Asian Recipes

Asian Recipes Blog

The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Is steak and kidney pie different from steak and kidney pudding?

The fillings for both are similar; it is the way the filling is cooked that differs. Steak and kidney pudding is always made with a suet-crust pastry, and the uncooked mixture is spooned into the pastry before the pudding is steamed. For a steak and kidney pie, the meat filling is usually cooked before being put into a pie dish which is then covered with pastry and baked. Sometimes the filling is cooked under the pastry and, on these occasions, rump steak is used.

The traditional pastry used for a steak and kidney pie is suet-crust pastry but puff, flaky or short crust pastry are equally popular today, and give deliciously good results.

07:50:53 on 10/31/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is besan flour that is used commonly in Indian recipes?

Besan flour, also known as gram flour, is used in Indian cooking and it is actually made from ground chickpeas (chana dhal). It is a very fine, soft flour, pale creamy yellow in color, and is used to thicken soups and curries or made into a batter to coat vegetables or fish. But it must be stirred well or it will turn lumpy. This nutritious flour is also used in Provence and northern Italy to make crepes, soups and special pastries. It is available from health food shops, Asian specialty food stores and the larger supermarkets. For flavor and also for texture, there is really nothing that is an adequate substitute for besan flour.

** Indian Recipes **

03:06:10 on 10/30/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can we use cornflour to replace potato and rice flour as thickening agents?

Potato flour, is the pure starch that is leached out by soaking potato gratings in water. The liquid is drained off, leaving behind the starch, which is then dried. Similar to cornflour and used in the same way, potato flour needs only to be simmered gently for 1-2 minutes and should be added at the end of cooking; cook it any longer and the sauce will thin out again. It makes a good thickening agent and is better than cornflour for use in fruity or delicate sauces as it is both colorless and tasteless. It is usually available at good health food shops.

Rice flour is finely ground rice and is used in some Asian countries to make thin rice noodles. In common with potato flour, it thickens sauces and stews without flavoring or adding color to them, and is available in Asian food stores.

** Asian Recipes **

05:23:01 on 10/29/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Preparing and cooking squid

Squid is now often sold cleaned and prepared, fresh or frozen, and is one of the easiest seafood to tackle, as it has no readily identifiable innards. It is available in a range of size, from 10-25 cm. although any that measure more than 18 cm will be very rubbery. The Southern Calamari is the most tender species.

Medium-sized squid can be sliced for frying, either shaken in flour or in a light batter. Smaller ones can be served in seafood salads and stir-fries as they require scarcely more than blanching to cook. Larger ones are usually quite tough and chewy, but can be stuffed and baked.

** Asian Recipes **

13:34:09 on 10/28/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

When recipes include spirits, is it for the taste or the alcohol?

If the recipe is for preserving fresh fruit, both the flavor and the alcoholic content are absorbed by the fruit. But when spirits are added to cooked dishes or flambeed, they are used only for their flavor as the alcohol will evaporate during cooking or burn off when it is ignited. It is also usually for the flavor alone that alcohol is added to cold desserts, fruit salads, cakes and cream fillings for pastries, as the quantity used is not large enough to have a significant alcoholic effect. If too much is added the dish will be too thin and watery and the taste overpowering.

** Asian Cooking **

13:09:08 on 10/27/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Preserving fruits in spirit

Fruit preserved for a month or more in alcohol makes wonderful, easy-to-make winter desserts. Most fruits are suitable, with the exception of very watery ones such as melons as these dilute the alcohol, which may result in mold growth or fermentation.

For the best results, use ripe, unblemished fruit: berries should be hulled; currants, gooseberries and grapes stripped of their stalks; nectarines, peaches, apricots and plums should be halved and stoned; pineapples should be peeled, cored and sliced or cubed; cherries and kumquats should be pricked and kept whole; apples and pears should be peeled, cored and sliced. Firmer fruit such as peaches, apples and pears are better if they are poached in a sugar syrup first.

Pack the prepared fruit into clean jars, layering it with sugar as you go, then cover with alcohol such as rum, brandy, kirsch, vodka or any flavored liqueur. Cooked fruits are packed with their cooled sugar syrup plus an equal quantity of alcohol. With either raw or cooked fruit, spices such as cinnamon, ginger, star anise or vanilla can be added for extra flavor. Seal the jars tightly; as long as the fruits are kept covered by the alcohol, they should keep for about a year.

** Asian Recipes **

06:57:20 on 10/26/08 by Webmaster - Cooking Guide -

Can we use frozen spinach without thawing it first?

Frozen spinach is one of the most versatile and easy of all frozen vegetables to use, and is a very handy standby. Unlike many green vegetables, spinach stands up well to freezing and loses very little flavor and texture on thawing or cooking. Chopped spinach can be added straight from the freezer to enrich hearty soups. With poached eggs and a creamy sauce it makes great eggs dishes and it adds a colorful green layer to a fish pie. But it is best to thaw it before blending it into a root vegetable puree, then heat the puree for a few minutes to warm through quickly.

** Asian Recipes **

12:20:48 on 10/25/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Delicious crispy spinach

Spinach intended for deep-frying should be very fresh and very dry. After washing, pick it over carefully, removing any coarse stems and discolored sections. Spin it in a salad dryer, then tip it onto a tea towel and toss it about gently until it is completely dry. Shred the spinach finely and fry a generous handful at a time in very hot oil over a medium to high heat for about a minute. Tip the spinach into a strainer placed over a bowl, and while the oil reheats for the next batch, tip the cooked spinach onto a double layer of paper towels and shake with flaky sea salt.

This makes a dazzling garnish for fish or poached poultry, or in a tangle on top of a salad. However, the spinach should be used on the day it is cooked, and do not deceive yourself into thinking that crisp equals light and fat-free. Like all deep-fried foods, it will absorb a great deal of oil during cooking.

** Asian Recipes **

01:03:37 on 10/24/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Using spinach in salads

Young, tender spinach leaves make splendid salads and mix particularly well with fruit; try them with grapefruit and orange segments or dried fruits. Spinach is good with dressings pungent with garlic or thickened with nuts and, since it can be cooked, is the perfect leaf for wilting with warm dressings. With added bacon, chicken liver and egg, poached or soft-boiled, these salads make lively substantial dishes to serve at lunch.

** Asian Recipes **

13:02:49 on 10/23/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Mixing spices to breadcrumbs for coating

Ground spices may be mixed with breadcrumbs (or sifted flour) for coating fried foods, or with butter and flour as a crumble topping for fruit desserts. For instance, try using a pinch of saffron, turmeric or curry powder mixed with flour for coating fish cakes, croquettes or potato cakes, and ginger or cinnamon mixed with the topping for an apple crumble. Add a large pinch of ground nutmeg to a creamy cheese sauce or mashed potatoes. And maced will perk up bread sauce, spinach puree or creamed onions.

** Asian Spices **

10:25:36 on 10/22/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Can direct sunlight gradually destroys the essential oils in spices?

Sunlight destroys chlorophyll, the plant's pigment, causing the structure to disintegrate. All herbs and spices should be stored in a cool dark place - the refrigerator is ideal - but attempts to package them in tinted glass have proved unsuccessful. Most people prefer to see what they are buying.

** Asian Recipes **

05:39:21 on 10/21/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Making Garam Masala

Garam masala is a mixture of aromatic spices which, unlike curry powder, does not need heating to mellow the flavor. It is usually added to dishes at the end of cooking or sprinkled on top just before serving to brighten the flavor. To make 100g of garam masala, simply dry-fry in a small pan 2 tablespoons of cilantro seeds, 1 tablespoon each of mace and black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon each of cloves and cardamom seeds and a 6 cm piece of cinnamon stick broken into pieces. When the spices smell rich and pungent, grind them together in a coffee grinder or pound finely in a mortar. Store the garam masala in an airtight jar, away from heat and light.

** Asian Recipes **

21:47:50 on 10/20/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Difference between allspice and mixed spice

Although they are near enough in flavor to stand in for each other sometimes, allspice is in fact one single spice, the berry of an evergreen tree growing wild in South America and the West Indies. It got its name because it resembles a mixture of four spices: cinnamon, cloves, mace and pepper. The term 'mixed' spice is a vague one which usually means a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sometimes cumin.

** Asian Spices **

21:02:28 on 10/19/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Difference between nutmeg and mace

Not a great deal in terms of flavor, though mace is more powerful and has traditionally been used in sweet and savory recipes. Both spices lie within the fruit of the nutmeg tree, as a peach's stone lies within its flesh; mace is the lacy covering that encloses the nutmeg.

** Asian Recipes **

06:19:50 on 10/18/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

How long do ground spices keep?

It depends on how fresh they were when you bought them. Those you grind yourself will almost certainly keep longer, as long as they are tightly sealed. All ground spices, even the home-ground ones, should be replaced with new ones after six months when they have lost their savor and begin to taste dusty.

** Asian Recipes **

08:09:28 on 10/16/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Indian recipes often call for spices to be fried lightly at the start of cooking. What does this do to the flavor of the spices?

This is dry-frying, and only applies to whole spices. They are heated gently for 2-3 minutes in a heavy frying pan without any oil, shaken now and then, until the seeds start to change color. This has a beneficial effect, especially with certain spices such as cumin, for it draws out the flavor remarkably well. Most of the spices in commercial curry powders, and other mixtures such as garam masala, are treated in this way before being ground. In Indian cooking it is very important that the spices do not taste raw.

** Indian Recipes **

05:20:09 on 10/15/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Buying or grinding your own spices?

Ground spices deteriorate rapidly, although some, like fenugreek, are so hard that they are almost impossible to grind at home. It is probably best to buy a selection, in small quantities, and grind them a little at a time. One advantage of buying whole spices is that you can roast them before you grind them. You can grind spice in a stone mortar and pestle, or in an electric coffee mill. If using the latter, be sure to keep it for spices and have a separate one for grinding coffee beans.

** Herbs and Spices **

08:08:23 on 10/14/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to make a quick soup without homemade stock nor cubes?

You do not have to have stock to make soup as long as the other ingredients provide flavor. You can also make a quick stock to use in a specific recipe. Chop a selection of vegetables such as carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms, onions or potatoes. Saute them in butter first, or just simmer them until tender in water with flavorings such as herbs, citrus peel, vegetable juice or wine. The stock can be strained, or the vegetables may be pureed with the stock by blending or sieving to give a thick soup.

If you want to use a stock base, good-quality stock is now available in tetra-packs that can be kept in the store cupboard with cans of consomme, which can also be diluted and used instead of stock. Chilled fresh stock is also sold by some quality butchers and delicatessens; it can be kept in the refrigerator for two or three days, or frozen.

** Asian Recipes **

14:05:26 on 10/13/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Thickening soup with egg

Adding egg to thicken a soup is a little tricky as it will curdle or scramble if overheated. Beat one or two egg yolks (or whole eggs) in a bowl and stir in a little of the hot soup. Then strain this into the pan and stir over a gentle heat until thickened; do not allow it to boil. This method can be used for a hot soup or one to be served cold (which will thicken further on cooling). For a richer soup, the eggs can be mixed with cream.

** Asian Recipes **

07:08:03 on 10/12/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Garnishes for soups

Garnishes should look attractive, be edible and complement the flavor of the
soup. Some typical examples include a sprinkling of fresh herbs or spices on a
thick, rich soup, or more robust croutons or cheese on a lighter soup. Here are
some more ideas:

  • Whole sprigs of herbs, such as basil, dill, marjoram, mint, parsley, or
    thyme, or chopped leaves.

  • Shredded lettuce, cress, scallions or watercress, or diced or sliced raw
    vegetables, such as cucumber or tomato.

  • Chopped, shredded or sliced vegetables, blanched or cooked, such as
    cabbage, carrot, zucchini, leek, mushroom or green beans.

  • Whole edible perfumed flowers, such as borage, chive and thyme, or
    marigold petals.

  • Croutons of fried bread or toast, slices of French bread, dumplings.

  • Cream, sour cream, fromage frais or natural yoghurt, swirled on in an
    attractive pattern.

  • Cooked and finely chopped or shredded meat, ham or poultry, or pieces of
    crispy bacon.

  • Thinly shredded smoked salmon, smoked trout or salmon roe.

** Asian Recipes **

15:22:52 on 10/11/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What to do when the soup is very greasy?

Any oil or fat can be used to saute the vegetables for soup. Butter, meat or poultry dripping, olive oil or vegetable oil, will all give their individual flavors to the soup. Margarine does not provide such a good flavor and low-fat spreads are not suitable for frying because many of them are almost half water.

After sauteeing the vegetables, a little flour can be stirred in to soak up any excess fat and form a roux, and the resulting soup should not be greasy. If you do end up with a greasy soup, pour or spoon off any oil that comes to the surface, or if you have time, chill the soup so that the fat solidifies on the surface and can be easily lifted off. For a fat-free version, the oil or fat can be eliminated and the vegetables just simmered in the stock.

** Asian Recipes **

09:17:15 on 10/10/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to rescue thin soup?

The easiest solution is to reduce the soup by simmering it without the lid to evaporate some of the liquid, but this can take some time and could concentrate the seasoning too much. Alternatively, thicken it with cornflour, or arrowroot (as you do for a sauce). If the soup contains cooked vegetables, all or some of these can be pureed (by mashing, sieving or blending) and then stirred back into the soup to thicken it. Alternatively, add some finely chopped vegetables which will cook quickly in the soup and can also be pureed.

** Asian Recipes **

05:28:57 on 10/09/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to rescue a soup that is too salty?

Add some unsalted stock, milk or cream, which will dilute the flavor as well as the saltiness, or add a large peeled and halved potato and simmer for 20 minutes: the potato will absorb some salt as it cooks. Remove the potato before serving. Over-seasoned soup is quite a common problem, especially if you use stock cubes, which are very highly seasoned. It can also be a problem with homemade stocks if they contain salt, as soups are often boiled until reduced, concentrating the seasoning. It is best to leave the seasoning of stocks and soups until the end, or if you are using a stock cube, use half a cube to the prescribed amount of water.

** Asian Recipes **

15:33:19 on 10/08/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why some smoked fish need to be cooked and others not?

It all depends on the treatment. Hot smoked fish and seafood such as eel, kippers, mackerel, mussels, oysters, trout and tuna has dry, firm flesh and looks as though it has been cooked. It does not need further cooking. Cold-smoked fish, for example cod and haddock, has the translucence of fresh seafood and almost always needs to be heated.But delicate cold-smoked salmon is eaten uncooked.

** Asian Recipes **

07:57:25 on 10/07/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Cooking with slow cookers

With an electric slow cooker, the heat is gentle so you can leave the food for long periods without ever having to stir it. Slow cookers are perfect for the tougher, cheaper cuts of meat. But meat with a high fat content should be trimmed and browned first, and then the fat drained off. Because the cooking temperature is so low, the cooking liquid must be brought to the boil before adding it to the slow cooker. As well as casseroles and stews, slow cookers can be used for fruits, chutneys, jams and porridge.

** Asian Recipes **

05:32:28 on 10/06/08 by Webmaster - Quick Cooking Tips -

Do shellfish freeze well?

It is not a good idea to freeze shellfish at home. The freezing process damages shellfish more than many other foods, and even commercial freezing - which is much faster than anything that can be achieved in a domestic freezer - causes considerable deterioration in flavor and texture. While frozen shellfish may be preferable to none at all, they are always much better when eaten fresh and in season.

** Asian Recipes **

08:36:25 on 10/05/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is semolina made from?

Semolina is a coarse flour, usually of wheat or maize, which is left behind when the finer flour has been sifted out. Durum wheat semolina is used in Italy to make commercial pasta. It is too hard to use on its own at home, where it needs to be used in conjunction with either pasta or bread flour, usually in a ratio of one part semolina to three parts pasta flour.

As well as making pasta with it, Italians also use semolina to make gnocchi or small dumplings, which can be made either with potatoes or ricotta cheese.

Another good way to use semolina is to substitute it for some of the flour in cakes and biscuits, where the slightly gritty grains add a crisp texture. Semolina was traditionally used to make a rather bland baked milk pudding, the kind of food that is regarded as suitable for toddlers and invalids.

** Asian Recipes **

05:52:19 on 10/04/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Different types of seaweed

Arame has a particularly high calcium content and can be bought already shredded in a dark-green tangle. Very strongly flavored, it is used in Japanese miso soup and a small amount makes an exciting addition to mushroom or seafood risottos as well as Asian rice dishes. It needs a 5-minute soak and then 30 minutes cooking.

Dulse, which is available fresh and dried, is good in soups and in vegetable or grain dishes. You can eat it deep-fried or, after a brief soak to soften it, shred it into salads or their dressings, for example the Asian salad dressing. This can be poured over cooked fish or grilled shrimps, or served as a dipping sauce.

Kombu is valuable in vegetarian stocks. A strip of kombu cooked with dried beans both speeds up their cooking time and contributes flavor - even a strip that has been simmered for 20 minutes in stock.

Nori is one of the most common seaweeds. It is sold in sheets which can be lightly toasted for additional flavor and then used in sushi or crumbled over rice or vegetables. Nori also comes ready-flaked, so it can be either sprinkled, uncooked, over rice dishes, or added to pancake or tempura batters for extra flavor.

** Asian Recipes **

18:03:33 on 10/03/08 by Webmaster - Cooking Guide -

Difference between seeds and spices

The difference between seeds and spices is a haze one, as many spices are themselves seeds. The distinction seems to be made between those that impart their flavor to other foods (for example, caraway, celery and mustard), which are regarded as spices, and those that retain their own flavor (for example, poppy seeds). All seeds, especially pumpkin, sunflower and sesame, are rich in essential minerals and vitamins, and they are also exceedingly high in kilojoules.

Black seeds, such as poppy seeds, come in useful for adding a color contrast to pale dishes. Both black mustard seeds and black (unhulled) sesame seeds can be bought in India shops, as can small black seeds called kalongi, which have a pleasant, earthy flavor.

** Asian Recipes **

02:56:45 on 10/02/08 by Webmaster - Cooking Guide -

Can we eat seaweed gathered straight from the beach?

In theory you can, but you must collect it from a shoreline free of pollution. Laver weed, also called red laver or tangle, is used to make the laver bread in Britain. It is the same variety called nori in Japan and sold dried in sheets. But it can take 8 hours of boiling to make it edible. Purple fronds of dulse can be cleaned, brushed with egg, coated with flour or oatmeal and deep-fried until it is very crisp.

** Asian Recipes **

00:42:30 on 10/01/08 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -