Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Attempt #24: Prawn Stuffed Flatfish

If you are trying to decide on what to cook for your upcoming Christmas and Year End dinners with family and friends, why not try this recipe for one of those dinners! J

Oh, if you are trying to slice  and stuff the flatfish for the very first time (like me!, easier to get the fishmonger to do it for you. I had to YouTubed this (I have attached the video below for your convenience). Nonetheless, it wasn’t that difficult and as Jamie explained in his recipe, you don’t need to do it perfectly. As long as the prawns gets stuffed in J

The result:
Pretty creative and simple way to cook seafood. However, the quality of the dish is only as good as the quality of the fish and prawns. As long as the prawns and fish are fresh and of good quality, it will be yummy. And you can’t go wrong with lemon based recipe J
I may try with tomatoes or crab meat the next round.
• either 1 x 1.2–1.5kg or 4 x 200g flatfish, such as flounder, lemon or Dover sole, plaice, turbot or brill
• 2 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 75g butter
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
• cayenne pepper
• 1 lemon
• 250g raw prawns, peeled
• olive oil
• a splash of white wine
• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat your oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. If you look at the head and the tail of your fish, more often than not there’s a secret line between them that the Big Man upstairs has drawn. Using this as your guide, carefully cut into one side of the line near the head, push down gently, angle the tip-end of your knife towards the bone and score between the flesh and the bone to peel away that beautiful fish fillet. Run the knife down to just above the tail and part the fillet from the bone – about 4 to 5cm deep on both sides. Even if you don’t get it perfect, you’ll be stuffing this pocket with prawns so no one will know if your knife work was a bit shabby.

Get a roasting tray that snugly fits your
fish and sprinkle your finely sliced onions around the base of the tray. Season both sides of your fish with salt and pepper and lay it on top of the onions. Try to sweep most of the onions under the fish so they sweeten as they cook. Put the butter into a small pan on a low heat, and once it’s melted pour it into a bowl and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Add a pinch of salt and pepper, the grated garlic and a pinch of cayenne to the butter, then grate over the zest of half your lemon. Toss the peeled prawns through this mixture until nicely coated, then stuff them loosely inside the
fish, pouring over any flavoured butter left behind in the bowl. Before putting it into the oven drizzle over some olive oil and a splash of white wine, then halve your lemon and add both halves to the tray. Adjust the cooking time depending on the size of your fish: a large fish will want 25 minutes, 2 small fish about 12 minutes. You’ll know it’s beautifully cooked when the flesh flakes away from the bone.

Finely chop your parsley leaves and sprinkle them over the
fish once it’s out of the oven. Squeeze over the juices from your roasted lemon halves, and serve. I like to put this in the middle of the table with something propping up one end of the tray so that the delicious milky juices run out of the fish and mingle with the butter, olive oil and lemon juices at one end of the tray. Spoon this over clumps of your fish and prawns, and anything else you’re serving it with, like new potatoes, mash or simple steamed greens – it will taste wonderful.
Jamie's rendition of the Prawn Stuffed Flatfish

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Attempt #23: Quick sausage meatballs with a tomato and basil sauce, spaghetti and sweet raw peas

Ok, this is indeed as quick as the recipe described. It is pretty much a very straight forward pasta – simple and quick to make. One of the key items that is good to have to make this pasta is that it helps if you have 3 stoves, 2 pans and 1 pot. If you are working with less than 2 pans and a pot, omit the meatballs. J

The result:

I bought Oxford Pork Sausages for this pasta. From the various types of sausages that I have tried for my Jamie Oliver’s cooking till now, this is the least of my favourite. Unlike Italian sausages, the Oxford Pork Sausages doesn’t seemed to have sufficient herbs mixture to make it as fragrant or tasty. Unlike the recipe, I omitted green peas as I am not a fan of them.
• olive oil
• 8 good-quality pork sausages
• 500g spaghetti
sea salt
• 300g fresh peas, in their pods
• a block of Parmesan cheese, to serve
• a few sprigs of fresh marjoram, thyme or rosemary, leave picked

for the tomato sauce
olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
• 2 x 400g tins of good-quality plum tomatoes
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• good-quality balsamic vinegar
Heat a large saucepan and add a few glugs of olive oil. Snip the sausages apart, then squeeze and pinch the meat out of the skins so that you get little meatball shapes – don’t make them too big or they will take too long to cook. Try to get at least three balls out of each sausage. Don’t worry about rolling them into perfect balls and making them look all fancy – rough and rustic is good! Put them into your pan. Keep frying and turning the meatballs until they’re golden brown and cooked through.

Meanwhile, put the spaghetti into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions until al dente.

To make your tomato sauce, heat a separate pan and pour in some olive oil. Add the garlic and the chopped basil stalks and move them around the pan for a couple of minutes. Put some small basil leaves to one side for later, and sprinkle the rest into the pan. Add the tomatoes and season carefully to taste. Bring to a simmer, break up your tomatoes a bit more with a spoon and add a swig of balsamic vinegar – it’s lovely for adding sweetness to the sauce.

Add the herbs to the pan of sausage meatballs, tossing everything in all the lovely flavours. Cook for around 30 seconds. When your spaghetti is cooked, drain it and divide the pasta and meatballs between four bowls. Spoon over the tomato sauce. Sprinkle over the reserved basil leaves and serve with a handful of fresh peas per person in the middle of the table, so that everyone can have a go at podding their own, and a little Parmesan for grating and shaving over the top.
Jamie's rendition of the pasta:

Attempt #22: Chicken with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce

I bought a jar of black bean sauce and was looking at a different way to cook using it apart from steaming my dish with it. I didn’t expect Jamie to have a recipe with black bean sauce but it was a pleasant surprise when I found a recipe this recipe of his – sizzling beef with scallions and black bean sauce.

However, instead of beef, I replaced it with chicken and I steamed the rice separately instead of frying it.

The result:

Really simple dish to make and goes well with rice. The cilantro leaves or coriander, provides that spicy, strong fragrant that enhances the ginger, garlic, chille and scallions mixture. And for anyone who loves sesame oil… you would just love this dish.
In short, an interesting discovery. A Chinese-inspired Jamie Oliver dish that my parents or for folks who are not fans of Caucasian / European based dishes can appreciate. J


sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Approx. 300gm of chicken
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic
½ a fresh red chilli
2 spring onions
a small bunch of fresh coriander
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon groundnut oil (or any oil for frying)
2 tablespoons of good-quality black bean sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 limes


1.      Halve and deseed your pepper and cut it into thin strips.

2.      Peel and finely slice the ginger and garlic.

3.      Finely slice the chilli.

4.      Cut the ends off your spring onions and finely slice.

5.      Pick the coriander leaves and put to one side, and finely chop the coriander stalks.

6.      Get yourself a big bowl and put in the ginger, garlic, chilli, spring onions, coriander stalks and chicken. Add the sesame oil and mix everything together.

To cook your stir-fry:

7.      Preheat a wok or large frying pan on a high heat and once it’s very, very hot add half of the groundnut (frying) oil and swirl it around. Add all your chopped ingredients from the bowl. Give the pan a really good shake to mix everything around quickly. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, taking care to keep everything moving so it doesn’t burn. Add the black bean sauce, and stir in half the soy sauce and the juice of half a lime. Keep tossing. Taste and season with black pepper.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Attempt #21: A Good Gravy by Jamie Oliver

I just learnt a new trick!! The layer of vegetables at the bottom of the roasting tray that your meat sits on which also holds the juices from a roasted piece of meat makes really nice gravy for you roasted meat dish.

The Result:

To quote Jamie from his recipe, “As long as you are using good quality meeat, your gravy will taste heavenly. Follow his method for making gravy and you’ll never look back”. And you know what, he is absolutely right! J

And if there are any leftover of that gravy, waste not. I refrigerated it and use it as a base to fry broccoli the next day!

Link to the recipe on Jamie's website. Click here.

Attempt #20: Roast Pork (‘Siew Yuk’)

‘Siew Yuk’! With a couple of friends over for dinner, I decided to attempt ‘Siew Yuk’.

Firstly, I have never had a whole chunk of 3 pound pork loin in my house before this which means that I have never handled a whole piece of meat of such mass before this either!
The Buying Experience:  
When I asked the butcher for 3 pounds of pork loin and as she was trying to slice the measured pork for me, I was getting an anxiety attack and started to tell her not such a big piece. She gave me a 'please-make-up-your-mind' look and confirmed that I wanted 3 pounds. So, I just simply nodded since the recipe did ask for 3 pounds and I wanted to ensure that I follow the recipe accurately for this one. A good Siew Yuk is not an easy task hence I didn’t want to risk it by getting a smaller piece of meat.

The Preparation/Cooking Experience:
Recipe asked for a box cutter or a very sharp knife to score the skin. The recipe reminded that we  need to make sure that we are to slice just the skin and fat and not the meat underneath. Do this all the way along at ¼ inch intervals. 
Now for this task…the knife must be really, really sharp. I thought my knife was sharp enough… I mean, it works smoothly with watermelons and melons are huge. But the ‘ah ha’ moment is when you realized that in the culinary world, size doesn’t matter but density. Lesson learnt: Ask the butcher to do this for you.

Once the pork loin is scored, the drizzling of the virgin olive oil and massaging salt and freshly ground black pepper onto the meat was quite manageable. But I now know what my masseuse has to go through - she has to massage more than 100 pounds of flesh daily. And I am here trying to massage this 3 pound meat on my chopping board which was already a handful!

The Result:

All diners gave a whopping ‘Not Bad!” feedback! The skin on top was really crispy but a little too tough to the teeth. Leaving it in the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes was 10 minutes too long.  But overall, it was juicy and fragrant.
The roasted pork was served with the horseradish sauce (see Attempt #19) and the roast pork gravy (see attempt #21 for the recipe for the gravy).  

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Attempt #19: Horseradish sauce

My first time making a Roast Dinner Sauce. I am the typical 'ready-pop-the-jar-open' sauce type of person.  But hey, decided why not give this a try.


Not too bad. Good thing about making the sauce on your own is that you can increase/reduce the quantity of the appropriate ingredients to your liking.

• 5 tablespoon crème fraîche
• 1 tablespoon grated horseradish, fresh or jarred
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, extra virgin olive oil
• 1 lemon

Put the horseradish into a small bowl. Finely zest over your lemon, then halve your lemon and add a squeeze of juice to the bowl. Add the crème fraîche and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well. Taste and add a little more horseradish if you think it needs to taste more fiery.

Attempt #18: Rum and Raisins with Vanilla Ice Cream

There is a Mother Goose Rhyme that reads,
“What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice,
And everything nice”.

Well, if Mother Goose were to ever write about ‘What big girls are made of?’… it would probably go something like this….
"What are big girls made of?
Sugar and Alcohol,
And 10 sharp claws!”

That said, with Ice Cream loaded with Rum, this is truly a comfort food for all big girls! J


Put a small pan on low heat, add a handful of raisins and a good lug of dark rum and warm through. Pour unto the bottom of your serving bowl and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Using a speed peeler, or very carefully using a sharp knife, shave a few curls of good quality bittersweet chocolate over your ice cream.  


Lesson learnt: Must use a knife to shave the chocolate else it doesn’t look nice as a photo shot.


Attempt #17: One Hot Pot Basic Stew

Anything that says stew or one hot pot, I couldn’t resist trying this recipe out.

For the sheer fact that stews means that all ingredients goes into 1 pot and as they are usually slow cooked, all the nutrients are conserved. In short, nutritious and fewer number of cooking utensils required to be washed! J

To make this even easier, Jamie recommended an add-on ingredient i.e. POTATOES.
Once the stew is cooked, just fill a large baking dish with the fully cooked stew and lay your boiled and sliced (1/4 inch thick) potatoes over the top of your stew. Drizzle with a little olive oil (or melted butter) and brush this over across the potatoes. Sprinkle some picked thyme leaves over the potatoes and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes on a 190 degrees temperature.

The result:

As I replaced white wine with Apple Juice, the stew came out rather sweet. I had couple of friends over for dinner and general feedback was quite OK. Nothing spectacular about the stew but easy on the taste bud.

However, biggest lesson learnt, when cooking stew, do not use an induction cooker as when we had to slow cook the stew, an induction cookers works in a way where the heat is spread out across the entire ceramic surface that holds the pot. And unlike a gas stove, you are unable to reduce the heat towards the center of the pot which helps when you are slow cooking stews. So, I realized this too late. Some of the vegetables were burnt which could have affected the quality of the stew.
My burnt pot:


• 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
• 1 pound diced, boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• 2 cups of white wine
• 2 sticks of celery
• 2 medium onions
• 2 carrots
• olive oil
• 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
• 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

If using the oven to cook your stew, preheat it to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 • Trim the ends off your celery and roughly chop the sticks • Peel and roughly chop the onions • Peel the carrots, slice lengthways and roughly chop • Put a casserole pan on a medium heat • Put all the vegetables and the bay leaves into the pan with 2 lugs of olive oil and fry for 10 minutes • Add your meat and flour • Pour in the booze and tinned tomatoes • Give it a good stir, then season with a teaspoon of sea salt (less if using table salt) and a few grinds of pepper • Bring to the boil, put the lid on and either simmer slowly on your hob or cook in an oven for 3 hours • Remove the lid for the final half hour of simmering or cooking • When done, your meat should be tender and delicious • Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving, and taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt and pepper • You can eat your stew as it is, or you can add some lovely dumplings to it.

Attempt #16: Mango, Cucumber and Chile Salsa

Another Spanish-themed recipe following my Mexican-style corn. J

And interestingly, this is my first time making a salsa that is not tomato-based. Another reason why I like making salsa…it doesn’t require much culinary skills as you just simply need to toss the ingredients into a bowl and mix them together! Ha! J
The result:

Lesson learnt: Get a big bowl so that it makes the tossing and mixing more even and easier. Else you will spend more time trying to keep your ingredients from slipping out from the bowl. Another thing is that the quality and taste of your fruits/vegetables/ingredients will determine the ‘yummy’ level of the salsa.

1 ripe mango
½ a cucumber
4 sprigs of fresh mint
2 scallions
1 fresh red chile
Extra virgin oliver oil
2 limes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

·         Remove the skin from the mango using a speed peeler
·         Slice the fruit away from the pit and roughly chop
·         Put into a bowl
·         Peel and chop the cucumber to the same size as the mango and add to the bowl
·         Pick the mint leaves and finely chop with the scallions
·         Halve, seed and finely chop the chile
·         Stir the mint, scallions and chile into the mango and cucumber mixture and add enough extra virgin oil to cover everything lightly
·         Add the juice from the limes and season with salt and pepper before serving

Attempt #15: Mexican-style Corn

Hola! to Mexican-style corn.

Corn, to me is simply a magic ingredient. It does wonders for soups, stews, BBQ and who doesn’t love a hot-buttered corn on cob? And now I found a new recipe for corn on cob. A little bit of chile and loads of grated parmesan cheese on the traditional hot-buttered corn just makes it sexier.

The Result:

Overall, can’t go wrong with corn on cob.
Usually, I would steamed my corn but as the recipe calls for boiling them, I did just that. However, I find that I get too worked up trying to ensure that the corn is not left in the boiling water for too long as then the nutrients and sweetness will be absorbed into the boiling water but yet I needed the corn to be soft enough.
In the end, the corn was not tender enough and also not as sweet as it would have been if I were to steam them. Lesson learnt: Steam them!

Recipe (serve 4):

Boil 4 heads of corn on the cob in salted, boiling water for 8-10 minutes with a lid on the pan. When tender, drain in a colander.

Grate ¾ cup of Parmesan cheese (or more if you like them to be more cheesy! J) over the surface of a large serving platter or over individual serving plates.

Halve seed and finely chop 1 fresh red chilli and sprinkle evenly over the cheese. Place a little pat of butter on each cob and brush over the corn to coat. When the butter has melted, roll each cob in the cheese and chile, so the flavours stick to the outside.

Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Attempt #14: Stir-fried vegetables (ala Jamie Oliver style)

This is a sweet surprise!

My first attempt on a Jamie’s recipe that is very asian / oriental in taste. The recipe calls for sesame oil and sesame seeds. I have never fried my vegetables this way before and I have learnt a new method of frying veg!

The result:
Thought the idea of slicing the mangetout (or snow peas as it is commonly called) was great idea. I am never a fan of eating those snow peas as it gets quite ‘raw’ in terms of taste and if you get the ‘older’ ones, the texture can be quite hard to chew. By slicing thinly and also mixing with the other vegetables, you can now get all the health benefits of a snow pea without having a hard time to chew and swallow it (esp for the folks who don’t really like your vege to have too ‘raw’ a taste).
Link to recipe on Jamie’s website. Click here. 

Attempt #13: Chicken and Mushroom pasta bake

This recipe came out really nice. But can’t really have this often as with the cream and the cheese, it doesn’t help with the calories J

As usual, I replaced white wine with apple juice and porcini mushrooms with just brown mushrooms as it was more accessible than porcini mushrooms here in our country.


By baking the pasta with the parmesan, this makes the dish a little unique as the melted cheese enhanced the creaminess and yet provides you that little tinge of crispiness.
The ingredients:
·         20g/a small handful of dried porcini mushrooms
• olive oil
• 4
chicken thighs, boned, skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 350g/2 handfuls of mixed fresh mushrooms, cleaned and torn
• 200ml white wine
• 455g dried spaghetti
• 500ml double cream
• 200g Parmesan cheese, grated
• a sprig of fresh basil, leaves picked

The method:
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Put your porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover them (approx. 150ml/5½fl oz). Put to one side to soak for a few minutes. Heat a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients, and pour in a splash of olive oil. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them gently in the oil. Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking water, and add them to the pan with the garlic and fresh mushrooms. Add the wine, with the strained porcini soaking water, and turn the heat down. Simmer gently until the chicken pieces are cooked through and the wine has reduced a little.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions and drain well. Add the cream to the pan of
chicken, then bring to the boil and turn the heat off. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the drained spaghetti to the creamy chicken sauce and toss well. Add three-quarters of the Parmesan and all of the basil and stir well. Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish or non-stick pan, sprinkle with half the remaining cheese and bake in the oven until golden brown, bubbling and crisp. Divide between your plates, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese before serving.

Jamie’s rendition:

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Attempt #12: Banana Pancakes

Since I have tried mostly main course recipes, I thought why not try a dessert recipe.

And banana pancake sounds so simple and the photo of Jamie’s banana pancake looks so mouthwatering. Unfortunately, this is my first time making pancakes (if you are thinking how can a 35 year old mom not made pancakes before, well, the daddy usually does it for the kids and the mommy steals a share *grin*). And this attempt reminds me that I still have a long way to go before I can be a good cook. The drama unfolds...

Here’s Jamie’s rendition of the banana pancake:


Here’s mine:

I tried to make it look as pretty as possible. The crème fraîche helps beautify the dish but here’s what it looks like when each ingredients/ items are on its own.

The pancake:

Lesson learnt: The size of your pancake is the size of your pan! Reminder to myself. Use a smaller pan! Else it looks like a 'roti canai' (a type of indian-influenced flat bread)!

The banana:

It doesn’t turn golden as it is supposed to be as described in Jamie’s recipe. It came out from the pan looking limpy, mushy and saggy. L

I am sure I did not do much justice to jamie’s recipe. Click here for his actual recipe.