Saturday, 31 December 2011

Kitchenboy's Year in Review: 2011

On the last day of the year, it is inevitable that one looks back over the past 12 months and reminisce about what was. And what should or could have been.


Twitter and Facebook has been buzzing over the past week or so, with people saying what a terrible year it's been and how 2012 can only be better. I guess 2011 has been a difficult year for many people, considering the state of the world economy and one only has to pick up the newspaper to realize that we are probably in for more of the same in the coming year.


For me, however, 2011 has been a great year. I will always remember 2011 as a year of big changes in my life. I've changed cars, motorcycles (one can't be without one in Taiwan) and schools (after 6 years at the previous one). I have turned 40 (that's big) and also became a citizen of Taiwan (that's even bigger)!


Some things also stayed the same, like the love and support from my family, friends and readers. It has been a year where I made so many new friends via social media and this blog - it feels like I have known some of you for years. I can't wait to meet each one of you in the near future!


Any way, as this is supposed to be a blog about food, please allow me to count down the Top 5 most viewed posts (by you, of course) of 2011.


Number 5: Non-glamorous Cottage Pie


In February I had the opportunity to visit my good friend, Marion Erskine (and Afrikaans chic-lit author) in Abu Dhabi. What an experience that visit was! It is truly the land of dates, olives, hummus and moutabel. And meat. Any kind of meat, as long as it isn't pork! I made this (non-foodista) cottage pie for dinner one evening with what we had in the cupboards and fridge. Nothing special, but good!






Number 4: Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake


This is quite honestly one of the most delicious chocolate cakes you will ever bake. I remember this cake from when my mom baked it when I was still in primary school. The idea of mayonnaise and chocolate together in a cake sounds revolting, I agree. But if you think about it, what is mayonnaise other than eggs and oil?


It took me a while to get a recipe for a good one, but eventually my friend Christelle Pretorius Botha came to the recue with a luscious looking recipe! I still get messages of Facebook from people who have tried it and loved it.


Number 3: Easy Home Made Bread



Chef Tyrone Jubber, of Tyrone's Kitchen, taught me how to make this beautiful rustic bread. It is a very basic recipe and with a little adjustment, you can also turn it into a tasty focaccia.


Number 2: Bobotie


There are as many Bobotie recipes out there as there are households in the Cape, I'm sure.  However, this one is my absolute favourite.  I was passed to me by my mother and apparently this is the recipe used by late Tannie Elize Botha, 1st wife of late State President P.W. Botha when entertaining heads of state at Den Anker, The Groot Krokodil's holiday retreat.


This Bobotie is worth a try.  It was even mentioned in Francoise Steynberg's column Ek sê maar net in Die Republikein (a Namibian newspaper) on 23 April 2009.



Number 1: Easy, no-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter & Oats Cookies


At number 1 we have these easy to make, no bake peanut butter and oats cookies. They are also quick to make, with the minimum fuss - we even made them as a fun activity at the elementary school I teach at. They are very sweet, so keep a cup of coffee handy!
Here's to a Happy and Prosperous 2012 for us all! See you again in the new year. Cheers!!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Kitchenboy Cook-along Club: November 2011 Challenge - Fried Dumplings

After an absence of four months, I decided to bring back the Kitchenboy Cook-along Club Challenge in November. I wanted to make something that is traditional from the country I live in, Taiwan.


As per usual, I asked people to vote for the dish they wanted to try out on the Kitchenboy in Taiwan Facebook page. The choices were between Kung Pao Chicken, Fried Dumplings, Sticky Cantonese Pork Ribs and Fried Rice. As Fried Dumplings won the vote by a large margin, that was what we were going to do.


As per usual, my friend Chantelle made an event of it and sent me this photo of her delicious looking Fried Dumplings and Chocolate Vodka!




The recipe makes about 20 dumplings but a friend and I made 200 of them! That is a whole lot of chopping and folding but it was good fun. This is what mine looked like:




I hope you will join in the fun next time!

Fried dumplings (鍋貼 or Guōtiē)



The recipe for these delicious Guo tie comes from the famous food blogger, Bee Yinn Low's new book, Easy Chinese recipes, Family favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao.  Of course she also has an equally famous blog, www.rasamalaysia.com, full of great recipes!  Her recipe is used with her permission.  Thanks Bee!


On 5 February 2012, it will the 9th anniversary of my arrival in Taiwan. I arrived here with 20kg of clothing and other belongings in my backpack and not a clue what to expect from the country, the people, their culture or their food. I am ashamed to say that it has taken me this long to try my hand at cooking Taiwanese food. I blame the ever present language barrier. Believe me when I say, it isn't that easy to learn how to speak Mandarin Chinese like  local. But I try.


These dumplings are not difficult to make, and making 20 of them shouldn't take you very long. I made 200 of them on my first attempt and that took quite a few hours! They freeze incredibly well, so do make a few extra. They make for a quick, convenient light meal in minutes.


Fried dumplings (鍋貼 or Guōtiē)
Makes 20
Recipe adapted from Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low.

Dumpling wrappers (Makes 20)

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus some extra for dusting and rolling)
  • 1/4 cup water plus 1 teaspoon water


Method:
  1. Combine the flour and water to form a dough. Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and the surface becomes smooth - about 10 to 15 minutes).  Cover with a clean, damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  2. On a flat, foured surface, divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll them into cylinders, 2.5cm in diameter and about 13 cm in length.
  3. Cut each cylinder into 10 equal pieces, each about 1.25cm thick.
  4. Using a flour dusted rolling pin, roll each piece into a disc, about 9cm in diameter. You can use a 9cm diameter cookie cutter to trim off the edges and make them into circles.


Dumpling Dipping Sauce (Makes 125ml)

Dumplings are traditionally served with a vinegar and soy sauce dipping sauce.  Here is my version of it.  You may leave out the chili or use less, if you don't like it hot.

Ingredients:

  • 125ml cider or rice vinegar (Chinese black vinegar is more traditional)
  • 30 ml soy sauce
  • 1 small chili, de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • a 4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled und cut into fine matchstick strips
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Method:

  1. Combine the vinegar, soy sauce and chili (if using) in a small bowl. Stir well.
  2. Pour the sauce into individual dipping bowls and add the ginger and garlic. Serve the sauce as a condiment with the fried dumplings.
Guo tie (Fried dumplings) (Makes 20)

 Fried dumplings are quite versatile because you can change the filling as you like.  The more traditional filling is most definitely pork and cabbage, but you can also use shrimp or beef. The cabbage is usually added to add more flavor to the dish.




Ingredients: (For the filling)

  • 250 g minced pork (or meat of your choice)
  • 1/2 cup Finely chopped cabbage 
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped green onion
  • a 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1tsp Chinese cooking wine or sherry (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 dashes of white pepper
...and you will also need...

  • 20 dumpling wrappers
  • 1.5 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp flour
  • dumpling dipping sauce




Method:

  1. Make the filling by combining all the ingredients. Leave the filling to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  2. Fill the wrappers by following the video below. 
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over moderate heat.  Arrange the dumplings on their bottoms,  side by side without too much space between them. Cover the pan with a lid.  Fry them until their bottoms become golden brown and crispy. Meanwhile, mix the water and the flour in a cup.
  4. Add the water and flour mixture and cover the pan with its lid immediately. The water should sizzle and steam the sumplings. Turn the heat low as soon as the water has completely evaporated. Cook the dumplings for a further 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan. Serve hot with dumpling dipping sauce.





Sunday, 25 December 2011

Fillet of Pork Wrapped in Bacon

This post was updated on 25 December 2011 with new photos and some adjustments.


As the temperature is dropping little by little every day, I am reminded that it will soon be winter.  With winter comes Christmas, for me one of the toughest times to be living in Taiwan.  Firstly, it isn't a public holiday here and few people really know what the day is really about.  Secondly, for me, Christmas was always a day I spent with my family.  I will never forget how sorry I felt for myself during my first Christmas in Taiwan.  It was a normal working day and my boss, a woman with the very Biblical name of Esther, refused to give me the day off.  She still asked me, "Why do you care so much about this American holiday?  You do realise that Santa isn't real."  How do you argue with that?  


Since that year, I've made a point of taking the day off and to try and spend it with friends.  We get together, exchange small gifts and of course, cook!




This fillet of pork, wrapped in bacon is super easy to make, but quite a show stopper.  Believe me when I tell you that your guests will be impressed with this dish.  You can make it instead of a regular joint of meat and, in Taiwan at least, pork fillets are pretty cheap, so you'll have more money for presents or booze!  I adjusted the original recipe by Sue Maggs, for the Taiwan kitchen.




Serves 8 (or fewer people but with some nice leftovers for sandwiches!)


Ingredients
3 large pork fillets, weighing about 1.2kg in total
1 pack of rindless streaky bacon
2 tbsp butter
150 ml red wine



For the prune stuffing
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, very finely chopped
120 g mushrooms, very finely chopped
4 - 5 prunes, stoned and chopped
10 ml dried mixed herbs
2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs
1 egg

A good pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Method 
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Trim the fillets, removing any sinew and fat. "Butterfly" the fillets by cutting each fillet lengthways, three-quarters of the way through, open them out and flatten.


2. For the stuffing, melt the butter and cook the onion until tender, add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the remaining stuffing ingredients. Spread the stuffing over two of the fillets and sandwich together with the 3rd fillet.


3. CAREFULLY stretch each rasher of bacon with the back of a large knife.


4. Lay the rashers of bacon overlapping across the meat. Cut lengths of string and lay them at 2 cm intervals over the bacon. Cover with a piece of foil to hold in place and roll the 'joint' over. Fold the bacon rashers over the meat and tie the string to secure them in place. (You might need someone to help you tie the knots - this could be tricky!) Roll the 'joint' back on the bacon joins and remove the foil.


5. Place in a roasting tin and spread the butter over the 'joint'. Pour the wine around the meat in the tin and cook for 1h15min (to 2hours, depending on your oven), basting occasionally, until evenly browned.


6. Transfer the pork to a serving plate, remove the string, cover loosely with foil and leave to stand for 10 - 15 minutes, before slicing. 



Serve with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and (Ikea) gravy.


Enjoy!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Kitchenboy Cook-along Club December 2011 "Challenge"


Oh the joys of the Festive Season while living in Taiwan....

Or maybe not so joyous when you live here.  You see, while most of the world is winding down towards the end of the year, taking a few weeks well deserved holidays and getting ready for Christmas and New Year, we here in Taiwan only has Christmas Day off because it falls on a Sunday. That's right folks, Christmas Day isn't a public holiday and we are also not on holiday at the moment. In fact, our semester will only end on 13 January 2012 for our winter vacation and Chinese New Year celebrations.

My idea for the Cook-along for December, isn't a "Cook-along" at all. So here's the "Challenge": How about we all just take one or two pictures of our Christmas lunch or dinner? It doesn't matter what or how - if you have your family or guests in them, that would be cool, too! Just for fun, nothing serious. I will do the same and collate everything and put it in a blog post, sometime after Christmas Day.  Sounds like fun? Who knows, maybe we can get some "tips" from each other about table decorations and dishes for 2012!

Please send your entries to kitchenboytaiwan @ gmail.com (without the spaces!) by the 8th of January 2012.

By the way, if you are looking for some ideas and inspiration but cannot stomach the prospect of going into the shops and buying a heap of expensive decorations for your Christmas table, you don't need to. I came across this wonderful blog with loads of great ideas. Go have a look!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Chocolate Vodka


Chocolate Vodka is the easiest thing in the world to make and you are sure to impress your guests when you take a bottle of this smooth, brown liquid from your freezer.

My friends in South Africa use Bar One chocolates and I suppose a Mars Bar would do the trick too, but as usual, when I tried to find a Mars Bar anywhere in my city, there were none to be found. You can use any kind of chocolate though, but maybe not the kind with wafers, fruit or nuts in them. It would make for quite a messy affair!

Chocolate Vodka
Makes 750 ml

Ingredients:

  • 750 ml bottle of vodka (Don't worry about the brand. It is not important.)
  • 240 grams of good quality milk chocolate, Mars Bar or Bar One

Method:

  1. Pour about ⅓ of the vodka into another container and reserve for later.
  2. Put a large pot of water on the stove and heat the water to almost boiling. Meanwhile chop up the chocolate, squeeze it through the opening of the bottle and replace the cap securely.
  3. Turn off the heat and place the bottle with the vodka and chocolate inside in the warm water to gently heat up the vodka and melt the chocolate. Give the bottle a good shake every now and then until all the chocolate has been melted and incorporated into the vodka. (Don't heat it with the cap off because we don't want the alcohol to evaporate. Also remember that alcohol is flammable, so keep it away from open flames!)
  4. Use a funnel to return the remaining ⅓ of the vodka to the bottle. Give it a good shake to mix it well. Keep it in the freezer until you are ready to use it. The chocolate won't solidify again, but it will give the chocolate vodka a rich, smooth consistency.

You can drink this neat or over ice or use it as a topping over ice cream.  I also found these cocktails on the Intoxicologist blog. Have a look at these and other delicious cocktails they have.

Black & White Martini
  • 1 ounce Chocolate Vodka
  • 1 ounce Vanilla Vodka
  • 1 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream

  1. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with chocolate sugar.

Crazy Cow
  • 1 ounce Chocolate Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream

  1. Shake with ice and strain into a shot glass.

Chocolate Minitini
  • 3 ounce Chocolate Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce White Crème de Cacao
  • Splash Green Crème de Menthe

  1. Shake vodka and Crème de Cacao with ice and pour into a chilled martini glass.  
  2. Add a splash of Crème de Menthe on top, and garnish with a chocolate kiss. 

Or you can try this one that I came up with in my kitchen out of boredom - 

Kitchenboy Killer
  • 1 part Chocolate Vodka
  • 1 part Amarula Cream

  1. Pour the Amarula Cream into the bottom half of a shot glass. 
  2. Slowly and carefully pour the Chocolate Vodka on top of the Amarula Cream, over the back of a spoon.




Enjoy! Don't drink and drive!