Cooking with Alison

Archive for the ‘How-To’ Category

Ingredients That Freeze Beautifully

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Breads, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To, Indian, Main Course on June 1, 2014 at am

Whenever I cook with ingredients that I don’t use regularly, I almost always end up with extra ingredients that I can’t find the time or purpose for.  I hate to waste food.  So, very early on, I learned how to make the freezer my best friend.  Below I’ve shared a list of fresh and canned ingredients that freeze beautifully for months to a year, without a change in texture or taste.  Let me know if you can think of anything else!  I will add to this list as I discover new freezer friendly ingredients.  Also, I’ve posted many many freezer friendly recipes throughout the years.  Just look to the end of each recipe for freezing instructions, as applicable.

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My Absolute Favourite Fruit: Mangosteen

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To on May 22, 2014 at am

I love almost all fruit, and mangosteen is, by far, my favourite.  If you haven’t tried purple mangosteen yet, I highly recommend that you do as soon as the opportunity presents itself.  When I was in Malaysia, I ate an entire bag and every day that I’ve been back, I regret not eating more.  That was a year ago!!!  Mangosteen are grown mainly in Southeast Asia and the best ones that I’ve ever had were from Malaysia. Disappointingly, in North America, mangosteen can be quite expensive and often not very fresh.  So be sure to choose ones with a fresh and green coloured stem, because there are such things as bad and so-so mangosteen.

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The purple fruit shown in the middle are the mangosteen

The purple outer shell is inedible.  To open a mangosteen, crush the purple shell between the palms of your hands and then pull it apart to open it.  But be very careful not to stain your clothes, because the purple dye is almost impossible to wash out.  In fact, many hotels in Southeast Asia ban their guests from bringing mangosteen into their rooms.  The white flesh on the inside of the fruit is soft, moist, juicy and refreshing and light tasting.  Also, there are large seeds within each lobe of the white flesh.

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If you get the chance to try a mangosteen, let me know what you think!

How to Make Malaysian Pulled Tea (Teh Tarik)

In Asian, Drinks, How-To, Other Asian Foods on April 28, 2014 at am

I am in love with Hong Kong style milk tea (see recipe here), and on a trip to Malaysia, I discovered that I love Malaysian pulled tea, teh tarik, just as much.  The delicious teh tarik, which means “pull” tea, is made using sweetened creamer.  Some people add evaporated milk as well.  What sets teh tarik apart from other teas is the process of pouring the prepared tea back and forth between two containers until the tea tastes and feels smooth, silky, and light in weight.  Apparently, you’re also supposed to develop a good froth.  The further the distance between your two containers while you’re pouring the tea back and forth, the better your tea will be.  Be careful not to get splattered by the hot tea, and wear clothes that you don’t care about, because the tea stains are hard to wash out.

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Outside of Malaysia, it can be difficult to find the best tea leaves for making teh tarik.  But luckily, I have been surprised by how good some of the instant teh tarik powders are.  The brand Boh is very popular in Malaysia and is quite good.  My favourite is Aroma Ipoh’s instant ginger milk tea.  I found it in a Chinese grocery store in Toronto, ON.  

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Like Pomelo Fruit? Then You’ll Love Oroblanco (USA) or Sweetie Grapefruits (Israel)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Asian Desserts, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To, Other Asian Foods on March 29, 2014 at am

Pomelo is a very large citrus fruit that tastes like a sweeter, milder grapefruit (photo not shown).  Not only does pomelo taste better than grapefruit, it’s also much much easier to peel and eat.  I didn’t think that it could get any better with citrus fruit, but I was proven very wrong when I discovered Israel’s sweetie grapefruit (also known as oroblanco in the USA).  When I first tasted it, I thought, this tastes even better than a pomelo, sweeter and juicier, almost like a mix of pomelo and grapefruit.  Sure enough, I later learned that the sweetie grapefruit is, in fact, a cross between the pomelo and the white grapefruit.  I really hope you’re able to find this in your local grocery store.  When picking a sweetie grapefruit, the skin should be green and should smell citrusy.  Also, the fruit should be heavy and somewhat soft when pressed.

You peel a sweetie grapefruit the same way you peel a pomelo:  Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the fruit.  Make sure that you cut all the way through the thick rind.  Then peel the rind off in large slices.  Then use your hands to pull the fruit apart so that you have two halfs with exposed flesh.  Pull each lobe of flesh away from the white pith and enjoy.

Other must try fruits include:  mangosteen (see here).

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How To Make Chinese Noodle Soups

In Asian, How-To, Rice and Noodle Dishes on March 16, 2014 at am

fiBowls of Chinese noodle soup are comforting, warming, easy to make, and are often one pot meals.  They’re also a great way to use up leftovers, because you can use any combination of protein and/or vegetables that you like or happen to have on hand.  I’ve provided guidelines for making Chinese noodle soup and suggested some popular topping combinations below.

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How to Make Danish Pastries (with Cheese, Blueberry or Apple Filling)

In Desserts, How-To, Other Desserts, Pies & Tarts on February 14, 2014 at am

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I’ve made delicious danishes from scratch twice now, and they were a huge hit.  The cheese danishes are especially good.  You could also use half cheese and half fruit for the filling.  Although you could use store bought puff pastry, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to make your own puff pastry using the shortcut in this recipe.  If you take the time to make a large batch of puff pastry, you can freeze it for future uses.

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How to Cook a Prime Rib Roast

In How-To, Red Meat and Eggs on December 4, 2013 at am

Roasted prime rib (or standing rib roast) is one of my family’s favourite things to eat for special occasions and family gatherings.  It’s a beautiful, tender, flavourful and expensive cut of meat that would be completely wasted if overcooked.  Once you get the hang of achieving the right doneness, you’ll discover that it’s actually very easy to cook a prime rib roast.  Below, I have shared a few tips for how to select a prime rib roast as well as two simple methods that I use to cook prime rib.  Note that I don’t normally pre-season my roasts, so the cooking methods would differ slightly if you wanted to use a flavour crust on the outside of your meat.  Next time, I’ll share my favourite recipe for seasoned prime rib roast.

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How to Make Puff Pastry From Scratch, The Quick and Easy Way

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, How-To, Main Course, Other Desserts, Pies & Tarts on November 10, 2013 at am

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In the past, I often used store bought, frozen puff pastry for special occasions and parties.  Although I had been planning to attempt making puff pastry from scratch for years, I put it off, because the process requires many steps and resting times.  So imagine how excited I was when I found a time-saving technique for puff pastry in The Modern Baker.  Not only is this puff pastry easy and relatively quick to make, it is freezer friendly, too.  So you can make several batches in half a day, freeze them, and have your own instant puff pastry for future uses.  This puff pastry bakes up beautifully flaky, buttery, and crisp.  I’ll probably never use store-bought puff pastry again.  When I used this dough to make cheese danishes, my dad said that they were better than the ones that he buys from a bakery. I’ve also used this successfully for savoury tarts (see recipes here and here) and beef wellington. Here are a few other recipes that use puff pastry: Hong Kong egg tarts (see recipe here), apple turnovers (see recipe here), chicken or turkey pot pie (see recipe here), and vol au vents.

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What to Cook When Daikon Radish Goes on Sale for 9 Cents per Pound

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Dim Sum, How-To, Meat and Eggs, Other Asian Foods, Rice and Noodle Dishes, Soups on October 26, 2013 at am

When white daikon radish went on sale for only 9 cents per pound, I did what I had to do – I bought pounds and pounds and pounds of it, found different ways to cook it, and ate nothing but daikon radish for two weeks.  It was awesome!  🙂  So here is a list of dishes that you can make using white daikon radish.  Let me know if you can think of more items!

  • braised beef dishes (see recipes here and here)
  • Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho tai) (see recipe here)
  • steamed cake (lo bak go) (see recipe here)
  • pickled condiment (see recipe here)
  • soup (see recipe here)
  • pan fried dish with beef

If you’ve never cooked daikon radish before, I should warn you that the cooking process releases an unpleasant odour.  But once the radish is fully cooked, the smell goes away, and the radish has a mild flavour.

How to Determine the Doneness of Meat Using Touch Test

In How-To, Red Meat and Eggs on October 1, 2013 at am

Regardless of what type of meat you’re cooking or how you’re cooking the meat, the biggest mistake you can make is overcooking it.  Unfortunately, the required cooking time for each cut or piece of meat can vary greatly depending on the equipment used to cook it, the size of the meat, the starting temperature of the meat, and the ratio of meat to bone, etc.  Therefore, it is very important to rely more heavily on the touch test or meat thermometers than general cooking time guidelines.  Determining the doneness of meat is the most difficult part of any recipe, but luckily, it gets easier with practice.  

Over time, you will be able to tell whether or not the meat is cooked through simply by smelling and looking at the meat.  (Hint:  The meat will be opaque in colour and it will have shriveled away from the bones.)  Until then, you have the touch test and meat thermometers.

Although using a meat thermometer will give you precision (as long as it has been calibrated properly), you end up losing some of the meat juices when you poke it into the meat.  You also end up with unsightly holes or tears in your meat.  So I prefer to use the touch test.  Below, I’ve shared three different variations of the touch test for checking the doneness of meat.  Note that I have also heard this being called the “finger test”.  Let me know if you know of any other touch methods.

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How to Render Lard

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To, Main Course on August 18, 2013 at pm

I recently jumped onto the lard band wagon and I saved a seat for you.  I know what you’ve heard about lard.  I heard the same warnings about high cholesterol and clogged arteries.  In fact, I grew up listening to my dad blame his blocked arteries on the use of lard in every day cooking during his youth.  But the truth is that home rendered lard can actually be considered a healthy fat!  (See here for more details.)  It is better for you than butter and is a rich source of vitamin D.  But I want to be very clear that only home rendered lard is good, and it’s best if the fat comes from naturally raised hogs.  Processed store-bought lard, however, contains trans fats – the very bad fats – and preservatives.

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Home rendered lard

I am so glad that we’ve cleared up that misunderstanding, because lard makes everything taste better.  For example, it’s perfect for deep frying foods, because it has a high smoke point.  This allows your food to cook more quickly, meaning that your food will be crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, all the while absorbing less oil.  Also, lard is necessary for making the best flaky pastries.  You may be surprised to know that lard is one of the secrets to many delicious Asian dishes as well.  Cooking your stir fried noodles in lard will result in an inimitable flavor and silky texture.

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How to Boil or Poach Chicken

In How-To, Meat and Eggs, Poultry on April 19, 2012 at pm

Cooking chicken by boiling or poaching is easy and great for making healthy, oil-free, meals.  It may sound bland, but this results in deliciously moist meat and a pot of chicken stock.  When boiling or poaching chicken, you want to use meat that still has the skin on and the bone in, so you can purchase cheaper cuts of meat and save money while eating healthy.  You can boil a whole chicken or pieces of chicken.  Shred the cooked meat and use it in salads, sandwiches, wraps, soup or, my favourite, bang bang chicken (recipe here).  Another healthy and simple way to cook chicken is by steaming (see recipe here).

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