Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meatballs n’ Shrimp Lime: Part One

Even though my daughter is now 24 and has her own small circle of friends, we still enjoy each other’s company tremendously. Last week was no exception.
For the recent long holiday we decided to spend the day together at home, just chilling in my ol’ bed with our computers and cable TV. I know it's a far cry from the days when a lime meant getting dressed and going out somewhere, but with our schedules, we hardly see each other. So, we decided to just do it this way and catch up on everything instead.

As it got closer to mealtime, I knew exactly what I was feeling for, because I had been saving that nice pack of minced chicken from D Market Movers for just such an occasion. I wanted chicken meatballs. Ms Fish Eater however, would get her own special in the form of some lovely steamed shrimp (which I will share in Part two of this post).

Now I have used minced chicken in lots of ways, but with today being a special one, I felt truly inspired to create a different, lighter, yet tasty and spicy version of my traditional beef meatball, which you know I go nuts for. If you think that a chicken meatball is not going to be delicious, I beg to differ. The chicken meatball is in a class of its own and can stand up to the test with its beefier cousin easily. You don’t believe me? Take a look and see…

My thawed, minced chicken was placed into a bowl and I squeezed in a little lime juice.

Now I’m showing pictures of the seasonings I used, because my multitasking self got caught up in seeing about the spaghetti and the tomato sauce to accompany both dishes, so my brain was on overload, hahahaa! 
So, varying amounts of each of these went into the minced chicken, along with an unbeaten egg and 1 cup of dried seasoned breadcrumbs. Everything was easily mixed together with a large spoon.

I then scooped heaping tablespoons of the seasoned chicken and rolled them out to the size of a good lime (or a golf ball), then placed them into a baking dish sprayed with non stick cooking spray. The dish was then covered tightly with aluminium foil and placed in a 400°F oven to bake for 20 minutes.
When they came out, they had increased a little in size, but were still very pale in colour. So, back into the oven they went uncovered for 10 minutes.

See? They’re now a nice light brown. (Don’t worry about the brown spot on the bottom, that’s quite normal.) 
Removed them from the dish and placed them into a bowl, where I couldn’t resist taking a taste… that hot pepper tasted so nice in there!

To serve, I had my bowlful of cooked spaghetti all ready with some warm and flavoured tomato sauce. A light sprinkling of some Parmesan cheese to top it off, and voila!

Care for a bite?

This dish was so tasty… dare I say that the beef was not missed? I’m serious. And if you’d like to try it yourself, just email me for the full recipe at

Thanks for letting me share this today, and you can definitely  look forward to part two of the meatballs and shrimp lime (coming very soon). Take care of yourselves my friends, and doh forget to mind de pot!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Chocolate Chip Cookie debacle

(Ha-ha… the title sounds like the name of a Big Bang Theory episode, doesn’t it?)

Anyway guys, let me start off by saying that this isn’t one of my typical posts about my happy cooking success or a ‘vaps’ gone according to plan.  
Well, the vaps was definitely there, and it was for something I had never attempted to make before… the chocolate chip cookie.
I wanted something different for us to munch on yesterday, so I scoured the internet for a good recipe to try. A deceptively simple one was found on YouTube and luckily, the ingredients for it were all on hand. On my facebook status, I typed: “Experimenting with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hoping for a good outcome! ;-)

And I really was.
Sadly, the cookies flopped. Look, even the best of home cooks and top chefs have their days when things go wrong, despite their best attempts. At least with cooking, some mistakes are easier to fix, like, if there’s too much salt in a stew, you can correct that with a raw potato. By the way, did I ever tell you about the time I tried browning up some beef in the pressure cooker, and then cooked it under pressure? Well, folks, the beef came out looking like a black sugar cake.  (My boy actually christened it Tooloom Beef, yes…)

Anyhoo, my years in the kitchen with Granny have taught me that baking is like science. Exact chemical reactions are expected to happen with things like yeast, baking powder or baking soda, and too much or too little either way means disaster. Plus, conditions must be perfect. And looking over my jokey cookies, I realise that my conditions were good up until the dough was mixed… Let me show you what happened…

Okay, the recipe called for 6 tablespoons each of white and brown sugar in 4 ounces of room temperature butter. In another bowl, I measured out 1 and 1/8 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a ½ teaspoon of salt, which I whisked together.

In a small bowl I broke an egg and beat in a teaspoon of vanilla essence.
Using my hand mixer, I mixed the butter and sugar til creamy. In went the vanilla & egg, which I beat in and then gradually added the flour.

The dough came together nicely. Mixed in 6 ounces chocolate chips as directed, then poured out the batter onto some plastic wrap and wrapped it up good to chill in the fridge.

Now here’s where things got a bit wonky. The video said to chill the dough for an hour. At the end of the hour, the dough was cold, but still soft and in no way as firm as the video showed.
So I put it back in the fridge for an extra half hour. Still soft.
Another half hour later… Still soft.
Yet another half hour later… You guessed it.
Eventually, I got tired of waiting and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes, which seemed to do the trick and firm it up… a little.

So I brought it out and divided it into 12 blocks. Cutting them with the knife wasn’t easy as the dough was still sticky. I rolled each square quickly in the palms of my hands and placed them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Each had the required 2 inches of space between them. Into the 325°F oven they went to bake for 17-19 minutes – as directed.

At the end of 20 minutes, they were still white and raw… so I sent them back in for another 12 minutes. At the end of that time, they were barely beginning to cook. Were ‘Trini conditions’ to blame, or my oven? Rather than raising the heat, I decided to let them stay in longer, only this time I turned the oven off and let them ‘soak’.
Well, I am sorry to say that what I ended up with were some flat brown discs that spread into each other to look like giant, ahem… bottoms. They looked nothing like the beautiful, round, pillowy cookies I saw (and hoped for) in the video at all. I’m sorry I didn’t take a pic of them in the baking sheet, but I was just too sad. 

Sorry, Cookie Monster, lol!

After letting them cool for a couple of minutes, I removed them from the baking sheet and put them on the cooling racks and looked long and hard at them. The chocolate chips got buried and some even sank to the bottom. I took a hesitant bite. The taste was there, at least, and they were crunchy, but not chewy. Then I came and wrote on my fb status: “The cookies were an epic fail. *sigh*”

Still, it didn’t stop my boy from grabbing one and my daughter made away with two. The rest were put into a Ziploc bag. I guess they loved my cookie mistakes! :-D 

So, what did I learn from all this? 

First off, I shouldn’t have picked a recipe that required me to chill dough. I wasted nearly 3 hours trying to get it to firm up. Why it took so long, I’ll never know. In hindsight, I could have let the dough sit overnight in the refrigerator and baked them the next day, but being a newbie to cookie making, I had no idea.

Secondly, if I were to attempt this exact recipe again, I would not put all of them in one baking sheet. Though my sheet’s dimensions were the same as those in the video, the cookie dough was softer than it should have been prior to going in the oven.

Thirdly, I’ve learned that I should have widened my search for a chocolate chip cookie recipe that has a brand behind it, e.g. Hershey’s, Nestle, Ghirardelli… these folks MAKE chocolate chips, so it stands to reason that they should have their own tried and true recipes on the packaging.
(Cue Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”)

Glad to say, though, the initial feeling of failure has passed and I am chalking this one to experience. Looking on the bright side, they didn’t burn, and my daughter is making quick work of them. It won’t stop me from trying my hand at cookies again, though next time I will try a different chocolate chip recipe… or a different cookie! (Gingerbread, anyone?)

Till next time, my friends, and doh forget to mind the pot!  :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

(Late) Sunday Shark

I put the word ‘late’ in there because this post was supposed to have been written since Sunday. Unfortunately, I was tired. Make that very tired. Aches and pains have become my norm and I am dealing with them as best as I can. There is so much I still want to do and explore when it comes to my food love and if it means falling into bed to rest a little more than usual, so be it. (The rest was good, by the way!)

That Sunday, I wasn’t in the mood for any red meat, so I decided to go the fish route with two lovely pounds of shark steaks. Normally I would have made some fried bakes to go with them and probably go crazy with some sauces, but I had already put the rice to boil and lentils were bubbling in my pressure cooker for a quick stew. I thought about how else I could present this shark and then I remembered some beer battered shark bits I had at Trotters many moons ago. Wishing I could replicate the batter, I searched in vain for beer, but there was none in the house.

As you may imagine, I had to get creative…

Washed the shark well and cut it up into 1 inch cubes.

Squeezed in the juice of one small lime, added a pinch of salt, a couple shakes of ginger powder, a dash of Angostura bitters and some chopped chives.

Next, I brought out the hot pepper, but I was going for a very mild heat with this one, so a couple of small pieces were cut off the end and I didn’t include any seeds. Using a fork to hold it, I minced the pepper pieces as finely as possible.

Into the shark they went, then I let it marinate for about 20 minutes. (Kept the lime pieces in there too; it adds more flavour!)

Now for the coating. Into one cup of sifted flour – yup, I said sifted – I added in a teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, ginger powder, onion powder and dried parsley.
Everything was whisked together well. I then dropped in a few pieces of shark at a time and shook them around to coat them evenly, and they went on a separate plate to wait to be fried.

Poured in about 3 cups of soya oil into my pan and let it heat up. To test the oil, I used a stray bit of the shark itself. (As you can see, it was ready for action.)
So I placed the pieces into the oil and let them cook for a couple minutes on one side, then flipped each piece over when I saw they no longer looked ‘white’ on top.
(Loved the golden colour!)

Out came the first batch… couldn’t resist taking a bite. And notice how the flour formed a tasty coating… yummy! So, I continued frying them in batches until all were done and I had a lovely bowlful of fried shark bits.

Here’s the finished shark!

Hardly had I finished making these when I heard my child say, “What are those? Shark nuggets?”
Before I could even answer, she had absconded with two ‘tasters’ and loudly gave her stamp of approval.
“Oh gosh… mummy… these taste GOOD! What did you do to the shark?”
“I tried something different, that is all,” I had replied.
“Hmm! Well, mummy, these nuggets rock. Poi-poi! Bess chef getting on!” And she proceeded to dish out her Sunday Lunch.

So, thanks to Leja, I was able to christen this recipe as Shark Nuggets and they were a definite hit. They would make a great appetizer as well, paired up with some tamarind sauce or garlic sauce. If you’d like the full recipe, just message me here for a copy and you can try it out for yourself.

In the meantime everyone, enjoy the rest of the week and like I always say…

Don’t forget to mind the pot!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Birthday Bundt for my friend!!!

I just had to share this quick note and pics with you all today. A couple days ago, I was asked to create a birthday cake for my friend and co-worker, JQ. 

She's a regular visitor to my blog and we also talk a lot about food and cooking almost every day. So, for her birthday this year, she asked me to do the ultimate. Make her a birthday bundt similar to the one I made for my family.
I knew that she definitely didn't want the marbled effect, so a simple yellow bundt cake was the order of the day. The recipe is the same but with the addition of a 1/2 teaspoon of yellow food colouring. This time, I baked it at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 10 minutes, then turned the oven off and let it 'soak' for another 10. Passed the skewer test easy-peasy.

Out she came, looking beautiful!

Flipped her out and let her finish cooling on the rack.

Made a delicious chocolate glaze for the top, but she needed something more...

The Finished Birthday Bundt!

Curious about the chocolate glaze? Here's the recipe:

Easy Chocolate Glaze

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 dash of Angostura Orange bitters (optional)


In a microwaveable bowl, heat the chocolate chips, light corn syrup and butter in 20 second intervals - remembering to stir between each - until completely melted.
Just before pouring it on your cake, stir in the vanilla essence and Angostura Orange bitters.
Use as desired.  

Thus ends my quick note for today on birthday baking. Needless to say, JQ was floored when she saw her beautiful creation and even joked that she wouldn't eat it at all, and instead make it her friend, LOL! (I hope she keeps that zany sense of humor intact!)

Here's to a happy birthday celebration, JQ, and I am honoured to have been made a part of it. God bless you always.

In the meantime, take care or yourselves, my dears, until next cooking segment. Don't forget to mind the pot!