Tuesday, 30 June 2009

RECIPE: CHENGDU CHICKEN


I think I got this recipe from the net somewhere and I believe the original recipe calls for it to be served with spinach. Instead, I served my CHENGDU CHICKEN with BEANSPROUTS AND CHINESE CHIVES WITH PRAWNS.

The dish may seem complicated with the different spices and sauces used, but it is actually quite easy to make. Most of the work is in the preparation. In any instance, it tastes great….so it makes it all so worthwhile!


Ingredients

800g boneless skinless chicken breasts – cut into cubes

Marinade
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp sesame oil
2 to 3 tsp cornstarch

Sauce
2 tbsp Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar or rice vinegar (red rice vinegar if possible)
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch mixed in 2 tbsp water

Other Ingredients
2 spring onions – sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic - minced
½ thumb size ginger - minced
2 to 3 tbsp hot bean paste
1 tsp sesame oil or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground Szechuan pepper (see my GLOSSARY post on SZECHUAN PEPPER)
Vegetable or peanut oil

Method

Add the marinade ingredients to the cubed chicken, adding the cornstarch last. Marinate the chicken for at least 20 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the sauce. Combine the rice wine or dry sherry, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. In a separate small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the water. Set aside.

Heat a wok with sufficient oil to fry the chicken cubes. Stir the chicken continually to keep it from sticking to the wok. When the chicken changes colour and is nearly 80 per cent cooked, remove it from the wok. Leave about 2 tbsp of the oil in the wok.

Add the garlic, ginger and hot bean paste to the wok. Stir-fry briefly until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the chicken back into the wok and mix with the hot bean paste.

Make a well in the wok by pushing the chicken to the sides and add the sauce mixture in the middle. Give the cornstarch and water mixture a quick re-stir and mix it in the sauce, stirring quickly to thicken.

Now toss the chicken back into the centre, mixing it well with the sauce. Add in the green onion and sesame oil. Sprinkle the freshly ground Szechuan pepper over top. Lift and serve hot with stir fried vegetables and rice.

VG’s rating: 4 stars

GLOSSARY: SZECHUAN PEPPER


Szechuan or Sichuan pepper is native to the Szechwan province of China. Though they bear some resemblance to black peppercorns, they are not actually of the pepper family, but the dried berry i.e. the outer pod of the tiny fruit of a number of species in the genus Zanthoxylum (most commonly Z. piperitum, Z. simulans, and Z. schinifolium). It is widely grown and consumed in Asia as a spice. It is widely used in Chinese Szechuan cuisine, from which it takes its name, as well as Tibetan, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Japanese cuisines

Szechuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour and is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper or chillies. It has lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth when consumed. Recipes often suggest lightly toasting and then crushing the tiny seedpods before adding them to food. Only the husks are used; the shiny black seeds are discarded or ignored as they have a very gritty sand-like texture. It is generally added at the end of the cooking process.

Szechwan pepper are rust coloured with hair-thin stems and open ends. The dried berries resemble tiny beechnuts measuring 4 - 5 mm in diameter. The rough skin splits open to reveal a brittle black seed, about 3 mm in diameter; however the spice mainly consists of the empty husks. It is available whole or ground. In Japan the leaves are used as spice — the ground dried leaves are known as sansho and the whole leaves, kinome, are fresh, vacuum-packed or pickled.

The berries should be gently roasted to release aromatics before crushing with a mortar and pestle or electric coffee grinder. If a fine powder is desired, sieve to remove the husks and stalks. Store in airtight containers, out of sunlight.

Other Names

Anise Pepper, Chinese Pepper, Fagara, Japan Pepper, Sichuan Pepper, Suterberry, Szechuan pepper, Toothache Tree, Yellow Wood
French: poivre anise
German: Szechuan-Pfeffer
Italian: pepe d’anise
Spanish: pepe di anis
Chinese: chuan-chiao, chun-chiu, shun-tsin, fa-chin, hua-chiao, hua jiao, jiao, ta-liao
Japanese: kinome (fresh leaves), sancho (powdered dried leaves)

Source: Wikipedia and Epicentre.com

Monday, 29 June 2009

DVD REVIEW: BARSAAT 1949 (HINDI CLASSICS)


BARSAAT (Rain, Rainy Season or Monsoon) is a 1949 classic black and white Bollywood blockbuster film directed by Raj Kapoor. The film stars the famous duo of the time, Raj Kapoor and Nargis and also starred actor Prem Nath. Barsaat saw the debut of actress Nimmi, whom Raj Kapoor discovered whilst Nimmi was an onlooker/guest during a movie shooting.




The success of Barsaat ensured that the studio (RK Films) Raj Kapoor established in 1948 with the movie Aag (whilst he was only 24), continued to be a success and a going concern.

The movie BARSAAT revolves around two love stories - Pran (Raj Kapoor) and Reshma (Nargis) and Gopal (Prem Nath) and Neela (Nimmi). Two friends with opposite personalities, the rich but sensitive Pran and the womanizing Gopal both get involved with two local girls while holidaying in Kashmir. Whilst Pran and Reshma's love is true and reciprocated, Gopal is a cad, who disregards the faithful Neela (Nimmi) and tricks her to wait faithfully for his return with the next BARSAAT (rainy season). Many trials and tribulations are faced by the lovers. Will the lovers come out unscathed by the BARSAAT? Watch BARSAAT to find out.

Not only was the movie a super hit on its release, so was its music; and still is to this day! The film was the debut for duo music directors, Shankar Jaikishan and established their careers. The famous playback singer Lata Mangeshkar sang for both Nargis and Nimmi in Barsaat and further entrenched her popularity in Bollywood music.

The famous songs from this movie include:

Hawa Mein Udata Jaye
Barsaat Mein Humse Mile Tum Sajan
Ab Mera Kaun Sahara
Bicchde Hue Pardesi
Chhod Gaye Baala
Jiya Beqarar hai
Mujse Kisse She Pyaar Ho Gaaya
Mera Aankhon Mein Bas Gayaa

I give this movie a 4 Star rating (only because there were unjustified long sequences in the film....in my opinion of course.....you may beg to differ) and the music 5 Stars.

Friday, 26 June 2009

RECIPE: RASPBERRY AND COCONUT MUFFINS


A scrumptious combination – raspberry and coconut. Check it out for yourselves!


Ingredients

375g self raising flour
90g butter – chopped
220g caster sugar
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
1 egg – lightly beaten
30g desiccated coconut
150g fresh or frozen raspberries
2 to 3 tbsp shredded coconut

Method

Preheat oven to moderately hot. Grease a 12 hole (80ml or 1/3 cup capacity) muffin pan.

Place flour in a large mixing bowl and using your fingertips, rub in the butter. The mixture should resemble bread crumbs.

Next, mix in the sugar, buttermilk, egg, desiccated coconut and raspberries. I used a knife to do this. Do not over mix.

Spoon into prepared muffin pan and top with the shredded coconut. Bake for 20 to 25 mins.

When done, stand in pan for 5 mins before turning onto wire rack. Serve warm or cool.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT: MY HOUSEHOLD CAPERS! 500TH POST


OMG…..I cannot believe that I have finally reached my 500th post. Time flies when you are having fun, eh??? I hope you all have enjoyed my jottings as much as I have bringing them to you. So, here’s to the next 500 scribbles…..cheers!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

DVD REVIEW: SHARMILEE 1971 (HINDI CLASSICS)


SHARMILEE (shy) is a 1971 Hindi movie directed by Samir Ganguly and stars the very handsome Shashi Kapoor and superb actress Rakhee Gulzar. The film is not only popular for its great story line but also for its very melodious music by S. D. Burman. Rakhee plays a double role in this film (twin sisters), and her portrayal of a modern sister and one very shy and demure sister, helped make her one of the decades top leading lady actress in Bollywood. Unlike Shashi Kapoor, Rakhee still does some acting roles.




Check out these really great songs from the movie HERE and HERE.


Monday, 22 June 2009

NATTER: THE BEAR, THE LION AND THE PIG

A bear, a lion and a pig meet.


Bear says: "If I roar in the forest, the entire forest is shivering with fear."


Lion says: "If I roar in the jungle, the entire jungle is afraid of me."


Pig says: "Big deal.... I only have to cough, and the entire planet lives in fear!!!"

Friday, 19 June 2009

RECIPE: FRAGRANT COCONUT CHICKEN (OPOR AYAM)


My version of the OPOR AYAM, adapted from the “SHIOK!” cookbook. Hope you like it. I know my household did!


Ingredients

4 tbsp veg oil
1 tin thick coconut milk
2 small free range chicken or 12 assorted chicken pieces
4 large dried chillies - soaked
2 stalks lemon grass – bruised
4 whole lime leaves
Salt to taste
1 tsp sugar

Spice paste – ground into thick fine paste

3 slices galangal
Thumb size ginger
6 candlenuts
12 small shallots or 2 large red onions
Thumb size fresh turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground fine black pepper (see my GLOSSARY post on BLACK PEPPER)
*8 large dried chillies – soaked (this is optional)

Method

Heat oil in a pot and fry spices for 6 to 8 mins until thick and fragrant. Add 2 tbsp of the coconut milk and cook for a further 2 mins.

Add in the chicken pieces, whole chillies, lemon grass, lime leaves, coconut milk and ½ cup water. Simmer for 20 to 25 mins, stirring occasionally.

Add salt and sugar and cook for a further 10 mins until gravy is very thick. Serve hot.

Note: If you want a pale curry, you may omit the turmeric. You may also omit the chillies in the ground spices if you want a very mild curry.

GLOSSARY: BLACK PEPPER


Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. In dried form, the fruit is often referred to as peppercorns. Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described as pepper and depending on the colour of the powdered pepper, as black pepper, white pepper, red/pink pepper, and green pepper, though the terms pink peppercorns, red pepper, and green pepper are also used to describe the fruits of other, unrelated plants.


Black pepper is native to South India, particularly the Malabar Coast, in what is now the state of Kerala. It is still extensively cultivated there and in the tropical South-East Asia regions. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is a small drupe about five mm in diameter, dark red when fully mature, containing a single seed.

Black pepper has been known to Indian cooking since at least 2000 BC. Peppercorns were (and still is) a much prized trade good, often referred to as "black gold" and used as a form of commodity money. The term "peppercorn rent" still exists today.


Black peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramesses II, placed there as part of the mummification rituals shortly after his death in 1213 BC. Little else is known about the use of pepper in ancient Egypt, nor how it reached the Nile from India.

It is possible that black pepper was known in China in the 2nd century BC, if poetic reports on an explorer named Tang Meng are correct. Sent by Emperor Wu to what is now south-west China, Tang Meng is said to have come across something called “jujiang” or "sauce-betel". The traditional view among historians is that "sauce-betel" is a sauce made from betel leaves, but arguments have been made that it actually refers to black pepper.

In the 3rd century AD, black pepper made its first definite appearance in Chinese texts, as “hujiao” or "foreign pepper". However, it does not appear to have been widely known at the time. By the 12th century however, black pepper had become a popular ingredient in the cuisine of the wealthy and powerful, sometimes taking the place of China's native Sichuan pepper (the tongue-numbing dried fruit of an unrelated plant).

Black pepper is one of the most common spices in European cuisine, having been known and prized since antiquity. It is found on nearly every dinner table in the world, often alongside table salt.
It is the black pepper, along with other spices from India and lands farther east, that changed the course of world history. It was in some part the preciousness and exorbitant price of this spice that led to the European efforts to find a sea route to India and consequently to the European colonial occupation of India, South-East Asia and the Far East, as well as the European discovery and colonization of the Americas.

The monopoly on the spice trade held by Italy was one of the inducements which led to the Portuguese to seek a sea route to India. In 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first European to reach India by sea (via the Cape of Good Hope) and soon the Portuguese had exclusive rights to the spice trade between the East and Europe. However, by the 17th century, the Portuguese lost almost all of their valuable Indian Ocean possessions to the Dutch and the English.

Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe berries of the pepper plant. The berries are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean and to prepare for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the fruit, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The berries are dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the fruit around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dried, the fruits are called black peppercorns.

White pepper consists of the seed only, with the fruit removed. This is usually accomplished by allowing fully ripe berries to soak in water for about a week, during which the flesh of the fruit softens and decomposes. Rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit, and the naked seed is dried. Alternative processes are used for removing the outer fruit from the seed, including removal of the outer layer from black pepper produced from unripe berries.
FYI, Sichuan peppercorn is another "pepper" that is botanically unrelated to black pepper and used mainly in Sichuan style Chinese cooking.

Peppercorns are often labeled by their region or port of origin. Two well-known types come from India's Malabar Coast: Malabar pepper and Tellicherry pepper. Tellicherry is a higher-grade pepper, made from the largest, ripest 10 per cent of berries from Malabar plants grown on Mount Tellicherry. Sarawak pepper is produced in the Malaysian sovereignty of Borneo and Lampong pepper on Indonesia's island of Sumatra. White Muntok pepper is another Indonesian product, which hails from Bangka Island (just off the Sumatran coast).


Pepper gets its spicy heat mostly from the piperine compound, which is found both in the outer fruit and in the seed. Pepper loses flavour and aroma through evaporation, so airtight storage helps preserve pepper's original spiciness longer. Pepper can also lose its flavour when exposed to light and also once ground, pepper's aromatics evaporate quite quickly. Most culinary sources recommend grinding whole peppercorns just before use for this reason. Pepper grinders and mortar and pestle are the commonly used implements.

Peppercorns are, by monetary value, the most widely traded spice in the world, accounting for 20 per cent of all spice imports in 2002. The price of pepper can be volatile, and this figure fluctuates a great deal year to year. The International Pepper Exchange is located in Kochi, India.

Vietnam has recently become the world's largest producer and exporter of pepper (82,000 tons in 2003). Other major producers include Indonesia (67,000 tons), India (65,000 tons), Brazil (35,000 tons), Malaysia (22,000 tons), Sri Lanka (12,750 tons), Thailand, and China. Vietnam dominates the export market, using almost none of its production domestically. In 2003, Vietnam exported 82,000 tons of pepper, Indonesia 57,000 tons, Brazil 37,940 tons, Malaysia 18,500 tons, and India 17,200 tons.

Source: Wikipedia

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

NATTER: DIFFERENT WAYS OF LOOKING AT THINGS...

Or should we say the uncertainty of the English language?!

---------------------------------------------------------

Two guys were discussing popular family trends on $ex, marriage, and family values.

Stu said, 'I didn't sleep with my wife before we got married, did you?'

Leroy replied, 'I'm not sure, what was her maiden name?'

---------------------------------------------------------

A little boy went up to his father and asked, 'Dad, where did my intelligence come from?'

The father replied. 'Well, son, you must have got it from your mother, cause I still have mine.'

---------------------------------------------------------

'Mr. Clark, I have reviewed this case very carefully,' the divorce Court Judge said. 'And I've decided to give your wife $775 a week,'

'That's very fair, your honour,' the husband said. 'And every now and then I'll try to send her a few bucks myself.'

---------------------------------------------------------

A doctor examining a woman who had been rushed to the Emergency Room, took the husband aside, and said, 'I don't like the looks of your wife at all.'

'Me neither doc,' said the husband. 'But she's a great cook and really good with the kids.'

-----------------------------------------------------------

An old man goes to the Wizard to ask him if he can remove a curse he has been living with for the last 40 years.

The Wizard says, 'Maybe, but you will have to tell me the exact words that were used to put the curse on you.'

The old man says without hesitation, 'I now pronounce you man and wife.'

----------------------------------------------------------

Two Reasons Why It's So Hard To Solve A Redneck Murder:

1. The DNA all matches.

2. There are no dental records.

----------------------------------------------------------

A blonde calls Delta Airlines and asks, 'Can you tell me how long it'll take to fly from San Francisco to New York City?'

The agent replies, 'Just a minute.'

'Thank you,' the blonde says, and hangs up.

----------------------------------------------------------
Two Mexican detectives were investigating the murder of Juan Gonzalez.

'How was he killed?' asked one detective.

'With a golf gun,' the other detective replied.

'A golf gun! What is a golf gun?'

'I don't know. But it sure made a hole in Juan.'

-----------------------------------------------------------

Moe: 'My wife got me to believe in religion.'

Joe: 'Really?'

Moe: 'Yeah. Until I married her I didn't believe in Hell.'

----------------------------------------------------------

A man is recovering from surgery when the Surgical Nurse appears and asks him how he is feeling.

'I'm O. K. but I didn't like the four letter-words the doctor used in surgery,' he answered.

'What did he say,' asked the nurse.

'Oops!'

------------------------------------------------------------

While shopping for vacation clothes, my husband and I passed a display of bathing suits. It had been at least ten years and twenty pounds since I had even considered buying a bathing suit, so sought my husband's advice.

'What do you think?' I asked. 'Should I get a bikini or an all-in-one?'

'Better get a bikini,' he replied. 'You'd never get it all in one.'

He's still in intensive care.

------------------------------------------------------------

The graveside service just barely finished, when there was massive clap of thunder, followed by a tremendous bolt of lightning, accompanied by even more thunder rumbling in the distance.

The little old man looked at the pastor and calmly said, 'Well, she's there.'

------------------------------------------------------------

Monday, 15 June 2009

RECIPE: BELACAN BEANS AKA SNAKE BEANS WITH CHILLIES AND PRAWN PASTE (KACANG PANJANG BELACAN)


A popular dish in Malaysia and Singapore and traditionally served with rice, curries and sambals. You may add seafood such as prawns, squid and cockles to make it a substantial meal instead of an accompaniment to your meal.


Ingredients

1 large bunch snake beans – tailed and cut into 4 cm lengths
Palm full of dried prawns – soaked in water to softened and then drained
2 to 3 cloves garlic
4 large red fresh chillies or 2 heaped tbsp fresh crushed chillies
1 tsp shrimp paste/belacan powder or 2 cm fresh shrimp paste/belacan (roasted)
1 to 2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 onion - sliced
2 tbsp oil

Method


Pound together the garlic, dried prawns, chillies and belacan to a semi fine paste.

Heat oil in a wok and fry the paste for about 3 mins, adding tablespoons of water to moisten the paste if required.

Add in the beans and mix well with the paste. Moisten with the soy sauce. You may use water instead of the soy sauce if you wish. Continue cooking until the beans are cooked. Remember that the beans should still remain crunchy.

Check your seasoning and add salt if required. Lift and serve hot with rice and other Malaysian style dishes such as curries or sambals such as PRAWN SAMBAL.


PS: I would normally add some fresh prawns or squid to this dish but as I was having it with PRAWN SAMBAL, I omitted using any seafood. If using seafood, add this prior to the beans and cook for a min or two before adding the beans.

PSS: If you cannot find snake beans, you may substitute them with snow peas or French beans.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

GARDENING: NOT SO EASY CARE INDOOR PLANTS – FITTONIA VERSCHAFFELTII OR NERVE PLANT


Fittonia is a garden plant of the Acanthaceae family, notable for its dark green foliage. It is commonly called the "Nerve Plant" or "Mosaic Plant". It is originally from Peru.

There are currently 15 known species of Fittonia. It is a short plant with lush green leaves with accented veins of white to deep pink and have a short fuzz covering its stems. Small buds may appear after time where the stem splits into leaves. Flowers are small, with white to off-white in colour. This plant is best kept in a moist area with dapple sunlight and temperatures above 13°C.


The Fittonia is slightly harder to grow so it is best bought well established and cared for. I however have not found this plant to be needy as most publications have asserted. The Fittonia makes a great indoor plant as well as a groundcover. The plant however must be watered regularly; without water for a few days, this plant is known to "faint" but is easily revived with a quick watering and immersion in a bowl of water.

The Fittonia is one of my favourite indoor plants. I just love the foliage.

QUICK GUIDE

 Fittonia is an evergreen creeping perennial that is noted for its attractive foliage.
 Easily grown in a peaty or soil-based potting mixture.
 Fittonia grows best in bright indirect light or dappled part sun. Avoid direct sun.
 It prefers high humidity so regular spraying of the foliage helps.
 Water regularly but moderately, with only slightly reduced watering from spring to late winter. Yellowing of leaves may indicate over watering. Withering of leaves may indicate the need for increased humidity.
 Pinch off ends of growing stems to shape plants and to promote denser foliage. Many growers also pinch off any flowers buds that may appear. Because of their need for high humidity, they thrive in terrariums and bottle gardens.
 Propagation is by tip cuttings, stem layering and division – I usually put the tips in water and allow roots to grow before transferring into potting mix.

Source: Top Tropicals and Wikipedia

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

RECIPE: STIR FRIED SNAKE BEANS WITH MUSTARD SEEDS AND TURMERIC


One of my favourite vegetable dishes…..goes so well with curries especially seafood and dhal. You may add small prawns, squid or ikan bilis (Asian style dried anchovies) to the vegetable if you prefer.


Ingredients

1 large bunch snake beans – tailed and cut into small pieces (around 1 cm length) (see my GLOSSARY post on SNAKE BEANS)
2 cloves garlic – minced
Meat or seafood – optional
1 onion – sliced thinly
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp chicken stock powder - optional
¼ cup water, milk or coconut milk
Salt to taste
1 large tomato – diced
1 to 2 eggs
Veg oil


Method

Heat oil in a wok and fry the mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add in the garlic and onions and fry for 1 to 2 mins. Add in the meat or seafood (if using) and cook until half done.

Add in the beans and toss well to coat with the other ingredients. Moisten with a few tbsp of water if required. Add in the turmeric (and chicken stock powder if using) and salt.

Add in the water/milk/coconut milk and mix well. Turn the fire down to low, cover and cook for 3 to 4 mins until the beans are done. Do not over cook – you want the beans to remain crunchy.
Lift the lid and add in the tomatoes. Mix well and make a well in the middle of the wok. Break in the egg/s, lightly scramble them and mix through the vegetables. Check seasoning, turn off the heat and serve hot with rice and curries/dhal.

GLOSSARY: SNAKE BEAN


SNAKE BEAN (also know as yard long bean, Chinese long bean, long bean, long-podded cowpea or asparagus bean) is native to East and South-east Asia and most probably originated in South China. It is known as dau gok in Cantonese, thua fak yao in Thai and kacang panjang in Indonesian and Malay, sitaw in Tagalog, bora in the West Indies and vali or eeril in Goa, India.

This plant is of a different genus than the common bean. It is a vigorous climbing annual vine. The crisp, tender pods are eaten both fresh and cooked. SNAKE BEANS are at their best when young and slender and are usually cut into short sections for cooking. They are used in stir-fries in Chinese cuisine or added to soups and fried rice. In Malaysian cuisine, they are often stir-fried with chillies and shrimp paste (belacan) or used in fresh and cooked salads (kerabu). Another popular and healthy option is to chop them into very small pieces and fried in an omelette. SNAKE BEANS are cut into shorter sections and cooked like common green beans. It therefore makes a good substitute for the common beans.

SNAKE BEANS are a good source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, and a very good source for vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and manganese.

It is still a relatively ‘new vegetable’ in Australia and can only be found at selected Western grocers in Canberra. However, the LAE Asian grocer at the Mawson Southland shops in Canberra stock this vegetable all year round. If stored between 2-4°C at high humidity, SNAKE BEANS can last up to four weeks.


Source: Wikipedia and the Department of Primary Industry, Northern Territory

Saturday, 6 June 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MISS AG - 15 TODAY!


Happy birthday to a darling, darling girl. We all love you very much. Hope you loved all your presents.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

RECIPE: PARPU


I am not sure what the correct name for this dish is but it has always been called PARPU in my family. I believe that this dish is a fusion of Indian and Malay cooking and is delicious with CHAPATTI, ROTI CANAI or rice.

Here’s the recipe.


Ingredients

2.5 cups yellow lentils – preferably soaked for a few hours in cold water (this will hasten the cooking process)
6 to 8 dried chillies – torn into a few pieces to release flavour
1 tsp turmeric powder (see my glossary post on TURMERIC)
1 tsp chicken stock powder (optional)
‘Hard’ vegetables of choice eg potatoes, carrots, beans, eggplant
1 heaped tbsp tamarind pulp – soaked in 1 cup hot water and juice extracted (see my glossary post on TAMARIND)
½ to 1 cup coconut milk (see my glossary post on COCONUT MILK)
Salt to taste
Coriander - to garnish

Tempering Spices (‘Tadka’)
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 medium red or brown onions – diced
3 cloves garlic – minced
Thumb size fresh ginger – minced (see my glossary post on GINGER)
1 large tomato – diced
2 to 3 tbsp curry powder
Oil/Ghee or a mixture of both

Method


Wash the lentils until the water runs clear. Put in a large pot with 8 cups of water, along with the chillies and bring to a boil. Add in the turmeric and chicken stock powder and simmer on medium heat until the lentils start to split.

Add in the vegetables, salt and the tamarind juice. Cook until both the lentils and vegetables are done.

Note: You may need to ‘stagger’ your vegetables here, depending on their cooking times. Always add the hardest vegetables first and allow to cook for a few minutes before adding the softer vegetables. In this instance, start with the potatoes, followed by the carrots, eggplant and beans.

Add in the coconut milk and allow to simmer on very low heat while you prepare the tempering spices. Stir occasionally.

In a frying pan, heat 2 to 3 tbsp oil/ghee on medium heat and add in the curry leaves followed by the onions. After a min or so, add in the ginger and garlic and fry until the mixture is golden. Add in the curry powder and about 1 cup of water and cook until the oil seeps through the top of the paste (cook the paste for at least 3 to 4 minutes). You may need to add more water if the paste thickens too much.

Add in the tomatoes and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and pour this paste directly into the simmering lentils. Turn up the heat, mix well, and allow the lentils to come to the boil again. Garnish with coriander leaves, turn off the heat and serve.

GLOSSARY: TAMARIND



The TAMARIND (Tamarindus indica) (from the Arabic word ‘tamar hindi’) is a tree in the family Fabaceae. The genus is monotypic; in other words, it only has a single species.

It is a tropical tree, native to Africa. However, as it was introduced into India so long ago, it has often been reported as indigenous to the sub continent. It was apparently from India that it reached the Persians and the Arabs, who called it "tamar hindi" (or Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic names.

In Indonesian, it is called asem (or asam) Jawa . In Malaysia it is called asam (the Malay word for sour and tamarind). In the Philippines it is called sampaloc in Tagalog and in Hindi it is called imli.


The fruit pulp is edible. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is very sour and acidic and is often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is less sour and somewhat sweeter. It is used in desserts and sweetened drinks, or as a snack.

In Thailand, there is a carefully cultivated sweet variety with little to no tartness grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit. It is also sometimes eaten preserved in sugar (and with chilli) as a candy.

TAMARIND is used in both Asian and Latin American cuisines. It is an important ingredient in Imli Chutney, a spicy North Indian condiment; Worcestershire sauce; HP sauce; and the Jamaican-produced Pickapeppa sauce.

TAMARIND is used extensively in south Indian cooking where it is used to prepare Rasam and Sambhar. In Egypt, there is an acidic chilled drink called "tamr hindi", which is made from tamarind.

Pad Thai, a Thai dish often includes TAMARIND for its tart/sweet taste (with lime juice added for sourness and fish sauce added for saltiness). In Singapore and Malaysia it is used to add a sweet-sour taste to gravy for fish in a dish called asam fish and asam laksa.


Malaysians also use TAMARIND slices (commonly called "asam keping" or "asam gelugor", for added sourness to dishes such as seafood curries.

When used in cooking, the TAMARIND pulp is usually used. It is mixed with some warm water and the juice is extracted and added to the cooking. Concentrated tamarind juice is now sold commercially and can be purchased instead of the pulp. However, my preference is still the TAMARIND pulp.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

NATTER: HOW MUCH SUGAR ARE YOU CONSUMING?

video



I received an e-mail recently from a friend (one of those spam e-mails) with some photos of beverages and food and their sugar content. I was quite surprised to see the claims that were made and decided to check the web to see whether the claims were true. I found the source for the pictures of the e-mail, which is Sugar Stacks (and I have a slide show of some of the pictures above) and also checked a few other sites to verify that these claims are true. To MY knowledge, the claims check out and are to an extend, supported by Choice Australia, a major and reputable Australian consumer magazine. You can check out Choice’s articles on sugar and the sugar contents of some Australian major brands at their site (click HERE).

There have been media reports that fresh fruit (and vegetables) should not be allowed to have “healthy claims” associated with its consumption and sale as some fruits such as dates, bananas, figs, kumquats and lychees (to name a few) have very high to high sugar content. Whilst this may be true, it must be noted that these sugars are naturally occurring sugars (and are not processed sugars) and the benefits of consuming fruit and vegetables out weighs the sugar content. However, as with everything in live, moderation is the key. You can check out the sugar levels and other information on fruits on The Fruit Pages.

The dietary advice in Australia is that you should eat 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day for good health.

One serve of fruit is 150g or:

~ 1 medium sized piece e.g. medium apple
~ 2 small pieces e.g. apricots
~ 1 cup canned or chopped fruit
~ 125 ml 100 per cent fruit juice
~ 1 ½ tbsp dried fruit e.g. sultanas or 4 dried apricot halves.


One serve of vegetables is 75g or:

~ ½ cup cooked vegetables
~ 1 medium potato
~ 1 cup salad vegetables
~ ½ cup cooked legumes – dried beans, peas and lentils.


Choose fresh fruit over fruit juice or dried fruit if possible. Juices have lower fibre content than fresh fruit. Dried fruit, if eaten in large quantities, can contribute to tooth decay because it contains a concentrated form of sugar that stick to your teeth. Check out the “Go for 2 and 5” website for full information.

In conjunction with this dietary advice, we should also pay attention to daily intakes (DI) which is a set of reference values for a variety of nutrients, as well as energy. The DI values are based on a diet of 8700kJ, which is the daily requirement for an average adult. As different nutrients contribute different amounts of energy, to get 100 per cent of the DI for energy, you need a balance of these following nutrients: carbohydrates, sugars, protein, fat, saturated fat, fibre and sodium.

FYI: Do you know that there are around 900,000 Australians diagnosed with diabetes? This is approximately 4.28 per cent of Australia’s population. The number of diabetic suffers in the world is estimated to be 171 million and is likely to rise to 366 million in 2030. India has the most cases (31.7 million), followed by China (20.8 million) and the USA (17.7 million).

Source: Sugar Stack, Choice Australia, The Fruit Pages, Go for 2 and 5, Kellogg's Australia, Diabetes Australia, WHO and CIA World Facts.

DVD REVIEW: THE GRUDGE I and II [JU-ON I & II] (JAPANESE)


Sorry, it's been quite some time since I posted any DVD reviews on my blog....doesn't mean that I haven't been watching movies.....more the case of laziness taking over.

Anyway, whilst it is still fresh in my head, I thought that I'd write about The Grudge I and II (the Japanese version) which I watched last weekend. FYI, when The Grudge opened at "The Melbourne International Film Festival", it was a complete sellout.


The Grudge is the story of the evil dead, left in a house, that is latching itself on to the living. It is the vengence, the grudge from beyond, that no one can stop and no is safe.

Warning - this movie is not for the faint hearted. My eldest daugher slept with the radio on (only because I wouldn't allow her to take the dog to bed with her) cos she was convinced that she heard 'grudging' noises in the night.

After watching these movies, I once again reiterate - the Orientals reign supreme when it comes to horror!!! If you are a lover of horror movies, I totally recommend you watch the movie.

Note: You can buy the Grudge dvds at JB HiFi.