Tag Archives: spices

Zucchini Chocolate Spice Bread

12 Feb

I love zucchini bread – bold in its simplicity and perfectly comforting. Its a good bread, one that is easily frozen and surprisingly easy and quick to make. I thought of this bread when I saw some luscious zucchini at O’Gourmet last week, and thought that it might be a nice idea to try a new twist. I found Bentong ginger powder at PastryPro – organic, sun-dried and so deep and complex in scent its almost overwhelming. I wanted to use it in a bread, and with my beautiful zucchini to hand, I set about inventing a new, enticing version of my beloved old standard.

I have to admit, this new zucchini bread is pretty spectacular. It is damp, lush, complex and dark. I really decided to go all out in this bread … I used dark and light brown sugar, freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon and the amazing Bentong ginger, a touch of ground hazelnuts, beautiful Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, and both white and bittersweet chocolate. I realise, its full on! I thought to myself, when I put the loaves in the oven … either this is going to be delicious, or its going to taste like a muddled mess!

Luckily, its a wonderful, complicated, intriguing bread. Its very moist and it will get better over a few days – the flavours compounding and playing off one another. It freezes well, and its wonderful lightly toasted, as a snack, breakfast or tea time treat. Plus, what a wonderful way to get people to eat their zucchini and love it too!

I know that this seems a load of ingredients to bring together. If you cant find ground hazelnuts, or dont want to make them, substitute ground almonds, or even just plain flour. Chop and change as you wish, its a very forgiving recipe. Try though to include the honey and the spices … they really deepen and improve the bread immensely. And who doesnt like chocolate? Hehe … though if you want to be more healthy, try a few seeds or dried fruit instead. And do try and wait at least 10 minutes after you remove the bread from the hot oven – its very delicate at first, and needs a moment to firm up! Says she, who never waits ­čśë

Makes 2 loaves

  • 2 medium-large zucchini (approximately 2 – 3 cups grated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 scant cup sugar – half dark brown, half light brown
  • 1 heaping tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, beans scraped
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger (I used Bentong ginger, which is very flavourful – you may want to up the amount of ginger – may be 1 – 2 tsp – ┬ádepending on the quality of your source)
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg, grated
  • 2 cups chocolate chips, drops or chopped (I used half bittersweet, half white, best quality chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F). Line two loaf pans with baking paper. I usually cut out a large piece of baking paper, centre the loaf pan, and cut in at a 90 degree angle on all four corners. I can then fold in the paper, and have a bit of nice overhang. Set aside the pans.

Set a sieve over a small bowl, and grate the zucchini into the sieve. I use the very fine grater, but depending on the texture youre going for, you might want to grate it slightly more coarsely. Press the zucchini into the sieve to encourage as much water out as possible (you will probably get about 1 cup worth). Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (and reserve both the zucchini and its liquid!).

In a large bowl, place the eggs, vegetable oil, sugars, honey and vanilla. Whisk together well until everything is well combined and integrated. Set aside.

In a small bowl (or large measuring jug, which is what I use) combine the flour, ground hazelnuts, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir to combine completely. Set aside for a moment.

Measure out about 1/2 cup of zucchini water.

Stir the flour and zucchini water into the sugar/oil mixture, in thirds, mixing gently but thoroughly. You might not use all of the zucchini water – just add a splash each time to really help the flour to integrate into the sugar/oil.

Add all the zucchini and mix well, and finally add the chocolate and mix well.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf tins.

of Zucchini Bread!Bake, switching the tins in the oven half way through if youre concerned about hot spots, for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. A cake tester inserted into the loaf will either come up covered in chocolate (in which case, wipe down and try again!) or with scant crumbs attached.

Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes or so before devouring. This freezes exceedingly well, and will stay good in the fridge for a week or more (though its always finished up by the first day or so in my house!).

Enjoy!

 

O’Gourmet Food Hall

2 Dec

As a passionate cook and a foodie, I am always on the lookout for places where I can source the best of the best. I truly believe that ingredients matter: the olive oil you use impacts hugely on the final taste of your dish; the nuts, spices and flavourings, if fresh and carefully sourced, can deepen and embolden a meal so much more than wan supermarket choices; and fruits and vegetables of sublime quality are not only a joy to work with, but their colours, textures and flavours make everything just taste better.

I will drive an extra mile to find food of extraordinary quality, to be able to speak with knowledgeable purveyors about their wares, and to sample different and new items. I am lucky though, because I live within a few minutes of what I consider one of the most wonderful collections of food and ingredients in Kuala Lumpur – the O’Gourmet Food Hall at Bangsar Shopping Centre. O’Gourmet has it all – a decadent and seductive cheese room; a bright and stunningly beautiful fruit and vegetable stand; fresh nuts, spices and herbs; the astonishing variety of Vom Fass vinegars and oils; pastas, flours, and grains of just about every description; a thoughtfully curated wine selection; chocolates, cookies, candies and cakes; and prepared foods that are made with care and quality.

O’Gourmet reminds me of a Malaysianised combination of Dean and Delucca, Chelsea Market and Zabars in New York with Harrods and Harvey Nichols in London. Its a Food Hall of quality, with resources from around the world. I have been deeply impressed by the way the way the people at O’Gourmet know their food. For example, Sebastien Le Francois, the resident sommelier and cheese guru, is not only deeply knowledgeable, but happy to make time to talk through selections, options, ideas, pairings. He tells you what he thinks, he explains the relative merits of different cheeses and wines, he talks recipes, combinations, flavours. Wonderful!

Its like a gourmet wonderland of food and ingredients, and I have always regarded a visit to O’Gourmet Food Hall as a thrill, a moment of inspiration and joy – a truly happy day. I can wander the aisles of O’Gourmet for hours. In fact, AngelKitten and I did so just yesterday, marveling at everything we saw. I love the food conversations she and I have together – we inspire each other, fantasise how different ingredients can be put together, find hidden gems and share our excitement. Our day at O’Gourmet Foodhall was pure happy – we marveled at the careful way in which each item is chosen, tasted the oils, sampled the cheeses and imagined different pairings of ingredients… from a gingerbread house with candied and sugared fruits to a hazelnut torte to a truffled macaroni and cheese. O’Gourmet has the resources to provide for all these imaginings and more.

First we stopped at the fruit and vegetable stand. Amazing! Such colour and texture. Such a wide variety to choose from, and so fresh, so luscious, completely delectable. Those fruits, oh my goodness. Tiny perfect apples (we want to candy them for our gingerbread house), comice pears at their peak of ripeness, a beautiful array of berries, tomatoes on the vine, voluptuous dragon fruit, and lettuce leaves so fresh their roots are still attached.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

Such a great selection – and so intrinsically sexy. Onions, cabbage, fennel and mushrooms so perfect that I couldnt wait to get my hands on them, to touch and tease them into recipes and meals. I felt like the little old lady in the movie Tampopo, who gets chased away from the produce section for touching and stroking and feeling the vegetables a little too much!

Luckily there were other things to mark our attention. We wandered through the herbs and spices, dried pastas and grains…Everything is lovingly laid out, like art, and easily accessible. You can sample, sniff, and consider to your hearts content.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

I love the fact that you can look and choose exactly what – and how much – you want – bay leaves, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, mustard seed, mace, cinnamon, fennel, chili, nutmeg, dried pulses, and so much more – all arrayed temptingly, their colours a symphony of choice, and each pretty bottle a really exciting possibility of flavour and illumination. A spark of possibility every where you turn.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

From there, we wandered over to the oils and vinegars. Alongside carefully chosen bottled oils and vinegars, O’Gourmet has brought in Vom Fass – a German company that supplies artisanal vinegars and oils of the absolute highest quality. You can sample everything at the Vom Fass section because of how the oils and vinegars are presented in earthenware casks – and we did! From a stunning wild raspberry vinegar to the sharp brightness of calimansi vinegar to the syrupy dusky wonder of a 25 year old balsamico. From extra virgin olive oils that tasted like sunshine and light to hazelnut oil that was rounded and rich and wild to a truffle oil that was totally imbued with the haunting notes of truffle. Each oil and vinegar can be sampled, and they can be bottled in 100ml and up glass bottles of your choice. We were like kids in a candy shop!

O'Gourmet Foodhall

We wanted to bring all that we sampled home with us, but we tried to be restrained (!) and so we chose three – the hazelnut and truffle oils and the 25 year old balsamic vinegar. I have to admit, when we got home, we unwrapped the oils, and tasted them again. Tonight, I will make a hazelnut torte using some of that hazelnut oil. So beautiful!

O'Gourmet Foodhall

And finally, we went to the cheese room. We stood and sniffed that pungent enticing wild aroma of cheese, we tasted, we looked, and we chatted with the accommodating M. Sebastien. I am so pleased that Kuala Lumpur has a cheese shop of such high quality, beautifully curated and totally tempting.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

And we chose – a triple cream Brilliat Savarin, imbued with truffles. I looked at it and I could feel myself purrrrrr.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

I have been a customer of O’Gourmet for a while now. Each time I am at Bangsar Shopping Centre, I make time to wander and look and touch, to consider some special cheese or a prime flavour ingredient that will brighten the food I am cooking that day. I love that there is always something different, something unique, something deeply tempting.

Because I am so enamoured of the quality ingredients available at O’Gourmet Foodhall, and so inspired to creativity every time I visit, I have decided that I am going to do a weekly O’Gourmet recipe for the next few months. I hope these recipes will excite you with the possibilities inherent in ingredients of perfect quality, and will spark a passion for prime ingredients, treated with love and respect.

O’Gourmet Food Hall is at the East Wing, Ground Floor of Bangsar Shopping Centre, Jalan Maarof, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: +60.3.2094.9966

Visit their website and their Facebook page to be inspired!

 

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 ┬ágood 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.