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Friday Foods: Lasagna

lasagna

Some time over the past few weeks, after re-reading Rinaz’s post on her veggie lasagna, I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I thought, why not attempt to make it. However, the local supermarket did not hate ricotta and thus, I had to no choice but revert to the usual meat based lasagna instead.

Ingredients
~ for ragu
250g of mince meat
1 medium onion
1 cloves garlic
1/2 tbs cayenne pepper (optional)
1 can Prego pasta sauce (onion, tomato and basil flavour)
1 1/2 tbs olive oil
salt to taste

~ for bechamel sauce
900ml milk
50g flour
50g butter
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

lasagna sheets
as much mozzarella cheese as you want (either the shredded ones or the soft mozzarella cheese if you can get them)


To make the ragu, heat the oil and fry the onions and garlic until the onion is transluscent.

Add in the meat and brown it. At this point, the juices from the mince meat will make the whole mixture all watery but that’s ok. Just keep on frying until all the liquid is gone.

Sprinkle the cayenne pepper all over the meat and onions and continue frying until the powder has suitably coated everything.

Add in the pasta sauce and stir. When the sauce starts to boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes and then take it off the fire.

For the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a sauce pan and let it turn brown without burning it.

Add in the flour and keep on stirring to prevent any lumps.

Heat up the milk (in the microwave or on the stove) just under boiling point and add in the hot milk into the pan of frying flour, bit by bit. Whisk continuously to prevent any lumps to get a nice, smooth sauce.

Add in the nutmeg powder, pepper and salt to taste.

Take it off the fire and assemble the lasgana.

Oil the sides of the pan, size of your choosing, to prevent the sauce and lasagna sheets from sticking. Layer the bottom with the ragu, followed by the bechamel sauce, the shredded mozzarella (or pinches of the soft mozzarella) and a layer of the lasagna sheets.

Repeat the layers until you’ve filled the pan and on the top, sprinkle more mozzarella.

Bake for 20-30 minutes at 200°C.

Comments: When I made this, I realised that the pasta sauce was a little sweet, so more salt should be added to your taste. Unless you like it sweet. Also, since recipes are just a guideline, you can tweak it to however you want it, to your taste.


Oh Hey! I Made Brownies!

Yesterday, I finally got around to bringing some of the cocoa powder and the large, dark chocolate chips that I had so much of, over to Dude’s house. We finally got around to making brownies after talking about it for so long.

baking brownies

Dude keeps telling everyone that I made everything, which isn’t true since I needed help seeing that we were using his kitchen and I wasn’t very familiar with everything there. Also, since we used his mom’s Kenwood mixer (which I’m totally in lust with), he had to help me set it up.


We used a blondie M&M brownie recipe as a base but substituted some things with the cocoa powder and chocolate chips and even adding in chopped almonds. I must say, it turned out well.

batter in the mold

Instead of using the usual pan, we used non stick cake moulds instead. Filling it with about a table spoon of batter into each well.

chocolate chips

Then we added extra chocolate chip on the top.

After baking it for about 25 minutes to half an hour, we let it cool and then we tasted it. It was so good; so chocolaty and I just wanted to stuff everything in my mouth.

The only problem we had was in trying to get the brownies out of the pan. We realised that if we filled it too much, the mushroom top of the brownie would prevent us from just scooping it out easily. Live and learn.

Since I know how to make it now, I’m going to make it at my house.


Missing The Supermarket

You don’t realise how much something means to you until you don’t have it any more. That was what I found out when the supermarket at the mall closed and I was left without a convenient place to do my groceries.

The mall near my neighbourhood is currently undergoing major renovations and as a result of that, the Cold Storage supermarket had closed down. Why do I lament the closing of a supermarket that is generally a little pricier than the ones that are just walking distance from my house? The reason for that is the variety of the items available at Cold Storage.

The supermarkets very near my home are catered to the local masses, with mostly Asian products, sauces and limited choices of cheese, dairy products and various other ingredients that are imported. Due to the relatively big expatriate community near where I live, the items at the Cold Storage are catered to them; with the multiple types of dairy products, various cold cut options and even a rotisserie for barbecued chicken too.

I never realised how important Cold Storage was until I wanted to make lasagna and discovered that none of the supermarkets in the area carried ricotta, fresh mozzarella and fresh herbs. I had to settle for frozen mince since I couldn’t get fresh mince anywhere. It was very frustrating.

I really hope that once the renovation works at the mall are completed, I’ll get my supermarket back. I miss having all the ingredients that I want only a train station away.


Friday Foods: Vegetable Curry

Curry
Photo by roolrool

When I was in uni, I only had a few recipes that I could do well and one of them was curry. For the whole year, I had curry almost every week but I’ve never done a vegetarian one. Even so, I find that the base or all the curries that my grandmother taught me are all the same.

Ingredients
2-3 cloves
1-2 star anise
2-3 cardamom
1-1.5 inch cinnamon stick
a handful of curry leaves
2 tbs curry powder
1 small onion, sliced
5 shallots and 2 garlic cloves, blended
2 potatoes, cubed
1 carrot, cubed
3-5 okras
1 cup of water
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbs oil
salt to taste


Heat the oil in a pot and add in the spices and the curry leaves. When the spices are fragrant add in the sliced onions and fry until it’s translucent. Add in the blended shallots and garlic. Fry again until it’s all soft and fragrant, then add in the curry powder. Once the powder has a ‘crispy’ scent, add in the water and the vegetables. Bring to a boil and simmer until all the hard veggies are cooked through. Add in the coconut milk to thicken it and salt to taste.

Served with either white rice or bread.

Note:
This curry is so versatile that you can add in almost any different kind of vegetables; eggplant, long beans, peas and chillies. You can even put in lentils like dhal. Just soak it over night and put it into the curry when adding in the vegetables. To get an even thicker curry, boil the dhal until it’s nice and soft and add it into the curry. It’s so good you can even eat it on it’s own.


Currently Reading: The Historian

the historian Truthfully, this is actually my second attempt at reading this book. I bought it a couple of years back at a cousin’s recommendation, read about a third of the book but got distracted by something else. I’d lent the book to Dude but he never got around to reading it so I thought, why not give it another go.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a refreshing new look at the Dracula myth and lore. The story starts out with the main character writing down her story for her successor. She retells her story from her late teens when she first discovered the lore behind Dracula and the history of the man. The interesting bits start happening when her father goes missing and she goes in search of him while at the same time, trying to evade something ominous that’s following her.

The book is an interesting read but it can be a little draggy in the beginning. I’ve read about two thirds of the book and I must say that it’s at its most interesting and I can’t wait to finish it.

So, what do I think of it so far?


I found it most fascinating and interesting that the story isn’t told in the usual third person or a singular first person point of view. The story and the entire background of the whole book was (so far) told through multiple first person point of views; the main character’s, her father’s and even the father’s mentor. I love that some of the more interesting background stories were told through letters.

I love the fact that the movie included a lot of factual history about Vlad the Impaler. It was like reading both a horror book and a history book (which I love) at the same time.

However, it does get a little confusing. I had to go back and check whose point of view the story was being told in when I wasn’t paying attention to the punctuation being used.

I must admit that I’m a big fan of horror movies and books. I don’t get creeped out that easily or get nightmares very often from them, but this book does creep me out a little and I even had trouble sleeping due to my over active imagination.

Overall, I think it’s a really good book, just don’t expect the vampires to be like what you’d see in the movies.


Why Yes, I Do Read Comic Books : Power Girl #1 – #12

I’m a comic book reader and I’m proud of it. I may not be a hard-core comic book reader like some of my friends but I do have my favourites, mostly everyone and everything related to the Bat-family.

A while back, Sarah introduced me to Powergirl (PG). I’ve seen her around and about the different Crises series but I don’t really know that much about her. I picked up A New Beginning, the trade paperback collection of issues #1-6 and immediately liked it. On Saturday, I managed to pick up Aliens and Apes, the collection of issues #7-#12, and I loved it even more.

A New BeginningAliens and Apes

So what do I really think of the series so far?


The art is amazing! I love that PG’s emotions are all conveyed in her facial expression. You don’t need the dialogue to know that she’s pissed off or worried. It’s all in her face.

The writing is not only hilarious but it’s very believable. The dialogues are smart, witty and I wish that more comics out there have amazing writing as this.

One of my most favourite parts in the volume 1 of the trade collection is the cameo appearance of the guys from The Big Bang Theory in Powergirl #4.

Photobucket

I thought that they looked familiar as I was reading it and it only hit me who the guys were a couple of seconds later. Howard was totally in character and he got shot down by PG most spectacularly.

Volume 2 of the trade collection also had some gems, like this interaction between PG and Vartox in #7.

Seduction musk

PG’s expression in that last panel had me laughing so hard in the train that I had to stop reading and control my laughter fits as the lady standing opposite me was giving me strange looks. See what I mean by her face being full of expression? She looks like she was going to hit Vartox in the face, which she did much later.

I totally enjoyed issues #1-12 immensely and I’m starting to love this series very much. At the end of issue 12, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, the writers and artist, left the series and were replaced by writer Judd Winick and artist Sami Basri. I’ve not read beyond issue #12 so I do not know how different the story line is like. However, I will most definitely pick up my copy of the next trade collection when it’s out in June, just so that I can make a comparison.

I’d totally recommend this to anyone who loves witty characters, amazing art and a really good storyline.


Friday Foods: Mushroom Risotto

Bison Mushroom Risotto
Photo by eatallthethings

One of my favourite cook books is Cook With Jamie. I love the pictures and the instructions are rather simple to follow. So I decided to try it out.

Ingredients

For rice base:
3/4 cups of carnaroli rice
1/2 celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1L chicken/vegetable stock

For the Mushrooms:
100g of mushrooms, sliced
2 garlics, chopped
2tbs butter
some thyme
salt and black pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1L stock
grated Parmesan
an extra knob of butter


To make the rice base, melt the butter in the olive oil and fry the onion and celery over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the onions are soft but not coloured.

Add in the rice and keep stirring so that the rice won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add in the stock, a ladle at a time and keep stirring until the rice has absorbed all the stock. Keep adding the stock and stirring until the rice is about 3/4 cook (or as Jamie refers to it as al dente).

Remove the rice from the pan onto an oiled tray and let it cool. If you make large portions of the rice base, you can store it in an air tight container in the fridge so that you can use it for other risotto recipes.

For the mushrooms, melt the butter in the same pan that you used for the rice. When it’s nice and foamy, drop in the mushrooms. (You can use a mix of mushrooms like porcini, golden trumpet or even other wild mushrooms. I used Portobello) When the mushrooms are tender, add in the garlic and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Add in about half of the stock and put the rice back into the pan and stir until all the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Make sure that you keep stirring the rice as you add in more stock ladle by ladle so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

When the rice is nice and soft but not soggy, turn off the fire and stir in the extra knob of butter, parsley and grated Parmesan. Now it’s ready to eat.

Serves 1-2, depending on how much you eat.

Personally, I think there’s so many things that you can do with the rice base, so many different types of risotto. Even this risotto can be modified to how ever you want it to be, like adding bits of ham or bacon into it. So try it out.

If you want to try something even more interesting, head on to Rinaz’s site and try out her Strawberry Risotto recipe.