Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Beef Rendang

Malaysian food is extraordinary. It spoils you for other Asian foods. For years we savored it at our favorite restaurant Penang, but the place closed a while ago and its replacement is just adequate.

The yearning to eat roti canai and rendang is so strong so I plan to make the latter as I drool in anticipation. Beef is braised with a paste of onions, ginger, garlic and chiles, coconut milk, spices, lime skins and kaffir lime leaves. No oil needed. It is a long and slow braise on the stove top. And when it is done, the beef falls apart easily, gravy is thick and the kitchen smells like the restaurant. 

Serves 4

1 pound boneless Beef chunks
1 white Onion
3 Garlic cloves
1 inch chunk of Ginger
1-2 green Chiles
1 cup Coconut Milk
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
3/4 teaspoon Chile Powder
1 teaspoon Coriander Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ginger Powder
Peel of half a Lime or 1 Lemongrass
2 Kaffir Lime Leaves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Puree onion, garlic, ginger and green chile in 1/4 cup coconut milk. 

Scrape the paste into a deep sided saucepan. Use a little water to wash out all the scraps into the saucepan. 

Place the saucepan over medium heat. 

Pour the rest of the coconut milk into the saucepan.

Add turmeric, chile, coriander and ginger powder to the curry.

Add lime rind or lemongrass trimmed and cut into two inch pieces, as well as kaffir lime leaves to curry.

Season  with salt.

Bring to a low boil, then add the beef and stir well to mix. 

Cover the pan partially and cook on a medium low flame till beef shreds when poked with a knife.  It takes about an hour depending on the quality of the beef. Stir occasionally so the gravy doesn't catch and scorch. Add a little water if needed.

Serve hot with flaky malabar parota or white rice.

I make long beans belachan style. Some hot rice. A few malabar parotas. For now, a faux Penang meal is best I can do.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sticky Rice with Mango

In these dark times,  we have great news to share. My daughter Shauna's engagement to Frank. And of course to commemorate the happy event, I cook. Enormous quantities of food. Pork and chicken tacos, elote and ricotta fritters for lunch. Asian food for dinner with a slow braised Vietnamese beef stew, Bo Kho. We sop this up with a very Italian focaccia, mushroom soy rice and crisp pickled veggies. Dessert is an old favorite, sticky rice with mango.

I remember eating this with Prassy at the end of every meal we had in Thailand. We would seek out vendors selling only sticky rice.  One portion each made us cheshire cats. We even brought the rice and Thai mangoes back to India with us. So it is only right that I make what makes me happy. 

Plump glutinous rice, soaked overnight and then steamed, turns opaque. The rice is like sushi rice. Use any plump short grain rice in it's place, though you might not get that translucency. Thick coconut milk, sugar, palm sugar and salt comes to a gentle boil.  No palm sugar? Use a little light brown sugar. The coconut milk is poured over the rice. Top with sliced mango and refrigerate for a short while. Use a large spoon for large we do!

Serves 4-6

1 cup Glutinous Rice
1 cup Coconut Milk
6 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Palm Sugar  
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 Mangoes

Soak rice in water overnight. 

The next day drain water and scrape the rice onto a steamer rack. 

Boil an inch of water in a deep saucepan.

Place the steamer rack inside the pan. Steam rice for 30 minutes till opaque.

Spoon rice on to a platter.

Heat coconut milk, sugar, palm sugar and salt over gentle heat until sugars have dissolved.

Pour 3/4 of the milk over rice. Rice will absorb some of the milk.

Peel and cut mango into thin wedges. Arrange them over the rice.

Refrigerate for 15 minutes or longer.

Spoon some mango and rice onto a plate.

Drizzle a spoon of  remaining coconut milk over the rice and enjoy this Asian treat.

 Asian desserts have odd combinations of ingredients. You need an acquired please please acquire one!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Manakish Trio with Beef, Zaatar and Feta

I treasure the yeast I have left, a rare commodity in lockdown life. Then I watch a chef on a food show make these amazing Lebanese flatbreads. And I am enamored. I am ready to part with my meager portion of yeast. The recipe is a two day process. Make and proof the dough. The second rise is overnight in the fridge. Don't use shortcuts. Believe me, the proof is in the risen dough, one of the best I have worked with. Soft and pillowy. Extremely forgiving. Easy to manipulate and stretch. A dream to work with. 

Bloom yeast with warm water and sugar. Whisk flour, salt and olive oil. Add the flour to the yeast along with more warm water and knead dough till smooth. A stand mixer with a dough hook makes this job really easy. Or use those muscles to work the dough. The dough is proofed in a warm place. Then it is divided into small balls and proofed overnight in the fridge. 

I make three fillings, just as the chef did. A spiced beef, zaatar and oil and a feta and cheddar with chile powder. I also dress onion, cucumber, tomato, parsley and mint with lemon and oil.

The dough is patted out, topped with a filling and baked on a pizza stone in a very very hot oven for seven minutes. The tricky part is transferring the manakish from counter top to pizza stone! I use a wide spatula and my hands for the bigger pieces. The smaller ones are easier to transfer. You might want to experiment with the size. I make eight rounds of dough, five beef, two cheese and one zaatar. That's plentiful for lunch today.

Slightly adapted from Jay Hajj

1 teaspoon active dry Yeast
1 cup Warm Water
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
2 1/2 cups AP Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Olive oil

Beef Filling
1 pound ground Beef
1/2 white Onion
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Cumin Powder
1/2 teaspoon Coriander Powder
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 teaspoons Pomegranate Syrup

Cheese Filling
1/2 cup crumbled Feta
1/4 cup grated Cheddar
1/4 teaspoon Chile Powder

Zaatar Filling
2 teaspoons Zaatar
1 teaspoon Olive Oil

1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced English Cucumber
1/2 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon Parsley
10-12 Mint leaves
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Pinch of Kosher Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Start the dough the day before you plan to make the manakish.
Put yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with sugar and 3 tablespoons warm water. Cover and let yeast bloom  for 10 minutes. 

While yeast blooms, whisk flour and salt in  bowl. Add olive oil to bowl and mix with a fork to distribute oil.

Use a dough hook. Start the mixer and carefully add flour into bowl. 

Gradually pour warm water into flour. allow the dough hook to knead the dough for 10 minutes till the dough is smooth an comes away from the sides of the bowl. You might have to add a little more dough. If so, add it by the teaspoonful. 

Scrape dough off the hook and into a smooth ball. Dribble a little olive oil on the sides of the bowl. Roll the dough in oil. 

Cover with a damp cloth and place bowl in warm place to proof for 1-2 hours. The dough should have doubled in size.

Scrape dough on to a lightly floured surface. Knead for a few  turns, then divide the dough into 8 portions. 

Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball, by stretching the dough slightly and folding it under the bottom. 3 or 4 stretches should make the top smooth and round. 

Arrange dough balls on a large baking sheet 3 inches apart. 

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

The next day take the dough out about 1 hour before you make the manakish. Allow the dough to sit in a warm place. The dough will rise a bit. It will probably touch the ball next to it. That is not a problem.

Make the beef filling by mincing the onion and garlic finely. Add it to the beef. 

Season beef with chile, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and pomegranate molasses. Mix well.

Make the cheese filling by mashing the cheeses and chile together till pasty. 

Make the zaatar filling by mixing it with olive oil. 

Make the salad by whisking olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add onion, cucumber, tomato, parsley and mint leaves to oil. Mix with a spoon. 

Now comes the hard part!

Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven.

Heat oven to 450F/230C.

Dust counter lightly with flour. 

Place a ball of dough on the floured surface and pat out with your fingers. You could also roll it out with a rolling pin. I like the texture of patted dough better. Make sure the circle can be easily moved. Add a little flour at a time under the dough so it moves. 

Take 2-3 tablespoons of beef and spread it over the circle. Use your fingers to press the meat into the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch edge. You should have a thin layer of filling.  

Make 4-5 manakish with beef filling. 

Bake manakish by sliding the dough onto the pizza stone or baking sheet carefully. I used a broad spatula and my hands. 

The number of manakish you can bake depends on the size of your pizza stone or baking sheet. I was able to bake 3 6" manakish at a time as I have a 14x16 Baking Steel sheet. 

Bake beef manakish for 7-8 minutes. 

Take them out of the oven. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them and eat them as they emerge.

Make the cheese manakish by pressing the cheese into the dough circle. Bake the manakish for 7 minutes.

Make the zaatar manakish by spooning the paste onto the dough. Bake the manakish for 7 minutes. 

Serve the manakish warm. 

Top with salad, slice and enjoy your hard work!

The proof is truly in the manakish The trio of flavors are delicious. Lunch is an exclamation of delight!! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Butter Naan

Prassy encourages me to try making naan. She makes hers on a cast iron tava or griddle and assures me it will be easiest and best naan I've ever made or eaten. 

So I measure flour, yeast, oil, baking soda, yogurt, salt, sugar and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer. The dough hook does the kneading, the hard part. The proofing is done in the same bowl. Dribble thin streams of oil around the edges of the soft dough. Use a spatula to turn the dough till it is coated with oil. It proofs for an hour. Thin rounds of dough are patted out on a lightly floured surface. They are then slapped onto a hot tava, covered and cooked for two or three minutes. The cover is removed, naans are flipped and cooked on the other side for a minute more. Slathered with butter, sprinkled with cilantro, they make the softest naan, the perfect accompaniment to chana masala.

Recipe by Surekha Tahsin 
Makes 8-10 small naans

2 cups all purpose Flour
1 teaspoon dry active Yeast
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 cup Yogurt
1/2 cup warm Milk
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
fresh Cilantro

Put the flour, yeast, baking soda, salt, sugar, yogurt, warm milk and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the dough hook to knead dough into a soft, sticky ball. Scrape the sides with a spatula as the dough is kneaded.

You could make this dough by hand as well. Use that upper body strength!

Dribble a thin stream of oil around the dough. use the spatula to move the dough so it is coated with oil.

Cover with a towel and place in a warm area to proof. I let my oven heat to 175F, turned it off and placed the bowl in the oven for 1 hour. 

Heat a tava on medium flame.

Roughly portion the dough into 8-10 balls.

Dust the counter with some flour. 

Place the ball on the flour and pat with your fingers into a 3-4 inch circle. You could also stretch it like you would pizza dough.

Slap the naan onto the tava. Cover the naan. I invert a stainless steel bowl over the naan. Cook naan for 2-3 minutes. It will have bubbled up in spots. Uncover and turn naan onto the other side. Cook for another minute. 

Take naan off the flame and generously rub with butter. 

Sprinkle a little chopped cilantro on naan.

Finish the rest of the dough the same way. Keep naans warm in a low oven(200F) while you make the rest.

My sister is spot on. She gets a vote of thanks from the enthusiastic lunch crowd. All naans are polished off...that is the ultimate compliment.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Jam Biscuits

Melanie Louis gives me a gem of a cookbook, a collection of recipes through the eyes of Enid Blyton's Famous Five. As children, those of us who read her books were transported to an England of thatched houses, village greens and meals with potted meat and sausage rolls. As a child I was an inveterate reader, so the cookbook transports me to when I wandered the cliffs with the Famous Five and Secret Seven. Played lacrosse at Mallory Towers. Solved mysteries with the Adventurous Four. And dreamt of picnics under periwinkle skies, suppers of thick slices of bread with lashings of butter and midnight feasts of jammy buns and ginger beer. 'Lashings' was a particular favorite word of both the author and me, for it conjured up a magical plate of literary goodies.

This is an easy biscuit recipe. Butter is rubbed into self raising flour and salt. Sugar and eggs are stirred in to make the thick batter. Small balls of rolled dough are placed on a parchment lined baking sheet. I make a small depression in the dough for the smidgen of jam. Baking biscuits beguile our senses. The moment of truth comes as the biscuits emerge deep brown.

Adapted from Enid Blyton's Five Go Feasting
Makes 12

1 cup Self Rising Flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Egg
Raspberry Jam

Place flour and salt in a bowl. 

Cut butter into thin slivers. Add to flour. 

Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Rub sugar into flour. 

Make a well in the center of the flour.

Break the egg into the well. Stir vigorously with a spoon till egg is incorporated. 

Heat oven to 350F or 180C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or  silicone liner.

Divide dough into twelve balls. 

Roll each ball and place on baking sheet.

Use an apple corer to make indentations in the top of the balls. 

Spoon a half teaspoon of raspberry jam into each indentation. 

Bake biscuits for 12-15 minutes till golden brown. 

Cool on a wire rack. 

Enjoy these with a cuppa or even better, some ginger beer.

The flip side of the cookbook are the old fashioned methods and ingredients that hark back to post-WWII Britain. The best parts are the foods, a familiar slice of my Enid Blyton filled childhood.