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Mar 20, 2014

Just Plain (Rice) Talk







You know, the average Malaysian is spoilt rotten. 
Myself included. 
We’re blessed with all the latest and greatest electronic gadgets that promise to cut time short, make life simpler … work, cook etc….yeah right.
Anyway, I’m talking about our very-taken-for-granted rice cooker. I’m quite surprised that something that you’d probably receive 7 units of at your wedding as a gift over in this part of the world, is such a rarity in the average mat salleh’s (foreigner) household. 
Why am I talking about cooking rice? 
It’s so simple right? Not worth blogging about. But hey … take away the rice cooker and our fellow Malaysians would probably be at their wits end. You can only take that much instant noodles.

I found myself in a situation where I didn’t have the luxury of a rice cooker.
Googled for the correct ratio of rice to water. Most of the instructions (if not all) come from cooks in the western countries. Yeah … but of course … no rice cooker at home right?
But they seem to like their rice a little softer than how we like it here … of course that all depends of the type of rice you use as well.

Let’s just talk plain, unassuming jasmine rice. The type that plain, unassuming people like me eat daily… well… almost daily … ok ok … once a week. But then, I’m not your average Malaysian either.

After a couple of crusty, crunchy, sometimes porridgy (is there such a word?) meals …. I’ve come to a ratio that’s pretty much how I like it.


INGREDIENTS
Aww … seriously?! Ok ok …

Water
Uncooked jasmine rice, rinsed

No, we don’t put a pinch of salt 

Ratio of 2:1, Water to Rice

(I usually just cook 1 cup of rice, so this ratio works perfectly. I haven’t tried it with a larger amount …. yet).


METHOD

Place rinsed rice and water into a deep dish microwave safe container. (I used a glassware deep casserole dish).
Cook on high for 20 mins. 
(I cook for 10 mins, check to see if it’s blown up, and then continue for another 10 mins, without stirring)
When cooked, remove from microwave oven (be careful of hot steam). Fluff with a fork and serve hot with your favourite condiments.

So simple. Not worth blogging about. 







Sep 16, 2013

Instant Jammin' - Spiced Peach Jam

 
 
 


This has got to be the fastest and freshest jam making process I've ever experienced. No cooking, fresh, refreshing and healthier too! I must say tho, the texture isn't quite as gooey and sticky as regular jams but you know that's all a bunch of sugar and pectin.

This doesn't rely on too much sugar nor pectin. It uses something that's popular in the health circles these days.... Chia seeds....botanic name: Salvia Hispanica.
Remember those days where you have all sorts of funny clay animal figures which you kept watering and eventually sprouted and gave them "hair"? Yup....those. Chia pets, they were called.
Now we ingest them instead of pasting them on figurines...the seeds, not the clay things. Nope...you won't get a hairy chest nor is it an alternative solution to hair loss. What you will get is some long list of health benefits. Go look it up, will ya. I'm talking jam here.
Immersed in liquid, the seeds turn into a gelatinous goop. Apparently, they absorb 10 times their weight in water!

My sis-in-law posted a link on her Facebook wall about this. The recipe called for fresh berries. Berries of any sort is expensive here and since this was an experiment, I wasn't gonna waste it if it doesn't work out. So, I'd decided to use up some canned peaches left over from a wannabe peach cheesecake....that's another story.

Amazingly, it worked. Why I doubted it in the first place, I don't know. Maybe I'd just doubted myself...my ability to get it right...I have this knack for screwing up the simplest of process.
And of course I can't keep it simple. I'd added some spices to liven things up.

An experimental jam.



INGREDIENTS

About 1 cup canned peaches, drained
1tbs chia seeds
Sugar to taste, or honey (I used sugar so as not to alter the peach flavours too much)

1 star anise
1 stick cinnamon


METHOD

Put the peaches and sugar in a food processor or blender.
Buzz til you get a texture that you like.
Stir in the chia seeds.
Place spices at the bottom of a jam jar and pour fruit purée over.
(You can use a spice infused syrup for a stronger flavour)
Seal and leave overnight for the seeds to absorb the liquid.

Note: since making this, I've discovered that this is a great way to make chutneys and mint jelly as well. Unfortunately, this doesn't keep too long since it's non cooked.

Why not experiment for yourself and do let me know what you've made and how it worked out for you.
 
 






Aug 19, 2013

A Bread Story






A friend suggested I should just go to bakeries and write about bread, pastries and whatever bakes they sell and the stuff I’ve sampled. Heck … why not … gives me a good enough reason to eat. And I do like bread.

I’m not here to criticize the quality but more so on the variety and the service of the places I visit.

You do realize that good service makes the food taste a whole lot better? Well, it makes a world of a difference to me anyway. Sour faced waiters and cashiers make everything taste ugh. Why they’re in the service industry is beyond me …

Bread Story at the new wing of 1Utama … the usual array of breads, buns and pastries ….

Friend and I picked out a couple of goodies including what I thought was a banana chocolate muffin  …. it was labelled as such. Ordered a couple of drinks to go with and sat down to enjoy our pickings. Stabbed into the muffin and out oozed a gooey mass of blueberry-looking jelly. Hmm …. Banana, chocolate muffin with blueberry goo …. Okaaay. *scratch head* . Stared at it for a couple of stunned seconds and decided to ask the manager what that was suppose to be. She said “blueberry muffin”. Hah!! Labelled wrong. Now the gist of this story is about good PR. Lady manager apologised, walked off and came back with the correct muffin and said it’s on the house. Didn’t even take away the blueberry muffin. Well, it was pretty massacred anyway …

I know that was just a muffin, but in this selfish world today …. sometimes a small kind gesture makes a world of difference to someone’s crappy day.

Go ahead. Have a muffin. Have a great day.
 
 

 
 
 

 

Dec 27, 2012

Guest Post: Little Miss Sunshine








Here I was, thinking I wasn't going to be able to come up with a post until the end of the year with all that's been going on, when a little ray of sunshine popped out of the darkest clouds that were looming over my head ... in the form of my niece. Such a great support. Thank you, dear girl, for carting away my cake pans, messing up my kitchen., and "trying" to clear my fridge. That would take many visits, *hint*.  

How can this not cheer anyone up? And if the looks alone doesn't get you, those little sour bursts from the cranberries will! I loved the tartness of the fruit in this and the crunch of the almonds with the caramelization from the sprinkling of sugar. 

Everyone, I'm sharing with you today .... my personal ray of sunshine with her Cranberry Bottom Cake.


My aunt's pantry is a bajillion times better stocked than my own bare-bones, gotta-cart-it-to-a-new-apartment-every-few-months one. Every time I come over I'm itching to bake or cook and take advantage of her ridiculous supply. I've already got several ideas for my next trip so she better be prepared to do some serious eating!


I love the tart explosiveness of cranberries, but I haven't had any of the fruit since my last Thanksgiving in the States 3 years ago (I've been working abroad since). When my aunt mentioned that she had some in the freezer I jumped at the opportunity to bake something with it and promptly found this recipe from the Beantown Baker that I had to adapt a bit (not fully melted butter and coarse sugar), resulting in a thicker batter and thus more of a cake-y-ness than the pie/macaron-ish texture she described. It's fast and easy and the sugar/cranberry/almond bottom resulted in a caramelized coating. The cake itself was just light enough and not too sweet, letting the cranberry's flavor and zest shine through. 



CRANBERRY BOTTOM CAKE

INGREDIENTS

2 cups raw cranberries (fresh or frozen)

zest of half an orange

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 & 1/2 cups white sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup (~170g) butter, melted

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour



METHOD


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (160 C). Grease a 10-inch pie plate or 8-inch square pan.

2. Wash the cranberries, leaving some water on them (thaw first if frozen). Combine the cranberries with the almonds in the pie plate. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar. It was basically enough for a layer of almonds and then a layer of cranberries.

3. Cream the remaining 1 cup sugar with the eggs and butter. Stir in the almond extract and zest. Add the flour and mix well. Pour/spread over the cranberries.

4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center of the crust comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving warm, or serve completely cooled. This would go well with some whipped cream or ice cream.





Happy holidays everyone, enjoy the cranberry cake!








Dec 21, 2012

Down Time



I apologize for the long silence. 
It's been a little hectic with losses of loved ones since August. 

I'm looking forward to a whole new and happier (and I really mean Happier, with a capital "H") new year in 2013. 

I would like to thank everyone who had been so supportive in their different ways ... guest posts, friendship, emails, spiritual support, moral support, patience.


A Merry Christmas to all. 
This year's Christmas will be a very quiet affair for us .... to reflect and to heal.
Here's wishing a better one to you and yours.

Hugs.










Dec 16, 2012

Guest Post: Homemade Ricotta









Hey everyone!  
Shannon's blog-sitting for me while I'm caught up with one crisis after another. (I can't wait for this year to end ... seriously). 

If you haven't met her by now, hop over to her mostly gluten-free blog, JustAsDelish ... totally healthy and inspiring and get acquainted with one of the sweetest people I've met. 
She's also the reason behind my falling in love with quinoa! And she recently came out runner-up in the Nutriplus baking competition with her fancy mushroom quiche! I can tell you she'd had a better year than I did. Yay for her! 

So, enjoy reading her wonderful post, get inspired and run off to your kitchens and try your hand at making homemade ricotta. 






Here she is ....


Hello, all you Ping's Pickings readers! I'm Shannon from JustAsDelish.com. A gazillion thanks to Ping for asking to me guest post on her fabulous blog. As this is my 1st guest post, I was pretty nervous when she asked. I'm very honoured to do so but I was undecided on which recipe to share because she's such a fabulous cook & baker. Hmm.. what recipe for Ping?
One of the things I enjoy is making food from scratch.. food that is sold in the jars/cans - like condensed milk, peanut butter, yogurt. If a factory can produce them, there should be a recipe for me to try at home. There's nothing more satisfying to me than making them fresh. So what's more apt than sharing a "made from scratch" recipe - Homemade Ricotta Cheese.
Ricotta is a soft Italian curd cheese, light and creamy with a slightly grainy texture and delicate flavour. Making fresh cheese is easier than you think.  If you know how to make Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese), the recipe is almost similar with milk & an acid (lemon juice or vinegar). Making ricotta needs 2 extra ingredient - plain yogurt and cream. Adding cream did indeed give an even richer edge. It's also possible to make ricotta with just milk, it will be less indulgent & 'healthier'. 
When I suggest to my friend Tracy to make her own Ricotta cheese for her ravioli, she look at me dumbfounded. Making Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli calls for a large amount of ricotta, and a very good 200g ricotta costs RM30 (USD10). She don't believe me how easy (and cheap) it is until I demonstrated to her. In 10 minutes with very little effort, we have a lovely mound of freshly made, still warm ricotta for the price of 1 liter of milk. We tested 2 batches of ravioli with store-bought & freshly made ricotta, and the ones with homemade ricotta win hands-down!
Homemade ricotta makes a wonderful base for Italian cheesecakes, ravioli fillings, and lasagna. Serving slightly warm ricotta over berries or peaches with a drizzle of honey makes a lovely dessert.
For the upcoming Christmas dinner parties & year end celebration, try serving freshly made ricotta accompanied with some stewed fruit compote or poached fruits. Trust me, your guests will be very impressed.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Makes: about 200g Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients:

1 liter whole (full cream) Milk
1/2 cup (125ml) plain Yogurt
1/2 cup (125ml) Cream - Optional
1 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Instruction:

1. In a large pot, bring the milk, yogurt, cream (if using), and salt to a soft boil. 
2. Add in vinegar (or lemon juice) and boil for 1-2 two minutes, or until the milk curdled.
3. Meanwhile, line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and set it over a deep bowl/pot.
4. Pour the milk mixture into the strainer and let drain for 15 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the curds and squeeze gently to extract any excess liquid. And you have warm fresh ricotta 

Note: 
* Homemade ricotta is best served slightly warm, or keep it refrigerated for up to three days, if desired.

* The liquid that is drained out is whey. You can throw it out, or I save it to use in place of milk for my cooking & baking.









Dec 7, 2012

Organic Baby Steps








Organic food never really caught my attention. Probably because there wasn't a need for it, and probably because I've always thought it was boring. Unfortunately, eyes are opened to these things when one gets some sort of allergy to regular foodstuff, or a need to avoid all the preservatives and chemicals that are in practically everything we buy off the shelves these days ... or unless one is a health nut ... or ok, just wanting to be healthy ... the right way. 

A while back, I was put into a situation where I had to guest post something healthy. And was I in a fix! I realized then how little I know about eating healthy besides the couple of vitamin pills that I pop every now and then .... whenever I remember. (I have absolutely no discipline when it comes to these things). 
So I made a quinoa something-or-other for the guest post, and got totally hooked to it ... hubby still says it's rabbit food and refuses to have anything to do with it. 
But whaddaya know? Healthy food can be tasty. 
I need to learn more about this organic culture. Just out of curiosity. 

I was fortunate to be invited (thanks to Veronica @ Quay Po Cooks) to spend half a day with some fellow bloggers and the local media to experience a very educational session about Ozganics, a homegrown, award winning Australian brand, founded by Anni Brownjohn. Such a bubbly lady ....
She had 2 other chefs (Chef Ryan and Chef Loke) assisting her in a cooking demo ... great job, guys! 






There's a wide range of products, these are just a few (the lemon chicken sauce was used in the cooking demo). You can find more at Jaya Grocer.








Chef Ryan whipped up the most delicious tasting Organic Sprouted Wheat Multigrain Bread ... I could eat the whole loaf. (Note to self: must make this soon!)






The bread went beautifully with my favorite dish of the day .... Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives. And the sauce was right out of a bottle! Who needs to be a cook-from-scratch snob when this is so easy and so delicious! This dish was also very well paired with quinoa ... yes! quinoa! ... that healthy thingy that I'm so in love with! Will amazement never cease!






The other 2 dishes on the menu: Thai Pumpkin Soup and Watermelon and Feta Salad. The soup and salad also had sauces and dressings from a bottle ... Ozganics, of coz.
We had a taste of 3 different kinds of dressing for the salad ... garlic, lemon myrtle and avocado. I honestly thought I'd prefer the avocado before I'd tasted it, but the feta overpowered the mildness of it as well as the lemon myrtle that in the end, the garlic dressing was a better compliment. 








Waiting for those dishes to be ready was the most agonizing part ... thank goodness nobody heard the orchestra doing a crescendo in my tummy.





~ Feeding a hungry horde ~


And for the more inquiring minds ....

Definition of Organic:
(sourced from wiki)

~ no human sewage sludge fertilizer used in cultivation of plants or feed of animals (organic meat). The livestock must be reared with regular access to pasture and without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
~ avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs not on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc.), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge.
~ use of farmland that has been free from prohibited synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more).

And having authentic Organic Certification means:

~ keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail).
~ maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products.
~ undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, and commercial use of the term organic is legally restricted. Certified organic producers are also subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers.

So, even if you get a product that has a bunch of logos plastered on the label, that doesn't really mean it's certified organic. To be certified organic, products must be grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the country they are sold in. And in this case, Ozganics is certified by NASAA (The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia) and holds international recognition.





I came out of that session much smarter than I went in. There's still much to learn about organic foods. And I specifically am interested mainly in the dishes I can whip up with it. The only downside about organic products is that they're costly, and I don't mean a smidgen in difference, but quite a significant one. Hopefully that'll change sometime soon.

Thanks again to the organizers, Anni Brownjohn, Chef Ryan, Chef Loke, Jaya Grocer @ Empire, Nourish!, QuayPo Cooks for the invite and fellow bloggers who contributed to an enjoyable afternoon. Nice meeting all of you!