Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Arroz con Pollo or Rice with Chicken for #RandomRecipeChallenge

My fellow food blogger, Dom, posed the question.  If you had 10 seconds to grab one cookbook, which one would it be?  Quick!  Don’t think too long.  As much as I would have liked to say my newest cookbook, received as a gift from my friend, Jenny, (See exhibit A, below, thoroughly bookmarked with recipes I want to try.)   I knew the only genuine choice is the book that comes in the suitcase with me when we move countries.  My all-encompassing, knows-everything standby since the days before the internet and Skype, the 1980 edition of The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.   You’ve heard me wax eloquent about it here and here.   And I’ve used its recipes too many times to list all the links.  It’s even made it into the Random Recipe Challenge once before, by default.

Exhibit A - Need to bake so much

This month the great book opened at a dish I’ve eaten many times in my lifetime, sometimes called by other names, like jambalaya or paella.  Frankly, I don’t know what the difference is between arroz con pollo, jambalaya and paella, save the names.  Chicken, sausage, rice.  Other odds and ends like seafood and/or paprika and saffron but essentially the same main ingredients, right?   And before a bunch of angry Spaniards flock here to leave shouty comments, (¡Bienvenidos!) my research reveals that I am correct.  At least as regards, paella and arroz con pollo.  I grew up with both jambalaya and arroz con pollo so I rest my case.

Anyhoo, on to the dish and the fulfillment of this month’s Random Recipe “grab and go” challenge.

1/4 cup or 60ml olive oil
4- to 5-pound or 1.8 – 2.25kg roasting chicken
1 large onion
1 1/4 cups or 295ml water
14 oz or 400g can tomatoes
4 oz or 115g canned or jarred pimentos or sweet red peppers
2 1/3 oz or about 65g black Spanish olives
2 cups or 400g Basmati rice
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 chicken stock cubes
16 oz or about 550g smoked pork sausage
8 oz or about 225g frozen peas

Remove your peas from the freezer and set aside.

Cut the chicken up into manageable pieces.  The usual is eight, but, if the breasts are large, as these are, I like to cut them in half as well.

Chop your onion, dice your pimentos and pit your olives.  Slice the sausage into pieces.  Big, small, it’s up to you.

Heat the olive oil and brown your chicken on both sides in your pot, a few pieces at a time.  (Or use another enormous skillet to brown them all at the same time like I did.  Sure, I have another pan to wash, but that takes less time than browning the chicken a few pieces at a time.  Your call.)  Set the chicken aside while you get on with the rest of the recipe.

Cook the onion until soft in the chicken drippings.  At this point I transferred said drippings to the pot I would cook the arroz con pollo in to cook my onions.

Add in the rice and give it a good stir to coat with oil.

Add in the water, the tomatoes, pimentos, olives with all of their liquids along with the stock cubes, salt and pepper.  Stir again to make sure the stock cubes have dissolved.

Now set your browned chicken in the rice pot and bring the liquid to boiling.   

Turn the fire down to low and cover the pot with a tightly fitting lid.  My lid has a little air hole for steam so I covered it first with some foil and then popped the lid on.

Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is almost fork tender and the rice is just about cooked.  Test a few grains to see.

Add the thawed peas to the pot and cook for about 10 more minutes.   Good Housekeeping suggests that if the mixture seems dry when you add the peas, you should put the lid back on.  If it seems wet, you can cook with the lid off.  I put the lid back on.

Serve with another light sprinkle of cayenne or the hot sauce of your choice.  We used this one.


Once again, I've waited till the very last minute to post my Random Recipe, but if you'd like to join Dom's challenge in future months, follow this link to Belleau Kitchen. 

                                                   Random Recipes #26 - March

Monday, August 26, 2013

Thyme Chèvre Blackberry Muffins #MuffinMonday

Savory muffins with fresh thyme, goat cheese and blackberries, these thyme chèvre blackberry muffins make a most delicious breakfast or tea time treat. They are also perfect with a glass of wine!

Food Lust People Love: Savory muffins with fresh thyme, goat cheese and blackberries, these thyme chèvre blackberry muffins make a most delicious breakfast or tea time treat. They are also perfect with a glass of wine!
My younger daughter has been with me all summer, which has been such a joy.  We have spent time together shopping and cooking and traveling and just hanging out.  I am thankful that neither she nor her sister ever went through that awkward teenage time when some children just want to pretend they sprung wholly formed from the earth and their parents don’t exist.  We’ve always enjoyed each other’s company.  But summer comes to an end soon and I know she needs to go back to school.

As I commented on my friend, Marilyn’s blog the other day, I am always relieved that I did something right when my girls can take care of themselves and deeply sad that they don’t need me in the same way any more.  So I send them out in the world and pray!  Part of me would just like to keep her home and safe where we love her.  But the larger part of me feels secure knowing that she is strong enough to be independent and will have a fabulous year of growth and learning.  Besides that, I think she would be bored silly if this were a long-term arrangement.  She absolutely needs the creative atmosphere of art school!  

Meanwhile, though, as her father travels around the world on business, the two of us have been making fancy salads and eating whatever we want for dinner.  Fancy salads, by our definition, are a full meal and must have pretty greens, fruit, nuts and special cheese.  The combinations are endlessly delicious!

Thyme Chèvre Blackberry Muffins

Inspired by recipe on a blog I love called Annie’s Eats for a salad with blackberries and goat cheese that turned out wonderfully, these muffins go equally as well with a mug of coffee, cup of tea or a glass of wine.

7 oz or 200g chèvre or aged goat cheese
Several sprigs fresh thyme
3 oz or 85g fresh blackberries
2 1/2 cups or 315g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter or 115g, melted and cooled
1 cup or 240ml milk
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin tin by lightly rubbing it with oil or use non-stick spray to coat or lining it with paper liners.  When I am baking with cheese, I tend to forgo the papers because the cheese sticks to it.

Snip the tender ends off of your sprigs of thyme for garnishing your muffins before baking and set them aside.  Pull the leaves off of the rest of the sprigs.

Cut the goat cheese into cubes and crumbles and set aside.  I leave the rind on but you can cut it off if you prefer.  Reserve some cheese for topping the muffins before baking, if desired.

You can totally drink wine with these.  It's not just a breakfast muffin!  Or have wine with breakfast.  I won't judge.

Cut the large blackberries in half or thirds, leaving the little ones whole.

Whisk the cool, melted butter, egg and milk in a smaller mixing bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ones and stir a couple of times.

Add in the thyme leaves, blackberries and goat cheese and fold to combine.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups and top with the reserved cheese and tender bits of thyme.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes in the pan then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

You may need to run a knife around the edge to get the melted cheese loose.  Any little melted cheese that falls outside the muffin area is yours to eat immediately.  Baker’s privilege.

Food Lust People Love: Savory muffins with fresh thyme, goat cheese and blackberries, these thyme chèvre blackberry muffins make a most delicious breakfast or tea time treat. They are also perfect with a glass of wine!

Food Lust People Love: Savory muffins with fresh thyme, goat cheese and blackberries, these thyme chèvre blackberry muffins make a most delicious breakfast or tea time treat. They are also perfect with a glass of wine!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pisang Goreng or Deep Fried Bananas

Just ripe bananas dipped in a thick batter are deep-fried till golden, creating a crispy outside and a soft sweet inside – a truly delectable treat called Pisang Goreng in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. In English that translates to fried bananas.

“Pull over!” she’d cry.  It might be a fruit stand selling durian or a little roadside café or a hole-in-the-wall frying hot wontons filled with shrimp.  No matter, my mother was (and is) always game to stop and try whatever is on offer.  I get my food adventurousness from her.  When we lived in Trinidad, we ate curried who-knows-what at shacks by the side of the road.  (My favorite is goat.)  The other expat ladies thought she was crazy and that we’d get sick.  We never did.  In Venezuela Mom would buy me homemade cheese, called queso de mano, from peddlers who would dart between cars at the big roundabout near our house.  Even when we moved back to Houston, she would seek out the little local markets in the ethnic areas, driving clear across town to drink yogurt lassi and eat spicy samosas or to perhaps buy Middle Eastern sweet treats like baklava to bring in to work.

Through all the countries we’ve lived, I’ve tried to do the same.  Street food, when cooked hot and fresh, is the very best.  Get in line at the stall with the most people waiting to be served and you are guaranteed something tasty and worth waiting for.  All those people can’t be wrong, right?

My mother-in-law, me and my mom, at a hawker center in Singapore, 1 June 2009.
This is where Mom chose to go for her birthday lunch! 
This week our Sunday Supper group is celebrating global street food and I cannot tell you how long my list of possible recipes from myriad countries was.  It took me three days to settle on just one.  I don’t remember where I first tried fried bananas but I can tell you that my daughters fell in love with them in Brazil, where they are often served as the dessert at the end of a churrascaria meal.  Fried bananas are also typical market or street food all over Asia.  Turns out that the Portuguese are probably responsible for both.  If Wikipedia is to be trusted, up until 1511, Malaysians ate bananas in their natural state.  When the Portuguese arrived, they brought with them the flour necessary to make batter and their method of frying bananas, which then spread throughout the region.  So hats off to the Portuguese and let’s fry some bananas!

Many thanks to the Google+ Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia Cuisine Community, led by the talented and kind +Azlin Bloor, who generously allow me to be part of their group and who helped me settle on a recipe for the batter.  You all rock!

3/4 cup or 95g all-purpose flour
1/4 cup or 40g rice flour (not glutinous rice flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 -1 1/4 cups water, or just enough to make the batter thick enough to stick to the bananas
Oil for deep frying – I use canola
4-5 medium-sized ripe - but not too soft - bananas

Powdered sugar – optional but not traditional – for serving
(Some fancy restaurants in Asia also serve these now, sometimes with ice cream.)

Combine your flours, baking powder and salt in a big mixing bowl.

Beat your egg with a little water to loosen it and pour it in the mixing bowl.

Keep stirring and adding water until your batter is thin enough to drip off the whisk but still thick enough to cling to a banana.

Heat oil in pan or wok over medium flame to about 365°F or 185°C.  This is the temperature on my candy/deep frying thermometer which is suggested for doughnuts.

Peel and slice bananas in half widthwise then lengthwise.

Coat bananas in batter, and deep-fry in the hot oil for just a few minutes, or until bananas are golden brown and crispy.

Drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle on a little powdered sugar, if desired.  I did because I think it looks pretty.


Be careful with that first bite.  The banana inside will be hot!

Bread on the Boulevard
  • Martabak (stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread)
from The Urban Mrs
  • Pao de Queijo
  • from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
  • Socca
  • from Curious Cuisiniere
    Hand-Held Savory Eats
    To-Go Containers
    Sweets on the Streets
    Grab a Thermos

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    Seared Spice-encrusted Tuna Steaks

    There’s just something about Sunday Brunch that’s special.  The dressing up, the champagne, the extravagant variety of choices, and most especially, the occasion.   Because if you are going to Sunday Brunch, there is probably a reason.  Even if it is just to celebrate summer!  When we were living in Kuala Lumpur, one of our favorite brunches was at the Westin hotel.  Along with the generous buffet where we could help ourselves, the wait staff also delivered delicious morsels to our table, all afternoon.  Plus Champagne.

    One such morsel was tuna, coated in spices and seared till it was golden on the outside but still vibrantly pink on the inside.  The last time we were there, I examined it closely, tasting bite after bite, purely for research, you understand. And this is my best approximation of that lovely dish.  You can serve it alone, tapas style, in which case, drizzle it with some good olive oil in the serving dish, or on a bed of greens and rice salad on a small plate for a starter, or in a larger bowl for a complete meal. 

    2 tuna steaks – about 9 oz or 255g each

    For the spice mix
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
    1 teaspoon fennel
    1 teaspoon coriander
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon mixed peppercorns
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

    For the wet coating
    2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
    2 tablespoons olive oil – plus more for the frying pan

    Lay your tuna steaks out between paper towels to dry.

    Use a mortar and pestle to grind the spices finely.

    The pink is Himalayan sea salt.  Use any sea salt you have. 

    Mix the whole grain mustard thoroughly with the olive oil.

    Spread half of the mustard mixture on one side of the tuna steaks and then sprinkle with half of the spice mix.

    Put the tuna on a piece of cling film, which will make it easier for you to flip it over into the frying pan.  Repeat the seasoning on the other side, first mustard, then spices.

    Heat a non-stick frying pan until it is very hot and then drizzle in a little olive oil.  Cook one side of the tuna for just a couple of minutes before turning it to the other side.

    Watch the side of the tuna and you can see the cooked part coming up.  You want to leave a good amount of pink still in the middle.

    Sear the other side for just a minute or two and then remove from the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes.

    Slice into thin pieces with a serrated knife, using a sawing motion so you don't mash the tuna.