31 Aug 2013

poor cutlet

Tonkatsu was one of the very first dishes I made at home that everyone thought was safe to eat. It was around sometime during middle school when I first started taking food tech classes at school. I saw the recipe in Cooking Guide DS and thought it was very exciting. At first, I only tenderised, marinated and breaded the cutlets and made my parents do the dirty work fry it, but a couple of years later I had more guts to do it myself. The only thing that scares me about deep frying now is when the oil gets so hot it makes a loud cracking noise, like it's building momentum to explode!

Usually when it's my turn to make dinner, I just make a variation of these chicken burgers because everyone likes them. On days when I'm lazy, I just throw in two strings of Chinese sausages and eggs into the rice cooker and let it work it's magic. 

Just a few nights ago, I decided to revisit tonkatsu - only with a slightly different technique I picked up in a manga I reread during the summer break. 

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Triple-breaded layered tonkatsu     makes 4-5 cutlets
I wish I created it first, but I stole the idea from Kawachi’s “poor cutlet sandwich” as seen in the manga, Yakitate!! Japan. Read it, it's good!

By layering the sliced pork, it creates a crispy, soft cutlet without the need of scoring the meat and butchering it with a meat tenderiser. Use a fattier cut of pork, like pork chops for a juicier fried cutlet.

500g lean pork loin, half-frozen
sea salt and white pepper, to season
plain flour, as required
3 large eggs, beaten
panko breadcrumbs, as required
oil, for frying

Put two sheets of absorbent paper on a baking tray.

Slice the pork thinly whilst it is still in its half-frozen state. Place three to four slices of pork next to each other, slightly overlapping each other on a plate. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Repeat the layering and seasoning two or three more times to make one layered cutlet. Press and shape the cutlet into a round shape. Repeat with the remaining pork slices to make four or five cutlets. Transfer onto the baking tray, place two more sheets of absorbent paper on top, cling wrap and refrigerate until required. Just make sure the pork is fully defrosted before using (I left it in the fridge for one day).

When ready to cook, bring the pork cutlets to room temperature. Prepare a plate with some flour, a shallow plate of beaten eggs*, a plate of panko and a plate to place the prepared cutlets. Coat both sides of the cutlet with flour, dust off the extra and flour the rest of the cutlets. Coat both sides of the cutlet with egg and then with panko three times each. If you're pressed for time, a double breaded coating is fine.

Heat up the oil and deep fry each cutlet until golden brown on both sides**. Drain the excess oil off the cutlets.

Allow to cool briefly, slice it thickly and serve with shredded raw cabbage/lettuce, lemon slices, pickles and tonkatsu sauce***.

*I prefer to beat one egg in a shallow plate at a time.
** I also whacked it in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 150C to ensure the insides were cooked. Just incase the cutlet was too thick.  
***I made my own sauce consisting of ketchup, worcestershire sauce, mirin and a bit of water. There's a good recipe over here.

27 Aug 2013

trying new things

Every week I find myself rearranging the books on the bookshelf to fit in more than it can. A very recent addition is the Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink. I was originally drawn in by the simple design and photography, but after baking from it twice, with plans for more, it's becoming a new favourite. Someday, I'd like to sit in the Scandinavian-style cafe with a cinnamon bun looking out at the streets of London.

I wanted to make the parsnip and sesame flatbreads but quark isn't readily available here. Miisa Mink suggests to substitute it with thick Greek yogurt but I wanted to try make my own version by straining some natural yogurt in muslin overnight. I'm not sure if the texture and taste compares, but it gave me a really thick, less tart yogurt with some parts near the edges resembling cream cheese. The flatbreads were just as delicious (and addictive). 

I haven't decided what to do with the whey yet, but I'll probably make Calpis or bake bread with it.
With bread, needs soup. I tried a new pumpkin soup recipe out of Jason Atherton's Gourmet Food on a Budget. The method is very different to the usual one I make. The pumpkin is roasted in a foil parcel, pureed, then cooked over a low heat until almost dry before mixing it in with stock, grated parmesan cheese and cream. It resulted in a velvety soup with a cheesy tang. I didn't make the lime chantilly but I think it would be pretty amazing and innovative.

Last thing I did today was deep fry some choux pastry to make chouxros (please ignore my crappy pun). The chouxros weren't crispy as I anticipated but was light and fluffy. It doesn't tastes like much on its own, but with the accompanying salted caramel and dark chocolate ganache...it tasted SO UNHEALTHY I probably won't make/eat it again. It also becomes quite oily when cooled, so I ended up dumping half the batch after dinner... At least I can enjoy the salted caramel with something else...!

I'm submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #34: Choux Party (August 2013) hosted by Jasline of Foodie Baker(Thank you for taking the time to host!)

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chouxros     makes around 20 x 4-5cm long pieces

Just a note, these taste very unhealthy...

1 batch of choux pastry made with bread flour instead of plain flour
oil, for deep frying
salted caramel (see below) and dark chocolate ganache, to serve

Once you have made the choux pastry, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 9mm star piping tip and leave to rest for 30 minutes or more. 

When ready to fry, heat a small saucepan, half-filled with oil. When the oil is hot, pipe 2-3 pieces of 4-5cm choux pastry into the oil. You may need to use a scissors to cut/separate the dough. Deep fry, turning frequently until golden brown. Drain off excess oil.

Serve immediately with salted caramel and warm chocolate ganache.

Note: You may want to flavour your choux pastry with vanilla bean paste/extract, orange blosson water etc. before frying and roll the chouxros in cinnamon sugar or caster sugar after draining the excess oil. Up to you! 

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salted caramel     makes around 150-200ml

Add the salt according to your taste. I gifted Mrs Roddick a bottle of fleur de sel recently and she has told me salted caramel tastes better with it. But she said to add a little at a time as it is saltier than sea salt.

50g caster sugar
150ml thickened cream
sea salt, to taste

Put the caster sugar in a shallow frying pan and shake it gently so the sugar is distributed evenly. Dissolve over a low heat, shaking the pan frequently. Gently stir the sugar into the dissolved parts and continue to stir until it becomes a golden amber/whisky colour. Add the cream (be careful of splatter). Stir until the hardened caramel dissolves into the cream*. Turn off the heat, add salt, stirring to taste. Leave to cool before storing in a glass jar. The sauce with thicken slightly upon cooling.

*I like to reduce/thicken the sauce by simmering it for a few minutes. It will become like a spreadable paste.

20 Aug 2013

falafel invasion

Some time ago, I kept seeing falafels everywhere. Sealed in vacuum bags at the supermarket, freshly fried in food courts and on the menu of a certain takeaway shop. Heck, my local Coles superstore now sells them ready made for five dollars a box opposite the cheese section. Perhaps it is a sign telling me to make them?

I adapted the recipe mainly from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsal's column in The Guardian, but took ideas from SBS Food and The Shiksa as well. I used reconstituted dried chickpeas, grated pumpkin, lots of coriander (which explains why it takes on a green hue), onion, garlic, dried parsley and some homemade breadcrumbs. I'm not big on cumin and don't have the usual falafel spices, so I just substituted it with sea salt and black pepper. Also, instead of deep frying or baking them, I pan fried them with some oil and ate them with some homemade flatbread (recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsal's River Cottage Everyday), pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers and mayonnaise. 

Mayonnaise?! Well, that's what I had in the fridge.

14 Aug 2013

just biscuits

Lately, we've been getting some really crazy weather here in Melbourne. It may look like a nice day in the morning, but the wind and rain can upturn umbrellas in the afternoon!

Just as I was having a McVitie's craving last night, I saw Victoria Bakes' post on digestive biscuits! I haven't had McVitie's for a while, so the flavour and texture is really faint in my mind. These are a bit crumbly and have a toasty oat flavour from having a few minutes in the oven before using. Instead of grinding the oats separately, I just put it in with the other ingredients. I think these taste better than the King Arthur Flour digestives I made a while back.

If you're sick of eating oats everyday or don't know what to do with the leftover wholemeal flour, make these biscuits...now! You can eat it just like it is, dipped in some melted chocolate or jam. I used a portion to make mini baked raspberry and lemon cheesecakes. Recipe adapted from Bill Granger.

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homemade digestive biscuits     makes around 25-30 biscuits
adapted from Victoria Bakes: Baking into the Ether

100g rolled oats
100g wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
50g brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt (ground into powder, optional)
40ml milk

Lightly toast the oats in the oven at 150 degrees for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Take out of the oven to cool and increase the temperature to 180 degrees.

Place all ingredients into a food processor bowl except for the milk and pulse until ingredients are crumbled. Add the milk and pulse until mixture comes together.

Lightly flour the bench and gently knead the dough until it forms a ball. Roll into a 3mm thick rectangle, dusting with flour as required. Cut the dough with a floured cutter and transfer onto a greased / lined baking tray.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before storing in an airtight container.