Saturday, December 30, 2006

blog maintenance.

because not only have i just gotten back online, but also that we've switched to the new version of blogger, i'd be running some maintenance tasks in terms of site formatting, etc.

bear with us if it gets a bit messy.

ETA: 02 0027 Jan 2007 Tues.
i have more or less finished adding the tags to the last few entries, etc. tags are not provided by blogger, so will now only be used as a comprehensive index for the recipes we're sharing.

hope everyone's having a better new year than i'm having so far.

Pork Rib & Lotus Root Soup.

Pork Rib & Lotus Root Soup.

it's now ascertained that moving house is nothing if not a bitch. after what seems like forever, i've finally got myself more or less settled into the new place in the city. plus, i bought me some new kitchenware to celebrate the move; am now a proud owner of (among other things) a handheld food processor and the loveliest TEFAL wok! not to mention i'm absolutely in love with the new kitchen, pity the dishwasher doesn't really work.

anyway, back to today's dish!

personal history.
this is one of my favourite recipes, something passed down to me from my grandmother. it's arguably one of the few dishes of hers that i enjoy over-eating since i was a kid.

in general, the dish is quite a common sight in chinese families. however, what i've learnt from many of my friends is that most of their families and in fact hawkers leave the soup in its 'natural' flavour. my grandmother swears by a bit of rock sugar, and for that i think she rawks!

500g, pork ribs (much of the flavour comes from the bones)
200g, lotus root (washed and sliced)
1.5 cup, dried red dates
1.5-2 cup, raw peanuts
1.5 cup, chinese lycium
1 cup, rock sugar
a few cups, hot water (enough to drown all the ingredients)

Pork Rib & Lotus Root Soup: Ingredients.

Additional Notes On Ingredients
1) my grandmother says that fresh young lotus roots give the best taste; i'm resorting to freeze-pack ones from the local asian grocer's because i can't find lotus roots around here.

2) sometimes my grandmother adds dried longan as well. if you're a fan of the taste of longan, halve the amount of dates and replace that half with longan.

Special Crockery
i'm using an electric crockery pot for this dish because it takes time for all the ingredients to break down. give it at least twelve hours in the crock pot, although i normally go for twenty-four.


Step 1-and-only-1: Toss it all in!
too simple! drop the porb ribs to the bottom of the pot, then followed by the rest of the ingredients, try to leave the roots for last. pour the hot water into the pot, cover and let it cook on high for at least twelve hours. when it's ready, the aroma of the soup will naturally fill the room.

Pork Rib & Lotus Root Soup: Cooking in Crock Pot.

when it's done cooking, you'd see that the soup and most of its ingredients turns a dark umber. the peanuts and dates normally continue to float in the soup.

Final Serve.
the dish is best served alongside some steamed rice. because there's meat in the soup, there's really not much of a need for additional sides to go with.

Pork Rib & Lotus Root Soup: Final Serve.

More Notes
if you're not a fan of rock sugar, you might want to taste the soup before adding any rock sugar to the mixture. this is best done at the half-way mark (i.e. twelve hours, in my case), so that you give the sugar some time to infuse with the other ingredients, and vice versa. alternatively, you can omit the rock sugar altogether because the lycium, dates and longan are all by right natural sweeteners.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rawker's Lasagna

For the Rawk stars.

In celebration of finally recieving my care package from home (some of it at least), I made Lasagna (its one of the toughest words i've ever had to spell).

Its very simple to make and very yummy.

Took about 45 mins in the oven.

Actually, I made it because I had too many peppers, potatoes and cans of tomato in the kitchen.
We could/should call this series of posts "What to do with canned Tomato, green peppers and onions". or "same ingredients many dishes".

You make sauce and roll with it.

3 sheets of lasagna pasta (i used the pre-cooked kind)
1 large white onion
1 large green bell pepper (capsicum)
1 can of plum/chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
25g of butter (about 1 cm of the stick)
250g minced beef
Worcestershire sauce
Tomato Ketchup
Salt & black pepper to taste.
a dash of italian herbs
1 block of cheddar cheese (this is imprecise. its more like, as much cheese as you'd like)

optional side dishes:
9 really small potatoes (3 per person)
3 portions of french beans


Step 1: Pre-heat your oven
200 degrees celcius. just turn it on.

Step 2: Prepare the vegetables & meat & cheese
Wash and chop up the onion, and green pepper into little cube sizes/squares.

Marinate your beef with a liberal sprinkling of herbs and salt and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and mix evenly. leave aside.

Slice your black olives into little "O"s and leave aside.

Shred your cheese. as much as you'd like. you'll be using this to stick everything together!

Step 3: the Sauce
This is kind of like making a pasta sauce.
melt the butter in your pan, and saute your onions and green peppers till tender, then throw in the beef and stir it around till the beef seperates in to mince and browns, then pour in your can of chopped tomato and sauce.
stir in some tomato ketchup, enough to cut the sour of the tomato juice in the pan. (taste it)
add salt and pepper to taste.
let the sauce simmer and then take it off the heat.
It should still have liquid.

Step 4: Layer!
I used a bread tin.
pour in a layer of the liquid (just the liquid) from your sauce into the bottom of the tin.
this is to prevent sticking.
then place a piece of pasta over the liquid.
now add a layer the beef and vege. and a layer of cheese.
and so on.
you might need to gauge how much to layer visually.
just remember you're making 3 layers and the top most layer will be cheese. not pasta.

now, on the top most layer of beef and vege, layer on the black olives.

it should look like this:

Please note that the last layer of cheese only goes on in the last 15 mins of baking.

Step 5: Bake!
Your tin should be filled and ready to bake, sans the last top layer of cheese.
put it in your preheated oven for about 30 mins.

and after 30 mins, take it out, top off with cheese to melt and brown on top.

it should look ike this:

Optional Side dishes:
throw the potatoes in the oven and bake them along with your lasagna.
boil and drain your french beans in water and a sprinkle of salt. (for health)

Final Serve
Getting the lasagna out of the pan is ... tricky.
cut 3 even portions and use a spatula to lift the lasagna out of the tin.

plate and serve with your sides of choice.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Money Issues

d. said i should mention how much i spend when i cook. because, apparently, i do it for really cheap and it looks ... not so cheap.

hm. go figure.

well, on average, i spend a little over or under 1 pound to feed 3.5 people (out of four, one's a small eater.)

here's some cost breakdowns:

a can of peeled tomatoes with sauce - 15 pence
a can sweet corn - 13 pence
5kg of potatoes - 1 pound
1.5kg of onions - 60 pence
1kg rice - 1 pound
1 packet of wholewheat pasta - 23 pence
1 box of mushrooms - 1 pound
1 packet of frozen french beans (or frozen vegetables in general) - 80 pence to 1 pound
1 can of black olives - 50 pence
400g minced beef - 75 pence
1 tray of 8 chicken whole thighs (thigh+drumstick attached. big) - 5 pounds
1 tray of 12 cuts of pork - 5 pounds

the meat is cheaply bought at the wet market. they sell them as a whole tray and are generally, not the best cuts of the meat (as in , the pork comes with a big piece of bone attached) and i figure, meat is meat is meat. its what you do with it that counts.

so we make bak kut teh with the bones.
and cut the rest of the meat in chunks or slices.

i have to de-fat the (fatty) chicken myself and seperate it from the thigh and that bit of leg that they left behind after chopping the feet off and lop off the 'bishops nose' (chicken butt).

basically i have to do a bit of knife work.
but it all turns out fine.

don't use a lot.
don't over cook.
less is more.
quality over quantity.


i also shop at england's Wal-mart alternative, ASDA ... cheap food in general.

house brand type food with no picture on the label.
just the words.

i know it sounds gross, i thought so to and refused to touch the stuff for a while.

but i've actually tried the stuff with and without labels.
SOME stuff is gross. THOSE you avoid like the plague.

but in general, its the same. you basically save money, because they don't spend on packaging and fancy color printing. is all.


'cheap' is relative.

i think i'm doing moderately well with the money. sometimes i feel i might be overspending.


go figure.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tangy Oven Baked Salad with Steamed Chicken

We've been trying to eat healthy.

This is ... somewhat healthy. I have a little butter in it.
It could be taken out or substituted. (actually, this dish requires no oil whatsoever. the butter was put in for ... flavor. but I'm sure it'll do just fine without.)

1 large white onion
1 large red pepper (capsicum)
5-8 small white mushrooms
2 cups of french beans
1/2 can cream of chicken soup
1 lemon
15g of butter
3 chicken breasts (or thighs)

black pepper to taste.


Step 1: Pre-heat your oven
Switch on your conventionial oven and pre-heat it at 190-200 degrees celcius for about 15-20 minutes. or however long you'd take to prepare all the other ingredients.
(no science here, you really justwant your food to cook. so don't worry about it. just turn it on.)

Step 2: Prepare the vegetables
Wash and chop up the onion, capsicum and mushrooms, then throw them into a deep oven safe
pan (i used a bread tin), along with your beans and mix the vegetables up evenly.

Step 3: the Sauce
The resulting sauce of this dish is made up of the vegetable's own liquid as well, which will appear when they are cooked. so don't worry if it looks a little dry now.
pour in the 1/2 can of soup, letting it flow through the gaps, as well as the juice of the lemon (there is no need to mix it now, just make sure the liquids you have at this point are evenly spread over the top and flow though the gaps. we'll mix it later.)
and finally, slice the butter and lay over your vegetables.

Step 4: Bake!
Cover your vegetables with a piece of foil and shove it in the middle of the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes.

Step 5: Steam Chicken
For simplicity and health, i just washed the chicken, put it in a metal plate on a rack over a pot of water and steamed it with no marinate whatsoever. this will take about 20 minutes or so to cook (poke it to check it. the juices should run clear when its done.)

Step 6: Shred Chicken
Let your chicken cool and tear the chicken into lovely shreds to lay on top of your warm salad.

Final Serve.
The vegetables should be cooked and soft by now. Stir it up in the baking tin and add pepper to taste.

Serve warm on a plate and top off with chicken shreds.
I had some baked potatoes and just added that in as well.


warm food ... great in the winter :)