Category Archives: Jams, dips & chutneys

Jam

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.
~ Lewis Carroll

There has been an informal ban on it in my kitchen for a year. Actually, since 24 December 2009

For more than a year now, my eyes have glared defiantly at every jam recipe; every conversation where someone said “oh, I made jam in the weekend and it was so easy!”

I still remember that first jam-making session. So good in the beginning; SOOOO disastrous at the end! All that burnt sugar! I could’ve knocked someone unconscious with it.

This morning, I read Mairi’s lovely post involving lemon curd which looked and sounded beyond beautiful – so I decided to conquer my fear of making anything remotely similar to jam.

I halved Mairi’s recipe (read: erring on the side of caution!). My lemon curd was not at all perfect, as you can tell in the photo above. It was not that dreamy shade of yellow, or lovely thick and creamy – still, I was very pleased with the taste (sweet and tart in just the right proportion – and oh-so-lemony!). I was also extremely thankful that it even REMOTELY resembled lemon curd – spreadable, and good with butter on bread. Thanks Mairi. And, I cannot wait to get GOOOD at making jam/curd!

Time for bed now, full day out today in the warm glow of Mr Golden Sun! Auckland has been having the most temperamental skies lately (not bad in comparison to some other parts in the country – but pretty crazy for Auckland, or at least what little I have experienced of it so far). From a brief dash of snow to a positive blast to warm sun in a week! Sleep well, my lovelies.

It started when he said “baba ghanoush”

I visited the Auckland City Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning with K, where we lapped up sunshine, pastries and creamy ginger lattes. I also picked up some salad leaves and edible flowers (sandwich ingredients for the week), and a tub of some very delicious tahini!

…Tahini. Back in 2007, this lovely couple introduced me to the wonders of tahini on toast (amongst other things along the lines of havarti and gouda cheese – dangerous!) I remember a time when I spread tahini on every slice of bread I ate. It was like a sesame version of peanut butter – except nuttier and lovelier… novel, I guess, is the word to describe it.

This last Saturday, I chanced upon this stall at the market and chatted briefly with Yinon, the friendly owner and he mentioned the magic words – “baba ghanoush” – which got me thinking…

I’ve only ever had baba ghanoush out of a tub from the supermarket – and in my mind, it’s always been something under the same category as pesto and hummus. Something to slop on bread or on crackers, occasionally with cheese and cracked pepper. It’s never crossed my mind to try making it.

So when Yinon talked a little about the process of making baba ghanoush – baking the eggplants, scooping out the flesh and all, I thought I’d give it a try. I looked up recipes online and jotted down the ingredients I would need, and headed to the supermarket with Mandy late on Saturday evening.

In the end, I didn’t make baba ghanoush. I added capsicum to the list of standard ingredients and didn’t measure ingredient proportions. Mostly because we were running out of time and I was trying to bake a brownie for an evening gatherine too…

So we ended up with something not quite bona fide baba ghanoush, but fun to eat nevertheless. I sliced the eggplants in half and baked them for around 30 minutes – then fried the eggplant flesh with garlic and sliced capsicum, then added the juice of one lemon, a pinch of cumin, a tablespoon of my spices from Morocco, salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of tahini to the mix.

One marvellous thing about food, I find, is that one idea leads to another, one ingredient to many great things. In cooking, I don’t believe it is necessary to follow all recipes with biblical obedience – far better to read it like a story, work with basic methods and leave it to experimentation/inspiration when implementing (one exception is certainly this magic brownie from Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette which requires no modification).

Dinner loosely resembled a mezze platter – eggplant and tahini dip, toasted Turkish bread, fresh cucumber slices, fried venison meatballs and sauteed mushrooms.

Overall a fun dinner, and we all agreed the texture of the eggplants may not have been a bad thing after all (more ‘solid’ than baba ghanoush) but I think next time I will include a little less tahini in it, and skip the meatballs. Alas, meatballs and I have trouble getting along in the kitchen – they turned out browner than burnt chocolate and still rather flushed in the middle after 40 long minutes in the pan. Pfft!

For fresh tahini, harissa chilli and other such yummy foods, stop by:
The Chilli Factor – Saturday mornings at Auckland City Farmers’ Market, behind the Britomart Trainstation on Gore Street – look for Yinon! – Phone: 021 141 7348

For more information on your local farmers’ markets or to vote for your favourite market/producer/stallholder (and be in to win a fantastic prize) – visit
http://www.tastefarmersmarkets.org.nz :-)

Kaya!

Get excited and enthusiastic about your own dream. This excitement is like a forest fire – you can smell it, taste it, and see it from a mile away.
~ Denis Waitley

After a futile search through two supermarkets, I was delighted to finally locate some pandan leaves in the Asian grocery shop on Dixon Street! I also took the opportunity to practise my (now very rusty) Mandarin with the lady there.

In between preparing dinner for my flatmates tonight (garlic-mustard-red wine-rosemary-salt-pepper-treated lamb which they will be subjected to shortly), I googled kaya recipes and ended up making my own jumbled version of kaya with pandan, coconut cream, eggs, sugar and a tiny bit of salt. This was my first time making it – it took around 40 minutes and lots of endless stirring. Bad photos aside, I think it turned out alright – creamy and sweet, and not overbearingly so. Though I think there is room for improvement, I am happy with it as a first attempt.

Mmmm, kaya and butter on toast, what a cure for homesickness. :-)

Miles from Ya Kun Toast

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.
~ Charles Dickens

Living in New Zealand, my breakfast on extravagant days = poached eggs with sides; french toast with bacon & banana; a cream cheese bagel… to name a few. Some days I have toast, a muffin, or nothing. We are fortunate in Wellington to have many splendid cafes, so I usually have coffee out a few times weekly with friends.

Yesterday, I thought I would try to make kaya toast for breakfast. Found Dad’s recipe for microwave kaya (a shortcut method for the jam of my childhood) and was dismayed that the New World I went to after work did not have pandan essence. No kaya, noooo!

I awoke abruptly this morning to my phone ringing, head confused from a busy dream and body tired from a busy week. ALL I could think about was kaya, soft-boiled eggs, Grandma.

Good heavens. I shall have to try to locate pandan essence elsewhere sometime later today.

Meanwhile though, I could at least (try to) make soft-boiled eggs. You’d think they were easy to make. Well, eggs are difficult to cook perfectly as it is, and soft-boiled eggs are the hardest of all to perfect in my opinion. The egg needs to be exactly midway between raw/inedible and hardboiled – soft runny yolk, runny (but not like mucus) white, etc. It’s one reason Singaporeans go to places like Ya Kun to have them made for them.

(This is my oops version – try Googling “kaya toast” for more accurate depictions):

Breakfast in Singapore, by the way, is a colourful affair. There are so many choices you could probably spend at least a month trying out all the different things you could have, like the aforementioned kaya toast, which is usually served with soft-boiled eggs and coffee or tea.

There are a few variations of commercial kaya now available on the market, ranging from avocado-green to pale brown in colour (Grandma’s homemade kaya is a crazy bright green, takes hours to make and tastes beautiful). It’s an egg jam, rich and unlike anything else you call jam, except you can spread it on bread too. Its main ingredients are coconut milk, pandan leaves and eggs. A Nonya/Malay (Straits Chinese) specialty, some sources say it was inspired by the Portuguese who had established major trading outposts in the Straits of Malacca during the peak of the spice trade.

Eggs. Supposedly, 3 (minutes) is the magic number when it comes to how long you should cook them to achieve perfect soft-boiled eggs. A problem when you live in a place with 4 seasons, I think – different room temperatures affect the temperature of the water on your stove, and though my Grandma heats the water to a rolling boil then turns it off while she cooks the eggs for 3 minutes in the hot water before cracking and slipping them quickly into a bowl… I leave the stove on very low heat in cold, late-Autumn New Zealand. There may be other factors besides this too, but it’s the main one I thought of today. It is not uncommon for Singaporeans to splash a little soy sauce and shake some white pepper on to the eggs.

As a side note, something I LOVE about having grown up in Asia is the way it truly opened my palate and senses to the sharp, piquant flavours of sweet, spicy, salty, sour – and the ability to appreciate combinations of what might seem like an appalling clash of opposites in NZ. :-)

Alright, last thing – coffee. Here, I love the sweet and robust espresso topped with creamy New Zealand milk steamed/frothed by exceptional baristas. In Singapore, you either drink Starbucks/Coffee Bean frappuccinos, or traditional kopi in coffee shops/food courts (the latter being the type you must have with kaya toast and eggs). Twists on kopi include having it black, with condensed milk, with evaporated milk or with sugar.

This morning, I had no kaya, no perfect eggs, no kopi-o. But I had butter, bread, yummy eggs, black coffee, a good imagination… and some day soon, hopefully, I will have some very delicious kaya (maybe from my kitchen?) to share.

JamĀ FAIL!

#8 Lemon Vanilla Jam – Page 265

It was rolling along nicely until the end… where it turned, sadly,

Sticky, sticky, gooey, gooey, HARD BAD BAD.