Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Easy, no-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter & Oats Cookies



I had some great news yesterday that I would like to share with you.  Yesterday I received my Certificate of Naturalisation Candidature, which basically means that I have been pre-approved for citizenship in Taiwan!  I know, most people don't even know where to find Taiwan on the map, or keeps thinking I live in Thailand, but it's been my home for over 8 years and I want to make it more permanent. 


I've been thinking of something to cook in celebration of this milestone and came across something that would take me all of 10 minutes to do.  No-bake cookies!  Now, I've heard of these cookies before, but never actually tried making them because the recipes always seem to be in US measurements.  I have nothing against our friends from the US, but what's up with this clinging to things like "sticks" of butter?  This recipe was no different, but it looked so delicious, that I just had to try it out.  Now I know, once and for all that a stick of butter equals about 125 gram of butter, or half a cup...but then again, who wants to stick the butter (pardon the pun) in a cup?






I found the recipe on a great blog called Brown Eyed Baker and it is really easy to make.  It takes you about 10 minutes to prepare and then you need to let it cool for about half an hour...if you can wait that long!






Chocolate Peanut Butter & Oats Cookies


Ingredients:

  • 125g butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 0.5 cup milk
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 0.5 cup peanut butter (I like to use crunchy for more...crunch)
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 cups quick cooking (instant) oats
Method:

  1. Place the butter, sugar, milk and cocoa powder in a medium sized pot.
  2. Put on medium high heat and stir so that the sugar dissolves and butter melts.
  3. Bring to a rolling boil for one minute.
  4. Remove it from the heat.  Using a whisk, stir in the vanilla and peanut butter until smooth.
  5. Stir in the oats.
  6. While it is still hot, drop heaped tablespoonsful onto a tray, lined with wax or baking paper.  The mixture won't spread too much, so use the back of a spoon to flatten and make it into the shape of a cookie.  You should be able to get a little more than 2 dozen cookies out of you mixture.
  7. Allow to cool and set for about 30 minutes (if you can wait that long).  Make some coffee and enjoy!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A week of jet lag, culture and tahini paste

Fresh salad with every meal at my favourite Lebanese restaurant.


I'm starting off this post with an apology to you, my favourite reader:  I do apologize for not posting last week.  I was halfway between Abu Dhabi and Taiwan, and the jet lag made my internal clock come to a grinding halt.  It was a great trip and I'm so grateful to my friend, Marion for putting up with me for two weeks.  The food was out of this world!  Oh, and I discovered moutabel.  Moutabel is related to baba ganouj and is basically roasted eggplant, tahini paste, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and eaten with pita bread.  Heavenly, I tell you!


Heavenly hummus with paprika and olive oil, ready for dipping.

Lentil soup with a squeeze of lemon.


Any way, so where other people buy little trinkets and souvenirs (think stuffed plush camels and little statues of Burj Khalifa) I brought back two cookbooks, garam masala, cardamom pods, tahini paste and a tin of Lyle's Golden Syrup.  What can I say?  Different people have different priorities!


Clockwise from top left: Creamed garlic, hummus and moutabel.


So, over the past week, even though I didn't post anything on here, I'd been quite busy with Kitchenboy things.  First of all, I've started a page on Facebook.  Please join me there too, as it would be an easy way of keeping up to date with new posts.  Secondly, Kitchenboy has also been featured on www.culture.tw, an English portal for all things culture in Taiwan, funded by Taiwan's Council for Cultural Affairs.  This is a huge honour for me, seeing that I haven't been blogging for long.  You can visit the page here


So, I think I've finally rid my system of jet lag, so it's back to the kitchen for me and, "Full steam ahead, Mr Sulu!"...or something like that, you know what I mean.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Hello Abu Dhabi, tell me how you're doin'! (Easy Cottage Pie)


When I started writing this blog, the criteria I set myself was to cook South African-style or western-style food, that could be done in a kitchen in Taiwan.  My biggest problem, as you know from my post about trifle, is getting the ingredients I need.


Those of you, who follow me on Twitter will know that I have temporarily left the beautiful island of Taiwan and exchanged it for Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates.  Never mind the cool buildings, the expensive cars and the vibrant nightlife - this is food heaven!  On my first day here, my good friend (and the first male author of chick-lit in Afrikaans) Marion Erskine took me to a Lebanese restaurant.  Heavenly hummus, more-ish moutabel and succulent pieces of lamb, beef and chicken on skewers.  Pomegranate seeds, glistening like precious jewels and olives from Egypt, as big as prunes, I kid you not. 


But I digress.  I know what you're thinking, "What does all of this have to do with your 'criteria'?"  Well, even in the country of excess and opulence, I had to make do with what was available in the kitchen cupboard, when we had the urge for some "home food", in between all the falafel and hummus.  So this is my recipe for Cottage Pie, not Gordon Ramsey's cottage pie, not some Beef Bourguignon cottage pie...just an unassuming, non-glamorous, make-do-with-what-you-have cottage pie.



Non-glamorous Cottage Pie


Ingredients:

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • some oil
  • 750g minced beef
  • 250ml beef stock (from a cube is OK, or some red wine is great, too.)
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tin of baked beans in tomato sauce* 
  • 500g frozen mixed vegetables (stew mix)
  • 5 or 6 big potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 100ml warm milk
  • 4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper 


Method:
  1. In a pan, fry the onions and garlic until just starting to soften.  Put the onions in a pot and set aside.
  2. Brown the mince in a little oil and break up any lumps.  Do this in batches if you have to.  Add the mince to the onions.
  3. Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and thyme to the mince and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.  Now add the baked beans and mixed vegetables and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until heated through.  If the meat filling is too watery at this time, you can let it simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes to let it reduce.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Meanwhile boil the potatoes in salted water until soft.  Drain the water and let it steam dry for a minute.  Add the butter and mash with a potato masher or potato ricer.  Add the Parmesan.  Add the milk a little at a time and stir with a spoon until smooth and creamy.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Pop the meat filling in the bottom of an oven proof dish.  Spread the mashed potato evenly over the filling and "distress" the top with a fork.  (If you want to be REALLY smart, you can always pop the mash into a piping bag and make a fabulous looking topping...but life's too short, really.)
  6. Put the cottage pie under a hot grill until the top is nice and golden.  Serve with a green salad and whatever else you can find in the cupboards! 
*Hate the idea of baked beans?  Use 2 tsp tomato paste in stead.  When you check your seasoning, add a little sugar if it is too sour.


Find Marion Erskine on Facebook and on Twitter.  His chick-lit novel, Donatello en Volksie, is available here and all good bookstores.  He is also the author of Afro-dizzy-act, a funny recount of a foreigner's experiences in Taiwan. 



Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Gōng xǐ fā cái!


Phew!  What a long and tiring semester it has been!  As I write this, I'm taking a much anticipated holiday in Abu Dhabi.  I haven't seen much yet, because there has been a sand storm for the last two days...but boy, oh boy...the food!  We started off my culinary adventure with a mixed grill at a fantastic Lebanese restaurant.  Fear not, photos to follow.


So, tomorrow my first priority would be to find a good bookstore and buy some cookbooks, something I always do wherever I go in the world.  I have a stack of them on my nightstand and read them like novels.


Any way, it's that time of the year again, if you follow the Lunar Calendar, of course.  Tomorrow will be the 1st day of the 1st lunar month, so I would like to wish you all....

 過年好 (guò nián hǎo), which means "Happy New year!"

If you have any friends of Chinese decent, remember to say,

 "Gōng xǐ fā cái!", which means "Congratulations and be prosperous!"


May the Year of the Rabbit be a prosperous one for us all!  Gōng xǐ fā cái!