Monday April 18, 2011
Home cooking made fancy
Make restaurant dishes in your own kitchen and you can eat in your sarong.
ITíS nice to find out who makes the food we enjoy at a fine-dining restaurant Ė why should TV celebrity chefs hog the limelight, right?
Passion, a collaboration between Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel and The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa, introduces the reader to 13 chefs from the two hotels and features recipes for their signature dishes.
Reading the profiles of the chefs, one notices that practically all them started out in their teens and went on to make cooking their career. This is not a job for everyone, but this bakerís dozen got into the kitchen as youngsters, persevered and have made a place for themselves in Malaysiaís culinary landscape.
Itís also interesting to find out what these chefs do away from work. Some like to watch Bollywood movies, others construct model cars and planes, and one Ė who doesnít look at all like a head-banger Ė likes to fish while listening to the Scorpions (doesnít rock music keep the fish away?). Then there are chefs who like the quiet life at home on their days off, and others who take to the outdoors on mountain-bikes and motorcycles.
See, Jamie Oliver isnít the only one who has a predilection for two-wheelers.
Passion doesnít say if the dishes featured are actually served at the hotels, but I would imagine they are. So if you have enjoyed these dishes there and want to replicate them at home, or simply want to try cooking like a pro, this book has 39 recipes for you.
One word of caution: The language in Passion Ė both in the chef profiles and recipes Ė could do with better editing. Donít let the mistakes put you off though because there are some interesting recipes in this book.
Now, being professional chefs who cater for the tastes of an international clientele, their food is often elaborate, with several items making up one complete dish (to warrant its RM65 price tag, perhaps?). Itís like a plate of nasi lemak with its coconut milk rice, ikan bilis sambal, sometimes rendang, condiments and garnishes (there actually is a recipe for nasi lemak with chicken rendang in the book). You will find that some of the recipes have many ingredients and several steps to follow.
Well, home cooking doesnít have to be so fussy and an individual dish doesnít need to be served with so many components. In fact, I took the sour masala jam from one chef and paired it with the fermented beef sausage from another, and I think they work very well together.
If youíre used to cooking, most of the dishes will not be difficult to make, although you may need to spend a little more time and effort on some recipes. I donít have the inclination nor my own battery of sous chefs to weigh 5g of cumin powder or 3g of dry fenugreek leaves and other spices from a list as long as my arm, but that doesnít mean a more enthusiastic home cook shouldnít try out the recipe for the Murgh Handi Lazeez, for example. This chicken curry with masala rice is fit for a special occasion and you donít need to make a trip to the Sheraton Imperial to have it.
One thing I found quite striking was how the dishes from Langkawi seem to reflect the m ore laid-back attitude of island life. They seem less frou-frou, more your everyday-type food, but elevated to fine-dining status by professional culinary touches like expert stacking and saucy garnishes.
That doesnít mean, however, that the recipes from KL are best left to the pros. At the core of most of the recipes in Passion Ė from both hotels Ė is a down-to-earth approach to cooking, and while I donít know if Iíll ever try cooking lobster with the sous vide method (vacuum-packed and steamed), the spice mixture used for the marinade is a simple blend of common ingredients which can be paired with other types of seafood and methods of preparation.
Passion, available at both the hotels at RM38 a copy, will probably not teach the reader how to become a professional chef, but it has enough in it to keep the home cook interested.
The secret ingredient, as one of the chefs says, is cooking from the heart.
One wonders, though, about the true secret ingredient Ė the one each chef holds close to his heart and will never reveal in a book of his recipes ...
Marty blogs at martythyme.blogspot.com. The Donít Call Me Chef team of Hungry Caterpillar, Marty and Veggie Chick, whose cookery column appears in StarTwo on the first Monday of every month, reviews cookbooks in this regular series. To give readers an idea of what the books are about, they also test recipes from the publications. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spicy Thai Fermented Beef Sausage
200g minced beef
70g chilled cooked rice
50g garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 birdís eye chillies
4 pieces banana leaves
350ml cooking oil
Mix the minced beef, chilled rice, garlic, salt and pepper till it becomes sticky. Divide the mixture into four portions.
Form four patties and place a birdís eye chilli in the middle of each one. Form into sausage shapes. Wrap each one with banana leaf.
Let the wrapped patties sit at room temperature for about six hours or for 2-3 days in the fridge.
Remove the banana leaves and deep-fry the sausages until well-cooked.
For the presentation: Cut each sausage into half and serve with glutinous rice, a vegetable bouquet and pickled ginger.
To drink: Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sour Masala Jam
5 cloves garlic
2 red chillies, seeded
100g cucumber, seeded
50ml tomato ketchup
50ml chilli sauce
1 tsp masala powder
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and cook the sauce for 10-15 minutes until thickened.
Braised Turmeric Chicken With Salted Beans
4 free-range chicken drumsticks
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
500ml cooking oil
Curry leaves, to garnish
20ml cooking oil
60g ginger, sliced
5 shallots, sliced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
5 dried red chillies
1 tsp salted beans
50ml sweet soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp sugar
Season the chicken with turmeric powder and salt and deep-fry over medium heat until half-cooked; set aside.
For the sauce: Heat the oil and sautť the ginger, shallots, garlic and dried chillies for three minutes. Add water and salted beans, soy sauce, ground black pepper and sugar (no salt is needed as the beans are salty).
Add the chicken to the pan and braise with the ingredients till the chicken is well cooked.
For the presentation: Arrange the chicken in a stack and garnish with curry leaves.
To drink: Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.