Stir-fry Fresh Lily Bulbs With Brown Mushrooms

 

I was looking around at the vegetable shelves of a local supermarket the other day and saw some packs fresh Lily bulbs from China on display. Known as Pak Hup (Cantonese) or Baihe(Mandarin) which means ‘hundred together,’ refering to the many ‘scales’ or petals forming the bulbs ~ it’s a species of genus Lilium, mostly Westerners thought as beautiful ornamentals yet it has many usage not only in culinary but also in tradtional medicines…
Various bulbs of edible lilies have long been consumed by humans in Eastern Asia and other parts of the world. Besides eating them fresh or raw in cooking, this humble Lily bulb also havemedicinal properties used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) mostly in dried lily petals to be boil together with other herbs in a special traditional clay pot over a stove or double-boiler) to treat certain ailments in our body. 
It’s one of my favourite plant that’s quite difficult to find if it’s not in the season. I tried to find better ones among the packs but sometimes (most of time actually) the exporter purposely arranged the bulbs in such a way that you won’t be able to peek at the conditions of the bulbs! Well, I tried my best as you can see from the pics below… 😦 The craving to eat them got the better of me though… I salvaged as much as I could from this pack I bought. What’s interesting about this bulbs are it can be cook in savoury or sweet as dessert. Some cooks parboil the bulbs to remove the bitterness before adding to dishes which I think unnecessary because it’s not that bitter compared to bitter gourd. The petals/bulbs became mushy very quickly if parboil first and then cook again. A bit of bitterness is good to keep our pancreas in healthy condition … 🙂
Packed Fresh Lily Bulbs with 2 portions
Packed Fresh Lily Bulbs with 2 portions
Cleaned and separated petals of Lily Bulbs

Cleaned and separated petals of Lily Bulbs

Stir-fry Fresh Lily Bulbs with Brown Mushrooms in Sake

Serves 1-2
1 pack Fresh lily bulbs (a pack comes with 2 Lily bulbs) – cleaned, 
separate into petals & remove any bruised part on petals.
20 g Fresh Green peas
200 g Brown Mushrooms – cleaned and sliced
15 ml Shoyu/Light Soya Sauce or accordingly to your taste
2 pips Garlic-minced
20 ml Cooking oil of your choice
20 ml  Sake to taste (more if you like 😛 )
1. Heat up a deep pan or a wok with cooking oil.
2. When oil is hot, add in the minced garlic. Fry until it’s fragrant but not burnt.
Note: To know when the oil is hot; You will see smoke coming out from the oil or dip a wooden skewer/chopstick into the oil, if there are bubbles appeared at the dipped end-the oil is ready!
3. Add in the sliced Brown mushrooms and cook until slightly wilted or shrink. Add in the green peas. Stir for few minutes…
4. Add in the fresh Lily bulb petals; Stir the petals gently so as not to break apart the soften petals (you would see that the petals became transparent after cooking.) 
5. Add in shoyu and sake to taste. Mix the ingredients well. 
Note: If you don’t have sake, you can also use Shaoxing Wine or Dry Sherry. Only differencs between Sake and Shaoxing Wine are the flavour intensity and colour.
6. Dish out and serve with hot rice/noodles as side dish or appetiser with sake/beer… 🙂 
Stir-fry Fresh Lily Bulbs With Brown Mushrooms

Stir-fry Fresh Lily Bulbs With Brown Mushrooms

Enjoy!
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Grilled Stuffed Mini Portobellas With Sake

It’s mushrooms again! I know some people said mushrooms are boring besides in soup, salad, stew or stir-fry with other vegetables. I don’t find them boring! They are so delicious, versatile and able to absorb wonderful juices and gravy that you threw them into. Simple as that! These mushrooms are big brother to little brown mushrooms. When grilled it has ‘meaty texture – a welcome ‘vegetarian  meat’ by vegetarians and are great for baking, oven roasted and sauté.

Uncook Stuffed Portobellas

Uncook Stuffed Portobellas

Prepared stuffed mushrooms, ready for grilling and below, the mushrooms waiting to be tuck away in tummy!

Grilled Stuffed Portobellas

Grilled Stuffed Portobellas

Grilled Stuffed Mini Portobellas With Sake

6 pcs Mini Portobella Mushrooms

100 g Minced Beef – enough to stuff the mushroom caps
1/2 pc Carrrot – julienne
Few Sprigs of Italian Parsley – chopped finely
1 nos medium size Big Onion – chopped finely
20 – 40 ml Sake (more if you like)
L & P Worcestershire Sauce to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 clove garlic – minced finely (optional)
Olive oil for frying

Good melting cheese of your choice – Enough cheese to cover the mushrooms
(I used grated hard Mozzarella… that’s what was left in fridge 😀 )

1. Remove the grits and clean the mushrooms. Cut or separate the stem from the caps. You can chopped the stem and mix in the stuffing as well if you want. ( I normally cut off any bruised and hard part of the stem. Chopped it up and mix into the mushroom stuffing).

2. Heat your oven to Grill Mode about 200 ºC using the upper heat (that will be about 20-25 minutes depends on the model of your oven).

3. Mix the minced meat with carrot, Italian Flat Parsley and onion. Give it a good stir until the minced meat mixed thoroughly with the spices and herbs. Add in salt, sake, Worcestershire Sauce and pepper to taste. ( I mixed some freshly grounded Szechuan pepper with the black pepper. I love the lemony hint and tingly numbness sensation these berries gave to your palate. It’s frequently used in meat dishes in Chinese culinary – of course, the most in Szechuan cuisine.)

3.Heat some olive oil and fry the chopped garlic and onions;when the garlic and onions are fragrant, add the minced meat mixture and fry until just cook. Dish it out and set aside. Let the mixture cools a bit before stuffing the mushrooms.

4. Take a mushroom cap and spoon about 1 tablespoon of cooked meat mixture. Form it nicely so that the mixture not overflowing the caps. Sprinkle on top your favourite cheese. You can add some chopped parlesy or grinded fresh black pepper on top. Complete the rest of the mushroom caps.

Arrange them nicely on a tray/deep dish and drizzle some olive oil over the batch. Now, it’s ready for the grill!

Note: Sometimes, the mushrooms grey/black ‘gills’ of portobellas (and some other types of button mushrooms) are removed if you want a nice and not blackish juice mingled into some white sauce/gravy. Use a spoon and scrap out the black gills of mushroom before the stuffings.

5. When the oven reached the required temperature, put in the oven and grill for 15 –  20 minutes or until the mushrooms caps wilted and cheese slightly browned. Depends on the size of the portobellas it may require less or more time to cook. So, you may need to watch out when the dish is grilling…

6. Serve as appetiser or side dish.

Enjoy!

Note: The longer you cook you cook the portobellas/ portobellos, the ‘firmer texture’  the mushroom gets.

Home is where my heart is…

Just back from short holidays 🙂 and I have few cooking ideas on the line up but first, I want to share with my wonderful foodie friends some scenes from my home town- an island in Southeast Asia :-D. It’s a small island with quality food and average temperature but her unique cultures and wonderful islanders of multi nationalities made up the lost of what she don’t have compared to other famous islands on earth.Hope you enjoy it and thank you for viewing them 🙂

Click to play ... where my heart is...
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Torch Ginger Flower (Etlinger Elatior)

I love flowers whether is just for decoration or edible flowers but there’s one flower that needs to be included in certain Southeast Asian dishes; in fact without this flower there’s no ‘ooomphh’ and no ‘marriage’ in the dish. Even if you can find dried version of this flower, it simply won’t do compared to fresh flower. Sometimes, because I can’t find this ‘special’ flower, I won’t cook the dish that have this ingredient in it, no matter how much I crave for that dish 😦 

I’m referring to… the edible Torch Ginger Flower (Zingibier Etlinger Elatior) or Bunga Kantan (Malay), Ang Hua/Red Flower (Hokkien), Kaalaa (Thai), Awapuhi-ko `oko` o (Hawaiian), Bunga Kecombrang/ Bongkot (Indonesian), Asam Cekala (Karonese) to name a few but mostly known as Laksa Flower. There’re other names for it as well such as Sceptre of the Emperor, Rose de porcelaine, Torch Lily and Philippine Waxflower. Don’t be confused with Heliconia… The stalks may looked the same but the flowers are totally different. The Torch Ginger came in several colours as well; PinkRedWhite. The one I had and most commonly available in Southeast Asian fresh market is Pink Torch Ginger.
The Pink Torch Ginger buds on its stems...
The Pink Torch Ginger buds on its stems…
The taste is unique… it has sourness (tangy), astringent, aromatic with a hint of galangal (will discuss about that in future entry) and colourful to be use as decoration in the garden as well as in ikebana which I had seen been used by some Japanese ikebana specialists.
There’s only one thing that caught my attention about this flower. The very young bud looks like myoga and since both were from same family, that made me wonder if I can use the tender young buds like myoga… 😀
Usage of this flower mostly as condiment in seafood-based dishes of Nyonya/Peranakan and Malay, Thai cuisines; like Assam Laksa, Fish Curry, Noodles or Salads to impart that unique aroma and taste to cooked dish besides colouring the dish with its pink petals… The seeds are used in soups for its sourness to replace tamarind rinds and tamarind pulp. I may try to add it to rasam next time… 😀 Some local remedies include drinking the filtered juice of finely pounded seeds with warm water to fight fatigue and increase appetite. Besides the buds as food, fresh long stems (after cutting of the flower buds) are use to get rid of body odor; chop the long stem into shorter lengths, pound into pulp and boil in water. After the mixture is cool, filter the mixture and use the water for bathing (that I need to try out 😛 ) 
The best and faster way propagates this plant is from cuttings compared to seedlings which may took several years before the plant starts producing flowers.
PS. Southeast asians – mostly women, love to eat raw herbs and vegetables with sambals and dips in their daily food supplement. It’s believed that eating raw herbs and vegetables preserves the youthfulness of individuals. The knowledge is passed down from great-grandmothers to grand-daughters… That’s why, we look younger than our age…Hahahahaa… 😉 Well, as long as we can sustain the supply of such produce, we will keep up with the tradition. That’s why I planted such herbs in my little terrace ‘garden’ as much as possible. The natural resource for such herbal remedies is fast depleting. Concrete jungle is growing faster than the plants themselves… 😦 I always advice my friends to eat raw herbs and plant them in their homes.
cheers!

Banana-A Multi-Purpose Plant

What is abundant, biodegradable, versatile, economical, cheap (if you’re in living in the producing region), multi-purpose usage, important in cultures and beliefs, etc, etc ,etc???

It’s Banana – just saying its’ name conjures up many finger licking thoughts… Fried, grill, raw, steam, flambé, bake, sauce, chips, curry, salads, you name it… it’s possible with this multi-purpose plant, we all love since our childhood years! Banana has fancy names too; Manzano, Baby/Nino Banana, Burro, Plantain, Cavendish (well known in US and as Chiquita in EU countries.) This fruit is so famous that even we, humans are named after it as well. Example:Banana Joe and movies or shows were made about it like Banana in Pyjamas that has kids all over the world going bananas!
I’m going bananas as well with so many species and hybrids of bananas available today… 😀 If you’re interested to know more infos go to Bananas.org. Believe me, you will go crazy as well! I guessed I just stick to those I knew locally in Malay archipelago (depends on which is the country) like Rastali, Emas, Embun, Lidah Buaya, Raja, Nangka, Tanduk, Berangan, Awak, Nipah, etc,etc etc. 😉
Besides all that, banana plant has many usage as well… Do you know that Banana plant is NOT a tree but a giant herb in the genus Musa? Due to its tall size and structure, a Banana plant is commonly referred to as Banana tree. Sometimes, a Banana plant bears 2 times the fruit instead of only once. To some cultures this is considered as unique and lucky for the owner of the plant. I guessed it’s due to commercial bred bananas that caused such mutation? Most species of bananas we ate today are seedless or have only the vestige of seeds for easy consumption… I ate ‘wild’ bananas before and the seeds are about 0.50 cm in dark brown/black colour! It’s difficult to find such wild fruits now due to heavy development of concrete jungle 😦
 
Banana Leaves are so famous as food wrapper and as ‘plate’ in Indian cuisine of Banana Leaf Rice… I’m a huge fan of Banana Leaf Rice! The strong, flexible and waterproof leaves are used in many different ways in regions where the tree is common. Another good example is Central American tamales are often steamed in banana leaves and Hawaiian Kalua cooking has the ‘imu’ (undrground oven) lined with banana leaves. The leaves imparts a wonderful fragrance in the cooked dishes.
My mom used it to ease the movement of her old charcoal iron on our family clothes (our clothes smell sooooooo good, crispy and fresh!) without using any easy-iron on spray 😀 You can do it with our modern day iron too. If you’re using a steam iron, turn off the steam; glide your hot iron across the banana leaves (it will sizzles) and strike across your clothes. 
Here are some pictures of the Banana Blossom/Banana Heart. I peeled off some petals apart to show the little florets…
Heart Of Banana Plant

Heart Of Banana Plant

Close up of Banana flowers

Close up of Banana flowers

Anyway, that aside… in this entry I want to share a recipe using the Banana blossom/Banana Heart as salad for side dish. It’s simple but what’s taking the time is the peeling of each of the florets, remove the hard stamens and boiling/steaming part… But the end results, definitely worth it!
Banana Salad

Banana Blossom Salad Served on Banana Flower Petals

Banana Blossom Salad
1 Whole Banana Blossom
To be chopped finely:
1 cup Fully packed Thai Basil
1 cup Fully packed Mint
1 cup Fully packed Coriander leaves
2-3 nos Limes – for juice only (or more if you like sourness)
4 nos Fresh Red Chillies (or 1-2 Tablespoons of Sambal/Chilli paste)
15 nos Shallots or Small Red Onions-slice thinly
50 g Bean Sprouts – blanched
50 g Roasted Pine Nuts/ Peanuts – roughly crushed (I prefer to use Pine Nuts)
Fish Sauce to taste
Sugar to taste
Method:
1. Prepare a deep bowl of water; you may add some lemon/lime juice or salt for soaking the banana blossom to avoid discolouration. Meanwhile, boil some water in a deep pot just enough to cover the banana florets and the ‘heart’.
2. Peel off the hard outer layers of the banana blossom but reserve the florets until you reach the ‘white’ part of the blossom. You can keep the petals as serving bowls or ‘boats’. For the florets, remove any hard stamens from inside the centre of each florets. Towards the end of that task, I normally didn’t remove the softer stamens; it’s soft enough to chew… 😛 
Soak all the florets and ‘white’ part of blossoms in the water.
Note: Some people would throw away the florets. I don’t know why but I used them (not wanting to waste the precious plant.) It’s edible as well.
3. In the boiled hot water, put in the ‘heart’ and florets. Boil them until just soft but still maintain the crunchy texture (that’s my preference but you can cook them until fully soft.) That would take 20 – 30 minutes or more depends the size of the ‘heart’ of banana. The little florets are faster to soften. Normally, I would remove the florets first, soak them in cold tap water to stop the cooking process then continue cooking the ‘heart’.
You can use pressure cooker to cook them. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and cook them for 15-20 minutes depends on the quantity and hardness of the banana ‘heart’.
4. In another small pot; blanch the beansprouts quickly in hot boiling water for few seconds; Remove and cool it in cold water to stop further the cooking process. Set aside.
5. When the florets and ‘heart’ are cooked, slice them thinly or roughly chop to bite-size if you like. 
6. Now, comes the easy part; In a separate/mixing bowl, mix nicely all the herbs, blanched beansprouts, chopped nuts, sliced chillies or paste, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce to taste. If you are using the reserved larger petals of the banana blossom for serving; spoon the salad mixture into individual petals, decorate and serve in plate or on a large banana leaf (you can cut into shapes you like or cut into several rectangle pieces according to how many guests you’re serving.) You can serve in a bowl (like in the picture below) to accompany your other main dishes… 
Banana Blossom Salad

Banana Blossom Salad

Enjoy!

Delicious Mango Salad… My Way

 

Once my class was given a question by our English teacher. In the midst of her teachings she asked us, to correct this – ” There are man goes (man-goes) on the tree”. It’s her way to jolt us from our ‘dreamland’ or she must had noticed someone or some of us nearly dozed off…:-D Her class is not boring at all, really… but after good lunch and windy fan spinning above our heads, the time for siesta in us sets in… 😀 

Mentioned the word m-a-n-g-o would make anyone swooned and salivating! Everyone will have their favourites… I love Black Gold, Chukanan, Waterlily to name a few. The mango fruit can be use in several ways; as desserts like well known Thailand’s  Khao Neow Mamuang (Sticky Rice with Mango), use unripe in savoury salad or as pickle sold by road side vendors, dipped in sour plum powder in Southeast Asian countries. Trust me, it’s so…soooo (drooling) deliciously fresh and when you dip the crunchy slices into the sour plum powder… mmmm…. then put into mouth … crunch… mmm….mmm… IT’s better than chomping chips & crackers minus the calorie!
Mango Salad

Mango Salad

My Way Mango Salad
Serves 2-4
2 nos Half Ripe Mangoes 
1 cup Basil Leaves- firmly packed and roughly chopped (Any basil will do. In this recipe I used Thai Sweet basil from my pot.)
2-3 Fresh Red Chillies
4-8 Small Red Shallots-remove skin and slice thinly
1/4 cup of Thai Fish Sauce (Nam Pla) or more to your taste
2 nos Limes- juice only
Lime zests (optional)
Raw Cane Sugar to taste (you can use white sugar too)
Method:
1. Remove the skin of mangoes. Slice the mangoes about 0.50 cm thin slices along the fruit until your knife touches the seed. Do the same for the other side of the mango. (Reserve the seed to eat what’s left later :-D). Roughly cut the mangoes into matchstick sizes. 
Note: Any type of half ripe mangoes can be use. Just beware that although Black Gold mangoes (Tong Dum in Thai) has dark green outer skin but inside is actually ripe with sweet orangy succulent flesh. Only way to tell if it’s ripe is the yellow tinge at the stem part and to lightly touch/press the fruit to feel if is soft for ripeness.
2. In a bowl: Slice chillies in halves and remove the seeds from chillies if you don’t want that hot. Thinly sliced the chillies. You can also roughly chop the chillies without removing the seeds but then you will end up eating seeds as well.
3. Add in the fish sauce, basil leaves, chilli and some sugar. Mix well and taste if you need to add in more sugar or fish sauce…
4. Pour in Lime juice little bit at first. Taste accordingly to your preference ( I used all 2 Limes plus the zest as well.) Add in more if you like more sourness. Add in the cut mangoes and stir well until well coated with the sauce.
Serve as side dish to rice, grill meat, seafood… even as toppings for steam fish to give it extra zing!
Note: You can prepare the sauce and the fruits in advance but don’t mix them too early because mangoes will wilt and losing it’s crunchiness. You will end up with soggy salad instead. 

You can also add in fried dried shrimp into this salad but I didn’t use it because some people dislike dried shrimps and said it made the salad kinda oily & cloudy

Easy Almond Cake

I was reading a fellow foodie – Mag’s Green Almonds and this had my mind rolling (and my stomach too)! I love almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias… occasionally peanuts but most of time I’m nuts about nuts, really! Vite! Vite! Vite! It’s 3 hours before tea time, I had to be quick if not I won’t be on time to enjoy my Jamaica Blue Mountain! I found that I still had 5 packs of ground almonds left from last week’s baking, yeayyyyyy!

Here’s the recipe… It’s easy provided you already have the basic ingredients at hand. I hope you like it as well. It’s nothing fancy, just simple cake… with lots of almonds!

Easy Almond Cake
Makes a 18 cm round cake
125 g Butter
110 g Castor Sugar
2-3 drops Almond Essence (you can add more if you like stronger taste)
3 no Eggs -lightly beaten ( I used Medium Size Eggs @ 60 g each-yes, I weigh them 😛 )
120 g Ground Almonds
80 g Plain Flour-sifted
Some Almond Halves/Whole Almonds for decorations (Optional)
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180 ºC. Brush a deep 18 cm round cake tin (you can use any round tin about that size) with melted butter or oil. Line base with parchment paper (Baking paper).
2. In a mixing bowl; Using  electric beaters, beat butter, sugar and almond essence until light and creamy.
3. Add 1/3 of eggs with 1/3 of ground almonds; repeat with remaining eggs & almonds.
4. Using a spatula, fold in sifted flour;stir until ingredients are combined and mixture is smooth.
5. Spoon mixture into prepared tin; smooth surface and decorate with almonds.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted into centre of cake. Leave cake in tin for 10 minutes; turn onto a wire rack to cool.
7. To serve: Dust with castor sugar or icing sugar.
Storage:
This cake can be keep for 3 days in airtight container or 2 months in freezer.