cooking spring onions

This started out as a gift from my better half. We have a huge garden with a magnificent total of two (2) spring onions! :)

growing spring onions

It went from the picture above to:

planting spring onions

This.

…in just 25 days. It grows about 1/2 an inch a day!

harvesting spring onions

One day, we decided to harvest and eat it. I’ve nurtured it with tender loving care, watering and letting it have some sun for quite a while and it seems that the spring onions have peaked due to the depth of and amount of soil.

spring onions omelet

Thus, I just fried two sunny side up eggs and threw in the chopped up spring onions.

I didn’t put any salt or pepper and it tasted great!

chopping spring onions

I’m sure part of it is due to the fact that we grew it ourselves.

Try it out yourself! Having a small garden we can harvest and eat is fun (and healthy) since you have full control and spring onions are perfect since it’s something that grows extremly fast and you can use it in a variety of dishes.

grow spring onions

I have seen monsters at the wet market (we managed to get to half the length of commercial spring onions) and a particularly long and huge one during dinner over the weekend.

It gave me a minor case of pen…I mean, *spring onion* envy. smirk

cooking unagi

This is my attempt to cook the classic unagi Japanese eel dish – with a decidedly Western influence. I managed to get my hands on some really fresh belut (freshwater eel) from the wet market. The lady also sells frogs and venison meat, the latter of which I made into a venison steak tartare.

belut eel

The large eels go for RM 10 while the smaller ones go for RM 5 each. I decided to get two of the smaller freshwater eels. It has been nicely dressed by the exotic meat (that’s what I like to call her) vendor to reveal the flesh with the head and bone hanging out.

You will need:

  • 2 freshwater eels
  • Kansas City BBQ sauce (sweeter than Texas style, and thicker)
  • Single malt Scotch whisky
  • Sugar and salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil

freshwater eel

I sliced the freshwater eel into something resembling unagi as usually seen in the various Japanese restaurants around town. smirk They all seem to have a similar size and serving style, most of the commercial ones anyway.

scotch bbq sauce

I also added in a healthy slug of Jura 16 year old single malt Scotch whisky into the mix of KC BBQ sauce, sugar and salt. I am particularly fond of this one as it goes well with coffee i.e. Irish Coffee. I’ve been known to enjoy a cuppa on days starting with an S with a shot of good Scotch and nothing beats the 16 year old Diurach’s Own from the Isle of Jura.

basting unagi

I’ve tried lightly peated Islay malts like Bowmore Enigma, common tipples like Glenfiddich’s 14 year old Rick Oak, and even *Irish* single malt whiskey – the Bushmill 10 Year Old but nothing beats the barely legal Jura. It just goes well with coffee. I digress. I went off on this tangent coz I was hoping it’ll go well with eel too!

caramelized unagi

I grilled/sauteed the eel with EVOO over a very low heat fire and kept on basting it with the BBQ sauce and Scotch mixture. I must have flipped, added more sauce, and flipped the small pieces of freshwater eel again at least 30 times. I kid you not. I think that was the secret to the taste. It got a thumbs up from my better half at least! :)

scotch unagi

The basting process caramelized the BBQ sauce and Scotch mixture around the eel and with the constant flips, the reduction stuck to the unagi and it tasted really, really delicious! I wouldn’t call it a traditional Japanese unagi but I made my own sauce and it tastes like how a rather inept American home cook would render it, I imagine.

Not the correct technique, but very tasty!

venison steak tartare

I used the word make instead of cook coz this dish requires no cooking at all. Steak tartare is basically pieces of raw meat. The meat you use needs to be ultra fresh though or else a trip to the toilet (or worse, hospital) would be eminent. smirk

venison meat

I used venison meat sourced from a produce market. The strip of venison cost me RM 10 and comes in 250 gram pieces. She also sells frogs and eel meat, all of which we have cooked. But first, the venison steak tartare!

fresh venison meat

You will need:

  • Fresh venison meat
  • Raw egg
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

cutting steak tartare

Ideally, the venison meat should be sliced into small chunks and then arranged nicely on a plate but I wanted to see if I could speed things up with a food processor. You can but you have to use the Pulse setting. Don’t go to the 1 or 2 spins, that would *destroy* your meat, pulsing it is the way to go.

balsamic vinegar

I had pre-cut the meat into four (4) manageable slices and added in salt, pepper and most importantly, balsamic vinegar. Use the good stuff for this – I have a bottle of balsamic vinegar from Modena, made entirely in Italy (watch out for the “Sourced from EU” labels – that means it’s not made entirely in one place with ingredients from that place). It’s not the best, but it’s authentic, tastes good and a single bottle won’t bankrupt me.

steak tartare pulse

The next thing is to get an egg yolk and put it on top of the venison steak tartare. This is the traditional condiment that goes with it. Get a turkey egg if you have a good source for it coz it tastes fantastic but any regular egg would do as long as it’s fresh. See previous warning about raw food and salmonella etc. ;)

seperating egg yolk

I added a dash of pepper to brighten up the plating and it’s good to go! I loved the venison steak tartare – the meat is fresh, so it tastes good. There is an organ-y and slight mineral taste to it though, but it’s not overpowering. I would do this again but slice it myself the next time.

steak tartare

I love steak tartare coz of the raw meat with the raw egg yolk on top. My better half doesn’t like it so much, but it’s good to be able to do this coz not many places serves proper steak tartare due to the need for extremely fresh produce, considering the entire dish is raw.

homemade creamy broccoli pesto

My better half wanted to make pesto – in particular, a creamy pesto with broccoli. I told her pesto needs to have pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and basil leaves for it to be properly called pesto but she showed me a recipe and talked me out of using the nuts. I won out on the cheese and basil though – we actually have a nice herb garden with basil leaves.

broccoli florets

…so that’s what we did over the weekend. I must say it’s quite a success, although this isn’t a traditional pesto with pine nuts but more like a creamy broccoli sauce.

This is actually from a recipe that we adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

steamed broccoli heads

There’s a head of broccoli that’s starting to turn yellow so we steamed that for about 10 minutes and cut the crown into florets. I chopped the stem almost down to the head. I *did not* use the stems at all, some recipes call for that, I only use the broccoli florets.

ingredients broccoli pesto

This is what we put into the food processor:

  • 1 small broccoli
  • 2 cloves raw garlic
  • 50 ml heavy thickened cream
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I would say the most important thing in that creamy broccoli pesto sauce is the garlic. It’s no good without the garlic! I almost forgot to put it in.

adding fresh basil

Our herb garden is just starting to flower so we just picked a few fresh basil leaves to throw inside the food processor. I pulsed everything and processed it for about 30 seconds until all the ingredients were meshed well together.

cooking linguine

This is our first attempt in doing this so we just cooked some linguine and tossed it with our home-made creamy broccoli pesto.

The linguine was mixed with a huge chunk of butter. I reckon that since there’s olive oil in the pesto sauce, the pasta would taste better with butter. It did! We also had a simple poached egg with the pasta dish.

creamy broccoli pesto

It tasted really good! The heavy cream combined with the Greek yogurt makes a very nice base for the interesting textural experience of having millions of tiny broccoli florets rubbing against your tongue with every bite. The creamy pesto paste isn’t too heavy and rich either – we were surprised to find out it’s actually very light.

creamy broccoli pesto pasta

It’s not a traditional pesto but I’m keen to do one next time with our own basil leaves and some toasted pine nuts. As for this creamy broccoli pesto, it’s simple and delicious, a wonderful alternative to the heavier pasta sauces we’ve been using lately!

whole chicken

This is the first time I’ve ever cut up a whole chicken. I usually just specify the part(s) that I want from the butcher and he does the rest of the work. However, this time I needed a very specific cut – a beautiful French Cut crown of breast with the skin intact.

free range chicken

I actually saw this in a MasterClass episode and wanted to replicate the dish. It’s not a live chicken of course but it has everything still intact – head, innards etc – it hasn’t even been disemboweled. I bought this for RM 24.60 – it’s a free range chicken that goes for RM 18 / kg.

removing organs

The first step is to cut off the head, ass (Bishop’s nose) and feet so you have more room to work with.

giblets

Then, you’ll have to take the organs out of the body cavity of the chicken – just put your hand down the cloaca (chicken don’t have an anal cavity) and pull out everything you can feel. It’s connected so it’s not that hard – everything from the heart to the liver can be just extracted by just pushing your entire fist in and pulling hard to get the giblets.

pulling giblets

Think of it as the opposite of stuffing a turkey. smirk

cutting whole chicken

I put everything I’ve cut up or removed on a dinner plate for future use.

removing wishbone

The next thing is to remove the wishbone from the chicken. It’s located somewhere in the neck – there’s a small bone that can be cut out and discarded so the crown of breast will be perfect.

cutting legs

I wanted that particular cut to be heavy on the skin so that it’ll be moist so I made the incisions on the skin very close to where the drumstick ends.

crown breast skin

The next step is to twist the entire chicken leg to the opposite direction (to where the chicken would naturally stand if it’s alive) and cut out the leg at the thigh from the oyster that surround the bone.

removing legs

This will allow the skin from the thigh part to cover the entire breast.

french cut chicken

Next, I sliced off the wings and did a French style cut that exposes the bone of the mini drumstick on the wing. You don’t have to do this but it looks pretty. I didn’t do a very good job at it though since it was my first time – I cut it too high up on the joint.

removing carcass

The last bit that needs to be done is to chop off the rest of the carcass. Save this for stock!

breast crown

You’ll have a nice crown of breast with quite a lot of skin on – just the cut I wanted to have for an awesome dish I made over the weekend!

cut hand

I learned a lot about dressing chickens while doing this (and cut my hands several times too) and I’ll just buy whole undressed chickens from now on…

french cut

…so I can get the exact cut that I want! :)

uncooked pig noodles

This is not your usual noodle dish. The noodles are made of pig skin. It’s not pork noodles – it’s pig skin noodles! The noodle is not the carbohydrate in this dish – it’s the protein! I first came across this in an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America. I did a quick search for the restaurant that serves this and came across a blog post that describes exactly how to make pig noodles out of pig skin.

making pig noodles

I had to source for the pig skin – most butchers don’t sell pig skin. It’s either discarded or meant to be sold with the cut of meat. However, I went to Sanbanto – an organic farm-to-table butcher cum restaurant and made my unusual request.

pig skin softening

The clerk was puzzled for a second while processing what I really wanted and took a bag from under the counter. She gave it to me free of charge. I wonder why it was bagged like that in the first place but it didn’t register right then coz I got into a conversation of what I wanted to do with the pig skin – to make noodles!

pork belly skin

The pig skin I got is from the belly (as can be seen from the teats) and I tried slicing it but the skin proved to be way too tough for any of my knives so I decided to wait until I’ve finished it. I wanted to make pig skin noodle ramen like the post I read in From Belly to Bacon – but with a different twist. I’ll do a two animal broth!

chicken carcass pork bone

You will need:

  • Pig skin (find sheets so it’s easier to cut strips of noodles)
  • Pork bone for soup
  • Chicken carcass
  • Edible flowers

chicken pork stock

I used a chicken carcass and a large pig bone for soups in my cooker. There are ramen places like Santouka Ramen that’s famous for their chicken broth and other Japanese ones who use the traditional pork broth. I wanted a combination of both.

pig skin sheets

The rice cooker was filled up to 1.8 litres of water, after the displacement made by the chicken carcass and pig bone. I also threw in the pig skin so it’ll be easier to cut once it’s tender and cooked.

making pig skin noodles

I took:

  • 14 hours
  • 4 litres of water
  • 4 refills

stirring stock

to boil the ramen stock. It was an overnight event with alarms set to refill the cooker.

boiling stock

However, I made a *very big mistake* – I left the pig skin in too long. I should have taken it out at the 2 hour point and cut strips out of it. I left it in for the entire 14 hour duration and it was a soggy mess when I attempted to slice it into strips of noodles.

pig-skin

It was quite a feat since everything in the cooker was pulverized and reduced into a very yummy and gelatinous goo. I did manage to slice it and poured the broth (it’s way thicker than what you’ll associate with this word) over it for a bowl of ramen.

refill broth

This is my first attempt. I would like to do two things differently next time:

  1. Take the pig skin out after 3 minutes of boiling to cut into strips of pig noodles
  2. Freeze and strain the gelatinous broth through muslin cloth to create consomme – a very clear broth – to highlight the pig noodles better

reduced broth

The end result after 14 hours of boiling – very hearty and thick semi-liquid with a consistency more like lard than water. We both liked a small bowl but eating more than that would be quite a challenge due to the heavy stock.

slicing pig skin

This is quite soggy but ideally the pig skin should just be soft enough to slice though…

sliced pig noodles

…and retain a very al dente texture!

pig noodles carb

My better half managed to eat her bowl though. I did hers with some rice vermicelli to provide some carbohydrates – the pig skin noodle is the protein in this dish!

pig skin noodle ramen

The stock is simply poured out after layering the pig skin noodles in a bowl. I also did some decorating with edible flowers – not just for aesthetics but to provide a refreshing crunch and a (semi) balanced meal. smirk

pig skin noodles

Mine was a pure pork skin noodle made out of pig skin ramen with broth from the chicken and swine stock. It was a fun and interesting cooking experiment that I’ll like to try again with consomme and a quail egg! :)

braised belgium endives

I’ve never seen Belgium endives in Malaysia until recently. The Belgium endive is a dish I first sampled in Latvia during my second Europe backpacking trip two years ago. It didn’t look like much to me but I was told it’s good (couldn’t read anything coz Latvia doesn’t use a lot of English) so I ate it. It tasted better than it looks.

belgium endives

I was out shopping with my better half when I came across this bitter vegetable. Yes, this is one of those really bitter leafy greens but it becomes less so when cooked properly. Some people use sugar in their recipe but I decided to recreate the dish without that at home.

browning belgium endives

I bought a couple of packs of Belgium endives – enough for two people. Belgium endives retails for RM 29.90 per kg so it cost me RM 18 just for 500 grams of the vegetable. It’s quite easy to prepare – the traditional recipe for braised Belgium endives uses just a few ingredients you can find in any kitchen but takes a looong time to cook.

It’s supposed to be slow cooked and that’s how I did it – took me *two hours* to braise the Belgium endives.

sliced belgium endives

You will need:

  • Belgium endives
  • Butter (real butter, not margarine or any of that crap)
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice (from a real lemon)
  • Water

melting butter

I used about 3 heaped tablespoons of butter in my recipe. I had a stick of it and cut off a nice portion and melted it slowly. Be careful not to burn it! Use really low heat.

coring belgium endives

Meantime, prepare the Belgium endives by using a sharp knife to cut out a hard, fibrous core at it’s bottom. Once that’s out, you can proceed to slice it in half!

lemon

Brown the endives in the butter by putting it on a single layer with the cut side down and sprinkle salt and lemon juice over it.

belgium endive

Fill up the pan until the Belgium endives are 3/4 submerged in water and proceed to braise it at low heat.

braising endives

Remember to turn the endives over occasionally so both sides will be cooked! It’s done when the endives are tender and has absorbed *all* the water that was in the pan.

braised belgium endive

That’s all there is to it! I garnished it with some edible flowers since the dish looks a bit drab (and also coz the edible flowers provides a contrasting crisp texture to the soggy braised Belgium endives).

cooked belgium endive

It’s not the prettiest dish around but I highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it before. I gave some of it to my dear raw (it can be eaten in salads) and it’s very bitter and braising it will reduce that intensity. She did tell me it tasted bitter and slightly burnt. I prefer the term caramelized. smirk Braised Belgium endives should come out tender and buttery! :)

buffalo steak

I had bought a pack of frozen water buffalo meat from India a while ago. I’ve always only seen these in ground meat format but this time I spotted a sliced meat package and decided to get it.

buffalo meat

Buffalo meat from India is very competitively priced and sometimes called carabeef. You’ve probably eaten it before as it’s often used in dishes like rendang since it’s halal and cheaper than beef.

crime scene

I decided to cook it last night as my studio had a 5 hour total blackout which resulted in the package of frozen buffalo meat defrosting and dripping smelly blood all over the fridge. It was starting to look like a particularly gruesome *crime scene*.

buffalo meat india

You will need:

  • Buffalo meat
  • Eggs
  • BBQ sauce
  • Olive oil

italian olive oil

I first used some olive oil to pan fry the buffalo meat. It cooks very easily when grilled for 1 minute on each side. However, water buffalo meat is supposed to be one tough mother. It sure lived up to its reputation.

steak eggs

I also cooked a couple of sunny side up eggs to go with the steak.

buffalo steak fry

Thus, I continually basted the meat with BBQ sauce using a pressure fryer. I used Frontera Border Barbecue Sauce in the Original Sweet & Smoky flavor. The name is a bit of a repetition since frontera already means border in Spanish. It’s like calling Timor Leste as East Timor – timor already means east in the Indonesian language so East East sounds a bit off. smirk

buffalo steak bbq

Back to cooking (and eating), the buffalo meat was tough – really tough…

buffalo steak eggs

The buffalo steak tasted really good with the egg though especially when the runny egg yolk mixes with the BBQ sauce. It’s wonderful but obviously new cooking methods needs to be applied since the meat was tough to the point of being near inedible.

I had to use a very sharp steak knife and masticated each piece until my jaws were so sore I was sure I won’t be able to talk for 3 days.

buffalo steak sliced

It was so tough I was afraid I’ll need someone to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me each time I swallowed. I wish there was someone with me so if I choked while swallowing the half-chewed buffalo meat, at least I won’t die unnoticed for several hours.

I was seriously worried and wondered if was possible to do it myself in case of an emergency and called my better half while eating to verify I was still alive and not blue in the face with a piece of buffalo meat stuck in my throat. -_-

cod poached red wine

I found a nice piece of what’s called dragon cod at the huge fish supply market. It’s a 1/5 of the price of regular cod and the only English references I could find in Google is allegedly from a fast food place in China substituting it in their fish burgers. It’s called 龙鳕鱼 in Chinese.

cod dragon

Dragon cod is supposed to have fat that the human body cannot digest but I ate a piece of the sample (the tiny bit that comes in the package – you know, for like tuna) raw and it tasted fine to me.

cod okra

I ate it like that coz it’s from one of those huge fishing clearing house that can have much fresher produce than your local fishmonger.

dragon cod fish

It tasted really good and paying RM 12 instead of RM 58 for the same size sounds like it’s worth a try! :)

dragon cod

I pan-fried the dragon cod after patting it dry with serviettes. The good thing about dragon cod is that it has no bones (except for the obvious one) – much like a regular cod.

pan seared cod

However, it has a very high moisture content. I wanted to dry it sufficiently so it’ll have a nice sear on the fish steak.

red wine poaching

I used a lot of butter for frying the dragon cod. I initially wanted it to be served like that – with a reduced butter sauce before I saw a really old bottle of red wine in my fridge.

red wine cod

I poured the entire remainder of the Crimson Cabernet bottle into it – about 1/4. It’s a very sweet red wine. Think of the sweetest red one you’ve ever had and multiply it by a factor of 10 and you’ve got an idea of how this wine tastes like, which is why I couldn’t finish it.

red wine sauce

I let the dragon cod poach in the red wine for a while and then took it out and reduced the sauce before thickening it with some corn starch for some bubbling goodness that I spooned over the fish.

sliced okra

My other half was responsible for the eggplant steaks. She just sliced them down the middle…

fried okra

…seared them, and before

okra sauce

….made an awesome sauce of chopped garlic, shallots and chilli fried in oil to bring out the flavor.

okra steaks

It’s poured right on top for a delicious meal we ate together with rice! :)

cod red wine reduction

I’m quite proud of the dragon cod poached in red wine. It tasted really good, the taste of the sweet Cabernet still shines though in the sauce and the cod was flaky and moist!

chicken rice dates

I’ve wanted to cook Hainanese style chicken rice with fresh and dried dates still on the branch for a long time. Unfortunately, I keep getting veto-ed by my better half who thought it’ll be an unsavory dish. Pun not intended. smirk

chicken marinade

We had gotten two free range chicken legs for RM 18.50 from our trip to the wet market last week and one of them is still in the fridge. The other has been cooked into a wonderful Hainanese style chicken rice and I wanted to do the very same dish – except mine would be a sweet version. I finally convinced my honey with the same.

Witticisms aside, you will need:

date rice recipe

  • One whole chicken leg
  • Rice
  • Wild flower honey
  • Dates on branches
  • Fresh dates

fresh date rice

I did this with two types of dates – the sweeter dried dates and the fresh ones still on their branch I got from the Ramadan bazaar a while ago. The latter is used to flavor the rice. I measured one cup of rice and added 1 ½ cups of water to it.

drumstick honey rice

This method of cooking and marinating is what I learned from my dear. The dried dates are opened up and the tiny seed taken out before being smashed for the flavor to come out. I used a whole branch of Tunisian dates, which is a sweet variety with relatively good moisture content.

wild flower honey

I then took a good gunk (which is about 3 heaped tablespoons if you want exact measurements) of New Zealand wild flower honey – chosen for it’s refreshing and light nature – and mixed it with the mashed up dates and massaged the mixture into the chicken leg for a good 3 minutes.

marinating chicken

I made sure to molest caress every fold and curve of the chicken leg like a gentle lover to massage the dried dates + honey marinade into the smooth skin until it’s moist and tender.

honey dates marinate

The marinated chicken leg is then sealed into an air-tight baggie and left in the fridge for 24 hours.

cooking fresh dates

The fresh dates goes into the rice before it’s cooked. I made sure to poke multiple holes into each date before it went into the pan. I also used a fork to pick apart the fresh dates so that the maximum surface area will be exposed with tiny bits going with the rice before setting it to boil.

cooking dates rice

The dried dates + wild flower honey chicken leg is placed on top of the rice just as the water starts to get hot. Don’t wait for it to boil!

honey date rice

The pressure pan is closed for 5 minutes on low heat to cook the chicken leg and rice. I was amazed by the fragrant sweet smell when I opened it!

our date rice

The fresh date rice is mildly sweet with bits and pieces of dates embedded into the fluffy grain. It’s fragrant and goes very well with the dried date + honey marinated chicken leg. It’s sweet, but not overpoweringly so, it’s a very subtle nuance.

dried dates chicken

I liked it but I think marinating the chicken for 48 hours would do better in absorbing the sweet dried dates and wild flower honey right into the bone! :)

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