Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sample recipe from Hollt og gott: Pancit Bijon

According to the book this is a Phillipine recipe, but I don’t know how authentic it is.

2 eggs, scrambled
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup celery, sliced
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
1 cup grated white cabbage
1/2 tsp salt
4-5 tbs soy sauce
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup rice (raw)
1 cup bean sprouts

Cook the rice according to packet instructions.

Fry the eggs in 3 tbs. of the oil. Set aside. Cook the onion, celery, bean sprouts and mushrooms for 2 minutes in the oil. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, soy sauce and water. Then add the rice and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the eggs. Serve.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


The challenge for this week is cancelled due to a stomach bug. I will pick up where I left off when I am better.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sample recipe from Hollt og gott: Vegetarian lasagna

Lasagna noodles, enough for two layers in the pan you intend to use.
Cook the lasagna until al dente and drain.

1 to 1 1/2 cup grated cheese
1 can mushrooms (it doesn’t say which size, but I think it’s probably a small one), drained and the liquid set aside for the sauce

Cheese and egg mixture:
1 1/2 cup cottage cheese
3 eggs

Stir the eggs well and mix with the cottage cheese.

1 can tomato purée (1 small can, about 142 g)
1 mushroom can of water plus the mushroom liquid
1 can tomatoes with juice (again, no size given, but probably a standard can)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp onion salt
1 cup fine soy mince

Dump into a saucepan and cook together for 5-10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200°C. Arrange the ingredients in the lasagna pan as follows:

Lasagna noodles (I'm no lasagna expert, but isn't the sauce usually on the bottom?)
Cottage cheese and egg mixture
Grated cheese

Repeat once. Bake for 1 hour. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

If I make this recipe, I would use fresh mushrooms instead of canned: sliced, lightly fried and simmered in water for 2-3 minutes to make mushroom broth to use in the lasagna.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cookbook of the week # 20 : Hollt og gott (Healthy and tasty), and the first sample recipe: Lentil soup

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This is one of the self-published cookbooks in my collection. In this case the publisher was a religious group, the Adventists. This spiral-bound cookbook is full of meatless recipes (some vegan, others ovo-lacto vegetarian), many of which have the contributor’s name beside it. It came from my mother’s collection, and I think she got it from my aunt who in turn got it from one of her in-laws, who has a number of recipes in the book.

Since I am a little late in posting this, here is the first recipe:

Lentil soup:

1 1/2 cups lentils (it doesn’t say which kind, so I am assuming any type can be used)
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup white cabbage, torn into pieces
2 litres vegetable broth/bouillon
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tbs soup herbs (this is a mixture of dried herbs and vegetables that is sold in shops here. I don’t know if it is available in other countries, but you can replace it with chopped kale)
1 bay leaf
The juice of 1 lemon

Cook the lentils in the veggie broth until soft. Add the rest and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Recipe of the week from The Book of Thai Cooking: Fried bread

I would love to know what all these recipes are called in Thai, but all that is given are strictly descriptive names for them. The recipe I chose as recipe of the week is a variation of an international recipe, that for fried bread:

175 g lean pork mince
55 g cooked shrimps, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbs chopped chilantro
1 1/2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of day-old bread
1 tbs coconut milk
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Whole chilantro leaves, narrow rings of fresh red chilli pepper, and cucumber slices, to garnish

Mix together the pork mince and shrimp in a bowl, using a fork. Then add garlic, chilantro, spring onions, 1/4 of the egg mixture, fish sauce and pepper and mix well. cut the crusts off the bread and divide the meat mixture between the slices, spreading it to cover the whole top of each slice. Mix the remaining egg and coconut milk and brush over the meat mixture. Cut each bread slice in four parts.

Heat the oil to 190°C in a wok. Put 3-4 bread pieces into it ant once, mince side down, and fry for 3-4 minutes or until crunchy, turning once about halfway through the process. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, and then keep them warm in the oven. Check the temperature of the oil between rounds of frying to make sure it isn’t too low. Serve the bread hot, garnished with chilantro, chilli pepper rings and cucumber slices.

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I made the recipe exactly as given, except the red chilli pepper got lost on the way from the shop (probably left behind at the check-out counter), and I shortened the frying time. The bread was crisp and golden brown after only 1 minute in the oil, and the filling was cooked through after 90 seconds. I found that about 2 minutes at about 175-180°C was enough to cook it through. At that time and temperature the bread turned out crisp and the meat mixture was cooked though and juicy.

Recipe review:
The dish tasted somewhat as if the pork mixture used in home-made English breakfast sausages had been smeared on bread and then fried. Only the sage was missing and instead there was a lovely flavour of shrimp and a hint of chilantro mingled with the pork flavour. It was quite good. I think this would make good finger food, cut into even smaller pieces, as it can be eaten either hot or cold. Another time I might leave out the bread and make meatballs out of the stuffing.

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Book review:
The book has just over 100 recipes. Since I have not experienced Thai food in Thailand I can’t really tell if they are a representative sample of the entirety of Thai cuisine, or if they mostly come for one region or if they are possibly westernised. What characterises the recipes above all else is their freshness and how quickly they can be put together and cooked. Thanks to the Thai expat community in Iceland the ingredients for these recipes are, if not exactly readily, then at least not impossibly, found here, some exclusively in Asian markets and others in regular supermarkets.

I feel it is a sad omission not to have included the Thai names of the dishes, but other than that, in the absence of expert advice, I think this is an interesting insight into Thai cuisine, and I look forward to comparing it with my other two Thai cookbooks and the chapters on Thai food in some of my mixed-cuisine cookbooks.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sample recipe from: The Book of Thai Cooking: Stuffed aubergine

I really like aubergines, and this looks like a tasty recipe.

Serves 4.

2 aubergines (eggplants), each weighing about 225 g
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks lemon grass, chopped
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
175 g chicken breast meat, finely chopped
2 tsp fish sauce
25 leaves of Thai basil (holy basil)
Freshly ground black pepper
Thai basil leave for garnish

Preheat the grill in your oven. Grill the whole aubergines for about 20 minutes, turning frequently, until they are evenly charred all over.

While the aubergines are cooking, grind the garlic and lemon grass together in a mortar. Set aside. Heat the oil in a wok, add the onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add the garlic/lemon grass paste, fry for 1-2 minutes, then add the chicken. Stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce and basil and plenty of pepper.

Cut each aubergine in half lengthwise. Carefully scrape most of the the flesh from inside the skins and put in a bowl. Keep the skins hot. Cut the flesh into pieces with scissors. Put in the hot wok and stir-fry with the chicken mixture for about 1 minute. Put the aubergine skins on a hot serving platter and divide the chicken mixture between them. Garnish with basil leaves.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sample recipe from: The Book of Thai Cooking: Spicy fried rice

There are several fried rice recipes in the book, all of them worth trying, so I made a random choice.

First, here is a basic recipe for a spice paste that the rice recipe calls for:

Red curry paste:
1 tbs coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 coriander roots, chipped (or use stalks if roots are not available)
8 dried red chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 stalks lemon grass, chopped
Grated zest of 1/2 kaffir lime
3 cm piece galangal, chopped
2 tsp shrimp paste

Heat a wok and roast the coriander and cumin seeds until they begin releasing their scent. Grind in a mortar or food processor with the pepper.

Add the remaining ingredients and grind into a smooth paste. Keeps for 4 weeks in an air-tight container stored in a refrigerator.

Enough to make 4 tablespoons.

Spicy fried rice:

175 g long grain (fragrant) white rice
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 fresh green chilli peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tbs red curry paste (see recipe above)
55 g lean pork, very finely chopped
3 eggs, lightly whipped to mix yolks and whites
1 tbs fish sauce
55 g cooked shrimps

For garnish: finely julienned red chilli pepper, torn chilantro leaves and “feathered” spring onions (cut leaves in half where they start to turn green. Cut into fine strips, about halfway down the stalk, using scissors. Put the leaves into a bowl of cold water to make the strips curl up (a few seconds)).

Steam the rice according to instructions on the packet. Heat the oil in a wok, add onion, garlic and chilli pepper and fry until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Add the curry paste and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the pork and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add the rice and stir to coat in the other ingredients. Push the rice aside in the pan and pour the egg mixture into the center of the pan. When the mixture begins to cook, stir it into the rice to coat and immediately add fish sauce. Stir in the shrimps. Put on a heated serving platter and decorate with the red chilli, chilantro and spring onion “feathers”.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sample recipe from: The Book of Thai Cooking: Chicken with lemon grass

Serves 4-6.

1 chicken, about 1,5 kg, split into 8 parts
4 thick stalks of lemon grass
4 spring onions, chopped
4 black peppercorns, crushed
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 fresh green chilli pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
4 tbs water
2 tsp fish sauce
1 fresh red chilli pepper,cut into narrow strips, for garnish

Make a couple of shallow cuts into each chicken piece with a sharp knife. Arrange the pieces in one layer in a shallow dish.

Bruise the top part of the lemon grass stalks and set aside. Chop the lower halves and then grind them in a mortar with the spring onions and peppercorns. Spread over the chicken pieces and into the cuts. Cover and let stand for 2 hours.

Heat the oil in a wok, add the chicken pieces and cook for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the green chilli, the bruised lemon grass pieces and the water. Put a lid on the wok and simmer slowly for about 25-30 minutes, until cooked. Stir in the fish sauce. Put the chicken pieces on a heated serving platter and sprinkle the red chilli strips on top.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sample recipe from: The Book of Thai Cooking: Fish with coconut and galangal

4 tbs vegetable oil
1 shallot, chopped
4 cm piece of galangal, finely chopped
2 stalks lemon grass, finely chopped
1 small fresh chilli pepper, seeded and chopped
125 ml coconut milk
2 tsp fish sauce (nam pla)
5 chilantro (leaf coriander) twigs
About 350 g fish fillets, for example from a small flounder or sole or other flatfish
1 small onion, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tbs oil in a wok and add shallot, galangal, lemon grass and chilli. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until the stuff begins to brown slightly. Put into a food processor, add coconut milk, fish sauce and the stalks from the chilantro and blend (purée?) well. Put the fish into a heat-proof, shallow bowl that fits into the mouth of a saucepan, and pour the sauce over it. Cover the bowl, put on top of a saucepan with boiling water, and steam for 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in the wok at medium heat. Add the onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove from the wok with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Put the chilantro leaves in the wok and fry for a few seconds. Remove like the onion and drain on kitchen paper. Serve the fish with the chilantro leaves and onion sprinkled on top and plenty of ground black pepper on top of that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sample recipe from: The Book of Thai Cooking: Chicken and mushroom soup

Many Asian soups are brilliantly simple and fresh, with a multitude of flavours. Some of my acquaintances claim they don’t like Asian (by which they mean “Chinese”) soups, because they are, to quote one of them “just flavoured water”, i.e. they are nothing like the thick, stew-like soups and the creamy French-style concoctions they are used to, but of course these soups are not meant to be meals in themselves, but merely appetizers. I must admit that I have eaten Chinese soups that were basically stock with some egg in them, but this looks like a slightly more filling soup.

It has three ingredients I have never used before: Chinese mushrooms, fish sauce and spring onions. I have eaten all three, but never used them in cooking.

Serves 4.

2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 chilantro (fresh coriander) stalks (with leaves)
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, ground
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 litre chicken stock
5 dried black Chinese mushrooms, soaked on cold water for 20 minutes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tbs fish sauce (nam pla)
116 g chicken, cut into strips
55 g spring onions, finely sliced
Some coriander stalks with leaves for garnish

Purée the garlic, chilantro (stems and leaves) and pepper in a food processor or grind with a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a wok, add the purée and stir fry for 1 minute. Add stock, mushrooms and fish sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken strips, lower the temperature so the liquid is barely simmering and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the spring onion slices on top and garnish with chilantro.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cookbook of the week # 19: The Book of Thai Cooking by Hilaire Walden

There are a number of Thai restaurants in Reykjavík and I occasionally treat myself to some Thai food. This book, which is part of a series of ethnic cookbooks, is illustrated with photographs and most of the recipes seem to be simple and easy, although some of the ingredients must have been hard to come by back when it was first published in Iceland in 1993. Since then, at least three Asian markets have opened in Reykjavík, and one of the supermarket chains has added many oriental ingredients to its shelves, so it should not be hard to get galangal, lemon grass or fish sauce or most of the other unfamiliar ingredients.

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More cookbooks

I have acquired some more cookbooks since I started the challenge. They came from various sources: bought on sale, from the charity shop, through BookMooch, and one was a Christmas present. I was going to wait to publish another list until I had 10 more cookbooks, but I chose one of them as cookbook of the week, so here they are.

Here are the new additions:

The Book of Thai Cooking by Hilaire Walden. Yet another Thai cookbook. Probably the last Thai cookbook I buy. I think three is probably enough.

Italia: The recipes and customs of the regions by Antonio Carluccio.

Ítalskir réttir Hagkaupa. One of a series of cookbooks published by a local supermarket, one book a year. This one is about Italian cooking, written by Leifur Kolbeinsson, an Icelandic chef who runs one of Iceland’s finest Italian restaurants. Full of mouth-watering recipes.

A Little Taste of Tailand by Oi Cheepchaiissara. My first Thai cookbook.

Malaysian Favorites by The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Modern Spanish Cooking by Sam & Eddie Hart.

Oriental Dinner Party Cookbook by The Australian Women’s Weekly. This book has recipes from China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Sheila Lukins All Around the World Cookbook, by Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate fame. A trip around the world in recipes. I got this lovely, heavy cookbook from a BookMooch member in Canada who had to pay so much postage to send it to me that I felt really bad about mooching it when I saw the postal sticker on the package.

Step-by-step Thai Cooking. A beautifully illustrated Thai cookbook.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tested recipe: Coconut-cashew lamb curry

I have returned from my long holiday and an unintentional absence from blogging. The challenge will resume next weekend, but until then, here is a recipe I tried yesterday:
A slightly altered version of Kid Josh: Curried lamb with cashews and coconut milk, from a cookbook I have already reviewed: Charmaine Solomon's Indian Cookbook.

This is originally a Maharashtran Parsi recipe. I have written it down as I prepared it, i.e. with half the meat of the original and a nearly full recipe of sauce. The original serves six, but this should make a nice meal for 2-3 persons. The original is very hot, using 10 green chillies, but all I could get was a large green chilli that turned out to have hardly any heat at all, and as I didn’t feel like running all over town in search of hotter chillies, I used that and added some cayenne powder.

The recipe:

3 tsp chopped fresh ginger
5 tsp chopped garlic (about 5 average cloves)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground loves
1/4 tsp powdered cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
500 g meat from a leg of lamb, fat trimmed off and cut into large cubes

4 tbs oil
1 1/2 cups water

200 g raw cashew nut kernels, finely ground
1 1/2 cups coconut milk

4 large potatoes, quartered and fried
100 ml uncooked rice for each person

Purée the ginger, garlic and chillies in a blender. Add the spices and salt and mix briefly. Divide this mixture in two and marinate the lamb in one half for about 30 minutes. Set the other half aside.

Heat 2 tbs oil in a large saucepan and brown the meat in it. Add the water, cover and simmer on low until the meat is tender and the stock has been reduced to about 2/3 cup. In this case the meat had been in the fridge since Thursday, so it was nice and tender to begin with. Getting it fully cooked and to nearly the “melt-in-your-mouth” stage only took about 40 minutes, but it took another 15 or so minutes of rapid cooking in an uncovered pan to reduce the stock. Separate the meat and stock and set both aside.

Now is a good time to start cooking the rice and frying the potatoes. No instructions are given, as I assume no-one would tackle this recipe unless they knew the basics first.

In a saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tbs of oil to medium heat and fry the other half of the spice purée until it changes colour and starts to stick slightly at the base of the pan. Add the coconut milk, stock and ground cashews, mix well and simmer, stirring, for a few minutes. Add the meat, mix well and let it simmer without stirring until oil rises to the top. (Note: this has to happen at low heat, as the sauce is so thick that it will burn at higher temperatures). Do not cover the pan. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Serve hot with the fried potatoes and hot rice.

Another time I would not serve the potatoes, as the rice is starchy enough by itself.

This is a nice dish with a lovely mingling of flavours and since I made it mild, I could taste both the coconut milk and the cashews in it. However, I would never, ever serve it to guests. Why? Well, it doesn’t look very good, even for a curry. In fact it looks like brownish lumpy porridge (and I am being charitable by likening it to another kind of food). This is why there is no photo.