Chicken Saté

To even out the spread, we included a couple chicken dishes in our menu. One dish that is pretty popular in The Netherlands is saté, and it’s pretty common fare at Indonesian restaurants and street food stalls. I’ve made different variations of ‘chicken-on-a-stick’ in the past, but this was my first time making it southeast Asian style. I decided to branch out of my usual Martha Stewart/Jamie Oliver recipe niche and went with a popular recipe on foodnetwork.com.

I didn’t have any coconut milk, nor did I have any low-sodium soy sauce or chicken stock, so I didn’t use them in my marinade. The chicken fortunately was not very salty, despite the fact that I ended up with more salt than called for. I marinated the chicken for about 3 days, not on purpose but because we didn’t end up serving it at the party because we had so much food!

As for the dipping sauce, we just bought some packaged peanut sauce to make our lives a little easier. To spice it up, we just threw in a few chili pepper rounds as we heated up the sauce.

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I feel like I don’t even need to do a blog entry on these. Vietnamese/Thai/Southeast Asian raw spring rolls are one of those food items that I have started seeing everywhere, in random Asian fusion restaurants and at health food/vegetarian places. In any case, these ones are super easy. We got the guidelines for these rolls from the Australian delicious. mag, but basically just freestyled it. I’ll post the exact recipe when I’m reunited with it, but you can just Google ‘Vietnamese spring rolls’ if you’re dying to make it before then.

We used vermicelli, red peppers, cucumber, green onion, crushed peanut, mint and carrots to fill the rice paper. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes, and add spiced ground pork if you want to make it a little more filling.

For dipping sauce I made nuoc cham, a basic dipping sauce for Vietnamese food. The toughest part of this recipe was dealing with the rice paper. Store your rice paper properly! If not they will end up with all kinds of cracks and tears, which make them a nightmare to work with.

Next to making deviled quail eggs, this was probably the most frustrating and annoying cooking experience I’ve had in a while. Don’t be put off though—like I said, if you treat your paper well, things will be alright. The spring rolls went over quite well—the vegetarians enjoyed them, and people who aren’t ‘into Asian food’ can easily handle the simple dish. Had the process not been so frustrating, I would’ve definitely made more!

Something Russian…

A couple weeks ago when we started to plan our party, we started looking for new recipes to try. Of course, when it came to cute hors d’oeuvres, Martha Stewart came to mind. I found a recipe for chive blinis. I’d never made a blini before, but the recipe was short-listed immediately because it looked relatively easy, and inexpensive.

It was a pretty straightforward recipe that even I couldn’t screw up. I tried my best to make my blinis perfectly round, but it was difficult given the fact that my poffertjes pan has somehow ended up in the trash.

Blinis on their own are a little weird… they look like a pancake, so when you eat them, you expect them to taste sweet, and they can kind of put you off a bit when they don’t. Fortunately, once you top them with something savoury, they are quite delicious.

I did a test run with some cream cheese and shoulder ham, and later I topped them with crème fraiche mixed with chives, smoked salmon and capers.

If I were to make this again, I wouldn’t use the capers because there is already enough salt in the salmon. If budget isn’t an issue, I’ll definitely go for the salmon roe and quail eggs.

Peppadews!

Peppadews made their debut in my house back in March. A family friend came to visit us and decided to show us something new. Until previously, peppadews to me were just those red mini pepper thingies that were next to the olives, and it had never occurred to me to try them.

This one’s pretty simple, and pleasing to the eye which is why I love it. Stuffed peppadews offer all sorts of contrast—both in the way they look, and the way they taste, as they have a nice combination of sweet and spicy. I’ve made them so far on three different occasions and each time they’ve been quite a hit.

All you’ll need is a jar of mild peppadews (they pack a bite that is pretty palatable for most people), block cream cheese (spreadable is too runny), and a jar of lemon curd (basically the filling of a lemon meringue pie).

Unfortunately, I did a terrible job of writing down the quantities, but I’ll do my best to guide you. Try starting with 200g of cream cheese and a 1/3 cup of lemon curd. Blend the cheese and the curd in a bowl with a hand mixer, fork, or potato masher. If you plan on using a fork or a potato masher, it might be wise to let the cream cheese stand outside of the fridge for about 30 minutes.

When you’ve blended the cream cheese and the curd, have a taste. You may want to add more curd to make the mixture a little sweeter. I suggest stuffing one peppadew, and eating that, to try and get a better gauge as to how the flavours taste together.

You can stuff the peppadews with a spoon if you don’t have many to do, or you can use a piping bag. If you don’t have a piping bag, take a Ziploc bag and cut a small hole in one corner and you’re good to go.

Enjoy!

Billy’s Vanilla Buttercream Cupcakes

I’ve always wanted to find a nice vanilla cake recipe to make from scratch. Previously, when I needed a basic pound cake, I’d head straight to the supermarket to pick up some Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mix. Then I got to Korea and saw the astronomical price for boxed cakes, and this prompted me to get on top of my search.

When I’m looking for a basic American-style recipe, of course I go to the queen of insider trading American food, Martha Stewart. This recipe’s great—pretty simple to make, pretty basic ingredients. The only tough part is finding cake flour that’s not self-rising. Here in The Netherlands, I had to trek out to the cash ‘n carry to get the right type of flour.

I suggest watching the video on the website, especially if you’re not used to baking cakes. In the video they note that you should add two tablespoons of baking powder to the batter, whereas the written instructions state only one. I have never made them with one tablespoon, but based on readers’ comments, it’s not a good idea.

As always with recipes involving vanilla extract, the purer the vanilla, the better. Vanilla flavouring or artificial vanilla just won’t have the same taste as pure vanilla extract, but you need to be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for the real deal. A bottle of vanilla flavouring will set you back no more than 2 euros here in the Lowlands, but pure extract will set you back at least 15 euros.

I’ve made this recipe a few times, most notably for my sister’s birthday. They turned out great and the kids all loved them. The best part of this cake is that it’s very light and not too sugary, as many cupcakes tend to be.

The most recent time I made it was again for my sister’s graduation. This time around, I made a full, double-layered cake by doubling the recipe. The last time I made a double-layered vanilla cake was in 2004, for my prom. I was the treasurer for student council and on the prom committee and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money for someone’s mom to make a Duncan Hines cake when I felt that we could make it ourselves. So one evening, we sent my family out of my house, and proceeded to bake the cake. Unfortunately, we didn’t grease our pan enough, so our cake ended up a little broken, and looking a little disastrous. It was very uneven, and we didn’t have any extra cake mix, so we were stuck with our disaster.

We came up with what we thought was an ingenious way to hide the cakes deformities. We ended up (over)icing the cake in white  and then colouring the icing in different colours and then spreading it out on the cake Jackson Pollock style. Here it is, the mess that we nicknamed ‘de kaqe’:

It was a MESS. The one-centimeter layer of icing made the cake incredibly sweet, to the point where it hurt your teeth to eat it. I’d never seen such a deep sigh of relief from my friends as when I put down my piece of cake, defeated and refusing to eat it, because it meant that no one else had to eat it either.

So when it came to making the cake a few weeks ago, the pressure was on. Typical me, I didn’t grease/flour the pan well enough for the first cake. Fortunately I learned from my mistake and fixed the problem on the second layer. Cake done, no one hurt.

The icing was pretty easy to make, no problems there, I mixed it, and put it in the fridge to firm up a bit.

The tricky part came when I had to ice the cake. That was pretty tough, considering that it was over 25°C in the kitchen. I got a little worried and thought 2004 was going to happen all over again. I persevered though, and put the cake in the fridge to firm up. Fortunately, that was all it needed. My icing job is nowhere near the standards of Cake Boss, but this time around I was pretty pleased with the icing/cake ratio. In the future, I’ll certainly need to work on my piping, icing and decorating skills, but for now I’m willing to blame my poor presentation in part on the temperature of the kitchen. Here it is, in cake form and in cupcake form, Billy’s Vanilla Buttercream:

Quiche.

The first time I made a quiche, I failed miserably. I had made a batch of mini pies in Korea, and had one pie shell left over, so I cracked an egg, threw in a few veggies and stuffed it in the oven. No milk/cream, no pre-baking the shell. It was a mess! The thing ballooned out of the pie shell and ended up looking like a prop out of a sci-fi movie. It still tasted alright, despite the dryness.

Fortunately, I decided to try again. This time around, I used a recipe that comes from Let’s Break Bread Together, the cookbook put together by the United Church of Canada.

I used the same pie dough from my previous entry on pies, making sure to pre-bake the shell for 8 minutes before I added in the egg and other ingredients. For some reason, the dough shrank a bit after the 8 minutes, so I ended up having to patch it. Next time I roll out the dough for quiche, I’ll make sure to take shrinkage into account.

Again, I don’t have the recipe book with me, but I think it goes something like this for the filling:

-1/4 cup green onion

-1 cup cooked shrimp, drained

-1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (I used jong belegen)

-1/8tsp black pepper

-3 eggs

-2 cups cream

-1/4 tsp salt

-1 tbsp dried tarragon

After the  shell has been pre-baked, spread the green onion and shrimp and cheese evenly on the pie dish. Beat the eggs, mix in the cream and add the tarragon and salt into the mixture, and then pour over the ingredients in the pie dish. Bake at 200°C for 30-40 minutes.

If the shell starts to dry out, wrap foil around the edges so that it doesn’t burn.

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The quiche was an incredible success at dinner on Friday evening, and it disappeared pretty quickly once it hit the table. This prompted my decision to make two quiches the next day instead of just one. I made the shrimp quiche again, and I tried out a spinach quiche recipe from allrecipes.com, as I needed something for the vegetarians.

That recipe was not without its flaws–the original ingredient yield is enough for two quiches… thanks to the comments, I decided to halve the amount of ingredients from the get-go, and then for my cream/egg mixture, I just used the same one as I did in the shrimp quiche.

Despite all my adjustments, the quiche ended up having a lot of moisture–another common complaint about the recipe. It took me an extra 30 minutes with my quiche tented and on convection for it to dry out. If I make this is again, I might dry out my mushrooms beforehand or use slightly less cream, as it’s kind of hard to really get all the moisture out of spinach. Nevertheless, the quiche was a hit and by the time I got a chance to take a break from the kitchen, the quiche was gone…. marking the first time I’ve served something to others without trying it myself.

Conclusion: If you’re having a party or a brunch, quiche is a pretty cheap and easy way to fill people up. It’s a very versatile dish that can easily be adapted to suit a range of tastes and dietary requirements. People really love quiche! I will certainly be making quiche again in the future.

For now, I am off to Berlin! Going to finally try some curry wurst. I’ll see you all on Saturday.

Stuffed Mushrooms…

This is the first of a series of foods that myself or some other member of my family made for our open house on June 5. Unfortunately, many of the recipe books with the instructions are now inside a container on their way to Cambodia… so I will give a basic overview of the recipe now and post some pictures, and when I am reunited with the cookbooks, I’ll update the entries and include the recipes, for those who were curious about all the goodies we made.

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This entry is dedicated to stuffed mushrooms. While there are many ways to stuff mushrooms, one of our favourites comes from the Australian version of the magazine delicious. While the proportions of the ingredients have escaped me for now, I know that this recipe involves mushrooms, ricotta cheese, pesto, basil, and parmesan cheese (we used peco romano).

As you can see by the photo of the cooked mushrooms, they are a family favourite, and very popular with our guests. By the time I got the right lens on my camera, half of the mushrooms were gone!