Tag Archives: prawns

Easy flour tortillas

Humo[u]r is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.
~ Mark Twain

Occasionally, food items march through my mind unsummoned and uninvited. And, once in my mind, they simply refuse to depart until I make them (i.e. create them in the kitchen).

This morning, while getting a drink of water, my eyes fell on the tub of mole rojo paste from Jian. I thought about that meal with a big smile on my face.

Thereafter, though, thoughts of tortillas bloomed in my mind like happy wild mushrooms… no other thoughts could chase them away.

And so it was that I made tortillas today for the first time. Trusty Google led me to this recipe, and I was happy to discover that they are in fact so easy and quick to make!

While the balls of dough sat in their tea-towel-blanket-bliss, I cut onions, smashed garlic, blanched green beans, heated up black beans. I dissolved a spoonful of mole paste in chicken stock, added a few squares of dark chocolate for good measure, and tossed the sauce all over seared chicken cubes and a few prawns. I combined the cooked beans with diced onion and tomatoes. I preheated the oven to 50°C so it could keep everything warm.

The tortillas were all cooked in under five minutes, and happily emerged reasonably round and flat, given that I shaped them with my palms and fingers (we don’t have a rolling pin yet).

Still can’t adequately describe the taste of this mole rojo… smoky and elusive as ever.

Love the addition of creamy avocado and zesty lime…

Here are the beans…

And this is what Fran and I had for dinner tonight. What did you eat tonight?

Hope you all have a fantastic week ahead :-)

    Ingredients:
    1 1/2 cups flour
    3/4 tsp baking powder
    ~40g butter, at room temperature*
    2/3 cup hot water
    Method:
    Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, and whisk till well combined. Add in the butter and hot water, then mix the dough with your hands.
    On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough by hand for around 5 minutes. Roll the dough out into a snake-shaped log and cut the dough into 6 equal portions. Shape each piece of dough into a round ball and cover with a tea towel. Let them sit for 20 minutes (this is a great window of time to cook the rest of your dinner).
    Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Do not grease the pan. Flatten each ball of dough into a nice large circle, with a rolling pin if you have one – otherwise just with your palms and fingers. Cook the tortillas one at a time, 20-30 seconds on each side. Your tortillas should have little brown spots on them.
    They taste best warm. I like stacking them on an ovenproof plate and leaving them in an oven at 50°C until everything is ready, so dinner arrives at the table warm.
    Yields 6 tortillas** – enough for 2-3 people.

* If the butter is fresh from the fridge, microwave it for approximately 20 seconds so that it’s still solid but closer to room temperature.

** The sky is the limit with toppings – minced meat, grated cheese, sour cream, smoky mole, spicy salsa, guacamole… in fact, given their similarity to roti prata, I think they would taste pretty good with a spicy Malaysian curry too.

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On rugby, and surf and turf

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.
~ Malcolm S. Forbes

Yesterday, as I walked down Queen Street (surrounded by gazillions of people – I had to remind myself I was in New Zealand!), I found myself staring at the sea of faces… thinking… oh I’m going to miss this. Not the first world problems, but all the pretty people from everywhere in the world, and the atmosphere, and the funny ways that sport makes people sad/ecstatic/breathless/mad/bond with each other.

Rugby fan or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that rugby matters, a lot, in NZ. So while I didn’t get into it as much as most others, I’m nevertheless blown away by all that the All Blacks have gone through/achieved and of course, am happy for NZ’s rightful victory!

In less major news, I woke up hungry and with a sore head, so I decided to cook something a little more extravagant than usual for breakfast… my version of surf and turf! I never thought about combining meat and seafood on a plate till Fran introduced me to the joys of serving multiple mini dishes for dinner. This morning, Fran joined me for a late breakfast and it was a good morning after all.

P.S. I also went along to David Schofield’s demo at Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market yesterday… more on that soon!

Chef Ray

Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn.
~ Terri Guillemets

For two years, my friend Mandy flatted with this guy named Rayvin, who was apparently great in the kitchen (amongst possessing other qualities, of course).

I met him a few times on my previous trips to Auckland and duly said hello each time, but finally – finally – I understand what Mandy has been going on about. I have to admit I am rather disappointed that he is soon to leave the country and will not be here to cook with (or for :-P) us…

This boy isn’t great; he’s gifted! Mandy, Justin, Rayvin and I sat down to a marvellous dinner on Sunday night. Thank you, Ray!

Special dish of the night: salted egg yolk prawns. I know this may sound a little odd to some of you who haven’t grown up in Asia, but I promise you you will love it. It’s sweet, salty, crumbly, crispy, hot and fragrant… lovely and yummy in every way. You’ll be licking your fingers and your lips; actually, you’ll probably be gushing like I was, whether gushing is part of your natural conduct or not.

Want to try it out at home? Ray used this recipe as a guide (we skipped the dried prawns and made a few other changes). You can get curry leaves, chillies and salted eggs at a very good price at Asian supermarkets.

Kang Kong, gently stir-fried. God knows what Ray did to this – it didn’t look complex to make, but he cooked it perfectly – light, wonderful, retaining a slight crunch in the stems while being soft in the leaves.

This beef rendang was made with some help from Prima Taste. Ray used a sachet of the magic paste in this; it was lovely with the dessicated coconut and just the right amount of spicy!

Justin brought a bottle of moscato, and we cooked two cups of chicken rice to go with everything… it was pretty perfect! Conversation was brilliant too – a great accompaniment to good food.

In other news, I’ve really been eating out waaay too much in the two short weeks I’ve been up here. I’ve even found a few places which do good long blacks ;-) (or at least, they made good cups for me when I visited!) Mezze Bar, Circus Circus in Mt Eden, and Strawberry Alarm Clock and Citron Vert in Parnell.

I’ve also visited Auckland Fish Market and Tai Ping, both of which I hope to visit again once I settle in here… presently, the days are flying by quickly and I am lost in the world of work, a new city, a sea of unfamiliar faces, flat hunting, picking up dancing again, etc…

Enjoyed driving up to Mt Eden with Mandy yesterday to see the sunset – the sky was streaky like blue and orange bacon, sizzling in pink fire. Twas marvellous to feel the wind on my face and take in the gradual sinking of the sun and slow beginning of winking city lights.

Already?

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
~ Hal Borland

2010 is nearly over… and, well, to be honest, I am too tired to care :-) I am relieved and glad and happy.

My New Year’s Eve has been simple and nice so far –

a walk with Lams and minty gelato;

a day at the beach with Lams, Roman and Philip;

a long walk through the supermarket;

an evening cooking my lunch/dinner: prawns and mussels atop spaghetti (with garlic, onion, sauvignon blanc, saffron, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, paprika, sugar, chilli, herbs).

Tonight, we’ll have drinks, maybe some dancing… tonight will not be an end, and tomorrow will not be a beginning – but midnight will be a landmark of sorts, an entertaining intermission, a beautiful footprint in the journey that is life.

2011, I look forward to meeting you.

Happy new year, everyone!

The sweetest spears

One word, in this place, respecting asparagus. The young shoots of this plant, boiled, are the most unexceptionable form of greens with which I am acquainted.
~ William Andrus Alcott, The Young House-keeper

I love the pure, magnificent sweetness of fruits and vegetables. Oh, I do adore the golden spark of chocolate chip cookies and smooth decadence of berry cheesecake… but there is something so honest and good about earth’s bounty that sets it apart from anything flavoured/modified/processed.

A crunchy asparagus spear, for instance, is like a springtime shower to me. Fresh. Playful. Invigorating.

I chewed on one such stalk while cooking a slightly modified version of this dish from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” tonight:
#47 Linguini with Asparagus & Prawns – Page 293

Modifications: I adjusted the quantities of ingredients to make half the amount of pasta, and used frozen cooked prawns instead of raw prawns, spaghetti instead of linguini, and port instead of brandy.

Hey, asparagus puree makes a good sauce base.

If tonight’s dinner was a musical, thyme was the soundtrack. The fresh thyme sprigs smelled amazing in this dish. I stood stirring and humming in the kitchen, bending down every so often to draw in a deep breath, eyes closed, head slightly woozy from its sweet, distinctive fragrance.

If I ever master the elusive technique of growing green things successfully, I will plant a herb garden. One thing I’ve discovered through this cook-through project is the absolute magic of fresh herbs. I can liken my fresh herb experience to the day I first tasted a chocolate truffle from a chocolatier. It seemed ridiculous that I had once been utterly satisfied with chocolate bars from the supermarket.

Oh, and prawns! I love prawns. Grandma’s prawns fried with chilli and black sauce. Prawn dim-sum in Chinese restaurants. Prawn tapas. All seafood, actually, is heavenly – the French apparently call it fruits de mer – ‘fruits of the sea’ – a gorgeous expression, don’t you think? Anyway, a bag of lovely pink prawns went into this dish… delightful.

The result was a sweet palatable pasta dish, simple, light and satisfying. All turned out well considering the fact that my first lot of pasta, in my carelessness, scalded me and disappeared down the insinkerator because I didn’t grasp the pot firmly while draining the water out. Tips: 1. Always keep spare pasta in the pantry. 2. When draining cooked pasta, hold on tight to that pot or use a sieve! :-)

Matt also baked us all a fruity crumble – a hearty tasty dessert, a sweet finish to our night!

PS. I’m really sorry about the quality of some photographs on my blog (especially those taken at night time under unforgiving artificial light conditions), by the way. I have a very basic camera which doesn’t like night as much as I do… and I don’t edit any of my photos before I post them.

Dinner for 10

If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.
~ Fernand Point

At my friends’ wedding a few weeks ago, a few of us came up with the idea of having a dinner party sometime. And it happened tonight! In a way that these well-intentioned “we should do…” discussions often never lead to. :-)

Thank God for the power of words, and super friends.

We had an amazing dinner party tonight. 10 of us for dinner, 4 of us to cook (Tim, Matt, Claire, myself). Nice, modern, sleek apartment kitchen to cook in & lounge to dine in (thanks Tim!).

7 dishes were cooked and served, all from the cookbook – 1 repeat (gotta stop repeating the oven-baked fish) and 6 new attempts.

Oven-Baked Fish with Tomato & Parsley – Page 105 (repeat)
and
#18 Chicken, Coconut & Cashew Nut Curry – Page 352
#19 Rice with butter & lemon – Page 356
#20 Carrot Salad with Cardamom, Ginger & Lemon – Page 357
#21 Prawns with Lemon, Peri Peri, Garlic & Feta – Page 102
#22 Lachmajou – Page 159 (topping only, as I have made pitta before)
#23 Lemon Creme Brulee – Page 262

We all did bits and pieces of everything, but I admit I stayed FAR away from the creme brulee, because the recipe was just a little intimidating… so full credit for the wonderfulness of this goes to Tim and Claire (the only thing I dared to do was separate some eggs for the 16 egg yolks required). Matt made the fish tonight, and it looked better than the picture – I certainly did not manage this in my last two attempts of the recipe!

Getting rid of prawn excrement for around 1kg of prawns was probably the most tedious part of the entire cooking process for me. Above is a picture of a prawn sitting perched on the grater…

We decided on who would do what pretty quickly, and then it was a flurry of chopping, frying, whisking, etc…

So it all went well, and time went by fast but not too quickly. And there were moments of relaxation, spilling a few things on the cookbook, laughing, feeling tired… and eating of course. All things necessary for life.

I feel like I want to write so much, about the sound of my friends’ voices and laughter, the sunset outside the window, the way the pools of rainwater splashed the car windows from the ground as we drove through town today, my fear of making creme brulee, the way it felt crumbling feta between my fingers (onto the prawns), the nice focus this cookbook project brings, the way I feel like my friends support my madness of cooking through a book…

About the earthquake that’s happened in Haiti, about the world at large, about the way it makes me feel alive each time I drink plain water, about the seductive nature of cooking, about the great satisfaction I find in feeding people…

About art, psychology, womanhood, books, walking, nature, dreams, thoughts…

But it is getting quite late… and this post already looks so long.

I am gratified to have received a few comments, online and in-person, about this blog – and to see on the blog stats page that I have around 20 readers on average daily!

I was going to share my (slightly modified) version of Tessa’s prawns… but I think I might fall asleep here on my laptop, sitting on the ground – so better roll into bed…

Good night! And have a splendid Sunday.

PS. Re last post, the milk tart turned out OK. :-) Almost like Dan’s.