Archive for the ‘Condiment’ Category

Oh my! Have I been away THAT long?

I guess I have, looking at my last post dated 27th July! My blog must have gathered a film of dust. Lol!

Last month was an extraordinary special month as it coincided with my Mum’s and eldest sister’s visit. The last time my Mum was in Belgium was in 2010! Actually, that year we had wanted to head for Asia, but Mum came first 🙂

Again, our plan to visit Malaysia in 2012 was ‘shattered’ as we were moving house then. Lots of packing, un-packing, cleaning, decorating and what have you going on *sigh*. And the clock ticked … it has been 6 years since our last trip to Malaysia in 2008…. My sons have grown from inquisitive little imps to cool teenagers 😉 Their grandma could not even recognise them!

Instead of chanting the usual mantra of being bogged down busy, I’d rather look at my MIA in August different 😉

August has always been a good month – school break, less traffic on the roads, less rain than in July (typical Belgium weather, on the average)… and… Mumsie’s birthday falls in August!

Going Greek but not in Greece!

I am not sure how many times we have been there, but Zorba has been our favourite pick of restaurant reserved for very special occasions, for instance, Mum’s birthday!

Four years ago, Mum had a Belgian birthday but this year, we went Greek.

By the way, it was the first time for Mum eating in a Greek restaurant. I knew she would be over the moon with the renowned Greek appetizer or starter, Meze, as she loves her seafood – a lot!

1. Tzatziki_Mum's birthday_Zorba_r
The big smile on her face tells all 😀

It was at Zorba that I started to get hook on the white and refreshing dipping sauce. That was some 15 years ago! The sauce came with the huge Meze platter. I asked the waiter (he was Greek, of course) what it was and he said it was a typical Greek sauce, Tzatziki. He even told me the ingredients that went in the sauce!

There are many variations in preparing a good Tzatziki. I’ve prepared this dipping sauce many times already and have changed and modified the ingredients to our liking over the years.

Here’s my version of the Tzatziki I made recently.

2. Tzatziki_dip

 

Ingredients –

  • 1 medium cucumber, coarsely grated
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more if you like your Tzatziki more garlicky)
  • Strained yoghurt
  • Fresh dill, coarsely chopped
  • Some fresh mint for garnishing
  • Salt (I used coarse sea salt)
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (traditionally Greek olive oil is used)

3. Tzatziki_method
Method –

  1. Wash the cucumber and grate it coarsely (Note, I did not remove the skin or the seeds). Remove the excess water from the cucumber with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside.
  2. Traditionally, Greek yoghurt is used, but since I could not find it at the Supermarket near my place, I used a tub of plain yoghurt. You need to strain the yoghurt to remove the whey or excess liquid to get that thick and creamy result similar to Greek yoghurt or sour cream.
  3. Chop lots of fresh dill. You may want to use fresh mint or parsley or a combination of one or more herbs. We love our Tzatziki with lots of dill!
  4. Puree the garlic with some coarse sea salt. Salt acts as an abrasive as well as a food enhancer. Set aside.
  5. Either lemon juice or vinegar may be used, but the Greek waiter told me it’s optional as the yoghurt is quite tangy
  6. Assemble all the above ingredients in a clean bowl. Mix and combine.
  7. Drizzle with some olive oil and serve cold with grilled meats, gyros, tortilla wraps or as a dip. Garnish with some fresh mint and dill. Yum!

4. Tzatziki_with grilled meat5. Tzatziki_tortilla wrap_r6. Tzatziki_dip sauce

I’m linking this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs challenge for the month of September. I’ve used lots of fresh dill and a touch of fresh mint in this recipe which I thought befits the theme, “Indian Summer & Mediterranean” very well. Enjoy!

Cooking with Herbs

I’m also sharing this post to Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking

 

Enjoy the rest of the week.

Cheers!

Avocados are definitely in season, especially the Hass avocados with their black, bumpy and pebbled skin. They are often sold ready-to-eat, and that’s how I usually buy my avocados.  Don’t be put off by the colour of the skin because the flesh has a nice smooth texture coupled with its nutty flavour. 

Guacamole_avocados

And counting …

I have lost track of the number of times I have transformed from the once-upon-a-time much loathed and boring fruit in my household to one of the most commendable and sought-after starter in recent years.

Guacamole_closed up

Guacamole_starters

Gosh!  It’s amazing that almost exactly two years ago, I posted Guacamole with a twist. It never failed to put a smile on my face each time I read the story.  I hope you will enjoy reading the story – yet again –  and the trick I used to transform the palates of my then very young boys 😉

Muchas Gracias!

We have to thank the Aztec ethnics of Mexico for introducing this simple yet magnificent dish!

Guacamole is an avocado-based mousse (sauce). The name is derived from two Aztec Nahuatl words, “ahuacatl” (fruit of the avocado tree) and “molli” (sauce).  It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with pestle and mortar with course sea salt.

With the evolvement of time, wealth and technology, the recipe introduced new ingredients such as tomato, onion, garlic, juice of lemon or lime, chili and coriander leaves. One ingredient that I do not understand why it should be added in a homemade guacamole is the mayonnaise or sour cream (one or the other)!

By the way, the guacamole has become one of the best known dips/condiments to go with corn chips (tortilla chips) and is available in all Tex-Mex eateries. In places where avocados are expensive, guacamole is considered a delicacy.

Making avocados child-friendly

Avocados ranked one of the tops on the “hate list” for children. It must be because of the bland taste and mushy texture. When I cut a slice of raw avocado and gave it to my sons for the first time, they said it was disgusting!

I was promptly challenged by their action.  My sons have put me to the test, without them knowing it.  The day they spitted out the freshly cut slice of avocado was the day I converted my boys!

Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients –

4 ripe avocados (I used the Hass ready-to-eat avocados)

Grated garlic (1 tsp or more if you like garlic)

Very finely chopped onion (1 tsp)

Very finely diced tomato (halved and deseeded)

Plenty of chopped fresh coriander (leave some whole leaves for garnishing later)

Juice of 1 lemon (or lime) or more to taste

Course sea salt (I ground these and added to the rest to taste)

Freshly milled black pepper

Small amount of chicken stock cube (not too much, please!)

Peeled pre-boiled grey shrimps

8 lightly sautéed or boiled tiger prawns (for garnishing)

Preparation –

Assemble all the ingredients together, except for the tiger prawns and some whole coriander leaves.

Mash the mixture with a fork.  Do not over-mash and please do not forget to check the balance of taste and flavour to your liking.

The trick to keep your guacamole green

Once avocados are cut and exposed to air, they discolour rather quickly.  Although the taste remains constant, the discoloured guacamole may not look too appetizing. One of the tricks I learnt to keep the guacamole green is by putting the seed of the avocado in the guacamole-mix. The lemon or lime juice also helps in avoiding the colour change.

Here’s my version of the guacamole, prepared as a starter.  No corn chips, but topped up with lightly sautéed tiger prawn. It has become a winner with my guys. I have fully converted my boys, on the same day they spewed the avocado piece. My younger son was then 3 years old!

Yes!  The thrill of victory! 😀

I’m definitely submitting this post to Bangers & Mash’s Mexican Month on The Spice Trail hosted by Vanesther Rees.

spice-trail-badge-square[1]

 

A blessed week everyone!

 

Cheers!

As far as I could remember, my late Dad was king consumer of any form of sambals. He liked his sambal with lots of heat. One of his favourites was sambal tempoyak, made with fermented durian.  Sounds yucky, but it was downright scrumptious, if you are a durian fan, that is *wink*

My Mum had to fulfill my Dad’s sambalish desire every so often. That’s when my Mum invented all kinds of sambal to her heart’s content. There was not a time when our house was not perfumed with the pleasantly pungent and acrid smells of the sambals.  😀

Have Sambal Will Eat…

Like my Dad, I love eating sambal, but I don’t think I could xerox my Mum’s noteworthy feat of sambal making.  My limitation comes in the form of my highly critical half.  His long nose could smell a rotten egg distance away 😀

But I want to eat sambal! Personally, this hot and spicy condiment makes the meal whole.  Arghh!!

I know I could buy these in the Asian stores, but none of the bottled ones could beat my Mum’s sambals.

Perfect Sambal

It was in 2010 when Mum came to the rescue.  That year, she and my younger sister came to visit us during the Summer hols.  I am really thankful to mummy dearest for this perfect sambal recipe.

I’m sure my hubs would not even know I cooked sambal in my kitchen.  His only remark the day I made the sambal was, “I smelled smelly feet”.  It was a fleeting remark and he continued tapping on his iPad.  Ha ha ha!

I’ve bookmarked my Mum’s perfect sambal udang tomato (prawn tomato sambal) since then.

A fresh guesstimate recipe

As with all genuine and authentic homemade (savoury) cooking by any brilliant and creative cooks, guesstimates are a norm.

There are no exact measurements in this recipe. As my Mum would say, “agak-agak” (guesstimate)

However, it is key to have all ingredients fresh. To conciliate with mortals who detest any form of “fishy” smell, this recipe does not use “belacan” (shrimp paste), but dried shrimps which are milder and camouflaged by the rest of the fragrant herbs and spices.

1. Fragrant sambal_dried shrimps
 
Ingredients –
My Mum’s agak-agak recipe – the Perfect Sambal for an anti-belacan omnivore 😀 
  • Plenty of tomatoes (I used 16 Roma tomatoes) – blend separately
  • Dried shrimps (I used 1 packet – soaked, removed water and dry roasted) – blend separately

Blended paste –

  • Handful of fresh chillies (I used 10 green chillies with seeds) – dry roast
  • Plenty of shallots (I used 10)
  • Quite a lot of garlic (I used 1 knob!)
  • Onion (I used 1 medium-sized onion)
  • Handful of kaffir lime leaves (hard stems removed)
  • Coriander roots (I used 8)
  • Fresh turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Galangal
  • Lemon Grass (I used 2 stalks)

The rest –

  • Cooking Oil
  • Lemon zest
  • Lemon juice
  • Tamarind juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Gula apong (I used palm sugar, to taste)
  • Chilli powder (I used 2 heap teaspoons – but this is optional – to taste)

Method – 

  • Sauté the blended paste in a heated wok with some cooking oil until fragrant.
  • Add the tomatoes and dried shrimps. Stir to combine and cook over medium-low heat
  • Add the seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, sugar, zest of 1 lemon and lemon juice)
  • The sambal will be ready when the tomato mixture becomes quite dry. This will take a good 4 to 5 hours.  I cooked my sambal for ca 4 hours!
  • Cool the cooked sambal and store in air tight jars

Voilà

2. Fragrant sambal_air tight

And by the way, here’s how I eat my homemade sambal.  That’s right… on crackers and toasts.  Damn YUMMY!!

3. Fragrant sambal_crackers n toasts10. Fragrant sambal

A picture is worth a thousand words!

4. Fragrant sambal5. Fragrant sambal

6. Fragrant sambal7. Fragrant sambal

8. Fragrant sambal9. Fragrant sambal

It has been quite a while since I linked up to LTU.  Seeing that this post matched with the March theme of using prawns, I’m thinking, “why not?”.  So here’s to Little Thumbs up using the ingredient, “PRAWNS” organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and hosted by Food Playground

th_littlethumbups1-1

I came accross this blog,  Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/ Luv  by chance via another blogger’s blog Ediblethings.  I’m a believer of using fresh ingredients, and, as much as possible, cooking from scratch.  So yes, why not?  Therefore, I’m linking this post for the first and defintely not the last time to  Made with Love Mondays: Week 31-07-2014 hosted by Javelin Warrior  

made-with-love-mondays[1]

I don’t normally publish a post every week, since time is not always on my side, and if I had the time and inspiration to write something, I will  check out Beth Fish Reads‘  Weekend Cooking – Thinking, Reading, Photographing

Weekend Cooking

Because I used all forms of fresh herbs and spices in my cooking, I’m hooked to Lavender and Lovage‘s blog. Although the herb, Rosemary is the main theme for March, I hope Karen will forgive me with this post.  I’m linking this post to the  March challenge for cooking with herbs

Cooking-with-Herbs-300x252

Enjoy the rest of the week!

Cheers!

There are many variations of acar, which is a sort of pickling the vegetables, usually with vinegar, salt and water (or brine).  The acar I was accustomed to was the localised version with more pungent flavours that would linger in our memory and tastebud for a long, long time.

As far as I could remember, the pickled cucumbers I grew up snacking were most popularly served at festive occasions, in particular, the Chinese New Year. I had mentioned in my post here, that this morsel of a dish is one of my many favourites.  Here’s how I like to nibble on my acar timun 😀

Acar Timun + Keropok = Marriage made in Heaven :-D

Acar Timun + Keropok = Marriage made in Heaven 😀

Those schoolgirl days…

I remembered having to rush after school, on the third day of Chinese New Year, house visiting my Chinese schoolmates and relatives.  I remembered my cousin and I eyeing for Aunt Maureen’s delicious acar chilli nyonya, stuffed with the most delicious and tasty filling of sundried grated young papaya, green chillies, dried shrimps and all the spices and pickling ingredients. Mmmmm….. yummy!

Then there’s the acar timun, which incredibly go so well with prawn crackers (keropok).  We were one satisfied customer and nothing else mattered, so to speak…

The crisper the better… S.W.A.T … and a miracle…

Making acar timun is not that simple as you think. It involves a whole lot of “physical” energy and strength.  A connoisseur of the finest tasting acar timun could distinguish between a top notch nosh and a badly made one.

The crisper the vegetables the superior the taste of the acar timun” seemed to be the chanting phrase from any acar timun addict.

To make the crispy effect, the vegetables need to be cut in strips or julienned and then sprinkled with some salt and let stand in a colander for at least 2 hours or until the vegetables become limp and water dripping from the colander.  The subsequent step involved S.W.A.T – Special “Weapon” And Tactics.

I have heard of several artistic ways of making the vegetables crispy.  One of my classmates Mum actually used the back tyres of her car to squeeze out the excess water from the salted vegetables, but of course packed in strong tea towels or even sarongs! The more common method is simply drying the vegetables under very hot sun, and making sure that every portion is tossed and turned to completely dry out the vegetables.

And by the way, my S.W.A.T is my bare hands.  I must have soiled and damaged at least two new tea towels. LOL

The chilli. The salt. The onion, garlic. OMG!  My hands were screaming for life.  If you’re at it, there was no turning back.  I could use a pair of gloves, but I did not, however, a miraculous thing happened to me. A wart that I had since I was a child on one of my fingers was completely gone as a result of the wringing madness.  I kid you not!

Here’s my version of Acar Timun (Pickled Cucumber) adapted from the cookbook “Traditional Malaysian Cuisine:  A Rich Selection in Culinary Heritage”

2. Acar Timun_Traditional Malaysian Cuisine

Ingredients –

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 8 dried chillies
  • 8 shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cm piece ginger
  • 3 candlenuts
  • ½ cup dried shrimps
  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ cup vinegar (I used the Chinese white wine vinegar, to taste)
  • 3 ½ Tbsp sugar (to taste)

Method –

  • Cut cucumbers and carrot into 2 ½ cm strips. Cut the red chillies into 5 cm strips and the large onion into 5 cm wedges.
  • Sprinkle salt over the cut vegetables and let them stand for at least 2 hours.
  • When the vegetables are limp, wash away the salt and spread them on a clean tea towel in a cool place to dry. (After which I wring out the excess water with my bare hands)
  • Grind together the chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger and candlenuts.  Pound the dried prawns.
  • Heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds for ½ minute before adding in the ground ingredients and turmeric powder. Fry for another 5 minutes.
  • When the oil separates, add in the dried prawns and continue cooking for another 3 minutes before adding the vinegar and sugar.
  • Cook slowly until the mixture is fairly thick. Add in more salt and sugar if necessary.
  • Stir in the prepared vegetables and toss quickly to mix well. When the vegetables are well mixed with the spices, remove the pan from the heat.
  • Cool slightly before storing in clean, dry jars. (I used sterilized airtight jars)

 

Chinese rice wine vinegar (white)

Chinese rice wine vinegar (white)

Evenly cut strips of cucumbers and carrot

Evenly cut strips of cucumbers and carrot

Salted strips of cucumbers, carrot, onion, garlic and chilli. Let stand for at least 2 hours

Salted strips of cucumbers, carrot, onion, garlic and chilli. Let stand for at least 2 hours

Wash away salt. Squeeze and wring out excess water.

Wash away salt. Squeeze and wring out excess water.

Cooked spiced ingredients

Cooked spiced ingredients

Toss in wringed dried vegetables

Toss in wringed dried vegetables

Stir and mix well with the cooked spiced ingredients.  That's it!

Stir and mix well with the cooked spiced ingredients. That’s it!

My acar timun - the way I like it.  YUMMY :-P

My acar timun – the way I like it. YUMMY 😛

To end my “GINGER” post for the blog hop-over event, I am submitting this write-up to the following –

th_littlethumbups1-1

Cook Your Books

See you soon 😉

Cheers!