Monday, 19 November 2012

First Roast Turkey of the Season

I am always honoured when people ask me to cook for their parties... and when such cooking opportunity presents itself, like the saying, I grab on to it and don't let go...

I was asked to roast a turkey for a birthday party and I think the timing couldn't be more appropriate as the Season's Eatings is upon us and for my American friends, Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner... 

I did not grow up eating turkey in Indonesia.  Indonesian turkeys are often prized as "show birds", not for eating.  I had my first turkey when I lived in the States where I also celebrated my first Thanksgiving over ten years ago now... and it's such a great tradition (what is not to like about a day full of eating?), I carry on celebrating it every year.  I get some questions about roasting turkey from Indonesian friends, so I hope this post would help.  

Here's the truth: brining works! and I confess I used to think brining is just a waste of time.  But, I gave it a go a couple of years ago and I am a convert.  Brining does make a difference.  It ensures the turkey is juicy and so tender... and the great thing is, the prep takes no time and effort.  Last Christmas I used a more elaborate brine with herbs and spices and all things Chrismassy a la Nigella.  But, the brine I most often use is just a simple salt water solution.  The ratio is 60 grams of salt for every litre of water.  And you don't need an instruction on pouring salt to a bucketful of water... 

Brine the turkey overnight in the fridge.  The next day, remove the turkey from the liquid and pat dry with kitchen towel.  The turkey is seated inside a roasting tin, on a platform of celery sticks and carrots which will add to juices for the gravy later.  I smeared the turkey all over with softened butter, over and under the skin; and I put lemon halves, garlic cloves and fresh thyme inside the cavity.

Preheat the oven  to highest heat and roast the turkey for 15-20 minutes to get the colour going... then I turned it down to 180 C and cook for a further 30 minutes per kilo.  

I don't own a meat thermometer, but it's pretty easy to tell if the turkey is fully cooked.  I use the jiggling the leg method, which means if the legs (drumsticks) jiggle easily, well, it's cooked.  Also the juices should run clear when pierced with a fork or knife at the base of the legs and thighs.   

Let the turkey rest under a blanket of foil to let all the juices go back to the centre, even though it is very tempting to eat it straight away... Now, the carving of the bird.... I dread this task every time because I am a terrible carver, I admit.  So, you shouldn't really be getting carving advice from me.  You need Martha Stewart. 

Anyway, back to the turkey I cooked for the party as pictured above... it was a huge success and all the compliments are music to my ears.  Come on, you know you love the compliments too :)

American readers and friends, how will you cook your turkey this Thanksgiving day? and do you brine your turkey?

Have a great day!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zebra Cake

Update: Since this recipe, I have been experimenting to create a much lighter zebra cake and equally delicious.  And I think I have figured out the recipe. Please check it out here, Zebra Cake 2.0

Ah, don't you just love the name? I do. I am easily amused as you can tell :)  This zebra cake with its distinctive stripy pattern is nothing new actually. I remember my mom baking plenty of this cake when I was a kid.  And now, I am very pleased that I can bake it myself and share this cake with her.

I used to think that there's go to be an intricate technique to create the stripy pattern inside the cake.  But I can tell you, if you haven't made this cake before, it's actually pretty simple.  All that's required is a little patience, which I don't have.  So, If I managed, so can you....

This easy recipe is from the gorgeous Lorraine Pascale.  Previously I got the recipe by watching, pausing and taking notes from the TV programme.  However there must be an editing error that caused the flour to be added twice, causing a thick batter problem.  The ingredients list below has now been updated according to the book. I have also adjusted the method. Sorry for the confusion.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zebra Cake
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale

250 ml vegetable oil
250 gr caster sugar
100 ml semi-skimmed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 medium eggs
300 gr self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25 gr cocoa powder
1 orange

Line a 23 cm cake tin and preheat the oven to 180 C.  In a big bowl, add the first five ingredients and mix well to combine.  Then, split this batter into two.

In the first bowl, make the vanilla batter by adding 175 gr self-raising flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.  Mix it all together and set aside. 

To the other bowl, add the cocoa powder, remaining 125 gr self-raising powder,  1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and orange zest to create the chocolate mix.

Now put each batter in piping bags, snip off the end and start building the cake.  To begin, put a dollop of the vanilla batter in the centre of the cake tin.  And then inside the vanilla batter, put the chocolate batter.  Followed by the vanilla and the chocolate and so on... creating a target pattern.  Though saying that, mine is a bit wonky as pictured below, but does it bother me? nah...

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes.  Let it cool slightly, cut into slices and enjoy...