Jul 26

Cookbook 83 (ish): Asian Cooking Made Easy

As we’ve previously established, I am addicted to cookbooks.  I find it very hard to say “no” when someone makes me an amazing offer of “buy these recipes on a periodical basis for not very much money, and we’ll throw in the supporting folders and other information”, I generally say, “yes please”.  And this is how I ended up with 3 folders (the complete set) of Asian Cooking Made Easy.  There are hundreds of recipes, sensibly organised into different meat types, starters, stir fries, vegetable dishes, breads, noodle dishes, ingredient descriptions and simple recipes for pastes and sauces.  The recipes cover the geographical regions from India and Sri Lanka, across to China and Japan, and down to Indonesia.

I am somewhat disappointed that pretty much all the purely vegetarian dishes are from India and Sri Lanka – it ignores great vegetarian recipes from the rest of the countries’ cuisines that have vegetarian food.  Despite this disappointment, the vegetarian recipes I made were delicious, all the recipes are straightforward, well explained and have explanatory illustrations as required.  Included on each recipe card is also a brief description of the recipe or its origins, a map of where it’s from (usually correct, but not always), suggestions for recipe variations, cook’s tips, serving suggestions, and information about wine matching.

Overall I’m very happy with each of the recipes I made, even the ones using ingredients I’ve never used before.  It’s probably incredibly difficult to get your hands on this recipe set, but if you see one languishing unloved, do try.  Overall I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Spring Onion Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil, extra to brush
  • cooking salt or salt flakes, to taste
  • 4 large spring onions/shallots, green parts only, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl, pour 2/3 cup boiling water of the flour and very quickly work it in, using a wooden spoon.  It may not seem to be enough, but do not be tempted to add more.
  2. Quickly work the dough into a ball and invert the bowl over it to cool.  Knead for 2 -3 minutes until smooth.  Form the dough into a smooth ball, rub with sesame oil and cover in plastic wrap; set aside for about 1 hour.
  3. Divide the dough into four portions.  Roll out on a lightly floured board to make very thin pancakes, about 22 – 28cm in diameter.  Brush with sesame oil and sprinkle salt and spring onions over.
  4. Roll up into a sausage shale and gently curl into snail-like coils.  Flatten the coils with a rolling pin until about 1cm thick, creating a layered effect.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until medium-hot.  Place the cakes in the pan; cook for 1 minute.  Reduce the heat to medium; cook until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes per side.  Drain and serve hot.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Spring onion pancakes are one of my favourite Chinese dishes, and when available I will order them to eat.  This recipe actually worked perfectly, the pancakes were just like the ones I have had in restaurants – with one minor change.  Roll the pancakes thin like I have in the photo.  That way they get all crispy, and you feel like you have more pancake to eat.

Nonya Chicken in Lime and Coconut Juice

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (which you can cut into 14 pieces, or 1.25kg of chicken pieces)
  • 16 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 5cm piece of ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 6 – 8 fresh, large chillies, sliced
  • 3 lemon grass stems, tender portion only, sliced or 4 tablespoons chopped lemon grass
  • 2 slices fresh galangal, 5mm thick, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cm fresh turmeric, sliced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves

Method:

  1. Use a clever to cut the chicken into 14 serving pieces, leaving in the bones
  2. Process shallots, ginger, garlic, chillies, lemon grass, galangal and turmeric in a spice grinder or blender until finely ground.  Add a little of the oil to keep the blades turning if necessary.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan until moderately hot.  Add the ground ingredients, and stir-fry over a low to medium heat until fragrant and cooked, 5 minutes
  4. Add the chicken pieces and continue stir-frying until the chicken changes colour and is thoroughly coated with spices, 5 minutes
  5. Add the coconut milk, salt and lime leaves and simmer gently, uncovered, until the chicken is tender and the sauce thickened, about 25 minutes.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I’ve never cooked with fresh turmeric or galangal before – it was a lot of fun – and nowhere near as staining everything yellow as I thought it might.
  • It’s probably easier (though less authentic) to buy 1.25kgs of chicken chops or drumsticks – they’ll cook through in about the same time – add an extra 5 or 10 minutes if they’re big thick pieces
  • This recipe was delicious and I would happily make it again.  The recipe was quick simple and the sauce and spring onion pancakes together were delightful.
  • I’ve struck out the word “k*ffir” as I have learnt that it is an extremely offensive word in South Africa, and so I won’t be using it any longer.

Soft Cheese Dumplings in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre of milk
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups iced water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fine semolina
  • 40g ghee or butter
  • 1/4 large red or brown onion, finely grated
  • 1 fresh green chilli, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon very finely grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped raw almonds or cashews

Sauce:

  • 1 large red or brown onion, finely grated
  • 10g ghee or butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon desiccated coconut, processed to a powder in a spice grinder
  • 2 teaspoons very finely chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons very finely chopped ginger

Method:

  1. Place milk in a heavy saucepan and heat slowly, stirring, until it almost comes to the boil. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir vigorously until it curdles.  Add the iced water, stir and pour into a muslin-lined sieve.
  2. Hang over a bowl and leave to drain 1 hour  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of whey (the drained liquid).  Remove the cream cheese from the muslin and place in a bowl.  Use a form to mash in the salt, chilli powder and semolina.
  3. Heat 10g of ghee in a small saucepan; fry the onion until soft, 3 minutes.  Add the chilli and ginger, fry 1 minute; remove from the heat.  Stir in 1 tablespoon coriander, garam masala and almonds.  Leave to cool 5 – 10 minutes, then mix into the cream cheese.
  4. Shape 1 tablespoon of cream cheese at a time to make balls, pressing gently to firm.  Heat remaining ghee in a large saucepan; fry balls over a medium heat, shaking pan, until golden all over, about 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving ghee in pan.
  5. Make the sauce by freeing onion in ghee, 3 minutes.  Add the coriander and cumin; fry 1 minute.  Add tomato; cook 4 minutes.  Add reserved whey, coconut, garlic and ginger; simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.  Add the balls; heat 1 minute.  Garnish with remaining coriander.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I was inspired to try this recipe after a conversation on twitter about making cheese.  I’ve never made cheese before, it was much easier than I thought.
  • Despite the dumplings being made from cheese, the chilli in them meant that this dish was very spicy (mostly because I used hot green chillies).
  • Frying the cheese in step 4 is a little more complicated than shaking the pan to turn the cheese all over.  It starts to melt on contact with the heat, so you need to carefully use a spoon to turn them over so they brown thoroughly.
  • It was delicious, and I will do it again.

Corn Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long-grain rice, washed and well drained
  • 1 x 420g can whole sweetcorn kernels, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons crisp-fried shallots, to garnish
  • sprig of fresh coriander, to garnish

Method:

  1. Place the rice in a medium saucepan and add the reserved liquid from the sweetcorn.  Add enough water to cover the rice by 2cm.  Stir, cover and bring to the boil over a high heat.
  2. Move the lid so the pan is half-covered, lower the heat slightly and continue cooking the rice at a steady boil until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 7 minutes.
  3. Remove the saucepan lid and wipe dry.  Cover the pan firmly and reduce the heat to a minimum.  Cook for 5 minutes and then remove from heat.
  4. Remove the lid and wipe dry.  Stir in the sweetcorn and salt, cover the pan and leave to stand 10 minutes.  Fluff up the rice and sweetcorn with a form, then transfer to a serving bowl.  Garnish with the crisp-fried shallots and coriander.  Serve hot.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I wouldn’t have thought about making rice like this on my own. It was really tasty, with the corn nicely heated through but still a bit crisp, and the salt balancing out the sweetness of the liquid the sweet corn sits in.
  • It’s very straight forward, and one you can pull out and make whenever you have the ingredients all together.

Lentils and Vegetables Cooked in Tamarind Juice

[no photo]

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow or red lentils, soaked in water for 15 minutes
  • 1/4 cup tamarind juice (1 tablespoon tamarind pulp soaked in 1/4 water – then drained)
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 medium-sized potato, diced
  • 1 slender purple eggplant, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 4 small okra, left whole (optional)
  • 1 medium-sized tomato, cut into 8 wedges

Seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies, broken into 2 cm lengths
  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves or 12 dried curry leaves (optional)

Method:

  1. Drain soaked lentils and put in a pan with tamarind juice, ginger, garlic, salt and turmeric.  Add enough water to cover lentils by 1cm.  Bring to the boil; reduce heat and simmer, with lid slightly ajar, until lentils are soft (about 15 minutes).
  2. Add diced potato, eggplant, carrot, okra and tomato.  Bring back to the boil then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft.  Add a little more water if necessary to retain a slightly soupy consistency.
  3. Just before serving, heat oil in a small pan and fry the mustard seeds, dried chillies, and curry leaves.  Shake the pan frequently until the chillies are crisp and the mustard seeds have popped.
  4. Pour the fried seasoning ingredients, together with the oil, into the lentil mixture, stir and serve hot.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I ended up not cooking this on the night when I cooked everything else, as I had less people than I had initially expected for dinner.  However, this meant that we could eat this for dinner the following night, and it was very good.
  • The seasoning at the end really makes this dish, I had run out of mustard seeds, so I used an equivalent amount of ground mustard, and the dish was really tasty.
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