Tag Archives: coconut milk

What have I done?

15 Aug

Thanks, Williams-Sonoma, you really done me in!

I haven’t cooked rice on the stove top for … 20 years! Yup, my Panasonic electric rice cooker cooks  my rice for me. Even when I make nasi briyani, it’s in the rice cooker. My friend, the rice cooker. As absent-minded as I am, the rice cooker is an absolute, absolute necessity. Why? Well, back when I had no rice cooker, it was quite a common that  my neighbors would hear  a high-pitched screech around-about  lunchtime. Why? Well, I’d put the rice on the stove and then I’d get bored. Who wants to watch a pot of rice cook? So, I’d multi task. I’d  start on the laundry or get on the computer or plant myself in front of the TV (this was most often the case) and forget all about the rice that’s on slow boil in the kitchen.

Until I smelt the burning.  Acck. Have you ever smelt burning rice ? It’s god-awful. By the time the smell wafted through the house to reach me, the rice would be long gone. Almost charcoal. Unsalvageable.  I’d have to throw it out with clothes peg on my nose (ok I am exaggerating but it smells awful). Naturally, I’d have to  cook a second batch and this time, to avoid a repeat performance, I literally would have to watch my rice cook. Lifting the lid ten times too often, mentally hurrying the grains up.

So anyway, that’s why I love my rice cooker. You wash the rice, chuck it in the cooker, add water and switch it on. You can then proceed to do any number of things and it won’t burn on you.

And then I got this book to review: the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Asian Cooking cookbook (the review will be published tomorrow and I will dutifully add the link then) and I could not resist trying the “Lemon grass and Coconut Jasmine Rice”, evidently a Thailand staple .  (The cookbook features  recipes from 15 Asian countries: the essentials of each country’s cuisine.) The only problem? The rice had to be cooked on the stove.   Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

The culprit!

The picture of the rice looked so wonderful that I had to try it, even if it meant digging out my weathered rice pot from the deepest recess of my cupboard. Urrrgh.

The recipe was pretty simple. The key is to use a non-stick pan (you don’t want to scrub till the cows come home) AND to toast the rice in oil or some sort of fat (butter/ghee) before adding in the water so that the rice doesn’t stick to the pot and together.

For this recipe, you  will need …

1 cup of rice, washed clean

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 tbsp pureed fresh ginger

3 tbsp veg oil or butter

1 cup water

1 cup coconut milk

3 stalks of  lemon grass, only the tender middle section, smashed

pinch of salt

Heat the oil in the pan. Add the onions and cook till translucent. Add the rice (washed and drained) and cook, stirring, till the rice is nicely coated with oil and onions — about 3 mins. Add the water, coconut milk and salt and stir. Once it comes to a boil, add the smashed lemon grass and cover the pot. Turn the heat down to low and let the rice cook, undisturbed for 10-15 mins. You can peep in after 10 mins to see how it’s progressing and taste it: you may have to add a little more water. Once it’s done, turn off the heat and gently fluff up the rice and then put the lid back on, letting it steam in the pot fo about 10 mins. You’re good to go.

OK, that wasn’t as painful as I though it’d be. 15 minutes isn’t that long a time to hang around waiting for rice to cook. I did the dishes and watched a pair of lizards dance around my ceiling.  Fascinating! The result? The rice turned out great. Don’t underestimate the humble lemon grass: it infused an almost citrusy flavour to the rice. Awesome.

So, if it turned out great why am I (not) thanking Williams-Sonoma. WELL, the rice was such a hit with the mister (as opposed to missus — geddit) that I may just have to say bye-bye to Mr Panasonic and  cook rice ol’ skool style. I either have to establish a friendship with them  lizards (urrgh) or warn my neighbours not to call the cops if they hear me screaming just around noon.

Jelly without the belly

4 Aug

It’s almost always hot and I’m almost always hot and bothered and not to mention sweaty. Air conditioning helps, as does water but one of the best reprieves from the heat is … AGAR AGAR. A dessert staple for many Malaysians, agar agar or jelly is the perfect panacea for the heat. Agree?

A slightly firmer version of the American dessert Jell-O, Agar Agar is derived from seaweed. Red seaweed. It is a natural thickener and unlike gelatine, which is largely extracted from animals, it’s suitable for vegetarians/vegans. The agar agar jelly is firmer than its American counterpart but, if you adjust the liquid-agar agar ratio, you can get a softer, sloppier textured agar agar too.

The best way (the only way, I think) to eat agar agar is chilled. Don’t bite it, rather just let it slither down your throat and enjoy the soothing coolness of the jelly as it goes down.

The best part? It takes very little time and hardly any effort. The basic agar agar recipe will have you boil the agar agar in water until it dissolves  adding just sugar and colouring. But there are variations. I like the coconut milk agar agar (where you replace a portion of the water with thick coconut milk) the best. There are also healthier options where you replace white sugar with fresh fruit juice (also adjusting the liquid accordingly).

It’s really a fun dessert to make and eat. It doesn’t require technique (well, not much) and it apart from boiling the agar agar till it dissolves, there is no real cooking involved. You don’t need your stand mixer, your whisk or your oven. At the most, you will need just a little whimsy as you can, unlike me, go a little crazy shaping your agar agar. Depending on the moulds you have, you can shape your agar agar to look pretty: animal and flower shaped moulds are common but you can fool around a little and create a lanscaped garden with your agar? Why? It’s like edible silly putty, that’s why! Check out the pic below which was taken from foodinthelibrary.com — Jell-O San Fransisco! Ain’t that cool?

Anyway, here’s my recipe for the basic agar agar which I made which is a combo of the clear agar agar (sugar syrup) with the coconut milk agar agar.

35g agar agar — strips (one pkt)

1200 ml water

200 ml coconut milk

1 cup sugar (you can adjust acc to your taste)

Soak the agar agar in enough water to cover it. Heat the 12oo ml water and when it starts to boil, add the soaked agar agar. Add the sugar and let the mixture boil, med heat, till the agar agar dissolves completely. Add colour of choice.

Remove 2/3 of the agar and pour into sterilized (with hot water) moulds: just halfway, not to the brim as you want to top it up with the coconut milk agar. Continue boiling the remaining, adding the coconut milk. Let it simmer while the earlier batch sets. (15 to 20 mins). Pour the coconut milk agar over the plain agar. Leave to set and refrigerate.