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