Fatherhood, Food & Cooking, Man Matter

Enhancing your rice #1 (Non-halal)

I love to cook and I love to experiment with food. So I’m always looking for new ingredients and recipes to try & perfect, like the 24-hours super juicy roost chicken by Heston Blumenthal.

This is a new series of food hack/recipes that I’ve done at home which I’m sharing to cater for men & women who are too busy to cook a decent meal but still wants to enhance what they can get with limited ingredients and limited time. More importantly, it’s cooked at home so you control the quality & nutritional value.

You will see many of the ingredients are being reused & remixed so you do not have to spend time looking for them but at times, the mix of ingredients may seem bonkers and that’s the whole point. Doing something special to surprise your loved ones and delighting their taste buds.

There’re only a few condiments/spices that I frequently use which I’d reveal over the series but rest assure I’d keep reusing/revisiting the same taste so the ingredient don’t go bad from disuse. Most of the ingredients I use are of higher quality but because you’d only need a little, in the long term, it’s inexpensive.

If you have any questions or comments, or if you love it as much as I do, please click the article header and find the comment section below.

Recipe #1 – Bacon Butter Rice

To kick off the series, I’m going to show you how to enhance your plain rice. Unfortunately, some of my recipes don’t have Halal equivalent (like this one,) so I’d put that in the title.

This recipe is so ridiculously simple because you simply throw all the ingredients into the rice cooker and wait. I got the idea last week when I realize my bacon is about to expire and rather than simply frying it up, I thought why not put it in the rice to give that wonderful smoky fragrance! Heavenly! I can already imagine the aroma from this special butter rice. And the best part is, it goes well with Chinese food as well!

Don’t worry, I’d explain the purpose of the ingredients so you don’t have to buy a specific brand or type. Just find the closest match, mix it up and have fun!

One last note. It’s hard to cook for 1-2 person, so most of my recipes are upsized to be stored for later consumption. It’s perfectly fine to use the microwave to reheat rice. For meat, fish & vegetable, you should consider steaming if possible.

Serving size: 8 adult portions or 6 man-sized portions

Ingredients:

  1. 1 pack of streaky bacon (you’d want more fats to make the rice smoother so back-bacon is not such a good idea & definitely don’t waste that parma ham!)
  2. 2 tablespoon of salted butter or cut about 1cm from the block (if you use unsalted butter, add about half a teaspoon of salt)
  3. All-purpose herbs (unsalted) in a shaker
  4. 4 cups of rice (Jasmine or Thai fragrant rice is best but long-grain or pearl rice should work too)

Note about the ingredients:

  1. Real Bacon has a smoky aroma that really adds a fantastic and luxurious taste to the rice. This can’t be easily replicated with Turkey Bacon or even good ham.
  2. Use REAL butter, buy what you can afford. Generally more expensive butter has more milk solids + water and thus taste more creamy. NEVER use margarine for your health’s sake.
  3. All-purpose herbs comes in a shaker form but are not cheap unless you mix it yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to use a lot each time. However, because it’s so versatile, it’ll be used in many of my recipes! If your herb contains sea salt, use a little less salt if you find the result too salty.
  4. Most Asian get our carbohydrates from polished rice. It’s so versatile but its potential is under appreciated. I’m going to show you MANY things you can do to enhance the humble rice in future posts!

Cooking:

  1. Wash your rice once and drain. Fill it to the number 4 mark in the cooking pot.
  2. Dump the salted butter or the unsalted butter + salt into the water.
  3. Shake the herb onto the water so it covers most of the surface loosely.
  4. Stir!
  5. Cut the streaky bacon in half (meaning from 15cm slices to 7.5cm)
  6. Chuck the first half to the bottom of the rice and the other half on top, making sure it’s completely submerged.
  7. Cook the rice as per normal.

Tips:

  1. Don’t worry about the quantity of the ingredients. Adjust it to your liking. These recipes are supposed to be quick food hacks.
  2. Do not use too much herbs! The herb is there to give you a tantalizing aroma, too much and it becomes bitter. If you like a stronger smell without the bitterness, use fresh herbs!
  3. Similarly, do not use too much salt as the bacon is pretty salty already. You’d want the salt to enhance the savory sweetness (umami) but not to make the rice salty!
  4. Know your rice! Stick to what you know best. Most Japanese brand rice cookers will cook Thai Jasmine rice, Thai Fragrant rice & Japanese Pearl rice to perfection with the Plain rice program. However, different rice are cooked differently, for example, USA and China Pearl rice has a lower moisture content, meaning you need to pre-soak the rice for some time after washing and before cooking!

No nos:

  1. Do NOT use turkey bacon, ham & luncheon meat, it wouldn’t turn out as well.
  2. NEVER use margarine! It just isn’t healthy!
  3. Putting the ingredients into the rice before the water. You need a very specific amount of moisture during and after cooking as the oil & fats will drive out some of the moisture from the rice grains. You’d want a chewiness to the rice and the moisture in the rice is very important!
  4. Using Soya sauce instead of salt. I personally think the soya bean taste will dilute the smoky aroma of the bacon but I have not tested this. I just imagine the 2 together and it seems to cancel out or at least doesn’t flare wonderfully.

Well I didn’t hold anything back so you should be able to get the same taste as my family last week. Everyone loved it and I hope your family loves it too!

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Food & Cooking, Opinions

Gordan Ramsay 1, Singapore Hawkers 2

Gordan Ramsay 1, Singapore Hawkers 2

Food watchers & Singapore Food lovers would no doubt know by now that Gordan Ramsay only won 1 out of 3 food challenges, namely Chilli Crab. He lost the Chicken Rice & Laksa challenges.

What interests me were the results. Gordan Ramsay was given 1 day to learn to make these 3 dishes. Yet the margins were narrower than I expected for 2 of the challenges.

Chilli Crab – Won by 5%
Chicken Rice – Lost by 6%
Laksa – Lost by 19%

From my experience, it takes time to master a dish + endless trials and errors to compensate for the difference in the taste of ingredients.

Gordan Ramsay probably never used our herbs & spices so it’ll take some time to understand how they affect the chemistry of the food & other spices they’re paired with.

Yet, he managed such a small margin of lost for Chicken Rice. I think it boiled down to the Chilli because it probably doesn’t take much to master the poultry for a master chef like Ramsay. The rice is quite straight forward actually.

The biggest margin of lost was in the Laksa challenge which isn’t surprising because Nonya/Peranakan food are notoriously labourious to make & difficult to master. The Laksa paste is probably the biggest headache for him. The mix of herbs & spices + processing the dried shrimps must be very precise. So it’s no surprise the margin of lost was 19%.

Given more time (maybe 1 week), I’m pretty sure Ramsay will win the Chicken Rice challenge.

The Laksa will be a harder nut to crack because 328 Katong Laksa is already very good. Mr Koh of 328 Katong Laksa said it best, “I feel really happy to have won while representing Singapore. Chef Ramsay did not have a basic understanding of laksa but he was here only one day. Maybe if he had more time he would cook better than us.”

In this challenge, the winners are actually the losers. Mr Ang of Jumbo Seafood just need to adjust his recipe a little (or a lot) depending on how different the 2 challengers tasted. Ramsay obviously have a newfound respect for Singapore food now & who knows where that’ll lead.

Food & Cooking

My Quest to cook more like Heston Blumenthal

Introduction

I love food! I REALLY REALLY LOVE FOOD!

So what’s better than finding a great place to sample great food?

Finding great recipes & cook it myself!

My Culinary History

I love to create stuff for others to enjoy, which is why I was a programmer & now a blogger. Cooking is just another way for me to express my creativity.

Unfortunately, I have no formal training & my experiences have always been trial & error. After a few tries, I do eventually gets it & make the recipe my own.

I make a pretty good Cheesecake & I can do a restaurant style scrambled egg with runny center & caramelized skin.

However, these are based on others’ recipes which I’ve perfected by tweaking.

Which is why I find Heston Blumenthal’s way of cooking so fascinating!

Heston Blumenthal

If you don’t know Heston Blumenthal, I don’t blame you. Unlike Jamie Oliver & Anthony Bourdain, Heston don’t do TV much until recently. However, his restaurant, “The Fat Duck”, has 3 Michelin-stars & has been voted “Best Restaurant in UK” many times.

I chanced upon Heston Blumenthal in 2009 after trying the Ramen @ Ippudo Mandarin Singapore. My wife & I were exploring the new Mandarin Gallery (shopping center) when we come across an open-concept café with an interesting menu & concept. It was a café that sells exotic ingredients, cookbooks & many of their dishes uses these exotic ingredients.

I don’t remember having anything there but I came upon this book called, “In Search of Perfection”.

In Search of Perfection

Inside the book were crazy recipes that uses crazy equipment that process crazy ingredients that were next to impossible to recreate with my average home utensils. I managed to watch the TV series that the book was based on & while inspiring, reinforced the idea that I can’t attempt these creations without putting serious time & money.

It was very educational & entertaining though because Heston’s idea of cooking is based on Science & not myths. He prefers to experiment to remove any guesswork from his recipes. This inspired me to enhance some of my current recipes & try new techniques.

New series with home-cooks in mind

Recently, while searching for Heston on Youtube, I came across a new BBC series called “How to Cook like Heston” which was aired in 2012. These recipes were much more approachable, uses simpler ingredients which are easier to source (dry ice versus liquid nitrogen) & uses every day kitchen utensils + a thermometer.

This motivated me to try something that’s really nice that most restaurant got it wrong.

Roast Chicken!

The Process & using local ingredients.

You can watch the video below.

 

Recipes are here.

Living in a HDB apartment in Singapore where space is limited, I’ve made some changes to the recipe to allow for tighter space.

For home-cooks, you need to buy an oven thermometer (your oven thermostat isn’t accurate enough,) a meat thermometer & plenty of cheap coarse salt. The washing bowl is replaced with salad spinner bowl (or any bowl that’s deep enough) & the UK chicken is replace with whole Kampong Chicken.

Other than these changes, Heston’s recipe should be fool-proof enough for anyone who’s had some experience in the kitchen.

For novice or noob, try something simpler (like Heston’s foolproof scrambled egg) because this recipe takes almost 4 hours to complete excluding the brining process (19 hours including) & you need to process the whole chicken (chopping off & ridding internals.) It can be devastating to spend so much time to fail.

The result was fantastic! The best roast chicken I’ve ever tasted! Move aside Kenny Rogers!

Brining the Chicken in 6% salt solution, making sure the whole chicken is covered.
Brining the Chicken in 6% salt solution, making sure the whole chicken is covered.
After buttering the chicken, it's ready for slow bake.
After buttering the chicken, it’s ready for slow bake.
After slow bake, the skin should look raw.
After slow bake, the skin should look raw.
After a quick blast of hot air, the skin will separate from the flesh & brown.
After a quick blast of hot air, the skin will separate from the flesh & brown.

The process continue because I’ve saved the carcass for the next part, Chicken Stock, which requires milk powder & pressure cooker.

I’d post that next time!