Monthly Archives: May 2014

Tenth Masterchef Winner: Congrats Ping

 

 

 

I’ve finally gotten around to watching the finals of the tenth – TENTH??? – series of Masterchef. This has been a great series with tons of amazing contestants who really gave it their all. I’m still disappointed however, that Alex, the rock n’ rolling wrestler was knocked out early on in the competition (gotta support my fellow rockers!) and I would have loved for Rani to have gone further as she did make me laugh but I think it’s fair to say that the best woman won.

 

All three of the finalists – Jack Lucas, Ping Coombs, and Luke Owen – were nothing short of awesome and really cooked for their lives (not to mention the Masterchef title!)

 

At an age where most people’s culinary skills extend no further than opening a tin of rice pudding, twenty one year old Jack amazed everyone with his flair and skills, and very rarely put a foot wrong. And Luke was a huge fan of daring flavour combinations and experimenting with food. His experiments weren’t always majorly successful but his boldness in the kitchen impressed Masterchef Judges John Torode and Greg Wallace.

 

 

But it was Malaysian-born Ping who really stood out from the moment she entered the competition. The very first dish she made – a curried chicken dish – just made me want to stick my hands through the television screen and grab a mammoth bowlful for myself. Even though Malaysian cuisine appeared to be her signature style, Ping showed her ability as a versatile cook by successfully cooking an array of non-Malaysian dishes. There was no doubting that Ping really put her heart and soul into everything that she was cooking, and her dedication, organization, talent, and the super-fast pace at which she worked were just extraordinary. As the finals approached I was so sure I knew who’d win – and I was right!

 

 

Ping says it’s her goal to introduce more people to Malaysian cuisine – she has ambitions to bring out a cook book and open a Malaysian style café – and I truly hope she achieves this. As someone who has family who hails from this part of the world, I can honestly say that Malaysian food is one of my most favourites. It’s just a shame most people don’t really know about it. The main that Ping created for the finals – nasi lemak – is the dish I always choose when I go to my fave Malaysian restaurant. There are many different variations of this dish but it basically consists of coconut rice with a variety of different side dishes. I always say that the restaurant I often frequent serves the best nasi lemak ever, and their version contains coconut rice; a spicy squid sambal; crispy fried chicken wings; deep fried anchovies and peanuts; a cucumber salad and a fried egg. This would most definitely be my last meal!

I’m so passionate about this dish that I’ve included a recipe for anyone who might want to attempt it. But be warned – it might be addictive!

 

 

I’m disappointed that this series of Masterchef has come to an end and I have to wait for another year. This has been an amazing series and I cannot wait for the next one to begin. Mr. D on the other hand, can’t wait for Masterchef USA to begin it’s fifth season as he much prefers that to our home-grown version. I like both of them and appreciate each of them for what they are but I’ve noticed that if you’re more interested in food than contestants’ dramas, then Masterchef UK it is. And of course we have the delightful John and Greg!

 

Ping hard at work

Ping hard at work

 

So congrats to Jack and Luke for doing so well to get to the finals. They seem like really cool guys who have a real passion for food and I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of them. And of course congrats to Ping. I just hope she hurries up and opens that café. Nasi lemak, mee goreng, chilli crab… bring it on!

 

NASI LEMAK
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
•Oil, for deep frying
•Cucumber slices, for garnish
•Sambal chilli (recipe above)

Ingredients for the SAMBAL CHILLI:

40 gram dried red chilli

100 gram onion

25 gram garlic

5 tablespoon cooking oil

80 gram ikan bilis (anchovy)

25 gram sugar (to taste)

250 ml water 

 

Ingredients for the rice:
•250 gram rice
•275 ml water
•225 ml coconut milk (I used lite coconut milk)
•1 onion (about 125 gram), cut into chunks
•1 star anise
•1 large cinnamon stick
•Pandan leaves, tied in a knot (optional)
•½ teaspoon salt
•2 teaspoon sugar

Ingredients for the chicken wings:
•500 gram chicken wings (about 8 pieces)
•3 eggs
•½ tablespoon turmeric powder
•½ tablespoon salt
•½ tablespoon white pepper powder
•2 inch ginger, pounded
•3 tablespoon corn flour
•6 tablespoon rice flour

Ingredients for the ikan bilis and peanuts:
•50 gram peanuts
•20 gram dried anchovies

1 fried or boiled egg per serving

METHOD:

  1. To make the sambal chilli , rinse anchovies with water and allow to dry completely.
  2. Place dried anchovies in a food processor and grind into fine powder.
  3. With a pair of scissors, cut the dried chilli halfway to remove most of the seeds.
  4. Soak dried chilli in water to soften, then drain the water.
  5. Blend dried chilli, onion and garlic to form a smooth paste.
  6. To a heated wok, add cooking oil and stir-fry the ground ikan bilis for about 2 minutes till fragrant.
  7. Add the ground chilli paste and sugar and stir-fry over low heat for 10 minutes, adding water as you fry to avoid burning the paste.
  8. The resulting sambal chilli should be moist and pasty.
  9. For the rice: Put all the ingredients for the rice in a rice cooker.
  10. Leave to cook and remove onion, star anise and cinnamon stick when done.
  11. For the chicken wings: Mix all ingredients to form marinade and batter, and allow to settle for about 10 minutes. 
  12. Dip the chicken wings in mixture, and fry until golden brown and crispy over medium heat for about 2 minutes each side.
  13. For the anchovies and peanuts: Deep-fry the peanuts and ikan bilis separately before mixing together.
  14. To assemble: Serve a bowl of coconut rice with the chicken wings, egg, anchovy and peanut mix, and garnish with 2-3 slices of cucumber topped with sambal and  chillies.

 

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Tara: A Seriously Cool Cat

 

Admittedly I have a weird relationship with animals. Never having grown up surrounded by pets at home for a number of reasons – OK, not entirely true, we got a tankful of fish a few years before I moved out – I am a little apprehensive about them. Then there are my million and one allergies which means sharing a home with a pet is unlikely. But I do think some of them are so cute. I absolutely adore the pets in the family (and think they might like me too!) but I do know that keeping animals at home is a big commitment – a lot like having children. They need a great deal of care, time and affection and it’s not a decision to be taken likely. After all a dog is for life and all that.

However, like most people worldwide, I have just witnessed the most adorable piece of CCTV kitty footage which has made me see having pets in a whole new light. I am of course talking about Tara, the latest feline online phenomenon, and  a cat superhero if ever there was one. It’s made me realise that perhaps no household is really complete without an adorable pet.

American couple, Roger and Erica Triantafilo’s tabby cat Tara, sprang into action when she saw her owners’ four year old son Jeremy, getting dragged off his bike and attacked by the neighbours’ dog as he played outside his home in Bakersfield, California.

Images recorded on three CCTV cameras witness Tara not only launching herself at the dog but also chasing him away from the house while Jeremy’s mother ran to tend to her injured son. For a little kitty, Tara seemed more ferocious than the dog.

 

 

The astounding footage was uploaded the next day and has gone viral with the world hailing this brave little cat a heroine. I wonder if Tara is aware of all the attention she has attracted and of her newfound celebrity status. In fact it was reported an hour ago that  minor league baseball team, Bakersfield Blaze, have invited Tara to throw the first pitch at their next home game! Go Tara!

The famous feline cannot be spoken of highly enough by her family. “Tara is my hero,” Jeremy simply stated, while his father explained, “She really did save him from further injury… I’ve never seen a cat do that. Especially ours. It just shows how much she really has a family-oriented mind set.” Roger Triantafilo also added that Tara will rightfully get fish for the rest of her life, “grilled any way she wants!”

What’s just as amazing is the way in which Tara became a member of the family which is a story in itself. She was a stray cat who had followed a courting Roger and Erica as they made their way home from the park after a date – before they got married. They made a deal that if she followed them all the way home, they would keep her. She did so they did! That was six years ago and she even bonded with Jeremy soon after he was born which explains why she is so protective of him.

The dog that attacked Jeremy, a Labrador-chow mix, has been quarantined and will soon be put down. Erica Triantafilo has stated that they do not feel any anger towards their neighbours and that she is thankful that her son’s injuries – for which the little boy had to get stitches – were not worse than what he sustained.

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But right now, the spotlight is well and truly on Tara who is the poster girl for cats everywhere. Not only does the whole world want to give her a cuddle and households everywhere want to adopt a kitty, but the fabulous feline has proved that there really is no such thing as a scaredy cat!

The most heart-warming story I’ve heard in a long time. Hope Jeremy makes a full recovery… and Tara gets her fish!

 

 

 

 

 

Bubble (Wrap) Tea

 

For someone who is as immersed in coffee-shop culture as a tea-bag is in hot water, I have only just tried bubble tea. Sure I’ve heard about it before but never had the chance to try it due to it not being sold in a lot of the places I frequent. I frequent a lot of places but maybe I’m just not going to the right ones!

On one of our rare super-hot days, I saw a poster on the window of a trendy coffee shop near where I live, advertising bubble tea: a drink that consisted of what I thought were little pearls of sago floating around in a milky liquid. It closely resembled the Indian dessert/drink falooda, and looked so delicious and refreshing – just perfect on such a hot day –  so I thought I’d give it a go.

 

The drink came in three yummy sounding flavours: strawberry, mango, and coconut. The mango sounded especially delicious so I selected that and waited to discover the mystery that is bubble tea.

WHAT IS BUBBLE TEA?

Also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea, bubble tea originated from Taiwan in the 1980s. It’s typically a tea base mixed with milk or fruit with large tapioca balls thrown in  – the ‘bubbles’! The earliest form of  bubble tea was a mixture of  black tea, tapioca pearls, syrup, and condensed milk.

 

 

VARIETIES:

There are many different variations of this drink. You can either get milk-based or fruit-flavoured teas, although some shops tend to sell a mixture of the two. There are fruit smoothies made using crushed fruit, and versions using blended ice which has a more slushy consistency. Milk smoothies are based on a similar concept except that they don’t contain any tea! In some drinks, the tapioca is replaced with jelly cubes, aloe, sago or taro balls. So many variations of one drink!

 

 

MY EXPERIENCE:

As I am quite familiar with the culinary delights of South-East Asia, I thought I knew what to expect and was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it was nothing like I had expected. The drink – which was not as chilled as I would have liked – had the consistency and taste of watered down milk and I very much doubt there was any tea in it. And watered down milk was the only real flavour I could taste; if I had not ordered mango, I wouldn’t have known what flavour it was supposed to be. And the ‘bubbles’ were not chewy tapioca at all but rather small balls filled with a syrupy type mixture which looked a lot like the gel balls I place in vases for flower arrangements. I have to say that although I was disappointed to have not had real tapioca or sago, I found these ‘syrupy bubbles’ to be quite interesting: the slightest pressure from your tongue would cause these bubbles to burst releasing the  mango-flavoured syrup. It was like bubble wrap for your mouth – once you started popping them you couldn’t stop!

 

Has it put me off drinking bubble tea in the future? Of course not! This was in no way the real deal but a pseudo-bubble tea, created mainly, I believe, for the novelty factor.

I look forward to trying the real stuff at some point!

 

 

Spicy Salsa With Everything!

 

One special memory about my very first time in the States many years ago was that I learned how to make salsa. My Aunt P. who’s Mexican taught me how to make an authentic Mexican salsa and for a long time afterwards I was making it all the time and serving it up with everything: crisps, tortilla chips, wraps, sandwiches, rice, chips, salads… you name it, salsa was served with it. If ever there was an event or get together I’d whip up a tub of Aunt P.’s special salsa.

For reasons I’m not totally sure of, I gradually stopped making it over the years which I regret as I eventually forgot the recipe. Until, I came across a recipe in a magazine for salsa and realized it was almost identical to the one Aunt P. taught me to make – except this one contained garlic. I’m so thrilled that salsa making days are back. Perhaps you’d like to try this recipe too.

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

4 tomatoes

1 green chilli

1/2 red onion

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp. coriander

Juice of 1 lime

salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  1. Roughly chop the tomatoes into small chunks.
  2. Crush the garlic.
  3. Finely chop all the other ingredients.
  4. Combine all chopped  ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Add lime juice, salt and pepper.
  6. Enjoy!

 

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