Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hainanese Chicken Rice

When we moved the Singapore, every single person who knew anything about Singapore had one thing to tell us : that we must have Hainanese Chicken Rice.



And so, the day we landed in Singapore, we made our way to a food court to have what is the national dish of Singapore.



However, when I first lay my eyes on the plate of chicken and rice, all I felt was disappointment. "Why is there so much fuss about Hainanese Chicken Rice? It is just boiled chicken," I whispered to my husband.





It was, however, love at first bite. The chicken was extremely fragrant and succulent, the rice very flavourful. It looked no fancier than boiled chicken, but the taste was anything but.



I have so many people to thank for this recipe - a couple of Singaporean friends, my chicken vendor in the Tekka wet market and Elaine's blog.





Here's how you make it:


Ingredients:

for the chicken

Chicken: 1 kg (buy the best and freshest chicken you can, I normally buy a free range chicken)

Chicken bones, to make the stock: optional


Garlic: 8-10 cloves,
Ginger:1.5" piece, peeled


Cloves: 4
Star anise: 2


Screwpine leaves (pandan leaves): 4 nos, washed and tied into a knot
(if you can't find these, replace with 4 stalks of spring onions - discard the onions)

Salt: 3 - 4 tsps


Sesame oil: 2 tbsps
Light soy sauce: 1 tbsp



Method:


In a large pot, pour about 2 litres of water. Add to it the chicken bones (if using), 2 tsps salt, 4 cloves of garlic, 1/2" piece of ginger, 2 cloves, 1 star anise and 2 pandan leaves. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. Retain the spices and the herbs, discard the bones.


While you make the stock, wash the chicken. Sprinkle the remaining salt over the chicken, leave for about 5 minutes and rub thoroughly. Salt is a meat tenderiser and this step goes a long way in making the chicken succulent. Wash the chicken again and stuff the cavity with the remaining cloves, star anise, ginger, garlic and pandan leaves.


Slowly slide the chicken breast side down into the boiling stock; the stock should completely cover the chicken (if not, boil some water on the side and pour it into the pot).


Allow the water to come to a boil again, cover the pot and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and leave the chicken undisturbed for 1.5 hours. This is very important - don't open the cover of the pot.


I know how radically opposite this method of cooking chicken is to more popular method of cooking chicken, but trust me, the chicken will be fully cooked and absolutely succulent.


Uncover the pot after 1.5 hours and if desired, poke a skewer into the thigh; the juices should run clear.


Tip the stock into another pot  - don't discard the stock for the rice is cooked in it and that is what gives the rice its flavour. Pour cold water over the chicken to stop it from cooking any further.


Mix together the sesame oil and the soy sauce and rub over the chicken.


For the rice:


Rice: 1 cup, washed
Chicken stock: 2 1/4 cups
Garlic: 1 clove
Ginger: 1" piece
Sesame oil: 1 tbsp
Light soy sauce: 1 tbsp
Screwpine leaves: 1, tied into a knot



Method:


Heat oil, and fry the garlic till it turns light brown. Add the ginger and the rice and saute for a minute. Add the stock, the screwpine leaf and the soy sauce. Once the rice has absorbed all the stock, cover the pot and lower the heat to the lowest, steam for a minute and take the pot off the burner.


For the sauce:


Pound together 4 cloves of garlic, 10 fresh red chillies, 1" piece of ginger. Add to it 2 tbsps of oyster sauce, 1 tbsp of sweet soy sauce, 1 tbsp of light soy sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp of chopped shallots and 1 tsp of chopped coriande leaves.



To serve:

Slice the chicken and serve with a scoop of rice, sliced cucumbers, the stock and the sauce.











Friday, February 24, 2012

Miri's Divine Chocolate Cake

I didn't know her.... I didn't know her real name, I didn't know what she looked like. My interaction with her - if you can call it that - was limited to a few comments on, and a recipe bookmarked from her blog.


"I will be experimenting with a whole wheat & low fat version, but I think we should all be a little decadent sometimes and indulge ourselves :)," she had written.


The cake looked and sounded delicious and I copied her recipe on my 'must make' word document, noted her email address and decided to write to her and ask her if she made those changes to her recipe. That was about 2 years ago.


Early last year, I was looking for a different chocolate cake recipe and was reminded of the one I had bookmarked from her blog.

I should write to her. I will write to her...soon, I resolved



I should have written to her, or at the very least, her read her blog more often than I did. That way, I would have known that she did make those changes to her recipe. That way, I could have made the cake a lot earlier than I did.
That way, I could have thanked her for her fabulous chocolate cake.








No, I didn't know her, I didn't make the effort to. But today, and sadly, when she is no longer with us, I have learnt a lot more about her. Through the words of those who knew her. The words of her friends paint a vivid picture of a woman who was vivacious, spirited and tenacious and lived her life with  fortitude and grace.





                                                                           (pic.credit Manisha)



Thank you, Raji. Through your life, I have learnt that it is possible to spread cheer and positivity all around you, even when faced with some of life's biggest challenges.


R.I.P.




(Miri's divine chocolate cake can be found here.

She later made the same cake with a little less butter and added some whole wheat flour. That is the one I made, and it is here.

But don't just stop at these two posts. Her blog is testimony to her spirit and you should read every single post).




To know more about her inspiring life, read Manisha's, Sandeepa's and Nina's posts.












Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sweet Potato Rosti

"You must make sweet potatoes a part of your daily diet," I told my mum emphatically over Skype one day. "They are almost a wonder food," I said and started enumerating the benefits of sweet potatoes, almost feeling a little smug about telling my mum - who always seemed to be telling us what to eat - how to improve her diet. 


"Remind me," she said "to twist your ears the next time I meet you."


Oh oh....this conversation wasn't really going quite the way I had envisaged.


"Of course, you don't remember the times when I would add sweet potatoes to batatyacha kees (spicy grated potatoes) and you girls would refuse to touch it with cries of 'yuck, we don't want to have sweet potatoes.' And now, you are telling me to eat them! We eat them more regularly than you know," she informed me.


Oh well...guess my mom is always going to be a step ahead of me.



  




Well yes, there was a time when I hated sweet potaoes with a passion and for no real reason. Exactly when I started liking them, I can't recollect. Probably when I had baked sweet potato wedges, I think, at a friend's place. Then, it was the taste that drew me to the tubers.


But, as I became more aware of how nutrient packed sweet potatoes are, I slowly started cooking with them more and more often. Initially, I used them alongwith potatoes, primarily in spicy curries and baked wedges or like my mom used to, in  batatycha kees (spicy grated potatoes). 


Over a period of time, sweet potatoes have almost nudged the beloved potato out of my pantry.









Rosti, traditionally made with potatoes, is something I now make exclusively with sweet potatoes. The sweet potato rosti has a very delicate, almost melt in your mouth texture and is much quicker to cook than the rosti made with potatoes.








Sweet Potato Rosti



Ingredients:


Grated sweet potatoes: 1 - 1/4 cup
Garlic: 1 small clove, very finely minced
Onion: 1/2, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil: 1 -1/2 tbsp
Lemon wedge, optional



Method:


Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a 6" pan (I sometimes divide the potatoes into 2 and cook 2 rostis in a smaller pan, as in the photos). Add the minced garlic and the chopped onions and fry for a minute. Add the grated sweet potatoes, sprinkle the salt and pepper and toss well till they are coated with oil.


With the help of a spatula, distribute the potatoes evenly all over the pan and gently press them to get a pancake about 1/2" thick. Drizzle a few drops of oil around the edges and on a medium heat, cook the potatoes till the bottom is golden brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes.


Shake the pan to loosen the rosti from the edges, flip it** and cook the other side till golden brown and crisp.


(** to flip the rosti, you will need a plate that fits snugly into the pan you are cooking the rosti in. Cover the rosti with the plate and invert the pan, the cooked side of the rosti will be on top. Then with the help of the spatula, gently slide the rosti, uncooked side down, into the pan. Don't fret too much if the rosti breaks - mine does very often, because of the delicate texture of the sweet potatoes - just assemble it back into a pancake).


Slide the cooked rosti on a plate, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle some cracked pepper on it; serve with some fried eggs and fruit on the side for a wholesome breakfast.





It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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