Sunday, 26 October 2014

Penang: it's all about the roti!

I want to stay in Penang and eat Indian curry with my hands forever. Scrap that, I'm moving to India!

After a morning of walking around Georgetown, we were hungry and in need of a good lunch. Pausing outside an Indian cafe, we were beckoned in and ordered the vegetarian banana leaf set (it seemed to be necessary to order before we could sit down).

A large banana leaf was placed in front of each of us and then curries, rice and pappadams were heaped onto the leaf. The waiters felt sorry for us and gave us cutlery but there was no way we were missing out on the fun, so we got stuck in with our hands! It was delicious, we were stuffed and it cost us 10 Malaysian Ringit (about £2).

Dinner was a similar feast - I'm pretty sure we broke all the rules by insisting we had roti when the waiter really wanted us to have chapati instead! We accidentally ordered too much (no surprises there!) and left happy but so full I almost felt sick!

The following day, after conquering the jungles and inclines of Penang Hill all morning, we indulged ourselves with an array of samosas, bhajis, sweat breads (and other things that frankly I don't know the name of but they are deep fried and tasty and that's all I needed to know!).

Georgetown is a vibrant and interesting little city, it's bustling atmosphere outdone only by the incredible food on offer! Next stop, Kuala Lumpur and needless to say we'll be stocking up on deep fried finger food for the journey.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

I scream, you scream ...

When you've spent the morning walking round The Grand Palace, the sun searing through your factor 50 to create some impressive tan lines, you need an ice cream. In Thailand it seems that you never far from someone selling coconut ice cream, whether it be in a cup, cone, shell or bread roll (yeah, I don't get it either) but in Bangkok there are more and more artisan ice cream shops and stalls popping up.

Most offer the classic scoops in a variety of delicious flavours. But this little stall on Khao San road sold what I would describe as 'Magnum-style' ice creams only far superior. Each flavour has a different design made from chocolate and icing which when bitten, gives way to ice cream heaven. The effect was wonderful and I've never seen anything like this before.

Almost too pretty too eat eh? Only obviously not. I can confirm that the mint chic chip is yummy and I've got my eye on the Tiramisu flavour for our next visit...!
A bit peng (expensive) at 80 baht (about £1.50) but worth it to try something a bit different :)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Fudge Candy

About a month ago I went to a baking seminar with a friend and was given 11 tins of evaporated milk by the sponsor. To my knowledge I have never drunk or eaten evaporated milk and I've certainly never used it myself. I got it in my head that I could probably make fudge with it and, although it turns out evaporated milk is not generally used in fudge, I went ahead with a bit of experimental candy making nonetheless.

I have expanded my kitchen equipment so that I now have a very basic set of scales and a small baking tray (I'm definitely moving up in the world!). Of course there is still a distinct lack of a sugar thermometer and the scales are not exactly precise so I wasn't really expecting a success...

But it worked! Well I mean I made something .... I'm reluctant to call this fudge because it's not the crumbly type of fudge that I would call 'proper fudge'. It's more like the stuff you get inside a Cadbury Fudge bar (remember those?) so not quite 'proper' but still sweet and buttery :)

Considering my basic equipment and the fact I largely ignored all the recipes I found, I'm quite pleased with how this turned out. And hey there's always the other 10 tins ...…

300g caster sugar*
100g butter
300ml evaporated milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 pinches of salt
*I reduced the sugar content by 50g because I used evaporated milk but I think that may have affected the texture which is not like true fudge.  
- Line and grease a small baking tray or cake tin (I didn't line mine and the fudge was difficult to get out).  
- Put the sugar, milk and butter in a saucepan and heat until the butter and sugar have dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil and stir constantly. The mixture should look like it's about to grow into a fudge monster and escape from the bowl (but not actually do that!) and make sure you keep stirring. 
- Keep boiling until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage. If you have a candy thermometer this is 118C but as I don't I checked by dropping a tiny amount of mixture into a bowl of water. When the mixture forms a ball soft enough to press, it is ready. For me this took 25 minutes but I would start checking after about 15 minutes. 
- Once the mixture has reached soft-ball stage remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Then add the salt and vanilla extract and beat for a few minutes. (according to James Martin you are supposed to beat until the mixture thickens and loses it's gloss. I forgot about this so I'm not sure how important it is but it may give you a better texture)
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tray or tin and leave to set at room temperature. (Once it had set I cut it and kept it in the fridge but if you live somewhere cooler and less humid than Thailand it might not be necessary!)
- Don't eat it all at once! (No, really don't, you'll be sick!)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Nutty French Soldiers

Or something like that…..!

French toast (or eggy bread) is up there with my favorite breakfasts (and I'm a girl who loves her breakfasts). I'm always amazed by the magic eggs and a splash of milk can do to a humble slice of bread.

Frankly crispy bacon and maple syrup is the ultimate accompaniment to a stack of french toast or pancakes but as I'm currently meat free (and at any rate bacon is hard to come by here in Thailand) I had to come up with an alternative.

And it turns out this is a pretty great alternative. It satisfies my peanut addiction and, topped with super sweet Thai pineapple, it's a great way to start a Saturday.

If you want a great Saturday morning, you will need:

Peanuts (lots- I can't tell you exactly how much as I have no measuring equipment :/ )
5 slices of bread
3 eggs
6 spoons of milk (I used soy milk but any milk will do)
Pineapple or whatever else you fancy piling on top

Throw peanuts into a pestle and mortar and pestle away. If you have a food processor you could use that instead but make sure they are still a bit chunky and not completely ground.

Whisk the eggs together and then gently whisk in the milk. Cut the bread into soldiers and soak them in the egg and milk mixture. Dip the soldiers into the nut mixture so that there are nuts on both sides.

Heat butter or oil in a frying pan and cook the soldiers over a medium heat for a couple of minutes on each side or until they are golden brown.

And it's done! Easy, huh? If you're silly like me stack them up like Jenga but that's not strictly necessary!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Frozen yoghurt cubes

This was a bit of a 'what can I freeze in my ice cube tray' experiment and basically involved me mashing up bananas and yoghurt. About as simple as you get but with a pretty tasty result.

I used four mini bananas (I reckon two regular bananas) and 600ml of coconut yoghurt to fill one ice cube tray. I used my hands to mash the bananas until they were liquid and then whisked in the yoghurt. Spoon into the ice cube tray and put in the freezer.

I thought that these cold treats could do with a bit of a crunch so I fried up some oats and sugar until golden brown. When the cubes are almost frozen but still slightly soft I sprinkled the oats over half of the cubes.

They were tasty little cubes and a great way to use up bananas if there are some hanging around but they really came into they're own when I popped them into my iced coffee. YUM! A perfect way to chill hot on a Saturday afternoon in sweaty Thailand.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Oaty eggs for breakfast

I love oats and I'm always looking for new ways to eat them! Usually it's sugary sweet in a pancake, cookie, flapjack or drizzled with honey in porridge. This week however, I opted for a savoury option for my Saturday breakfast and I did not regret it.
This was a tasty, satisfying way to begin my day and set me up well to work my way through my 'to do' list.

Makes one serving

Half an onion
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of oats
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (adjust to your taste)
Oil (I think I used vegetable oil but I can't actually read the writing on the bottle!)
Salt and black pepper to season

Dry fry the chilli flakes and oats until the oats are golden brown and then set to one side. Head up some oil in the pan fry the onions until softened. Add the oats back into the pan and mix with the onions. Divide the mixture in two sections in the pans ready to crack an egg over each.

Now fry the eggs. If you pan is dry, add a little more oil so that the eggs don't stick. Then crack one egg over each section of onion and oat mixture and fry to perfection! Plate up and season with salt and pepper.

There you go - a super quick, easy and healthy breakfast.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Salted caramel popcorn bites

In the UK we had a popcorn machine that made air popped popcorn. This meant we ate A LOT of popcorn, telling ourselves that because there was no butter or oil it would probably make us live forever!

This stuff is more likely to make your teeth fall out than make you live for ever but I won't tell your dentist if you don't! It's a great snack for a movie or games night but be warned: there are very moreish! I ate so many my mouth hurt!

This is a mega easy and cheap treat - perfect for a last minute get together. All you need is corn kernels, butter, caster sugar, salt and water.

  • Heat butter in a pan, once it is 'sizzling' add the corn kernels and put the lid on the pan to avoid popcorn flying everywhere! Once you can hear that the corn has stopped popping, pour it out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper (or in my case onto a frying pan as I currently have no baking trays!)

  • Next make the caramel. Cover the bottom of your pan with a decent layer of sugar (so that you can't see the bottom of your pan). Add enough water to just cover the sugar. Put that pan onto a medium heat and wait for the water and sugar to start to boil.

*DO NOT STIR! If you do the sugar will crystallise which is not good! Watch the mixture change colour, it should start to yellow and get darker - DO NOT LOOK AWAY! I know, it gets boring and it's tempting but I guarantee you the moment you turn away to check your phone is the moment your caramel burns!

  • If you need to, give the pan the odd shake to make sure the mixture has an even colour. Once the mixture is a copper colour take it off the heat and stir in a knob of butter and a couple of pinches of salt. Quickly whisk it together and drizzle over your popcorn. I then formed the popcorn into little balls, using the caramel to stick it together. (be careful, the caramel is very hot!)

*Apologies for the lack of measurements - I need to invest in some scales or cups. But this is the kind of thing where you can throw in a bit o' this and a bit o' that! In fact I think some peanuts would make a great addition!