nam prik noom (northern Thai green chili dipping sauce)

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There are many dipping sauces in Thailand. This one is nam prik noom (นำพริกหนุ่ม) from northern Thailand. “Nam” means sauce. It is made from a long pale green chili about 6 inches long called prik noom  (พริกหนุ่ม)–sorry, couldn’t find an English translation on the internet. It is spicy but not fiery hot. On my subjective scale of one to ten with ten being tongue-numbing, I’d say this is a five. Nam prik noom is absolutely delicious, especially when eaten the traditional way with salty, crunchy pork rinds.  Serve it with an ice cold beer, or in true Thai style, with ice in the beer. 

Nam Prik Noom (Northern Thai Green Chili Dipping Sauce)
Makes 1/2 cup

4 Prik Noom (a slender light green chili that’s about 6 inches long)
4 large cloves garlic with skin
6 small shallots with skin
1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Special equipment: mortar and pestle

Roast the chili over an open flame to char and blister the pepper. I used an open gas burner fitted with a wire rack, to roast the peppers. Turn peppers frequently with a pair of metal tongs. Don’t try to turn it with your fingers. When it is completely softened, remove the chilis to a rimmed baking tray to cool completely. By then they will have turned olive green. Cut off the stems of the prik noom and discard, keeping the chilis whole, peeling and discarding the charred skin. Set aside.

In the same pan, roast the garlic cloves and shallots in the skin until softened and blackened on the outside, shifting the pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. Be careful as the heat can make the garlic and shallots explode, so you might cut a small slit in each one as a precaution. Cool and peel the garlic and shallots, discarding the papery skin.

Put the garlic, shallots, and salt to taste in the bottom of the mortar and pound until fine. Add the peeled whole prik noom to the mortar and pound until the peppers are thin strips. Mix, scooping up the bottom and bringing it to the top, and pound lightly a few times. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

Bring the nam prik noom to room temperature and serve it with pork rinds.

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no-knead bread loaf

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I wanted to make a bread with a chewy crust and a tender crumb to accompany roasted sausages, grapes and onions. So I made two boules, round loaves of bread. This recipe is adapted from the recipe A Loaf of Bread in How to Cook Without a Book. For some reason, my bread doughs are always very wet, and this one continued that tradition. I used SAF-Instant gold yeast which is said to be “osmotolerant” a phrase which means it is specially formulated to handle high sugar doughs. Because of my experiences of the past 8 months with the multigrain bread recipe, it seemed so simple in comparison–just 5 ingredients. And in a sense, the result was quite simple. I got what I wanted. I got a crusty chewy bread with a tender open crumb.

No-Knead Bread Loaf
Time: 3 hours 15 minutes (more or less)

1 2/3 cups water, room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
4 cups (480 g) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal for the pan

In the workbowl of a large food processor, add the flour and the yeast. Pulse to combine. Add the salt and pulse to combine. While the machine is running on high speed, gradually pour the water down the feed tube, watching for the dough to clump and form a ball. Mine didn’t and I used up all the water. In your kitchen, you might not need all the water. I ended up with a very soft, very wet, very sticky dough. Rather than knead the dough, I decided to use the stretch-and-fold method.

Using a plastic dough scraper, I scraped that sticky dough out into a bowl, covered it, and let it rest 10 minutes. Then I smeared some oil on the work surface and rubbed my hands in oil. I dabbed a little on the top of the dough and turned it out on the oiled surface. Using a metal dough scraper, I lifted the edge of the dough furthest away from me, stretched it and folded it in half towards me. Using the heel of my hand, I pressed the edges together, gave the dough a slight turn, and repeated the process 8 or 10 times. Then I put the dough back in the bowl, covered it and let it rest 10 minutes. I repeated the process two more times. Incredibly, it worked. Without kneading, the dough became smooth, pliant, and elastic.

Grease a large bowl and put the dough in it for the first of two rises, called fermentation. I covered the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and put it in the microwave (off) with a cup of boiling water for company. Because I wanted to get a ciabatta bread, I took the bowl out of the microwave after 30 minutes. (If you don’t, skip this step.) I oiled the work surface and scraped the dough out of the bowl. I oiled my hands and patted the dough into a rectangle twice as big as the ball originally. Then I folded the dough in thirds. First the left side, then the right, then the top and lastly the bottom. I folded the edges of the dough towards the center, rotating it and folding it to get a taut ball. I turned it over, seam side down, and shaped the ball between cupped hands. Then I put it back in the bowl, seam side down, covered it, and let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours in the proofing box (aka my microwave oven, off, of course) with a cup of boiling water to create a humid environment.

While the dough is rising, prepare two bannetons or two 7-inch bowls lined with thin dish towels. Generously flour the bottom and sides of the towel inside the bowls/bannetons and tap out the excess flour.

With fermentation completed, I turned the dough out onto a floured surface and cut the ball into two equal halves. You can weigh it for even distribution. Shape each piece into a taut ball by folding the edges towards the center. Flip it over seam side down, and rotate it on the work surface to seal the bottom. Put the balls in the bannetons/bowls, seam side up. Flour the seam-side and cover the dough with a damp towel. Put them back to proof 45 minutes.

While the dough is proofing, heat the oven to 220˚C/450˚F. Line a large rimmed baking tray with a sheet of parchment. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of the parchment and set aside.

When the dough has proofed, tip the boules out on top of the cornmeal. Using a sharp knife, slash the tops of the dough with a cross. Put the tray in the oven and increase the oven temperature to 260˚C/500˚F. After 15 minutes, turn the tray around. Bake an additional 10 minutes. The original recipe said 20 minutes but the bread was brown and crusty in half the time. Don’t rely on the time but do observe how brown the top is getting. To test the bread is done, it should read 200˚F on an instant read thermometer. Remove the bread to a wire cooling rack to cool thoroughly before slicing.

multigrain bread

I have been baking bread since February. The same recipe. And I’m not even tired of it! Why am I not tired of this recipe? Well, quite honestly, it’s the challenge. Bread is just flour, water, yeast and salt, but these four simple ingredients can be so temperamental that making a good loaf of bread is almost elusive. To be good, the bread must be moist, tall and tender, and be springy to the touch. So here we are, the first day of October and I think I have finally nailed it.

This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen which has never disappointed me if I follow their recipe strictly–until now. The dough was so appallingly sticky and the gluten stubbornly uncooperative. For the last eight months I obsessively maintained a Dough Diary, writing down every deviation, experimentation, failure, and success. I decided it must be the flour, so I switched from all-purpose in the recipe to bread flour, and got better results. I did my research and learned how to knead bread by hand, a very enjoyable activity. Still, I didn’t get a tall tender loaf until I learned that I need to weigh the dough to fit the pan I’m using. In baking bread, weighing is everything. Now that I’ve worked that out, here is the (almost) perfect multigrain sandwich loaf and boule. Ta-DAH!

Multigrain Bread (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
Minutes to Prepare: 30 minutes
Resting Time: varies, from 5 hours to 6
Minutes to bake: 35 minutes
Yield: 1425 grams of dough or 1 sandwich loaf and 1 boule**
**I converted all measurements to grams because it’s more accurate.

Special Equipment
1 8.5×4.5 loaf pan
Stand Mixer
Scale
Dough or Bench Scrapers
Instant Read Thermometer

Ingredients
135 grams multigrain hot cereal mix (in Thailand use McGarrett’s 5 grain cereal)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
360 grams bread flour, plus more for dusting (all-purpose originally)
170 grams whole wheat flour (also called hard wheat)
91 grams honey
59 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon fine table salt

Optional Additions to the Dough
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, OR
1/2 cup flaxseed or chia seeds, OR
3/4 cup chopped nuts, after sifting out the powder

Topping
Egg yolk wash (1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water)
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats, quick oats, or multigrain cereal

Place cereal mix in the work bowl of the stand mixer and pour boiling water over it. Let it stand, stirring occasionally to cool the mixture to 100-115˚F. The grain will swell and absorb some but not all the water. This takes from 20-30 minutes. Measure the flours into a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

Once the grain mixture has cooled, add the honey, melted butter, and yeast. Attach bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on low speed (Level 1-2) to combine. Still beating on low speed, add the flour mixture a half-cup at a time, mixing the flour into the cereal. Once all the flour has been added, switch the paddle for the dough hook, and knead on Level 2-3 until the dough forms a ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Without removing the bowl, cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt. Knead the dough in the machine 3-4 minutes on Level 2 or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom. If it doesn’t clear, add 2-3 tablespoons additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading on Level 2-3 for 5 more minutes.

Touch the dough. It will be sticky–some of it will come away on your finger. It is tacky if your finger is clean. If it is tacky, most likely the kneading is done. Cut away a walnut-size piece of dough and stretch it as thin as it will go without tearing. It will be flexible and translucent when held up to the light. This is called the windowpane test. Add the nuts/seeds, if using, and knead for 15 more seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes to disperse the seeds. The dough is ready for the stage called bulk fermentation.

If the dough is sticky, and it always was for me, this means the gluten is undeveloped. I recommend kneading it by hand, a process that can take up to 30 minutes, but is oddly satisfying. The slap and fold method works well for this sticky dough. Oil your hands (keep a bowl of oil nearby) and try not to add more flour, though the dough can take up to 6 tablespoons more. Shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Lift it up and slap the dough firmly on the work surface, stretch it back towards you, then fold it over on itself. Repeat and repeat. It may seem like forever, but the dough will eventually come together. You can see demonstrations of this technique on YouTube. Stop and do the windowpane test after 10 minutes. If it’s not stretchy, keep slapping and folding.

Once the dough passes the window pane test, it will become tacky and not stick to your hands or the work surface as much. Lightly flour the work surface and shape the dough into a ball. Oil a 4-5 quart mixing bowl and put the dough ball in it, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Put it in a warm draft free place to rise. This is called bulk fermentation, and is one of two rises that the dough will need. I put the bowl in the microwave (off, of course) with a cup of boiling water. Or you can heat the oven on low, turn it off, and put the bowl in the oven. The dough will need 45-60 minutes to double in bulk. It will rise to the top of the mixing bowl but not over it. If it only rises 2/3 of the bowl after 45 minutes or one hour,  let the dough have 15 minutes more.

When the dough has risen weigh it. I get about 1425 grams of dough after fermentation. I cut it half, roughly, one piece weighing 770 grams will make a sandwich loaf in the pan. The smaller piece I roll into a boule. I don’t have a banneton and you don’t need one to make a boule. Use a medium size bowl. I use a bamboo rice steamer basket.

Making a sandwich loaf. Pat 770 grams of the dough into a rectangle. Roll it into a tight cylinder so there are no holes. Pinch the seams closed and roll it back and forth on the work surface to smooth it out.  Spray the loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. Brush egg wash on the sandwich loaf and roll it in a 1/2 cup of oats or cereal spread in a plate. Place it in the center of the prepared loaf pan.

Making a boule. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Keep doing this until you get a taut ball. Dust a little flour on the work surface and put the ball seam side down in the flour. Cup your hand around it and smooth out the ball. Line your banneton with a clean dish towel and sprinkle some flour inside it. Don’t use the egg wash on the boule just yet. Put the boule in the bowl with the seam side up. Sprinkle some flour on the dough then cover the boule with the ends of the dish cloth.

Proofing the dough. Put the dough in the microwave (off) to proof, 30-40 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic and a kitchen towel. The loaf will rise 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the rim of the pan. The boule will increase 50%. While they are proofing, heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Put a baking tray on the oven rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the bread. Unwrap the boule and tip it out of the bowl onto a piece of parchment paper. Take the hot baking tray out of the oven and place the boule with parchment on  one side. Brush top of boule with egg wash and pat oats/cereal on it. Put the loaf pan next to it on the baking tray. Put the baking tray in the oven and watch the magic. We have bread! After 35 minutes, take the baking tray out of the oven. The loaf and the boule will have reached an internal temperature of 200˚F which means the bread is cooked inside. Transfer the boule with parchment to a wire cooling rack. Put the loaf pan on another cooling rack. After 10 minutes, take it out of the pan. Cool completely for at least 3 hours before slicing.

PS I got a new brand of yeast that’s recommended by bread bakers. I’m so excited. I can’t believe I’m excited about yeast.

honey-ginger chicken thighs

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These chicken thighs are sweet and savory at the same time. It has the earthy notes of ginger with the tang of garlic, caressed with honey. The accompaniments are pan-roasted baby bok choy sprinkled with balsamic vinaigrette, purple rice salad, and a light fruit salad of pineapple, pomelo (a cousin of the grapefruit, very mild-tasting, not sour), cucumber, and pomegranate sprinkled on top, all drizzled with mayongchid syrup I had made when mayongchid was in season. But a lightly sweet fruit salad dressing will do too. 

Honey-Ginger Chicken Thighs
Marinating time: at least 12 hours
Cooking time: 40 minutes

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons garlic (8-10 large cloves), minced
4 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
Salt and Pepper to taste
4-6 chicken thighs with the bone in, trimmed of excess fat

In a small saucepan, heat the honey, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and nam pla until just simmering. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a large casserole dish, put the chicken thighs in a single layer, skin side down. Pour the sauce over the chicken, move the chicken around to get the sauce underneath it, and cover the dish. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Transfer the chicken thighs, skin side down, to a 10 or 12 inch oven-ready pan with a lid. Cover the pan with the lid. If the pan doesn’t have a lid, cover the pan with aluminum foil. Place the covered pan in the hot oven and bake 20 minutes.

Remove the lid and increase the oven temperature to 375˚F/190˚C. Turn the chicken so that the skin side is up. Bake an additional 20 minutes, turning the pan around half way through the baking time, until the chicken is golden brown and reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Remove the pan from the oven. The pan drippings will be very sweet and strong and not really suitable for a gravy.

If you wish, make a pan sauce. In a 10 inch skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Off the heat and stir in 2-3 tablespoons flour to make a thick slurry. Add 1 cup water and heat until thickened. Add a quarter cup of the drippings from the chicken pan. Taste and adjust seasoning. Aim for it to taste sweet and savory. For some zest,  chop up a small chili pepper and add it to the sauce.

jamaican rice and peas

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Rice and Peas with Jerk Pork, Boiled Green Banana, Roasted Carrots, and Pickled Ripe Banana

Long ago, I remember my mother grating fresh coconut to make the coconut milk that goes into rice and peas. She poured boiling water on the coconut in cheesecloth, and strained the milk, twisting and squeezing the grated coconut to give up the milk. Then she would gather all the ingredients in a big pot on the stove and cook it slowly, shifting the pot so the rice would cook evenly, and poking it with  chopsticks to let the steam out. It was a daunting complex recipe. Fortunately, the rice cooker was invented and coconut milk now comes in cans and UHT boxes. Thanks to my sisters for this recipe because making rice and peas is easier than ever! And if  company isn’t coming over to eat this much rice and peas, the leftovers freeze beautifully.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

1 cup kidney beans, soaked overnight in 3 cups water
1 carton coconut cream (250g)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
5 cups rice (rice cooker cups) Recommend Thai jasmine rice
3 stalks scallion, chopped in 2 inch lengths
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
water
salt to taste
1/2 lb salt pork, cubed or bacon, chopped

1. Rinse soaked beans and discard soaking water. Pressure cook beans with 6 cups water and a little salt until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Save the cooking water for the rice.
2. If using salt pork, rinse salt off, and pressure cook it separately with 4 cups water, 25 minutes. Drain and discard water
3. Wash rice and place in non-stick rice cooker pot.
4. Add beans and beans cooking liquid. Add coconut cream, garlic (optional), scallion, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. After adding the cooking liquid and coconut cream, add additional water to come up to the 7 mark on the pot. Stir.
5. Add salt pork, if using
6. Press the cook button. When the button pops up, taste and adjust seasonings.
7. Serve with fricassee chicken, stew peas, or jerk pork/chicken

Variation
If salt pork is unavailable, brown ½ pound of coarsely chopped bacon and add it to the rice just before cooking.

jamaican stew peas

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This is my mother’s recipe (via my youngest sister) for stew peas or stewed red kidney beans with beef and salt pork. It is a popular dish in Jamaica and is often eaten with dumplings, rice and peas, and “food”–boiled green banana, Irish potato, carrots, sweet potato, and sometimes boiled dumplings. Slow cooking all day is the best way to make stew peas,  but I came up with a short cut and cooked it in a pressure cooker for 40 minutes. If using the pressure cooker method, increase the liquid to four cups. I also could not find salt pork in Bangkok so I bought pork belly, chopped it up and seasoned it just as I would season the beef, braised it briefly in oil, then continued with the recipe.

Jamaican Stew Peas

  • 2 lbs. stewing beef
  • 1 piece salt pork (rinsed)I can’t always find salt pork anymore, so I’ve been using a pound of bacon
  • 4 carrots (2″ lengths)
  • 2 cans red kidney beans (19 oz. cans), but I prefer the equivalent amount in dry kidney beans and I just soak them in water the night before
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • garlic
  • dry mustard
  • 2 beef bouillon
  • thyme
  • 2 cloves pimento (or ¼ tsp of allspice)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Pick-a-peppa sauce
  • 1 inch of coconut cream block or 1 cup coconut cream
  • Approximately 3 cups beef broth
  1. Wipe excess moisture from beef; trim if necessary.
  2. Season beef with salt, black pepper, garlic, and mustard.
  3. Cut salt pork into 4 pieces, boil and drain; or dice the bacon
  4. Mix beef, pork, carrots (if you can add the carrots a couple of hours later, they’re less likely to be mushy) and drained kidney beans in crock pot.
  5. Mix beef bouillon powder in 2 cups of water, thyme, allspice, Worcestershire sauce, and Pick-a-peppa sauce; melt coconut cream in mixture.
  6. Pour sauce over mixture in crock pot, add enough beef broth to almost cover contents, and turn on low heat for 10 to 14 hours.
  7. One and a half hours before serving, turn up the crock pot to high to get it to simmer.
  8. One hour before serving, add dumplings.

Dumplings

2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp shortening
½ cup hot water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Melt shortening in hot water. Gradually add warm water so that dough holds together but is not sticky. Add more flour if necessary.

To make dumplings, pinch off 1 1/2 inch of dough and roll it between your palms into a skinny string of dough about 3 inches long. If using the pressure cooker, let the pressure out manually and remove the lid. Reheat the stew peas to boiling and drop all the dumplings in the pot. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook the dumplings until they float which might take 10-20 minutes depending on how many there are. You can halve the recipe if you prefer to have less dumplings.

homemade boba pearls

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This isn’t a recipe for making bubble or boba tea. What I want to do is to make the boba pearls from scratch. It seemed pretty straightforward: tapioca, water, and a bit of food coloring. I soon found that tapioca starch in Thailand is not the same thing as tapioca flour elsewhere. The recipes on the internet use the terms flour and starch interchangeably but this is wrong. Tapioca starch must be cooked in order for it to become a dough. The starch looks like cornstarch/cornflour and like cornstarch, it is used as a thickener. It is fine and silky but it does not absorb liquid. It clumps into fine grains when water is added but it doesn’t hold together. But heating the starch with water changes it into a dough. Then each boba must be hand-rolled, a labor-intensive endeavor. The added brown sugar provides a deep amber color and a slightly sweet flavor.

Homemade Brown Sugar Boba Pearls (adapted from 3thanwong)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups tapioca starch (not tapioca flour)

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Take it off the heat and add the brown sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Add the tapioca starch and mix it until no lumps remain. Return the pan to the stove over a low heat and cook the mixture, turning continuously to prevent the tapioca from sticking to the bottom and the sides of the pan. It’s best to use a non-stick pan for this. Cook until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth.

Using the same medium saucepan, heat 6 cups of water to boiling. Then reduce heat to simmer.

While the water is boiling, cut the dough ball in half, quarters, and eighths. Take one-eighth and set aside. The rest can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated until later. Roll one-eighth into a rope about 12 inches long. Fold it in half and cut it with a dough scraper. Roll each half into thinner ropes, about 1/4 inch in diameter. Using the dough scraper, cut each rope into small pieces. Then roll each piece into round balls. I found it easier to do this on the work surface. Repeat the process with another one-eighth of dough. And so on.

Return the simmering pot to a rolling boil over high heat and add the tapioca balls. Boil the pearls for 5 minutes on high heat then reduce the heat to medium. Cook the boba for 25 minutes or until the balls are translucent and chewy. They came out with a dark brown color without any food coloring at all. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pearls to a bowl of cool water. The pearls can be used right away. Put them in a glass of homemade iced tea, about 2 tablespoons per glass. One-eighth dough makes enough for two glasses. The boba can be stored in a covered container with honey and water or a simple syrup to prevent them from sticking and drying out.

Cook’s Note: Unused boba dough can be wrapped airtight in plastic and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before rolling and cutting.

tamarind tart with chili pepper

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One of the treats I grew up eating in Jamaica was tamarind. Sour and sticky fruit in brittle brown pods tamarinds were also delicious mixed with sugar and rolled into balls. So addictive. In Thailand I discovered an added zest: tamarind with chili pepper. Double-delicious. So I decided to make this tart with the sour-sweet taste of my childhood with a little touch of chili pepper. After all, we are adults now. And we have time to attend to what we like. Everything in this recipe is made from scratch, from the crust to the homemade tamarind puree in the pastry cream.

One day before, make the tamarind puree. I am sure you can buy it in jars but the texture and the taste will not be the same. This method was adapted from Saveur.

Place 200 grams of dried tamarind pulp in a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add 2 cups boiling water and let sit 30-45 minutes until it is cool enough to handle.

Pour contents into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Squeeze pulp to extract a smooth paste. Scrape paste from bottom of the strainer into the bowl. Discard seeds and fibers. You may need to strain the pulp twice because it might have small seeds in it. Store chilled up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Tamarind Tart

For the crust (Pâte Brisée)

200g all purpose flour
100g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup cold water

Preheat the oven 200˚C.

Prepare the pâte brisée. Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter in small pieces. Mix in cold water, a tablespoon at a time, or just enough to make a ball, and let rest about 30 minutes in refrigerator wrapped in plastic to firm up the dough.

Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator and roll it out onto a lightly floured board into a 1/4 inch thick disk about 9 inches in diameter. Roll up on the rolling pin. Place rolled up dough on top of the tart pan, pressing the dough into the bottom and sides. Repair any tears with extra dough pieces. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Freeze the pastry shell 20 minutes.

Baker’s Note: Roll the pastry out between sheets of plastic or wax paper to prevent sticking and to make it easier to transfer to the tart pan.

Line the pastry shell with parchment paper. Fill with pie weights, beans, or rice. Blind-bake the pastry shell 10 minutes at 200˚C. Reduce heat to 175˚C. Remove the parchment and pie weights and return to the oven and bake the pastry shell 10-20 minutes or until the bottom is light golden. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly.

Baker’s Note: Cut a large piece of parchment paper bigger than the diameter of the pie pan. Crumple it. Open it out and you’ll find you’ll be able to fit it better into the tart shell. Fill parchment liner with pie weights, beans, or rice. After baking, save the pie weights, beans, or rice for another baking project.

Make Tamarind Pastry Cream.

1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sifted brown sugar (only in Thailand is the brown sugar lumpy)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup tamarind puree plus 2 tablespoons
Juice of 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1/8 teaspoon powdered chili pepper, more or less to taste

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam.

While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.

Once the milk is steaming, pour half of it, whisking constantly, into the egg mixture.

Add the egg mixture back into the pot with the hot milk, continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes until the custard thickens.

Remove from the heat, stir in the tamarind puree, lime juice, and chili powder. Cool the pastry cream to room temperature by putting the pot into a large bowl filled halfway with ice water. Stir the cooling cream occasionally.

Pour the pastry cream into the cooled pastry shell. Cover the strained cream with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2-3 hours before slicing.

For the topping:
1 cup/240 ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (can substitute dark rum)

Just before serving, make the topping. In the bowl of a hand-held electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat together the cream, confectioner’s sugar and rum, until thick and fluffy. I recommend using a hand-held mixer because the cream is only 1 cup and a stand mixer might be too big to whip the cream properly. Dollop whipped cream on top of the chilled tart and smooth it with an offset spatula. Or serve it on the side. For effect, I sprinkled lime zest on the whipped cream.

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grape jam

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This is such an easy jam to make and you can use any grapes, not just Concord. For this jam I used a blue-black variety called Moon Drop grapes, shaped somewhat unusually like a torpedo. They are seedless, sweet, and I did not peel them. I used sugar in a 1:2 ratio or half as much sugar as the weight of the grapes so you can adjust up or down as you need to. And instead of using pectin I put in one whole chopped green apple seeded with the peel.

Grape Jam
makes 3 cups jam

800 grams grapes
400 grams granulated sugar
1 medium green apple, chopped, seeded, with peel
Juice of 3 small limes
1 cup water

Boil a kettle of water. Wash and rinse jars and fill to the brim with the boiling water. Set aside. Put lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside. Put 2 small saucers in the freezer for testing the jam.

In a large pot, put the grapes, water, sugar, apple, and lime juice. You can throw in the lime halves too. Bring to a boil over medium low heat and stir occasionally. Mash the fruit as it softens. Boil until the jam reaches a temperature between 217 degrees F and 220 degrees F, about 10 to 25 minutes. Take a saucer out of the freezer and drop a spoonful of jam liquid in it. Return to the freezer for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes take out the saucer and drag your finger through the jam. If it separates, the jam has set. If the jam runs back together it is not yet set. Boil the jam for a few minutes more and test again.

Fish the lime halves out of the jam and discard. Tip the water out of the clean jam jars and fill with jam, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Screw on the covers and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate 12-24 hours to allow the jam to set before eating. After that it can even be frozen.

brazilian fish and shrimp stew with pepper sauce and rice and peas

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This fish and shrimp stew cooks up very quickly, and is light, piquant, and full of the fresh flavors of coconut milk and peppers, both sweet and hot. I served it with the coconut-flavored Jamaican rice and peas that I had put up in the freezer. Rice and peas is a robust accompaniment that holds its own with spicy main courses such as this stew.

Fish and Shrimp Stew/Moqueca (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Pepper Sauce
2-8 Thai chili peppers, or to taste (pickled hot cherry peppers in original recipe)
1/2 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Large pinch sugar or to taste
Salt to taste

Stew
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
1 pound skinless white fish fillets about 1 inch thick, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (e.g. cod)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1 (14.5 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 leek, both white and green parts, sliced into thin rounds
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
Juice of 2-3 small limes, or to taste

Make the pepper sauce: Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Season with salt to taste and transfer to a separate bowl. Rinse out processor bowl.

Make the stew: Toss shrimp and fish with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

Process onion, tomatoes and their juice, and 1/4 cup cilantro in food processor until finely chopped and mixture has texture of pureed salsa, about 30 seconds.

Heat oil in large Dutch pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Add red and green peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add onion-tomato mixture, leeks, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until puree has reduced and thickened slightly, 3-5 minutes. Pot should not be dry.

Increase heat to high, stir in coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Mixture should be bubbling over the entire surface. Add shrimp and fish with lime juice, and stir to evenly distribute seafood. Make sure all pieces are submerged in liquid. Cover pot and remove from heat. Let stand until shrimp and fish are opaque and just cooked through, 15 minutes.

If desired, gently stir in 2 tablespoons pepper sauce. Be careful not to break up the fish too much. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice, passing the remaining pepper sauce separately.

Cook’s Note: I did not add the pepper sauce to the stew, instead, I served it at the table with the remaining chopped cilantro.