Mire Poix, Mixed Spice and beyond

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one of the few “answers to everything in the world”s

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I commented on how he doesn’t have a “favourite dish by jenn”. How I loved his signature crispy fried noodles and perfect omlettes; classics executed perfectly.

He liked my take on Anjum Anand’s North Indian Chicken Curry, but it wasn’t until I accidentally created this slightly eccentric version of keema that he became a believer.

He *loved* the yogurt marinated ground beef, to which I added our leftover whey & simmered until goodness absorbed. We got to experience this wonderment again when, 6 weeks-ish later, the freezer bit the dust.

He says my keema’s perfect, and I have to do it again with all the defrosted mince. And you know what, I not only did it again, I effing made my own PERFECT naans to go with it as well! From scratch! Yes, yours truly!

nigella seeds pressed into the pliable softness

nigella seeds pressed into the pliable softness

crispy but fluffy and v addictive!

crispy but fluffy and v addictive!

yogurt + spices + mince + love + time

yogurt + spices + mince + love + time

Kneading is well therapeutic, and a great arms workout when you have to do it 10 minutes non-stop! There is no better fulfillment than a task well done, and it would’ve been cliched, but I should’ve taken a photo of our empty vessels to show a task well done.

And there’s more, literally.. I’m pairing the extra keema with orecchiette and some yellow cherry toms for lunch tomorrow. Always brings a smile to my face, a homemade lunch that tastes miles & miles better than throwing money at Greggs (albeit a perfectly respectable British institution).

Written by misschoi

July 22, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Posted in curry, mince, perfect, spices, win

Tagged with , , , ,

the spiritual journey of cupcakes

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so I found this lovely-looking cupcake recipe from Little Compton Mornings & my venture started out not unlike the many others before.
What they were meant to look like..
What they were meant to look like..

having the attention span of a fruitfly (& blaming this on my star sign), and living in constant fear of a culinary success being a fluke and having my suspicions confirmed, I flit from recipe to recipe, rarely revisiting to tweak or perfect. The least they have in common, the more quirky the combination of ingredients, the better. My own skill level be damned.

Hot Milk Cupcakes – how novel! Why stick with good ol’ folding-dry-ingredients-into-the-wet-ones when it always works? Why not whisk eggs with sugar, mix in the flour & powders, and incorporate into a steaming pan of milk & butter?

If I sound like I’m recipe-bashing (& I can’t deny it..), it’s only because I’m suffering from a case of sour grapes. Or uncooked, soggy grapes even.

My dilemma is that whilst adventurous, I shun repeating recipes. And therein lies the (missed) wealth of golden opportunities to experiment, test, hone, perfect.. But experimenting is expensive! I tell myself. Half a dozen eggs and enough flour for two loaves just because I want to change a step and reduce the amount of sugar are things I cannot justify.

Besides, who wants to eat the same things all the time, even if they do taste fabulous? (Lots of people, but that’s besides the point. I start getting bored if I have the same cereal two days in a row…)

First mistake came with the realisation that ‘incorporating’ does not equal rigorous beating. My guess is somewhere along the line, I stretched the gluten particles to their breaking point and that’s why the batter is looking suitably wobbly, but also sad and holey, like the back of so many British thighs.

Then there was the folding of batter into the warmed milky butter. I must’ve been overcompensating for my speedy mistake and slowed down so much that, well, the mixture started cooking and clumping up. Now they look even worse than the aforementioned thighs.

Reluctantly, they were plopped onto muffin cases alongside empty cases filled with water. Some steaming involved?

Miraculously, the batter settled happily into their moulds and rose. My joy was short-lived however, when the toothpick not only came out unclean, but thoroughly threaded with gooey half-formed dough-crumbs.

 

and the camera *isn't* out of focus. that's just how indistinct the texture was..

Back in they went, but now I was worried the beautiful peaks will overcook. And I wasn’t wrong. This toothpick-disappointment-reoven process was repeated several times (later on with the whole tray foil-wrapped) until I was convinced the ‘cakes’ (if you can call them that) were as cooked as they would ever be.

Even Mr P eyed the squishy moulds dubiously and fell silent where he would’ve usually at least offered words of comfort. (It could just be because I’d already called him in 74 times in the last half hour to detail how I’ve screwed up yet again though? Nah..)

And what of the frosting, the simple/elegant-sounding whisked up egg whites, tartar and warmed syrup frosting? Whites stiff and shiny, trouble started when I spooned the syrup in. The stiffness faded and everything became distinctly watery and un-frosty.

So of course I had this bright idea to add icing sugar and blend the damn thing.. I mean, who wouldn’t? My watery pinkness turned into smoothie-consistency, which while attractive, failed for functionality.

Oh but then this all happened in the space of 1 hour. And Jenn completely neglected the resting period. The wait-and-let-time-work-its-magic period.

You see, I’d already started throwing some out when I realised that not only were the previously uncooked cakes pulling themselves together, but the frosting suddenly started sitting up right too! Mr P was no longer interested by this point, but I dwelled, picked and poked at various specimens to analyse all my naughty departures from the recipe.. what if all those times I thought myself creative actually led to these cakes’ demise?

The dwelling slowed me down. I took photos in anticipation for lamenting how beautiful-looking the cakes turned out, but how awfully they tasted. And yet.. they really were not that bad. I mean, I wouldn’t go any further than that, but they were not an outright disaster. And my last 2.5 hours weren’t completely wasted.

tada!

With the frosting tasting their rightful marshmallow-texture, I proceeded to spread them onto the evened out cakes. And here they are. Lots of the same things together always make it look cool. Obviously photography tip #384.

up close & you can see the bubbles in the frosting!

They’re coming to work with me tomorrow, and will form my bribe for Mr S to get me through to interviews. I’ll update as events unfold.

**Edit – he didn’t think so much of the frosting, but he said he liked it. It’s always hard to gauge the genuineness, and my own doubts get in the way. Oh well, less messing around next time🙂

Written by misschoi

July 16, 2009 at 12:22 am

Posted in baked goods, epic fail

Tagged with ,

soffritto

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I think it sounds more like a drink; it’s an italian flavour base made by sweating onions over medium heat with chosen fat until translucent but not brown.

Italian or otherwise, 99% of recipes now seem to start with “saute onions” and it all becomes as natural as seasoning. the aroma of it gets the whole process off to a great start. garlic, celery and carrots are also usual suspects.

from there, the world is your oyster. well, the world in this case is ragu, risotto, marinara and soup.

like the mire poix, this early ritual seem an equivalent to saying a brief prayer before mass, the dotting of holy water on one’s forehead, chest and shoulders before an onwards journey of discovery, each one infinitely different to the last.

Written by misschoi

May 3, 2009 at 10:31 pm

fish pie

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[angela hartnett’s traditional]

poach fish in seasoned milk that’s been brought slow to boil w/thyme & bay leaf

make white sauce by sieving milk, gradually add to roux (equal amts melted butter & flour) whisking constantly then adding capers, parsley, quartered hard boiled eggs & squeeze lemon. pour over flaked fish & top w/mash. bake until golden brown.

[asian]

mash roasted sweet potatoes

heat coconut milk until hot, add lemongrass, ginger, garlic, curry paste (red/green/yellow), cook over high 1 min. take mixture off heat, add fish, peas, coriander & soy. top w/mash, cover & bake 15m. fridge til required then bake 25m more.

[Mtuza wa Samaki / Kenyan baked curried fish]

arrange sauteed onions over fish. grind / blend into paste: oil, chilies, garlic, chopped toms, white wine vinegar, grd cardamoms, grd cumin. pour over fish, season & bake 180c 30m or until just flaky.

[bengali fish curry]

marinade fish w/salt & tumeric. fry skin side first, until both sides golden & set aside. blend into paste: crushed mustard seeds, chilies & water.

add bengali 5 spice “panch phoron” (1tsp cumin seed, fennel seed, fenugreek seed, nigella seed, mustard seed) in prev frypan 1m, add chili paste & fry 4m. fish back in, season & water if necessary. bring to simmer & cook 10m, or until done. garnish w/coriander & serve.

Written by misschoi

May 3, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Posted in fish, pie, spices

on being thick-skinned and the british stiff upper lip

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After waiting 45 minutes for 2 pizzas and 2 pastas, we took a final sip of our wines and walked out.

A few of us were more conservative, but I’ve never had any qualms about walking out, should the situation call for it. There’s a fine balance between making such a fuss and ruining your own night, and not getting shat on by the establishments you’re handing over hard-earned money to.

In my case, a combination of being Chinese and eating out all the time meant there were always more pleasant meals to be had, and I never felt inclined to spend half a penny more than I had to.

but here’s always that brief moment of wondering whether I would regret doing this. not because they didn’t deserve it but whether I would ever want to revisit the restaurant again. In most cases, the answer is a lucky no.

In any case, I’ve had better and cheaper pizzas, and the fiancee makes definitively the best pasta. now, if only I could have that chandelier in my living room..

but it remains that you can’t eat scenary, and I am at peace again.

Written by misschoi

May 3, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Posted in italian, restaurant

Tagged with ,

simple pleasures, but..

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greggs hot x buns

supermarket price wars cheer me. bonus for when they’re on timely, festive goods🙂
granted, image above is more akin to a Greggs outfit circa 1950s. once out of the environmentally-unfriendly mass of packaging and under the grill.. it’s all gonna look like the food porn below and nobody’s the wiser.

(unless you’re like me and have an minor but no less annoying intolerance to processed white flour)

hot-x-buns2

Written by misschoi

April 2, 2009 at 9:33 am

things I love but haven’t yet managed to photograph

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..mostly because I eat them too fast.

  • Adam’s latte de casa: with 75% frothed up milk and double espresso poured over, where the bubbles rival any ‘stiff peaks’ created by experienced meringue makers. Comfort without calories.. so there is a god!
  • Egg Waffles from a dingy stall plastered with articles reporting celebrity patrons near where I used to take math lessons in North Point, served in a holey brown bag that never quite saved the crispy bits from escaping onto my quadratic equations
  • Grilled breaded/battered anything: be they homemade fishcakes, delicate seafood tempura, gritty deep-fried calamari, Rusholme’s trademark onion bhajis, reformed turkey with extra water, or veg-style quarter pounders. Gone as soon as they reach the optimum golden brown shade even if I have to eat with my mouth open to let the steam out
  • Yorkshire puddings with an obligatory 2-second dip into the gravy and/or accompanying fruit sauce / chutney
  • Toasted carbs – brown seeded honey bloomer, day-old walnut bread revived by putting one side under the grill, lowly own brand crumpets. Sense of urgency heightened at the presence of any kind of spread.
  • ^(I have always had a love-hate relationship with toast racks, such simple and elegant design.. but I see right through you lot trying to cool my food down!)

a common theme of transience emerges.

 declining-line-graph

it is literally like the photo.  I lose interest as soon as the core temp falls below this ridiculously narrow range. So it’s not a mere case of “well duh, no one likes day-old fish and chips.”

and with the exception of the first in that list, I’m happy enough cribbing from professionally photographed versions of the same. because let’s face it – in the time it takes to make do these delicacies justice, it will do them no justice at all.

Written by misschoi

March 16, 2009 at 11:21 pm

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