Stop, You’re Making Me Hungry!

fat1I’ve been watching the Netflix documentary series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, based on the book of the same name and hosted by its author Samin Nosrat. It’s one of those inspiring cooking documentaries that makes you want to rush into the kitchen and start taking food seriously. Samin Nosrat is a delight — funny, warm, passionate. Her enthusiasm about food is infectious.

I am now also reading the book and here is an excerpt, about fat. I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learnt from Nosrat about the ‘four elements of good cooking’ and trying some of the recipes too.

(The book is beautifully illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton.)

Used as a main ingredient , fat will significantly affect a dish. Often, it’s
both a source both of rich flavor and of a particular desired texture. For
example, fat ground into a burger will render as it cooks, basting the meat
from within and contributing to juciness. Butter inhibits the proteins in flour
from developing, yielding tender and flaky textures in a pastry. Olive oil
contributes both a light, grassy flavor and a rich texture to pesto. The amount
of cream and egg yolks in an ice cream determine just how smooth and
decadent it’ll be (hint: the more cream and eggs, the creamier the result).
The role fat plays as a cooking medium is perhaps its most impressive and
unique. Cooking fats can be heated to extreme temperatures, allowing the
surface temperature of foods cooked in them to climb to astonishing heights
as well. In the process, these foods become golden brown and develop the
crisp crusts that so please our palates. Any fat you heat to cook food can be
described as a medium, whether it’s the peanut oil in which you fry chicken,
the butter you use to sauté spring vegetables, or the olive oil in which you
poach tuna.

Certain fats can also be used as seasoning to adjust flavor or enrich the
texture of a dish just before serving: a few drops of toasted sesame oil will
deepen the flavors in a bowl of rice, a dollop of sour cream will offer silky
richness to a cup of soup, a little mayonnaise spread on a BLT will increase
its succulence, and a smear of cultured butter on a piece of crusty bread will
add untold richness.

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From Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat.
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A Mellow, Sweet Taste Unfurled

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I was recently in Singapore for six days and it’s taken me more than a week to catch up with life and start blogging again.

Whenever I’m in Singapore I eat dry fishball noodles or mince pork noodles. It tastes much better there than it does here. (I’m sure this declaration will send most Malaysians into a rage, but, on the whole, I prefer Singaporean food to Malaysian food. Or maybe it’s my home state, Johor’s food I remember and love, and Singapore is close enough to Johor for its food to be similar, while KL is a totally different world.)

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When in Singapore I also try to have coffee and kaya toast at Yakun. It’s a chain, but the toast is consistently well made at all its outlets, as far as I can tell. This time round, my best friend Jenny (She’s Singaporean) and I had Saturday breakfast at the Yakun at Fortune Centre on Middle Road. We had kaya and butter toast as well as buttered toast sprinkled with sugar. We drank kopi C kosong, which is sugarless coffee with evaporated milk.

I haven’t had good kaya toast in KL so I look forward to my visits to Yakun in Singapore. I wonder if anyone has described this traditional kopi tiam breakfast (coffee and kaya toast) in a book.Read More »

A New Comfort Read

www3It took me a while as I’ve been busy with editing deadlines, but I finally finished reading Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa.

I loved it and I’m glad I was ‘forced’ to take my time with it.

The book is about Sentaro, a middle-aged man, who works at a dorayaki shop and is pretty tired of his job and his life. Once upon a time he thought he might be a writer, but then he ended up in jail and in debt, and now he simply goes through the motions, making and selling dorayaki in the day and getting drunk in the evenings.

Read More »

Apple-and-Condensed-Milk Sandwiches

chunky coverToday’s delicious excerpts are from The Adventures of Chunky by Leila Berg, with illustrations by George Downs.

The book was first published in 1950, but it was a 1965 Oxford Children’s Library hardback edition that my father rescued (from his school library’s garbage heap) and brought home for me. Unfortunately, I lost that copy, but I managed to replace it in the late 90s.

Chunky’s real name is Joseph but he’s called Chunky because he enjoys food, like chocolate and bread and toffee, in chunks rather than neat slices or squares.

Chunky’s parents are scientists. They are always off experimenting on something or other so Chunky gets left to fend for himself quite a bit. However, he has his best friend Mike, the widow Mrs Spriggs and her niece Tangie to keep him company.

More than thirty years after I had first read this book, I still remembered many of Chunky’s adventures, like the time he taught a pig to be a music conductor, and when he found himself being followed by hordes of stray cats. I also remembered that when Chunky’s parents are off on one of their working trips, they always leave Chunky the most yummy-sounding packed lunches, teas and dinners.

Here are three excerpts describing meals from the book:Read More »

All Piled High on Crisp Brown Toast

The last time I wrote about food in books, I mentioned potted meat in the Famous Five series. Enid Blyton’s various adventuring children eat a lot. The Five Find Outers tend to stick to simple biscuits, chocolate and sandwiches; the four with with Kiki the cockatoo eat a lot of tinned food as they always seem stuck in the middle of nowhere; and the Famous Five have Anne to cook, or else rely on farmers’ wives or handy village shops whose owners are always eager to make mountains of sandwiches for them, and always throw in complimentary snacks.

Five on a Hike Together (my favourite Famous Five adventure) has such a ‘shop-woman’ making cheese, egg, ham and pork sandwiches for the children: Julian requests eight sandwiches for each of them! And she gives them some fruit cake too.

A little less than half way through the book, the Five have breakfast at an inn:

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Illustration of the Five at breakfast, by Betty Maxey

A wonderful smell came creeping into the little dining-room, followed by the inn-woman carrying a large tray. On it was a steaming tureen of porridge, a bowl of golden syrup, a jug of thick cream, and a dish of bacon and eggs, all piled high on crisp brown toast. Little mushrooms were on the same dish.

‘It’s like magic!’ said Anne, staring. ‘Just the very things I longed for.’

‘Toast, marmalade and butter to come, and the coffee and hot milk,’ said the woman, busily setting everything out. ‘And if you want any more bacon and eggs, just ring the bell.’

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How delicious everything sounds, but, as a Malaysian child, I was quite puzzled about the porridge, which the kids eat with cream and golden syrup. I was of course picturing the Chinese rice porridge we have here, which we eat with meat and veg, and not the oaty sort they serve for breakfast in England, and which some eat sweetened.

I did not ever eat porridge when I lived there, but I do now and yes, I do eat it with cream. My favourite English food? Pork pies and cauliflower cheese, and hot sponge-and-custard for pudding.