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Caramel Pudding

5 Nov

I made this pudding a couple of days back... turned out good, but I think the previous batch was better

Since my childhood, I have had a soft spot for desserts… and caramel pudding is, without a doubt, a member of the Hall of Fame. Growing up, it was a weekly tradition in our house to prepare a caramel pudding with a dozen of eggs, so love for the dessert is now a part of our DNA. Those who know me would tell you, without a blink, that cheesecakes are my absolute favorite; but while a generous slice of a New York Cheesecake is the love of my life who takes me out on dream dates, a caramel pudding is the best friend who I can always go to when I’m stood up. In a creepy way, that makes sense (or may be just in my head).

Since I have been very fond of desserts, but never really good at making them, I stick to making only the ones that turn out good. Three of my dessert staples are  a nice, rich and divine chocolate mousse, the attention-seeking Bakhlava and a firm but smooth caramel pudding. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make a Molten Lava cake, but I think these three will do just fine for now. I had not made pudding in a while, and when I learnt that my future in-laws would be visiting, I decided to make it. My decision may have had something to do with the pudding being my adorable father-in-law’s favorite, but I knew that the other wouldn’t complain. (My main course contribution was for my sweet mother-in-law). In my mission to impress the party, I welcomed all suggestions from family members, who had all (surprisingly) dabbled in the art of pudding-making, with unpredictable results of course.

Many of you would already know that the caramel pudding uses very few, easily available ingredients.

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla essence
I know that a caramel pudding is one of those things which is defined by its understated beauty and simple flavors. So while I was open to recommendations, I didn’t want to experiment too much. My godmother, Beti, suggested I add some yellow food color, but I kept hearing turmeric (even while she was saying it, I knew she was saying “food color”, but for some reason my brain was constantly processing it as turmeric!). So I decided it was best to stay clear of both. True, the result was a somewhat pale pudding… but it looked so clean, I could stare at it all night.
The best advice, however, came from an unlikely source – my mother. I say that not because she can’t cook (she’s a great cook!) or because she doesn’t like sharing cooking tips (she loves to!), but because I had no recent memory of her making a caramel pudding. It was just one of those things that “someone” made and we all ate. Anyway, my mother suggested that I make the pudding mixture thick. She added that this would make it firm and rich. I loved it so much, I grabbed the tip and ran away with it. The next 30 minutes were spent with me carefully putting 1 cup milk (with cardamons soaking in them) for every one egg (total 12 eggs). Then adding 4-5 cups of sugar, 2 cups of cream and powdered milk. I know it sounds odd, but I just kept adding the powdered milk until i felt the mixture was thick enough. And it was pretty thick. Then I added my favorite dessert ingredient … the vanilla essence. Whoever thought of making vanilla essence, is a genius whose (clean) hands I wouldn’t mind pecking. I think it can make the most boring desserts appealing. That’s exactly why I’m always tempted to try out the French Toast.
Btw, I strained out the cardamons.
I had already put the steamer on the stove, so the water was just starting to come to a boil. At that point, I started working on the trickiest and most important part of the pudding… the caramel. I filled the base of a dry pudding/bundt cake mould with white sugar, and put it directly on the stove on low-flame. When it just started to melt, I gave it a twirl. Now the trick is to get the caramel to a nice, golden color of honey, rather than that of maple syrup. It’s ideal if you find a middle ground. It’s also important that you keep the caramel even-colored. If any part of your caramel turns too dark, you might as well start over… because the caramel will eventually turn out bitter. After my caramel got to the color I wanted, I removed it from heat and let it cool. Call me paranoid, but I don’t like the idea of the pudding mixture bubbling as I’m pouring it. I feel that this would make the top layer contain blobs of cooked, sweetened egg, defeating my purpose of a singular, rich and creamy pudding. To make sure that the caramel is cool enough, I try tilting the mould and judging its viscosity. I know it’s ready when it starts to move at a speed that is slow enough to keep you intrigued, but fast enough to keep you from growing frustrated. I know it’s a very subjective way of measuring, but that’s how I cook most of the time. So here’s the deal… your caramel should be cool (and thick) enough to guarantee you that when you start pouring the pudding mixture, it won’t seep to the bottom of the mould. Once all the mixture is poured, i put it on the steamer and let it cook until the tester comes out clean.
The picture above is from the batch I made recently, but judging from the feedback, I could tell that the one I made for my in-laws was better. This may have been because I gave that one my best shot. Or may be because everyone who gathered to eat that night wanted to make me feel like the luckiest and the best girl in the world. I think it’s the latter.
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RECIPE: Ayam Kicap (Soya Sauce Chicken)

22 Aug

I know It doesn't look great, but believe me... it tastes awesome!

Finally…. I cooked Ayam Kicap over the weekend. I didn’t think it fair to upload a recipe of something I hadn’t recently made. The last two times that I made it, my sister was the only one who wasn’t a believer in the wholesome goodness of Ayam Kicap. But when I cooked it last night, she too turned *yeahee me!* So here it is…

Ingredients

  • One whole chicken (with skin), cut into 8 pieces. You can go with skinless if you like.
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • Salt to taste (This recipe makes use of concentrated  soya sauce, which is quite salty… so please be careful)
  • 1tbsp ginger (chopped)
  • 1tbsp garlic (chopped)
  • 4tbsp onions (chopped)
  • 2 medium-sized onions (cut into thick rings)
  • 4 tbsp white sugar or 3tbsp brown sugar
  • 1tbsp vinegar
  • 6tbsp thick soya sauce. If you don’t have the thick kind, just reduce a cup of the regular soya sauce over low heat. I did this, much to the dismay of everyone at home (everything smelled like soya sauce)… but it was worth it.

Instructions

  • Massage the chicken with salt and tumeric. Heat a cup of cooking oil and fry the pieces until they’re golden and well cooked.
  • Remove the chicken from the oil and let it rest on the side. In the same oil, add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Cook till brown.
  • Add the chicken and cook some more. Add about a cup of water and reduce. The onion, garlic and ginger mixture should have a paste-like consistency.
  • Add the soya sauce and cook well. Now add the sugar and vinegar and cook some more. This is where the advantage of using chicken with skin comes in. Its texture, upon being caramelized, is what makes the difference.
  • At this point, the chicken will be slightly brown and dry. Add another cup of water and when you get the required consistency, then add the onion rings.
  • Let it cook for a while, then remove from flame and serve. I usually like the chicken to be slightly dark, gleaming with oil and smelling sweet. You could add more water, but that softens the chicken, completely undoing the crunchy texture. So I would advise against it.

Enjoy and let me know how it turns out for you.

RECIPE: Ais Kacang (Malaysian shaved ice)

18 Aug

Photo credit: ecofrenone.wordpress.com

For this recipe, it’s an absolute must that you have an ice shaving machine.

You need:

As much shaved ice as you want :P. But please make sure it’s made from clean water.

For the syrups
Go nuts with as many concentrates as you like, as long as the favours go well together. My suggestions are :

  • Rooh Afza
  • Ice cream soda juice concentrate
  • Condensed milk

The best part:

  • Coursely pureed mango bits
  • Canned, unflavoured red beans
  • Canned sweet corn, cream-style
  • Different flavour grass jelly, cut into small pieces (I would suggest that you don’t substitute grass jelly with normal jelly. The latter has very solid flavours, unlike those in grass jelly, which has more mild flavours that don’t overpower the ABC)
  • Vanilla flavoured ice cream
  • Roasted and chopped peanuts
  • Finely sliced and roasted bananas

Method:

Just throw everything as you like and eat as soon as you can, without getting a brain-freeze :P! Also, don’t churn the ice and the toppings/syrups together… it’s not a stew!

Hyderabadi Khattay Aaloo (Sour Hyderabadi Potatoes)

6 Aug

So, I decided to try the item that I have already reviewed here. And surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad.

— Courtesy: KhanaPakana.com

 

5 large boiled potatoes

(peeled, cut into quarters)

Sour spicy paste
1 large onion chopped
5 green chilies deseeded and chopped
1 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
4 tbsp chaat masala
Freshly squeezed juice of one large lemon

Directions
Heat approximately 5tbp of cooking oil. Golden brown the onions, add the green chilies, cumin powder and chaat masala. Cook with half cup water and reduce. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and keep aside. Carefully add the potatoes and cook til you hear a sizzle. Remove from heat, garnish with freshly-chopped coriander leaves and serve.