Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cha Soba

Brrrr....the temperature continuous to drop here in the gulf. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. In fact, this is my favorite season, I mean who doesn't want a break from the scorching hot summer in the desert? I love the winter here. It rarely drops below 10*C which is just perfect. These days, a hot soup is just what I need to warm my tummy. I've revisited an old post, Zaru Cha Soba (Cold Green Tea Noodles served with a hot dipping dashi broth). This is pretty much the same as that except instead of using the dashi broth as dipping sauce, The noodle is served right in the hot broth. Whatever and whichever way you serve it, it will taste amazing!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

400g dried cha (green tea) buckwheat noodles
water for boiling the noodles
a big bowl of ice cubes

For the Hot Broth:
4 tbsp dashi granules
4 cups water
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup Kikoman soy sauce

Toppings & Garnish:
shredded kani (crab sticks), as desired 
togarashi (red chili flakes), as desired


1. Place Cha noodles in boiling water and cook as directed in the package. Drain and transfer the the noodles on a bowl of ice cubes to stop the cooking process and prevents it from becoming soggy. Set Aside.

2. In a sauce pan, dissolve the dashi granules in water and bring up to a boil. Bring the heat down then add mirin and soy sauce. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.

3. To serve, transfer the cold soba on a bowl, pour a few laddleful of broth, top with shredded kani and togarashi. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings

Homecooked Meals
24 Nov 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Peppermint-Choco-Mallows Stirrers

I promised my friend, Joyce I will be posting the recipe for this treat, if you can call it recipe at all. There is no cooking involved and I made it with very little effort. It's a perfect gift for the holidays. In fact, I made this last year for Rocky to give-away to his friends.

So this is part of my holiday "Edible Gifts" Peppermint-Choco-Mallows Stirrer-- store-bought marshmallows dipped in chocolate and covered with crushed peppermint candy cane. That's pretty much it, 3 ingredients, no cooking required. This ideally serves as a stirrer for hot cocoa or hot milk, let the peppermint and chocolate-covered marshmallows melt in the hot drink before you drink and enjoy. Some of Rocky's friends gobbled it by itself. I don't blame them, I may have had a stick or two,(...ok maybe more!), when I was packaging them, you know, for quality check.

It perfectly pairs with your hot drink especially on Christmas morning or after the "Noche Buena" (Christmas dinner). And, if you've been naughty this year, this might score you some "nice" points with Santa if you leave a stick next to his hot milk and cookies under the Christmas tree.

peppermint-choco-mallows stirrer I

Difficulty: Super Easy!

Prep and Assembly Time: 30 to 40 minutes

What you will need:
1 pack popsicle sticks
Double boiler or heat-proof bowl set over simmering water
shallow bowl for the crushed candy cane
Baking sheet lined with parchment paper

1 pack large white marshmallows, (approximately 50 pcs)
4 cups dark, milk chocolate or white chocolate, (1 used 2 cups dark chocolate and 2 cups of white chocolate)
10 x 8in peppermint candy cane, finely chopped


1. In a double boiler or heat-proof bowl set over simmering water, melt/temper 2 cups of dark chocolate, make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. 
*Alternatively, you may melt the chocolate in the microwave, set on high, at 20 seconds interval until melted.
**For tips on tempering chocolate, click here.

2. Dip 1 inch of the popsicle stick in melted chocolate, stick into the marshmallows and immediately roll over the chopped candy cane. Let it stand to cool and harden on the baking sheet. Repeat process until half of the marshmallows are well coated.

3. Repeat the process using the white chocolate and the remaining half of the marshmallows and candy cane. Let it cool completely at room temperature.

Makes approximately 50 stirrers.

For more Edible Gifts suggestions, you may want to check these out:
1. Bourbon Dulce De Leche
2. Almond Butter Cups
3. Dark Hazelnut Butter
4. Vanilla Extract
5. Rocky Crunch

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my kitchen to yours! xoxo

peppermint-choco-mallows stirrer I

peppermint-choco-mallows stirrer I

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bourbon Dulce de Leche

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Christmas is just around the corner. My tree is up and decorated in gold and silver, my holiday table is set. Oh yes, we're on festive mode before December hits! Why? Why not!

If you're like me, you'd probably be collecting ideas of what to give to friends and family right about now. I put a lot of thought into it. I'm not Oprah that money is no object, but with little creativity and a bit of (fun) work, I can give my loved ones some of my favorite things. I started that last year, I decided to give them something handmade and homemade. I hope they liked them 'coz I sure enjoyed making them.

So I thought I'd share some of the recipes with you. You can find the links for the recipes on the home page under the label "Edible Gifts". They're so easy to make anybody can make them.

Here's one that I gave to some of my girlfriends, my Dulce de Leche spiked with Bourbon whiskey and spiced with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans. I loooove dulce de leche. It's great with vanilla ice cream, (way better than caramel!), on top of cupcakes, brownies and slathered on top of  my mom's "suman sa lihiya" (sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf). It's also good by itself, just grab a spoon, dunk it in the sticky pot and indulge!

It's simple to make but time consuming, that is if you take the route that I took. There are so many ways to make it, from simple to scary, (the thought of putting a can of condensed milk inside a pressure cooker gives me goosebumps!). The simplest I think is the method recommended by Donna Hay. I tried it many times but it does not give me the result I was looking for, I always get a darker top. And so I take the road less traveled and go for the longer method. Turns out perfect all the time!

Bourbon Dulce De Leche

Cooking Time: 60-80 minutes depending on the consistency and color that you like. It becomes darker as it as you cook longer.

2 x 395g can condensed milk
2 tsps Bourbon Whiskey
Beans of a 2 inch Organic Grade-A Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Pod 
Pinch of Salt

1. Slowly cook the condensed milk in a double boiler until it thickens and changed into a darker, caramel color, stirring occasionally. Careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the pot where the milk is in. Add more water into the double-boiler if needed.

2. Once you've achieved the color and texture that you like add the bourbon, vanilla beans and salt, stir until fully incorporated and remove from heat.

3. Let it cool completely before transferring into sterilized decorative bottles.

Note on Storage:
This will keep for 2 days at room temperature or up to 1 month in the fridge but might lose it's creamy texture. To reheat, transfer into a heat-proof dish and microwave at 15 seconds interval until you get the desired temperature and smoothness.


Makes 2 cups

Monday, November 4, 2013

Carrot Cake

My sister came for a week visit last month and I promised to make her trip to the island worthwhile by bringing her to a few of my current favorite places to eat, (because there is nothing much to do around here but that), and to cook for her. She told me that wasn't necessary as the purpose of her visit was to spend time with his nephew. Still, I cannot let her go hungry. And so she let me drag her onto a weeklong gastronomic trip around the country.

I took her to the "new" Hash House in Adliya, the island's most happening place. The new ownerstotally revamped this resto. This now tops my list when I'm craving for Thai food.

Hash House

 Then, to my favorite place for afternoon tea, The Tea Room @ Trousseau. They serve the best scones which pairs perfectly with rose bud tea. Divine!

The Tea Room @ Trousseau

The Tea Room @ Trousseau

And of course I had to bring her to my favorite restaurant outside the city that serves delicious arabic food with a modern twist, Villa Mamas. The chef is also a forerunner in advocating organic, local products and produce in the restaurant scene in the island. Definitely a must try when in Bahrain.

Eggplant Explosion, a modern twist on the Persian dish kashk-e bademjan @ Villa Mamas

Shish Barak, lamb in wonton wrapper with yogurt sauce @ Villa Mamas

We visited several more but posting all the photos might be too much for this blog, (follow me on instagram instead!).


And because I also promised to cook for her, I made mushroom risotto with truffle oil for dinner and taught her how to bake this decadence, a 3-layer carrot cake. This cake has become a family favorite and I think it's time to share it with y'all.

The recipe was adapted and slightly modified from Chef Emeril Lagasse's recipe; (for the link, click here). The only modifications are: (1) I used only half of the pecans called for this recipe and sub the half with walnuts, because the husband is not a fan of pecans. And (2) for the frosting, the original recipe called of 1lb of sugar which I find too sweet for my liking, so I made my frosting with just 3 cups of sugar instead.

My sister's visit was short but sweet...even sweeter than cream cheese frosting. And that's what we live for. We may live miles apart but our hearts will always be together. And when we are together, we build memories that will last...until we meet again.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Inactive Time: 60 minutes
Baking Time: 30-40 minutes
Total Time: 130-140minutes


3 sticks, plus more for coating the pan, room temperature
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking soda
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsps salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups grated or (food processor) chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans,
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts


1. Preheat oven at 180*C.
2. Prepare 3 (9in) cake pan, coat inside of the pan with butter, line with parchment paper, then coat again with butter. Set aside.
3. Sift dry ingredients together, (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt). Mix well.
4. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter for 1 minute or until smooth. Add the sugar and beat over medium speed until light and fluffy. Alternately add eggs and dry ingredients over medium speed. Add vanilla extract. Add carrots and beat until well mixed. Then fold in the nuts. 5. Divide the mixture into 3 pans and bake for 30-40 minutes. Check with a toothpick or cake tester, if the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes clean, the cake is done. *I usually like my cake really moist and don't go over 30 minutes. But, since I'm making a 3 layer cake, I let it bake a little longer so the bottom layer withstand the weight.
6. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and let the cake cook for a further 30 minutes on the cooling rack before icing.

For the Frosting:

7. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar over medium speed. Once all the sugar is incorporated, crank up the speed to high and mix for a further minute. To assemble:
8. Line 3in parchment paper around the cake stand. Place bottom layer cake. Frost the top, about 1cm thick. Sprinkle half of the mixed chopped nuts. Top with the middle layer and repeat the process. Finally add the top layer and frost generously with the remaining frosting.

Update, 16 Sep 2015: My sister came to visit again a 2 weeks ago and she requested I make her this cake again which I gladly obliged. This has now become a family favorite.

Carrot Cake I

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Almond Butter Cups

Hey! mums, are you running out of ideas to keep your kids entertained for this seemingly endless summer? Hang in there, only few more days and it's back to school! In the meantime, here's a yummy treat to serve on playdates... a better, healthier version of that addicting Reese's peanut butter cups! These are made with homemade almond butter sweetened with organic agave nectar and dark chocolate. It's a breeze to make which means the little ones can help make these too, no baking required!

You can prepare the almond butter ahead of time and it will keep in the fridge for 6 months or longer. It's basically the same as my Dark Hazelnut Butter with the sub of blanched almonds (duh!) and no cocoa added. Try the recipe, I'm sure you'll love it!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Time: 35 to 65 minutes

Ingredients for the Almond Butter Cups:
2 cups Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips or any chocolate chips/bars you like
1 cup almond butter

You will need:
16 cupcake liners
cupcake pans
microwavable dish


1. Place the chocolate chips in a microwavable dish. With the temperature set high, heat the chips at 30 minutes interval until most of the chocolates are melted. Careful not to burn it! Temper the chocolate to retain its gloss and shine when it hardens. For tips on tempering chocolate, check out this video from Alton Brown. Once melted and tempered, scoop 1 tsp of chocolate liquid in the cupcake liner and coat the bottom and the side of the liner halfway to the top. Do the same for the rest of the liners. Reserve the rest of the chocolate liquid for later.

3. Freeze the chocolates in cups for 5 minutes.

4. Once set, fill each chocolate cups with 1 tsp almond butter, press on the side for even cups. Then cover the almond butter with 1 tsp liquid chocolate. Make sure the almond butter is fully covered. Touch-up and make it pretty by swirling the top with a spoon. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Take it out and leave it in the countertop for a few hours before putting in a jar or container. Be sure to pop one in your mouth for quality check ;-)

Makes 16 cups

And here's how to make Almond Butter:

Roasting Time: 10 minutes
Butter-making Time: 30-60 minutes (depending on your equipment and the level of smoothness of the butter)
Total Time: 40-75 minutes

Baking sheet
food processor

500 g  raw blanched almonds
4-5 tbsp agave nectar or organic, pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
beans of 2-inch vanilla pods

1. Preheat oven to 160*C. Place the raw almonds on the baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, turning halfway through the roasting time. Keep a close eye on it; you only want a light to medium roast.

2. Transfer the almonds into the food processor. You may process the whole batch if you have a big food processor or you can grind half of it first. Grind the nuts until it forms a paste. This is where you'll need a lot of patience; the length of time will depend on how powerful your machine is and how smooth you want your butter to be*. Do not be tempted to add oil, you don't need it; the nuts will release its natural oil. I found that grinding the nuts while it is still warm makes it easier to release its oil. Once you get the desired consistency, add the agave nectar, salt and vanilla beans. Give it a whir for another 5 minutes until well combined. Transfer to jars and leave to cool completely before putting on the lid.
Note: For the batch I used for almond butter cups, I left it a little grainy so it will hold it's form.

Homemade Treats
30 March 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pesto Cream Macaroni

2 months ago, I started a new project. I had this crazy idea that I can grow organic herbs and veggies in wine crates set on the terrace of my 4th-floor flat. And guess what? In 6 weeks I was harvesting pakchoys and basil I planted from seed up! How cool is that!

I planned to start with just 4 herbs. I bought 1 small pot each of basil, thyme, rosemary and chives, (the ones sold in the fresh produce section of the groceries). I separated the bunch of thyme and basil and replanted them in crates and they have increased more than 10-fold ever since.
organic thyme -

I thought I'd push the envelope and plant from seed. My lack of experience coupled with the gulf's summer heat didn't give me much hope. So imagine my surprise when I found seeds sprouting in less than a week! 'Guess I have a green thumb huh? The pakchoy and basil were a success. Like I said, they were ready in just 6 weeks. Not sure if the lettuce will survive though... next time, I have to remember not to plant them close to each other. I still have to wait and see if they'll reach their full potential. Now the casualties are the spinach and female cat took an interest to make the planters her bed. So it's "death by paw" for those 2. But the rest of the plants are healthy, thriving and free from fertilizer. I never thought growing your food can be this easy. I love foraging in my mini urban garden before I cook a meal. Home-grown, fresh, organic and best of! Yay!
crate garden - organic basil -
Now the great thing about the herbs I planted is the more I harvest, the more they grow. So now I have this "good problem" of having more than we can consume. I'm trying my hands on drying thyme. But for the basil, I find the best way is to turn it into a pesto, put them in ice cube tray and freeze for later use.
home-grown organic basil -
Here's the recipe for Make-Ahead Pesto:

Prep Time: 10 minutes

3 cups packed basil leaves, washed clean and dried
1 clove garlic, smashed or roughly chopped
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olove oil
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste


1. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a small pan over low heat for 4-6 minutes. Set aside.
2. Sprinkle 1/8 tsp salt over the garlic and smoosh into a rough paste. Throw into the food processor. Add basil, pine nuts and about 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Process for 1 minute. Continue to add oil through the spout while processing. When almost ready, add the cheese, salt and pepper. Add the rest of the oil and process until smooth.
3. Transfer the pesto into ice tray. Freeze. You can store it in the tray, covered, until later use or transfer into a zip lock or separate container once frozen. Will keep for up to 3 months.

Makes 8 frozen cubes.

To use you can just thaw or pop in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, 30 sec interval, and add to your favorite pasta or chicken dish. Or you can fancy up and make this Pesto Cream Macaroni.

Pesto Cream Macaroni -

Here's the recipe:

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

3 cups macaroni pasta
water for boiling pasta ( with salt)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 stick unsalted butter
4 cubes frozen pesto
1 cup pasta water
2 cups cooking cream of heavy cream
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste
roasted pine nuts and fresh basil leaves for garnish


1. Cook the macaroni as per package instructions. Reserve some of the pasta water for later use.
2. Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the onions and saute until translucent; about 3 minutes.
3. Add the pesto cube and occasionally stir until melted.
4. Gradually add the cream, 1 cup pasta water and half of the cheese. Add pasta. Taste for salt and pepper.
5. To serve, sprinkle the rest of the parmiggiano reggiano on top and garnish with pine nuts and fresh basil leaves.

Makes 4 servings.
Pesto Cream Macaroni -

Haidee's Kitchen
08 Aug 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mixed Berries and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Thinking of a gift for mother's day? Why not surprise your mom, (or the mom of your kiddos) to a breakfast-in-bed with this super easy bread pudding. It's so easy to make that I did it during my lunch break! It takes 5 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to bake. How easy is that? However, if you have time, I would recommend you let the bread soak in the milk mixture for a good 20 minutes before you pop in the oven to absorb the flavor.

Difficulty: Easy

4 slices of white loaf bread, cut into 1 inch squares
4 eggs 
1cup fresh milk 
1cup heavy cream 
1/2 cup sugar*
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt 
a few shavings of nutmeg 
1 and 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries 
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips 
maple syrup, to serve (optional)
*If not using maple syrup, sugar may be adjusted from 1/2 to 1 cup.

1. Preheat oven to 200*c. 

2. Except for the bread, berries and chocolate chips, mix everything together in a saucepan over low heat. I don't intend to cook the mixture, I just find it easier to mix together when its warmed, 3-5 minutes. 

3. Butter 4 ramekins. Divide the bread, berries and choco chips into 4 ramekins. Pour over cream mixture (Note: If you're not in a hurry, leave it for 20 minutes in the fridge so the bread will soak up more of the cream). 

4. Put the ramekins into a roasting pan with water halfway to the ramekins and bake bain marie for  20 minutes. You may also sprinkle sugar on top 1 minute before you get it out of the oven and crank the heat to broil so you'll have a bruleed crust. But watch closely, you want the top bruleed not toasted.

5. Serve hot drizzled with maple syrup on top.

Serves 4.

Homemade on 23 April 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013


My Beef Caldereta, a traditional Filipino stew, is probably the most requested dish friends ask me to bring whenever there's a potluck get-together. I love that they appreciate my cooking; to be asked for a repeat is the best compliment for an aspiring cook like me, (or it could be that I have really nice friends!).

Before, potluck get-together meant take-aways, home delivery or we just chip-in some cash for the food. It all changed when I got into the hobby of cooking. I feel I show a bit more appreciation to the host when I make the effort to prepare and bring something homemade. There's that added It's not always a success though, sometimes what I make doesn't look (or taste!) exactly how I wanted it to be, like this one here, oh what a disaster!
instagram: tea cakes...epic fail! :'(
When this happens, a good bottle of booze is in order...or Krispy Kreme :-)

Recently, some of our friends organized a surprise send-off party to a lovely couple who are dear to us. We expats are used to hellos and goodbyes. For most of us Bahrain is (just) a "transient home". Sooner or later, we will bid ma'a salama (goodbye). But while we're here, we make friends, build relationships and touch lives. Some of my dearest and closest friends I met here in Bahrain, friends like the couple we honored that night. It was fun and loud as usual, but poignant nonetheless. We will miss them terribly, but it doesn't mean our friendship has to end. The world is smaller now and there are many ways to get in touch, (thanks mostly to Facebook!). And so though we will be miles apart, instead of goodbye, we say "till we meet again".

Going back to the caldereta, which was the dish that i brought to the send off, I thought it was high time to share the recipe so my friends, near and far can enjoy it anytime. And I'm dishing out my secrets why this dish is different from most caldereta you might have tried.

I'm going to peg this dish at medium difficulty not because it is complicated, it is really pretty simple and easy to prepare, but it is time consuming. You need 45 minutes pre-cooking and at least 2 hours resting time. You can even pre-cook the beef the night before. You can skip the resting time but I do this for one reason alone, which is secret no. skim off the fat.

I pressure-cook the beef then separate the beef from the stock and strain the stock to remove the spices. Pop the stock in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight. What happens next is the reason I take these extra steps...the fat will settle on top and harden forming a crust as seen here. Then it will be easy to remove these artery-clogging fats. So I get all the flavors of the fatty parts of the beef without the actual fats. I then add a different kind of fat, the ingredients that makes this dish creamy...dairy, make that 2 kinds of dairy-- butter and cheese. Hey, I didn't say this dish is healthy, but it is soulful, perfect to share with good friends.

How about you, what's your favorite dish to bring to a potluck?

Difficulty: Medium
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 + 30 minutes
Resting Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

1 kg beef ribs, cut into cubes
1 kg beef brisket, cut into cubes
6 cups water
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp whole black peppercorn
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 head of garlic, whole, top trimmed + 1 head of garlic, minced
2 tbsp EVOO
1 stick of butter
2 medium sized red onions, diced
500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cube
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch thick
1 large green capsicum, deseeded and cut into square (1 inch), about 2 cups
2 cups green peas
2 packs Mama Sita Caldereta Mix
2 Reno liver spread
100 g sharp cheddar cheese, grated


1. Pressure cook the beef in water, salt, whole black peppercorn and 1 whole head of garlic for 45 minutes. Cool before opening the lid. Transfer the beef in one container and strain the stock. Discard the spices. Pop the stock in the fridge for a good 2 hours until the fat forms a crust on top. Skim off the fat and discard. Warm the stock over low heat. Set aside.

2. In a large, deep pot, melt the butter with EVOO over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 2 minutes until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn the garlic and the butter. Add the onion and crank up the heat to high. Saute occasionally for another 3 minutes until the onion is semi-translucent. Add the cooked beef, potato, liver spread, 4-5 cups of stock and Mama Sita Caldereta Mix. Bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes then turn down the heat to medium. Cover the pot and stir occasionally until the potato is almost cooked, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add the ground pepper and salt as needed.

3. When the potatoes and carrots are cooked, add the capsicum, green peas and cheese just before you turn off the heat. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Makes 12-14 servings.

Home-cooked Meals
21 Sep 2012

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shrimp Jambalaya

Sorry for the long hiatus, my project of 3 years has come to an end, or rather, have started a new beginning and I have been swamped with work these past couple of weeks. I still have lots of photos and recipes waiting to be blogged. Don't worry, I will get to it, as we say here in the gulf, Inshallah (God willing)!

Anyway, I don't think this one can wait. This dish was an instant hit the first time I tried making it. And although we have never, (EVER!) tried a jambalaya before, this has now become a new favorite in the Casa Vaquer. My husband have requested it twice this week! I guess it's because it closely resembles our favorite Spanish dish, paella. But the great thing about this dish is it is not as labor intensive as the paella. Though it still is time consuming and will require your utmost attention, it is easier to prepare.
What I also love about this one-pot dish is that it is a crowd-pleaser and can instantly be the star of the meal. I made this on our weekend family lunch and everybody loved it. Wow your friends and bring this to your next pot luck.

The original recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe but I have modified the recipe to my own liking. If you want to try Martha's recipe, click here.

The original version calls for long grain rice, I guess if you use long grains the rice would be less mushy. But I love Egyptian rice and is a staple in my pantry. I like medium grains because it closely resembles a risotto and the flavor easily seeps in the rice. So feel free to substitute if you prefer long grains.

Here's how to make this New Orleans dish, Shrimp Jambalaya:

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 60 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
240 g Spanish chorizo, cut lengthwise and sliced into 1/6 inch thick
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 celery stalks (Note: reserve trimmed stalks and leaves for the stock)
1/2 head of garlic, minced
2 1/2 tsps paprika
1 1/2 to 2 tsps salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly cracked
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

10 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 cups medium-grain white rice, (or long grain if you prefer), rinsed
1 kg medium shrimps, peeled and deveined (*Note: reserve the shells and head for the stock)
1 cup green peas, thawed
3 to 5 cups *stock
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

*For the stock:
Shrimp shells and heads, cleaned
1 red onion, quartered
celery leaves and discarded stalks
5 cups water
1/4 tsp salt

1. Prepare the stock by putting all the ingredients in a pot and bring it up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low until ready to use, approximately 20 minutes.

2. Heat the olive oil in a big pot over high heat. Add the chorizo and occasionally saute for 4-6 minutes until it renders fat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the bell pepper and celery. Cook for another 3 minutes stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften. Add the salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper, (if using) and let the ingredients absorb the spices, about 1 minute.
3. Add the tomatoes and rice and stir until well combined. Add 3 cups of stock and stir. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, checking halfway and stir, making sure not to burn the bottom.
Note: This is where it gets tricky. Add an initial of 3 cups of water. After 10 minutes or so, check if the rice is cooked. Add stock as needed. Keep a close eye so you don't end up with a jambalaya with uncooked rice or is too mushy. I add an interval of 1/2 cup until I get the rice perfectly cooked.

4. Once the the rice is cooked and most of the water has evaporated, add the shrimps and peas and stir for the last time until well combined. Cover the pot and cook for another 2 minutes. Then turn of the burner, do not open the lid of the pot for the shrimp to cook just right.

5. Let the rice sit for another 10 minutes before you serve, to make sure the liquids are fully absorbed. Alternatively, serve immediately if you want a risotto-like texture. Garnish with scallions on top.

Serves a hearty helping for 4

Home-cooked Meal
22 Feb 2013