Noodles and Pasta

Penne Goreng – My comfort food

 

One of my favourite dishes is fried macaroni. Or pasta. With lots of minced beef. And it must be spicy – very spicy –  so that I can eat it with sour green olives. Mmmmm… This is how I usually make my pasta goreng dish, and I always cook this when I have nothing much at hand. That is why, in my kitchen pantry, I must always have pasta, tomato (diced or pureed or even in paste form) and my ‘$4.90 for 500g NTUC’ minced beef. 

Fry in olive oil about 6 heaped tablespoons of *chilli paste.

 

When the oil separates, add in the minced beef and cook till the beef is cooked. Add in a bottle of ready made pasta sauce or tomato paste/puree/Italian plum tomatoes

 

Add in boiled pasta of choice. My favourite is penne.

 

Make sure not to fry till the mixture is too dry. For the chilli paste, I always have a container ready so when I need to fry some noodles or make a sambal dish, I don’t have to waste time grinding all the ingredients to make the paste.

* Chilli Paste

1. about 20 or so dried chillies, soaked or boiled in hot water

2. 3-4 large Bombay onions

3. 4-5 garlic cloves

4. belacan 

Blend all the above ingredients into a fine paste.

Topped with green olives and fried onions and you’re all set to enjoy a plate in front of the telly. If you have never cooked this before, try this dish. It takes only fifteen minutes tops. 

Noodles and Pasta

Indonesian Instant Noodles

A few days ago, I had to take leave in order to take care of my ill daughter. What that meant was that I had to also be responsible for lunch. And dinner. 😦

I raided my cupboard and I saw packets and packets of instant noodles. Before I hired the help of a domestic worker, the usual type of instant noodles I’d consume at home was from Myojo – their Ramen Char Mee. My Indonesian domestic helper loves her instant noodles. Her favourite brand – 


I was a convert after tasting these noodles. For lunch, I decided to make myself a plate of noodles  my helper’s way. However, I didn’t have any green vegetables. 

There is something about fried chilli padi that just makes me salivate just thinking about it...Mmmmm

 

Crack an egg in

 

Stir in the noodles, add the seasoning and top it with the given 'kriuk-kriuk' - a mixture of fried onions and batter bits

 

For The Hubby, I made the soup version. When my helper first bought it, I thought it was normal chicken flavour noodles so once a couple of months ago, I innocently told her she could finish up the Maggi chicken flavoured noodles. She literally shuddered and refused, saying that it was a ‘childish dish’. I was puzzled. 

So that day, I used her noodles. The flavour – Chicken Soto. Apparently, there is a difference. It’s tangy and very flavourful. Possibly full of MSG too but who cares when one is pressed for time. The favoured brand for a soup based instant noodles – 

So if you want to try something different, go get these two brands. From Geylang. Yes, because that’s where they sell the ‘Made in Indonesia’ noodles. The Mie Sedap comes with the ‘kriuk-kriuk’ whereas those that come from Malaysia or elsewhere does not include this crispy condiment. 

Sedaaaaappp…. ;p

Asian Dishes, Bread and Batter

Chapati

I can’t believe it has been two years since I last made chapati. At that time, Mustafa Centre was really at my disposal. Whenever I finished work early, I’d pop down to, in my opinion, the best shopping mall in Singapore, and get my monthly fix of Indian/Arabic foodstuff. I’d walk down the ‘aisle of saffron’ and look longingly at the beautiful precious scarlet threads. I’d saunter to the ‘Arabic’ isle and gaze at the tubs of creamy white halwa tahina topped with emerald pistachios. I’d grab a few ready-to-eat cans of foul medammes and then walk to the frozen section of the supermarket.

If you have been to Mustafa Centre, before you enter the supermarket, you have to pass through a narrow lane stacked high with basmati rice, pulses and flour. I would look at the different kinds of flour available and one day, looking at a packet of atta (wheat) flour, I decided to purchase a small packet and bake some chapatis.

I’ve never made chapatis before but I had bought a cookbook by Sanjiv Kapoor when I was in Chennai and thought that it was high time I try out one of his recipes. So one weekend, I decided to try his recipe with the help of my daughter.

Making chapatis is dead easy. The trick is to making it ultra soft. I first put in flour in a bowl and mixed it with tepid water and some oil to form a smooth dough. Oh, and some salt. Now, the recipe called for ghee or butter. I couldn’t bring myself to use ghee and at that time, I was pregnant and had to watch my blood sugar level. So I used olive oil. Extra virgin. After I had formed a nice ball of dough, I left it to rest, covering the bowl with a piece of damp cloth. An hour later, I formed little balls out of the big mass of dough and left it to rest again. When it was time to roll out the chapatis, I sought the help of my willing assistant. After you flatten the dough, add more oil. Roll the dough into a thin circle and then pop it into a hot pan. Cook on one side, flip and let it brown on the other. The dough will puff up.

The chapatis were soft and delicious! However, according to my mother in law who is an expert at chapati making, to make it even softer, leave the dough to rest overnight.

Try making some chapatis one day as they are cheap and easy to make. I guarantee you children would love it! And if you have older children, they can join in the fun too! 🙂

Rolling the chapatis. Not easy to make it round!

The end product. Not very round but soft and very good eaten with curry.

Happy cooking! 🙂

Sides

Sambal Belacan

OK, I should be marking the Common Test papers right now but in my haste to get out of the school, I forgot to bring back the Answer Scheme. Oh well. More time for me to write one more recipe. 

Sambal belacan. Sigh. This ubiquitous side dish (can it even be classified as a dish?) has a lot of die-hard fans. I even know of a colleague who loves sambal belacan so much that for fear of putting on weight, she refuses to make anymore of this sambal. How is that possible, one may ask. She loves eating sambal belacan with hot white rice and she can eat bowls and bowls of rice, just to savour her sambal belacan.

For those of you who are not so accustomed to Malay cooking, sambal belacan is simply a chilli condiment. There are many different ways to prepare this. The main two ingredients are fresh red chillies and the pungent (yet oh so fragrant when toasted) fermented shrimp paste. However, if you add other ingredients to the main two ingredients, the sambal may be called by another name.

My Mother’s version of sambal belacan (and the one I grew up with) simply consists of blending 10 red chillies with toasted belacan. That’s it. Yummy with hot white rice.

When I was working at BSS, I met an experienced Peranakan Home Ec teacher and I asked her how she made her sambal belacan. Her version (as well as another Peranakan teacher’s version) was to blend chillies with toasted belacan and strips of kaffir lime leaves. You’ve got to use only the tender leaves, leaving the hard stalk behind. I usually make this version at home now. I find it more fragrant. And, because I’m addicted to chilli, I add in some pieces of chilli padi (bird’s eye chillies) just to spice things up a bit. ;p

Sambal Belacan (blended with kaffir lime leaves)

Some people – the hardcore traditionalists- would shudder at the idea of blended sambal belacan. True, pounding chillies and belacan with a mortar and pestle may be tastier (the texture is  looser and you get coarse bits of chillies) but when you are pressed for time and you still want to eat well, succumbing to the wonders of modern appliances (and ready made products like frozen shortcrust pastry!) is better than not trying to cook at all. 

Sambal Assam

Now, if you take this basic sambal belacan recipe (just the 10 or so chillies with toasted belacan) and mix it with tamarand juice, season with sugar, you get sambal assam. Last year, I invited some colleagues over for lunch and I made this, served with steamed lady’s fingers. The ladies loved it. My family eats the sambal assam with thickly cut cucumber pieces. My mother-in-law’s version of sambal assam is to use dried chillies instead of fresh chillies. I shall try that some day. Using dried chillies give the sambal a richer colour.

There are many other types of sambal and when I have more time, I shall post it up. Time to turn in now and worry about the marking. 😦

Cakes and Cookies

Orange and Choc Chip Cheesecake

Yesterday I decided to bake a cake. I had a slab of Philly cream cheese that had been sitting in the fridge for more than two months and I thought since we weren’t going out, why not bake? And bake I did. I consulted my trustworthy Chef -Chef Wan’s Sweet Treats and turned to the cheesecake section. Now, as a busy mom, my main focus when choosing a recipe to cook depends on only two things – #1 the list of ingredients (the shorter the better) #2 availability of ingredients in my larder (ha! what an archaic word but I did grow up with Enid Blyton. ‘s books.) So the simplest was his Orange and Chocolate Cheesecake. 

I gathered all my barang-barangs and when I wanted to put the cream cheese into the bowl I realised that one packet was only 250g. I needed 500g so off to the nearby NTUC I trudged. I bought oranges for the recipe too (initially I intended to substitute oranges with my readily available lime juice). So, I managed to follow his recipe for the filling but I noticed that although his recipe was called Orange and Chocolate Cheesecake, there was no chocolate at all. The chocolate bit was simply the crust – made up of crushed chocolate chip cookies mixed with toasted hazelnuts and melted butter. I felt that it was simply wrong to use ‘chocolate’ that way and so I tossed in half a packet of Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips into the filling. Now, for the crust. I didn’t have chocolate chip cookies but what I did have was cream crackers and so I, with the help of my useful daughter, hammered them crackers and mixed it with melted butter.

Into the oven it went. It was supposed to be baked for ’40 minutes or until the mixture was set’. I couldn’t tell if the mixture was set or not so 40 minutes later, I took it out of the oven and it looked brown enough. I cooled it for as long as I could wait but being the greedy glutton that I am, I cut a slice to try. The minute I felt the knife go through the cake like softened butter, I knew that maybe, it wasn’t baked long enough. The cheesecake filling was very very good. Warm and very soft (in fact, I wouldn’t even call it a cake, more like a mouse) and the melted chocolate bits that go down your throat like warm velvety…chocolate. Oh well. I am no Pulitzer Prize winner.  Anyway, when the cake was left in the fridge, it did set and tasted more like cake but because it was cold, the warm chocolate chip bits hardened. And so for today’s tea, the cheesecake tasted fine but it wasn’t fantastic as when it was half-cooked. Ironic. 

My Cheesecake in the oven

 

The top bits look burnt; they're actually the melted chocolate chips.

 

Sliced after one day in the fridge

 

I learnt from a show telecast on the Asian Food Channel, that if you change three ingredients in a recipe, that recipe is then yours. So I reckon, this is a Shasha Original. However, I strongly advise you to try out Chef Wan’s recipes to the T. 

Learning points:

#1 Chocolate chips harden when cooled!