How to Make Stuffed Artichokes

stuffed artichoke

Stuffed artichokes are actually quite easy to do once you’ve prepared the artichoke. The cutting of thorns and getting the choke out of the artichoke is the difficult part. Now you just have to stuff and cook it!

Artichokes can be eaten just steamed/boiled with butter and that is a fine way to eat it.

stuffing artichoke

However, I decided to stuff my artichoke for a better dish to present to my dear and this is the stuffing I used:

  • Breadcrumbs (stale from artisan bread – refrigerated)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon zest
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice

stuffing for artichokes

You want the consistency of the stuffing to be slightly moist, so what I did was to pour the breadcrumbs into a bowl and then mix in the rest of the ingredients, slowly adding olive oil until it’s slightly moist.

breadcrumbs artichoke

If you’re wondering what lemon zest is, it’s the peel of the lemon that’s been grated. I know, I just found out too. smirk

boiling artichokes

Stuff the inside of the artichoke with this prepared stuffing and also get the stuffing into the petals at the side so it’s even.

cooking stuffed artichokes

I also added some whole garlic into the petals coz I heard it undergoes a transformation that makes it delicious (it doesn’t).

basil leaves stock

Next, I prepared water that goes about 1/4 up the height of the artichoke and saturated it with basil leaves from our own herb garden.

cooking stuffed artichoke

I put the stuffed artichoke in the basil filled liquid (make sure it’s *standing up*) and squeezed one (1) whole lemon all around it before throwing in the lemons.

stuffed artichokes

The pot is put on a slow boil with the lid on for about an hour. Mine was a fairly huge artichoke so it took me about 1 hour 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the petals are tender.

eating artichoke petals

The eating of an artichoke is quite interesting and fun! I had this with my better half and we took turns peeling off the artichoke petals…

gripping artichoke petals

…and dabbing it in butter before squeezing the good stuff out with your teeth.

artichoke petals

This is actually quite a fun way to eat! You have to grip the artichoke petal between your teeth with the fleshy end down (the part you peel from the artichoke) and pull it through your teeth!

eating artichoke

I can see why they put artichokes in the aphrodisiac category! ;)

Our November pine cone anniversary

november anniversary

It’s our November anniversary! :) That’s one month from the end of the year and I remember how we started in Melbourne in February – one year from the start of the year. I wrote about How I Met Your Mother in Melbourne when we went to Australia for a trip earlier this year. I wanted to get her something to remind her of that.

raw kangaroo roast

I cooked her a kangaroo roast while staying at Citadines on Bourke, a serviced apartment that’s the second most expensive hotel we stayed in while we were there. The most expensive was Rydges on Swanston where we spent our second night there coz all the rooms were booked out – it was Formula One finals in Melbourne, and I didn’t know – the basic room cost AUD 680 per night (RM 2,100).

gordon ramsey duck

Anyway, we both cooked for each other this anniversary – I made Gordon Ramsey’s Pan Fried Duck with Parsnip Purée and Madeira Jus and she made a wonderful rosemary Chicken Maryland for me.

rosemary maryland chicken

She said it was the best dish I’ve ever cooked, counting the Poached chicken breast with beetroot and nectarine purée so I probably need to replace that in Best of sixthseal.com. Haha!

chef

I’ll write how I made the duck later. It was the most technical thing I’ve done to date…or according to my better half, the least technical, but the most delicious!

cone

Anyway, back to Melbourne, she really liked a pine cone that we found on Phillip Island but unfortunately we couldn’t bring it back.

pandora christmas 2013

Pine cones are everywhere back when I was in university. I started this blog in April 2002, back when I was still studying in Melbourne. I know that Customs might give us a hard time if we attempted to bring it back (they’re quite strict on plants and eggs which can introduce blight into the country) so I said I’ll get her one next time…

pandora pinecone

…and so I did. smirk

hair ring

I tried to tell her I didn’t get her anything and gave her a complimentary hair ring that was in the Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore room toiletries (quite a nice hotel). I don’t think she believed me though, coz I always say that each anniversary.

pinecone

This is from the Pandora Christmas 2013 Collection. It’s a pine cone with red accents and I got it for her as an anniversary gift and also an ode to our first vacation together.

pandora our story

I got a bit OCD and wanted the heart to face inwards so I fiddled with her charm bracelet a bit. Heh. It really does tell our story together. I’m lucky to have her in my life and I’m glad that we’re together.

Happy anniversary to us in the month of MOREvember! :D

Guide to cooking an artichoke

preparing artichoke

I had a lot of fun doing this step-by-step guide to cooking and eating an artichoke. It’s an unusual vegetable which a lot of people avoid due to the difficulty in preparing it. It’s actually not that hard, you just need a sharp pair of kitchen scissors and *a lot of lemons*!

removing artichoke spines

The first one is to snip off the spines of the globe artichoke and the latter is to prevent the rapid oxidization (artichokes almost turn immediately brown when you cut into it).

You will need:

  • 2-3 lemons
  • Sharp kitchen scissors
  • Slicing knife
  • A sturdy metal spoon

eating artichokes

The artichoke we got cost RM 24.69. It’s RM 45.90 per kg and I calculate that each petal costs over RM 1! That’s coz the grocery sells the artichoke with a huge stem (which you can’t really eat).

cutting artichoke thorns

The first thing you do is to snip off the sharp spines in the individual petals on the artichoke. Just use your kitchen scissors to cut it off so a flat edge is formed.

artichoke lemons

You will need to squeeze lemon juice (or rather dip the lemon half into the cut petal) as soon as you snip the thorns off. This is to prevent it from turning brown. Get those lemons ready!!! smirk

artichoke stem

Once you have worked over the entire green artichoke and removed all the thorns, it’s time to cut off the stem. You need to get the stem level to the artichoke or about 1 inch from the end, depending on the recipe.

cutting artichoke

I think the stalk on my artichoke was a good 3-4 inches. It makes it look pretty, like a flower, but most people don’t eat the stem.

opening artichoke

Now that everything is done, you need to remove the choke in the artichoke – use a sharp knife to slice 3/4 of an inch off the top of the artichoke. Remember to squeeze lemon juice all over the artichoke when you do this to prevent oxidization.

removing artichoke

The next part is where your study metal spoon comes in…you need to use it to dig into the artichoke so you remove the choke. Think of it as using the spoon to eat a particularly hard frozen iced confectionery. That’s the same motion you should be using. Dig down and remove!

removing choke

Some people can remove it with one dig but I never could. That’s not important, the important thing is to get the entire choke out since that’s totally inedible. It’s the pink/purple interior of the artichoke that comes with fibres that looks like asbestos.

artichoke choke fibers

I’m kidding, I don’t know what asbestos fibers look like but I imagine it’s similar to these! It’s almost feather like to the touch and you have to remove every single bit of the choke.

cleaning artichoke

Make sure your artichoke is clean and free of the choke by a simple visual inspection (you can leave the heart in – that’s edible) and it’s ready to cook! You now have a clean artichoke!

dressed artichoke

I did a stuffed artichoke from this with breadcrumbs and garlic – I’ll put that up soon! :)

Sautéed Jerusalem artichokes with garlic and mushrooms in white wine

jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes is a bit of a misnomer. They’re neither artichokes nor do they hail from Israel. I heard the name “Jerusalem” comes from the Italian word for sunflower – girasole. This vegetable belongs to the sunflower family and it’s a small, lumpy, brown-skinned tuber instead of the beautiful green of the true globe artichoke.

Here’s a photo of an artichoke with Jerusalem artichokes side by side. They look very different coz they *are* completely different things. I got both of them while grocery shopping yesterday.

jerusalem artichokes vs artichokes

I found a recipe by Jamie Oliver for Sautéed Jerusalem Artichokes and modified it a bit. I cooked this last night for dinner while my better half came out with the protein dish. You will need:

preparing jerusalem artichokes

  • 200 grams Jerusalem artichokes
  • 100 grams Portobello mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 100 ml dry white cooking wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

peeling jerusalem artichokes

The hardest part about cooking Jerusalem artichokes is the peeling bit. The tubers are tiny and knobbly and it’s really hard to get a grip on the little things to peel away the skin. After that labor intensive process is done (enlisted the help of my dear – she volunteered after listening to the choice French phrases I directed at the tubers smirk) you just need to slice them into chunks.

I sautéed the the Jerusalem artichokes in a pressure frying pan with olive oil and some thinly sliced garlic until golden brown before adding in 50 ml of dry white wine (eye-balled it) and putting the lid back on.

cooking jerusalem artichokes

I waited for 15 minutes and then put the sliced Portobello mushrooms in and adding the remaining 50 ml of white wine. I let it reduce (only takes a while coz the mushrooms absorb the wine) and served it up with some basil from our own herb garden.

We were both pleasantly surprised by the taste – the Jerusalem artichokes are crunchy and sweet! I thought it was just a bit of sales talk (grocery place-card says the tubers can be sweet) but it really is deliciously crisp and sweet! It’s a delicious dish, but Jerusalem artichokes sells for RM 39.90 per kg over here so it’s more expensive than local offerings.

sauteed jerusalem artichokes

I’ll love to eat it again though. I can see a lot of possibilities e.g. puréed, deep fried etc. I’m going to do a stuffed globe artichoke tonight so it’s back-to-back artichokes (except the Jerusalem artichoke is actually a tuber). :D

Poached chicken breast with beetroot and nectarine puree

poached chicken nectarine puree

This is the best dish I’ve cooked to date! The chicken breast is really *poached* i.e. it’s cooked in ambient hot water with no direct heat for 20 minutes. I learned this technique in a MasterClass and it’s an exact replication of that dish.

poach chicken

The protein in this dish comes from the crown of chicken breast without the wishbone, which I cut from a whole chicken.

beetroot food processor

You will need:

  • Two chicken breasts
  • 1 large beetroot
  • 1 nectarine
  • Raw goat milk
  • Nuts
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic scapes

poaching chicken

It’s quite a simple dish but the trick to cooking it is the perfect poaching of the chicken. The way to do it is to season a pot of water with garlic scapes, rosemary and salt and let it boil.

garlic scapes

I used garlic scapes (also known as garlic flower) to flavor the broth coz it tastes milder than garlic. It costs a lot more though at RM 19.90 / kg.

indirect heat cooking

When the water has started boiling, take the pot off the flame/electric hob/heating element and slide in the crown of chicken breast. Set a timer for 20 minutes and put the lid back on. You do not need direct heat to cook this – just the residual heat from the boiled stock.

goat milk puree

Meanwhile, I exchanged the vegetable puree that was in the original dish with a beetroot and nectarine puree. I also used raw goat milk while processing the puree. I felt that the colors look nice, and more importantly, it tasted awesome!

beetroot nectarine puree

The sweetness of the nectarine balances out the beetroot and you get a nice red puree for plating.

poached chicken

The crown of chicken breast should be taken out right at the 20 minute point, skin removed, and sliced into the two breast meat that it contains. I further made three cuts to each chicken breast be faithful to the dish replication.

chicken breast crown

The last step is to grind up some nuts or cereal and scatter it on the top of the plated chicken. It looks beautiful (if I can say so myself) and best of all, it tastes great!

grinder nuts

I’ve never tried indirect heat cooking and got it right at the first try. The beetroot and nectarine puree is smothered over the plate before the chicken breast is plated for the dish to pop (yes, you can roll your eyes right about now smirk) but the sweet puree was so good we ate it in other dishes too, like the king grouper in fish pastry shells.

poached chicken beetroot puree

My dear better half finished her dish and it was good to be able to do a restaurant quality dish from just watching a show. Haha! I’m putting this into Best of sixthseal.com – a category which I put very few of my posts into. :D

Coca-Cola Chicken a.k.a. ho lok kai

coke chicken

I remember Coke Chicken from the early 90’s when my sister watched her TVB drama series. The characters would go to a tai pai tong (an informal hawker stall, totally different from a cha chang teng) and ask for it. It was the first time I’ve heard of chicken being cooked with Coca-Cola and wondered if it actually *tastes like Coke*.

I have not been to Hong Kong at that point so I was intrigued by the sudden explosion in the popularity of Coke Chicken since then. It’s not so popular now (can’t find it in HK) but it’s a very fast and delicious way to make chicken.

ho lok kai

This is my better half’s recipe, it’s what we cooked for dinner last night:

  • 1 can Coca-Cola
  • 2 tablespoons cooking caramel (dark soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 300 grams chicken wings and drumsticks

coke chicken recipe

I wanted the drumsticks but Coke Chicken usually refers to wings, or so the TVB series would lead me to believe.

cooking with coke

There have been claims that this does not work with Diet Coke due to the (loads) of sugar required to *caramelize* the chicken. I’ve also heard that the addition of Coca-Cola is for the bicarbonate of soda, which is an *alkaline solution* that can actually change the fibers in chicken meat. The other camp says that Coke is acidic so it’s ideal as a *marinating agent* to tenderize protein.

coke chicken reduction

I don’t know which of the above it true, or none at all. I have found no research to quantify it, just the same words passed on without references. However, this dish is a quick and delicious meal. You just heat up the Coke while the marinated chicken is fried till golden brown. The chicken is then put into the Coca-Cola until it reduces to a thick sauce.

coca cola chicken

I like the idea of it though and I’ll try it with other beverages (Bundaberg Ginger Beer, Fanta Grape, different lagers and ales etc) and see how it goes! :)

Building a rainwater harvesting system in Kampung Jemeri, Kuala Rompin

water for life

I went to Kampung Jemeri last weekend for the Water For Life CSR (Community Social Responsibility) program, which provides Orang Asli with access to uninterrupted water supply. Kampung Jemeri in Kuala Rompin, Pahang is about a 6 hour drive from KL and does not have one of the basic necessities of life – clean water.

kampung jemeri rompin

The entire Orang Asli village has to draw water from a very old pump and when it runs dry, they have to walk half a kilometer to draw water from the well and on days when the water supply was low, they had to make an incredible 5 km trek to reach the nearest river!

community service

Water For Life is a venture of PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad (PDB) and Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) to ensure that the 131 families in Kampung Jemeri has a clean and safe water supply. The second phase involves 40 of us from PDB to help them install a rainwater harvesting system.

rompin pahang

I’ve been to quite a few kampungs in my time but never to one where water is such a scarce resource! Long houses for Ibans in Sarawak is usually built close to rivers to that isn’t a problem. However, the Orang Asli here doesn’t even have a steady supply of that!

water tanks

It was quite a pleasure to help them in this – we were all issued heavy duty gloves and a wristband to indicate which of the 4 large 400 liter water tanks we will be assigned to.

water

The large tanks are installed in sections throughout the main dirt road of the 131 Orang Asli families in Kampung Jemeri to provide easy access to water for all.

rainwater collection

The first one was built at the start of the sprawling village and it takes in water from…

rainwater filtration

….two large rainwater harvesting ponds.

cutting pvc pipe

It is then sent up through a system of 100 meter pipes to the other tanks to allow everyone in the village easy access to water – right at their doorsteps.

task station

I was assigned to the very last water tank and we hefted it all the way to the rear of the village and did all the installation to accept the sequential water from Tank 1-3.

blue team

Blue Team!

water harvesting tanks

Hauling the water tanks into the village.

100m pvc

Since we’re at the last station, we had to first run the PVC pipe to the third water tank to hook up with them. I was surprised to find out that behind the dirt road is primary jungle!

primary jungle

I got quite a few mosquito bites from that but it’s all good fun.

toolbox

We also had a toolbox which contains cutters and all the piping necessities to build the rainwater harvesting system. I assigned myself to hook up the piping to the tank itself…

pipe installation

…and also the last mile where I joined the PVC piping to a steed rod and a pipe with a lot of help.

last mile piping

The box of tools has somehow been taken back to base camp, which is at least 500 meters away, and none of us wanted to make the trek back (which would tell you how far the villagers have to go for water every single time they wanted it – and get it back) so I used a huge stone to bang the steel pipe into the hard packed earth.

zip tie pipe

It worked even better than a hammer! The principle is much like that of piling in construction. I hefted the rock and let it go while another guy from PDB held it steady. In a minute or so, we managed to drive the entire steel rod in to hold the rest of the PVC and pipe!

orang asli hut

Orang Asli hut! It’s barely 1 meter tall.

orang asli family

There’s actually people inside, preparing for lunch. They’re peeling bamboo shoots, which grows in the wild here.

rompin water for life

Managing Director and CEO of Petronas DAGANGAN Berhad, Aminul Rashid Mohd Zamzam with Malaysian Nature Society and the village head of Kampung Jemeri in Kuala Rompin.

candy kids

Handing candy out to the local kids.

kampung jemeri

The entire rainwater system with proper filtering was tested and water flowed smoothly…

petronas water for life

…so all that was needed is to wait for the 4 tanks to fill up.

orang asli feast

The Orang Asli villagers at Kampung Jemeri held a veritable feast for us, with local delicacies like ikan tenggiri masak tempoyak. There’s also a fiery sambal that Dina asked me to try and I immediately got hooked on. I ate a lot of that homemade sambal with ulam (raw vegetables).

group photo

However, the best part of the day was getting dirty and sweaty in helping these less fortunate folks get one of the basic necessities of life – water.

orang asli kids

I’ve gotten a glimpse of how the Orang Asli in Kampung Jemeri lived and I’m glad I was part of the Water For Life initiative to help then get clean access to water.

water for life rompin

It’s a very good feeling, doing community work like this.

Buttered King Grouper with White Wine Reduction in Bouchees Poissons

fish inside fish

This is a dish that I made for my better half during our anniversary. It’s basically fish inside a fish pastry case! :) Bouchee is a small flaky pastry shell and the word poissons means “fish” in French. There’s apparently only one manufacturer who makes bouchees poissons from a Google Image search.

This is my interpretation of Bouchee a la Reine – a French pastry dish but without the bechamel.

bouchees poissons

I bought a 250 gram piece of King Grouper at RM 80 / kg. It cost me slightly over RM 20 and I like this fish due to the relative lack of bones. You will need:

  • Fillet of grouper
  • Dry white wine
  • Fish pastry shells
  • Lemons
  • Arugula
  • Applemint
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

king grouper

I pan fried the King Grouper with lots of butter to produce a nice sear before removing it from the pan.

dry white wine

The next thing I did was to break down the fillet of King Grouper into smaller pieces so it’ll fit into the fish pastry shells.

arugula puree

I decided to play with my food processor and make an arugula and applemint puree. I had read up on it and blanched the arugula in hot water quickly before removing it and adding lemon juice so it retains that *bright green* color.

blancing arugula

However, the arugula and applemint puree turned out to be a bit of a disaster. There was just too little of the wild rocket leaves. 80 grams got processed into barely two tablespoons of watery “puree”. It did taste good though – the acidity from the lemons and the addition of applemint really makes it pop.

Sorry if that oft-repeated pretentious term made you cringe. It made me laugh while typing it too. smirk

arugula applemint puree

I had the impromptu idea of removing the insides of the bouchees poissons to the white wine reduction sauce and small pieces of King Grouper so there’s pieces of flaky pastry to soak up the liquid.

white wine reduction

This has the added benefit of heating up the fish before serving.

bouchee a la reine

I also plucked a bit of basil from our herb garden and added it to the fish pastry shells stuffed with buttered King Grouper. It was so good we finished all four (4) of the bouchees poissons – which has a net weight of 120 grams in addition to the fish! :)

Him: Ramen Burger Dinner / Her: Expensive handbag

pink handmade handbag

I have often joked with my better half that I won’t be able to buy her an expensive designer label handbag for at least for a couple of years. It’s a bit of an inside joke, she doesn’t want it from me but it has become a running gag for quite a while…so I decided to give her one on our anniversary.

It cost me all of RM 5.90. smirk

I saw this pink 3M corrugated board (it’s not cardboard) at Borders and decided to make an “expensive handbag” for her. It’s in her favorite color too! Haha!

3m pink corrugated board

I wrote:

VERY!!! EXPENSIVE (& big) HANDBAG

on the front and cut a 1” strip from the corrugated board to make a “handle”. I had to use multiple industrial grade staples and some 3M surgical tape to seal it too, it isn’t an easy material to work with. Inscribed on the other side is:

WARNING:

  • Sharp Edges Can Cut
  • Won’t Last Long
  • Very Flimsy

with arrows pointing to the top

expensive handbag

and:

SOUNDS BAD, BUT LOOK INSIDE DEAR!

with a crudely drawn quasi-logo and our anniversary date.

bag inside bag

It’s actually a bag inside a bag inside a bag!

pandora club member

It’s like those Russian nesting dolls that goes into each other. The first bag is my handmade one, the second is a Pandora paper bag, and inside that is their latest Autumn 2013 handbag charm! :)

pandora handbag

I have thought about doing this since last month and hope she didn’t notice the charm in the catalog. I am a Pandora Club member, which I hear will have benefits along the lines of 30% off later next year. I was told membership is automatic upon the purchase of RM 3,000 (didn’t even know I had amassed that much) and I have a feeling that a lot of the club members are not females but their boyfriends or husbands who gets it for them. I wonder what their marketing would make of that.

ling gift

My dear on the other hand laboriously made me a menu which is also about how we tend to celebrate our anniversary. It’s like a menu from one of those gourmet burger bars that’s all around but hers has an intriguing option:

ramen burger
Ramen noodle patties!

custom menu

I chose that along with the pork patty (menu says highly recommended and asked me to think thrice about ordering the beef patty haha). I also have toppings, sauces, drinks and dessert!

anniversary menu

She gave me a yellow smiley sticker to put on the handmade burger menu that she made to indicate what I wanted and she cooked me a very delicious dinner the next day!

pandora bag charm

I love my dear coz she’s always very thoughtful and I know that I’m very lucky to have her.

loving us

It was a great anniversary as always! You’re the best dear! *hugs*

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