Saturday, 24 November 2012

Chicken Liver Tapas

While chicken liver rarely makes an appearance on British dinner tables, this underrated ingredient's usefulness extends beyond pâté (homogeneous spreadable meat). Around the world, chicken livers are prepared in curries, fried, and prepared in a variety of manner. In this dish, I combine the creamy, rich taste of liver with some spices and fresh coriander to cook up one of my favourite tapas entrée. This recipe had featured in an earlier entry, but here's an improved version of it:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 stalks of curry leaves
1 tablespoon kurma curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
400 g chicken liver, cleaned and cubed into bit size pieces

a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

Sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over very low heat. When the onions are soft and translucent  the garlic, chilli, fennel seed and curry leaves are added to this frying oil. In 2-3 minutes, pour in the liver and curry powders. Season lightly with salt and pepper and let it cook slowly, caramelising in the dry kurma flavoured oil. 

Cook this for about 20-30 minutes (depending on how low the fire is and the size of the liver chunks), cut into the bigger pieces of liver to check it is cooked before serving it, garnished with generous amounts of fresh chopped coriander. Works well both as tapas or side dish for rice and curry.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Kuih lapis

Layered steamed kuih i.e. kuih lapis is another firm favourite at kuih stalls all over Malaysia. Executed correctly, you will be able to peel each coloured layer of this pandan-flavoured kuih to eat them, not that it is a compulsory step to do so! With a decent steamer, you too can knock this sweet snack at home.

Normally, the kuih lapis is much like the Malaysian flag- red and white stripes, but there is no rule against using other colours. In fact, the Malaccan versions of this kuih (part of the Nyonya cuisine) are particularly known for their multicolours.

150 g rice flour
30 g mung bean flour
175 g sugar
400 ml water
300 ml coconut milk
1 teaspoon pandan or screwpine flavouring
food colouring (own discretion)
pinch of salt

Mix the flours together with salt and whisk in the water and coconut milk. Form a smooth batter before adding the sugar and flavouring. Separate this batter into two or three parts (depending on how many colours you want), allocating a different colour to each layer.

Boil some water in some steamer. If you don't have one, or if your tray is bigger than your steamer, you can use a large wok as the steamer. You will need to use it with a lid and a wooden stand to keep the tray from touching the bottom of the wok.

Oil a medium sized tray, about 20 cm or longer and at least 5 cm deep, and pour a layer of the batter (around 1/6 of the total batter for each layer) into it. Steam this layer until the batter becomes solid, which could take between 5- 10 minutes. Repeat this layer by layer until all the batter is used up.

Leave this tray to cool before cutting the kuih with a wet, sharp knife into smaller pieces to serve. Enjoy with your favourite hot drink!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fusion Chicken Sambal (in spicy sauce)

Most sambal recipes are pretty standard but you can tweak which flavours you wish to bring forward according to which main ingredient go into it. For example, dried anchovies are best used for plain sambal or ones with prawns and tofu. This is another one of my mum’s creations- a blend of aromatic Indian spices compliments the chicken sambal very well.

500-600g chicken pieces/ breast meat (in slices)
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
2 cm ginger, minced or crushed
1 large cinnamon stick
3-4 star anise
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
3-4 tablespoon of blended chilli paste
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
1-2 teaspoon dark brown sugar or grated palm sugar

Shallow fry the seasoned chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Leave it aside for later.

If possible, use the same pan and  about 2-3 tablespoon of the oil used for frying the chicken for the second part of this recipe (this adds the flavour lost from frying back into the dish); excess oil can be left aside in a clean, dry bowl and added to the sambal if needed later. Fry the chilli paste until it becomes darker and lumpy. Add the spices, onion, crushed garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes until it becomes fragrant.

The tomatoes go in next along with ½ cup of water. The chicken in added to the sambal and let this simmer for ten minutes or until the desired consistency is reached. Lemon or lime juice, sugar and some salt is added to taste.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Chickpea Curry

Chickpea curry served with chappati

Chickpeas are an easy way of adding protein to your vegetarian dishes. While they are quite delicious boiled and served on their own, as hummus, falafel or with minimal flavouring, this mild curry version makes a perfect accompaniment for Indian breads such as chappati* or naan.

1 onion, chopped
1 green or red chilli (optional)
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sliced of ginger, chopped
1-2 potatoes, cut into medium cubes
1 teaspoon spice mix/thalippu
2 stalks of curry leaves
1 tomato, chopped
1 can of chickpeas, drained (if using dried chickpeas, you will need to soak and boil according to the instructions on the packet before using it in this recipe)
1 heaped teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon kurma curry powder
a dash of coriander powder (optional)
1 tablespon gram (chickpea) flour
salt and black pepper powder

Sauté the spice mix, onion, garlic, ginger and chillies in 1 tablespoon oil over low heat. Add the curry leaves, potatoes and season lightly. Splash a bit of water in the mixture and let it simmer for a few minutes. The curry and spice powders are added along with a cup of water. Leave the lid on and allow the potatoes to cook through. This may take 15-20 minutes, depending on how high the heat is. When the potatoes are cooked, pour in the chickpeas and tomatoes and let it boil for a few more minutes. Use the gram flour to thicken the excess water into a smooth sauce. Season and serve with your favourite bread.

* Chappati is a tortilla-like bread made using atta flour (unrefined wheat).