28 January 2011

Thit kho

Can’t make caramel sauce without making thit kho. Which is one of my hubby's favorit. There are different versions and everyone has their own recipe but it always has meat and caramel sauce. I use to make it with fresh bamboo or with fried tofu. But the last couple of years I only make it with eggs. Cuz the hubby loves it and you got to keep the hubby happy.

These are the ingredients I use:
-          lots of fatty pork with or without skin
-          eggs
-          onion
-          garlic
-          ginger
-          lemon grass
-          ginger
-          bay leaves
-          chili pepper
-          and of course salt and fresh grounded pepper

As you can see with cooking I rarely put in the quantities. It is all about experimenting and taste.
I start with chopping the onion, the garlic, the lemon grass and the ginger.
Then I chopped the meat in cubes. I got some fatty pork with skin but if you don’t like the skin you should remove it before you chop it.
I used the same pan, in which I made the caramel sauce, to stir-fry everything, starting with the onion then the ginger, lemon grass, chili pepper, bay leaves and the garlic. And I covered everything with freshly grounded pepper.
After everything is browned a bit and the whole kitchen smells like food I added the meat.

In the meantime I also cooked and peeled some hard boiled eggs and dropped them in the same pot. I seasoned it with some salt, but you can also use fish sauce.
Remember the bowl of caramel sauce I made earlier? Throw the whole bowl in the pot. If you are too lazy to make the caramel sauce, you can use some Indonesian ketjap sauce (ketjap manis) also. The flavor is a bit different, but you will still get the nice golden brown color. In fact I always use a little bit in my thit kho.
Now comes the easy part. Just add enough water to cover everything and let it boil. Then taste it one last time before you turn the heat on low and let it simmer till the meat is soft and almost falls apart. This can take a couple of hours though. Make sure you check the pot once a while and add extra water when needed.
To get a clear broth you do need to remove the foam once a while.
I always cook it one day ahead. On day one it has been cooking for at least 2 hours and on the day we eat it, I will cook it for another 2 hours. But before I cook it for the second time I make sure I scoop as much fat off as possible. Before you serve it you can sprinkle some chopped coriander and spring onion on top, if you have it at hand.
This is how we eat it. I made some sweet and sour ginger Chinese cabbage and plain white rice. Mom made sweet and sour Chinese mustard greens (gai choy) which go great with thit kho also. Basically anything that is sweet and sour will go well with thit kho. Make sure you eat it with plain white rice to balance it all out.

11 January 2011

Caramel Sauce

It is what it is and it is pretty straight forward, but it is not the kind of sauce you can use with ice cream. I am showing you the sauce I make for only one purpose; thit kho. I don’t think there is a good translation for this dish, but it is slow cooked (fatty) pork in caramel sauce with either eggs, bamboo or daikon root.
I start with covering the pot with a layer of sugar. The thicker the layer the longer it takes for the sugar to cook. If the sugar is divided evenly it will cook more evenly.
But even then one part will cook faster then other parts. Just swirl the sugar around. Make sure you keep an eye on the pot, it can burn really fast. Do not put any water in before it turned to the color you need.
I like it golden brown. If you leave it too long it will turn dark brown and it will taste bitter and burned.
Once it is golden I add half a cup of warm water to the caramel. It is very very hot and it will release a lot of steam. And everything will stick together also. Just put the pot back on the fire and stir till everything is dissolved and the mixture is liquid and smooth. Now it is ready to be used.

New Year Celebration

It's been 11 days since we had our New Year celebration and it feels like it was ages ago. Everything turned back to normal so quick.

We ended 2010 with lots of food and good company and we welcomed 2011 the same way. This was the first year we actually celebrated New Years in our new house. End of 2009 we received the key for our newly build house and this year it was party time. Since our Portuguese and Greek neighbors were celebrating their first New Year in Holland I decided to organize a little New Years Party at our place with lots of food and drinks. Every family had to contribute by bringing 3 kinds of snacks and one dessert.  

My hubby spent all day cleaning the house and making everything look nice. After I came home from work I could start making my part of the party food right away. The day before I made salsa from fresh tomatoes, one small diced onion, some garlic, half a lemon and a handful of cilantro. I asked mom to make her famous chicken wings. I made some puff pastry stuffed with minced meat and a big pan of tomato soup with homemade meatballs.   
The house looks sooo nice and spacious when it is cleaned. Big thumps up for the hubby.
He also set up the table and put all my nice big plates on the table for me to use. And he put some lights on the table to make it extra festive. What would I do without him! I bought a nice table cloth. I thought it would’ve been big enough, but it wasn’t. The table was bigger then I remembered.
Of course the beer was ready for the guys.
I made my puff pastry with meat stuffing two ways. One was simple triangle and the other one was made like a jacket, showing the meaty inside. I got tired of making triangles and find this way very fast and easy. I started by chopping the puff pastry squares in half making two triangles. One of the triangles I folded together to make a stuffed triangle and the other one I folded back to squares leaving some room for the meat to show off. Two same sizes makes at least 2 different kinds of pastry. They tasted so good with sweet chili sauce.
Our Portuguese neighbors came first with their Portuguese snacks (the first 3 dishes on the photo). They had some cheddar spring rolls, cod croquettes and little chicken schnitzels. They brought more, but this is what I remember. The neighbor also made a huge pot of sangria loaded with fresh fruit. It was absolutely wonderful.
In total there were 5 or 6 different Portuguese snacks.
My sister made little Dutch cheese cakes (kwarktaart), but she also made a hug amount of pasta salad and a whole lot of Moroccan meat balls. She didn’t tell me she would otherwise I would’ve told her to bring the dessert only since I was expecting loads of food. She packed her pasta with sun dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, artichoke harts, rocket, raw ham and parmesan cheese. It looked very yummy on my big plate.  
On your right there's a plate with mom's famous chicken wings which she marinated over night and backed in the oven.
The chicken was so good! To bad my salsa is not on in the picture.

Our Greek neighbors came 15 minute later and brought so much food I forgot to take a picture. The whole table was filled! They brought home made moussaka with eggplant, potatoes, minced meat and béchamel sauce, meat balls, feta wrapped in phyllo and two different kinds of Greek desserts. I am sure there was more, but since I forgot to take pictures this is all I remember.

We started eating at around 7 and at 10-11 we took out the dessert. At we all had champagne and we went outside to look at fireworks. The guys lit the fireworks they bought earlier. At around 2 we all ate a bowl (or two) of soup and after giving everyone leftovers to take home we jumped in bed at . The next two days we were to tired to do anything, but overall it was a great start of the New Year. No better way to celebrate then with good food and great company.

May everone's New Year be better then the ones before!

04 January 2011

Christmas Feast

On Christmas day we woke up early to clean the house. Not really a good way to start your weekend, but boy we were so happy when we came back home to a clean house on Sunday.
After the house was nice and clean I packed everything we need for Christmas dinner at my parents. My car was totally packed. Since we were staying over for the night I brought some clothes and blankets. Then there was a bunch of veggies, the big tray of tiramisu and of course the presents.

All my sisters came home for Christmas and this year we had a special guest. The daughter of my dad’s friend from the USA was studying in Groningen for half a year and would spend Christmas with us. My dad and her dad use to be in the boys scouting when they were young. Apparently there were several groups and although they were not in the same group, they did know each other. They and several other people have found each other through the internet. This amazing invention has made the world a lot smaller and brought lot of people together. Where would we be without it?

Anyhow, back to Christmas day…I was kinda busy cooking the food so I didn’t had much time to take picture. On the menu we had steamed BIG shrimp as a starter, rib eye as a main course with baked potatoes, stir fried Brussels sprouts and Belgian endives and balsamic pearl onions as side dishes and tiramisu as dessert.  
My mom’s eye was way bigger then her stomach so she bough a 4,3 kilo rib eye for 8 people, which could easily serve 18-20. She marinated with a special blend of spices I put together.
I asked her to marinate it about 2 days before Christmas so all the flavor could get into the meat. About 1 hour before we roasted it in the oven we took it out of the fridge. This time we decided to slow roast it. This means the meat will have to be in the oven for about 4-5 hours on a very very low temperature. We put the oven on about 80-100 degrees and roasted the rib eye for about 4 hours. Then since I thought the meat would be done I sliced it in half to have a look and then covered it up with foil. It was perfectly pinkish in the middle. I think that another hour would be better, but we didn’t have that time.

I wanted to oven bake some potatoes in olive oil, garlic and rosemary. I have a very nice rosemary bush in my frond yard, covered in snow. I wasn’t sure if it would survive but after removing the snow the rosemary looked like noting happened. 
I chopped the Belgian endives in parts and stir fried them with some olive oil, butter, salt, pepper and sugar.
The pearl onions came in very pretty purple and white. It took me a while to get the skin off, but after that they were just gorgeous.
The Brussels sprouts had to lose the old dark greens also so they could show off the nice fresh greens. I stir fried them with onion, garlic and bacon bits.
I served all the vegi together on one big tray. 
The onions were slow cooked in balsamic, little bit of sugar and a squeeze of lemon. They were sooooooo good. 
Mom steamed the shrimp in a huge steamer.
We just ate it plain with some lemon, pepper and salt mixture. This is the best way to eat it, pure and simple.
That roasted rib eye was just the best. Since we slow roasted it, the meat was very soft, juicy and tender. This is something worth making time for. So if you can, try to slow roast it.
Unfortunately my mom’s other oven wasn’t working too well so the baked potato’s weren’t all cooked evenly. I had to cook it in a pan at the last minute.
My plate…was unfortunately too big to go for a second round and I had to save some room for the tiramisu.
 Wouldn't want to miss out on a dessert like that!

03 January 2011

Better then sex Tiramisu

I don’t really remember when I started to make my own home made tiramisu. All I remember is that it was quite expensive to buy one at the supermarket and growing up my parents never actually bought it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have any. I use to put the store bought tiramisu in the freezer so it was nice and cold. Of course it is noting compared to home made.

One time I had the best tiramisu ever! We were in Rome and were wondering around for a place to eat. Somewhere close by the Forum we found this tiny restaurant which was packed with people. If it is that busy the food can’t be bad, so we gave it a try. They squeezed us in and our table was barely big enough to hold all the food. I forgot what we ate that night, but the tiramisu was to die for. It was very light, fluffy not too sweet. I wish I remembered where the restaurant was. We tried to find it again, but unfortunately we just couldn’t remember where it was. Such a pity…

Anyway at one point I decided to try to make tiramisu and I never got to write down the receipe. Of course I never made it as good as the restaurant, but the last one I made came pretty close.


What you need to feed at least 8 people, who can and will eat it twice:
-          5 eggs yokes
-          1 package lady fingers
-          1 package Italian macaroons (amaretti cookies)
-          1 kilo mascarpone
-          1 cup of very strong espresso
-          ½ liter whipping cream
-          5 table spoons of sugar
-          a lot of Amaretto
-          coco powder
These were all the ingredients I used.
First I separated the egg whites from the yokes. The whites I put in the fridge and a couple days later I used it to make chocolate soufflé.
Then I added 4 table spoons of sugar, some amaretto and mixed everything together till the sugar dissolves and the eggs become pale yellow.
Since I am a little scared to work with raw eggs I like to "cook" the egg/sugar mixture a little.
I put the bowl with the mixture on a pan with boiling water. Make sure you don’t let the bowl hit the boiling water otherwise you’ll get scrambled sweet eggs. The trick is to let the steam do the cooking. It is kinda like making custard.
You’ll have to continue mixing so everything cooks evenly.
The mixing bowl is a lot bigger then the pan, which is just the way you want it to be. The bowl will get hot so be careful. 
You’ll know when it is cooked when you whip the spoon and your whip mark stays. It will take about 5 minutes to cook it. Put 2 tea spoons of coffee, stir it and set it aside to cool. 
Since I love my big mixing bowl I put the egg mixture in another bowl so I could use the same bowl again for my whipping cream.  
I added 1 table spoons of sugar and whipped it just enough so it was still a little bit runny. Then I added some more amaretto. If it isn't sweet enough you can always add a little bit extra sugar and mix it again. Make sure you don't over mix it.
In a different bowl I put the mascarpone. This time I used quite a lot, but if you see the tray I used…it wasn’t even enough to fill it.
I mixed it with a bit of amaretto and some table spoons of coffee till it was nice and smooth. Then it was time to add the egg mixture.
When everything is mixed it is time to fold it into the whipped cream.
Since it is a lot just add everything little by little. Then use the mixer to mix everything. Make sure you do a last taste test to see if it is sweet enough. Last chance to add suger if needed. 
Before I layered the lady fingers in a big backing tray, sugar side up, I put some amaretto on the bottom. This time I decided not to dip them in the coffee first, but to sprinkle the coffee on top. I also sprinkled some more amaretto.
I then dusted the lady fingers with some coco powder and used half of the mascarpone to cover them.
To enhance the almond flavor I used amaretti cookies as a middle layer. On every cookie I poured some amaretto and dust it off with coco powder.
Then I covered them with the rest of the mascarpone.
A last layer of coco powder seals the deal. The tray was so big it barely fit in my fridge.

Luckily it was very cold outside so I covered it with plastic wrap and put the whole tray went out. To bad it wasn't freezing. I think it would taste even better if it was a little bit frozen.
Nevertheless the 8 of us finished more then half a tray on Christmas Eve. There was even enough for both my sisters to take home, lucky them.
I was very happy I didn’t dip the lady fingers in the coffee. Now they were nice and cake like and not soggy at all.

The next day the 4 of us had a piece for lunch…to bad there was not enough to take home. I will have to make one soon to satisfy my tiramisu craving.