Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Orange Chicken

When thinking about take-outs, my first thought is very often Chinese food or Indian; depending on my mood. And when I am craving for some Chinese, if it's on the menu, I have to get orange chicken. 

Of course, we know orange chicken is not an authentic Chinese food. I, myself was introduced to orange chicken on my first visit to the States many years ago. And yes I had it at that famous Chinese food chain.

Few days ago I was craving for good ol' American orange chicken and unfortunately it's not available at my local Chinese restaurants on the island.

So, this is what I came up with and it is good! It's also very easy to make. If you want you can make the sauce ahead of time and keep it aside. When you're ready you just have to quickly fry the chicken, reheat the sauce and toss the two together. 

The chicken is crispy and the not-so-secret is, it's coated with corn flour. Also it's very important to get the oil to the right temperature before frying. 

The sauce as mentioned before is a no brainer to make. It's deliciously orangey sweet with a nice tang and bit of heat from the cayenne.

So, whenever you have a craving for orange chicken, I hope you give this a go.

Orange Chicken

For the marinade
1 tbsp soy sauce 
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 egg white

500 gr boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes

For the sauce
100 ml orange juice
60 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 orange zest
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, finely minced or grated
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbsp cold water
Salt, to taste

Vegetable oil for frying and sautéing 
Cornstarch for dredging
Spring onions

Marinate the chicken by combining the soy sauce, vinegar and egg white in a large bowl and add the chicken cubes. Stir gently to coat and let stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Heat one teaspoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about a minute or so. Watching carefully not to burn the garlic. Add the orange juice, chicken stock, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, orange zest and cayenne, if using. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until it is reduced by three fourths. Stir in the cornstarch and water mixture and continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Season with salt to taste. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside.

Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pot. The quantity of oil really depends on the dimension of the pot you're using.

In a large bowl, toss the marinated chicken with cornstarch until each cube is evenly coated. Shake off any excess before frying. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, carefully fry the chicken in batches until lightly golden on the outside and cooked all the way through. This takes 3-4 minutes. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on a large plate line with paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Reheat the orange sauce and stir in the fried chicken cubes. Mix until well coated. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and serve immediately with plenty of rice or noodles... Whatever tickles your fancy.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Potato and Salmon Korokke

Korokke are the Japanese version of the French croquettes, crispy patties often made out of mashed potatoes and meat. Both are breaded and then deep-fried but the Japanese korokke are coated with panko (Japanese bread crumbs) which are coarser than regular bread crumbs, resulting in extra crispy crust. I don't know about you but my mouth waters already just thinking about 'extra crispy'.

Along with the potatoes, often korokke is made with a meat mixture such as minced beef or pork. In my version here, I use salmon which I think makes the korokke lighter, but that really is least of my concern. I just like it and that's my main reason. And before proceeding further, yes, the salmon I use comes from a tin. And if the idea of using tinned salmon appalled you because it reminds you of cat food, of course, you may use fresh salmon fillet. Simply pan-fry or poach it before flaking into pieces. Or you can simply leave out the protein and add more veg, like finely chopped onions or carrots or petit pois for a vegetarian friendly version. 
The important thing is the potato mixture has to be dry. I remember making this the first time and the mashed potato mixture was too wet and I had such a hard time shaping the mixture. I learn from my mistake and now, after boiling the potatoes, drain it really well and let it steam dry for few minutes before mashing it. That's my Toa Tip of the day :)
These korokke are great as anytime snack or appetiser. They are crunchy on the outside and light, almost creamy inside. Oh so gooood.... Serve them with Tonkatsu sauce or do what I did. I made a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce. Booyah! 

Potato and Salmon Korokke
4 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced, appx. 800 gr in total
4 hard-boiled eggs, yolks and whites separated
A pinch of ground nutmeg
1 x 170 gr tinned salmon
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

Fill a large pot with cold water and add the potatoes. Boil potatoes until tender and drain in a colander. Return the potatoes to the pot to steam dry for a couple of minutes before adding the egg yolks. Mash everything with a fork or potato masher until smooth. 

Finely chop the egg whites and add them to the potato mix with the tinned salmon. Give everything a good mix. Add a pinch of ground nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Form the potato, eggs and salmon mixture into patties. Make sure you press firmly so the mixture hold together well. They can be any size or shape you like; but try not to make them too big or they'll fall apart too easily when you fry them. Lightly coat each patty with flour and put them in the fridge for half an hour or so they can firm up.

Place the eggs and panko in two separate dishes lined up side by side. Dip each patty in egg, followed by the panko making sure to coat the korokke completely. 

Fill a medium pot halfway with oil and heat over medium high heat. Fry the korokke in batches. Everything in the inside is already cooked so you only need to fry them for a couple of minutes to crisp up the panko and they become golden brown. Transfer the korokke to paper towels, serve warm and enjoy!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Almond Raisin Cranberry Yoghurt Cake with Marsala

I like to keep things simple when friends come over. As much as I enjoy being in the kitchen, I don't want to be stuck there all day. I also want to have some fun and be part of the party. I like laid back dishes, simple nibbles, the one pot wonders, and of course, make-ahead dessert, such as this almond raisin cranberry yoghurt cake with Marsala. 

This combines all the great flavours of sweet raisins, slightly tart dried cranberries and fragrant Marsala wine. If you can remember, steep the dried fruits overnight in the Marsala so that they can really drink up all the flavours. If not, an hour prior to baking will do just fine. 

The yoghurt adds tenderness and a subtle tang; and with the vegetable oil which keeps the cake so moist. For a bit of texture, I use a mixture of plain flour and ground almonds. I just adore baked goods with ground almonds. 

I added a pinch of ground all-spice here; not so much that it becomes the dominant flavour. But that little hint of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg is just so lovely with the fruits and sweet Marsala. 

When I say this cake is easy to make, please believe me... This is like super easy. No need for a mixer, just a couple of bowls and a light stirring equipment.

As mentioned before, this cake is best made a day ahead and it keeps really well. If you want to serve it warm, just put the cake back in its tin, cover with tin foil and set in a low oven for ten minutes or so.

Almond Raisin Cranberry Yoghurt Cake with Marsala 

100 gr raisins
100 gr dried cranberries
150 ml Marsala
150 ml plain Greek yoghurt
150 ml vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tsp real vanilla extract 
150 gr plain flour
125 gr ground almonds
125 gr light muscovado sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp all spice
Icing sugar, to serve

In a bowl, tip the raisins and cranberries and pour over the Marsala. Let the dried fruits steep for at least an hour to soften.

In the meantime, lightly grease a 23 cm round cake tin and line the bottom with a circle of grease proof paper, and preheat your oven to 180 C.

Mix together the wet ingredients, the yoghurt, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Also in another bowl, measure out all the dry ingredients. Pour in the yoghurt mixture and stir around until smooth. 

Scoop the dried fruits out of the Marsala, and stir into the batter. Saving the remaining Marsala for later. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with a spoon. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Take a skewer and prick all over the cake whilst it's still warm. Pour over the remaining of the soaking Marsala and let it soak in. Dust with icing sugar before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or with your favourite beverage, whatever tickles your fancy... :)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Spinach and Cheese Bread Pudding

I am the kind of person who love making lists. Everyday at work I start my day by making a to-do list of what needs to be accomplished that day. This is my way to keep me organised and on track with whatever I'm doing. And whenever one task is done, I find great satisfaction at crossing the things on the list. Let me tell you, it is such a great feeling.

Another list that I like to make is the grocery list. I enjoy grocery shopping and I like checking out all the aisles to see what new things they have and what's on offer. But I do need the list to make sure I get the things I need... And of course I often end up with things that aren't on the list in the first place. 

The other day after work, I plan to make a savoury bread pudding for breakfast the next day. The plan was to shop, prep and bake in the morning. I decided on spinach and goat's cheese bread pudding; because I just adore the combination of sweet spinach and salty, tangy goat's cheese.

And so I made a list of things I need to get from the store on my way home. On the list: eggs, milk, bread. That's it. I've got everything else at home.

I got home and discovered there was no goat's cheese to be found. I have Parmesan, cheddar, pepper jack, blue, Gouda... But no goat's cheese! And I don't feel like going back to the store. But anyway, that didn't stop me from making the bread pudding. I could have used any of the other cheeses I have, but I decided to go with creamy Havarti cheese. It is a semi-soft Danish cow's milk cheese and what I love is it melts beautifully. 

The method for this savoury bread pudding is straightforward. Nothing complicated. For ease, I use frozen spinach here which I quickly thawed in the microwave and the important thing is to squeeze as much water out as possible. 

You don't have to wait overnight for the bread to soak in all the cheesy custard, but do give it fifteen minutes or so if you want to eat this straightaway. Serve with a side of greens or tomato salad. 

So, my question of the day, do you like making lists? Does it work for you?

P.S. I know it's really late, but this is the first post this year and happy new year my friends. I wish you and your family a joyful, healthy, prosperous and happiest new year ahead!

Spinach and Cheese Bread Pudding

200 gr frozen spinach, thawed and squeeze as much water out as possible
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and black pepper

4-5 slices white crusty bread
3 medium eggs
200 ml whole milk
200 ml double cream
1 tsp dried mustard
25 gr freshly grated Parmesan
75 gr havarti cheese, cut into small dice
Salt and black pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and dried thyme and cook until soft. I like to sprinkle a little salt to make sure the onions don't burn. Chop the spinach and add to the onions. Add a pinch of ground nutmeg, season with salt and black pepper and give everything a good mix. Remove from heat to cool a little.

Tear the bread and add to the onion and spinach mixture. Give everything a mix again and arrange into a greased ovenproof dish.

In a bowl, whisk in the eggs, milk, cream, dried mustard, the cheeses, salt and black pepper. Pour this into the bread mix and let this soak for few minutes or cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge overnight.

Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 25 minutes or until golden and crusty. Serve straightaway.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Baked Filled Courgettes in Tomato Sauce

As much as I enjoy going out or staying in with friends, especially at this time of year - there's so much socializing - every now and then I do like to spend time alone and have my quiet moment. I've been out and about every night this week and it's so good to finally have an evening all to myself.

Not that I am over with all the Christmas spirit... Not at all. I absolutely love Christmas and I look forward to having some friends over for Christmas lunch. I just finished planning my menu the other day and I cannot wait for some more festive fun!

Today after work I cooked this baked filled courgettes in tomato sauce. The courgette is filled with sausage meat and I use Italian sausage which I prefer because it comes pre-flavoured with fragrant fennel seeds. If you're using plain sausage meat, just sprinkle a teaspoon or so of fennel seeds. The filling also includes the courgette pulp that's been cooked with garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and some flat leaf Italian parsley.

The spicy tomato sauce that surrounds the baked courgettes is easy to make and speedy too. You'll see...
As much as I am enjoying this dish on my own, actually this will make a great side dish when you're having people around... But I am being completely selfish right now and all I need with this, is a hunk of bread to dip the tomato sauce and a glass or two of fermented grape juice. Have a great one my friends.


Baked Filled Courgettes in Tomato Sauce

6 large courgettes
2 tbsp olive oil, regular kind
1 clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
300 gr Italian sausage, casings removed
50 gr breadcrumbs
1 egg
30 gr grated Parmesan, plus more
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil, the regular kind
1 small onion, finely chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
400 gr tinned chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion and red pepper flakes over medium heat until softened. Add the tomatoes, and swirl the can with a little bit of water and add the water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil and then simmer for fifteen minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200 C. Cut the courgettes in half lengthways and scoop out the pulp and keep in to one side. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and fry over medium heat for a couple of minutes just to infuse the oil with the garlic without letting the garlic burn. Then add the courgette pulp and cook for few minutes until cooked. Leave to cool.

In a big bowl, add the sausage meat with the breadcrumbs, egg, Parmesan, parsley and cooled courgette pulp. Mix to combine. I find this easier to do with hands. Clean, of course. Don't forget to season with salt and pepper. Fill the courgette shells with the mixture. 

Pour the tomato sauce into an ovenproof baking dish. Place the filled courgettes on top and sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan. Cover the whole dish with foil and bake for half an hour. Then remove the foil and bake for further 10 minutes to brown and the courgettes are cooked through.
Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving and drizzle with a bit more olive oil, this time the good kind (extra-virgin) and sprinkle with more finely chopped parsley... And you know what to do next... :)