Friday, 22 November 2013

Lemper Ayam - Glutinous Rice Roll with Chicken

Glutinous rice roll with chicken or known as lemper ayam in Indonesia is one of my favourite anytime snacks.  I love it when I was a kid and I still love it today... especially now that I can make these little parcels of deliciousness on my own and I want to share it with all of you...

I was quite surprised that these rice rolls are easy to make and please don't be put off by the lengthy explanation. It does take patience which if you know me, I have none... but actually after a while, the repetitive activity of rolling and wrapping become somewhat therapeutic.  And it requires practice to shape the rolls.  My first few rolls were a bit wonky, but after making hundreds of these (yes, seriously), they look just like the real deal :)

So let's get to it... First job is to soak the glutinous rice in water.  The rice needs to be soaked because the grains are harder.  Soak it at least a couple of hours prior to cooking or longer if you can remember.  Now, make the filling. Here I use chicken, but if you prefer, beef, pork or prawns are delicious too.  Despite my love for chicken thighs, this time I use chicken breasts because I think they shred better.  There are also recipes that use minced chicken, but I prefer the texture of the shredded chicken. 

Poach a couple of chicken breasts (skin-on, bone-in) in plenty of water until it is cooked through.  Let it cool a bit, remove the skins and bones and shred using the method of your choice.  Save the poaching liquid. We're going to use it to cook the rice.

To make the bumbu for the chicken, in a blender add in 3 shallots, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 tsps coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 3 candlenuts and kencur.  Let's talk about that last ingredient... Kencur (sometimes spelled kentjoer) or known as kaemferia galanga in Latin (sounds like a spell from Harry Potter doesn't it?) or zedoary in English is a root plant related to ginger and turmeric (sometimes referred to as white turmeric). It is fragrant like one of those aromatherapy oil.  It has a warm taste like ginger but also bitter, so use it sparingly.  If you can get hold of it, great... but if not, I'd use ginger or galangal.

Question of the day: have you came across kencur/kaemferia galanga/zedoary before? 

Blend the spices with a little water until smooth.  Gently fry the bumbu in a pan with vegetable oil until fragrant.  Then add the shredded chicken and toss it around, making sure it is all coated with the spices. To this, add coconut milk, finely cut kaffir lime leaves (be generous with it) and season with salt, white pepper and a good sprinkling of sugar. Not too sweet that this becomes a pudding, but just enough to balance all the flavours. Let the mixture simmer for a bit until all the spices is absorbed.  Give it a stir every now and then. The important thing is to make sure the filling is not completely dry.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  The filling can now be put to one side to cool... or actually this can be made the day before and keep in the fridge.  This amount of filling should be enough for approximately 25 rice rolls.  

If you want to add curry powder to the filling, go for it. It's actually really nice as well.

Cooking glutinous rice is very simple especially since I use a rice cooker.  Drain the rice of its soaking water and rinse it thoroughly. Cook the rice using the reserved chicken poaching liquid, coconut milk and season with salt.  To make the rice even more fragrant, also throw in a couple of pandan leaves.  For every cup of rice, I use one and a half cup of chicken poaching liquid and half a cup of coconut milk. 

While the rice is cooking, prepare the banana leaves. I don't know how accessible is banana leaves where you live.  I get mine from the farmers market.  If you can get it, that's awesome. But if you can't, plastic wrap or non-stick parchment paper is an option, but it just won't have the same effect. If using banana leaves, trim the edges and cut into rectangles Wipe both side of the banana leave with a damp cloth.

Place the leaves with the stripes going horizontal facing you as pictured below.  When the rice is cooked, let it cool a little, but not completely cold.  It's easier to shape the rice while it's still warm.  And because I want the rolls to be the same size, I weigh the rice on the banana leaf... 50 gr of rice for each roll is just the right couple of bites for snacking.  Now, use a plastic spoon to flatten the rice to a rectangular shape.  The reason I use plastic spoon is because the rice don't stick as much to plastic as opposed to stainless steel cutlery.

Place the shredded chicken to one end of the rice.  There is a temptation to put as much filling as possible... but don't.  Too much filling and the roll will burst. Believe me, I know.  A couple teaspoons of the filling is plenty.

With the help of the banana leaf, lift the rice and shape it into a mound covering the filling on all sides.    

Fold the banana leaf as if you're wrapping a present.  Do this tightly but gently, trying not to rip the leaf.  You can secure the end using a small cocktail stick or toothpick, but I find using a stapler is much easier.  

Completely for aesthetic value, I trim the edges with scissors. I just think they look neat this way... and guess what, we're almost at the end :) 

Using a non-stick pan, heat a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil over a medium heat and fry the parcels just until the skin is nicely charred on both sides.  Leave the lemper to cool a bit... it's best eaten warm or at room temperature.  Should you have any leftovers, store in the fridge and re-heat in the microwave.

So, there you go... I hope you enjoy this post and are inspired to try it at home.  Have a wonderful weekend friends! I haven't got anything special planned but I'm sure I'll find something to do in the kitchen. x

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Daging Bumbu Bali - Balinese Beef Stew

I am fortunate enough to be able to travel around the world... and Bali, without a doubt is one of the most beautiful places I visited.  The gorgeous beaches, the sun, water sports, rice fields, etc... which to be honest normally isn't my kind of place... if you know me, I don't do well in the heat and humidity.  My kind of holiday will be somewhere in a mountain, like the Swiss Alps where it is cold or the Scandinavia... I haven't been but I imagine it's gonna be cold over there and I love it... 

But anyway, I love Bali and I actually look forward to visiting again soon.  What I most excited about is the delicious food... babi guling (suckling pig) , bebek betutu (Balinese roast duck), sate lilit (minced chicken/fish satay), and many more... but until then I am fulfilling my cravings with my Balinese beef stew.

Making the stew is easy though a little patience is required... allow the beef to simmer slowly until it is tender and flavoursome.  Or if you're some kind of saint with a lot of patience and self-control, like many other stews or curries, this stew tastes even better the next day... 

And of course you can replace the beef with pork, the latter being a Bali favourite... but the spice paste / bumbu remains the same regardless the type of meat you choose.   

Most of the ingredients are available in supermarkets, but you might need to make a trip to your local Asian grocery store to get these three ingredients: First, kaffir lime leaves, one of my favourite scents and flavours. Kaffir lime leaves have a distinctive floral and citrus aroma which makes it difficult to substitute. If you can get fresh ones, great, but also look out in the frozen sections.  If you can't find it anywhere, use lime zest instead but it's just not gonna be the same.

Second, candlenuts... which in appearance look like large hazelnuts. In Indonesian cuisine, they are often used as a base and thickener for various spice pastes, also sambal and satay sauces.  When I don't have them around, I use brazil nut, macadamia or cashew.  Your pick. 

Last but not least, dried shrimp paste... or often known as terasi or trassi or belacan.  It's a common and widely-used ingredient in South-East Asian cooking.  It is dark in colour and it has a pungent smell, revolting to some people, but I find it utterly delicious. One advice from me, when handling the shrimp paste, make sure you use a spoon, because the aroma may sticks to your hands for hours otherwise.  

You can make the spice paste in a blender or using pestle and mortar.  If you are using a blender, add a couple of tablespoons of water which will help the blending process and I'd suggest not to make the paste too smooth.  It's nice to have a little texture in the stew.

Gently fry the bumbu in oil until fragrant just for a couple of minutes.  Then add the meat and cook until lightly browned.

Now add the kaffir lime and bay leaves, bruised galangal and finely minced/grated ginger and cook for another couple of minutes.  Season with salt and white pepper.

Stir in the water, sweet soy sauce, tamarind water and when it comes to a boil, clamp on a lid and let it simmer for an hour and a half to two hours or until the meat is tender.  Give it a stir from time to time and add more water if the it reduces too much.  Adjust the seasoning.  Serve with plenty of rice and you know what to do... x

Daging Bumbu Bali - Balinese Beef Stew
Recipe by Me

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500 gr stewing beef, cubed
4 kaffir lime leaves, cut into little pieces
2 bay leaves
2 cm piece fresh ginger, finely minced/grated
2 cm piece fresh galangal, lightly bruised
400 ml water
100 ml tamarind water
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
salt and white pepper, to taste

For the spice paste
3 garlic cloves
8 shallots
1 tablespoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted
2 candlenuts, lightly toasted
3 red chillies
1/2 teaspoon dried shrimp paste

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Perkedel Kentang - Potato thing you can help me name

The word perkedel derives from Dutch word frikadel; which I believe these days in The Netherlands is a sausage or meatball type of snack.  Any Dutch or more knowledgeable readers please correct me if I'm wrong.  In Indonesia, perkedel is used for variety of foods made with vegetables or minced meat or fish or a mixture of all the above.  So, dishes like corn fritters, fish cakes and potato patties all fall into the perkedel category... which sounds convenient, but I am having a hard time what to call this potato thing I made in plain English.  This should be easy, right, but my brain is not working.

I was going to call it potato patties, but they look neither like patties nor fritters... Potato cakes?! naahh... Croquettes? maybe? that's the closest resemblance perhaps. OK, that can be my question of the day, what would you name this dish? 

To help you (or not) I'll explain how I make this potato thingy which is very simple.  It's basically a spiced up, shaped, breaded and fried mashed potatoes (ooohhh... that's an idea for a name).  This is a great way of using leftover mashed potatoes should you have any and turning it into delicious afternoon snacks.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you how to make mashed potatoes... but just in case, I steamed five medium size potatoes until soft or until they can be pierced with a knife easily.  People with good common sense will let the potatoes cool a bit before they peel the skin, but I have asbestos hands and also impatient.  I actually rather like lumpy mashed potatoes, but for these not-yet-named thing, it's best to have smooth mashed potatoes... and a potato ricer comes very handy to achieve this texture.  Now let the mashed potatoes cool a little while you prepare the bumbu.     

The bumbu is nothing unusual.  It's just four finely chopped shallots and a couple of cloves of garlic which need to be finely grated; and also a couple of seeded and finely chopped red chillies.  Add this to the potato mixture.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste.  Last but not least, freshly grated nutmeg which works so well with mashed potatoes.  You can also add celery, spring onions or parsley if you want for a bit of greenery.

I then add 200 gr of minced beef... although if I remember correctly, when I was a kid, mom used corned beef... also equally delicious.  So, take your pick.  Then add a couple of eggs to help bind the mixture.

Now shape this in any way you like... but you may want to shape it in a form that can be easily named... like patties or meatballs, and coat them with breadcrumbs.  I shaped mine like a cylinder and here I am... (name idea: potato rolls?)

Coat with breadcrumbs and deep-fry in hot oil until golden and cooked through.

I like using those coarse Japanese breadcrumbs or panko for extra crunch.  Serve with chilli sauce or tomato ketchup or whatever tickle your fancy.

Have a great weekend friends! x