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Cook’s Nook: Amy Beh makes 3 dishes starring spring onions

Cook’s Nook: Amy Beh makes 3 dishes starring spring onions

Scallions or spring onions are versatile. Finely chopped spring onions are a flavourful garnish to a finished dish, but using it in cooking can enhance the taste profile.

STEAMED CHICKEN WITH GINGER, SPRING ONION AND CORIANDER SAUCE

550g kampung chicken
25g ginger
25g spring onion
3 cloves garlic
15g fresh coriander
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil

Seasoning
1½ tbsp sugar or to taste
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (optional)
1 tbsp light soy sauce

Clean chicken well. Pat dry. Place ginger, spring onion, garlic and coriander into a food processor. Process briefly into a coarse paste. Dish out and combine with seasoning.

Place chicken on a steaming plate and spoon over half of the ginger paste mixture.

Rub it all over the chicken.

Put the plate of chicken into a preheated steamer. Cover and steam over high heat for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through.

Place the remaining ginger paste in a small bowl. Heat the vegetable oil and sesame oil until just hot. Pour the hot oil onto the ginger paste and allow to sizzle for a while. Spoon the hot sauce over the cooked chicken and serve at once.


Recipes with scallions: Pretty Flower Mantau

PRETTY FLOWER MANTAU

300g pau flour
½ tsp double-action baking powder
75g castor sugar
30g vegetable shortening
60g pumpkin paste
10g instant dried yeast
125-130ml lukewarm water

Glaze and filling
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
salt and pepper

Stir yeast into warm water and set aside to froth. Sift flour and double-action baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in sugar, vegetable shortening, and finally the yeast mixture. Mix in pumpkin paste and using a dough hook mix on low speed into a dough.

Continue to knead until the dough is soft, smooth and pliable.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly with a sprinkling of additional flour if it is too soft. Divide the dough into two equal portions.

Roll out each half of the dough into a long log and cut into small pieces or scale into 20g pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Using a rolling pin, flatten the ball and roll out into a thin circle.

Place a dough circle on the work surface. Place another dough circle below it, overlapping the edges slightly. Arrange three more circles of dough below the first two pieces. You will end up with five circles arranged in a straight vertical line. Use a fork and press down lightly over the overlapping sections to secure all the circles in place.

Glaze lightly with sesame oil and sprinkle chopped spring onion liberally over the pieces of dough, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Starting from the bottom, roll up the five circles of dough into a Swiss roll. Once the Swiss roll is formed, roll a little with the palm of your hand to secure the seam.

Using a pastry cutter or sharp knife, cut each Swiss roll in the centre into two equal pieces. Each one will be in the shape of a flower. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough to create more flower mantau.

Place each bun, cut side down, into a paper case. Arrange on a tray and cover with cling film. Set aside in a warm place to rise until double in size, 15-20 minutes.

Steam the flower rolls in batches over rapid boiling water on high heat for 10-12 minutes. Once done, turn off the heat but leave the buns in the steamer for another minute before removing from steamer. (This will prevent the buns from shrinking as they cool.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Recipes with scallions: Delightful Tapioca Spring Onion Snack Balls

DELIGHTFUL TAPIOCA SPRING ONION SNACK BALLS

200g tapioca
80g grated coconut
1 tbsp chopped fresh red chili
35g chopped spring onion
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
dash of pepper

Batter
60g rice flour
30g glutinous rice flour
1 tsp custard powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
150ml water

Peel tapioca and soak in water for 20 minutes, then cut into small sections. Place on a steaming plate and steam till soft. Remove and mash with a fork till mushy.

Add grated coconut, red chilli, spring onion, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Mix combined batter ingredients well and set aside.

Take a heaped tablespoon of tapioca mixture and roll into a neat ball.

Dip into the batter and deep-fry in medium hot oil till the balls are golden brown and crispy on the outside.

Chicken cutlets make a fast, easy dinner

Chicken cutlets make a fast, easy dinner

What’s a chicken cutlet? You see the term often in recipes not only for chicken but also veal and pork.

A cutlet is simply a thin piece of chicken breast. It’s also a solution for easy weeknight cooking.

When I asked the Food Network’s Scott Conant about his favourite foods, he told me he could eat chicken cutlets “pretty much any day”.

I wasn’t surprised.

Chicken cutlets are an easy option when you want dinner done fast, and they go with just about anything. You can sauté or fry them, serve them with vegetables, put them on a sandwich or thinly slice them for a salad.

Cutlets you find at stores might not be of uniform size and shape. Many recipes call for making cutlets or thin pieces of chicken breast by pounding them to an even thickness. You put the chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to pound it thin. Pounding can be troublesome. Sometimes you pound a hole through the chicken or the meat tears. Sometimes the chicken breasts are huge and there’s no way you’ll get them even close to, say, a quarter-inch (6.5mm) thickness.

An easier and more economical option is to cut the chicken yourself. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the difference between a chicken breast and cutlet?

A chicken breast is the whole breast, while the cutlet is a thin slice of the breast.

What should you buy to make your own cutlets?

Look for chicken breasts that are about 8 ounces (225g) each, uniform in shape and no more than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Sometimes it’s easier if you buy the whole breast piece (so 450g or more total), which has two halves attached.

How do you prepare them?

The chicken breast should be very well chilled. If the chicken is too warm, you won’t be able to slice it as easily. If need be, you can place the chicken breasts on a plate and stick them in the freezer for about 20 minutes to chill them. They should be cold, but not frozen solid.

How do you cut them?

On a clean work surface or cutting board, place one cold chicken breast. Hold it in place with the palm of your hand. Starting at the thickest end, slice the breast in half horizontally, working away from you and towards the thinner end. Slicing them this way means you’ll end up with two even pieces of chicken breast or cutlets. If the cutlets aren’t thin enough or are thick at one end, you can pound them thinner.

What’s the best way to cook them?

The beauty of chicken cutlets is that they adapt to all kinds of prep and cooking methods. Cooking them in a skillet is the easiest method, but you can also put them on an outdoor grill. Just keep in mind that cutlets cook quickly. (Remember to cook them thoroughly to 165°F/73°C.) You can bread cutlets and sauté or deep-fry them in in oil. You can also dredge them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and then saute them, or you can lightly season and sauté them. Really, you can cook a cutlet any way you’d cook a chicken breast.

Here’s a favourite dinnertime recipe from our archives for chicken cutlets paired with a tangy sauce. If you work quickly, you can be done in 30 minutes. – /Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service/Susan Selasky

PANKO-CRUSTED CHICKEN CUTLETS WITH TANGY MUSTARD SAUCE

Serves 4/Preparation time: 15 minutes/Total time: 30 minutes

Instead of pounding the chicken breasts, use a boning knife to cut them in half horizontally to make two even pieces.

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (450g total and 2.5cm thick)
1 large egg
1 heaping tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp plus 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, divided
1 cup regular or whole wheat panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp canola or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 to 2 tbsp coarse-grained mustard
1 tbsp chilled unsalted butter

Place the chicken flat on a clean work surface. Carefully cut each breast in half horizontally so you have 4 pieces, each about 1/2-inch (1.25cm) thick at the thickest point.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, parsley and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in large bowl. Place the panko crumbs on a plate. Place chicken in egg mixture; turn to coat and set aside for 5 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken piece in panko; turn to coat. Press the crumbs onto the chicken pieces so they stick.

Add chicken to the skillet and cook until brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the broth, syrup, coarse-grained mustard and remaining 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.

Transfer chicken pieces to plates. Add broth mixture to skillet, bring to a boil and boil until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Spoon sauce alongside chicken and serve. – Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen

Malay recipes from Johor for Hari Raya

Malay recipes from Johor for Hari Raya

Chef Mohd Farid Hafiz may have grown up in Kuala Lumpur, but his heart clearly belongs in Johor, where both his parents are from. Now a sous chef at the salubrious Westin Kuala Lumpur, Farid says he cooks all kinds of food all the time in the hotel but when he goes back to his family’s hometown of Muar for Hari Raya, it’s his parents’ food that he longs for.

“My dad is from Muar and has Bugis lineage so he has in-depth knowledge of Johor food, especially Bugis specialties. My mother is from Endau-Mersing, which is also in Johor, but has strong Pahang influence. So my dad taught my mum how to make all kinds of delicious Johor food, and he still does quality control checks!” says Farid.

Growing up, Farid’s mother frequently cooked Johor staples like laksa Johor and mee bandung. But there were special dishes that were only reserved for Hari Raya. Even now, the entire clan returns to Muar for Hari Raya and on the third day of Raya, they serve their signature Johor dishes, which have become treasured family recipes.

“There are so many of us who come back for Hari Raya, so we divide the cooking duties because my dad’s siblings are great cooks too,” says Farid.

One of the mainstays of the family’s Hari Raya menu is the alluring Bugis-influenced dish of ayam masak lengkuas (galangal), a sensational meal composed of chicken slow-cooked in a spice paste, coconut milk and grated coconut.

This dry chicken dish is slightly spicy with rich coconut nuances that give it additional depth. It is an incredibly easy meal to fall in love with, so it’s not hard to see why the family has to have it every year.

In Farid’s family, ayam masak lengkuas is traditionally eaten with burasak, a Bugis dish which features rice wrapped in banana leaf and slow-cooked in coconut milk. The resultant rice parcels are creamy and satin-soft with the flavours of coconut bursting forth in each mouthful.

Every year, Farid and his extended family prepare all their favourite Johor dishes for their annual Hari Raya celebration in Muar.

“Most Bugis people in Johor eat burasak, which is like a cross between lemang and ketupat. Burasak has coconut milk, ketupat doesn’t but it’s cooked the same way. Lemang has coconut milk, but uses glutinous rice, so it doesn’t taste exactly the same. Taste-wise, burasak has a unique ‘lemak’ taste because of the coconut milk,” says Farid.

Lontong sayur is also something that makes an annual appearance on the family’s Hari Raya table. “My mother makes this often and it’s like a side dish that we must have. It’s also very popular in Johor,” he says.

Then there is the fiery, powerfully addictive ikan asam pedas sayur jeruk, a dish that Farid says is a must for Hari Raya back home as it is deeply entrenched in his father’s village of Kampung Panchor in Muar.

“They make it with sawi jeruk (pickled mustard greens) in my dad’s kampung – it goes well, and the taste is just right. I’m not sure how the recipe came about, but from the time I was young, I was taught to eat this – my grandmother and all my relatives made this dish,” he says.

Farid also adds that choosing the right fish is key to nailing all the flavour elements of the dish, especially as the sayur jeruk can overwhelm certain fish.

“You have to use a suitable fish – kembung and tenggiri are good for this dish but stingray is not. At home, we often use ikan terubok and cook it until the bones are really brittle, like the bones of tinned sardine,” he says.

Slow-cooking is at the heart of many of the Hari Raya dishes that Farid’s family makes, and although it may require a time investment, Farid says the food is worth the wait.

“It’s easy to make, it just takes a long time to cook because most of the recipes require slow-cooking over low heat.

“Like the burasak, you have to cook it on low heat because otherwise there is a possibility that the banana leaf will split,” he says.

As all his family’s recipes hold a strong pull on Farid to this day, he hopes they will prove as appealing to home cooks looking to prepare meals this Hari Raya.

“Johor food is something I think people can easily accept and love, so try it!” he says, laughing.

AYAM MASAK LENGKUAS

Serves 10

For blending
100g shallot
50g garlic
50g ginger
20g cili padi
30g turmeric

For cooking
150ml cooking oil
100g lemongrass, grated finely
120g galangal, grated finely
200ml coconut milk
900g chicken pieces
1 tbsp coriander seed
2 pieces asam keping
50g kerisik
salt and sugar to taste

To make

Blend shallot, garlic, ginger, cili padi and turmeric until it forms a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a pot, heat up the oil and saute blended and grated items until fragrant. Add coconut milk, and stir to combine. Then add chicken, coriander and asam keping and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated.

Add kerisik and cook for about 5 minutes until it is fully absorbed. Season with salt and sugar and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

BURASAK

Serves 10

200ml water
3 pandan leaves
300ml coconut milk
700g rice
banana leaves, for wrapping rice

To make

In a pot, add water, pandan leaves and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add rice to the pot. Cook for about 15 minutes, letting the liquid fully coat the rice.

Remove from heat. Ladle the rice out from the pot and place in a bowl. Leave to cool slightly. Keep the coconut milk mixture as you will need it later.

On a banana leaf (approximately 25cm in length), place 50g of the rice. Wrap rice with banana leaf and secure with string. Repeat with the remaining rice.

Bring the coconut milk solution to a boil again and gently place the rice parcels in the liquid. Simmer on low heat for 2 hours.

Remove from the heat and serve with ayam masak lengkuas.

LONTONG SAYUR

Serves 10

For blending
20g dried shrimp, blended
40g red onion, blended
20g garlic, blended

For cooking
500ml water
400ml coconut milk
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 stalks lemongrass, smashed
40g carrot, cut into 2cm sticks
50g turnip, cut into 2cm sticks
1 pack hard beancurd, cubed
1 piece tempeh, cut into long sticks
100g cabbage, sliced
20g glass noodles
30g fuchok
4 red chillies
80g long beans, cut into 2cm length

salt to taste

To make

Blend dried shrimp, onion and garlic until it forms a paste.

In a large pot, add water and coconut milk. Add blended paste, turmeric powder and lemongrass. Stir for awhile to combine.

Add carrot, turnip, beancurd, tempeh and cabbage and cook until vegetables soften slightly. Then add glass noodles, fuchok, red chilli and long beans and cook for a few minutes until noodles are cooked and beans are slightly tender. Remove from the heat and serve hot with rice.

TENGGIRI ASAM PEDAS SAWI JERUK

Serves 10

For blending
80g onion
40g garlic
30g ginger
20g belacan
2 lemongrass stalks
10g fresh turmeric
120g dried red chilli

For cooking
30ml cooking oil
15gm ginger flower
15g sweet basil leaf (daun kesum)
70g tamarind paste
600g boneless tenggiri fillet, cut into slices
150g sawi jeruk (can be found in supermarkets)
500ml water
salt to taste

To make

Blend onions, garlic, ginger, belacan, lemongrass, turmeric and dried chillies until it forms a smooth paste.

Heat oil in a pot and saute the blended paste for about 2 to 3 minutes until it is aromatic. Add ginger flower, basil leaf and tamarind paste and stir to combine. Add the fish and sawi jeruk and stir to distribute evenly.

Add water and simmer on low heat until the fish is cooked. Add salt to taste, stir to combine and remove from the heat. Serve hot.

Traditional Malay recipes from Kedah

Traditional Malay recipes from Kedah

Chef Mohamad Zaidi is warm and instantly likeable, exuding a natural charm that comes from being incredibly humble and oh-so nice, despite holding the lofty position of executive chef at the opulent Majestic Kuala Lumpur.

In many ways, Zaidi’s affability is in keeping with his background, which saw him growing up in the town of Anak Bukit in Kedah, which was just a stone’s throw away from the royal palace.

There, a sense of camaraderie was present among villagers and Zaidi recalls how everyone would pool their money together (in a scheme called pakat) to pay for village weddings. There would even be a meeting with the villagers one month before the wedding, where major decisions would be made.

“Everyone would come and they would ask each person what they would like to cook for the wedding!” says Zaidi.

Zaidi’s late mother was an integral person in the village as she was the village’s pengolah (spice mixer). Every time there was a large occasion, she was in charge of mixing spices for all the curries and dishes, as she was famed for her cooking skills.

In fact, Zaidi’s mother was so well-known for her food that even the royal family sought her out! She was often tasked with making kampung food like nasi ulam and ikan pekasam for the palace, which was delivered on a sampan to the royal family.

“The late sultan liked simple kampung food, so there were often requests for home-cooked meals,” says Zaidi.

chef Mohamad Zaidi, Majestic KL, Malay food, Kedah

Zaidi grew up in Kedah with a mother who was an excellent cook (she even cooked for royalty). He continues to make her heirloom recipes to this day.

Zaidi himself learnt how to cook when he was eight years old, as his mother had a stall selling mee rebus and nasi campur and he was often asked to help out. When he grew older, he started working in hotels and over the years, moved up the rungs. Although he is doing incredibly well now, the food that his late mother cooked still remains such a perennial favourite that he now makes it for his own family.

Like his mother’s delicious ayam masak kunyit kering, for example. The dish features creamy, slightly spicy chicken that is so tender, that according to Zaidi, if you pick up a piece once it’s cooked, the meat should fall off the bone when given a good shake!

“This is something my mother used to make for Hari Raya. It is a must for us and is famous in my family,” he says.

Then there is her dish of gulai Siam. While there are many iterations of this dish, Zaidi says his mother’s version is different because she adds freshly sliced herbs, which give it a more herbaceous note. His mother used to make this often as the family lived near rice fields and paddy fish were in abundance after the rice was harvested.

“Once the rice was harvested, there were a lot of fish like snakehead fish, catfish and perch swimming in the water. So as a kid, I used to get an old oil can, follow the tractors, dunk the can in the soil and catch some fish! Sometimes we even caught snakes!” he says, laughing mischievously at the recollection.

Daging merah is another dish that Zaidi picked up from his mother. The dish features tender beef cooked in coconut milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk, resulting in a deliciously thick gravy that has spicy nuances and a prevailing sense of sweetness.

“Every time there was a wedding in the village, my mother would be asked to cook this dish and to this day, everyone in my family loves this dish,” says Zaidi.

While mee rebus (yellow noodles in a thick gravy typically made from beef, shrimp and sweet potato) is an undisputed Kedah staple (even Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is said to be a fan!), no two recipes are the same. Zaidi’s mother’s recipe calls for both beef bone and beef brisket to be cooked together, resulting in a thick gravy that is aromatic, sweet and sumptuous, with other textures adding depth and dimension.

“While the ingredients are nearly the same, my mother’s version has ginger in it, so it’s a bit stronger. But this is something we always eat at festivals and family get-togethers,” he says.

All these recipes advocate for slow-cooking over an open flame which is something Zaidi says his mother and other villagers used to do often.

“The longer you cook it, the nicer it tastes. We used rubberwood, and the taste was more intense,” he says.

Ultimately, Zaidi says he hopes people will enjoy his mother’s recipes as much as he enjoyed her food growing up. “I miss her food so much! All her recipes are agak-agak, but I’ve tried to remember the taste of what she did and I continue to make them often so I don’t forget her heritage recipes,” he says.

ayam masak kunyit kering

AYAM MASAK KUNYIT KERING

Serves 8 to 10

2.2kg whole chicken, cut into 16 to 18 pieces
1.2 litre coconut milk
200g cili padi, thinly sliced
150g onions, thinly sliced
150g shallot, thinly sliced
100g ginger, thinly sliced
100g galangal, thinly sliced
100g lemongrass, thinly sliced
70g fresh turmeric, thinly sliced
2 turmeric leaves
salt and sugar to taste

To cook

Clean chicken thoroughly. In a pot, put chicken and all the other ingredients together, except turmeric leaves, sugar and salt. Braise on low heat for 3 to 4 hours until the mixture dries up. Once the gravy has thickened up, add salt, sugar and turmeric leaves and cook for a short while until flavours are incorporated.

Once done, pull the chicken meat from the bone with a fork. It should come off easily. Serve with rice or ketupat.

gulai Siam, Malay food

GULAI SIAM

Serves 8 to 10

For blending together into a paste
40g onion
20g galangal
20g ginger
20g lemongrass

For pounding and dry toasting together
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds

For boiling and blending into a chilli paste
20g dried chillies, boiled and blended into a paste

For cooking
20ml coconut oil
1 siakap (sea bass) fish, cut into small pieces
500ml coconut milk
2 to 3 pieces asam keping
salt to taste
20 daun kaduk (betel leaf), thinly sliced
10 daun cekur, thinly sliced
10 sweet basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 or 3 turmeric leaves, thinly sliced
5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced

To make

In a kuali, heat coconut oil and saute blended ingredients until aromatic. Add dry-toasted spices and chilli paste and stir together until you get pecah minyak (a layer of oil emerges). Add fish, cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then add coconut milk. Continue cooking for 20 minutes, then add asam keping and salt and stir to mix evenly.

Finally, add the thinly sliced leaves and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

daging merah, Malay food

DAGING MERAH

Serves 8 to 10

For blending together into a paste
70g red onion
20g garlic
50g shallot
40g ginger
40g lemongrass

For cooking
oil, for cooking
80g tomato paste
2 tbsp kurma powder
2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 inch cinnamon stick
4 to 5 cardamom pods
4 to 5 cloves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
600g beef (any cut)
40ml condensed milk
60ml evaporated milk
250ml coconut milk
salt and sugar to taste
4 tbsp deep-fried shallots

To make

In a pot over medium heat, add oil and saute blended paste until fragrant. Add tomato paste, powders and spices and cook for a while. Add beef and cook for 1 hour on low heat. Then add condensed milk, evaporated milk, coconut milk and salt and sugar and simmer on low heat for another 30 minutes. Garnish with shallots and serve hot with rice.

mee rebus

MEE REBUS

Serves 8 to 10

For the stock
600g beef bone
200g beef brisket
150g small shrimp
400g sweet potatoes
15g ginger
10g garlic
2 litres water
4gm asam keping
4 tbsp chilli sauce
salt and sugar to taste

For blending
100g onion
30g ginger
30g garlic
30g dried chilli
80g groundnuts

For fritters
150g flour
100ml water
10g Chinese chives
30g bean sprouts
salt to taste
oil, for deep-frying

For noodles and toppings
600g yellow noodles, blanched
180g beans sprouts, blanched
6 pieces square bean curd, fried
20g spring onions, sliced finely
20g coriander leaves, sliced finely
20g red chilli, sliced finely
5 hard-boiled eggs

To cook

Pour 2 litres of water into a large pot and add all the ingredients for the stock, except chilli sauce and salt. Once boiled, remove from the heat.In another large pot, add oil and saute blended items till fragrant. Then add stock, tomato paste and salt and sugar to taste and simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Once done, remove beef bone and brisket from stock and blend the rest of the ingredients together in a blender.

To make fritters

Combine flour and all the other ingredients until you get a thick mixture (it shouldn’t be too watery). Shape into individual fritters and deep-fry until golden brown. Set aside.

To assemble

Add noodles to the blended gravy and top with the fritters and the rest of the topping ingredients. Slice brisket and add to the noodles. Serve hot.

Delicious Malay recipe ideas for Hari Raya

Delicious Malay recipe ideas for Hari Raya

In the large, spacious Davis home, there is a constant buzz of activity. Mum Rosdiana Sidi Davis, better known as Diana, is shepherding her children like a seasoned pro, simultaneously telling one child to change into a different set of clothes and another one to take the cat out of the house.

Through it all, she looks calm and beautiful – not even the tiniest bead of sweat trickles down her gorgeous face, as she navigates the daily chaos of running a household filled with four active children.

But busy as she is, Diana still makes it a point to cook for her family every single day. “Dinie and I recently sat down and came up with the household menu for the next four weeks. I have to plan everything in advance,” she says, motioning to her sweet 11-year-old daughter Dinie Karmila.

“It’s quite a logistical challenge with so many children. They go to three different schools, so there are pick-ups and drop-offs and cooking after all that!” chimes in husband Gerald Russell Davis.

In many ways, cooking comes naturally to Diana as she grew up with a mother who was an excellent cook and was put through the paces from the time she was 10.

Diana Sidi Davis, home cook, Malay food, Hari Raya

Every year, Diana works hard to prepare the dishes for her annual Hari Raya open house, no small feat given that she often cooks for up to 60 people.

“One of the first few things I learnt to cook was sambal ikan bilis and nasi goreng. When I was a bit older, about 12, I learnt how to make beehoon goreng – which I thought was one level higher,” she says, laughing.

Come Hari Raya, Diana kicks her cooking up a notch, as the family hosts an annual open house for up to 60 people that she cooks exclusively for.

“A few years back, I started doing open houses, because my kids were all older, so I could cook for people and invite them. I normally cook alone, my helper helps me tidy up but I do everything else myself,” she says.

In putting together her Hari Raya menu, Diana looked to her mother for inspiration. “My mother is from Perak and she taught me how to make rendang tok, which I love because it has a different taste from other versions. And we must have rendang for Raya. Must have. Kalau tak ada rendang, tak ada Raya!” she exclaims.

Diana’s rendang tok is delicious – large beef chunks coated in a thick, aromatic dry gravy buoyed by a spicy undercurrent.

Diana Sidi Davis, Hari Raya, Malay food

Diana’s four children and her husband really look forward to her food, so she cooks up all their favourite Malay dishes on Hari Raya day so the family can enjoy a good meal together.

She also makes a fiery ayam sambal, based on a family recipe she inherited from her mother. “In our family, the sambal all tastes the same, it’s family-style. I have to have sambal for my Raya meal, that is a tradition – it’s not complete without it,” she says.

Diana was also fixed on the idea that a complete Raya menu should have some sort of gravy to balance out the dry rendang and ayam sambal. Also, she strongly felt that the rice (she makes nasi minyak) needed some sort of curry, otherwise it would be too dry. Which is why she decided to add a dalca to the menu too.

“I thought of a vegetable curry because I always have to have gravy to go with rice. And vegetarians can eat it too so it’s a good vegetarian option,” she says.

Adding the light, zesty jelatah (pineapple and cucumber salad) to her Hari Raya menu was a no-brainer for Diana who simply says, “It goes so well with the nasi minyak!”

As her Hari Raya open house is traditionally a week or two after Hari Raya itself, Diana makes some of the same dishes on the first day of Hari Raya for her kids who await the arrival of her food with eager anticipation.

“My god – they cannot wait! They look forward to it so much. The sambal ayam especially is everyone’s favourite. On the first day of Raya, I make the rendang and ayam sambal and kuah kacang just for us,” she says.

At her Hari Raya open house though, Diana’s food is often met with the same enthusiastic reception. It seems her food is loved by all – both young and old alike.

“I even have to tell my husband, ‘Please tell your friends to take turns eating!’ Because they don’t want to leave the table, they love the food and keep on eating!” she says, laughing happily.

rendang tok

RENDANG TOK

Serves 6 to 7

For blending together
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black pepper corn
3 star anise
5 cloves

For blending together
30 dried chillies, cut and boiled until soft
10 small onions
3 inches ginger
5 stalks lemongrass
1/2 inch (1.3cm) galangal
1/2 inch (1.3cm) turmeric root

For cooking
1 cup corn oil
1kg beef tenderloin
400ml thick coconut milk
3 tbsp kerisik
1/2 a block of gula melaka
3 pieces asam keping
3 turmeric leaves, sliced thinly
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
salt to taste

For garnishing
one stalk turmeric leaves, sliced thinly

To cook

Heat up the oil. Pour in all the blended ingredients. Mix together and cook until you get pecah minyak (a layer of oil emerges). This should take about 30 minutes.

Add the meat. Cook until the meat is soft, 30-45 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well. Cook the mixture until it is thick and dry. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. This should take about 1½ hours.

Once the mixture dries up (depending on your preferred texture), turn off the heat. Transfer the rendang onto a serving plate and garnish with thinly sliced turmeric leaves.

jelatah

JELATAH (PINEAPPLE & CUCUMBER SALAD)

Serves 6 to 7

1/2 a ripe pineapple
1 medium sized cucumber
1/2 medium sized red onion, sliced thinly
2 fresh red chillies, sliced thinly
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt

To make

Remove the pineapple skin and eyes. Cut into wedges and remove the core. Cut into 0.5cm pieces. Set aside.

Cut the cucumber into 4, lengthways. Cut into 0.5cm pieces. Set aside.

In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients together well. Adjust the amount of vinegar, salt and sugar to your taste. Refrigerate before serving.

dalca sayur

DALCA SAYUR

Serves 6 to 7

100g yellow lentil
2 medium potatoes, cut into 6 pieces
1 carrot, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp meat curry powder
1 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 cup corn oil
3 small onions, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 inch (2.5cm) ginger, sliced thinly
2 stalks curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
2 star anise
3 cardamom pods
1 tsp mixed halba
300ml coconut milk
salt to taste
1/2 a brinjal, cut into small pieces
1 tomato, cut into 6 pieces
5 long beans, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) lengths

To make

Wash dhal until the water is no longer cloudy. Soak overnight in water, then drain the next morning.

Boil 500ml water. Put in dhal and boil until very soft. Drain and blend it with a little dhal water. Reserve the rest of the dhal water.

Steam potatoes and carrot until half cooked. Keep the steamed water.

In a small bowl, mix meat curry powder and tamarind paste with a cup of water. Set aside.

In a big pot, heat up the corn oil. Stir fry onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and spices until onions are tender. Pour in the curry powder mix and fry until you get pecah minyak (a layer of oil emerges). Add 1 cup of steamed vegetable water and 1 cup of boiled dhal water. Let the mixture reach a boil.

Once boiling, add the blended dhal, coconut milk and salt. Leave it to boil. Then add brinjal, steamed potatoes and carrots. Cook until soft. Lastly add tomatoes and long beans. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

ayam sambal

AYAM SAMBAL

Serves 6 to 7

For marinating
1 whole chicken, cut into 12 pieces
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp salt

For blending
50 dried chillies, cut and boiled
1 big red onion
1/2 tbsp belacan

For cooking
1 cup corn oil
1 tsp asam jawa (tamarind paste) mix in a cup of water
2 tbsp brown sugar or to taste
1 cup chilli sauce (any brand)
salt to taste
1 big red onion, sliced into ring shapes
parsley leaves, for garnishing (optional)

To cook

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Marinate the chicken with turmeric and salt and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Take out and set aside.

Blend all ingredients for blending with some water.

On medium heat, add oil in a large frying pan. Pour in the chilli paste and cook for about 15 minutes or until oil surfaces and the paste is slightly dry. Stir occasionally.

Add the tamarind juice and stir. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the sambal looks thicker. Add the brown sugar, chilli sauce and salt to taste. Cook for 5-10 minutes.

Lastly, add the oven-cooked chicken and the onion rings. Mix well. Let it cook for another 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Remove the chicken from the pan. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve hot.

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