Sunday, 14 October 2007

A Feast of Leftovers

It is the Raya weekend vacation and I was at loose ends. So, I decided to do something that I've not done in a long while, cook. My sister looked at me askance when I announced that. Now, you must understand that my culinary adventures of late have not extended beyond anything more challenging then cooking instant noodles.

Rummaging through the fridge, I found alot of half used packets of cooking ingredients, frozen food/meat, results of previous cooking experiments and subsequent waned interest in the recipe. So, I confined myself to cook using only available ingredients in the house

Chick-Peas Pielet
I had on hand, frozen short crust pastry dough from previous pie making session; half a can of Campbell mushroom soup, frozen chicken breast meat, frozen peas. All the makings of a pie.

Pie Filling
1. Defrost everything (obviously)
2. Cut up chicken breast meat into small cubes
3. Season chicken pieces with salt, pepper and some mix herbs
4. Stir in the Campbell mushroom soup
5. Add green peas to the mixture

1. Roll out the short crust pastry.
2. Cut out circles the size of the pie casing.
( I use 4" aluminium pie casings)
3. Place the dough at the base of the pie casing and fill with pie filling
4. Cover with another circle of short crust pastry at the top.
5. Press down edges to seal. Make a small cut in the top crust to let out the steam when baking.
6. Bake for 40 minutes on 200 Celcius

My sister and I had 2 pies each for lunch. The pie tasted fine, even if it doesn't look too good.

Ok, on to dinner. Based on what we had available, I decided on Chicken Mozzarella with Pan fried three roots vegetables.

Chicken Mozzarella
(Chicken Mozzarella and Pan Fried Three Root Vegetables)
We had a packet of unused shredded Mozzarella cheese, some frozen tomato paste and more frozen chicken breast, so, next up, Chicken Mozzarella

1. 300 gms Chicken breast meat
2. Bolognese sauce
3. 1/4 cup of Mozzarella
4. Salt, pepper, Lea and Perrin's sauce for marinade

Cooking method
1. Fillet chicken meat into individual portions and flatten it. ( I pound it down with the heel of my hand)
2. Season chicken with salt, pepper, a dash of Lea's and Perrin's sauce, a sprinkle of flour.
3. Leave aside the chicken to marinade for at least half an hour.
4. Heat up the pan with some oil and pan fry the chicken pieces until golden brown.
5. Transfer the chicken pieces to a oven proof dish.
6. Spoon some bolognese sauce on the chicken pieces.
(You can use jar or canned bolognese sauce. But since I was cooked up a batch of Bolognese sauce for my next recipe, I kept some aside for the chicken)
7. Sprinkle a generous topping of shredded Mozzarella cheese.
8. Bake the open dish for about 10 minutes or until the Mozzarella melts and lightly browned.

Pan Fried Three Root Vegetables

I used 1 potato, 1 carrot, 1 onion. It serves 2.
1. Cut the onion into wedges
2. Cut the carrot into sticks or cubes
3. Par boil the potoatos, and then cut into cubes
4. Heat some oil in the pan and fry the onions until brown
5. Throw in the carrot and potatos
6. Add salt and pepper to taste
7. Dry fry the root vegetables until cooked and slightly brown
( You can also roast the vegetables, but make sure to sprinkle some oil and turn the vegetables at intervals)

Easy peasy and so yummy. The browned onions and browned sides carrots are caramalized during the frying and gives a nice smoky sweet flavour to the dish.

Cheesy Bolognese Casserole
The dish is inspired by Lasagne and the Greek Moussaka. Since I didn't have either pasta sheets nor aubergine, I made do with potatos instead to layer the meat sauce. This is a 'cheesy' version as I had alot of unused Mozzarella cheese and a whole block of Cheddar.

Meat Sauce
1. 300gm minced meat ( it can be either chicken or beef) I used chicken mince. Yup, dug out from the freezer.
2. 1 big onion
3. 1 clove of garlic
4. 5 tablespoons of tomato paste
5. 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce or 1 fresh tomato
6. Salt to taste
7. Oregano

1. 2 big potatos
2. 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese
3. 1 cup of grated Cheddar cheese

Bechamel sauce
1. 1/2 cup of milk
2. 4 tablespoon of butter
3. 2-3 tablespoon of flour
( All measurements are approximate)

Cooking Method
Meat Sauce
1. Dice the onion and chop the garlic fine.
2. Heat up the pan with some oil and brown the garlic
3. Add in onion and fry till soft before adding in the minced meat.
4. Add in tomato paste, salt, oregano and some water to simmer.
(Fresh tomatoes will give the sauce an extra zest, but since I didnt have any, I cheated by adding in some tomato sauce)
5. Set aside the meat sauce to cool after it is cooked

6. Parboil the potatos. Remove the skin and slice the potatos.
7. Assemble a layer of potatoes at the base of an oven proof casserole dish.
8. Spoon a layer of meat sauce to cover potatoes, then sprinkle the mozzarella and the cheddar cheese on the meat sauce.
9. Alternate the layers of potatos, meat sauce and cheese. Top with a layer of potatos.
10. Cover the casserole with aluminium foil and bake for 30 minutes on 200 celsius.
11. Remove from oven and pour the bechamel sauce on baked casserole.
13. Sprinkle some more Mozzeralla cheese on the bechamek sauce. It's optional, but I like the sticky texture the Mozzeralla gives to the topping.
14. Put the casserole back to the oven and open bake it for 15 minutes until the bechamel topping turns golden brown.

To make Bechamel sauce
(Bechamel sauce is also known as white sauce. It gives a nice creamy finish on casserole)
1. Melt butter in sauce pan over low fire. Do not brown.
2. Stir in flour in the milk, whisk till smooth
3. Pour in milk and flour mixture in the melted butter
4. Stir and break up any lumps that forms.
5. Heat but do not bring to boil
6. The sauce should have a thick and smooth consistency

Assorted Chocolate Brownie
There was an assortment of uneaten chocolate in the fridge. Dark chocolate and white chocolate pieces, chocolate chips, chocolate coins, Hershey's kisses, Lindt...... you name it, I probably had it. I melted the whole lot down in a bowl over boiling water. Cool it and plonk it in the fridge to harden. I then crushed the chocolate into small pieces.

Brownie mixture
1. 4 lbs of butter
2. 1/2 cup of flour
3. 2 cold large eggs
4. 3/4 cup of brown sugar
(the recipe calls for cocoa powder, but I didnt have any so I just used brown sugar instead of white sugar)

Cooking method
1. Melt butter in pan over low fire
2. Take the pan off the fire and add sugar, stirring until sugar melts
3. Add in eggs one at a time, whisk vigourously.
4. Stir mixture till smooth and shiny. Then fold in the flour.
5. Stir until flour is well blended in.
6. Add in the chocolate pieces.
7. Heat the oven to 200 Celsius for 10 minutes.
8. Grease a baking tin and pour in batter mixture.
9. Bake for 20 minutes on 200 Celsius.
10. Test for doneness by sticking in a tooth pick. If it comes away clean, the brownie is ready.
Cool on a wire rack and cut into squares. Serve with a cup of tea. Perfect!