How to Make Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a very important ingredient in Thai, Indian and many other Asian recipes. Canned coconut milk is readily available in most grocery stores, but none can surpass the taste and freshness of home-made coconut milk. Making coconut milk at home can be as easy or difficult a task as you choose to make it. There are several ways to approach this and you can choose the method according to the time you have and effort you are willing to put in.

Method 1 – The easy one

1. Purchase unsweetened desiccated or shredded coconut. This is available in most Asian and Indian grocery stores.

2. Soak in lukewarm water for 30 minutes.

3. Grind in a mixer till thoroughly mixed. Pour over cheesecloth and collect the drained liquid.

4. The liquid obtained from this first go will be thicker and creamier, ideal for use in desserts and curries.

5. Once all the liquid is drained, add more water and drain over the cheesecloth. This will be thinner coconut milk, ideal for use in soups.

Method 2 – The tedious one

The only difference in this method is shredding the coconut. Rest of the process remains the same. This method gives better tasting coconut milk since we use fresh coconuts.

1. Choose a coconut that makes a splashing sound when you move it with your hand. The sound means that the coconut is ripe and ready.

2. Clean your kitchen sink, and put the stopper on. Take a wide vessel to collect the coconut water.

3. Put the wide vessel in the sink, put the coconut in it, and give it a sharp blow with a hammer. You might have to put in a couple of blows before the coconut breaks.

4. Collect the water in the vessel. Run this water through a sieve and drink it. It tastes delicious!

5. Use a coconut grater to grate the flesh from the shells.

6. Pour some hot water over the grated coconut, and some room-temperature water. Run through a blender / mixer.

7. Pour over cheesecloth and collect the drained liquid.

Enjoy your fresh coconut milk!

Reference:
1. Homemade Coconut Milk Recipe | Wellness Mama
2. How To Make Coconut Milk at Home — Cooking Lessons from The …

How to Make Eggplant Lasagna

A basic lasagna is a great dish because it is practically foolproof for a novice cook and can be modified with a dazzling array of variations by adventurous chefs. But the basic technique, though a bit time consuming, is fairly simple. For eggplant lasagna, it’s best to peel the eggplant with a vegetable peeler.  Cut the eggplant from the stem (top) end where it seems tough and unyielding.  Do the same for the navel (bottom) end. 

At this point, it is important to disgorge the eggplant from its bitter liquid.  Rather than slicing your eggplant into discs, coarsely chunk up the eggplant and dowse liberally with coarse salt.  Coarse salt will rinse off better after the disgorging process.

Let stand in a colander for 45 minutes to an hour, until the eggplant has softened.  If there are some tough chunks, you can remove them as they should have been trimmed at the outset. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly with cold water and let dry.

The use of eggplant in lasagna can take several directions.  You can make a veggie lasagna, by adding  spinach, onions, peppers, zucchini or squash or any number of greens like arugula or chard. 

As eggplant absorbs any flavor, you could use it simply to reduce the amount of meat, but keeping the flavor, by sautéing it with Italian sausage, ham, pancetta or ground meat, thereby reducing the fat and still imparting the flavor to the eggplant. 

For a 9×12 deep-dish lasagna you will need:

2 medium eggplants, peeled, chunked and disgorged
1 box of “no-boil” lasagna noodles
(this will make life simple and still taste great)
1 tablespoon of olive oil for frying
1 medium onion,
6 to 10 cloves of garlic
1 green pepper
1 16oz. Jar of your favorite marinara sauce (your own can be made easily enough)
1 16oz. Carton of ricotta cheese
8 oz. of Mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
2 tbsp. Of dry chives (for ricotta blend)
Italian herbs (your choice of oregano, basil, marjoram, parsley) to taste.

Preparation:

Sauté eggplant with garlic, onion, herbs  and peppers until soft and add a cup of the tomato sauce.  Let simmer gently.

In a bowl, mix the chives, ricotta cheese and a few tablespoons of the grated cheese.  If you are opting for a purely vegetarian preparation, the Pecorino Romano cheese will add a lovely tang, as it is a sheep’s’ milk cheese.

Mix thoroughly and set aside.

In an oven-proof baking dish, spoon in a thin layer of sauce to coat the bottom and place a layer of the no-boil lasagna noodles edge to edge.  Add a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture, then the eggplant and then a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese..  Repeat this, until the dish is full then top with the remaining noodles, sauce and a final layer of the mozzarella and grated cheese. 

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350-degrees, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes until the top layer is golden and bubbly.  Be sure to set the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet which will catch any possible drips, which will keep the oven clean. 

Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing so that it can firm up a bit. 

All you need now is a tossed salad and a nice medium-bodied Italian red wine like a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Valpolicellla or Barbera d’Asti for a delicious Italian meal. 

A lasagna freezes beautifully, so it is a good time to make extra for those days where a quick and easy meal is needed. 

This fantastic eggplant lasagna is sure to be a family favorite and with a few creative touches, like different cheese blends, garden fresh herbs and other meats and vegetables, it will never get boring.  Use your imagination and have a ball!

Reference:
1. Eggplant Lasagna Recipe : Danny Boome : Food Network
2. Eggplant Lasagna Recipe – Allrecipes.com

How to Make Mayo

While most people have a favorite brand of mayonnaise and never think of making it themselves, homemade mayonnaise is not only more delicious than store bought, it is actually fairly easy to make. 

If you’ve never tasted homemade mayo, you’re in for a treat. It is so much better than the kind you get in a jar.

You only need four ingredients to make mayonnaise: egg yolks, oil, lemon juice and salt.

Keep in mind people with health issues, small children and the elderly should probably not eat raw egg yolks The oil you use is up to your own taste but extra virgin olive oil has a good flavor.  Sesame oil is also recommended but it doesn’t have the bold flavor that EVOO has.  The salt can either be regular or Kosher salt.  Supposedly, Kosher salt has a crisper flavor but most people would be hard pressed to identity Kosher salt over regular salt by taste alone.

Start with three egg yolks, one cup of oil, which can be a combination of oils, juice from half a lemon and a pinch of salt.  Of course, you can double this recipe but remember, homemade mayo has a much shorter shelf life than store-bought, so only make more if you can use it.  

In a blender, mix the eggs, lemon juice and salt until they are well blended.  Leave the blender running and very slowly add the oil.  You have to add it really slowly so that it mixes or emulsifies properly.  You’ll see it start to turn into mayo. Once the process of emulsion has begun, you can be less stressed about how slowly you add the oil.

And that’s all there is to making homemade mayonnaise.  It should  be kept refrigerated and  used within two to three days. 

And of course, once you get the plain recipe down you try all kinds of add-ins such as garlic.  Many salad dressing that are cream based start with mayonnaise and they involve just a few more steps than the mayo recipe.

As with other homemade dishes, you control what’s in it and it tastes better, too. Making mayo is fast, simple and once you try it, you might never buy Hellman’s or Dukes again.

Reference:
1. How To Make Mayonnaise – Allrecipes Dish
2. How to Make Mayonnaise – Gordon Ramsay – YouTube

How to Make Chicken Stock from Scratch

Chicken stock is an essential ingredient in the arsenal of the enthusiastic home cook. It is used in soups, stews, risottos and casseroles, as well as a whole host of other dishes. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in modern times when a recipe calls for chicken stock for many people to reach for one of those little dehydrated cubes and a jug of hot water. While it may take some time to make proper chicken stock from scratch, the cooking time is largely hands off and the difference in quality in both the stock and your ultimately prepared dish is night and day.

There are any number of ingredients which can be incorporated in chicken stock but there are only two principal methods used in its preparation. Essentially, it is made either from raw chicken/chicken bones or the bones of a chicken which has been roasted. Both work very well in most recipes but the intensity of the flavor and the color can be drastically different, with the roasted chicken stock more intense in both instances. The good news is that both methods can be made allowing the meat of a whole chicken to be enjoyed as a by-product.

Chicken stock made from a raw, whole chicken requires a prepared, whole chicken and a selection of vegetables, herbs and seasonings. This recipe is tried and tested many times and you may wish to give it a try. You will need:

1 4lb chicken
1 large carrot
1 large white onion
2 sticks of celery
1 small bunch of parsley
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Cold water

Wash your chicken inside and out under running cold water, making sure you remove any giblets that may be contained in the body cavity. Sit it in a large stock pot. Peel the onion and quarter it. Wash the carrot and roughly chop it but there is no need to peel it or even scrape it. Similarly, wash and chop the celery sticks. Add all the other solid ingredients to the pot with the chicken before pouring in enough cold water to comfortably cover everything. Put the pot on to maximum heat on your stove until the water boils then reduce to simmer for one hour.

After one hour, the chicken meat will be cooked and the liquid in the pot is perfect chicken broth. Chicken broth can be used in many recipes but stock requires considerably longer cooking time. Remove the chicken from the pot very carefully with perhaps a large slotted spoon and a carving fork and allow to cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones by your chosen method and return the bones to the still simmering liquid. Cook for a further couple of hours or until the liquid is reduced by half. Switch off the heat and allow to cool significantly before removing the larger solids with a slotted spoon and straining through a fine sieve. When the stock cools completely, it will have a gelatinous quality, very different from chicken broth.

The second method of making chicken stock involves using the cooled bones of a roasted chicken. The procedures are similar, in that the bones are added to a stock pot with the vegetables, herbs and seasoning and the water which is brought to a boil. Simmer for three to four hours until the liquid is reduced by half. Cool, remove the bigger solids with a slotted spoon and strain through a fine sieve.

Reference:
1. Chicken Stock Recipe : Alton Brown : Food Network
2. How to Make The Best Chicken Stock | Serious Eats

How to Find the most Popular Restaurants in the World

“The Most Popular Restaurants in the World” What a hefty title. I love fine dining. I can be real snob when it comes to food preparation. However, after trying out some of the best around the world, I have come to realize that so many of my favorite meals where not in these “ranked” restaurants. They were merely cute, well-decorated places, that I stumbled into with friends and ended up having an unforgettable time.

Now, having said that, the food was also amazing. The drinks were well-served, the waitstaff amazing, and the cuisine competitive. But the best thing about finding a restaurant that is unranked is the unpretentious attitude throughout the place. The people love working there because the believe that this restaurant is special. This is something that a well known restaurant can not fake. Plus, the treatment you get doesnt just feel like they are well trained to make it special, but you know they geniunely do want it to be a wonderful experience for you.

The best place I have ever been to is a place in Florence, Italy tucked off the far side of the famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio. It’s farther away than most tourists like to walk but as we stumbled upon it we knew we had found a jewel. The inside was a beautiful contrast of fresh and clean and then a split in the restaurant made the other half rich with dark woods and floral arrangements, while the whole restaurant opens up to wall to wall windows overlooking the river. We were given champagne upon sitting down, and the food was like magic in my mouth. I can’t explain it. But by the time the meal was over, the owner of the restaurant was sitting with us, the waiters were bringing wine out of every corner of the restaurant, and we had 3 courses of free dessert just because. It was one of the most special nights of my life, and everytime I return I go to see my friends at Golden View.

So the next time you are wondering where to take that special date or your in-town guests, don’t think of all the places you should go. Think of that little place you drive by to on your way to work, or that italian restaurant with the cool exterior. My bet is, if they have the taste to look good and have been around for a while, the foods probably not too bad either!

Reference:
1. The World's 50 Best Restaurants
2. These Are the 10 Best Restaurants in the World | TIME

How to Make Cheese Soup

Cheese soup is one of those hearty and warming dishes that can be made to suit almost any taste. Try this basic recipe and explore its adaptations and variations, plus your own ideas, to create your personal masterpiece.

Basic cheese soup

Ingredients

Makes 8 servings

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

7 cups milk, broth, water, or a mixture

1 bouquet garni

Method

* Melt butter in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and stir for 5 minutes. Add flour and stir for 5 additional minutes.

* Whisk in liquid and bouquet garni; bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, turn off heat, and whisk in cheese.

* Ladle soup (reserve 1 cup) into serving crocks, arrange bread cubes over each crock. Ladle reserved soup over bread cubes, sprinkle on remaining cheese, and bake crocks in 400-degree oven until soup is bubbling and browned.

Using cheese in soup

Parmesan is the cheese most often grated and added to cheese soup at the last minute.

The hard rind from a cut of Parmigiano-Reggiano brings a rich, delicious flavor throughout the soup when allowed to simmer from the beginning of the preparation. If the rind fails to melt completely before the soup is finished, rinse it off, wrap well, return to the freezer, and use the next time you make cheese soup. When you make cheese soup this way, use only a light sprinkle of cheese to finish the dish.

Possibly, the best all-purpose cheese for cooking into soup is authentic Swiss Gruyere which tends not to be stringy and has a delicious, nutty flavor. Good cooks often feel that if true Swiss Gruyere is not available, firm, full-flavored cheeses like Cheddar, aged Gouda, or French Comte are better choices.

When you use Roquefort, Stilton, or other strong-flavored blue cheese to make soup, you will need much less cheese to achieve full flavor. A prudent approach is usually best: Add about half the cheese, taste and adjust.

Additional cheese soup enhancements

Panades carry the idea of cheese soup one step further, often with wonderful results. Panades are best made in crocks where toasted bread, grated cheese, broth, and ingredients like cabbage, beans, stewed onions, and even sausage, confit of goose or duck, are layered and baked almost like a casserole. They are finished with the usual topping of bread cubes drizzled with soup and a finishing sprinkle of cheese.

Finally

The possibilities are countless, create your own cheese soup of family favorite ingredients, and wait for the compliments.

Reference:
1. Creamy Cheddar Cheese Soup Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. Broccoli Cheese Soup Recipe – Allrecipes.com

How to Make Maitre Dhotel Butter

Maître D`hotel butter is a flavored butter that you may consider making when you realise just how easy it is to prepare and how delicious it is to eat. The savoury butter is placed onto the top of hot steak or fish, it then melts over the flesh and provides a rich moist sauce. Not only is Maître D`hotel butter so tasty but you can make it in larger quantities and freeze some of it to use at a later date. The rich and sophisticated savory butter adds that little extra something to meat and fish.

You will need:

4 ounces or 113 grams of good quality butter

A little fresh lemon juice

One dessert spoon of chopped parsley – the parsley needs to be chopped very finely

Salt and pepper to taste.

Take the butter out of the refrigerator a few hours before you are going to make your savory butter. Place the butter into a mixing bowl. Using the back of your wooden spoon start creaming the butter. The butter needs to be soft enough to accept the finely chopped parsley. When you have added the finely chopped parsley to the creamed butter then add a few drops of fresh lemon juice.

Dip the tip of a teaspoon into the fresh Maitre D`hotel butter and taste it, then add the salt and pepper to taste. If the butter that you used was already salted then you may only need to add a tiny pinch of salt. Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper out on top of the kitchen counter. Using the wooden spoon scrape the soft buttery mixture onto the sheet of greaseproof paper. Work the butter into a long sausage shape and then start to roll the greaseproof paper around it tightly. You should then have what looks like a long butter sausage rolled in greaseproof paper.

Place the freshly made Maître D`hotel butter into the fridge and let it chill. If you wish to freeze some then this is the time to do so. Slice a large chunk from the fresh butter and cover it with film before placing it into the freezer. When you come to use the savory butter a thin slice will be placed on top of the fish or meat to melt over the top of it before serving. The savory butter is not expensive to make and it is worth every cent that you spend making it.

Reference:
1. Beurre Maître d'Hôtel
2. Maitre d'Hotel Butter : Recipes : Cooking Channel

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

There is something so comforting about the sweet cinnamon aroma of Hot Cross Buns baking in the oven, evoking childhood memories of hot, toasted buns with glistening melted butter running down the fingers to be licked up afterwards and a cup of strong tea to wash it all down with.

Ingredients:

340g (12 oz) flour

Pinch of salt

5ml (1 tsp) allspice

2.5ml (1/2 tsp) cinnamon

Pinch ground cloves

60g (2 oz) butter

85g (3 oz) caster sugar

155g (5 1/2 oz) raisins or mixed dried fruit

10ml (2 tsp) dried yeast

150ml (2/3 cup) warm milk

1 egg

Glaze:

30g (1 oz) sugar in 30ml (2 tbs) warm water.

Sift flour, salt and spices together.

Rub the butter in and add all of the sugar except 5ml (1 tsp).

Add raisins or dried fruit.

In a small bowl, dissolve 5ml (1 tsp) sugar in warm milk and sprinkle dried yeast over it.

Leave for 10 minutes and then mix until the yeast has dissolved.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the yeast sponge and egg.

Start incorporating the flour in from the sides by hand until it is well mixed in.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

The dough is ready when a floured finger doesn’t leave a hole when pushed in.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat with oil and cover the bowl with a cloth.

Allow to rise in a warm, draught-free place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Knock back and leave for 10 minutes.

Cut the dough into 12 pieces.

Form each piece into a ball by rolling in between floured palms and put onto a warm, lightly oiled baking tray.

Make a cross on each one either with a sharp knife before they rise, or cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise first for 10 minutes and then pipe a cross on with stiff dough made from flour and water.

Bake for 12 minutes in a preheated oven, 180ºC (356ºF).

Brush with glaze as soon as the buns come out of the oven.

Remove the buns from the baking tray and cool on a wire rack.

NOTES: Testing the warmth of the milk – When the milk is just starting to heat a little, take a few drops on a teaspoon and drop onto the inside of the wrist. It should feel pleasantly warm, but not hot. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast.

Kneading the Dough – Use the heels of the hands to push the dough away from you and then use the fingers to fold it back towards you. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit of flour to your hands and continue kneading until the dough is soft and elastic and does not stick to the surface.

Knocking Back – Push a fist into the center of the dough and then push the edges down over the center until the dough is flattened again. Only do this for as long as it takes to get the air out otherwise the dough will be come out tough.

Cross – The flour and water dough must not be too stiff otherwise it will shrink in baking and will be too hard to eat.

Reference:
1. Hot cross bun
2. Hot Cross Buns Recipe : Food Network Kitchen : Food Network

How to Make Fried Rice

Fried rice is the fast food of South East Asia. Whether it is called “Nasi Goreng” in Malaysia, “Khao Pad” in Thailand , “Chao Fun” in China or “Cha Han” in Japan, it never fails to bring back the flavors of home.

Rice is an indispensable staple in any Asian home. Leftover rice is used for fried rice dishes, partly as a way of thrift. However, the most important reason is that the moisture content in leftover cooked rice has already been absorbed, making it less sticky which is ideal for stir fry. All kinds of ingredients can be used for the fried rice, limited only by your imagination.

The following recipe is one of my favorite. There are two main processes to achieving great fried rice: Preparing the rice and the final dish itself. Do not be surprised to find that a simple meal as such calls for some practice and a dexterous hand .

Preparing cooked rice, for 2 persons:
1 cup of uncooked Thai rice, rinsed.
1.5 cups of water

Except for Thai rice, pre-soak Japanese, or Basmati rice if used, for 30 minutes. Microwave the rice for 10 minutes and then let it stand for another 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a pair of chopsticks.

Use a fan to cool down the rice and remove excess moisture off the cooked rice. For this reason, leftover rice is the best option.

Fried rice ingredients:
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 cup chopped ham or thinly sliced Chinese sausage
2 eggs ( lightly beaten, with a dash of sesame oil, salt, pepper )
1 cup green peas or mixed greens, blanched and drained
Chopped scallions ( optional )

Procedure :
Heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in a heavy work over high heat.
Scramble the eggs until 80% cooked. Push it aside in the wok.
Reduce to medium heat
Spoon in 1 teaspoon of oil. saute the garlic. Take care not to burn the garlic or else it gets bitter.
Add in the prepared rice and ham over the garlic. With the egg back in the medley, continually toss the rice mix over the wok.
When adequately mixed, stir in the peas and mix well for a couple of minutes.
Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a dash of sesame oil if preferred.
The rice is ready now to be served.

Garnish with scallions over the steaming rice. It gives a nice sophisticated aroma reminiscent of those in Chinese restaurants.

The ideal Chinese fried rice is not clumpy and every grain has a firm satisfying bite. For those who prefer a taste of South East Asia, add a teaspoon of chilli powder, curry powder and black soy sauce just before adding the peas and omit the sesame oil altogether.

Reference:
1. How to Make Fried Rice Video – Allrecipes.com
2. Chinese Chicken Fried Rice II Recipe – Allrecipes.com

How to Make Caramel Italian Cream Cake

In the mood for flaky, mouth-watering cake?  Caramel Italian cream cake is just about as mouth-watering as it gets.  With the yummy coconut and pecans, you are guaranteed a dessert you will not forget. 

Ingredients include:

3 cups shaved coconut

1 cup finely chopped pecans

½ cup of softened butter

½ cup shortening

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

5 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

First, preheat your oven to 350 °. 

Next, place the 3 cups of shaved coconut a single layer on the bottom of a pan.  Make a second layer with the pecans. 

Bake the coconuts and pecans in the oven for 5-7 minutes until both are lightly toasted.  Stir a little about halfway through the toasting.

Combine the butter and shortening with electric mixer until the mixture is fluffy. 

Once combined, stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar with the beater.

Add each egg yoke separately, and beat each one until blended before adding the next.

Add the vanilla extract and stir in.

In a separate bowl, add the flour and baking soda together.  Be careful with the flour and put it in at small amounts, so it won’t get everywhere. 

Alternately, add the flour mixture and buttermilk into the sugar mixture.  Stir with electric mixer at a low speed until blended.

Stir in the pecans and sweetened coconut at low speed.

Beat all the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks have formed and put into the batter.

Grease three 9-inch round cake pans and pour batter in.

Bake at 350 ° for around 23-25 minutes.

Place onto three separate cooling racks for an hour, or until cooled completely.

Prepare caramel frosting and spread between each layer and the top of the cake.  Spread cream cheese frosting all over the outside of the cake and press the toasted shaved coconut and pecan mixture on frosting. 

Enjoy!

Reference:
1. Caramel Italian Cream Cake Recipe | MyRecipes.com
2. Recipe For Caramel Italian Cream Cake | Bed and Breakfast Inns …