Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Mama Pho

It's my third time in this small Vietnamese restaurant and it still gush about its food especially their pho. The soup base is simply the best I've tasted anywhere in UK. And its other dishes are no slouches as well. The only downside is its location in the depths of Deptford. Not exactly the most accessible part of south London.

My family would agree that this is my kind of eating place - small (almost like a canteen), friendly service, reasonable price, and most of all fantastic flavours in all their dishes. They have the kind of flavour that I was expecting from a Southeast Asian restaurant - bold, strong, with lots of combination of taste - sour-salty, sweet-salty-spicy, sweet-sour-salty-spicy, etc. For me, the balance of different flavours in strong doses is the cornerstone of SE Asian cuisine. Especially for Filipino food, the need for strong flavours in our dishes is important to balance out the relative blandness of rice which for me is really the centre of the Filipino cuisine.

Here are some pictures in our last visit:

All noodle soup orders come with this salad of fresh herbs, beansprouts, chilli, and limes.

We ordered Cha Gio (fried spring rolls) as starter.

Husband ordered Pho Tai Chin, a combination of well-done and rare slices of beef on flat rice noodle soup. Our son thought the soup was salty but both me and my husband find it full-bodied and just right.

For me this is the star among the phos here - Pho Ga or chicken noodle soup. The soup base is simply superb and all with sliced chicken meat and flat rice noodles then topped with green and crispy onions.

I had this Com Tam Cha Bi which is Vietnamese meat pie (kinda like meatloaf) and shredded pork skin with rice. The meat pie was great especially in combination with the spicy fish sauce. But I was not a fan of the pork skin. I thought it was crispy but it was soft and kinda limp. As usual I gave it to my food hoover husband since I was not keen on it.

This is Che Sun Sa which is a sweet coconut based drink with coloured jellies and I think sweet corn or something that looked like it. Yummy!

On previous visits I also ordered BBQ chicken with rice and it was fab as well. My kids loved the soup base in Mama Pho and agreed that theirs is probably better than any Vietnamese and Chinese that we have tried before. But they were not keen on the flat rice noodles. *sigh* They still prefer the eggs noodles of the Chinese restos. I think next time it will just be me and the husband who will come back. But hey, less competition for food is mighty fine with me! Their loss not mine. ;)

Mama Pho
24 Evelyn Street
London SE8 5DG

Tel No.: 0208 305 6649

Monday, 11 November 2013

Dutch Apple Cake

dutch apple cake
As always I'm on the lookout for use of apples in anything baked. I found this Rachel Allen recipe in the Good Food Channel website. This is one very fluffy, soft, and yummy apple cake. The only thing I changed is the way the sliced apple is added to the batter. I didn't put it on top as she suggested but put it about 2/3 down the way in the cake tin to make sure they sink to the bottom. Otherwise, it's perfect as it is.

Dutch Apple Cake

175 gm caster sugar (superfine)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
85 gm [1/3 cup] butter
125 gm plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 cooking apples - peeled, cored, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/400F. Line and butter an 8 x 8-inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the butter with the milk in a saucepan. Set aside.
  3. Sift and combine the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and mousse-like.
  5. Pour the melted butter and milk into the egg mixture while whisking all the time.
  6. Fold the flour mixture carefully into the mixture just enough to wet the dry mixture.
  7. Pour about 1/3 of the batter into the prepared baking pan.
  8. Arrange the sliced apple on top and then pour the rest of the batter to cover it. This is to make sure that the apple slices sink to the bottom.
  9. Sprinkle the 1 Tbsp sugar all over the top.
  10. Bake for ten minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 180C/fan 160C/350F and bake for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the baking pan for 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan and cut into squares. Serve warm with cream.

dutch apple cake

Monday, 14 October 2013

Lamb Biryani

This was supposed to be my submission for the Daring Cooks in October. But for some reason I wasn't able to blog. So here it is and what a very good recipe to keep. Actually, I made a lamb biryani earlier using a recipe from another book. You could probably hear the crash it made when I tossed it in the rubbish bin. The dish that came out of that was vile! And the meat was so tough I wasn't able to eat it. Well I say good riddance. One less cookbook on my bookshelf.

My ever reliable cookbook by Angela Nielsen, The Ultimate Recipe Book, was the source that I adapted for this keeper of a recipe. The accompanying tomato raita paired very well with it. My only gripe was that it took quite sometime to make and involved a lot of steps and ingredients. But it is perfect for those infrequent special occasions where your effort will be well rewarded with one delicious complete meal.

Lamb Biryani

600 gm lean boneless leg of lamb - cut into 1-inch pieces

1 Tbsp minced or grated garlic
1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
150 gm natural yoghurt

*For the rice:
300 gm basmati rice
1 cinnamon stick - halved
5 green cardamom pods - lightly bashed
4 cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
700 ml chicken stock

*For the drizzle:
5 Tbsp lukewarm milk
generous pinch of saffron strands
1 tsp garam masala
25 gm butter - melted

4 medium onions - cut into half lengthwise then very thinly sliced
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
1 - 2 fresh chillies - chopped (optional)
60 ml [1/4 cup] hot water

*To serve:
1/2 cup toasted almonds or cashews
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
Coriander and Tomato Raita
  1. Marinate the meat - combine the yoghurt, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and salt in a bowl. Mix in the lamb and marinate for 2-3 hours or more.
  2. Dissolve the saffron in the lukewarm milk. Set aside.
  3. Combine the melted butter and garam masala. Set aside.
  4. Once the lamb has marinated, saute one of the sliced onions in 1 1/2 Tbsp oil in a saute pan. Fry over medium-low heat until it has softened (about 5 minutes).
  5. Add the marinated lamb (including the marinade) a tablespoon at a time, cooking and frying briefly before adding the next one. This helps stop the yoghurt from curdling.
  6. When all the lamb has been added, cook for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add the chilli powder and/or fresh chillies (if using) and fry for a few seconds.
  8. Mix in the hot water. Bring to boil and then turn the heat to low and simmer covered for about 1 hour or until meat is very tender. Stir from time to time.
  9. Put the rice in a bowl cover with cold water and soak for about 20 minutes. Drain. Set aside.

  10. While the rice is soaking and the meat is cooking, cook the rest of the onions in a large saute pan with about 2 Tbsp oil on medium heat. Sprinkle salt on it to stop it from burning.
  11. Fry for about 25 minutes or until golden brown all over. Tip the onions onto kitchen paper towels, spread them out in thin layer and set aside to cool.

  12. To cook the rice - heat the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp oil in the pan used for the onion. Fry the cinnamon sticks, cardamom, cloves and cumin seeds for about a minute or until you could smell the aroma.
  13. Add the drained rice and fry for a minute, stirring all the time. Add in the stock and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 6-7 minutes or until the all the stock has been absorbed. Take off the heat, let stand but keep the cover on.

  14. Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F. Butter a 2.5 litre casserole dish or pot.
  15. Fluff the rice with a fork while picking out the spices from it.
  16. Spread in half of the lamb at the bottom of the casserole.
  17. Scatter a third of the fried onions on top.
  18. Spoon half of the rice on top of the lamb and onions, then pour the spiced butter all over.
  19. Repeat the layers and finish with a sprinkling of the spiced milk on the rice, then the rest of the fried onions and toasted nuts.
  20. Cover tightly with foil then put the casserole cover on and bake in oven for about 20 minutes.
  21. Sprinkle with mint (if using) and coriander. Serve with coriander and tomato raita (see below).

Coriander and Tomato Raita

1/2 tsp cumin seeds or powder
300 gm natural yoghurt
1 medium tomato - deseeded and chopped finely
about 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander
salt to taste
  1. If using cumin seeds, briefly dry-fry the seeds in a small pan until toasty and aromatic. Grind to a powder.
  2. Combine cumin powder and all the other ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Add salt to taste. Mix well.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Chocolate Cake with Boiling Water

We never get tired of chocolate cakes and this is another one that I've baked over the years. I was in a quandary over this post's title. How to make it distinctive and descriptive? After all, you can only name so much 'chocolate cakes'. The ingredients are very much like what we can find in other chocolate cakes except for this one surprising addition of boiling water. Intriguing! To be honest this is the first time I've used boiling water in a cake batter. I was bracing myself for a flop of a cake but thankfully was very relieved to find out that it results in a very soft, spongy and moist cake. Really really nice. It was not as chocolatey as other ones I've tried before but the texture was something I was pleasantly surprised and very delighted with that I didn't mind if there was less of a chocolate taste. Lastly, this is quite easy since you just combine everything all at once to mix, then add the boiling water last and you're ready to go.

Originally, this was sourced from the BBC Food website but has since discovered that it was virtually the same as Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake except for the salt and sugar! So I will credit them both since I combined them for this version of mine.

Easy Chocolate Cake

225 gm [1 3/4 cups] plain flour
375 gm [1 3/4 cups] granulated sugar
90 gm [3/4 cup] cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

*For icing: use Chocolate Ganache or Chocolate Buttercream Icing (even plain buttercream is good)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round (or one 13 x 9-inch) baking pans.
  3. Combine all ingredients except the boiling water in a bowl and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the boiling water a little at a time while beating until the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes (for 13x9 cake tin - 35-40 mins.) or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool completely while still in the pan.

*To assemble: Remove the cakes carefully from the tin and spread a little of the icing on top of one then put the other cake on top. Spread the rest of the icing on top and all around of the cake stack.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Classic Beef Meatballs

The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice.

Meatballs especially ones dunked on top of pasta is a favourite in our family. So as expected I have already done quite a number of meatball recipes in this blog. There's our usual spaghetti meatballs, the soupy almondigas, the Spanish albondigas for tapas, even a sweet and sour meatballs. I've been wondering what to cook until I spied this Classic Beef Meatballs recipe from ABC News. Although our usual family meatballs is almost the same as other Italian-style meatballs around, this one had a significant variant in the form of ricotta cheese. That had got me all intrigued enough to try it. And I wasn't disappointed, the cheese made it very moist and soft. The golf ball-sized meatballs weren't to my liking, however. I like them smaller, easier to handle and bite - probably the size of a conker is best for me. So here is my adaptation of that classic beef meatballs.

Classic Beef Meatballs

1 kg minced beef (80% lean beef)
1 cup (250 gm) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 eggs - slightly beaten
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp crushed pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried
1 tsp minced garlic
olive oil

*For the tomato sauce:
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 medium onion - chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 x 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp double concentrate tomato puree (tomato paste)

*Do the tomato sauce first:
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in olive in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the oregano, ground pepper and sea salt. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf.
  4. Bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for 1 hour (if making as sandwich filler) or just 10 minutes (if making for pasta) making sure to stir from time to time to avoid burning. Taste and add more salt if necessary or a little sugar if too sour.

*For the meatballs:
  1. Grease a 13x9-inch metal baking pan generously with the olive oil. Preheat oven to 230C/fan 210C/450F.
  2. Mix all the other ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl. Combine well.
  3. Shape into balls about the size of a conker (around 1 inch in diameter) making sure to pack the meat firmly. Arrange closely in the greased pan (they should be touching each other).
  4. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. A meat thermometer inserted in the middle should read 74C/165F.
  5. Now, if you want this for sandwiches, spoon the tomato sauce on top of the meatballs and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  6. If, however, you want this for pasta, pour all the roasted meatballs in the tomato sauce pot and continue simmering for 1 hour.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Salmon En Croute

Our lovely Monkey Queen of Don’t Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys, was our May Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to dive into the world of en Croute! We were encouraged to make Beef Wellington, Stuffed Mushroom en Croute and to bring our kids into the challenge by encouraging them to create their own en Croute recipes!

Salmon En Croute
I decided to go with the flow of the season and do a salmon covered in pastry since it's currently on sale! Even my stuffing is more spring-like: blended combination of spinach, watercress, and rocket (arugula). I used a combination of cream cheese and ricotta (left-over from another recipe). They were quite nice although I must say I was right in seasoning it well. Otherwise it comes across as too bland.

The BBC Good Food magazine provided me with the recipe to adapt to. This is so easy to make what with the ready-made puff pastry you can get from almost any supermarket. The only thing a bit hard is when moving the whole encased salmon from the assembly area to the baking pan. Otherwise, it was all a breeze frankly.

Salmon En Croute

Salmon En Croute

500 gm salmon fillet - skinned and deboned
500 gm puff pastry
150 gm mascarpone or cream cheese
100 gm combined spinach, watercress and rocket
1 medium egg - beaten with 2 tsp milk
  1. Combine the cream cheese and the watercress, spinach and rocket in a food processor and whizz until well mixed. Season well with sea salt. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/375F. Butter or oil a baking sheet.
  3. Roll the pastry out to a size that will enclose the salmon completely, with a thickness of around 1/8 of an inch. Lay it on the prepared baking sheet (it will hang over the edges) and put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under.
  4. Put half of the cream cheese mixture on the salmon. Fold the pastry over to make a neat parcel. Trim the edges and seal with a fork or by crimping.
  5. Make three slashes in the pastry to allow the steam to escape. Brush the pastry with the egg glaze.
  6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. Dish up and serve with the rest of the watercress puree.

Salmon En Croute sliced

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Chicken Ballotine

For the April Daring Cooks Challenge, Lisa from Parsley, Sage and Sweet has challenged us to debone a whole chicken, using this video by Jacques Pepin as our guide; then stuff it, tie it and roast it, to create a Chicken Ballotine.

chicken ballotine

A few years' ago I was an eager participant to the Daring Baker's food blogging monthly event. It has now morphed into a Daring Kitchen which includes the Daring Cooks challenge. Well, I say the more the merrier! I wanted to get going again after a few years absence but since my big oven conked out months before, all I could participate in is the Daring Cooks challenge.

I love this month's one, deboning a whole chicken. I've always wanted to learn how to do it but always beaten back by procastination. So this kind of dare is the very thing to spur me on. This particular technique of Jacques Pepin, is the simpler one since the back of the chicken is cut open. Next time I hope to learn the more tricky way of deboning poultry without cutting the skin which is the one used in the Filipino chicken relleno or chicken gallantina.

deboned chicken

How did I fare? Well, I watched the video at least three times to remember the techniques and the order of the steps. Going back and forth to the computer while my hands are soiled is not something I planned on doing. So after memorizing the process, the deboning itself was quite straight forward. It's the sliminess that I found difficult at times usually when I have to grab the bones. But other than that I must say it went quite well. What I found tricky was the tying of the string! I can't make it 'link' to one another. So I had to refer to the end of the video and had to see it several times. Jacques did it very quickly and I didn't notice at first that he turned his hand to twist the string!

chicken ballotine

I didn't make the sauce in the recipe and instead used my usual gravy one but included it here in case I'll have the chance to make it next time around. The stuffed, bound and tied chicken was brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper then roasted. I served this for our Easter family dinner and it went down quite well. There's something about slicing so easily into that chicken without worrying about bones that makes this so appealing. I'm definitely doing this again.

chicken ballotine

Ballotine of Chicken

1 whole chicken (about 1.8 kg) - deboned
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Red Rice Stuffing or Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing (see below)

*Gravy Sauce:
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup dry red wine or chicken stock
1/2 cup diced celery stalk
1 small onion - diced
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/2 tsp potato starch or cornstarch/cornflour dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 200C/fan 180C/400F/gas mark 6.
  2. Lay the deboned chicken skin side down and sprinkle the salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the cooled stuffing mixture evenly over the chicken - stuffing the legs, too. If using the spinach stuffing, sprinkle the cheese and bread cubes on top of the spinach.
  4. Roll the chicken up, tie it with kitchen string, brush with melted butter and place in a roasting pan.
  5. Roast in the oven for about 45 mins - 1 hour or until the temperature in the centre of the chicken ballotine is 70-74C/160-165F. Check the chicken midway through the roasting time to see if it is browning too much in which case you can reduce the temperature to 190C/fan 170C/375F/gas mark 5.
  6. Remove from oven and lift from pan into a serving platter. Let rest for at about 10 minutes before serving.

*For the gravy sauce:
  1. Skim off and discard most of the fat from the drippings in the pan. Add water and wine (or stock) to deglaze the pan, and heat over medium heat, stirring to loosen and melt the solidified juices.
  2. Strain the juices into a saucepan. Add the celery, onion and carrot. Bring to a boil in high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low and boil gently for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the dissolved potato starch and soy sauce. Bring back to boil while stirring to thicken it. Remove from the heat.

Red Rice Stuffing

115 gm [1/2 cup] Wehani rice
300 ml [1 1/4 cups] chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 tsp sea salt
15 gm [1/2 cup] dried mushrooms (such as porcini) - rinsed and broken into pieces
1 cup chopped leek (white part)
1 onion - chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
60 ml [1/4 cup] water
  1. Combine the rice, stock, salt and dried mushrooms in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 1 hour or until the rice is tender. Set the rice aside in the pan, uncovered.
  2. In another saucepan, combine the leek, onion, oil and water and bring to boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and cook in gentle heat for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the water is gone.
  3. Add the rice, mix well and let cool to room temperature.

Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
140 gm baby spinach leaves
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Gruyere or matured cheddar or mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups cubed bread
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute or until the spinach is wilted.
  2. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl. Drain and let cool to room temperature.