Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon meringue pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons All purpose flour
  • 2 rm Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Hot water
  • 3 Egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 level tsp Grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Baked pie pastry, 9-inch
  • 3 Egg whites
  • 1 tsp Lemon juice, optional
  • 6 tablespoons Granulated sugar

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, the cornstarch, flour, and salt; whisk to blend well.
  2. Gradually stir in the hot water.
  3. Place over a medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce the heat to a low flame; continue cooking by stirring for 8 minutes.
  5. Stir about 1/3 cup of the hot mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks, then return to the hot mixture in the saucepan.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook for 4 minutes longer.
  7. Add the butter and lemon peel. Slowly stir in 1/3 cup lemon juice.
  8. Pour into baked and cooled pie shell.

Meringue:

  1. Beat the egg whites with 1 teaspoon lemon juice (if used) to soft peaks.
  2. Gradually add the 6 tablespoons of sugar, beating until stiff peaks are formed and the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Spread the meringue over the hot filling to make your choice of design, covering completely.
  4. Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Cool pie completely before serving.

Notes:

The enclosed recipe is donated by Chef Mariam, the Pastry Chef for the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Penang and the photo is taken by our resident Blog Reporter Mazeta Walters.

How ugly are you?

I was having coffee the other day with a new friend of mine and nonchalantly commented on how well they looked which surprisingly brought a frown to their face. I asked them if they disagreed with my assessment and they explained to me that they had been in a long verbally abusive relationship earlier and that they had been told on many occasions how ugly, stupid and worthless they were. This seemed unfortunately to have a profound impact on the way they felt about themselves which had resulted in them finding it extremely hard to accept any compliments concerning their intelligence or appearance. 

Today I would like to touch on the word ugly if I may due to the fact that I find it disgraceful, disgusting and repulsive that one human being can destroy another human beings confidence with such harsh and callous words. 

Ugly, according the “Webster’s New World Dictionary” is described as many things including, “unpleasing to look at, aesthetically offensive, unsightly, vile, disagreeable, dreadful, offensive, objectionable and even repulsive. 

I took my friend to stand in front of a mirror and slowly read out the descriptive words of ugly one by one from the dictionary and when I had finished I asked them if they could see any of these descriptions in their reflection.   

It is my experience that if someone is told every single day for years that they are worthless, even if they are a very confident and proud person, if they do not get away from this abuse they will eventually loose confidence and start to actually believe what they are being told. 

On the flip side of this logic, if they are lacking confidence and they are reassured everyday that they are intelligent, wonderful and an overall beautiful person, after time they will start to believe this too. 

I would like to propose that nobody should have the right or opportunity to deliver such damaging, heart rendering and torturous words to another and get away with it. Everyone needs and deserves that special someone in their lives to continuously reinforce in them their value, their obvious self worth and their importance, as without this they will be open to belittlement and the possibility of abuse resulting in a total lack of self esteem. 

Any educated person with confidence whom is surrounded by loved ones will laugh at name calling and any insinuations delivered of them being ugly or stupid.    

I urge all of us who know someone with confidence issues, or know someone who has suffered such dreadful treatment as this to make a commitment and help them repair, in any small way possible, the damage they have suffered to their self esteem and confidence. Take them for a facial, a spa treatment or to the salon. When their confidence has improved and when you see that they are smiling again, take them to sit in front of a mirror and ask them what they see. 

There is no such thing as an ugly human being; every human being can be beautiful if they feel confident in themselves, every human being can be happy if they are surrounded by people they love and people who love them. Every human being can feel important if they are contributing to a relationship or to society and if they are made to understand that their contributions are valuable. 

If I may I would like to request anyone who has confidence issues or anyone who has ever been through a terrible abusive relationship to sit in front of a mirror, close your eyes and think about someone or something that makes you happy. When you feel totally relaxed, open your heart to the possibilities for your future and the realization that your dreams really can come true. 

When you have done this, open your eyes, give yourself a warm smile from deep inside your heart, look directly into the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I ugly”. 

You and I both know the answer.

A Hearty Herbal Oxtail Soup

Herbal Oxtail Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Oxtail, cut
  • 3 liter Water
  • 50 g Garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 200 g Shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 50 g Ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp Black pepper corn crushed
  • 2 ½ tbsp Coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp Fennel powder
  • 10 pod Cardamom pods
  • 5 pcs Cloves
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • 4 pcs Star anise
  • 150 ml Low cholesterol oil
  • Seasoning to taste

Condiments:

  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Rice Cake-optional
  • Fried shallots
  • Spring Onions/Green Onions

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven, place all cut oxtail pieces on a tray and then roast them for 1 hour until golden brown.
  2. Then in a thick bottomed pot, add the oil to heat and then sauté the garlic, shallots and ginger until fragrant.
  3. Add the cardamom pod, the cinnamon stick, the star anise and the cloves stirring continuously.
  4. In a small bowl, place the coriander powder, fennel powder, cumin powder and crushes black pepper and mix with a little of the water.
  5. Add the smooth and well mixed mixture into the cooking pot and sauté all together for a few minutes until again, fragrant.
  6. Then add to the mixture the roasted oxtail pieces and the rest of the water and bring to a simmer.
  7. Simmer slowly for at least an hour or until the meat starts to fall off the bones.
  8. During the simmering process, as with all meat stocks, impurities will rise out of the liquid and settle in the middle of the pot like a brown scum. This needs to be skimmed off with a ladle to ensure that it does not simmer back inside the dish making it cloudy.
  9. Add the carrots and celery pieces at the end as their cooking time is only about 10-15 minutes.

Notes:

It has to be mentioned that the soup from this finished dish, if cared for properly, can be dark and wonderfully shiny like a mirror if all the impurities that rise to the top during simmering are skimmed off. As when cooking any dish, tender loving care has to be taken to ensure that the presentation of the dish is the best it can be. The soup will only become cloudy if the dish is left alone and all the impurities are ignored. If you would like to have a slightly thicker and darker soup, a simple dusting of flour and a couple of teaspoons of tomato paste can be added and mixed with the oxtail pieces before adding them to the soup for simmering. The flour and paste should be added right at the end and cooked with the oxtails for the last 5 minutes of their cooking process. Chef Kasdi has said that he likes to add rice cubes to make his soup a hearty dish; however potatoes can also be used and should be added at the same time as the carrots and celery. The dish can be served on its own or with a side dish of fried or steamed rice. Chef Kasdi has topped off his soup with fresh shallots and spring onions to intensify the final taste even more.

Happy cooking!

Service Shenanigans

I Arrived in Hong Kong to work in my first five-star hotel in Asia in 1988, and was totally blown away, not only by the quality of the staff and services offered. Nonetheless, I thought that the quality of service could only improve as the industry developed and competition for supremacy in service quality standards intensified.

            However, in spite of the huge, ever-growing demand for well-trained, experienced professionals to fuel the light speed development of hotels worldwide, I could not have been more wrong.

            A lasting solution to the dwindling standards of service is needed; unless we do something now, we risk losing forever the valuable “old” standards. Hospitality is at the core of our industry, and that is what we should keep in mind when we open our doors to weary international travelers who trust their welfare to us during their stay, A clean, safe, friendly, professionally-run home-away-from-home environment – those are the minimum requirements for any international hotel, and what sets one business apart.

            I would like to share an experience that I encountered when visiting a five-star hotel; I don’t mean to criticize – goodness knows, we all have problems – but I do think that it is time we addressed this important issue. It’s a funny story about a serious problem.

            After calling the hotel ahead of time to organize my stay, I walked into the lobby after 10pm; I was tired and just wanted to shower and rest. On arriving at the desk, I offered my name and was surprised with the response – “Welcome home, Mr Saxon, we have been expecting you! What a pleasure it is to see you returning – your usual room is ready and your favourite fruits are awaiting your arrival. We have taken the liberty of placing some imported beer in the mini bar for you,” said the guy at the front desk, whose name tag proclaimed him as “Raymond”.

            Now, this was the first time I would be staying in this hotel, so I thought this was rather peculiar – but then, I thought that maybe as I was a hotelier myself, they were taking special care of me.

            “Let me escort you upstairs right away,” said Raymond, and as he marched on ahead, he signalled the bellboy to carry my large and rather heavy suitcase. I tried to convince them that I was able to carry my own case, but Raymond said, “Carry your own bag?! Absolutely not, we insist on transporting your luggage to your suite for you!”

            The rather petite bellboy came running over; he wasn’t much bigger than my suitcase and I hoped that he wouldn’t get a double hernia trying to help me.

            Something else occurred to me at this point and I enquired, “Excuse me, did you say ‘suite’?”

            “It would be criminal to place a gentleman like your self anywhere other than in one of our finest suites,” he replied. At this point, I was very impressed with what was happening and a glimmer of hope was beginning to illuminate my slightly bleak outlook for the short-term industry service standards – this was to be very short-lived, however.

            As we entered the elevator, Raymond whispered rather bashfully, “Your usual masseuse will be here in half an hour, Mr Saxon. We had problems locating Ms Fifi this time, as she changed establishments and failed to inform us,”

            At that moment, I knew for sure that there was something seriously amiss.

            “I think that you have me confused with somebody else – I never organised a massage from Fifi, or anyone else for that matter, and I have never stayed in your hotel before. And to be honest, I only booked a standard room,” I said.

            I was becoming slightly irritated that he was not listening to me at all. As we exited the elevator on the top floor and sat down at the executive lounge express check-in, I thought I would give revealing my true identity another go.

            “I believe that I am being confused with one of your regular and more important guests. This lounge is exquisite, but any second now, you’re going to realise I don’t actually belong here! I specifically booked a room on the lower floor, as I am scared of heights, you see,” I said.

            The executive lounge manager looked at his reservation screen and said, “Your PA booked the top floor, sir, with a double bed, for your entire two-week stay”. I was only staying for three days, and as my factual input we being ignored yet again. I silently leaned back on the soft leather sofa and wondered what was going to happen next.

            I was whisked away to a very large two-bedroom suite with a king-sized bed. There was Champagne in an ice bucket with two gleaming crystal flutes, a large tower of imported fresh fruits and a very large plasma television.

            “Will there be anything else you require, Mr Saxon?” offered the very polite chap on his way out.

            “Yes, just one thing – I noticed that there is a welcome letter by the huge pile of fruits,” I said.

            “Yes sir, we always make our VIP guests as welcome as possible – guest recognition is our forte,” he replied

            “Yes, one thing though …” I rejoined, “Who is Mr Jones?”

            “Excuse me, sir?”

            “Mr Jones – the name on the card is Mr Jones.”

            The poor chap glanced at the card and swallowed deeply, saying, “Let me check on that, sir, and I will get back to you in a second.”

            Being a hotelier myself, I sat down in an armchair, careful not to mess up the room setting, and watched the news.

            Five minutes later, the duty manager arrived in the room to apologise on bended knees for checking me into the wrong room; my name had somehow been listed in the booking system as the managing director of a huge public listed trading company.

            “Let me escort you to your room, Mr Saxon,” said the manager. As we were leaving, my luggage arrived. The bell staff placed it on the suite floor at my feet and then left.

            “Will you require some assistance with your luggage, sir?”

             I was astounded, and could not help saying, “You mean that you are not going to insist that you carry it for me?”

            The manager went outside and squealed down the corridor to get the bell staff to come back. I was escorted to my “standard” room; however, I was very nicely upgraded to the executive floor, to a room which nonetheless had no fruit, not to mention a lack of Champagne on ice, and just a normal “old-fashioned” box television set.

            “I guess that Fifi will not be coming then?” I enquired with a grin.

            During the couple of days I stayed there, when entering the executive floor, the security asked me every question possible, CIA-style, to confirm my identity; on a different occasion, I walked past a staff member busy texting on their mobile phone, who didn’t even glance up once.

            Overall, the hotel was fine and I enjoyed my stay, but I must say that I noticed a disconcerting slow trend in the industry. The days when you used to see the general manager hanging around the lobby for a couple of hours a day, talking to guests and enquiring about their comfort, is slowly disappearing as the industry becomes more focused on the bottom line. It is my belief that as we eventually come full circle, we will remember why we all entered the industry in the first place, and that without our valued customers, there would be no bottom line at all.

Kaffir Lime Banana Fritters

Kaffir Lime Banana Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 10 nos Small bananas
  • Batter for frying:
  • 500 g Rice flour
  • 100 g Flour, (soft which used to make cakes)
  • 1 tsp Lime water also known “air kapur”
  • ½ pc lime, juiced
  • 4 pcs Kaffir lime leaves, cut into strips
  • 800 ml Water
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • Low Cholesterol oil for frying

Method:

Bananas:

Cut the bananas lengthwise just before they are ready to be fried and after the batter is ready to ensure that they do not turn brown.

Batter:

  1. Sieve the flour and salt together making a small hole in the centre.
  2. Then slowly pour the water and lime water into the hole.
  3. Slowly mix the ingredients together bit by bit from the centre outwards until it’s smooth, season to taste.
  4. Add the squeezed lime juice and the strips of lime leaves.
  5. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes in a fridge.
  6. Preheat oil to 190°C/375°F, coat the bananas with the batter, then deep fry them for 45 seconds or until they turn golden brown in color.

Notes:

This is a very simple recipe for banana fritters that can be enjoyed by everyone and can be easily made. However, care should be taken when deep frying the bananas as the oil will get hot during the cooking process. You must ensure that there is no liquid in close proximity to the hot oil as we all know that the two do not mix well and there is a possibility that the chef will burn themselves if care is not taken. The bananas will cook very easily if they are nice and ripe, the emphasis should only be on making sure that the batter is cooked through, crispy and golden brown. The lime water and the lime juice will ensure that when you bite into the fritters they are nice and crispy, if the oil they are being cooked in is fresh, clean and hot. Remember that if you use old oil which has been used for cooking other items, the oil will have adopted some of the taste from the past ingredients and may spoil the taste of the fritters. There is nothing worse that the fritters tasting like fish which had been fried in the same oil the day before. The same process can be used to make fritters with other items such as Yams and sweet potatoes. Chef Kasdi has garnished his lovely fritters with deep-fried crispy fresh lime leaves and served them with a couple of dollops of soft vanilla ice cream. Honey, maple syrup, caramel sauce or any other fruit sauces can be served on the side as an accompaniment.

Happy Cooking!

The Great Junk Food Conspiracy

I have been on holiday for a while, so I must aplogize for the lack of postings,  to make amends I would like to offer you one of my Musings which was first published in Flavours magazine. This musing is also not in Chef’s Tales the book….hope you enjoy.

Junk food is the stuff of a marketing exec’s dreams and a true foodie’s nightmare. Junk food is one subject that fascinates me, and the amount of attention it receives is quite astounding. The term “junk food” is usually used to refer to food with little or no nutritional value – which may be a waste of time to eat from a nutritionist’s point of view, but my goodness, doesn’t (most) of it taste great!

Parenting groups lobby for junk food commercials to be banned from prime-time television, to be aired late at night, as if the subject matter is as scary as a restricted movie showing violence, drug use or worse. Then, the large fast food chains fight back by spending millions trying to prove that their food is actually great for consumption and that their meal sets are balanced meals!

And there is just so much money involved here. Would you believe, after all the negative media about canned Spam being the worst, possibly most unhealthy food on earth – the company just celebrated selling its sixth billionth can of the processed meat. There are potato chip companies today boasting of sales upwards of one billion bags of chips a year! Can you imagine how many people are crunching these salty deep-fried snacks every second of every day?

In the hotel business, we spend hours trying to come up with great marketing ideas, slogans, sales concepts and other ways to increase sales. Junk food companies have an easier time of it due to the fact that their products are cheap, tasty (everything that is bad for us tastes great, we all know that), quick to purchase and are loved by…well, basically everyone on the planet. Junk food usually has too much fat, too much salt, too much sugar – in some instances, all of the above. I have always wondered how we are persuaded to eat so much of it, so bear with me while I imagine the scenario in a junk food marketing meeting.

Imagine a brainstorming meeting where the MD is trying to get the creative juices going with his people.

“Come on everybody, we have thrown ideas around for days and we cannot come up with a single idea worth its weight in coarse sea salt on how to increase sales for our MSG! Somebody say something worth listening to!” says the MD. As he finishes his grand speech, the meeting room door creaks open, and in walks the semi-retired tea lady. “Madam, please offer these clowns some advice – how would you increase the sales of our MSG shaker? Our million-dollar-earners here all seem to be brain-dead today,” he says, rounding on her. Placing the cups and saucers down on the table with her old, shaking hands, she raises her head ever so slowly and whispers, “Why don’t you make the holes in the shaker slightly larger?” The whole office is swallowed by an unpleasant silence as the executives look down at the floor in shame and the MD looks astounded. “Brilliant! Shrieks the boss excitedly, “That’s it!” As the tea lady is leaving the room, the boss asks her, “What is your current salary, madam?” “Five dollars an hour, sir,” she replied with pride. As she whisks herself away to continue her daily tasks, the boss is less than amused, to say the least. “You lot had better wake up, let’s get cracking,” he says, “Our sales of Twinkies are slipping every day and people are saying they are not healthy, so what can we do?” “Let’s change the name to Grandma Mabel’s Homemade Twinkies instead,” is the first offering. The boss looks at the speaker with an open mouth and an expression of despair. “We are not changing the recipe, image or packaging, how the heck will that help sales, you twit?! The cakes are made from flour, eggs, sugar and a fake cream that lasts – unrefrigerated – for then years!” “Well,” begins the upstart, “This will give the impression that if it is good enough for grandma, it must be all right – I mean, good ol’ grandma would never hurt us by serving us food that was no good, right?” “Ok, brilliant!” announced the boss, “Now what about our burgers, what are we going to do about their floundering sales?” “Let’s announce that they are ‘All Natural’,” offers a different staff member. “No, that’s not a good idea,” sighs the boss, “I don’t want to lie and I think that is stretching it a bit too much.” “How about we offer dental floss to go with the burger – that way, even if the burger is made with a stale bun, goodness-knows-what meat, terrible sauce and processed cheese, we can at least look like we care about their teeth!” “Brilliant!” announces the boss again, “Now we are on a roll!” “How about starting a new line of deep-fried chips not derived from potatoes but made out of vegetables? We can call them “organically-grown veggie chips’,” says another voice. “Brilliant!” shouts the boss with glee. “Wait a minute,” announces the secretary taking notes, “they are still deep-fried in the same oil and full of cholesterol, salt and other stuff – in fact, they are exactly the same as potato chips!” “Yes, but when people hear the name ‘Veggie Chips’ they will believe that they are healthy,” says the boss. “This is great stuff,” announces another senior executive, “Here is another idea – how about ‘Cherry Chocolate Diet Soda’?” By this time, everyone in the whole office is on their feet, clapping and cheering as the meeting progresses to dizzying heights. “Guys, I can top all of your ideas – why don’t we make an ice cream float with the sweetest dollop of ice cream available plonked into a large glass of sugary, fizzy cream soda so that after drinking it, all the kids run around like nutcases all day, get addicted and then demand to have it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” The boss looks at him, gobsmacked, and announces at the top of his voice, ‘This man is immediately promoted!”

The meeting then proceeds to come up with the concept of chocolate milk – where they turn even the healthiest drink into a fattening alternative – cocoa crunch, making the only possibility of getting children to eat a healthy breakfast nigh impossible, a chocolate-filled croissant, chocolates coated in hundreds of different colours (which all taste exactly the same regardless of the colours), caramel-coated sugar doughnuts, and the best idea of all, “diet ice cream”.

Of course, there is expensive, “exclusive” fast food that may make us feel proud about slowly killing ourselves by clogging our arteries; it my even raise our social status a bit, as not just anybody can afford such highly sought after delicacies as a double truffle burger which costs US$120 per burger just because it is topped with freshly-snorted-up, hard-to-find wild French truffles. Or an ice cream sundae that costs thousands because there is a four-carat diamond ring hidden among the cherries at the bottom to surprise and unsuspecting sweetheart – who hopefully does not swallow it by mistake and then has to wait a few days (after eating half a pound of prunes) to wear it.

Eating fast food a couple of times a week if all right I guess; I do it myself with my seven-year-old, but when you get sick of the long lines, the trouble finding a seat and less-than-glamorous surroundings, why don’t we all make a pledge to give our nearest good-quality hotel a call and make a reservation, thereby locking in a clean chair and enjoying some slow food for a nice change.

Hot & Sour Beef Salad with Mesclun and Asparagus

Hot and Sour Beef Salad

Ingredients:

  • 220 gm Beef, sirloin
  • Mixed leaf salad or mesclun mixed salad
  • Green asparagus, blanched in boiling salted water then “shocked” in ice water to stop the ongoing cooking process.

Marinade:

  • 500 ml Water
  • 250 g Large red chili – halved, seeded and sliced
  • 40 g Bird’s eye chili or Thai chili, finely sliced – Optional
  • 50 g Garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 100 g Shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 50 g Ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 ½ tbsp Black pepper corn crushed
  • 2 ½ tbsp Coriander seeds crushed
  • 40 g Palm sugar, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Tamarind paste, diluted with ½ cup of warm water and strained
  • 150 ml Corn oil, peanut oil or any other low cholesterol oil
  • 1 stalk Laksa Leaves also known as Vietnamese Coriander

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp Cooked marinade paste
  • 1/2 cup Virgin coconut oil
  • 1 no Lime (juiced)
  • 2 nos Shallots, sliced
  • 1 no Red chili, seeded and sliced
  • Seasoning to taste.

Method:

Marinade:

  1. Combine all ingredients except Laksa Leaf, place in a food processor, grind until into a fine paste and add a little water.
  2. Heat a heavy bottomed pan with oil, then sauté the paste and laksa leaf on a slow heat for approximately 30 minutes or until all water is evaporated and the marinade changes to a golden brown color. Set aside to cool.
  3. Then rub the beef with a little of the paste and let it marinade for at least 6 hours in a covered container in a fridge.
  4. Just before serving, season and for best results roast in an oven until its medium or pink in colour.
  5. When taken out of the oven, allow it to “rest” until its reached slightly hotter that your kitchen temperature.
  6. Thinly slice the beef and place it aside.

Dressing:

In a bowl, add the rest of the processed paste, slowly adding the oil whisking vigorously until it is totally emulsified, then add the sliced shallots, chili, lime juice and finally adjust the seasoning to taste.

Presentation:

Toss the mesclun or any mixed leaf salad and blanched asparagus with the dressing, place on your choice of service plate, then arrange the sliced beef and drizzle the dressing for desired design.

Notes:

It is very important to ensure that the asparagus is blanched in boiling salted water and when almost cooked thrown into ice water to ensure that the cooking process is instantly stopped and the asparagus stays wonderfully green. The beautiful colour will jump out and give the salads presentation an incredible lift, alongside the pink and juicy roast beef. Chef Kasdi has garnished his wonderful salad topped with a selection of the coloured leaves, this to give the salad good height and the he has drizzled some dressing around the outside of his plate for effect.

2 Special tips:

  • When roasting any meat, after its finished cooking and you take it out of the oven, due to the immense heat inside the oven, all of the internal juices are swirling around inside. If you carve the meat straight out of the oven, all the juices will pour out on to the cutting board, ensuring that your meat when served is dry as all the juices have left the meat. Allowing the meat to “rest” will allow the juices to settle and when carved, they will remain inside the meat and ensuring it stays very juicy.
  • When blanching any vegetables, especially green ones, it is imperative that they are immersed into vigourously boiling water for blanching. When the vegetables are added, the water, for a second will stop boiling. The heat under the blanching pot must be on full blast to ensure that the water returns to a boil as soon as possible. To help this process, the vegetables should be cooked in small batches so that the water is only cooled off slightly and returns to a boil quickly. If too many vegetables are added all at once, it will take the water too long to return to a boil, discoloring the vegetables, spoiling the presentation at the end and reducing the healthy nutrients which are hidden inside the fresh veggies.

Happy Cooking!

Red Snapper “Steak” Curry with Okra and Tomatoes

Red Snapper Steak Curry

600 gm Red snapper, cut into steaks

Ingredients for sauce:

  • 150 g Shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 30 g Ginger, sliced
  • 10 nos Dried red chili, sliced thinly using scissors, soaked in hot water & remove the seeds.
  • 2 nos Fresh red chili, take out the seeds, and sliced
  • 1 tsp Fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 stalk Curry leaf, either dried or fresh
  • 1 tbsp Madras curry powder or any fish/seafood curry powder
  • ½ tbsp Tamarind paste, mixed with ½ cup of warm water, then strained
  • ½ cup or ½ can Creamed coconut milk
  • 2 cup Light fish stock
  • ¼ cup Cooking oil
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Accompaniments and Garnishes:

  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Dry toasted mustard seeds

Method:

  1. Cut the red snapper in to steaks.
  2. Grind the shallots, garlic, ginger, chilies, curry powder, fennel and the mustard seeds in to a smooth paste with a small amount of warm water.
  3. In a thick bottomed cooking pot, heat the oil, add the curry leaves stirring for a few seconds.
  4. Add the ground spiced paste and sauté until the oil rises out of the mixture and sits on the top which indicates that the spice mixture is sufficiently cooked.
  5. Pour in the fish stock, tamarind juice and coconut milk, bring to a steady simmer until the liquid has reached the desired thickness. Season to taste.
  6. Add the fish and vegetables and mix well then add the pot cover and simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle dried toasted sesame seeds over the finished dish.

Notes:

If Snapper is not your favourite fish you can exchange it with any white fleshed fish that you desire, however it is not recommended that you use an oily fish such as Cod or Salmon. When the fish and vegetables have been added to the dish thereby finishing the final cooking process, it is important not to stir the dish anymore as this will ensure that the fish gets broken. You may if you like, quickly sear the fish steaks on the outside before adding them to the sauce. If you need to mix it slightly, you can use a metal spoon to “move” it around ever so gently. Chef Kasdi tends to serve his “steak” curries with steamed rice or soft flat breads such as Naan, Paratha or why not try even a crispy French Stick.

Happy Cooking!

Rice Noodles with Aromatic Fish Gravy

Rice Noodle with Aromatic Fish Gravy

1 packet flat or round Vietnamese rice noodles

Ingredients for gravy:

  • 500 g Mackerel or tuna (boneless), or any firm fleshed fish
  • 200 g Prawns
  • 60 g Dried shrimps, soaked in warm water for 30 mins then drained.
  • 3 liter Light fish stock (almost like water)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 5 nos Shallots, sliced
  • 60 g Ginger
  • 60 g Fish curry powder, (This product can be found in any Indian Grocery Shop)
  • 1 can Coconut cream
  • 3 stalk Lemongrass, banged and bruised
  • 30 g Galangal (Blue ginger)
  • 30 g Tamarind paste, diluted with warm water
  • 150 ml Corn oil, peanut oil or any low cholesterol cooking oil
  • 3 tbsp Roasted desiccated coconut -Optional- (Can be roasted in an oven or sautéed in a non stick Pan until golden brown)
  • ¾ tbsp Seasoning to taste

Ingredients for condiments:

  • Calamansi or Lime’s to squeeze over the finished noodles.
  • Beansprout which do not need to blanched
  • Cucumber, cut into match stick sized strips
  • Red Onion, sliced
  • Green and red chili, sliced

Method:

Noodles

Soak the noodles with lukewarm water for 6 hrs, then blanch them in boiling water for at least 8-10 minutes. Test them to ensure that they are cooked before draining, then soak in cold water to avoid any carry over cooking.

Gravy

In 2 separate cooking pots simmer the fish and prawns in salted water until cooked, drain them both off ensuring that you capture and keep the stock. Peel the prawns and then chop the fish and prawns coarsely using a food processor adding a little stock to help along the process.

Paste:

Grind all dried ingredients except the lemongrass in to a smooth paste and add a bit of light stock.

Place a pot on the stove, add the oil and then sauté the paste and lemongrass until fragrant. Add the saved seafood stock, coconut milk and tamarind juice.

Let it slowly simmer, then add the mixture of fish and prawns, mix it well and let it simmer for 3 minutes, adjusting the seasoning at the end.

Presentation:

Arrange the noodles in a bowl or plate, pour the desired amount of sauce over the top and then garnish with the assorted condiments.

Note:

Spaghetti can be use to replace the rice noodles if preferred or if rice noodles are not available in your local supermarket. You can simmer the gravy (before you add the fish and prawns) as long as you like to get the thickness you want, making sure that you continuously skim off any impurities that rise to the top, this needs to be done to ensure they will not simmer back into the sauce and spoil it. Remember that when you simmer any liquid, the rising steam is water escaping and the less water will ensure the liquid continues to get thicker as the solids are left alone. “Carry over cooking” occurs if you allow something to stay hot after retrieving it from the cooking process. In other words, if you do not refresh your vegetables in cold water after boiling them and leave them in a colander, they will continue cooking until they naturally cool off. This will reduce all the natural healthy nutrients enclosed in the vegetables and make them less appetizing in colour and texture. Leaving them hot and not cooling them off is only good if you are going to serve them straight away. Chef Kasdi has garnished his noodles with half a piece of lime so that the diners can squeeze it themselves over their noodles and he has also garnished his dish with a sprig of coriander.

A father and daughter's inseparable love

Working at the E&O reminds me of why I joined the industry in the first place. It’s a luxury hotel with glamour, romance and intrigue, but most of all it has what many other hotels are unable to offer and that is the fact that this year it is going to be 124 years old. The walls of this hotel are steeped in history and many repeat visitors have private tales to share about their loved ones and their personal and fond memories.

I had only been here for a few months when one day, as I was walking through the lobby on the way back to my office, I saw a young lady standing under the grand dome holding a small shiny vase. She looked a little perturbed, so I slowly made my way in her direction to ask her if she needed any assistance. She introduced herself as Caroline and informed me that her father used to serve with the armed forces here many, many years ago and he used to always come to the E&O to eat and to go ballroom dancing. She went on to inform me that the E&O was one of his most favourite places in the whole world. She held on to the vase tightly and went on to say that her beloved father had recently passed away and he had requested that his ashes be spread in the grounds of the hotel. As she requested permission I realized that her father’s ashes were in the vase she was holding so tightly, I was taken aback by the request she was making and could not help but to be awe inspired by the way Caroline was holding herself together during such an emotional moment.

I told her that it would be an honour for us if she spread her father’s ashes in our garden and off she went to spread them amongst the flowers and plants close to the wall. After she had finished I watched her slowly walk through the front door on the way out, wiping away a few tears whilst holding on to the empty vase and I could not help but tear up with the thought of what was going through her mind.

About three weeks later, I saw her sitting on the wall having a glass of wine talking to herself, so I went over to enquire if she was alright. Caroline informed me that she would come over here at least twice a month to have a glass of wine, sit in the very same spot where she had spread the ashes and talk to her father. I left her alone so she could enjoy her very private moment with her dad and she did this every couple of weeks for over two years until it was time for her and her family to move onto their next posting.

Two years ago as I was arriving at the hotel and shaking the hands of my staff, there was an elderly chap standing under the same copper dome, leaning rather gingerly on a walking stick. After wishing the chap a very good morning, he introduced himself as Mr. Johnson and told me that he was having a visit down memory lane as he also served here over 5o years ago as a young soldier and was loving the historical moment he was having after just arriving on a 14 hour flight.

He informed that he had many, many wonderful memories of his evenings and dances at the hotel and as his bottom lip started to tremble whilst re-living his history, he managed to compose himself and went on to explain that there used to be an old lift somewhere that he used to sneak up to see his old girlfriend in. When I informed him that the same original lift was still here and most importantly still in working order, he was extremely surprised to say the very least. When I asked him if he would like to go for a ride, his legs wobbled a little, making it apparent that the walking stick had enabled him to stay on his feet.

We entered the lift for a short 3 floor ride to the top and back down again to the bottom. The entire ride took no more that 2-3 minutes, but was sufficient time to have this wonderful gentleman in tears. He started off out of the lift and across the lobby before turning around to face me for a second and as he turned around he told me that he would now go to his grave a happy man and this was a day he would surely never forget. I stood there speechless after hearing what he had just said to me and instantly tried to grapple with the importance a ride in a lift could have possibly meant to him.

There is something I know for certain and that is that after I leave the E&O Hotel, I will never be able to work in another hotel like this for as long as I live. Hotels are either 124 years old or their not, it’s that simple and that special, you can’t buy heritage. This is why I hold on to the position as the General Manager here as long as I can and pray that the owners will keep me here until I am unable to carry on due to old age.

Oh and before I forget, did I tell you that Caroline called me last week, she informed me that the whole family is coming here to visit us this festive period for a couple of weeks. She told me that she wants to sit on the wall, have a glass of wine and wish her father a Merry Christmas.