Food & Recipes - Eat your carrots!

Carrots are versatile, nutritious and high in fibre. Below has some useful tips and recipes utilising her favourite vegetable. CARROTS have always been and will probably always be my favourite vegetable. They can be eaten in countless varieties. You can chop, boil, fry or steam them, cook them in soups and stews as well as in baby foods.

You can use grated carrots in carrot cakes, puddings and muffins. In salads, they add a colourful zest to your dinner plate. Lately available in supermarkets are baby carrots, which are often more tender, though have less flavour because of their immaturity.

They are excellent as snack food, and a good alternative for dips instead of chips or breads.

Carrot juice is also widely marketed, especially as a health drink, offered in fresh fruit outlets, blended together with different fruits and vegetables. Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds and the richest vegetable source of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Note that a lack of vitamin A can cause poor vision.

They are also rich in dietary fibre and minerals. Just a single, full-sized carrot fulfills an adult’s daily rate of essential vitamins. Carrots once came in almost every colour: red, black, yellow, white, but not orange! They were first cultivated in Afghanistan, having purple exteriors and yellow flesh. In the Middle Ages the Dutch developed today’s bright orange carrot.

To prepare carrots for eating raw or cooking, wash and gently scrub them with a brush. If the carrots are not organically grown, or old and thick, you should peel them, since most conventionally grown carrots are grown using pesticides and other chemicals.

Also cut off the stem if it is green, as it will give a bitter taste. A good thing about cooking carrots is that the beta-carotene is not destroyed by the cooking process.

But be sure not to overcook them to ensure that they retain their maximum flavour and nutritional content.

Here are three favourite carrot recipes:

1. Carrots and potatoes in a mustard-cream sauce

You will need:
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 500g carrots, peeled, cut in little sticks about half a centimetre wide
  • 200ml whipped cream
  • 150ml milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp mustard (preferably Dijon mustard)
  • 50g capers
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • a few basil leaves

In a saucepan, mix whipped cream and milk. Add salt and bring to boil over medium heat.

Add the potatoes and let them cook for about 10 minutes. Add carrots and let all cook together for another 5-7 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are almost soft.

Drain the veggies in a sieve, but saving the milk-cream liquid in a separate dish.

Mix the egg yolks with the mustard and 4-5 tablespoons of the milk-cream liquid until creamy.

Bring the rest of the milk-cream liquid to a boil over medium heat. Whisk the egg yolk mixture carefully into the milk-cream liquid until smooth.

Mix the capers into the sauce.

Lastly, place the veggies carefully into the creamy sauce. For garnish, place the basil leaves on top of the dish.

2. Carrot and orange soup

You will need:
  • 500g carrots
  • 30g butter
  • 125ml orange juice, either freshly pressed, for a better flavour, or from the carton
  • 1.25 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp tried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sour cream and nutmeg for serving

Peel and slice the carrots. Place them in a pan with the butter and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the orange juice, stock and onion.

Bring to the boil, add thyme, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Allow to cool. Process the mixture in a blender until smooth. Return to the pan and reheat. Serve in individual bowls.

Alternatively, chill and then serve. Top each with a dash of sour cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Garnish with a small sprig of thyme.

3. Carrot-mint-sauce

Either as a side dish with meat, or as a refreshing dip with corn chips, etc.

You will need:
  • 250g carrots, roughly sliced
  • 1 onion, roughly diced
  • 1 apple, roughly diced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint

Put the carrots and onions into a pan. Cover with water and boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Drain the water and put carrots, onions, apple together with the milk into a blender. Add seeds, coriander, salt pepper and fresh mint, keeping back a few mint leaves for garnish. Blend until smooth.

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Food & Recipes - Tiramisu

THERE are many variations of tiramisu. It is Italy’s most popular dessert. No matter how it is presented, tiramisu is essentially made out of lady finger biscuits dipped in coffee and mascarpone cream.

Apparently, the name tiramisu means “pick me up”. You know, something that has the capability to make you happy. There is also the preconception that tiramisu came about to save old cake and cold coffee from going to waste.

Whatever its origins, it is a marvellous, sophisticated and relatively simple dessert to make. Especially for one who does not have an oven at home!

Some Chef prefers to use chocolate sponge cake and espresso.

“Simply because it will enhance the flavours. Do remember that the mascarpone cheese has a subtle flavour.

“It is best to keep a tiramisu recipe simple. Don’t mix too many things into it. Alcohol such as amaretto, kahlua or brandy can be added. I recommend simply soaking the sponge rather than the mascarpone cream,” he said.

You will need:
  • 200g chocolate sponge, bought from bakery
  • 200g brewed espresso coffee
  • 500g mascarpone cheese (cream)
  • 100g sugar
  • 500g whipping cream
  • 2 large eggs
Note: This is a fun dessert to experiment with. You can do so by adding onto the layers canned strawberries, cherries, blueberries or anything your heart desires! Kids also like it when you throw in coloured hardshell candies like Smarties.

1. Use a cool bowl to whip cream until it is semi hard in consistency. Then chill it while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Beat the mascarpone cream with sugar until it is soft with a spatula or a wooden spoon. The final texture should be soft and shiny which means the sugar is diluted and has mixed well.

3. Break both eggs into a separate bowl. Add and fold the eggs bit by bit into the mascarpone and sugar mixture. Fold these two well together.

4. Now take out the chilled whipped cream and fold that into the mascarpone mixture.

5. Slice up your sponge cake and soak it in the espresso.

6. Pour the first layer of mascarpone mixture into a bowl.

7. Place the sliced and espresso soaked sponge cake on top of the first layer of masacarpone mix. Brush on some more espresso onto the sponge layer if you’d like (or in some cases, brandy or amaretto), depending on your taste.

8. Keep repeating the layers of mascarpone mix and soaked sponge cake slice until you almost reach the rim of the bowl.

9. While most people sprinkle some good cocoa powder atop the readied tiramisu, Chef Joe has an even better idea: simply chop up the leftover sponge cake into chunky bits.

10. Then simply sprinkle them on top of the tiramisu.

11. Now it’s ready to be chilled for a couple of hours until it becomes firm, before your guests arrive!

12. Before serving, sprinkle powdered sugar on top to make it prettier.

HERE’S how to decorate a glass bowl that contains your tiramisu. Melt some of your favourite chocolate by double-boiling it. Using a paper cone, pipe the melted chocolate onto the sides of the glass bowl. Form some pretty squiggly lines along the sides and bottom of the bowl. Then chill the bowl for a few minutes.

SOME tiramisu tips :

1. Soak strong-flavoured ingredients such as coffee, liqeur or liquor in the sponge cake rather than mixing them together in the mascarpone. This is to avoid spoiling the cheese’s flavours.

2. Do not whip cream at room temperature or use a warm bowl. This will only result in badly-whipped cream. The warmth will not allow for the cream to ‘rise’.

3. Use 35 per cent whipping cream as it will produce a very smooth cream and a fragrant taste.

4. If you do not like the idea of tiramisu served in a big bowl, just spoon the mascarpone mix into small individual cups and layer them with appropriately-sized soaked sponge. Your tiramisu will look like the ones served in fancy restaurants.

5. It helps if your kitchen is not overly warm. A cool, dry space is ideal when making desserts. A temperature of between 18ºC and 24º C is preferred.

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Asparagus is green, unless you are French or German

TO most of us asparagus is green, unless you are French or German. Serve green asparagus to a French or German and chances are he/she might not be amused. To these nationalities, the white asparagus is considered ‘Queen of vegetables’.

I am puzzled as all the asparagus I see here (both imported and local) are green in colour. However, I recently saw a strange looking imported white vegetable in a decidedly upmarket supermarket which I was told is the white asparagus.

It was explained to me by none other than a German native and chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Dirk Haltendorf.

A genus of the lily family, asparagus has been cultivated around the Mediterranean and enjoyed as a delicacy for 2,000 years.

It is widely regarded for its medicinal value and diuretic properties.

Asparagus is rich in vitamins A and C and minerals such as potassium and phosphorous.

Epicureans, from Aristotle to Louis XIV of France, adored it.

In Europe, asparagus is normally harvested between April and June.

According to Dirk, the Germans developed the white asparagus more than 200 years ago.

How was this done?

The young shoots were denied sunlight as they grew, by being covered with mounds of soil. They only saw daylight when the soil was removed on the day they were harvested.

Denying them sunlight (UV light in particular) means that they cannot produce chlorophyll and so do not become green.

This also gives the white asparagus a different flavour to the green version (it is less bitter and has a more intense taste, with a hint of artichoke).

Production is labour intensive and asparagus exhausts the soil quickly, so growers in Germany only produce the plant in the same field for a couple of years, then let the land rest (which explains why the price of white asparagus is high).

In the kitchen too, white asparagus requires special treatment. Before cooking, its bitter, fibrous outer skin needs to be peeled.

Asparagus peeling is an art, peel it too little and some fibre and bitterness remain, peel too much and you are wasting tasty and expensive flesh.

Dirk showed me his trusty asparagus peeling tool from Germany, and even gave me a high speed peeling demonstration.

Asparagus peeling is an art to which chefs aspire! Very few chefs are trusted by the chef de cuisine to peel the vegetable. It has to be done correctly and fast.

The peeled asparagus spears are then bundled together in bunches using a special twine tied in a special way.

The basic cooking comes as something of an anti-climax, the asparagus spears are simply steamed or boiled in lightly salted water.

Many asparagus lovers eat it with a little melted butter or Hollandaise sauce.

It can be consumed hot or cold, made into a cream soup, or wrapped in ham, bacon or crepes, and even served as a regular vegetable accompaniment to a main course, though to an asparagus lover it could never be a mere side dish.

If you enjoy green asparagus, I am sure you will appreciate the luxury of white asparagus at least as much.

Look for it in any specialist supermarket, and try it at home but remember to peel it before cooking if it is not already peeled.

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Delicious crabs

Crabs are 10-legged animals that walk sideways. There are almost 5,000 different species of crabs; about 4,500 are true crabs, plus about 500 are hermit crabs (hermit crabs don't have a very hard shell and use other animals' old shells for protection). Most crabs live in the oceans, but many, like the robber crab, live on land.A growing list of king crab recipes including main dishes, appetizers, dips, salads, soups, and other crab recipes.

Butter Crabs
  • 2kg crabs
  • A little cornflour
  • Enough oil for deep-frying
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp evaporated milk
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 10 bird’s eye chillies, crushed
  • 2 stalks curry leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
Cut crabs into halves. Clean well and crack the claws. Sprinkle a little cornflour over the crabs and deep-fry in hot oil until the crabs turn red. Dish out and drain from oil.

Combine evaporated milk and egg yolks and mix well. Put butter in a wok and melt over medium heat. Pour the egg yolk mixture gradually into the melted butter at a height, allowing it to drip in a steady stream. Stir constantly to fry the egg yolk mixture until it forms fine shreds. Add the curry leaves and bird’s eye chillies. Stir-fry until fragrant.

Return the crabs to the egg mixture. Season with sugar and salt. Stir well to mix. Pour into a metal sieve to drain off excess melted butter or the oil. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.

There are several reasons for this:

(a) Overcreaming of butter, sugar and eggs and too much baking powder.

(b) Too much liquid is used.

(c) The cake is removed from the oven before it is properly set and baked.

(d) The cake is cooked in an oven that is not hot enough.

(e) The oven door is slammed.

Tasty: Try making steamboat stock from the recipe given.

Here’s a simple steamboat stock.

Steamboat Stock

  • 2kg chicken bones and carcasses, cleaned and chopped
  • 30g dried sole of fish (peen yi
  • 500g yam bean(sengkuang), chopped
  • 2 thin slices ginger
  • 1 tsp chicken stock granules
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 3 litres water
  • Salt to taste
  • ½-1 tsp chicken stock granules
Bring water to a boil, add chicken, dried sole of fish, yam bean, ginger and peppercorns. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours. Strain the stock and add salt to taste, and chicken stock granules.

Here’s the recipe.

Sesame Seed Muruku

  • 300g rice flour
  • 50g black gram flour
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ajowan seeds (oman)
  • 10-15g sesame seeds, pan-fried
  • 30g butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
  • 560ml coconut milk (from 1 grated coconut)
Sift rice flour and black gram flour into a non-stick frying-pan. Fry over a gentle low heat for 4-5 minutes. Stir constantly to prevent flours from burning or getting brown. Remove and leave overnight, preferably, to cool completely.

Put prepared flours into a mixing bowl and add salt, cumin, ajowan seeds and sesame seeds. Mix in butter or margarine and gradually pour in enough coconut milk to mix into a stiff dough.

Put enough dough into a muruku mould fitted with a star nozzle and pipe into spirals, starting from the centre, onto square pieces of greaseproof paper.

Lightly press the tail end of the dough against the side of the coil of dough (this is done to prevent the muruku from uncoiling or getting out of shape during frying.)

Once all the dough is used up, heat enough oil in a wok until just hot but not smoking. Slide in the muruku dough and fry over medium heat until golden brown and crispy.

Remove and drain muruku on several layers of kitchen paper.

Store in an airtight container when cool.

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Soup Guilds

ONCE again, it’s that special day of the year when everyone is thinking of giving mum a special treat. Why not prepare these beautiful soups for her this Mother’s Day?

Mummy’s Sweet Delight is a wonderful sweet soup that can be served either hot or chilled, while the other two soups are hearty and filling. Prepare them on the very day and mum will enjoy such a treat. Make her happy and be praised by your family members for your efforts. It’s worth it.

Mummy’s Sweet Delight

  • 1 litre boiling water
  • 50g fresh lotus seeds
  • 12 gingko nuts
  • 3 dried honey dates (mat choe)
  • 10g white fungus, soaked and trimmed into florets
  • 3 red dates
  • 5g dried chrysanthemum flowers (kok fah),rinsed
  • 70g rock sugar or to taste
  • ½ can sea coconut slices, drain away the syrup

Steamed Yellow Cucumber Soup

  • 3 large yellow cucumbers (lo wong kua)
  • 75g chicken fillet, diced
  • 10g white fungus, soaked and trimmed
  • 3 button mushrooms, diced
  • 10 gingko nuts
  • 50g carrot, diced
  • 3 red dates, pitted and sliced
  • 1 litre fresh chicken stock
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • ½ tsp chicken stock granules
Slice off the top of the yellow cucumber.

Trim and cut the edge decoratively. Scoop out the seeds and soft pulp. Be careful not to damage the firm flesh.

Rinse well and surround the cucumber with tin foil to prevent it from slipping.

Bring the fresh chicken stock, white fungus, mushrooms, gingko nuts, carrot, chicken fillet and red dates to a simmering boil. Adjust with seasoning to taste.

Put the cooked ingredients into the hollowed yellow cucumber. Stand each yellow cucumber in a small bowl; steam for 25-30 minutes or until the cucumber is just soft but still retains its shape. Remove and serve immediately.

Steep chrysanthemum flowers in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Strain to remove the flowers and add in the rest of the ingredients except the sea coconut. Bring the sweet soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the sea coconut to mix. Dish out and serve.

Herbal Chicken Soup

  • 4 pieces dried baby abalone
  • 1kg kampung chicken, skinned and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 20g American cultured ginseng (fa kei sum)
  • 10g dried cordyceps (toong choong choe)
  • 10g bilberries (kei chi)
  • 8 seeded Chinese dried dates
  • 10g dried longan
  • 2 dried scallops
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
Soak dried baby abalone in purified water and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

Blanch chicken pieces in hot water. Drain well in a colander. Place boiling water, chicken, baby abalone, all the herbs and dried scallops into a medium-sized crockpot. Cook on low heat for 6 hours.

Add salt to taste and dish out and serve immediately.

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