a strong flavour, and I find that I like them too. I would think that they are better for you than potato chips.

Niagara Butterfly Conservatory

We were done in Niagara Falls this week, and spent a little time at the Butterfly Conservatory, located on Niagara Parkway close to the Falls. It's an interesting place, they have lots of gardens there, rose, herb, vegetable, and so forth, and in one heat-controlled building, there are hundreds of butterflies flittering around the tropical plants. Very interesting, and fun for kids who enjoy nature and animals, it's always a joy to see the smile on a child's face when a butterfly lands on them (well, some of them cry or try to squirm away). Here are a bunch of the more interesting pictures we took.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Banana Brownies

This should have been a no-brainer long ago, the combination of chocolate and bananas is my favourite in terms of chocolate fondues, bananas don't work so well in cookies, but why not in brownies. These turned out pretty good, tasty, though so far the texture is not dense, it's more crumbly than a traditional brownie, perhaps that's just the outside edges; later, as it cooled, it became more dense. I used the baby bananas instead of the larger ones, if you use those, then it's about 4 large bananas. Otherwise, very good. I enjoyed it with strawberry jam, as you can see.

Banana Brownies
adapted from a recipe by Michael Smith
1 lb. dark Belgian chocolate
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
4 eggs
10 ripe baby bananas
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cane sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 165C/325F.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water or double boiler.

In a separate large bowl, mash the bananas, then mash in the eggs.

Add the flour, sugar, cocoa and baking powder and stir to combine.

Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and stir.

Grease and flour an 8" by 8" baking dish and pour in the batter. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the brownies are firm to the touch.

Lindt Filled Eggs

These two seasonal eggs from Lindt were quite interesting, I "found" them again in my refrigerator the other day.

This one is filled with hazelnut praline and hazelnut pieces, with a milk chocolate shell. Very excellent tasting.

This one is filled with chocolate mousse. Not as good as the hazelnut one, but still very tasty.

Eggplant and Mushroom Curry

This is very similar to the Eggplant Masala we made recently, this one uses cumin seeds instead of black mustard seeds, does not have tamarind, and adds tomatoes. Still, it turned out fairly tasty, probably even better than the eggplant masala. You can use any kind of mushroom here, likely button mushrooms work best, but we had some King mushrooms left over. It is interesting how the slow addition of water to the onion spices mixture transforms it into a paste; each tablespoon of water bubbles up with the heat of the pan.

Eggplant and Mushroom Curry
adapted from a recipe from Six Spices by Neeta Saluja
6 Tbsp cooking oil, divided
8 ounces sliced King mushrooms
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

In a medium-size pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat. When oil is hot, add sliced mushrooms and eggplant. Stir-fry until vegetables start to turn brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Heat remaining oil in the same pan. When hot, add cumin seeds and stir for a few seconds. Add onions and garlic. Cook until they become soft, stirring often to prevent burning.

Stir turmeric, chili and coriander powders into the onions and garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of water at a time until all the water is used up and spices form a smooth paste.

Add mushrooms, eggplant and salt. Stir well with the spices. Cover, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked. Add tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ladna Goong Pla Tod

My beautiful Bride made me this wonderful dish the other day, it is one that she enjoys and has wanted to make for a while and finally decided to make. You can use any firm-fleshed sea fish for this recipe. I especially like the combination of flavours, the fish sauce, the soy sauces and the yellow preserved bean sauce. This recipe normally does not call for red bell pepper, she added it because she had some left over. Don't worry about the number of ingredients, it looks more complicated than it really is.

Ladna Goong Pla Tod
1 medium fish (seabream or red snapper), sliced into fillets, then cut into chunks
7 Tbsp oil, divided
a little paprika
all-purpose flour
300 g fresh flat rice noodle
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
15 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
3-4 coriander roots, mashed and minced
400 mL water
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp yellow preserved soybean sauce
1 tsp mushroom stock
1/2 tsp cane sugar
2 Tbsp corn starch, mixed with 3 Tbsp water
200 g Chinese broccoli, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
half a red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 egg, scrambled
ground white pepper
vinegar with chopped medium-sized chilies
flaked chili powder

Salt the fillet pieces, then dust with a little paprika. Coat with a little flour. Pan-fry the fish in a hot pan with 4 tablespoons of oil until done, about 8-10 minutes; set aside on plate with paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Separate the rice noodles if sticking.

Heat the pan on high heat; put 2 tablespoons of the oil in the pan when hot. Place the noodles in the pan with the dark soy sauce and stir-fry until noodles start to turn golden brown; set aside on plate.

Mix shrimp with oyster sauce; set aside.

Heat the pan on medium heat, putting the rest of the oil in the pan. When pan is hot, place garlic and cook until fragrant. Put shrimp and stir-fry until the shrimp turns red, about 3-4 minutes. Add the coriander roots and stir-fry for an additional minute. Add water and increase the heat to medium-high until it reaches a boil; add mushroom stock, fish sauce, light soy sauce, yellow preserved soybean sauce and sugar. Add cornstarch mixture and stir to thicken; this is the ladna gravy. Add Chinese broccoli and red bell pepper slices to the gravy; cook until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add scrambled egg, mix well with hot gravy (cooked egg will become thread-like). Remove from heat.

Serve by pouring the gravy over the noodles, placing the fried fish on top of the ladna gravy, or place in separate bowls and allow guests to take fish, noodles and gravy as desired.

Serve with accompaniments, if desired.

Sugar Apple

My first experience with this fruit the other week was with one that was over-ripe, sad to say; you can see the rind is very dark, where it would be greener when less ripe. This one came from Brazil, the ones I've seen that come from Thailand, called noi-na, are much smaller with a green and grey rind. Each segment of the fruit has an individual largish seed, you suck the flesh from it and spit out the seed. The flavour is kind of different, this one was over-ripe, so perhaps too "sugary", I can see why it has been described as tasting like custard (and is known as a Custard Apple in some places). I'm interested in trying it again, I would say, perhaps in Thailand, just ripened.

Hershey Extra Dark Indulgence Contest

I noticed another contest in one of those Dollar stores the other day, it was from Hershey, for their Extra Dark chocolate bar, and features a grand prize of a trip for two for a Spa vacation at the Fairmont Hotel in Banff, Alberta. Go to here to enter the contest.

Restaurant Review - Pho Big Bowl

Having seen this Vietnamese restaurant on Rogers Television's Cable 10 show Restaurantours, located at 2655 Liruma Road in Mississauga, west of Erin Mills Parkway and Dundas, and liked what dishes we saw, we decided to check it out. We had also gone to another Vietnamese restaurant before that, that we didn't like much, so we had high hopes for this one. And we weren't that disappointed, it was definitely better than the other place, a good Vietnamese restaurant but not a great one.

I ordered the Vermicelli bowl with B.B.Q. chicken, my beautiful Bride ordered the same thing but with B.B.Q. prawn and spring roll, and she was also in the mood for soup, so she ordered the Spicy Thai's Style Seafood with Vermicelli in Soup; this she didn't care for much. Mine was fairly good, I got handed the chicken from my beautiful Bride's dish, I couldn't eat it all, so we took some home. Overall, as I said before, it was fairly good, I am sure there are better dishes available (they featured the Beef Pho on the Restaurantours show), the menu featured a lot of the typical Vietnamese dishes that you can find in most Vietnamese restaurants, perhaps we will come back some time to sample them.

Scharffen Berger Bittersweet 70%

One of the chocolatiers that I have been meaning to check out, being recommended by Chloe Doutre-Roussell, is Scharffen Berger, makers of fine artisan dark chocolate. I've seen their many products in specialty shops, now their bars are in Shopper's Drugmart, this one is a Bittersweet bar, with 70% cacao content; there is no indication of the origin of the cacao. Like most good bars, the ingredient listing is small, unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (as an emulsifier) and vanilla flavour.

How does it taste? Pretty good, just good and simple dark chocolate with complex flavour, though I don't think this is a good eating bar, rather I would use it in baking to make a great cookie, brownie or cake. The scores where you break off a piece of chocolate are along the diagonal, odd, but certainly no effect on taste, and different than any other chocolate I've come across.

Strawberry Jam

Later, in the evening, in between the time I came home from work and the time I ate dinner, I made this strawberry jam. As Jamie would say, easy-peasy. The hard work is cutting off the little green leaves. Scrunching them with your hands feels kind of interesting, but you can probably use a potato masher if you want. What you get, is a thickened strawberry jam, that you can put on bread, mix with yogurt, drizzle over cake, lots of uses. Eat it quick, store leftovers in the fridge, likely though, this won't last long.

Strawberry Jam
adapted from a recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home
1.5 kg strawberries, already cleaned and the stems cut off
400 g cane sugar
1 vanilla pod

Put the strawberries in a large shallow mixing bowl. Sprinkle the cane sugar on top.

Mix until the strawberries are well coated with the sugar.

With your hand scrunch up the sugared strawberries until they turn into a rough mush and are still pulpy, and the sugar dissolves.

Slice the vanilla pod open with a sharp knife, then, with the edge of the knife, scrape out the vanilla seeds within. Add vanilla seeds to the strawberry mixture.

Pour the mixture into a sauce pan and bring to boil; turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any foam during the cooking process.

Let cool and place in a sterilized jars.

Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes

Having arrived late home, and there being not enough time to make this for the next day's lunch, I decided to waken a little early and pop this in the oven and go back to bed. Later, my beautiful Bride made some fettucini noodles to go with it. I love garlic, so a whole clove was great, roasted garlic is delicious, I enjoy it whenever I can. A quite easy to assemble meal, perhaps a long cooking time, so not for a rushed dinner, but, if you have the time, it's well worth making.

Tender and crisp chicken legs with sweet tomatoes
adapted from a recipe from Jamie's Dinners
serves 4
6 small chicken drumsticks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a big bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
2 big handfuls of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved, and ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
1 whole bulb of garlic, broken up into cloves
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Season your chicken pieces all over and put them into a snug-fitting pan in one layer. Throw in all the basil leaves and stalks, then chuck in your tomatoes. Scatter the garlic cloves into the pan and drizzle over some olive oil. Mix around a bit, pushing the tomatoes underneath. Place in the oven for 1-1/2 hours, turning the tomatoes halfway through, until the chicken skin is crisp and the meat falls off the bone.

Two "White Rabbit" Candies

My beautiful Bride wanted some of the creamy White Rabbit candies from China, and selected a bag just before we paid for our purchases; perhaps it was rushed.

She got this White Rabbit candy instead, from the Philippines.

A butter toffee, brown in colour, not white. The candies are not soft and chewy, rather hard, they shatter when you chew them. The ingredients are sugar, glucose, condensed milk, milk fat, vegetable shortening, iodized salt, lecithin and flavouring.

This is what she had wanted to buy, the Chinese White Rabbit candies.

You can see the candies are white in colour. These are softer and chewier, I like them better than the other White Rabbits. This has a better, at least shorter, ingredient listing - milk, sugar, glucose syrup and butter.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Win Lindt Chocolate for a Year!!

I was in Sears on Sunday, and I noticed that they had a large setup for Lindt chocolate, albeit it was hidden downstairs. One of cardboard displays had an information sheet for this contest currently running to win Lindt Chocolate for a year or a Lindt Chocolate Gift Pack. You don't need the information sheet, I'll tell you what it is. Go to Discover Lindt to enter. You need to give them your personal information, address and so forth, and you need to enter in 2 UPC codes from any of their family chocolate bars, the ones that are 100 g in size (though you don't need to actually buy one of their bars, but why wouldn't you, you can write down 2 UPC codes from any two bars). You can enter once per day per household, contest closes July 31st, 2008.

My definition of Chocolate for a Year is likely different than their definition, mine is much higher in quantity, and hopefully they send it in monthly increments, otherwise I'd eat it sooner than the year. Their definition comes out to about $1200 worth of Lindt chocolate, while the 2nd prize is worth approximately $100.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Square One Farmer's Market Opens

The Farmer's Market at Square One Shopping Mall in Mississauga, Hurontario/Hwy. 10 and Burnamthorpe, located in the Zellers parking lot, opens again this Friday, 6 June, 2008, and is open Fridays and Sundays 8am till 4pm till November 2. Come and check out the more than 150 farmers, locally grown fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers, baked goods, all kinds of good things. There are better ones out there, like the ones in Kitchener and Waterloo/St. Jacob's, but, for me, I can't beat the location, just up the street from me (as opposed to driving over an hour).

Update: We went there on Sunday, and there were hardly any vendors, nor many customers. There were early strawberries, rhubarb, lots of tomatoes and new potatoes, a fellow selling Fair Trade coffee, and one selling freshly picked mushrooms.

Nam Prik Pao (Thai Red Chili Jam)

Nam Prik Pao, called Chili Paste or more correct Chili Jam, is a spicy Thai concoction made from chilies and shallots and garlic, and normally is made from either grilled ingredients or fried ones. Once made, you can use it as a salad dressing, in hot and sour soups like Tom Yum, or in stir-fries. The finished product keeps indefinitely. I find it very spicy, so use with caution. As a point of interest, some Nam Prik Pao was involved in a Terror Alert in London, England, when the air around this Soho restaurant was infused with acrid smoke and chili, the area was evacuated and emergency personnel descended upon the restaurant, to find burning chili. Kind of funny.

Nam Prik Pao
4 tablespoons of Peanut Oil
6 - 8 cloves of Garlic
6 Asian Shallots
6 - 8 medium fresh Thai Red Chillies
1 tablespoon fermented Shrimp Paste
1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
2 teaspoons of Brown Sugar

Peel the garlic cloves and shallots and chop and crush them finely. Slice the chillies finely. Heat a frypan heat and add one tablespoon of the oil, add the minced garlic and shallots and fry briefly. Remove from the heat and scrape them into a bowl and set aside. In another tablespoon of the oil, add the chillies to the pan and fry until they just start to change colour, then remove them and set aside.

With a mortar and pestle pound the shrimp paste, add the chillies, garlic and shallots, blending each in before adding the next. Then over a low heat, return all the ingredients to the pan with the remaining oil, and fold until the mixture resembles a thick oily red/black paste, uniform in colour and texture.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

President's Choice Fig & Goat Cheese Blooms

This new appetizer from President's Choice intrigued me, mostly because it contains figs, a fruit I like, and don't get enough of. The season for figs is very short, three weeks or so, and they are normally expensive, so my opportunity to have some, other than Fig Newtons or such baked goods, does not come so often. Within the puff pastry shell, the fig topping, which seems overly sweet reading the ingredients, covers the filling made from cream cheese and goat cheese. Overall, these are quite tasty, a good appetizer, though I think that I would want to make them myself, or something similar, rather than buy these again. They are small, too, a mere mouthful.

Asparagus and Sweet Potato Curry

I like sweet potatoes, and my beautiful Bride likes asparagus (ok, most vegetables), so this recipe, found by my beautiful Bride, created a great and delicious curry dish. The spices and ingredients are Indian in nature, and work well with the sweet potato and asparagus.

Asparagus and Sweet Potato Curry
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp powdered turmeric
2 bay leaves
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can coconut milk
1 large sweet pototo, peeled, thinly sliced
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
salt and black pepper
cilantro to garnish

Warm coconut oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cook until seeds pop, 2-3 minutes. Add onion and saute 5-7 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, bay leaves and salt, and saute another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add tomatoes and their juices to food processor with metal blade and quickly pulse a few times to break them up. Pour tomatoes and coconut milk into saute pan with onions and spices. Fill coconut-milk can with water and stir well to incorporate any coconut milk that may have been left behind. Add to saute pan and mix well. Add sweet potatoes and simmer over low heat about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and sauce has thickened. Add asparagus, cover, and simmer 3-5 minutes, until tender but al dente. Remove from heat.

Salt and pepper to taste, garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately.

Dagoba Organic Lemon Ginger

This 2 oz. Organic chocolate bar from the American company Dagoba Organic Chocolate, which, according to their website, transforms "exceptional cacao into edible gold" using "Chocolate Alchemy", combines the citrus taste of lemon with the zing of crystallized ginger, though I don't think they do a great job with it. It says right on the package, 'a hint of lemon', certainly it is merely a hint. The crystallized ginger is good, but the pieces are few and far between, they should look to Green&Black's Ginger for inspiration (ok, perhaps I'm biased - I really like ginger!). The ingredient listing looks good, all Organic, dark chocolate (made of cacao beans, evaporated cane juice, cacao butter and soy lecithin), crystallized ginger and lemon. The cacao content is at 68%.

How does it taste? The chocolate is good, dark chocolate, but the bar is not gingery enough for my tastes, and the lemon was very subtle indeed. Too, it's fairly expensive, and small in size. I don't know that I would buy this bar again.