Monday, October 4, 2010

Beef and Potato Curry Puffs

This is a breakfast or tea time favorite in Malaysia and some other South East Asian countries and is very similar to the samosas from the Indian region or empanadas of the Latin countries. It is believed that they were introduced to Malaysia in the 16th century by the Portuguese. These days you would be lucky to have any type of meat in the curry puffs (or karipap as they are called) that are sold by road side hawkers as they are usually made with a spicy potato and sweet potato filling; which are delicious all the same. This version is more similar to one my mother makes.

When we were younger we would wait eagerly for her to finish deep frying the curry puffs and as soon as they were out we would wait all of 10 seconds before picking up one, biting the two ends off and then blowing through one hole to send the steam out the other hole! We had to be careful not to have our fingers in the way though as the steam could really burn. On our recent trip to Malaysia my mother brought over some curry puffs, but luckily they were just warm and not piping hot otherwise I may have embarrassed myself in front of Keith doing the cooling down technique!

Curry puffs are usually deep fried but here I have adapted them so that they are encased in a short crust pastry and then baked. We had a friend drop by after I had made these and he wolfed down six although he had just had lunch so I guess they must have been good!

The curry is delicious served on rice or with an Indian bread like chapatti or naan and is very similar to Kheema curry. Just add a little more water so there is a sauce and half to one cup of frozen peas cooked for another two minutes before serving.

PS: I made this for Keith’s office baking contest just before Christmas and they won first prize!

Makes 32 curry puffs

Beef Curry Filling
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated
2” ginger, finely chopped or grated
6 pips garlic, finely chopped or grated
6 – 7 curry leaves, finely sliced
1½ pounds minced beef
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 tbsp meat curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp beef stock granules
Salt to taste
½ cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Heat oil and cook onions until translucent, then add in ginger, garlic and curry leaves, cook another 1minute. Add in beef and cook until beef is browned.
  • Add in potatoes, curry powder, cinnamon powder, beef stock granules and salt to taste. Add in water, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until potatoes are cooked.
  • Add lemon juice, stir and leave to cool before filing pastry rounds.

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (16 tbsp) butter/margarine/shortening
½ - ¾ cup cold water

  • Sprinkle salt onto flour, rub butter/margarine into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Pour ½ cup cold water in the middle of the flour mixture and using a butter knife or pastry blender stir it in until a dough starts to form, adding more water if necessary. Don’t add too much water and don’t overwork the dough.
  • Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the dough and cut into 32 equal pieces, roll each piece into a 3” round.
  • Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center and crimp the edges.
  • Place on an un-greased cookie tray and brush with egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp cream or 2 egg yolks)
  • Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 20 minutes.
  • Suitable to freeze. Re-heat directly from the freezer in a medium oven (350°F) for about 15 minutes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Best Cure for a Cold


It’s that time of the year again when Keith and Little Miss M will get the flu or a cold with the usual sore throats, cough, runny noses etc. I however, have been very lucky not to have gotten a cold in the last 4 years! I’m not sure what I’m doing right, it could be the multi-vitamins and vitamin C that I take every day, healthy eating or maybe as a mommy my body knows that I just can’t afford to get sick! Anyway the best cure when Daddy and daughter aren’t feeling well is chicken noodle soup which has actually been scientifically proven to help alleviate symptoms of a cold!

If you have the time, buy chicken bones or inexpensive thighs/drumsticks to make the chicken stock. Cover the bones with water and boil for at least 3 hours, strain, let it cool, refrigerate overnight then remove the solidified fat. One of my favorite ways to make stock is to use the bones from a rotisserie chicken which has a lovely depth of flavor because the chicken has been roasted. I almost always have a container or two of frozen chicken stock in the freezer, but today I didn’t because I had used it a couple of weeks ago for the Steamboat and had to resort to store bought stock. Use any type of vegetables you like and cut them as big or small as you like, just ensure that they are the same size. You can cook the pasta in the soup but I prefer to cook it separately because we usually can’t finish the soup in one sitting and I don’t like the pasta to soak in the soup and get mushy.

Serves 4

8 cups (64 ounces) low sodium chicken stock
1 chicken breast (about ½ pound), cut into ¾” pieces
2 small carrots
2 ribs celery
1 zucchini
1 potato
A few sprigs of thyme or ½ tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup pasta, any type, cook according to package directions

  • Clean and cut vegetables into even sized pieces
  • Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot, add chicken, carrots, celery and potatoes together with the thyme or parsley if used, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until almost tender.
  • Add zucchini, cover and cook another 5 minutes. Season to taste.
  • Serve with pasta.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crock-pot Beef Rendang

Beef rendang
The main ingredients are clockwise from the top: beef cubes, toasted dessicated coconut,
kaffir lime leaves, ground ingredients fried in oil and a can of coconut milk

On the left is assam jawa (tamarind) and on the right is assam keping

My Muslim friends will celebrate the end of the fasting month (Ramadan) in two days with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri as it is called in Malaysia. In Malaysia is it quite standard fare to be served chicken or beef rendang which is a spicy, Malay stew together with glutinous/sweet/sticky rice. There are many variations of rendang which typically has lemon grass, galangal, onions and chilies ground and cooked in lots of oil until fragrant and then may be made without any spices or many types of spices like cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and cloves. My version which I learnt from a Malay friend has a lot of spices and meat curry powder which has cumin, coriander and fennel which I think gives it a lot of depth. You can make rendang with pretty much any meat; the same friend has made it with turkey or you can also use mutton which is what my sister’s mother-in-law makes her delicious rendang with. It is also popularly made with chicken on the bone which cooks much faster than the beef.

I always make a big portion of rendang because it is quite time consuming to make it, but also because it freezes very well and I can thaw and reheat a portion for our dinner if I’m pressed for time or stumped with what to cook. Making it in a crock pot eliminates the need to stir the rendang often as the low heat of the cooking ensures that the dish will not burn.  If you don't own a crock pot then by all means cook this in a wok or large pot on the stove, but just be prepared to stir every few minutes and watch that the dish does not burn!  Keith absolutely loves this and so do most of our friends whom we’ve served this to (ok maybe they’re just being polite!) but it is definitely one of our favorites.

Serves 8 - 10

5 pounds beef (chuck or other stew meat), cut into 1½” cubes
1 cup (4 oz) desiccated coconut
3 tbsp meat curry powder
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 big onions
4 stalks lemongrass
2 tbsp galangal powder
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp turmeric
3 – 4 pieces assam keping (or soak 2 tbsp tamarind pulp in ½ cup warm water, strain)
5 – 6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 13.5 oz can (2 cups) coconut milk
1 cup water
1 cup oil
  • Dry fry the desiccated coconut in a wok, stirring continuously until dark golden brown. Cool then finely grind in a spice/coffee grinder. Set aside
  • Finely grind the onions and lemongrass in blender with 1 cup water. Stir in the galangal powder, chili powder and turmeric. Set aside
  • Heat oil, fry the cinnamon stick and star anise for a few minutes. Add the meat curry powder, fry for another minute until fragrant, stirring continuously.
  • Add ground onion mixture. Cook for about 30 minutes until fragrant and oil surfaces to the top.
  • Transfer to a crock pot, add beef, coconut milk, assam keping or tamarind juice, kaffir lime leaves, fried desiccated coconut, sugar and salt and mix well. Turn on crock pot to high heat and cook covered for 2 hours. Then take lid off and cook for another 2 hours, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has gone and the meat is tender.
  • Rendang tastes better the next day. Freezes well for up to 6 months

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tentacles and All

Squid curry

This is what squid looks like before it is cleaned

The ingredients for the curry

Squid curry on brown rice with sides of curried mashed eggplant, yogurt and papadums

Ah squid, you either love it or hate it! The thing to remember about cooking squid is that it takes either a very short time or a very long time to cook – cook it for just 5 minutes until tender or stew it for an hour, but nothing in between. If you don’t like squid then replace with either shrimp (in the shell or not) or blue crabs, they are equally delicious cooked in the curry sauce.

Serves 4

1 pound squid, cleaned and cut into ½” rings
2 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1” ginger peeled and finely julienned
6 curry leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
1 heaped tbsp fish curry powder
1 tomato, diced
½ cup water
½ tbsp lemon/lime juice/tamarind pulp
¼ cup coconut milk/milk
½ tbsp salt
1 tbsp oil

  • Heat oil, fry shallots until lightly brown then add in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, curry leaves, mustard seeds, cumin and fenugreek; continue frying for 2 minutes.
  • Add curry powder, stir for 30 seconds then add tomatoes, water, lemon juice and salt. When this comes to a boil add in the squid and cook for about 5 minutes or until just cooked.
  • Lastly add in the coconut milk/milk, cook for about 1 more minute.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dry Chili Chicken

Chicken Varuval

From left, top to bottom: cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, 
cloves, dried red chili, cumin seeds, fennel seeds
ground black pepper, ground coriander, curry leaves
chili powder, turmeric
The parboiled chicken

Golden brown onions
The cuisine of south India is quite predominant in Malaysia and one of my favorite dishes is the Chicken Varuval or Chettinad Chicken which is a dry curry. I usually make it with chicken breast because Keith doesn’t like eating chicken on the bone. However, cooking it with chicken pieces on the bone actually results in a much tastier dish. Over the years I have adapted the recipe from the original that was given to me when I first started working more than 17 years ago by a colleague who used to make it with mutton. I also learnt from one of my former staff members whose family owned an Indian restaurant that they parboil the chicken to speed up the cooking process. This is a very popular recipe in Southern Indian restaurants and I’m sure you’ll like it once you’ve tried it. It is really good as part of a rice meal or eaten with chappati.

Serves 8

5 pounds chicken (chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes or 1 whole chicken, chopped into small pieces)
½ cup oil
3 onions, cut in half then thinly sliced
1½ bulb garlic
4" ginger
2 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
8 cloves
8 cardamom pods
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
8 dried red chili
10 curry leaves
4 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
Juice from 1 lime
  • In a large pot, cover chicken with water, add ½ tsp turmeric, ½ tsp chili powder and ½ tbsp salt. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat to a simmer, cook chicken for 30 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Blend garlic and ginger with ½ cup water.
  • Heat oil, fry the sliced onions until golden brown (about 20 minutes), then add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, cardamom, cumin seed, fennel seeds, dried chili and curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the garlic-ginger paste and cook another minute
  • Add the chicken, stir until well coated with the spices. Lower heat and add in the chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric, ground black pepper, sugar and salt to taste and fry for 10 minutes or until chicken is tender. 
  • Lastly add in the lime juice, mix well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fish Curry

Roti canai with fish curry

When my cousin and her family visit from LA, it is almost a must that the Indian bread paratha or “roti canai” as it is called in Malaysia served with fish curry will be on the menu for breakfast or lunch. This may seem a little unusual to Westerners who are more used to their cereal and milk, or pancakes etc, but for Malaysians who are used to eating coconut rice with “ikan bilis sambal”, or curry noodles, or savory glutinous rice, this is just another normal breakfast.

Serves 6 - 8

1 pound white fish, cut into 2” pieces
3 shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1” ginger peeled and finely julienned
1 green chili, deseeded and sliced lengthwise
10 curry leaves
½ tbsp black mustard seeds
½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
4 – 6 tbsp fish curry powder
2 cups (about 20) okra/ladies fingers
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into 2” sticks
2 tomatoes, cut into about 6 wedges
1 tbsp tamarind seeds mixed with 1½ cup warm water, soaked and strained
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp oil
  • Heat oil, fry shallots until lightly brown then add in the garlic, ginger, green chili, curry leaves, mustard seeds, cumin and fenugreek; continue frying for 2 minutes.
  • Add curry powder, stir for 30 seconds then add tamarind juice and salt. When this comes to a boil add in the eggplant cook for about 2 minutes then add in the okra and tomatoes, cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Lastly add in the fish and coconut milk, cook for about 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Take A Can Of Tuna....

Take a can of tuna, add some chopped celery, minced shallot, a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise, a dash of vinegar, salt and black pepper to taste. Mix it all up and you have a delicious lunch! Oh alright, I‘ll write out the actual recipe!

But you get the idea right? What could be easier than taking a can of tuna and making it into something very tasty and nutritious in all of 5 minutes? When I was expecting Little Miss M and hungry all the time canned tuna was a such a savior because I could use it to make tuna salad, add it to fried rice or just eat it out of the can! I’ve used it to make “serunding” which is a spicy Malay floss that goes well with bread or rice and I remember my mother would add it to pasta sauce which was another tasty use. So go ahead, take a can of tuna….

Serves 4

1 can tuna, drained
¼ cup chopped celery/green apple
1 tbsp finely minced shallot
2 – 3 tbsp plain low-fat yogurt
1 – 2 tbsp low fat mayonnaise
1 tsp vinegar (any type you like) or lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Gently mix all ingredients together, taste and add more vegetables or seasoning as desired.
  • Add other ingredients if desired: chopped pickles, chopped red chili, chopped hard-boiled egg etc
  • Serve on bread, rolls, pita, crackers or just with salad greens