Mouse Princess

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghettini alle Vongole

I've always been inspired by Italian cooking. I'm obviously not from an Italian background and I don't know much about Italian history or language, but the simplicity and freshness of Italian cooking has always appealed to me.

The ingredients used in an Italian food recipe are usually very simple and easy to find [especially now that I live in a North American country], such as tomatoes, basil, cheese and olives. The flavoring is also not complicated most of the time, yet the end result is always tasty and healthy.

One of the main dishes that comprises Italian cuisine is of course, pasta. There are different shapes, colors, and textures. You must use the right shape of pasta with the right sauce to get the ultimate result. I used to think that there are only two sauces to accompany pastas, cream sauce and tomato sauce [and their combination]. I never thought that an invisible[clear] sauce would make a tasty pasta. Boy, was I wrong.

The sauce used in this vongole pasta is basically a garlic-infused olive oil and reserved clam juice. With a little bit of chili flakes, lemon zest, and seasonings, the clear sauce is perfect for your spaghetti or spaghettini and you can taste the freshness of the sauce while slurping your pasta ^^

The recipe comes from The Pasta Bible by Jeni Wright and I made some modifications, such as adding the chili flakes and lemon zest. Love chili flakes!!

Spaghettini with Clam Sauce [Spaghettini alle Vongole]

1 kg fresh clams
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
120 mL dry white wine
350 gr dried spaghettini
2 garlic cloves [I used 4], crushed
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
a punch of chili flakes
salt and pepper

01. Scrub the clams under cold running water, discarding any that are open or do not close when sharply tapped against the work surface.
02. Heat half the oil in a pot, add the clams and 1 tbsp of the parsley and cook over high heat for a few seconds. Pout in the wine and cover tightly. Cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the pot frequently. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet.
03. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a bowl, discarding any that failed to open. Strain the liquid and set it aside. Shell the clams and leave some with the shell intact for garnish.
04. Heat the remaining oil in a clean pan. Fry the whole garlic cloves until golden. You may leave the garlic in [i did!] or discard them.
05. Add the shelled clams to the oil and gradually add some of the strained liquid. Add chili flakes, lemon juice and lemon zest. Then add plenty of pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, gradually adding more liquid as sauce reduces. Add the remaining parsley and cook for 1-2 minutes.
06. Drain the pasta, add it to the pan and toss well. Garnish with unshelled clams. and serve immediately.

Serves: 4

Modification: I added some black tiger shrimps and used flax seed spaghettini to make my health-conscious brother happy.

Kue Sus - Choux Pastry with Jamaican Rum Custard

Choux Pastry with Jamaican Rum Custard

I always love eating these wonderfully light and hollow choux pastry. I believe the pastry shell itself was invented centuries ago in France, but Indonesians have adapted the recipe through many generations and added their own twist. I would speculate that the Dutch introduced this delicious snack during their colonialization and it continues to be cherished by the native people. It is commonly known by the name "Kue Sus", maybe because the pronounciation of "choux" resembles "sus". They're also known as cream puffs in English.

My mom has a great recipe for kue sus, the choux pastry is lightly crispy on the outside and hollow on the inside. Her recipe doesn't call for an egg wash and tend to have a paler color than the ones sold at the creampuffs franchise, such as Beard Papa. However, this time I wanted to make those golden creampuffs and used the recipe found at I am quite pleased with the result. At first I was a bit clueless on the shaping department as I have not made kue sus for a while. I found a solution by piping at a smaller circle going upward.
This is what it looks like before going into the oven.

Kue Sus - Raw

Kue sus is commonly filled with rum-flavored egg custard and I will share my mom's recipe for the custard. I almost failed in making this custard because I was impatient and my custard ended up too runny. I realized that I needed to wait until the cornstarch is fully cooked before adding the egg yolks and butter. This way, the custard will hold more shape and I didn't need to unnecessarily add more cornstarch. I just have to keep this in mind next time.

Go visit Stephanie's website for the choux pastry recipe. I will upload my mom's choux pastry recipe once I test it in my kitchen. Meanwhile, here's the custard recipe.

Jamaican Rum Custard (Vla)

150 mL milk
50 gr corn starch
100 gr sugar
1 tbsp butter, melted
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
a splash of Jamaican Rum

01. Mix 50 mL of milk with the corn starch until blended
02. Mix the remaining milk and sugar in a small pot and bring it to a boil
03. Stir in the corn starch mixture and whisk the mixture until you get a custard consistency
04. Remove from heat, stir in butter, then add the egg yolks while beating quickly to avoid scrambling the egg
05. Stir in the vanilla and rum
06. Let it cool then pipe it into the individual choux pastry

- You can dip the caps of the choux into a chocolate ganache
- You can fill the choux with your favorite custard, whipped cream, or even make it a the nest for your creamy chicken potpies

I hope you'll like it !!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Perkedel - An Attempt at Indonesian Food (Part 2)


Apparently I miss home more than I thought... As a result, I dug up my recipe book to refresh my memory on how to make "perkedel" or ground meat and potato patties in English. I got the recipe from my Grandmother's cook, who has been loyally cooking for our family for more than twenty years. As usual, there is a spice mixture that makes it so tasty and again, I am not using my "cobek" and "uleg-uleg" (pestle and mortar) because I only have the wooden one and my arms are not that strong anyways.

You can use any ground meat that you like in this recipe, i.e. pork, chicken, beef, or turkey. You can make it into a vegetarian fare as well by omitting the ground meat. I ate this with steamed white rice, but I wished I had cooked "nasi kuning" (fragrant yellow rice) and "sambel goreng tempe" (sweet and spicy tempeh) to accompany the perkedel. But then, I don't know how to make them.. Anyone wants to donate a recipe?

Okay, are you ready to make this simple recipe?

Perkedel Daging

4 medium-sized Yukon potatoes, cubed
1 lb ground meat
5 cloves of large shallots, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tsp ground corriander
salt and white pepper, to taste
freshly ground nutmed, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 egg, for coating

01. Preheat oven to 350F
02. Brown the cubed potatoes on an oven-proof pan, transfer it into the oven until the potatoes are soft, around 15 minutes
03. Saute the shallots and garlic, season with salt, pepper, corriander and nutmeg. Transfer into a mixing bowl
04. Saute the ground meat, season with salt and pepper. Transfer into the mixing bowl
05. Let the cooked potatoes cool for 10 minutes then transfer it into the mixing bowl
06. Mash the potatoes and mix it with the shallot mixture and the ground meat until everything is blended together. Check the seasoning before adding the egg. Add the eggs and mix
07. Shape the mixture into little patties
08. Heat a frying pan with some oil. Beat an egg and coat each patty with the egg and fry them until browned
09. Serve with steamed vegetables and white rice

It's quite simple to make, isn't it? The original recipe calls for the cubed potatoes to be deep fried, but I chose not to, because I don't have a deep fryer and I don't want to waste a large amount of oil just to deep fry them.

Until next time..


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beef Rendang - An Attempt at Indonesian Food (Part 1)


My boss at work has been buggin' me if I'm ever going to cook Indonesian food at home. She's been noticing my facebook status that said I'm cooking risotto, grilling monkfish... apprently, none of them sounds Indonesian to her. The reason why I don't really cook Indonesian food at home is because I'm not really good at it.. Often, Indonesian dishes use a somewhat complicated spice mixture that requires you to smash up the basic ingredients into a paste using a pestle and mortar. The ingredients usually include fresh chilies, shallots, galangal, candlenuts, garlic, and many more. They don't necessarily all go together, the mix depends on what you want to make. I've tried some Indonesian recipes before, but I still haven't "got it".

After moments of deep contemplation, I reluctantly googled the recipe for Beef Rendang, which originated in the Minangkabau community in Kalimantan (Borneo) Island. It's also very popular in Malaysia and Singapore. It is basically a beef stew simmered until tender in coconut milk that has been seasoned with a spice paste, consisting of shallots, garlic, red chilies, corriander seeds, and turmeric. I obviously cheated in this dish because I used ground corriander and ground turmeric. I also was unable to find fresh galangal, so I used dried instead!
However... I did the hard work in the coconut milk department since I extracted my own coconut milk from an old coconut! I love how clever people were to extract the rich and delicious coconut milk from the meats of old coconut.
Since coconut milk is considerably high in cholesterol, I tried making it "healthier" by adding carrots and potatoes, making it like a typical western stew.

Enough talking, here is the recipe!

Beef Rendang

1 kg beef shank, cubed
1 litre coconut milk

Spice Paste:
15 shallots
5 garlic cloves
1 tbsp corriander seeds
1" fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp ground turmeric)
6 large fresh red chilies

Additional ingredients:
2 lemongrass, white stalk only, crushed
2 bay leaves
1" galangal, fresh or dried
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
a bunch of carrots, diced
4 yukon potatoes, diced
brown sugar, to season
salt, to season

01. Puree all the paste ingredients in the food processor.
02. Heat a soup pot with canola oil in it and sautee the spice paste until it is fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cubed shank. Keep stirring until the liquid evaporates.
03. Stir in the coconut milk, lemongrass, bay leaves, and kaffir lime leaves. Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer until the liquid has thickened and the beef tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the carrots and potatoes while the liquid is halfway to be thickened.
04. Adjust the seasoning with salt and brown sugar.
05. Serve with steamed rice and some toasted grated coconuts (serundeng) on top.

I am pretty happy with the result, although I must admit it is far from perfect and far from tasting like the real thing. Notice the coloring, it should have been darker, perhaps because I used a very thin homemade coconut milk (poured too much water!). It did bring a taste of home and I'd love to cook Indonesian foods more often, only if the fresh ingredients were more readily available...