October 2007


In keeping with a bit of a recent obsession I baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies yesterday. I found the recipe at allrecipes.com. I discovered that the Villa Market supermarkets chains stock canned pumpkin, so I decided to go about it the easy way and picked up a can on the way home from work.

While making them I decided that I am most definitely spoiling myself with an electric hand mixer once I get this month’s check and proper mixing bowls. This fork and pot business is just not charming enough for me anymore.

You need:

1 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips

Make:

Preheat the over to 175C.
Cream the sugar and shortening. Mix in the egg. Add the vanilla essence and pumpkin and stir through until combined. Sift in the dry ingredients, except for the chocolate chips and mix. When all of this is combined well, add the cup of chocolate chips and mix it in.
Scoop spoons (or teaspoons) full of the batter onto cookie sheets and bake for about 15 minutes.

Let it cool and enjoy.

I scooped large spoons full of the batter onto the cookie sheets and they came out looking like Chernobyl cookies. Fantastic!

Suggestions for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies:

– the original recipe called for only white sugar, but for some reason I mix in some brown with everything of late. Both I assume work fine.
– next time I think I will add a little more cinnamon and nutmeg than 1 teaspoon

I bought a new skinny tie a while ago at Chatuchak weekend market and decided to make another one myself. I used the same fabric as for my bag’s lining, so I may have looked a bit too co-ordinated yesterday, but it was a fun way to start the week.

I grew up with this baked and dried-out delicacy always being present in our home. As a child, my mother would bake new batches almost every week to keep up with my constant demand for beskuit in the morning. We took them on trips to the coast, Kruger Park, Namibia and even on our first trip to Europe. Whenever I was visiting South Africa, while still living in Taiwan, my mom would become frantic with worry during the final days of my visit that she would not be able to have enough time to bake me some beskuit to take back with me.

Beskuit is the Afrikaans word for rusks. A traditional South African baked item I believe has its roots in the Italian biscotti. Besides the similarities in name and texture, it also needs to be baked twice and you can play around with different kinds of beskuit.

My favorite is still my mother’s tried and trusted recipe I grew up on. I got it from her while I was living abroad to attempt my own version. This, my first time baking it in Bangkok, has possibly been my most successful. Whether it was using plain yogurt instead of buttermilk or whether maybe I just finally got the other ingredients and temperature right I do not know. But I think it came out great.

To make beskuit you need to get:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cups whole weat flour

1 and 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

250ml plain yoghurt

250 grams butter

1 teaspoon salt

Make:

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a baking dish. Sift the dry ingredients together and put aside. Melt the butter and mix in the yogurt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients well and pour into the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack and then cut it into squares. Place the squares onto the wire rack and dry in the oven until dried through, about two hours, at 100C. The oven should be open just a little while it is drying out.

Beskuit, in my opinion, is best enjoyed with a cup of fresh coffee for breakfast, or afternoon coffee or any other time actually. I love it.

Suggestions for beskuit:

– use bran instead of wholewheat flour

– my mother uses buttermilk, but I could not find it in stores here so I used yogurt instead- worked like a charm

– margarine also works if for some reason you do not want to use butter

beskuit is great with sunflower seeds or dried fruit added to the mixture. Yum!

And here is the messenger bag I made for Alexander. He suggested naming it the Ethnographer’s Messenger Bag, pointing out some of the various features of the bag that made the title a comfortable fit. I drafted the pattern just over a week ago, went on a roll and had it all finished this past Friday morning, ready for a weekend of exploring new neighborhoods.

I had some basic ideas of what I wanted to include in the bag, like a zippered pocket for spare change, pens and sunglasses, as well as a separator inside the main compartment, so that his notebooks and camera can be kept in separate sections. Alexander suggested another pocket on the bag for items like maps and cards and a small pocket inside the main part for his wallet and keys. The loop and buttons on the side was also his suggestion to give the bag a little more shape. I like the blue highlight on the brownish gray exterior of the bag.

I knew from the start that his fabric selection would work very well, but I was nervous about inserting the zipper pocket, the magnetic clasps and putting it all together. There were a couple of very nervous moments last week and sleepless nights over the bag. But, if I may say so myself I am very impressed with how the bag came out. And Alexander seems to like it too! And also thanks to him again for the pictures.

Since buying our oven we’ve been putting it to very good use. Alexander found a recipe for delightful pumpkin muffins from Martha Stewart the same day we brought the oven home. Soon after I prepared sweet potatoes in it and this week I finally came round to baking beskuit (called rusks in English) and a pumpkin loaf recipe I found at The Scent of Water.

The loaf is awesome, I have a hard time not sitting down and eating it all at once. I want it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and with coffee. It is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious breads I have ever baked. I altered the recipe a little to suit what I had in the kitchen.

Round up:

1 cup pumpkin puree

100g butter

1/2 cup caster sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon fresh ginger- minced

Make:

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs, beat well and then mix in the puree. Sift in the dry ingredients and the ginger and fold it in until combined. Place in a greased bread tin and bake for one hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

We had it hot with coffee. Then we had it cold with Milo. Then again cold with more coffee.

Suggestions for Pumpkin Loaf:

– I use puree that I make by cooking some pumpkin and mushing it up in the blender. I once baked some pumpkin in the oven too and then pureed that in the blender.

– the fresh ginger worked well in the bread, but I assume powdered ginger would work just as well.

– the original recipe is here and it looks lovely

I love tuna and Alexander loves tuna melts. In Luang Phabang, at E’Stranger Literary Salon, I wanted to try a chili tuna burger, but they were all out of chili tuna patties. At JoMa in Vientiane, Alexander had a truly decadent tuna melt. It came on two separate slices of whole wheat bread with a chunky layer of tuna salad on each, topped off with thick slices of melted cheddar.

His love of tuna melts and my desire to have a chili tuna burger inspired me to create a chili tuna patty.

Pick up:

2 cans of tuna chunks in brine, thoroughly drained of liquids
1 red chili
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
1 sprig spring onion, whites minced
½ tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 egg, beaten
slices of cheddar cheese
sliced bread of your choice

Make:

Crush the chili, garlic, and spring onion together. Add the soy sauce and lime juice and combine well into a rough paste. Empty the tuna chunks into a mixing bowl, add the paste and combine all the ingredients. When everything is mixed thoroughly, add the egg and blend it into the mixture.

Now, shape this mixture into four patties about ½ an inch thick. Heat a pan, lightly covered with some cooking spray over a medium high heat and gently cook the patties until, you basically just want to cook the egg and heat up the patties.

When the patties are cooked, arrange them and some of the cheese between two slices of bread, almost like a double tuna cheese melt. We do not have an oven yet, so I heated up the griddle pan, quickly toasted the sandwiches in the pan and the chili tuna melts were ready.

Suggestions for chili tuna melts:
– if you do not like spicy food, make sure you seed the chili before chopping it up.
– this recipe could easily make four tuna melts instead of two
– because of the combination of flavors it is better to use a cheddar that is not too sharp

An old favorite of mine is stuffed or filled chicken breasts cooked in liquid of one kind or another. The options are almost limitless; I’ve used pesto, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, feta and even peanut butter for stuffing and cooked in balsamic vinegar, red wine and stock.

Seen as we are living in Thailand and get to savor new combinations of ingredients and tastes on a regular basis I decided to experiment with a new filling and cooking sauce inspired by some Thai flavors.

Collect:

3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 red chili, sliced
3 sprigs of spring onion, the white and light green parts separated from the darker parts- mince two of the spring onions and slice the third on in half
3 kafir lime leaves, roughly copped
2 big shallots, sliced
juice of half a lime
2 chicken breasts, trimmed of the skin and fat
1 cup of flour
salt
toothpicks
½ chicken stock cube
½ cup of warm water
½ cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder

Make:

Heat a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat, when the oil is warm, add garlic and chili and fry quickly until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the halved spring onion) and stir-fry it for about two minutes. Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Set aside.

Dissolve the stock cube in the warm water, add the curry powder and coconut milk and set aside.

Flatten your chicken breasts with one hand and make careful incisions in them with a sharp knife for the filling. Divide the stuffing between the two chicken breasts and insert half a sprig of spring onion in each. Close the breasts with one or two toothpicks. Season with a little salt.

Spread the flour out onto a flat surface and roll the breasts around in it till covered, shake of any excess flour and set aside. In the same saucepan you used for preparing the filling, add a little oil. Put the chicken breast in the saucepan and cook until a light golden brown. To this, add the liquid mixture and lower your temperature to a gentle simmer. Cover the saucepan slightly and cook the chicken until it is cooked through. I left it on for about 20 minutes.

The end result was superb. The flavors of the filling were pleasantly subtle, complimented by the curry flavored cooking sauce, the leftover sauce I poured over the steamed rice I served it with. The chicken breasts were also incredibly tender. Definitely one to try again.

Suggestions for Chicken Breasts with Thai flavors filling.
– depending on your personal tastes you can add more or less of any of the ingredients to change the flavor and of course you can add any other ingredients that may add to the end result.
– the dark green parts of the spring onions can be used as garnish and a little bit of curry powder sprinkled around a side of the plate adds to the presentation
– keep a small dish handy for discarding the toothpicks

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