Thursday, February 9, 2012
Shepard's Pie in a hurry
Feel like having pie.
Buy the freshly ground beef or lamb as there will be less fat and gristle. When we opt for the frozen rolls that are less than half the cost, we get half the quality. I do use the frozen stuff once a while when there is nothing available but best to choose good mince as we do not know what is minced together with the beef.
A friend who worked in a famous fast food chain while in Australia said the burgers were advertised as 100 percent beef. Yeah, 100 percent beef plus a lot of fillers like stuff you cannot imagine. They are not lying, just not telling you everything.
Quick and Simple Mince Beef
I decided to cook some simple minced beef with lots of onions and a bit of garlic. Just brown it and add the mince. Add a little grated ginger (I bought a bottle of minced ginger and keep it in the fridge). Add some finely diced potatoes, green peas and throw in some frozen mixed veggies if you like.
If mince is too fatty, brown the meat and pour out some of the fats. Then cook with olive oil. That way I get my ration of olive oil and less fats.
Careful to Check the Ingredients
Remember its fine to add L & P Worcestershire sauce but do not use HP Sauce or Tabasco. Jakim announced that they are not halal.
And be careful what you are served in some steak houses and food court stalls as many are still using HP sauce and Tabasco as condiment and marinades. They even put the world halal on the bottle but it also states a dubious ingredient.
The same goes for cheese. Many people think its fine to eat cheese as its made from milk.
Be sure to check the ingredients as some parmesan cheese and hard cheeses are made with rennet, from the stomach lining of the goat or cow etc. If the animal is not halal, the rennet is not halal. Some supermarkets mix all the cheeses and confuse the customers.
The same for Japanese food. Some staff tell us their restaurants use unagi or eel that has been marinated with sake or other ingredients. We do not know what some of them put in the rice or miso soup. Some hotel coffeehouses use liquor in the black forest cakes, tiramisu, fruit cakes etc. Just make sure the food is safe.
I did not have bay leaf but just added some pepper. Fresh ground black pepper would be nice too. A pinch of chilli powder or some cumin or fennel is ok if you like it to be more like keema. Add water and let everything simmer to soften. When ready, thicken it with some flour or cornstarch. The flavour should come from the meat itself.
For a more Chinese variation, skip the spices and add a little quality soya and oyster sauce. Anything you fancy actually so long you do not mix too many flavours together.
After that I boiled around 5 potatoes, drained and let it cool till warm enough to hold. This is the best time to peel as the skin will fall of, paper thin, leaving some nutrients behind. Make sure you cut away the green toxic areas.
Mash the potatoes while warm and season with lots of pepper, some a tablespoon or two of butter and around half to a cup of fresh milk. Do not pour in the whole lot, just add and mix till its the right consistency. You can use a little olive oil instead of butter and omit the milk. Or mix in some cheese while it is warm.
Either cover the mince completely with the mashed potatoes and grate some cheese over it or leave it separate. Grill the cheese to make it look more delicious.
Will post photo later. As you noticed, our very plain and simple photos take only 5 minutes to shoot as we are always in a hurry to have dinner and I will tell my son "Oh, how about take a photo of the food?". He has to get the camera and shoot before the food gets cold.... And we are too lazy to use nice crockery or cutlery as its just 2 of us unless we have guests. We do use our Nyonya ware daily but its a little painful when I happen to see a small chip on a bowl. The dinner plates are too heavy and we have to spend more time taking care during washing up.
Serving Pots and Pans
You will be amazed to know the number of people who serve their soups and curries in their large cooking pots. We only get that privilege to find out if we are treated as a family member and they let us see how they live. I appreciate that.
My friends also get the pots and pans treatment once a while. Smile. One reason is we want the food to be kept piping hot and also we know everyone is going to have seconds. Also of course, less dishes and bowls to wash and clean up. Lazy lazy....
Chye Choi Vegetarian Dish a Must for CNY
Tomorrow I plan to cook some melon squash and chicken soup, some Chinese vegetarian dish with wood ears fungus, soohun, bean curd, mushrooms, veggies, tauchu and fermented bean curd. This needs to be simmered for a long time.
Missing Mom's Great Cooking
I was missing my mom's cooking this new year. She used to prepare and cook for 3 days for the reunion dinner. Then we would have to eat all the balance for the next two days. Usually we did not mind as she would cook all the delicacies and special treats for cny.
Allah please bless Sis and her family
A dear revert sister invited us for a home cooked lunch and I of course could not resist that. Alhamdulillah! Her mom cooked us some splendid dishes and that was really a satisfying treat. May Allah bless and reward her. I managed to get my chye choi , curry, lotus soup and soya fried sengkuang this year after all.
Budgeting for a Feast
The Chinese spend a lot on seafood and delicacies like abalone, fish, prawns, herbs and special ingredients. As food prices increased through the years, we learnt to reduce our spending by choosing wisely. We started buying and freezing the seafood a few weeks before prices shoot up just before the festival. Such a silly and treacherous tradition to fleece the people.
I plan to throw in more Chinese shitake mushroom, fresh mushrooms and maybe some red dates. Add the soohun later or it will expand and become too soft. We can also deep fry the soohun and sprinkle it over the chye choi before serving. Served with chili and a bit of belacan and onions, fried to a fragrant paste.
Chye Choi is the traditional Chinese New Year vegetarian dish that almost every Chinese home will cook for new year morning. Just be careful to check the ingredients for the red fermented bean curd aka nam yee as some have wine inside.
Traditional CNY Lunch at Grandparents' Home
Every year since we were children the cook in my late grandparents's home always served chye choi with fried ground nuts as well. Hot rice, steamed chicken, fried sengkuang with cuttlefish strips, lettuce sometimes fresh popia, Loh Hon Chye and lotus root soup with red beans.
My mom would cook and bring large prawns, cooked in dark soya sauce or har lok, with some spring onions and lots of garlic, slight caramelised. She would also bring her Nyonya chicken curry and loh hon chye as well as cold jelly chicken in soya and sometimes our other left over dishes to share with my uncles and aunts. Always a warm and happy time, ang pows being exchanged and our course we collected a lot until we got married.
No Brandies or Beer in our Family
I think many Chinese homes would be serving a similar menu simultaneously.We were not a drinking or gambling family. There were some bottles of VSOP and stuff like that in one of the long glass cabinets. They were usually gifts from visitors etc and nobody cared to drink any.
In every of our family homes we only served soft drinks, black local coffee and Chinese tea. We used to enjoy talking and catching up and just lazing around eating kua chi, oranges, prawn crackers and groundnuts. Munching all the way...Its strange that many peo0ple expect Chinese to gamble and enjoy all the vices during festivals. Not true at all!
I will probably write more about CNY celebrations later on. This entry is too long already. Smile.
I miss my grandparents. Without them the family became sort of disintegrated. All the uncles and aunties and their families stopped seeing each other. There was no more family ancestral home to visit, no elderly folks to pay respect to.
Miss them much... my kindly grandpa and my very patient and kind grandmother. Also my step grandmother who passed away earlier on. She treated us well when we were kids. (Yes, they all lived under the same roof. Must have been very challenging for everyone.) I may share something about them one day...And the cook from China named Ah Ngan (Silver) and housekeeper Mary Henrietta.