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Cloudy with NO chance of meatballs.

12 Aug

Neatballs? I went online to see the kitchen exploits of fellow vegetarian cooks and came across several sites featuring recipes for Neatballs. One click later and I realised neatballs is a term that’s been coined for vegan meatballs.

Why “Neat”?  Well, the “N” represents the “normal” ingredients that go into a neatball. Normal as in common, everyday, easy to find ingredients. Seriously?

A neatball is really a new-fangled way of saying vegetarian or vegan koftas. Instead of ground meat as the base, vegetarians use beans, tofu, nuts, mushrooms, eggplant or pulses as the base for their balls/cutlets. The different base ingredients determine not only the taste of your cutlet but also the texture. Using eggplant, for example, will yield you a smooth, soft cutlet while a nut-bean combo will give you a rough, crunchy texture. Mushrooms, of course, make anything taste good 🙂

Mushrooms are my favourite base ingredient for vegetarian koftas. And, unlike most recipes using mushroom, with koftas, I find the stems more useful than the caps so I buy the king oyster mushrooms (the one where the stems are at least a couple of inches thick and the caps are tiny and pale) and mix them with some shitake (stems and caps). The stems give you the koftas a kind of toughness you won’t find with most vegetables.

I drained the mushrooms (about 2 cups)  and roughly chopped them up. Next, I seasoned them with just salt and pepper and dry roasted them for about 30 mins (150C). Let them cool.

Once cool, mix the caps with other ingredients of choice: I used walnuts (1/4 cup), some carrots (1/2 cup), parsley (a handful, chopped) and eggplant (1/2 cup, lightly roasted) and blend them till they are slightly pureed — allow for some chunkiness. Add some mash potato (1 potato) and breadcrumbs (just 1/2 cup, optional) and season with oregano, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Roll into balls, and you’re set.

Bake at 180C for 20 mins or till they’re nice and browned. I cooked my koftas in a tomato-based stew and ate it with spaghetti but I kept several aside to eat on their own for my dinner tomorrow. They’re that tasty ..

A case for mushrooms

19 Jul

I have way too many cookbooks. Some of these cookbooks I inherited but most of them I bought. I have so many that there are some I haven’t used — sure, I’ve browsed through them but haven’t tested the recipes.

Since we started reviewing cookbooks for Don’t Call Me Chef column in StarTwo (together with Marty Thyme and The Hungry Caterpillar), I’ve accumulated even more cookbooks. Yowza!

So, for today’s review, I decided to unearth a cookbook I bought about six months ago at a book sale dubbed the Big Bad Wolf sale: the Good Housekeeping Step-By-Step Cookbook. The 460-odd paged book is an essential for beginner cooks as it has step-by-step instructions on basic but fundamental cooking techniques with recipes to accompany.

But it is also a keeper for those of us who know a little about cooking and are  learning: especially Asian cooks who need to know the fundamentals of western cooking styles using Western flavouring.

From jams to pot roasts, chocolate brownies to paella, the cook book is replete with recipes to try out. For the column in the newspaper, I tested two recipes, one for herbed butter and another for a basic lemon cheesecake. Read the full review and get the recipes HERE.

Having tried the two recipes, I wasn’t quite done with the book. There were several other recipes I wanted to try: tomato sauce, chilli sauce, the sweet mocha bread (which looked divine), the chocolate chip cookies (if this book could guide me to baking great cookies, it’s definitely gold-star worthy as I am hopeless at cookies) and many more.

I started with the recipe for Mushroom Baskets simply because I love mushrooms and had some on hand.  They’re really tasty (you can’t really go wrong with mushrooms) and though the baskets in the recipe are individual meal-sized portions, they’d make really good canapés if you make downsize them to tartlets.

There are just two steps to these baskets: Step 1 is making and pre- baking the pastry and Step 2 is making the mushroom filling.

Pastry

250 g plain flour

150g chilled butter, cubed

1 large egg

Crumble the butter in the flour till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg and mix (by hand or pulse in a food processor) till the mixture comes together. Knead lightly on a floured surface and shape into six balls. Wrap and chill for 30 mins. Once chilled, roll the pastry out on a floured work surface (big enough to fully line the tart tins) and line the tins (loose based tart tins are recommended) . Prick the base with a fork and chill for 20mins. Heat the oven to 200C. Line the base of the cases with parchment paper and fill with beans. Blind bake for 10 mins. Remove the beans and bake for a further 5 mins or till cooked. reduce oven temp to 180C.

Making the filling

15g dried mushroom

50g butter

2 onions, finely chopped

450g mixed mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, cruched

300 ml med-dry sherry (I used red wine)

250 gm double cream

salt and ground black pepper

fresh thyme to garnish

Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for 10 mins. Heat the butter in a pan and add the onions. Cook for 10 mins. Add the fresh mushrooms and garlic and cook for 5 mins. Remove from pan and set aside.

Put the dried mushrooms and the liquid (about a cup) in a pan with the sherry. Bring to a boil, bubble for 10 mins and add the cream. Cook till it becomes syrupy.

To serve

Put the pastry cases in the oven to heat them up, about 5 mins. Add the cooked fresh mushrooms to the sauce  and season on low heat. Pour into cases and garnish with thyme.