Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Irish Soda Bread

This month's selected bread recipe at Rose's Bread Bible Bakers, is Irish Soda Bread. Rose's Bread Bible Bakers is a group of bloggers who are currently baking from Rose Levy Beranbaum's book, The Bread Bible.

Rose's recipe calls for black raisins soaked in whiskey, drained before adding to the dough. The whiskey is then used to flavour softened butter which is used as a spread to enjoy slices of the soda bread later. 

The dough is made up of unbleached all-purpose flour, or a mixture of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. I have used unbleached all-purpose flour. The dough is very sticky, but, Rose has advised to avoid adding extra flour, and only flour your hands if absolutely necessary. So I flour my hands, shape the dough and try to smooth out the surface as best as I can, even though I've seen that most Irish Soda Bread has a rustic and bumpy surface. I measured the shaped dough to a 6" round, about 1-3/4 inches in height as instructed. Slash a cross on the surface and bake until golden brown and cooked through. I measured the baked bread, and it is now 7" by 3-inch high bread, just as Rose says! 

Moist, not too sweet and the raisins are plump and fragrant from the whiskey. An excellent bread!

The Irish Whiskey Butter. Reserved whiskey from the raisins is heated with some sugar in the microwave until the sugar melts. Leave it to cool completely and whisk into softened butter until incorporated. 

A slice of Irish Soda Bread spread with Irish Whiskey Butter. What a tasty boozy treat for afternoon tea! The bread is even good on its own. This recipe is a keeper!

Up next in November, we will be baking Rich and Creamy Ginger Scones, page 143.

I'm also linking this post with Cookbook Countdown Specials : Bake

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fig Leaf Coconut Rice

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), the theme is "Ingredients That Inspire". We are cooking with our current featured chef, Heidi Swanson and many of her recipes has ingredients that I have never cooked or used before, so I am inspired by the varieties of ingredients in her recipes. But one ingredient that stands very clearly above the rest is, the usage of fig leaf. I have one fig plant for the past 2-1/2 years, and I have never thought of using the leaves for cooking, other than to look forward to the fruits and admire the pretty shaped leaves.

Heidi has a photo of the reverse side of the fig leaf on her blog post. I was thinking why does she photographed the leaf on the reverse and not the front. Now I know. The reverse side is much more attractive and pretty to look at, with the white veins clearly stands out against the green of the leaf, the contrast is rather attractive.

I plucked one more leaf and took a sniff, but could not get get any aroma or smell anything from it. I then tear it and could get a faint lovely scent. Now, I am really curious to use it in cooking.

Heidi got her inspiration to use fig leaf from one lady called Claudia Schwartz, whom she meets nearly each week. You can read about it from her blog. Heidi uses the fig leaf, on top of simmering coconut rice. You would want to use unsprayed leaf. With homegrown ones, you need not worry!

Brown rice is mixed with coconut milk, water and salt. I cooked the rice using the rice cooker. When the rice has come to a boil, place the fig leaf on top of the rice, cover the pot and continue to cook until the rice is done. If you are cooking the rice over the stove top, be sure to check on the rice regularly to ensure that the bottom does not burn. 

Brown rice needs a little extra water than the regular jasmine rice. I've cooked one cup of rice and used about 1/2 cup coconut milk plus 1-1/3 cups water. 

Heidi has served her rice with pan-fried tofu, sliced scallions, sliced dried figs and toasted pepitas. I pan-fried the tofu with some chopped garlic and a generous pinch of coarse pepper flakes with a pinch of salt. The chopped scallions remain but I've omitted the sliced dried figs (did not have any!) and the toasted pepitas. I have however added lots of crispy fried shallots, and half an egg. Now this is not the regular hard-boiled egg, this is my homemade Salted Egg, which is a very Asian ingredient. Whole duck eggs, still with the shell, are soaked in salty water brine with some Chinese wine added in, and left to preserve for 21 days. Remove the eggs from the salty brine, rinse the eggs and boil them as you would for hard-boiled eggs. We usually eat it with rice and congee, and as an ingredient in cooking. 

The fig leaf infused rice, smells very nice. I have always use pandanus leaf to cook coconut rice, which is common, but this is entirely a new way with the usage of fig leaf. While pandanus leaf have a stronger fragrant aroma, the fragrance of the fig leaf is light and lovely in its own way.

Heidi describes it as "Added to a pot of simmering grains, the fig leaf imparts a subtle flavor and perfume to the entire pot. The best way I can describe it - a bit green, and a bit nutty. But more like raw pepitas than walnuts. And coconut, but green coconut. There are some of those notes as well".

Coconut rice is a popular food over here, which we call "Nasi Lemak", and is eaten served with spicy sambal, crispy fried anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, cucumber and crunchy peanuts. So this take with the fig leaf infused coconut brown rice, eaten with the tofu and all the rest of the topping is something that is very different for me. And I got to say that I've enjoyed this meal very much! Everything complements each other in a delicious way!

Now instead of looking out for only the fig fruits, I'm looking at the leaves in a totally new way! Heidi has some other suggestions on how to use the fig leaves, by infusing them in the cream when making ice cream or gelato or use it to infuse some vodka to make fig leaf vodka tonics. I think I'll be trying it on ice cream next.

Fig Leaf Coconut Rice
2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 fresh fig leaf, unsprayed

to serve : lots and lots of shredded scallions, toasted pepitas, sliced dried figs, and pan-fried tofu

Start by rinsing the rice. You can do this by putting the rice in the thick-bottomed pan it is going to cook in. Fill the pot halfway with water, swish the rice around (the water will get cloudy), and pour out the cloudy water. Repeat a few times.
To the rinsed (and drained) rice add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Stir to combine. Place the pot over medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil (uncovered). Stir once or twice to prevent the rice from scorching down at the bottom of the pot. Once the liquid comes to a boil reduce the heat to a low, low simmer, place the fig leaf on top of the simmering rice, and cover the pot tightly with a lid. Simmer until the grains are tender, the timing will differ based on your rice, but typically 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat, and allow to sit for ten minutes or so. Fluff with a fork, and your rice is ready to serve.
Serve topped with any or all of the following : lots and lots of shredded scallions, toasted pepitas, sliced dried figs and pan-fried tofu.

I'm linking this post with I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week,
Ingredients That Inspire!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Baked Eggs With Kale and Ham

This week at Cook the Book Fridays, the selected recipe is Baked Eggs With Kale and Smoked Salmon. CtBF is currently cooking through David Lebovitz's cookbook, My Paris Kitchen.

I was looking forward to make this, as we love eggs around here, and also to use my homegrown kale, which I have been using in a number of recipes recently. 

David's recipe calls for smoked salmon but I've used one of the variations that David has suggested, slice of harm torn into pieces. According to him, bacon, crumbled cooked sausages or even sauteed mushrooms can be used instead.

I've used small ramekins for individual servings. Bottom layer is the sauteed kale, followed by a layer of the torn ham pieces. Crack an egg over the ham pieces, scatter some grated cheese over, of which I have used mozzarella. Dribble a tablespoon of heavy cream over the cheese, and sprinkle some bread crumbs over. The breadcrumbs is made by toasting in a skillet with butter, garlic, thyme and salt, until toasted.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve immediately.

I baked these for 16 minutes, as the egg whites are not done yet at 12 minutes. Serve immediately, as up would want to eat this right after baking. You can get everything prepared and ready, then assemble and bake it later about 15 minutes or so,  before you intend to serve it.

A spoonful of deliciousness! 

The melty gooey mozzarella, my kids favourite cheese!  I've made this for lunch, and it was enjoyed by everyone. There's a request for a repeat! I would try with the other variations that David has suggested. 

Do stop by CtBF to view everyone's take on this delicious baked egg dish. If you have the book or thought of getting one, please do, and join us! Full details here.


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