Desserts

Easy Baklava

Inspired by a cooking programme on Nat Geo People, I decided to just do baklava on a whim. Why? Because I had all the ingredients ready!

No measurements because everything was by gut and feel (and what I have at hand).

Ingredients: Phyllo pastry, nuts (pistachio, walnuts), sugar, butter, cinnamon.

I am just so surprised at how easy it is to make baklava at home! It won’t be the same as store bought one, but that’s even better because I can make it less sweet!

First, I processed roughly pistachio and walnuts. And then place them in a bowl, added 1/2 cup sugar, and one tablespoon of powdered cinnamon
Next step is to layer the nut mixture with the phyllo pastry. You have to cut the pastries to fit the size of your tray. I used a Pyrex glass tray. Make sure to generously spread melted butter on each layer of phyllo pastry. Use up all the pastry and the nuts.
Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into squares first before baking.
Bake in a 180 Celcius oven until golden. Once it is out of the oven, pour the cooled syrup all over and let it sit.
If you can see from here, I have been very generous with the nut filling.
You can see this generosity clearer here! 🙂
I actually served this instead of the traditional birthday cake for my niece’s 20th year birthday! 🙂

Ingredients:

Phyllo pastry

Melted Butter

Pistacho nuts

Walnuts

Sugar

Cinnamon Powder

For the Sugar Syrup

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of water

1/2 cup honey

2 teaspoon lemon juice

Asian Dishes, Poultry

Devil’s Curry

I first learnt this dish from my maternal aunt who had learnt it from her mother in law. It’s very hot but not in your mouth hot. The heat gets to you from the inside. Very visceral and if you follow the traditional Eurasian recipe, you will then put in all the leftover viscera into the dish.

What makes this different from the usual Southeast Asian curries is the liberal use of mustard seeds in the rempah (spice paste). And what makes this special in this region is also that it’s a dish the Eurasian usually cook for Christmas. And since my aunt had learnt it form her mother in law who grew up in a Christian family then, this makes it the most authentic recipe I can get from a family member.

With any sort of Malay or SEA cooking, there must be the rempah. Here I have 2 onions, a knob of ginger, a knob of fresh turmeric, 8 fresh red chillies, 7 candlenuts, a tablespoon of mustard seeds and about a cup of blended dried chilli paste mixture (dried chillies, garlic, onion). Blend all the above in a blender till very smooth.
As I’ve been making videos, I realise I forgot to take pictures too for the blog. But here is the first process. Fry an additional one tablespoon of mustard seeds in hot oil first and then add sliced onions. Here I just used leftover cubes white onions. Waste not want not. The thing about cooking Asian is that it’s always very forgiving. When the onions have softened add the blended mixture and let that mixture cook over slow fire. You’ve got to constantly mix it and even cover it because boy does it splatter!
And when the spice paste is ready (the oil will rise from the mixture and you can smell that the paste is cooked), it’s time to add the chicken pieces (which I’ve only lightly marinated in light soy sauce and browned) and potatoes. Cover with enough water and let it cook till tender.
After which, add sausages. I added beef frankfurters here. And lastly cauliflower florets.

The seasoning which makes this dish different is vinegar! Yes! Distilled white vinegar. I used about 10 tablespoons in total after constantly tasting till I get the right balance. Salt and sugar of course too.

For garnish I added red bird’s eye chillies. The very brave will actually eat that too!
And here it is. Devil’s Curry. So hot it really is devilish.
Asian Dishes, Seafood

Sotong Masak Hitam (Squid in Black Ink Sauce)

So I finally learned how to make this popular Malay dish. It’s a family favourite dish in most households and I always wondered why, growing up as a child, my non-Malay friends would ask about the black colour of the dish when they see it sold at Malay stalls. Fast forward to a young adult me, I kept quiet when so many of these hipster kids laud approval at the Italian squid ink pasta. Same same, no? 😏

I realise also that besides this being so simple to make (well, once you get all the spice mix blended), that squid in my market is so expensive! Good thing squid is high in cholesterol so I won’t be buying this often!

As with a lot of Malay cooking, the first step is the spice mix or blended ingredients. Here, I have my blended dried chillies, blended onions, blended garlic, blended ginger and I used turmeric powder because I was too impatient to make the entire thing from scratch. Fry the blended paste in oil with two bruised lemongrass till the oil rises. Slow and steady cooking – don’t burn the mixture!
These are the ink sacs from the squid. As you’re cleaning the squid, carefully remove the ink sacs and set aside
Once the chilli and friends mixture has fully cooked, add the squid rings and cover. The squid will release a lot of moisture which will form your gravy later.
When the squid is cooked and very tender, add the ink sacs. Immediately, you’ll see the dish turning black. I added a kaffir lime leaf earlier too. Also, add about half a tablespoon of tamarind paste, and then salt to season.
Lastly, add tomato wedges and slit whole green chillies for some colour contrast. It’s very delicious eaten with jasmine white rice. Try this dish if you’re feeling adventurous!

Recipe

Blended Ingredients:

1. 10-15 dried chillies, soaked

2. 2 Bombay onions

3. An inch of ginger

4. 3 cloves garlic

5. An inch of turmeric (use powder if fresh is not available)

Others:

6. 2 lemongrass, bruised

7. Kaffir lime leaves

8. Tamarind paste

9. Salt to taste

10. Green chillies and tomatoes for garnish

Main star:

11. Fresh squid, cut into rings

Method:

1. Add sufficient oil in a pot and throw in the lemongrass

2. Add in the blended paste and fry till the oil surfaces (mixture must be cooked. Smell to ensure no raw smell of the chillies)

3. Add squid rings. Add kaffir lime leaves. Cover and cook squid.

4. Add squid ink sacs

5. Add tamarind paste, season with salt to taste

6. Add the green chillies and tomato wedges

Asian Dishes, Meat

Rawon

So I finally made Rawon myself! I had to go to the wet market to get my buah keluak. Remember that poisonous Indonesian nut that if not properly processed is deadly? Well, the east way out for me is to get from the stall owner ready processed ones! 🙂

These are the nuts (in the plastic bags hanging). The black stuff which is like gold to the Malays or Peranakans are inside. I’m not sure if the ones sold in markets in this form are ready to use.
These are the black nuts. I bought from the stall owner for only two dollars (SGD) and it was enough for one pot. It’s definitely an acquired taste but the Malays/Javanese blend this fine to make the Rawon dish.
So the base is this dish is blended onions, dried chillies, garlic, ginger, coriander powder, fennel powder, cumin powder and the black nuts. Blend till very fine. In a pot or in my case, a pressure cooker, cook the blended paste till the oil rises. The smell coming out from this paste is amazing! It’s the black buah keluak nuts! Add lemon grass and a couple of kaffir lime leaves while cooking this paste. Slow and steady cooking first.
Beef cubes and beef trimmings. I used 500g of beef cubes and about 200 g or less of beef trimmings.
Coat and fry for a few minutes.
Add water and pressure cook for about 30min till meat is tender.
When the meat is tender, add about 2tbsp of tamarind pulp, and salt to taste. Add long beans.
And it’s ready to be served! The accompaniments are paru or fried marinated beef lungs, and bergedil, potato patties. Of course, sambal belacan! A piquant sambal made with fresh ready chillies and fermented shrimp paste.

A traditional Javanese dish! Yummy!

Seafood

Spiced Sting Ray

We love sting Ray (skate wings) here. Usually, the preferred way of eating in our hawker centers will be grilled on a banana leaf and then topped with a piquant sambal sauce. I’ve made one before and shared it here.

But last Saturday, I made this dish so that it could be mixed together with my other seafood dishes in a shellout day meal (Header Picture).

It’s a sambal dish but I added garam masala and plenty of black pepper. Fry till quite dry and caramelised but make sure not to overcook the fish or it’ll be dry.

This is the type of dried chillies that we use in a lot of Malay and SEAsian cooking. Rehydrate and then blend
These are the Bombay onions, garlic and ginger which I blended separately from the chillies
Mix the blended raw ingredients together
And this is the base for a lot of Malay dishes. Can be stored in the freezer for months.

The next few steps are video recordings of me frying the paste and then adding in the aromatic leaves i.e. curry leaves and lime leaves. And then the stingray pieces, and finally lots of black pepper and of course salt to taste. Fry till fish is cooked and the skins slightly caramelised.

The important part is to make sure the chillies are cooked through, or what we call in Malay ‘pecah minyak’. Basically, the oils from the chillies have surfaced. This ensures that the chillies are not raw. This dish is delicious eaten with hot rice or just on its own.

You can squeeze calamansi lime over before eating for a more uplifting experience!