Archive for the ‘Soup, stew & curry’ Category

Today I attended the second lesson of my International Certification in Cuisine at Taylor’s University College Malaysia. I actually quite like the lessons, always packed with new things to learn and hands on practice. Today the menu was quite elaborate, with lamb kofta served with pita bread, coriander flavoured pumpkin soup, and glazed duck breast with semolina and jackfruit. We had so much to prepare and cook that there was basically no time in between for me to shoot the dishes I prepared. It was fun though, and the dishes were delicious!

Today the dishes involved quite a bit of dicing, one of the most important basic skills in Western cuisine. From onion to garlic to mint to red chili, from larger cubes to tiny pieces, we got to polish our dicing skills for sure!

dicing onion

Caption: Dicing onion…Chef Rex did it with such a breeze…the secret lies in not cutting away the root part of the onion totally…so that you can hold that with your other hand while the hand holding the knife will be slicing the onion away…sort of acts as an anchor.

dicing chili_parsley
Caption: Fine dicing chili and English parsley for the lamb kofta.

The first dish we prepared, lamb kofta with pita bread, was one of the best pita bread with lamb that I’ve tasted in a long long time! And it was my first time cooking lamb kofta too. The cooked lamb kofta was finished with a yogurt, mint and cumin dressing, so light and refreshing! It gave an Indian-Middle Eastern flavour that was indeed very appealing and appetizing! Plus it’s so easy to make that you can be done in under 20 minutes!

Procedure to cook lamb kofta with pita bread:
lamb kofta with pita bread Caption (From left to right, top to bottom): Frying the lamb kofta with olive oil, diced onion and chili; grill pita bread on a hot griddle after lightly brushed with olive oil; prepare dressing (3 tbsp yogurt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, finely diced mint, shallot, garlic and chili, seasoned with pinch of salt and pepper); mix dressing with cooked lamb kofta.

Final results (these were made by me):
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Next, we made coriander flavoured pumpkin soup. Before I went to class today, I had a glimpse of the menu, thinking to myself, “Pumpkin soup…how hard can it be???”

Well, I was quite wrong. First, we had to prepare chicken stock (this was done right at the start of the class today, as it took about 30 minutes to boil the stock). Then we had to sweat (means frying with fats on very low heat, trying not to damage the colour of the ingredients) the pumpkin, leek, onion and coriander before adding in the chicken stock and let it simmer until pumpkin soften. Followed by blending the soup in a jar blender before finishing off with cream and seasoning. It’s probably the most elaborate pumpkin soup I’ve ever made, but the result was absolutely amazing – rich and flavourful!

Procedure to make pumpkin soup:
chicken stock Firstly, prepare chicken stock. As you can see, the stock was prepared with chicken bones and vegetables (shallots, leek, celery, carrot, thyme). Again, cold water was used instead of hot water to give a clear stock.

pumpkin soup-sweating_stockCaption: Sweating the vegetables for the pumpkin soup (left), and boiling the soup after adding in the chicken stock.

pumpkin soup-finishingCaption: Finishing off the pumpkin soup. After blending the soup when the pumpkin cubes become soft, return soup to stove on low heat, cream was added, and seasoned with salt and pepper. The soup was finished with a light touch of whipped cream on top before serving.

My version (too much whipped cream on top!):
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The last dish was the most elaborate and time consuming. There were 4 main steps involved in preparing the glazed duck breast dish.

First, marinate the duck breast with crushed green, red pepper (you can use fresh or canned ones) and Sichuan pepper, balsamic vinegar, honey and rock salt for around 30 minutes (Our duck breasts were imported from France!):

Then, caramelize sugar before adding balsamic vinegar on very low heat. Add in the duck breast with the skin on the pan/skillet together with the marinade. Leave for a minute or so before finishing off the duck breast in the oven.
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While duck breast is cooking in the oven, prepare semolina. Fry olive oil with finely diced garlic, dried chili, thinly sliced shallot and curry leaves. Add semolina flour, stir evenly. Then add chicken stock and cook for about 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Cooked semolina flour should have a thick and starchy texture.
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Next, prepare jackfruit. Dice jackfruit into small cubes, and finely dice coriander leaves. Add balsamic vinegar and stir well.

To finish and serve the duck breast, remove from oven, slice thickly and serve on the semolina and with jackfruit with balsamic vinegar.

Chef Rex’s version (see how delicate his is compared to mine below haha):
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And my version. (Overcooked!)

After thoughts:
Again, the lighting wasn’t very good as I just shot with whatever lights available in the kitchen. I didn’t have much time to shoot the dishes that I made myself, we were running out of time, but I really enjoyed it as I learned a few new skills and to fine tune what I already know. I didn’t attach the full recipes here as I am not sure if Taylor’s College would let me publish them online!

For story on the first lesson of the cooking class, go here.

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With the pretty mini eggplants still sitting in the refrigerator, I had to figure out how to cook them. Also known as brinjal or aubergine, eggplant is a very versatile vegetable, you can create lots of dishes from it. But I am not familiar with this small variety and how they would taste like. I guess with curry, you will not go wrong. So I decided to try my fool proof fish & vegetable curry with these little beauties. stingray fish curry-diptych

You can find eggplant in almost any countries in the world, well at least those I’ve visited. It is one of the vegetables that you can find in almost every supermarket in Europe, aside from tomato, potato, onions and garlic. I cooked this dish a number of times when I was traveling in Italy and France, where they were found in abundance. It’s very simple to make, even someone who has never cooked will be able to do this right. What’s challenging to find is the curry powder, as you may not find curry powder in every supermarket in Europe.

Back home in Malaysia, I would use fish curry powder but when I was traveling in Europe, I just basically used any curry powder that was available in the supermarket. This is the best comfort Asian food for me when the weather is cold, and to share with many people. The spiciness is very mild, so most people would be able to tolerate it. It has a sweet and sour taste, coupled with the richness from the coconut milk or milk makes it a very appetizing meal!

I cooked this dish twice in Italy, and once in France. When I cooked it for the second time in Italy, I plucked some of the vegetables fresh from the organic farm I was at, and it tasted really good, we had it with bread. It was cooked using a large 2-feet deep copper pot over wood fire. Boy, it was definitely an experience to remember! (photo here with Guenther and Matt from the farm helping me to cook the stew)

It is best to use fish with harder flesh (such as mackerel, stingray and grouper) and avoid fillet as the fish fillet tends to break up easily and you will not be able to taste the fish properly!

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes
Serving: 4

500 g of stingray (or mackerel or grouper) , cut into small pieces of 2 cm thick, rubbed with 1/2 tsp salt and leave for 20 minutes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 shallots (if you can’t find shallots when you travel in Europe, use small onions), sliced thinly
1 inch ginger (optional, if you can’t find at the supermarket), thinly julienned
1 medium long eggplant, cut into triangle wedges
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut each into 6 wedges
2 medium onion, cut each into 6 wedges
8 – 10 okra (ladies finger), halved (I couldn’t find okra in supermarkets in Italy and France, so I substituted with carrot or potato, cut into large chunks)
3 cabbage leaves (optional), torn into smaller pieces
2 tbsp fish curry powder (or any curry powder if you can’t find the fish one)
2 tbsp cooking oil (you can use olive oil also)
1 liter water
200 ml coconut milk (fresh or packet), substitute with milk if you can’t find coconut milk
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lime juice (or kalamansi lime (kasturi) or lemon)


  1. Heat up oil in a large pot and fry garlic, shallot and ginger until tender.
  2. Add onion wedges, eggplant and cabbage (or carrot and potato if you are using), add water and stir evenly. Close lid and leave to simmer on low heat for around 10 minutes before adding okra and tomato and simmer for another 5 minutes before adding the fish. Close the lid of the pot and continue to simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes until fish is thoroughly cooked (when the flesh is firm and no longer translucent). If you use potato, poke with a fork to check if the chunks are cooked.
  3. Add in coconut milk and stir evenly. Season with sugar and salt (adjust according to your taste) and add in the lime juice, stir evenly before turning off the fire.
  4. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Note: The mini eggplant turned out a bit bitter, compared to the regular long eggplant…

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Moroccan lamb shank stew with vegetables-IMG_6457-custom copy

I watched Nigella Lawson on Nigella Express the other day, and she was doing lamb shank stew, a fantastic dish for dinner parties that is easy to make and leaves you ample of time to do other things while you prepare for the party, without having to stress yourself cooking up a storm (literally) in the kitchen. And you can even sit down with your guests and have dinner with them together without having to toil yourself in the kitchen struggling to serve the next dish. Sounds like a perfect dish for me as I do tend to have dinner parties quite a bit…

So I decided to give the dish a try, but modified it to suit what spices I have in the kitchen. It’s a very satisfying meal and can get too rich if you eat too much though 😉

Stewing takes a long time, but it’s really easy to make! This is my first time making lamb shank stew and couscous…but it turned out a lot better than I expected…both taste and photos! Photos were taken using studio lighting as it started to rain when I finished cooking…bad natural lighting!

Moroccan lamb shank stew with vegetables-IMG_6433-custom copy
Close up photo…

Cooking time: 1 – 1.5 hrs
Preparation: 15 – 30 mins
Serving: 4

4 lamb shanks (rubbed with 1/2 tsp salt and leave for 30 mins – 1 hr)
1 medium carrot (I prefer organic), cut into triangular chunks
2 medium waxy potato (avoid using the floury ones, they get really mushy when stewed), cut into large chunks
1 large yellow onion, cut into wedges
2 medium tomato, cut into wedges
10 swiss brown mushroom, halved
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1 chicken stock cube (crumbled)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1.5 litre water

Spices & herbs:
2 stalks of fresh rosemary, chopped finely
3 stalks of fresh thyme, chopped finely
1/2 tsp coriander seeds + 1/2 tsp cumin (pound finely)
1 tbsp curry powder (for meat) + 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (mix with 2 tbsp water)

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan and brown lamb shanks on both sides, to seal and improve the flavour. Remove from saucepan and leave the oil in the pan.
2. Fry chopped garlic, onion, spices and herbs in the oil until slightly brown and fragrant. Put back the lamb shanks, add the remaining vegetables, water, chicken stock cube and salt. Cover the saucepan with lid and simmer on low heat for about 1 – 1.5 hrs, until the lamb meat gets tender and soft, and gravy is reduced. (if the gravy is too thick, add water).
3. While waiting for the stew to be ready, prepare butter-almond couscous.
4. Serve lamb shank stew and vegetables hot with butter-almond couscous. Enjoy!

Butter-almond flakes couscous
1 cup of instant couscous
1 cup of water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp butter
3 tbsp almond flakes (lightly toasted)

1. Boil water with butter and salt in a medium saucepan.
2. Add couscous while stirring gently.
3. Turn off heat immediately and cover the saucepan for about 4 – 5 minutes, fluff up couscous using a fork.
4. Add in the toasted almond flakes before serving.

Note: The best place to get imported or western ingredients in Kuala Lumpur are at Village Grocer, Bangsar Village. They have more varieties and reasonable pricing compared to Cold Storage. The lamb shanks sold there are pretty reasonably priced, and fresh too! They are imported from Australia and frozen, cost between RM 8 – 15 for each lamb shank…

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This soup is a bit “green” and pretty bland too….but very healthy! Full of essential fats, protein and fibre! All I did was to blend avocado, cucumber and yogurt together with some water in a blender, and added tiny bit of salt and pepper, and chill in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours…But it’s definitely very pretty to photograph! I posted the photo here as I like it so much!

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