Asian Recipes

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The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Are Jerusalem artichokes related to globe artichokes?

No, they are not the same. Jerusalem artichokes, also known as root artichokes or sunchokes, are actually members of the sunflower family. The name Jerusalem is a mispronunciation of the Spanish girasol, meaning 'turn to the sun'. Globe artichokes are members of the thistle family.

The sharing of the name 'artichoke' refers to some similarity of flavor in these vegetables, but they have little in common beyond being pleasantly sweet.

11:41:16 on 01/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between balti, karahi and tandoori?

Balti and karahi are the same style of cooking, originating in Kashmir, where the curries are made in a cast-iron pan with a rounded bottom and two handles, rather like a Chinese wok. You can use a wok to cook balti-style dishes at home.

Typical spices used in balti curries are aniseed, cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger and the spice blend called garam masala. Balti curries are often eaten without rice or cutlery, using large, flat breads such as naan instead.

Tandoori cooking, from the Punjab, is named after the tandoor, a clay oven used for roasting or baking. It is shaped like a large jug, and is traditionally sunk into the ground up to its neck. The ovens used today have a plaster layer on the outer walls for added insulation. Burning charcoal is placed in the bottom of the oven and the food to be cooked is hung inside on long spits over the coals.

Before cooking, tandoori meats are usually marinated in a mixture of chili, garlic, ghee, ginger, onions, paprika, peppers, salt, spices and yoghurt. The characteristic red stain of tandoori meats once came from cochineal, but now a vegetable coloring is used.

21:11:02 on 01/29/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is curry powder made of and can we make it ourselves at home?

There is no single recipe for curry powder. It was invented by the British in India as a quick substitute for the thousands of different spice blends and garam masalas that Indian cooks make for themselves. A basic curry powder includes black pepper, chili, coriander, cumin, ginger and turmeric in varying proportions; it often has fenugreek and oily spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and mace, and can include asafoetida, cassia leaves, curry leaves, mustard and poppy seeds too. To make your own, experiment until you find a mixture you like.

Some whole spices such as coriander, cumin seed, dried chilies, fenugreek seed and peppercorns, need to be roasted before being ground and mixed (oily spices do not need roasting). Use a dry baking dish in the oven, or dry-fry them in a frying pan. Use a small coffee grinder or pestle and mortar to grind the spices individually, then mix them together. Store in an airtight glass jar.

04:47:26 on 01/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between curry powder and curry paste?

Both are blends of many spices, but they are used differently. Dry curry powder cannot be fried in hot oil because it burns and turns acrid, so it must be added to foods that are already simmering in liquid.

For fried dishes it is best to use a curry paste. A large variety of good quality Indian curry pastes, with regional flavors, is available in leading supermarkets. Experiment with them in casseroles and soups and decide which you prefer.

Southeast Asian curries, which derive mainly from southern India, will often have fresh ingredients such as lemon grass, sweet basil, galangal (an aromatic root of the ginger family) and garlic added to the ground spices. For example, red and green curry pastes, using fresh chillies with other ingredients, are a central feature of many popular Thai dishes.

22:21:03 on 01/21/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to stop royal icing from going rock hard after a few days?

Royal icing becomes hard if it has not been beaten for long enough: it needs at least 15 minutes of beating with an electric mixer (or 20 minutes with a wooden spoon). The mixture should form soft peaks, and a palette knife run through it should leave a clean mark.

Then leave the icing to stand, covered with a damp cloth or in a sealed plastic container, for about 24 hours. This alters the structure of the sugar and makes it easier to spread and pipe. The icing can then be kept in a covered plastic container in the refrigerator for up to a fortnight, but may need further beating to restore to the right consistency. Another way of ensuring that royal icing is soft and spreads easily is to add a teaspoon of glycerine to each 500 g of icing sugar.

21:18:49 on 01/19/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between royal, glace, ready-made and fondant icing?

Royal icing is a thick paste made from egg whites and sifted icing sugar. It is spread over marzipan-covered fruit cakes, or piped into decorations, and left to dry out. It is mainly used on rich, highly decorated celebration cakes.

Glace icing is a smooth paste of icing sugar dissolved in a little water, which is spread straight onto the cake and left to dry out. It is ideal for covering cup cakes, tea breads and simple sponges. Ready-made and fondant icing are the same thing: icing sugar, egg whites and liquid glucose are mixed and kneaded to a soft dough which is rolled out before being smoothed over a cake. Use it on simple cakes, novelty and celebration cakes.

08:13:07 on 01/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to make fresh fruit ice-cream?

Ice-cream can be made with cream, custard, or a mixture of the two, and recipes with a large amount of butterfat produce the best results when made by hand. Most fruit ice-creams are made with a cream rather than a custard base as cream allows more of the fruit flavor to come through. However, a custard base produces smaller ice crystals and will result in a smoother ice cream. If using strawberries, their flavor may be diminished slightly, but can be intensified by adding some strawberry jam.

Soft fruits such as raspberries, strawberries or blackberries need no cooking before being incorporated into ice-cream, but you could also use fruit that needs cooking first, such as apples, apricots, pears, plums or rhubarb. Simmer them in a little water, with sugar to taste, until they are just tender, or longer for a puree (depending on how smooth you want your ice-cream to be), then continue with the recipe.

20:34:55 on 01/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is an ice-cream machine essential for a really good result?

The short answer is no, although machines do make the job considerably easier, as it is essential to beat air into the mixture while it is freezing to break up the ice crystals and create a rich, smooth texture.

To make ice-cream by hand, pour the mixture into a metal or plastic container and put it into the freezer for about 1.5 hours. When it has started to freeze around the edges, you can either whizz it in a food processor for 20 seconds, or tip it into a bowl and beat vigorously by hand or with an electric whisk.

Return the slushy ice-cream to the container and pop it back into the freezer, and repeat the process another two or three times until you achieve the right consistency.

06:25:41 on 01/16/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can we buy fresh horseradish?

The edible part of the horseradish plant, the small buff-colored root, is usually found fresh only in good greengrocers, specialist food shops and large supermarkets, throughout autumn and winter. It is more commonly available already processed, finely grated and mixed with citric acid. Horseradish, which is rich in vitamin C, is almost always used in cold sauces.

21:19:39 on 01/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is crystallized honey usable?

Yes, crystallization does not affect either the taste or the nutritional value of honey. If there is only a little crystallization, a good stir may solve the problem. If most of, or all the noney has become unpleasantly gritty, put the jar in a pan of very hot water and leave it for an hour. For quicker results, gently heat the pan of water containing the jar of honey on the stove. Use the honey while still warm, as it will recrystallize on cooling.

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19:09:37 on 01/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can I use a thick, set honey where a recipe says to use clear honey, and are some honeys better to cook with than others?

You can use any honey in cooking, but cloudy or set honey should be warmed first to liquefy it so that it can be mixed in evenly. It is generally best to use a light-colored honey for cooking, as the flavor of darker honeys is too strong. Both the color and flavor of different honeys are determined by the nectar the bees collect. Acacia honey, for instance, is thin, runny and pale, honey made from heather is thicker and sometimes cloudy, while clover honey is thick and pale amber.

Mexican alcahual is almost pure white. Sage honey is very dark and strongly flavored, as is lavender honey, which is amber with a green caste. Greek Hymettus has aromatic flavors of marjoram, savory and thyme.

22:50:36 on 01/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can we substitute dried herbs for fresh ones, and if so, should we use them in the same amount?

It is hard to give an exact formula for using dried herbs instead of fresh herbs, as the flavor of both is such a variable factor. With fresh herbs, the flavor depends on how fresh they are and how they have been grown: the soil, climate and time of picking. With dried herbs, it depends on how long and in what conditions they have been kept. Assuming both supplies are fresh and in good condition, allow one teaspoon of dried herbs for each tablespoon of fresh.

In some cases, it is possible to replace one fresh herb with a different, dried one. Dried mint can often be used to replace fresh coriander, for instance, as both herbs marry well with cool, sharp, juicy flavors such as cucumber, garlic, tomatoes and yogurt.

12:14:08 on 01/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can herbs be picked at any time for use in the kitchen?

No, herbs can be picked only up to the point of flowering. The reason is because once herbs have developed buds and flowered, all their energy goes into producing seeds and woody stems, and consequently their flavor is dissipated. For freezing or drying, herbs are best picked immediately before they flower, when their flavor is at its most potent.

Small pots of fresh-growing herbs are frequently available in fresh produce stores throughout the year.

20:50:59 on 01/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can I dry my own fresh herbs, and should all herbs be dried in the same way?

Most fresh herbs are easily dried, and the same method applies to all of them, but bay, marjoram, mint, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme dry particularly well.

They should be freshly picked, then quickly rinsed and patted dry before being spread on racks and covered lightly with mustlin. Then put them in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight. They will take about a week to dry. Most herbs are best stripped off their stems before being stored in sealed jars, but some herbs, such as thyme, may be left on the branch and stored upright in the jar.

14:56:19 on 01/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to cook a whole ham at home?

If you want to cook a ham yourself, you will have to order a whole or half joint from the butcher. If the ham is dry-cured and salty it may need soaking overnight in cold water before you cook it, so consult your supplier when you take delivery of the ham.

Hams can be boiled or baked. To boil, put the ham in a large pan of fresh clean water, bring it to the boil, and then simmer it gently for 40 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes extra.

If serving hot, rest the joint for 30 minutes before carving. To serve cold, cool in the water, drain and then remove the skin and press brown breadcrumbs into the fat. To bake a ham, wrap the joint loosely in foil and place in a baking dish. Cook in a 160 degrees C oven for 40 minutes per kg. Thirty minutes before the end of the time, take out the ham and raise the oven temperature to 220 degrees C. Drain off the juices, cut off the skin and score the fat in a diamond pattern. Stud with cloves, spread generously with English or French mustard and then press brown or demerara sugar all over. Return to the oven to finish cooking and then allow the ham to rest for 30 minutes before carving, or leave to cool overnight.

To serve, add a paper frill and serve hot with new potatoes and freshly cooked vegetables or cold with a selection of salads. Cumberland sauce, either homemade or bought in a jar from a good delicatessen or supermarket, is a traditional accompaniment, as are a selection of hot and mild tasty mustards.

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22:21:22 on 01/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between ham and gammon?

Ham is a pig's hind leg, first cut off the carcass and then smoked, salted or dried (or a combination of these) for preservation. Gammon also comes from the hind leg but it is cured as part of a side of bacon and cut off after wards. Gammon may be smoked separately or left unsmoked but it is not matured long enough to have a strong ham flavor and does not keep for as long as ham, which is generally cured more slowly. While some hams are meant for further cooking, some such as Parma and Bayonne hams are simply eaten in the 'raw' cured state, having been salted and then dried over several months to preserve the flesh.

Hams may also be smoked over a slow fire, and the different types of wood used, such as beech, juniper or oak, will each produce a distinctive flavor. Unsmoked hams are also known as green hams and have a milder flavor.

You can buy an uncooked whole ham to bake as a special dish, but in most stores, the ham is sold cooked and sliced, and is used for salads and sandwiches, or included in recipes where it just needs to be heated through. Gammon can be hard to find, but is available from specialist butchers especially if they sell traditional British cuts. It is sold in joints, rashers or steaks for cooking at home.

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13:48:11 on 01/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How is gooseberry sauce served?

Gooseberry sauce is a particularly English accompaniment to fatty, savory foods such as pork, mackerel and goose, which may be how the fruit got its name. The sharpness of the tart gooseberries counteracts the oiliness of the food. To keep the sauce tart, use either green gooseberries with only a tiny pinch of sugar added, or the larger, sweeter dessert varieties before they are completely ripe and cook them without any sugar.

Gooseberry Sauce Recipe
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

250 g green gooseberries, topped and tailed
15 g butter
15 g (3 teaspoons) white sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fennel leaves, optional

Place the prepared gooseberries in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water, and add the butter, sugar and fennel, if using. Cover and cook them gently, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 15 minutes until soft. (Add another tablespoon of water if it seems dry). Beat well with a wooden spoon to a pulpy consistency and add a little more sugar, if wanted. Serve warm.

Retaining the skin and pulpy pieces of fruit adds fiber, texture and color, but if you prefer a smooth sauce, sieve after cooking. If you use defrosted frozen gooseberries, you should not need to add additional water. They will cook in about 10 minutes; do not overcook.

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15:13:02 on 01/03/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

I have seen goat in Indian recipes and kid on Greek restaurant menu. What are they taste like?

Goat can have a strong taste, but the flavor is mellowed by being cooked slowly with spices, as it is in Indian and Caribbean recipes. This slow cooking also helps to make the meat more tender.

In Mediterranean countries you are more likely to find lean young goat called kid. It is very tasty and has the fat on the outside rather than being marbled throughout the flesh. Kid can be ordered locally from specialty butchers and may also be available from Indian and Middle Eastern suppliers. If the meat is labeled 'halal', the animal has been slaughtered in accordance with the Muslim law, just as 'kosher' meat is slaughtered according to orthodox Jewish religious law.

Cook young goat in the same way you would cook young lamb. Kid is a favorite for spring festivals in France and Greece, roasted with herbs over an open fire.

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10:28:33 on 01/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are there any alternative to gelatin?

Gelatin is derived from the bones of beef. Agar-agar, which is made from seaweed and is used a great deal in commercial food processing for thickening and as a stabilizer, is a common alternative. It is sold in many quality health food shops.

Five grams of powdered agar-agar or dried sponge seaweed sets 750 ml of liquid, but you will never achieve a firm set if your mixture is acidic, for example a mousse with citrus; or if a mixture contains chocolate or spinach. Always dissolve the agar-agar first, then boil it slowly for 15 minutes to activate the setting process. It sets at a higher temperature than gelatin, but the result does not melt so well in the mouth and feels different.

Another vegetarian product that can be used as a substitute for gelatin is Gelozone, which is made from locust bean gum, guar gum and carrageenan, or Irish moss. Follow the instructions on the packet for quantites, and always heat gently before adding it.

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12:34:44 on 01/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -