Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Black Pepper Beef Pot Roast

I had a nice piece of beef top round and was trying to figure out what to cook with it. Finally I remembered a very popular dish in Malaysia: beef - or actually any kind of meat with black pepper sauce. There are small stalls and big restaurants that serve beef, lamb or chicken with a black pepper sauce. In fact black pepper sauce is also featured in noodle dishes such as Japanese udon noodles with bell peppers and seafood.

I decided to make it easy on myself by just cooking the whole piece of beef as a pot roast in the oven rather than making the sauce separately and pouring it on steaks. It turned out beautifully tender and very flavorful. For just the black pepper sauce recipe, leave out the beef, carrots and mushrooms and you will be able to get about 2 cups of sauce.

Grilled New York strip steak with the black pepper sauce

Serves 4

2 pounds beef top round
2 tbsp olive oil
1 big onion, finely chopped
6 pips garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 cups water
1 beef stock cube
4 – 5 dashes of worcestershire sauce
½ tbsp sugar
3/4 tbsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp plain flour mixed with 2 tbsp water (optional)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in 1 tbsp butter

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Season the piece of beef with salt and black pepper. Heat oil in a heavy based pot on a medium heat, add meat and brown all over. Set aside.
  • To the pot, add chopped onion and cook until caramelized. This will take about 15 - 20 minutes and will make a big difference to the taste of the dish. Add in chopped garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Add in water, stock cube and tomato puree, bring to a boil, lower heat and cook until onions and garlic are soft (about 45 minutes).
  • Add in Worcestershire sauce, sugar, white and black pepper then the beef. Cover and place in the middle of the oven. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours until tender.
  • Carefully remove, set aside to cool 10 minutes then use a very sharp knife to slice into 1/4" - 1/2" slices, place in the sauce, scatter carrots and mushrooms around the meat, cover and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes more until carrots are tender.
  • Make a flour slurry with 1 tsp flour mixed with 2 tbsp water and mix into the sauce to thicken it if desired.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mexican Fruit Cake

I opened a can of what I thought was pineapple rings to make pineapple pork and instead saw crushed pineapple instead. Oops! Well I immediately thought of the cake that my mother-in-law had made one Christmas which was very tasty, very easy to make and the first time I had heard of crushed pineapple in a can. So I immediately got out all the ingredients and started mixing, but just as I was about to pour the batter into the pan, I realized that there was no butter or oil in the list of ingredients and I wondered if I had copied the recipe incorrectly. Now Keith's family members are good cooks, but they are all about tried and tested recipes and not necessarily inventive so I was quite sure I would find the recipe if I googled it. Yes, there it was and I confirmed that the cake did not use any kind of fat. However, the recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar and I just couldn't bring myself to use that much so I reduced it to 1 cup sugar and it was just as good. Keith was more than happy with his double dose of pineapple that night - pineapple pork for dinner and the Mexican fruit cake for dessert.


1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 20 oz can of crushed pineapple with the juice
1 cup chopped nuts
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Mix all ingredients together on slow for about 2 minutes
  • Put in greased 13” x 9” baking pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who Pickles Brussel Sprouts??

This is what a stalk of brussel sprouts looks like
When in a pickle what do you do? I guess similar to the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” I decided to make brussel sprouts pickles when I was stumped with what to do with a big bunch I had. I had bought a stalk of brussel sprouts when I saw it at my grocery store mainly because it was still on the stalk and looked cool! I cooked some for dinner - al dente and with lots of bacon to give it flavor but Keith looked like he was going to keel over and die with every bite of the six sprouts that he ate at dinner that night! And I really didn’t want to eat the rest of them all by myself. So I started thinking about what I could do with them and then I thought that since I like pickled cabbage maybe the brussel sprouts would taste good pickled.

I found an Eurasian pickle recipe in a 35 year old cookbook (Ellice Handy) and adapted it. The pickles were terrific! I gave some to my friend Ivan who happens to be half Eurasian and he agreed that eaten as part of a Malaysian meal – with steaming hot white rice and fried fish as he did, it actually passed muster. So here it is, maybe for the first time ever - pickled Brussel Sprouts!

Makes about 3 jars

3 cups brussel sprouts, halved
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp finely shredded ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, smashed
1” galangal
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp oil

  • In a large pot, boil 1 gallon of water with ½ cup vinegar, ½ cup sugar and 2 tbsp salt. Lower heat to simmer. In a few handfuls at a time, blanch vegetables for 1 minute. Use a salad spinner to spin dry. Set aside.
  • In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and galangal until fine.
  • Heat oil and fry ground ingredients until fragrant, add the lemongrass and turmeric, stir 1 minute then add the vinegar, sugar and salt and bring to a boil.
  • When the spice mix is cool add in the vegetables. Mix well.
  • Keep in clean jars for at least 1 day before eating.

Monday, March 1, 2010

These Muffins are Bananas!!

With a toddler, we almost always have bananas in the house - which don't always get eaten before they get overripe. A friend taught me to just stick overripe bananas (in their skin), in the freezer and then thaw them on the counter (for about 30 minutes) and they can be used in any recipe which requires mashed ripe bananas.

The banana skins will turn black and once thawed they will be very mushy, but just peel them or squeeze them over a bowl like squeezing toothpaste and you can use it just as you would fresh ripe bananas. I have to say though, after trying the frozen bananas in a recipe I actually like them more than using fresh bananas! I think the freezing actually makes them sweeter and these muffins get eaten really fast!

Makes about 24 muffins

6 ripe bananas
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
½ cup (1 stick) melted butter
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Mash bananas with a fork. Stir in other ingredients in order given, until just blended. Do not over mix.
  • Grease and flour muffin pans to make 24 muffins (or use cupcake baking cups)· Pour batter until 2/3 to the top
  • Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes

    For banana bread:
  • Pour into 2 greased and floured 9” x 5” pans and bake for 1 hour