Monday, June 30, 2008

Watermelon Curry with Cucumber

Yes. Watermelon Curry.

I first had watermelon curry while I was attending culinary school. One class/kitchen session was spent on creating an Indian banquet. As you can imagine, the watermelon curry was quite memorable.

Then, we used the recipe from 50 Great Curries of India (it's a really informative book, highly recommended; there is now a 10th Anniversary edition available). Now, I'm basing this dish on that recipe, but tweaking it here and there.

Of course, it all starts with the watermelon.


I only needed 1/4 of that gigantormous watermelon. Here are the cubes.

I decided to add cucumbers to the dish. I've always thought that I didn't like cucumbers, but that was because I had always seen them raw. We made Hainan Chicken a while back and had to put cucumber in the soup. That was a discovery! I'm all for cooked cucumber!

I semi-peeled a fairly large English cucumber (leaving strips of peel on) and removed the seeds. I then cut them in large pieces (about 1-1/2").

Then, to make the flavor base for the curry, I took 1 cup of the watermelon cubes and puréed them. Into that juice went paprika, turmeric, coriander and minced garlic. I failed to add it this time, but some cayenne pepper would give a nice kick.

The original recipe actually calls for Rajasthan chile powder. I don't usually have that on hand (as I don't even know what that is). So, instead of substituting any old chile powder, I took the book's suggestion of using paprika instead. I also increased the amount of garlic and just minced it instead of trying to make a very fine garlic purée.

Into hot oil went some cumin seeds. The seeds danced briefly in the oil before I poured in the flavored watermelon juice. I let the juice reduce then added lime juice. The cucumbers went in next.

I let them cook until they were almost soft, then added the watermelon. The watermelon only needed to be heated through. The watermelon does release some liquid (because of the salt and the heat, however gentle and short). I took the cucumber and watermelon pieces out of the sauce after cooking and then reduced the sauce down again.

This watermelon curry makes a very nice side dish. We had this with some roast chicken that echoed the flavors of the curry. One could also serve this alongside grilled prawns or even a steak. It's a very good way to use up leftover cut-up watermelon (especially from gigantormous ones).

Watermelon has long suffered being typecast into sweet roles. It's about time it stepped out into starring savory roles. Will you help it?

Watermelon Curry with Cucumber by _ts
(Adapted from "Watermelon Curry" in
50 Great Curries of Indiaby Camellia Panjabi)

1/4 large watermeon
1 large (or 2 small) English cucumbers
cayenne pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut up watermelon into 1-inch cubes. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces.

Take 1 cup of the watermelon cubes and blend/puree into juice. To the juice, add the cayenne, paprika, turmeric, coriander and minced garlic.

Heat oil in wok or sauté pan. When hot, add cumin seeds. They should lightly dance about in the oil. After 20 seconds, add the flavored watermelon juice. Simmer on low heat until reduced by half.

Add the lime juice and the cucumbers. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until cucumbers are almost soft.

Add the watermelon and cook for another 3-4 minutes on low heat. Stir to make sure the cucumber and watermelon pieces are covered with the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Take out watermelon and cucumber pieces and let the sauce reduce again by half. Pour sauce over watermelon and cucumbers. Serve.

We're submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen with the goal of helping each other learn about cooking with herbs and unusual plant ingredients.

If you'd like to participate, see
who's hosting next week. WHB is hosted this week by Pam of Sidewalk Shoes.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Shrimp Chips aka Prawn Crackers

What have we been up to this weekend?

CSC and I have been testing a couple of recipes for Jaden's upcoming cookbook! It's all quite exciting. One dish called for shrimp chips aka prawn crackers. These just happened to come in pastel colors. Pretty!

Uncooked discs

I tried and tried and tried to get shots of the crackers puffing up, but alas, that was not to be. That above was the best I could do.

We've also had a thicker kind of prawn cracker. These were brought over by the gong sisters for Mama's Birthday Party.

The gong sisters also have this trick of holding the prawn cracker flat while frying. Hence, the non-curled up nature of these ones. These thicker ones are especially good with a chile-garlic-vinegar dipping sauce!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Foray into "Fusion": Pan-roasted Halibut with Fava Beans, Potato-Onion Cakes and Bagoong Butter Sauce

A TS Original!

As our readers can glean from reading the entries on this blog, we are eclectic in our tastes. Most of the time, we have been pretty happy travelling in different culinary spheres and just eating all that delicious food. Every cuisine is vibrant, alive, with a whole lot to offer, if only we look. We are great believers in respecting different traditions, and on the occasion that we cook from these traditions, we always strive for authenticity in word, deed, and spirit.

For our Mmm...Canada entry, we wanted a dish that would hopefully pull together the diverse strands of our culinary influences. Cross-pollination between different culinary cultures happens, and it's beside the point for us whether it's "good" or "bad." When such cross-pollination happens, we can only hope that we treat the donor cultures with the appropriate respect.

So you can say that this is our first foray into "fusion," which is quite a meaningless term nowadays, so take that for all that is worth. ;)

We wanted a dish that uses a ubiquitous BC ingredient, halibut, and use it in an application that would also invoke our culinary roots and heritage.

Bagoong is a staple condiment on Filipino tables. Growing up, we were more familiar with the alamang version of bagoong, made from shrimp, instead of the fish version. It is very strong-smelling and those who are not used to the smell will often find it quite revolting. It is delicious, though, and it's good with rice. Our usual application for our bagoong alamang is as topping for green mangoes.

Mention green mangoes with bagoong to any Filipino and you'll find them drooling! The tartness of the green mangoes very effectively activates the salivary glands. It's happening to me right now just writing about it!

It's been so long since we've had green mangoes. We've had to improvise and use tart Granny Smith apples for the mangoes. Bagoong on Granny Smith apples are good too.

So here goes. TS did all the work for this one, so I can't claim any credit. I got intimidated at the shelling of the beans.

It all started with the beans.

We saw some fava beans in the produce market and decided to get some. We've never used them in any way before, so we thought it was high time we did.

I shelled the beans. They were quite "mature", as they already had a tougher pale outer skin. (This I learned from Jamie Oliver.) At first I attempted to remove the outer skin, but it was too difficult. So I went straight to blanching them. Apparently, that's how you make it easier to remove the skin!

It was actually quite fun popping those beans out! I lost the first couple of beans because I didn't expect them to jump out quite so fast and far.

Grape tomatoes were simply quartered and seasoned with salt.

To get it out of the way, I also made cilantro oil early in the game. I blanched some cilantro, then pureed that with some oil in the blender. I strained not once, but twice!

To make it easier on myself, I baked my potato-onion cakes instead of pan-frying them. I grated some potatoes with some onions and added some flour and an egg. I formed rings and into the oven they went. They had a more hash brown-like texture than a crispy latke or rösti texture.

Now, the pièce de résistance!

I made the bagoong butter sauce while pan-roasting the halibut. I used the The French Laundry Cookbookas a refresher to making beurre monté.

I added about a tablespoon of water and heated that until boiling, then whisked in piece by piece of cold butter. When that was emulsified, I added the bagoong and whisked to combine.

Some bagoong butter sauce went in, one potato-onion cake, the fava beans, another potato-onion cake, then the halibut. I sprinkled the grape tomatoes around, drizzled a little bit of cilantro oil, et voilà!

Surprisingly, this dish was quite good. The bagoong butter added such a wonderful depth of flavour: it made the whole dish very, very umami. At first, I thought the bagoong butter would overwhelm the halibut, but there was a balance achieved between the fleshy, firm fish and the sauce. The grape tomatoes were such a welcome pop of flavour, essential to break the richness of the sauce. The beans had that fresh greenness that also provided a nice contrast to the sauce.

For revisions to this dish, I would recommend that the potatoes pancakes be crisper for more textural difference. The pancakes turned soggy, especially sitting in the sauce. If not more crispy, then at least more substantial to stand up to the bagoong butter. Perhaps cubed, or perhaps mashed potatoes will even work.

The dish could have used a touch more acidity, perhaps a squeeze of lemon at the end. Of course, calamansi would have worked great, too, for additional tartness and sweetness.

The cilantro oil didn't add to this dish, but we're saving that for other applications.

In the end, it was the bagoong butter that unified all the different components of the dish. That's a keeper.

Does this taste like Canada? Well, to me, it does. It certainly takes the spirit of Canadian multiculturalism and translates it onto the plate.

[eatingclub] vancouver Filipino food
Mama's Ampalaya (Bitter Melon)
Faux Kamote-Que
Philippine-Style Chicken "BBQ"
Fried Hasa Hasa (Mackerel)
"Savory" Chicken Wings
Sinamak (Chile-infused Vinegar)
Pan-roasted Halibut w/ Fava Beans, Potato-Onion Cakes & Bagoong Butter Sauce
Bulalo & Bangus: an even simpler Filipino meal
Baked Tahong (Mussels)
Adobo Kangkong (Adobo Water Spinach)
Oyster Torta (Oyster Omelette)
Chicken Tinola (Chicken Soup w/ Green Papaya & Pepper Leaves)
(Chinese) Roast Pork Belly / Lechon
Tilapia wrapped in Banana Leaves
Pork Belly, Two Ways
Chicken Adobo
Salabat (Ginger Tea)
Lechon Manok (Philippine Roast Chicken) & Lechon Sauce
"Chinese Adobo" Clams and Oysters
Bistek (Citrus Beef with Caramelized Onions)
Beef Kaldereta (Beef Stew with Bell Peppers)
Atsara (Green Papaya Pickle)
Sardinas na Bangus (Milkfish in the style of Sardines) and Pressure Cooker Fear

Mmm... Canada is hosted by Confessions of a Cardamom Addict. The invitation to the event can be found here. The round-up will be posted on July 1 (of course!).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bucatini with Zucchini & Grape Tomatoes

Traveling around the blogosphere, I kept seeing the icon for "Presto Pasta Nights." The name of the event is so catchy; it's hard to forget.

One weekday last week, we came home to no dinner prepared and we were looking for something quick to eat. Very, very hungry, you see.

We had zucchinis and some grape tomatoes sitting around and presto!
Here it is, our entry for Presto Pasta Nights.

I infused some olive oil with garlic (starting the pan cold and adding the garlic from the start), then added some anchovies. It was then a simple matter of sweating sliced onions and zucchini. The grape tomatoes went in last.

The bucatini was a tad too heavy for the delicate ingredients. We were thinking of doing the dish with spaghetti first, but I remembered we had bucatini as well that we wanted to use up.

We also realized we still had some feta, so we added some chunks of feta to the dish. Brilliant! The feta enlivened the dish.

A great summer-y pasta.

This is our first Presto Pasta Nights post. The first of many, I hope.

This week's host is Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.
Presto Pasta Nights info

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rekados Lunch

We decided to try Rekados for lunch the other day. Prior to that, lunch is probably the most problematic meal of all for us.

Breakfast, for me, is not a question. It usually is coffee and a cup of yogurt. Or, coffee and banana. It seems that I have no problems repeating the same meal over and over for breakfast. I lived on oatmeal for more than 6 months at one stretch of time, with no complaints.

With dinner, it has to be, without question, varied and interesting. Embarrassing to admit but I do get grumpy and cranky if I do not get a good dinner every few days. I can stretch out to four or five days, sometimes even two weeks, but people don't want to be near me when I'm in one of these moods. I like variety and I cannot endure the same type of food for more than 3 days at a time. And I like my food to have honest-to-goodness proper flavour, something soul-satisfying as well.

As the midday meal, lunch stands in-between these in terms of wishing and expectations. There are days when we don't even have time for lunch (hence the demand and/or wish for a good dinner). There are days when we just have to endure a day-old sandwich and/or soup with crackers. But fortunately, there are also days when we have the luxury of choosing a proper lunch.

I think the Rekados lunch qualifies as a proper lunch, don't you think?

Growing up, we were just used to our lunches being just like dinner. Same types of food: rice and hot dishes to go with it. Sandwiches or anything of the sort qualified merely as "snacks." Here's to Rekados and the "old days"!

As part of their lunch menu, Rekados has "combo" meals which include a meat dish, a vegetable dish, soup and of course, rice. I don't usually look at the prices, but these meals are $6.95 and $7.95. Quite a steal!

Soup that day was corn soup. On other occasions, we've had sotanghon soup (a vermicelli soup flavored with achiote) and a tomato-based broth.

The veg was bean sprouts. Other times, we've had bok choy, green beans, and so on.

Chicken adobo with fried egg (JS's dish).

I had the "beef tapsi". That's short for tapsilog, one of the beloved "silog" type dishes, so called because it's beef tapa + sinangag (garlic fried rice) + itlog (fried egg).

I promptly put my egg on top of the sinangag and broke the yolk. Oooooh.

As you can see below, we also ordered fried calamare and their mangga ensalada. (More info about the two dishes here.)

And yes, that meal's just for two people. Granted, we were kind of, sort of full afterwards. I don't think we even had room for the warm toffee cake!

Oh, they've brought it back! The warm toffee cake is back!!!

I guess our laments and our ode to the warm toffee cake (here and here) were heard!

Rekados is such a (relatively) undiscovered gem. We always shake our heads at why people aren't clamoring to dine there. People, go!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Lamb only makes an appearance on our table when we have a lot of people over for some occasion.

Reason being, we are not lamb eaters, not being used to the meat that was never part of our food rotation or repertoire. Myself, I find I like lamb, and indeed do crave lamb every so often, but alas, this love is not an unconditional love. I love lamb in some applications, and do not even like it in some others.

Mediterranean applications of lamb fall under the "love lamb" column. The Mediterranean ways of cooking lamb lends the meat just the right touch of gaminess for me, pleasantly gamey and not overpoweringly -- "fishily" -- so.

I love doing legs of lamb because it always looks festive. I love grilled leg of lamb and this is usually what we do.

The marinade
I started to prepare the marinade. As usual, I have no set recipe for these marinades. I just know that I want the lamb to be Mediterranean-ish, so I just chose ingredients that would fit within these constraints. I started looking around to see what I could add.

I opened the fridge.

Oh, yogurt.
Okay. Would add a little richness, a little tang, as well as tenderizing the meat a tad.

A touch of mustard for more tang. Salt and pepper.

I saw that we still had olives so I set about chopping the olives to add to the marinade. We had green and black olives.

The key ingredient in tempering the gaminess of lamb has got to be garlic though, so I tend to use a lot of garlic in my marinades for lamb. This was no exception.

(Although, we don't really need an excuse for adding a lot of garlic!)

Well, lookeee here! TS bought some sumac (which we unfortunately did not have for the lamb kofte). That goes in.

I also found some rosemary in the fridge.

Fresh herbs were mint and oregano from the garden. And why not, a couple of birds' eye chilis.

I started rubbing the marinade all over the lamb but the marinade was a tad chunky from the olives, so we had the idea of making this a stuffed leg of lamb instead.

We've never stuffed a leg before, so I figure it was as good a time as any. Here's the inside of the leg.

Being all thumbs, I enlisted TS to help me tie up the lamb. Here it is, a nice, oval bundle. I rubbed the leftover marinade-slash-stuffing onto its outside as well.

Onto the grill it went. Not having done a stuffed leg before, I think I was slightly off with the timing. I should have rotated the lamb while cooking to cook the leg more evenly.

Here it is, all charred.

TS also sliced the leg. The "stuffing" didn't look as nice as I had hoped. It was mainly because of the yogurt and the "curdled" look it had.

But, this sure was delicious.

Stuffed recipes:
Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb
Stuffed Peppers (Lamb and Rice)
Stuffed Squid (braised in tomato sauce)
Faux=stuffed Basa Fillets with Olives, Tomatoes, Lemons and Oranges
Stuffed Giant Squid, Two Ways
Stuffed Savoy Cabbage with Pork

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