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C O O K a L O C A

Yes, I know. It has been too long (again)! No good excuse this time. What have I done lately? Well, let’s see, not so much. Travelling (in the region), (academic) writing (yes, I also write about things that are not related to food!) and worrying about the future (just like everybody else). But now, here I am again. This time I am inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. I just love the way he combines spices and ingredients. He opens my eyes to the whole new frontier of spices/taste combination. Surprising and most importantly good!

I saw this recipe a couple days ago in the Guardians. Immediately I am tempted! So I tried it. It was so good and simply amazing. You could not imagine how such simple ingredients, garlic, onion, lemon, curcuma powder and paprika, could produce such an explosion of flavour! Just try it and you’ll know what I am talking about. In the original recipe, the chicken is cooked and eaten with fried potato wedges, however I opted for rice. I think the complexity of the flavour is better paired with humble white rice. I however added some seeds (pine nuts, sun flower seeds) and dried fruit (cranberries) to the rice to give some extra texture and flavour to it

This recipe is really a keeper. Simple, easy and most importantly delicious!


Ingredients (serves two persons)

6-8 free range chicken drumsticks, skin on.

8 cloves of garlic, no need to peel, just crush them lightly

2 small onions, roughly chopped

Juice of half lemon

1 generous teaspoon of curcuma powder

2 generous teaspoons of paprika powder

4 table spoons of olive oil

Black pepper and salt to taste



Heat the olive oil a large dutch oven or any heavy bottom cooking pot

Sear the chicken drumsticks until they are nicely browned. It is really important to get the chicken browned, it will give an extra depth of flavour!

Add the garlic cloves and onions. Cook until they are soft.

Add the paprika and curcuma powder, stir well. Take care not too burn the spices!

Add the lemon juice and a half cup of water.

Add some salt and black pepper to taste

Lower the heat. Cook for at least 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked and tender.

Add a bit of water if the pot gets too dry. There should be a little liquid in the pot at all time. It will serve as the sauce.

Serve warm with white rice.

P.S. Squeeze the garlic out of the skin, and serve with the chicken and enjoy the most amazing flavour!

As promised, another recipe for frozen pangasius fillet. This one is for those who love a bit of fire in their life meal. The combination of creamy coconut milk,  fiery chillies,  zingy kaffir lime leaves and aromatic curry leaves is simply unbeatable. Serve it over plain white rice and you’ve got your self an ultimate food heaven.
Tip: You could also use another type of firm white fish, such as sword fish or monk fish. If curry leaves are a hassle to find, you could simply omit it and replace it with a teaspoon of curry powder. (I have to warn you though the taste will not be the same!)

Ingredients (serves two persons)
2 frozen pangasius fillet, thawed and pat dry. Cut into big chunks
1 cup of coconut milk
½ cup of tinned tomato
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 generous table spoon of Sambal Oeleg (or more if you like it hotter), you could also substitute this with two fresh red chillies, chopped lengthwise.
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
8 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
8 dried curry leaves
Vegetable oil for frying

Heat the vegetable oil in a cooking pan over medium heat, add the shallot, garlic, lime leaves, curry leaves, turmeric powder and sambal. Fry until the shallots are soft. Take care not the burn the garlic and the turmeric powder!
Add the tinned tomato and the coconut milk, simmer for 5 minutes over low heat. Add a half cup of water. Stir from time to time.
Add more water if the sauce is too thick. I like mine a bit thicker though.
Check the seasoning, add salt and white pepper.
Add the fish chunks and cook until the fish turns opaque. Leave them alone, don’t  stir them too much otherwise you would break the fish.  And don’t overcook it.
Serve while warm over a bed of white rice. Enjoy!
Wine tip: Riesling

There is a couple of staple food that I always have in stock in my kitchen; pasta (of course), rice, udon noodle, tinned tuna, tinned anchovies, tomato paste, frozen peas, frozen shrimps and frozen pangasius fillet. Many are put off with the idea of eating frozen fish. I, however, have a different idea. I always think that frozen fish is always frozen when it was really fresh, therefore it has often much better quality than those lumpy grey fillet of fish you find in the supermarket. The trick is you have to defreeze it properly and slowly. You have also to pat it dry really with kitchen paper. If you do this step properly, you would end up with a nice fillet of fish that is equally good as the fresh one.
Other benefit of having frozen fish around is that you could always have a nice fish dish throughout the week without having to go to the shop twice or thrice a week. Plus, it is much cheaper too than the fresh ones.

I have played with different recipes of pangasius in the past, my favourites are the fried pangasius fillet with tomato and capper sauce (click HERE to see the recipe) and the aromatic fish curry (click HERE to see the recipe). Here I am going to present a different variation of the recipe: Pangasius fillet with pineapple and tomato sauce. It is relatively easy to prepare and very tasty.

Pineapple is a very versatile fruit; it is good as dessert and also as addition to savoury dishes. Its sweetness and tartness marry well with pork, chicken and also fish. See below for the recipe and enjoy! Next post: another recipe with frozen Pangasius fillet.

Ingredients (serves two persons)
For the fish:
2 Pangasius fillets, defrosted and pat dry
5 table spoons of semolina flour
2 teaspoon of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce:
1/3 pineapple, cut into chunks 1cm thick
4 table spoon of tomato paste
1 table spoon of soy sauce
2 table spoon sherry wine
1 teaspoon sugar (less if the pineapple is very sweet)
½ big red pepper, sliced
½ shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely shopped
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Pineapple and tomato sauce
In a small cooking pot, heat a table spoon of vegetable oil.
Fry the garlic, shallot and pepper until soft and fragrant.
Add the pineapple and stir well.
Add the sherry and simmer until the alcohol evaporates.
Add tomato sauce, sugar, salt and soy sauce.
Simmer until the pineapple is somewhat cooked.
Add more water if the sauce is too thick.
Check the seasoning and keep warm.

Fried fish:
Mix the semolina, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Coat the fillet evenly with the mix.
Heat a half cup of vegetable oil in a non stick frying pan.
Fry the fillet gently on medium heat until golden and crispy.

Serve the fish with the sauce, rice and salad of your choice. I served it with my home-grown alfalfa salad.

Ok, I know it is not yet the season for asparagus. Local they are not, they came in fact from Peru! But please, save your local food/sustainability/carbon foot print lectures for next time for I just could not hold the urge to have them when I saw them sitting prettily on the supermarket vegetable shelf.

I am expecting more of them on my dining table in the coming season, drenched in buttery Hollandaise sauce with German schwarzwalder schinken (cured pork from Black Forest region) and boiled new potatoes on the side, and flushed down with a glass (or two) of crisp Riesling wine.

It is relatively simple to prepare this dish, just boil the potatoes and the asparagus separately till just done, plate them up, drape them with your favourite ham and drizzle them with the sauce. If you are feeling decadent, you could add a couple of boiled quail eggs or poached chicken eggs. I omit them sometimes as I find it already very rich as it is.

It is the sauce that is rather tricky. But mind you, it is not difficult at all. You need a couple of egg yolk. Put them in a heat-proof bowl, beat till creamy and white with a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper. Then prop the bowl on a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, drizzle ¾ cup of melted butter (or if you are watching your weight, substitute half of the melted butter with olive oil) slowly, keep beating until you have a thick and creamy sauce around 2-3 minutes. The heat of the steam will cook the yolk slowly. There you have your Hollandaise sauce.

Tips: Green asparagus doesn’t need to be peeled, while white one does. Cut the woody stems of the asparagus, around 2-3 cm from the bottom end. Keep the peels, the stems and the cooking liquid for making soup. Don’t overcook the asparagus as nothing is more unappealing than mushy asparagus.

Bak Kut soup, Indonesian style
Ba Kut Teh or herbal pork ribs soup is known as one of Singaporean delicacies. However, it is not only unique to the country. It is also popular among the Chinese community in Indonesia. While Singaporean version is darker in colour, stronger and herbier in taste; the Indonesian version is clear and milder, though not less tasty. It is also a tad tangier thus more refreshing, as we add a generous amount of pickled mustard greens into the broth during the cooking process. The mustard green gives a perfect touch of tanginess to the savoury and fatty pork ribs.

This soup reminds me of my childhood when I was living in Bandung. My parents often took me and my sister to a little stall somewhere close to the train station, that specializes in this soup and pork sate (the pork sate is another heavenly story! See here for my own recipe). I reckon it was one my mother’s favourite dish. I remember the rich, peppery and aromatic broth with a good amount of fat glistening on the surface. Through hours of cooking, the ribs were cooked to perfection; the tender flesh was falling off the bones.

From time to time when I crave for this soup, I would cook my self a big pot of ba kut soup that would last for days. It is really easy to prepare, you just need a bit of time. The longer you keep it the best it tastes. This aromatic soup is best enjoyed during cooler days, with a serving of steamed rice and dash of soy sauce with some chopped red chillies. This would definitely warm your body and soul.

Bak Kut soup with rice and chili soy sauce

Ingredients (serves 2- 3 persons)
2 x 30cm of meaty pork spareribs, separate each joint.
1 package of pickled mustard greens (available at any Asian grocers), drained, rinsed and cut in chunks no longer than 4cm
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
3 cloves
1 thumb ginger, lightly crushed
3-4 star anise
3 cm of cinnamon stick or less
1 teaspoon of ground white pepper (freshly ground is better!)
Salt to taste
3 ltr of water for cooking

Put the spareribs in big cooking pot and add enough water to cover them. Boil them for ten minutes. Take out the spareribs and throw away the cooking water with all those scums.
Put back the spareribs in the cooking pot and add 3ltr of water, and add the rest of the ingredients except the mustard greens.
Simmer on low heat for at least 45 minutes until the meat falls off the bone. Skim off the scum and extra fat from time to time. Add more water if necessary.
Add the mustard greens in the last 10 minutes of cooking process. (Note: Mustard greens are already salty, so take care with the salt)
Check the seasoning, add more salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve while warm with a bowl of steamed white rice and soy sauce (with thin slices of red chillies). Garnish with coriander leaves or spring onions.

Easy Babi Kecap

February 27th, 2011

Easy babi kecap
Babi kecap or slow braised pork (see my older post) typically requires hours of preparation. It involves hours of cooking on low heat. The result is really rewarding, a well flavoured soy glazed aromatic pieces of pork which will melt in your mouth.
This dish however only requires a small fraction of originally required preparation time, that is why I called it the easy babi kecap. Instead of using the regular pork belly, I use other parts such as boneless ribs which is better for quicker preparation. You could enjoy it with a bowl of steamed rice or noodles if you prefer.

Ingredients (for 2-3 persons)
300 gr of pork (boneless rib meat or any part with good marble of fat), cut into 2x3cm
A handful of smallish button mushrooms or shitake mushrooms
2 medium white onions or shallots, quartered
2 big red chillies, cut into 2 cm, deseed it if you must
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped.
1 tablespoon maizena flour to coat the pork (it will prevent the pork from drying out during the cooking)
1 teaspoon of Chinese five-spice
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
Vegetable oil to fry
5 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
½ cup Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
salt and white pepper to taste

Heat a non stick cooking pan, add a glug of vegetable oil.
Coat the pork evenly with maizena flour and pan fry the pork in the pan in several batches until nicely brown but not overcooked, and set aside.
Add more oil to the pan, fry the garlic, onions and chillis until they are fragrant. Take care not to burn the garlic.
Lower the heat. Add both soy sauces stir well until they are bubbly, quickly add the cooking wine and the spices. Check the seasoning.
Return the pork to the pan, add the mushroom, simmer for another 5-7 minutes until the mushroom is cooked through (The mushrooms will produce some liquid that would thin down the sauce, however do add a bit of water if it is too dry).
Serve immediately with a bowl of steamed rice and garnish with coriander leaves or spring onions.

Tip: You could also add some hard boiled (peeled) quail eggs to the dish. Add them to the pan in the last phase of the cooking.

My edible Den Haag

February 23rd, 2011

I often get requests from my friends for restaurant recommendations. I love recommending (and not recommending) restaurants to my friends. So I decided to list them in google maps for easy sharing. Do explore it and give me your suggestions! I am constantly adding new address to this map, so do visit it from time to time for an update!

View Edible Den Haag in a larger map

My friends (the lovely Italian and Icelandic couple, S and G) have moved back to Italy some time ago. (Good for them, they will not have to endure the Dutch cuisine and weather anymore. However I would certainly miss them and their cat who has this certain personality, ehhmm). Shortly before they left, they came to my apartment with three bags full of Italian goodies that they had brought from Italy (and those that they haven’t managed to eat before the moving), namely: kilos of pasta, dried tomatoes, dried olives (which tasted excellent in the fish stew I cooked the other day!), porcinis, spices, flours and some bottles of home-made wine (made by their neighbours back home), coffee, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, other Italian condiments and much more. I accepted the bags with open arms and a big smile on my face! Who would say no to those wonderful stuffs? (The bags have been providing me and my friends with many delicious dishes in the past weeks!)

With lots of sun-dried tomatoes at hand, I have been trying to experiment with different recipes. This pasta recipe is sort of a classic that never fails to satisfy me. Buy the biggest and freshest scampi that you could afford, team it up with good quality olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, dried chilli, garlic and a handful of basil leaves. It could not be easier than that. Delicious!

Ingredients (two persons)
200 gr spaghetti, cooked according to the package instruction, al dente (I really mean it, not Dutch style al dente, please!!)
12-18 pieces of scampis, peeled and deveined
6 pieces of sun dried olive oil, soaked in hot water until soft, well drained and cut in chunks. (Reserve ½ cup of the soaking liquid)
4 dried chilli (or 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes or as much as you could go!)
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of basil leaves

Heat a generous swirl of olive oil in a cooking pan over low heat, add the garlic and the chillies. (Don’t let the garlic get brown or burnt! Never never ever! It would change the taste entirely!)
Increase the heat, add the scampi and the tomatoes. Cook for one minute.
Add the pasta and the reserved soaking liquid. Stir well until the pasta is well coated by the sauce.
Check the seasoning, add salt if necessary. (Note: Some scampi are naturally salty, so please take care with that!)
Take it off the heat, add the basil leaves and serve immediately.
Add a swirl of olive oil before serving.

Auntie K’s Spicy Beef Bulgogi

September 4th, 2010

On my way to the Scandinavia last month, I passed over Hamburg where my  uncle and Korean auntie live for the past 30 years. After spending some days in Germany, I have almost reached my limit of eating Bradwurst, Kartoffelsalat and Schnitzel. It seems that they could almost read my mind; they invited me over for an early dinner and guess what was prepared for dinner… yes, beef Bulgogi grill complete with all those Korean condiments that tasted so memorable but whose name I could not remember! The dinner was really nice and relaxed. Over the table-top grill, sizzling beef and spicy kimchi, we caught up on the latest family news and talked about life in Europe.  It was really a memorable dinner. I could not stop thinking about making Bulgogi ever since, so soon after I got back to Holland, I decided to cook it at home. Gladly I managed to ask the recipe from my auntie so I could repeat it at home.

According to my auntie, making Bulgogi is about mastering the proportion of the different ingredients. It has to be somewhat sweet and salty. My auntie used the combination of soy sauce, fruit juice (Chinese pears or apple that serves as a natural meat tenderizer), honey, Gochujang (she likes it spicy!), sesame oil, black sesame seeds (she thinks it is better that the white sesame seeds), garlic and sherry. It is essential to marinate the meat as long as possible; overnight is best. The choice of the meat is also important; buy the best quality of meat you could afford; my auntie opted for Angus ribeye. She prefers to cut the meat in chunkier pieces than the traditional paper thin version. She said this way the meat still retains its juice as it cooks. If you got this part right you are basically half way to success. Another important thing is to get the pan or the grill really really hot before you cook the meat. And lastly, Bulgogi is meant to be shared with people you love!
Enjoy this recipe! Thanks Tante K for sharing this recipe!

Ingredients: (two persons)

300gr beef ribeye, slice in 1cm thickness.
4 table spoons soy sauce
2 table spoons (or less) Gochujang (available at most Asian grocers)
3 table spoons sesame oil
3 table spoons sherry or Chinese cooking wine
2 table spoons honey or one table spoon sugar
4 table spoons fruit juice (Mashed Chinese pear or regular apple juice)
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 table spoon black sesame seeds (I used white since I could not find the black ones)
Combine together all the ingredients and marinate over night.

You could cook the Bulgogi on a table-top grill or on a regular non stick pan.
Brush the pan with a little bit of sesame oil once it is hot.
Take the beef out of the marinade.
Cook briefly the beef until it changes colour. It should be still somewhat pink inside.
Serve with a bowl of steamed white rice and Kimchi. (I served it with stir-fried julienned carrot, but you could basically serve with other veggies that you like such as mushroom.)

Spicy Fried Rice

September 2nd, 2010

I am stuck with a big package of Gochujang (Korean fermented chilli pepper paste) after cooking spicy beef Bulgogi (with the original recipe from my Korean auntie which was by the way so delicious! The recipe will follow later, I promise!). Since I am not so savvy in term of Korean cuisine I was not sure what to do with the rest of the package.

My first encounter with Korean food was when I was around seven (?) years old when my uncle married my beautiful auntie. Being the first Korean (and the only one) who joined the family, she fascinated everybody. In one family gathering, she cooked Bulgogi for every body and they just loved it including me. Then unfortunately I don’t have so many encounters with Korean cuisine ever since, my glossary doesn’t go beyond Kimchi (Fermented vegetables) and Bibimbap (Mixed rice cooked in hot stone bowl). There is however a nice Korean restaurant in Den Haag that I use to go but then again I always order the same things too; Bulgogi and Bibimbap.

Finishing this package of exotic condiment therefore would be a challenge for me.
Gochujang is not your ordinary chilli pepper paste; not only it was fermented but also mixed with sticky rice and soy bean paste, hence the richness of its flavour. It is not overly spicy but tastes a bit sweetish and smoky. It is normally used for marinating BBQ meat, making Bibimbap and Korean fish stew (this is my next project!). Since it has a more complex layer of flavour, you could not substitute it with other chilli paste like Sambal Oelek for example.

Making Bibimbap at home without the hot stone bowl sound a bit of a hassle for me; however I ended up with the idea of using it instead for making fried rice. If I left the rice long enough in the hot pan, it would get charred just like those in Bibimbap. After rummaging the fridge, this is what I came up with: spicy fried rice with bits of ham, corn kernel, green beans and eggs. It was fried in a glug of sesame oil. Tasty and easy! I particularly like the combination of the sweetness of the corn and the spicy rice.

Ingredients (for two persons)
5 cup of cooled steamed-rice (it is better to use one day old left-over rice)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup of chopped ham or bacon or cooked chicken
1 cup of chopped green bean
1 ear of corn, shaved (it makes around two cups of corn kernels) or you could use the tinned version (drain it well!)
1 1\2  to 2 table spoons of Gochujang (available atmost Asian grocers)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 table spoons of sesame oil
1 table spoon of sunflower oil
p.s. You could use any other veggies that you like i.e. green peas, mushroom, carrots, etc.

Heat the sesame oil and the sunflower oil in a frying pan.
Add the green beans, corn kernel, ham, garlic and onions, stir fry for 3 minutes. Take care not to burn the garlic.
Put them to one side of the pan, add the eggs and scramble lightly.
Add the gochujang paste and the rice; mix well.
Stir fry it until the rice gets a bit charred. Taste the seasoning, add more salt if you like.
Serve immediately and sprinkle with some sesame seeds!

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