Tag Archives: coconut milk

Braised Brussels Sprouts

9 Oct

sprouts!If you dont like brussels sprouts, try this recipe. It is so phenomenally good, I dare anyone to taste it and not like it. Brussels sprouts are a much maligned vegetable, but thats mainly because they tend to be over or under cooked. They can be pungent, but treating them with respect, and cooking them in a time tested French manner (braising in cream – or coconut cream for vegans) brings out their nutty tenderness to perfection.

Tonight was a big meal night – polenta with a tomato spinach sauce, roasted kale, and brussels sprouts. My sister had purchased a branch of brussels sprouts. How gorgeous is that? Cooking in this way – literally picking the sprouts off the plant they had grown on – is so satisfying. Preparing brussels sprouts is easy. Trim the bottoms well, and take off two or three leaves – you want what looks like a tightly packed miniature lettuce.

These sprouts are wonderful as a side dish, or could even be given centre stage (Jules said she could just eat the sprouts and be happy). If I was serving the sprouts as a main course, I might gratinee them in the oven for a few minutes. Any which way, theyre surprisingly good. This preparation would also be great pureed as a soup.

Brussels sprouts are so good for you – they are anti-inflamatory, anti-oxidant, and detoxing. There are many studies which link regular consumption of brussels sprouts with a lower incidence of cancer. Related to kale, broccoli and cabbage, this tiny superfood is wonderfully healthy for you, and cooked well, sensationally tasty.

This recipe serves 6 – 8 people as a side dish, fewer as a main

  • About 2 lbs brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup cream (or coconut milk cream for vegans)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh (if you have it) grated nutmeg (or if you are using the coconut milk, you could also use garam masala for a slightly spicier mix) – just a pinch
  • Black pepper

The most time consuming part of this dish is preparing the brussels sprouts. You need to check out each one, trim the ends and trim the loose leaves. Check to make sure that the leaves are tight. Once youre happy with a sprout, toss it into a large bowl of salted water. Keep prepping all your sprouts until you are done. You should have 4 – 6 cups worth.

Slice the sprouts in half and transfer to a large saucepan, which has a lid. Pour over the cream (or coconut milk cream) and sprinkle with salt. I usually use only about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and then taste and adjust when I am done. I prefer to let the sweetness of the brussels sprouts shine through.

Bring the cream and sprouts to the boil over high heat. As soon as it all starts to bubble and roil, cover with lid, and lower heat to medium low. Braise the sprouts, covered, for about 12 – 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the root end of the sprout goes through softly. I usually check about half way through the cooking time, adjust the heat if I think its needed, and give the sprouts a good mix to make sure they all get heat time.

Take off heat, and grate or sprinkle over nutmeg and lashings of black pepper. Combine, taste and adjust. Add more salt if needed.

YummmmmThe sprouts will have soaked up most of the cream, and become voluptuously plump, bright green and delightful. They will shine, and beckon hungry appetites.

The sprouts can be prepared ahead of time and reheated gently.

Get ready to accept applause, and garner converts!

 

Rendang Potatoes!

4 Sep

DelectableI have long mourned the loss of rendang from my life as a vegetarian. My sister, too, says that the one thing she might consider eating meat for again is rendang. For those of you who dont know this food of the Goddesses, here is the definition of rendang from Wikipedia:

Rendang is made from beef (or occasionally chicken, mutton, water buffalo, duck, or vegetables like jackfruit or cassava) slowly cooked in coconut milk, spices and sometimes kerisik (toasted coconut paste) for several hours until almost all the liquid is gone, allowing the meat to absorb the spicy condiments. The cooking process changes from boiling to frying as the liquid evaporates. The slow cooking process allows the meat to absorb all the spices and to become tender. The spices may include ginger, galangal, turmeric leaf, lemon grass and chillies.

Its as good an explanation as any … rendang is difficult to explain, because its kind of curried, but not really. But once you eat it, it can become obsessional. Each state in Malaysia has a different kind of rendang, and we grew up eating Rendang Tok from our Dad’s home state of Perak. We of course consider that the height of rendang. But to be honest, since we both became complete vegetarians, any kind of rendang would be most welcome.

One of the reasons I love cooking is that inspiration comes from strange places. I have often wondered how to translate rendang into a vegetarian dish that was easily accessible. Jackfruit and cassava are not available here in the US, at least not easily, and so … I was looking at the potato gratin I made the other night, and marveling at the alchemy which turned the milk and cheese into a gooey sticky lovely binding for the potatoes, and suddenly, I thought, oooh. What if I put a rendang sauce together with boiled potatoes and roasted the whole thing in a high oven? I think I might be on to something…

So today, when I had quite a bit of time to potter about the kitchen, I decided to make rendang potatoes. I served them with rice and a beautiful mixed vegetable curry, which got quite a bit of sweetness from sugar beets and artichoke hearts and stems. The potatoes were spicy, salty, crispy and gooey with rendang paste. They were phenomenally good.

If you have access to a great market, try and make your rendang sauce from scratch. I give you below a basic recipe for rendang sauce that you can then treat as I do to prep it for the potatoes. If you dont have access to a good market, do as I did. Buy rendang sauce, jazz it up a bit, and boil it down until it is very very dark and very syrupy. Mix it with boiled potatoes, add a bit of olive oil or peanut oil, and roast until the rendang sauce becomes a paste, coating and loving those gorgeous crispy potatoes. Heaven.

For rendang sauce

I used 1/2 bottle of Rendang Sauce from World Market. I mixed it with:

  • 1/2 can thick coconut milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp grated fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, smashed

Boil this concoction in a saucepan over medium high heat for at least 30 minutes, mixing often. You might need up to an hour. The mixture will turn from light brown to a deep dark chocolate brown, and will reduce by up to 3/4ths. This is very very good. Taste and adjust seasonings. Once it is ready, fish out the lemongrass stalk, and set aside and prepare your potatoes.

If you are cooking the rendang sauce from scratch, you will need:

  • 2 – 5 fresh red chilis, seeded and chopped
  • 3 dry red chilis
  • 2 inches galangal root (a type of Asian ginger), peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped (or 3 shallots, chopped)
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled
  • 1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, smashed
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric

Create a paste from these ingredients in a food processor. Add a tiny bit of water if you need it, but you shouldnt really. Set aside.

  • 4 -5 tbsp olive oil mixed with peanut or toasted sesame oil (about 50/50)
  • Spice paste as above
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tbsp tamarind pulp (mixed with water and deseeded)
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, smashed
  • 7 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 – 2 tsp light brown sugar, or palm sugar if you can get it, to taste
  • 2 cups thick coconut milk
  • 1 – 2 cups dried grated coconut, toasted

In a large saucepan, over medium high heat, heat the oil, and fry the spice paste until it becomes fragrant, and begins to separate from the oil. Add the rest of the spices, sugar and coconut milk . Mix well, and allow the mixture to boil until it is reduced by at least half. This can take up to an hour, and should be done on medium heat. Drain out the spices, and return the mixture to the heat. Add the toasted coconut, and continue to simmer the mixture until it is very thick and dark glossy brown, probably a further 30 – 40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if need be. Proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Assembly

  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 3 kg) potatoes, sliced. I used fingerling potatoes, and left the skin on.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Rendang sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200 C

Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are just soft. A fork should be able to pierce one with little effort. Drain, and tumble the potatoes into a casserole dish that should fit them quite evenly. Its okay if they are crowded, but you dont want them in big layers – they will steam rather than roast.

Pour the reserved rendang sauce over, and stir to cover. Make sure every last potato has been totally glazed in the sauce. This is important, so take your time. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Pour over the olive oil, and roast in the oven for at least 30 – 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are quite crisp, and the rendang sauce has reduced further to a thick dark brown paste.

Serve and get ready for people to go into paroxysms of joy.

Malaysian Vegetarian Curry in the USA for MZ

28 Jun

One of the things M really wanted when I was cooking for her was a vegetarian curry. This is what I came up with, given the ingredients I could source in her part of the world!

Curry and rice must be one of the most ultimate comfort foods for us. Theres something about the warmth and heat – the pedas and the panas – that sends a glow to the soul. Its relatively easy to make as long as you take a couple of things into consideration: make sure you think about the vegetables you are adding, and ensure they all get proper and respectful cooking time; fry the spices – you want them to release their volatile oils and infuse their scent into the whole house; make sure there is some protein in the curry as vegetarian food like this needs to be balanced; think about colour, size and texture when you choose your vegetables; and finally, know your heat (spice) limit, and stick to it!

For a curry feeding 4 – 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 – 3 tbsp peanut oil (or a mix of canola and roasted sesame oil if you cant find peanut, coconut oil is also nice)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Thumb sized portion of ginger, minced or grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 red chili (or more, according to your taste) minced fine (with or without seeds, according to your heat desire)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ¬†good quality red curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp each: cumin + coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 – 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
  • 2 – 3 leaves limau perut or curry leaves
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 yellow squash, washed and cubed
  • 2 – 3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium head broccoli, separated into small spears
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • 1 packet baked tofu (or chickpeas if you cant find baked tofu)

Heat in a large pan or saucepan, over medium heat, heat oil until almost smoking. Add onion, garlic, and ginger, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Let onion soften, this should only take a few seconds. Add red chili, stir again, and check if oil has all been absorbed. If it has, move all ingredients to the sides of the pan, so you make a well in the centre, and add a little bit more oil. Add the curry powder and spice powders and fry until they separate from the oil and the scents have been released. You will know when this happens!

As soon as the spice powders have fried, stir all together, add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, lemongrass and limau perut and stir. Add the potatoes, and stir to coat. Let the potatoes fry for a minute, and brown a little bit. Once the potatoes have browned, add a little water, and add the squash, carrots, and broccoli in stages, stirring to combine well. Add the coconut milk, and allow all the vegetables to cook to lightly cook (you dont want them boiled, but more like lightly poached).

Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. I have also added some brown sugar (tiny pinch) to add a deeper resonance if necessary.

Add frozen peas and baked tofu and allow to heat through. Taste again.

I always think curry is best reheated gently the next day, once all the flavours have had a chance to get acquainted. And always try and serve it warm, not piping hot – you destroy any flavour if you serve it boiling hot.

Serve with brown rice and enjoy memories of home and family and heat and humidity.