Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Ants Climbing Up a Bonsai

"Ants Climbing Up a Bonsai" isn't the original name of this dish, but I was facing quite a dilemma after I had finished cooking it. Not that there's anything wrong with its looks. Cus it looks good (to me). But I thought to myself.. either they are ginormous ants (of whose existence Dr. Sheldon Cooper is doubting as they would be crushed by their own exoskeleton. I completely agree with what my guru says. Shelly for president!), either the tree is really tiny. Owait! Tiny trees we do have! I am growing one myself. It's in the germinating stage now, but in ninety something years it will grow into a brave and sturdy Oak Jr. Personal orchards aside, I know the new name is, hands down, cuter than the initial english translation. I really trust the fact that "Ants Climbing Up a Tree" sounds way better in chinese. Equally important, "Six Prettiful Horses" sounds smashing in romanian.

-Interlude: thank ye mum, for on thy plate you have bringeth me this chicken burger. Yeah, not gonna hide it, I'm a junkie. No.. not that kind of junkie. You and your sleazy little mind, tsk, tsk -

Alright, moving on to details about the upcoming recipe.. The original thing is, of course, cooked in a wok. (cuaiman, google it) It is then doused with the finest soy infusions and dusted with..idk.. seahorse powder (oh lord, I hope not). In any event, all sorts of crazy condiments are added. Sitting here, all shamed and naked (wait, what?), I am thus admitting that my fanciest ingredient was dark soy sauce. That's cause of my lacking asian descent, damn it. Also, the resource lack made the preparation of this recipe seem more like a prelude for italian food. You'll feel it when you cook it. Oh boy I bet I got you all excited with my lamenting attitude. Haha. So grab you spoons and your woks and whatever and start your incursion into dem chinese food worldz. :D For this one,

You will need:

minced pork meat (about 300 grams)
one medium red onion
rice noodles (about a third of a 400 gram package - use around 100 grams and you'll be fine)
soy sauce
tomato sauce
seasonings (salt, pepper, go a little crazy and add some rosemary too)
water! (just one or two cups for the sauce)

Before anything else, you need to marinate the pork. A really good way of doing so is by putting your meat in a re-sealable plastic bag and pouring your liquid over(in this case some soy sauce) and tossing in some condiments. I learned this with great difficulty by watching Rob Rainford's cooking tv show. Learning the tools of trade from this guy is only as hard because.. the episodes focus on whatever sinful and delicious barbecue he's whipping up. Yup, he hosts an all-barbecue series. The idea is to transfer the flavour of the marinade into the meat. You can also achieve that by simply placing the minced pork in a bowl and covering it with soy sauce like I did. Wiggle it around a little bit and let it rest for half an hour. Placing that in the fridge until you're ready to use it is also a gud idea.

Alrighty. Now for the stingy part. Finely dice the onion. We all heard it won't cause any disconfort to your eyes if you peel them underwater and something something with some lemon. Ok so.. assuming you do peel it underwater.. then what? What I do so I won't get whiny about meddling with onion is pretty unconventional. I must have read it in an old lady magazine. You have to hold a match stick in your mouth, like you would a cigarette. (Whatever wtf-like expression you're thinking) I know, I know. But I swear by it!

Next, scoop your tiny onion cubes up and throw them in your mini-wok (aka skillet) over some oil. You can use either sunflower or olive oil, they both work fine. Let brown for a while but make sure you won't burn the onion. That would suck. You'd either have to replace the onion or eat gross noodles. So rly, don't. After it reaches the desired golden-brown colour, take out your meat and let it fry on top. Use a spatula to break the larger "ants" and stir occasionally until it cooks completely. When you've reached that stage, place a few dollops of tomato sauce into a small bowl and thin it up with a little water. Give it a light whisk and pour it over the cooking meat. Depending on how thick you want your sauce to be, you can add anything from one to two cups of water. It's now time to add the seasonings and the final few tablespoons of soy sauce. This will help darken your dish and add a little extra chinese kick.. Bruce Lee style. (kidding) Simmer this some more over very low heat. Meanwhile, soak your noodles into warm water for a few minutes. This process won't take as long as it would your regular flour pasta, but only 3 to 7 minutes. In any case, prepare them using the instructions on the package. When they're done, drain well and combine with the prepared sauce in the mock-wok. Makes four huge servings for y'all imaginary readers.


P.S.: ..Hi!

P.P.S.: I've just figured out.. these posts only look so long because of the condensed-like template. Stewpid..

Monday, 12 April 2010

Homemade Marzipan

If peanut butter comes in two levels of chunky, why shouldn't marzipan? Unfortunately, the chunky kind of marzipan only exists in my household for now (for which thing I must thank my unprofessional food processor). The sophisticated, bittersweet taste of this dessert shouldn't lead you into thinking only the finest french chefs can delight their friends, relatives and customers with this all-season delight (although serving it as a Christmas snack is more than welcome, alongside a letter to Santy)

-Interlude: it is now time. The Santa reference really got me in the mood for Christmas. Yes, I start early, as early as the first wind of autumn. So hang on while I pop a blissful CD of carols in and start building up my enthusiasm for the winter holidays -

I never use an exact amount of ingredients for this recipe because it is so versatile you can easily mend your mistakes, if there should be any. So try playing around wih the consistency, taste it every once in a while, and see if you prefer it moist or crunchy. Personally, I like the crunchier version, because it allows you to shape it into a flat, filo pastry like shape, and use christmassy cookie cutters to give your whole dessert a way more edible look. You can even use kinky cookie cutters, I won't mind, but more about refining the marzipan after the paragraphs depicting the actual recipe. For that,

You will need:

a fistful of raw almonds
about the same quantity of confectioner's sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence
one egg white (or less)
optional, food colouring
also optional, jam or ganache for filling

Like me, you will probably have to make your own almond meal, as there is no such thing available on the market. Same thing applies to half&half and other ingredients I need in order to make some bloody cookies :D. Good thing I'm moving to England next month; with a little luck I will never have to produce my own dairy products ever again! But panic not, it only takes a little extra time and effort to obtain some chunkily ground almonds. Simply buy uncooked almonds, blanch them quickly (for a minute or two), and then gently *squeeze* the seeds, one by one, so that you have a nice bunch of skinless, button-nosed almonds (butt-naked, as the ones found in coconut candies). When done, use a food processor to grind them as finely as possible (although I hear from friends, family and potential future customers using perfectly powdered almond meal isn't mandatory. So this way I accidentally added a nice twist to the recipe.)

Now that you possess the most important ingredient, combine it with roughly the same amount of powdered sugar. You will notice a slight change of colour. And by that I mean a pleasant discoloration. Add a few drops of vanilla extract. You can substitute it with almond extract in order to enhance the flavour. Leave the mixture aside in a bowl so you can crack and separate a fresh egg. You don't need to bring it to room temperature, refrigerated eggs will do just as fine. Now.. if you just happen to add a little too much egg white to the mixture (like I did.. quite a few times), don't panic. Wrap everything up in a little cling film or aluminum foil and let it sit in the fridge for half an hour. You'll see that when the time has elapsed, the consistency will be close to perfection. All it needs is a little pat on the back and it will be all gud. Flatten it with a rolling pin, cut out cute shapes, dust with a little powdered sugar and set on a plate. Now pig out. (om nom nom)

As an alternative way of serving, you can assemble two such marzipan cookies as you would a spritz cookie. Say you have two flowed-shaped marzipan servings. Cut out the centre of either of them, eat it, and sprinkle sugar on the remaining petals. Spread some jam or ganache on the other flower, and set the sugared one on top of the jammied one. I used rose jam for my stacked goodies and the flavours matched perfectly. You can also cover cakes with the resulting marzipan, and mix a part of it with some powdered cocoa for a lovely change of colour and taste. It won't be as easy as it looks on the telly, but when you're short of cake topping inspiration, this is sure to come in handy. Enjoy responsibly XD



P.S.: Did anyone notice the motto change?