Thursday, February 23, 2012

Halo Halo

For those unfamiliar with the dish, Halo Halo is an extremely delicious refreshing filipino dessert which is much loved, especially on a hot and humid day. There are so many variations to this recipe that every halo halo experience is difference. However a few standard flavours and textures are always present in this dessert: crushed ice, evaporated milk, ube, beans, fruit, coconut and ice cream. Here's my late night sundae style variation, serves 2.

1 cup crushed ice
½ cup ube jam (see my Ube Jam post)
2 scoops mango ice cream (this can be difficult to find as most places sell mango sorbet, Haagen-Dazs does a very good one if you can get your hands on it)
⅔ cup jackfruit slices (canned jackfruit, drained and sliced)
2 tablespoons of macapuno slices (young coconut flesh, this can be bought in jars)
2 teaspoons of aduki beans (ready to eat, you may also use unflavoured kidney beans)
½ cup of  agar agar jelly peices (I used a great recipe I found here which I cubed, this is optional)
2 tablespoons of evaporated milk

Prepare two sundae style glasses or small bowls. Spoon a layer of ube jam, followed by beans and macapuno in each glass. Cover entirely with a layer of ice and repeat, adding in jackfruit too. Cover this with ice once again and continue assembling the two glasses until full making sure the top level is ice. Spoon the evaporated milk on top. Now add the scoop of mango ice cream the rest of the jackfruit, macapuno and agar agar cubes.

Ube Jam (Purple Sweet Potato)

I was excited to find frozen packs of grated ube (purple sweet potato/yam) in the asian store recently. I immediately thought of Ube ice-cream and the ultimate icy filipino dessert Halo Halo. It's a unique flavor of eastern Asia you cant seem to find readily in the west. After some searching online I came across a recipe for Ube Jam on Filipino Foods Recipe . This jam seems pretty versatile, so I decided to make a ½ batch with Halo Halo in mind.

500g  ube (purple yam)
½ can of evaporated milk
½ can of sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup of butter or margarine
1 drop of vanilla extract (optional)

Firstly, boil the ube (unpeeled) in water for approximately 30 minutes, drain and cool. Peel the yam and finely grate. In a large pan on medium heat, melt the butter, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Add the grated ube yam and turn the heat down to low. Keep on mixing the ingredients for about 30 minutes or until sticky and a bit dry (but still moist) This can be tiresome to do but it is necessary to ensure a good consistency. The flavour and colour will deepen as it cooks. Add the evaporated milk and continue to mix for another 15 minutes. Let cool  by placing the jam on a large platter.

I separated the mixture into 3 batches and saved a couple in the freezer. Ideas for ube jam: use in cake batter to make a light ube flavored lilac cake, mix with cream and sugar to make homemade ube ice cream. Add confectioners sugar to the mix to create ube icing, a spoonful of ube jam blended with coconut water for a great bubble tea! base!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

These are healthy gluten free, vegan and very easy to make. Whenever we end up in a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant we never fail to order these. I think the key ingredient for authenticity is thai basil leaves. I've omitted the vermicelli rice noodles in this version. The dried rice paper sheets can be found in asian supermarkets.

For the spring rolls:
1 pack of dried rice paper sheets
2 handfuls of lettuce leaves (Romaine is recommended for it's crunch)
3 medium sized carrots, sliced thin, julienne-style
120g of firm Tofu, sliced into ¼ inch thick strips
1 small bunch of thai basil

Prepare the filling ingredients ahead of time and set to one side of the work area. Make sure there is a clean surface, ideally a large chopping board, to roll the spring rolls. Pour some hot water (not boiling) into a large mixing bowl or container large enough to soak the rice paper. Gently soak the rice paper one at a time, it may take between 5 seconds and 15 seconds to soften completely but make sure the paper is no longer stiff.

Take the softened rice paper and carefully lay out on work surface. Place lettuce, tofu, carrots and thai basil  down the middle of the paper. carefully wrap the rice paper and roll tightly to finish the roll. Please note that the rice paper is fragile and will end up breaking if the wrap is forced too tightly, however it is necessary to have some level of tightness otherwise it will come apart.

Repeat this until the filling is used up and save the leftover rice paper. Cut each roll with a sharp knife into three sections. This make approximately 8 rolls. Serve these with either sweet chilli sauce or Peanut dipping sauce.

For the peanut dipping sauce:
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
3 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon of gluten free soy sauce
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
3 cloves, finely ground

Combine all the ingredients above to create the sauce, it's similar to satay and works well with fresh spring rolls.

Home made sweet chilli sauce:
 Juice of 1 lime
¼ rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of white sugar
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons of very finely diced red chilli or chilli paste (adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh corriander (optional)

Mix all ingredients well until sugar has fully dissolved and serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creamy Corn Chowder

This is my very own variation of New England style corn chowder. It's sweet delicate and very filling soup, enjoy with salted crackers of fresh bread. I made this using a home mix of gluten free flour, feel free to use wheat flour.

1 can (15 oz) sweet corn kernals (drain ⅓ of the water)
½ White onion, diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced (save the celery leaves if you have any) 
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
1½ cups of vegetable broth
¾ cup of heavy cream
¼ cup of milk

To thicken (optional, add to desired consistency): 
2 tablespoons of gluten free flour
1 tablespoon of water 

To garnish:
Finely chopped celery leaves and fresh parsley
Lightly fry the onions and garlic for 2 minutes in olive oil. Add salt and pepper and the can or corn with the leftover water from the can and vegetable broth and let simmer on medium for 5 minutes. Add cream, milk and celery and gently stir, simmer for a further minute. At this point you can judge the consistency of the soup. Some prefer thicker chowders, gradually add the thicken until you reach a good consistency. Sprinkle herbs and serve. (Serves 3) 

Black Bean Tamales

My first Daring Cook's Challenge January 2012 from Mexican Tamales! I fist had these only a few months ago and had never heard of them before I moved to the US. Great as a starter, snack or for breakfast and healthy too.

Approximately 15-16 dried corn husks, soaked with hot water and left overnight.

For the filling:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomato with green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon garlic salt ( I substituted this with 2 cloves fresh minced garlic and ½ teaspoon of salt)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly chopped corriander (optional - my own addition to the recipe)
For the tamale dough:
4 cups masa flour (corn tortilla mix)
3 cups vegetable broth
½ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix well, set aside. To make the masa dough. Combine the olive oil, salt and masa mix in the bowl and beat until combined (I always beat by hand, but an electric mixer is recommended). Gradually add 2 cups of vegetable broth to the mix. If the mixture seems to dry (you can taste it for moistness at this point) add more broth 2 tablespoons at a time. The mixture should be firm enough not to crumble too much but not too sticky.

To prepare the tamales, you will need to wrap them in the corn husks and secure them with corn husk strips. To make the strips, take 2 corn husks and tear them into a ¼ inch wide strips. Keep the wrappers soaked to avoid them drying out. Lay one corn husk on the worktop or chopping board and place a heaped tablespoon of masa dough on the husk, press out into a square shape leaving at least 2-3 inches of husk at the bottom. Now carefully spoon the filling down the centre line of the masa dough square. Carefully fold the dough and wrap. Make sure the dough is pressed into the other side and the corn husk is wrapped tight. fold the lower end of the husk upwards and secure with a husk strip and repeat.

When ready to steam, use a large pan and that the tamale's are sat upright in the steamer, if there is space you may want to fill up with aluminum balls to keep them upright. Steam the tamales for about 40 minutes or until the dough deepens in color and easily pulls away from the husk. Unwrap and enjoy!