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July 2008

28 July 2008

Horchata de Arroz - Cinnamon-infused Rice Milk


It's been four months since our trip to Oaxaca in Mexico. The charming colonial city is a fascinating place with a real love and appreciation for food.

It is full of teeming markets, their stalls selling anything from tamales, chupalines (fried grasshoppers), handmade ice-cream to popular drinks such as Horchata de Arroz -- a refreshing drink made using rice.

Oaxaca is also dotted with cooking schools usually run by local B&Bs. We took a class at Casa Crespo run by the charming owner, Oscar. The class began with a tour of a small market and brief lesson about the local ingredients.

Once back at Casa Crespo, the lesson began accompanied by some ice-cold cervesas. We made the best guacamole and salsa I've ever tasted, quesadillas stuffed with zucchini blossoms and string cheese, zucchini blossom soup, Trout with a toasted pumpkin seed sauce, Oaxacan chocolate ice-cream and the delicious Horchata de Arroz.

The heavenly drink tastes like a rice pudding. It's made of ground long-grain rice, water, evaporated milk, cinnamon and sugar. Just before serving it's mixed with small, succulent pieces of rockmelon (cantaloupe) and garnished with slivered almonds.

Before tasting the drink, I was a little skeptical about the addition of rockmelon. And while the rockmelon is not necessary (the drink tastes great without it) the combination is very complimentary.

Continue reading "Horchata de Arroz - Cinnamon-infused Rice Milk" »

21 July 2008

Treat yourself to roasted garlic & prawn pasta


Sometimes it's nice to eat something special for no special reason. Whether it's when you want to impress or just because, this roasted garlic & prawn pasta is delicious in its simplicity.

The tomato sauce is a mixture of fresh, ripe roma tomatoes, sweet basil, onion, roasted garlic and chili flakes. The prawns are lightly sautéed in butter and white wine and then mixed in with the sauce just before serving.

The pasta is fresh angel hair that I buy from my local Italian grocer.

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12 July 2008

Khao Tom Mad: Sweet Sticky Rice Parcels


Khao Tom Mad is a Thai street food made of sweet sticky rice cakes filled with banana, black beans and then steamed in banana leaf parcels. It's often confused with Khao Tom Mad. The difference between them is that the latter is not pre-cooked in coconut milk and therefore lasts longer without refrigeration.

There are over 20 different types of bananas in Thailand with the smaller, sweeter red bananas used in recipes such as this one.

Khao Tom Mad can be found in street markets all over Thailand. Eaten both as a sweet snack or as a meal in itself, the parcels are often given to monks as food offerings at the beginning of Buddhist lent (Khao Phansa). This marks the start of the three-month monsoon season; a time where the monks retreat to monasteries and concentrate on Buddhist teachings.

To make Khao Tom Mad, the sticky rice is first boiled with a mixture of coconut milk and sugar in the same way that a risotto is cooked -- slowly with the liquid added a little at a time until it's absorbed. The rice has to be stirred constantly so that it doesn't burn. Once the rice is cooked, it is molded into a little cake filled with banana and black beans. Finally, it is wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed. 

Steaming the cooked rice doesn't make it soggy. Instead it binds the rice together and makes it almost smooth. The steaming softens the banana, infusing the rice with its sweet scent.

I can't remember when I first ate Khao Tom Mad, but I've probably been eating it since I was around three. And since it's been with me my whole life, I didn't mind standing at the stove for 45 minutes patiently ladling the coconut milk into the rice.

Continue reading "Khao Tom Mad: Sweet Sticky Rice Parcels" »

06 July 2008

Pillows of Love: Homemade Gnocchi


Gnocchi are surprisingly easy to make...once you've mastered them a few times that is. The texture and taste of homemade gnocchi is far superior to the pre-made stuff, hence the title: 'pillows of love'.

It is important to use floury potatoes like russets when making the gnocchi as the dough needs to be light and airy. I did try using Yukon potatoes once and the gnocchi was more like 'pillows of lead'.

I made the pesto using a very sharp, good quality kitchen knife instead of a mortar and pestle and I much preferred the results. The pesto takes about 15 minutes to chop in which time I'm totally intoxicated by the smell of the young, sweet basil (which has been sprouting enthusiastically from my window box).

What follows are step-by-step photos and instructions to help you make fresh pesto and homemade gnocchi. Bear in mind, that gnocchi is one of those hit and miss affairs rather like souffles. Their success is dependant on a whole range of factors including the type of potatoes used, the consistency of the mashed potato (don't over mash) and the quickness with which you work.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Use russet potatoes
  • Boil them with their skins on
  • Remove the potatoes one by one from the boiled water and peel them straight away
  • Quickly mash them with a fork or put them through a ricer while they are still hot. Don't over mash them.
  • Let them cool for 10 minutes but no longer
  • They should still be fluffy when you mix the egg and flour with them 

Continue reading "Pillows of Love: Homemade Gnocchi" »

01 July 2008

Raw Broccoli Salad: I'm addicted.


Raw broccoli is not something that I would eat for fun, that is until I fell in love with this raw broccoli salad. I've made it three days in a row and am showing no signs of tiring of it -- true love, non?

I tried a raw broccoli salad at RAWvolution during a recent trip to LA which opened my eyes to the exciting possibilities of raw food.

Some vegetables are spiteful in the way they convey their goodness by making me suffer for every last vitamin and mineral, like those vicious little wheat grass shots, which might be good for me in the long run, but certainly do nothing for me in the short-term.

The raw broccoli salad was different for a number of reasons. Firstly, I finely chopped the broccoli florets and then soaked them for an hour in a mixture of lemon juice, finely minced coriander, minced garlic, cumin seeds, good quality extra-virgin olive oil and flor de Sal, a Portuguese salt. I bought the salt after reading an enticing review from Marc over at No Recipes in his 5 salts from around the world post. Marc succinctly described the salt as "Strong salinity, mineraly, briny, full of umami".

The combination of the salt, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, softens the broccoli. It still however, retains its tender crunch and soaks up the intense flavour of the dressing. The addition of cumin seeds add a sweet complexity to the salad, like a fragrant perfume. They can be substituted with caraway or fennel seeds.

The extra-virgin olive oil I'm using at the moment is produced by Badia a Coltibuono, a 1000-year old estate in Chianti, Tuscany. The oil is intensely fruity with a peppery, slightly bitter aftertaste. I've found that when I mix it with various ingredients such as the garlic and lemon juice and then let it sit in the open for a while, the bitterness evaporates. What is left, is a delicious, intense and rich oil. I use it in dressings and top soups and pastas.

A note on chopping the broccoli. While it is rather laborious, it's well worth it at the end. Just make sure you sharpen your knife. The manual chopping is much better than using a processor. I know this from experience. Today we tried to take a short-cut by using the processor which resulted in the broccoli being cut too finely, thus becoming mushy. So...no cheating!

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted by Pam from Sidewalk Shoes.


Continue reading "Raw Broccoli Salad: I'm addicted. " »

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