Sunday, 11 September 2011

Meat Balls in Three Lemony Leaves Sauce

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 7 

This is the first post for cooked on the stove dishes. All the previous posts are desserts, cookies, macarons... those baked sort of things. In this page you'll find not just recipe for the meatballs, but some instruction of how to cook rice for you who don't have a rice cooker. Other than rice, this dish can be served also with almost any kind of starch: bread, flat breads (naan, roti, paratha, pita, tortilla), kuskus, etc.

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 1 

I like the flavor combination of lemongrass, kaffir-lime leaves, and lemon basil, and frequently cook using those leaves. The three lemony leaves...

Most of you might not familiar with these three tropical herbs, but I believe you would love them. I always have some supply of lemongrass and kaffir-lime leaves in my freezer, together with all those chillies, salam leaves, sliced ginger, galangal and turmeric. Yes, I am a freezer-freak, eehh.. maybe even a little bit obsessed on it. Well, I am that kind of shop-once-in-a-week person, so I always try to find the best way to keep my vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices as fresh as possible at least for a week without loosing its flavor.  My freezer is not only for frozen fish, meat or chicken, but for spices and herbs, and fruits also. Of course, not everything can be kept inside the freezer without damaging its texture, flavor or aroma. Lemon basil for instance. Just like sweet basil, we can't freeze it. The best way to have lemon basil in stock is to have it in a pot and water it daily. Yes, plant and take a good care of it. Fortunately, it's quite simple and easy to grow anyway.

Those three lemony leaves are quite often used in asian cookings, especially in South and South East Asia. You might be familiar with Tom Yam Soup from Thailand... so you probably already know lemon grass and kaffir-lime leaves flavors. But lemon basil?

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 6

Lemon grass
Here is the link to wikipedia for this aromatic grass. You can see that it can be used for so many good purposes, not only for cooking. Personally, this is one of my favorite herbs. I like the aroma and the flavor, and use it a lot in my cooking. Sometimes, I make lemongrass syrup or simply infuse it in my hot tea. Simple, refreshing yet calming at the end of a hard busy day.

To make lemongrass syrup, simply boil one liter of water, 1.5 kg of sugar, and a big bunch of lemongrass (slice thinly or smash them using a hammer or a pestle on a cutting board to help releasing the flavor). After boiling, reduce the flame and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain and keep in a clean bottle in refrigerator.

Kaffir-lime
The ugliest lime in the world. Ok, first the wiki link, if you are interested to know about this particular plant. For cooking we use the leaves, the lime juice, and the lime rind. The leaves and the lime rind have the same aroma, so they substitute one to the other. If using frozen leaves, add more leaves to the recipe because the flavor is less strong than the fresh one.

Lemon basil
Lemon basil looks similar to sweet basil, but has quite different aroma and flavor that cannot be substitute with sweet basil or other basil leaves. It's kemangi in Indonesian language. I did try cooking this Meat Balls in Three Lemony Leaves Sauce with sweet basil and it was ok, but sweet basil gives a different perspective to this dish. Personally, I prefer using lemon basil that would give a perfect combination with the other two lemony leaves. When I smelled lemon verbena in France for the first time, the aroma immediately reminded me of this lemon basil. Exactly the same aroma! I wonder if we could substitute lemon basil with lemon verbena. Well, I have never tried it.

So, for this recipe, those three lemony leaves play a significant role to flavor the dish. Without one, then the dish would taste totally different. It could be ok, but you will miss the fun of having those lemony flavors coloring your day in nice calming pastel colors (uh, forgive me, I am starting to imagining things...). Anyway, you can substitute the minced beef meat balls with any other meat such as lamb, chicken, beef (cut in slices or cubes), or even shrimp and fish. They would turn out nice and delicious.

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 5

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons

One of my friends... well, one of my good friends, brought me from France a bottle of pate de pistache. "For your macarons" she said. She used to be one of my victims to eat those failed and not-that-good macarons I made on my first attempts several years ago. We used to work for the same organisation, and after she ended her mission in Indonesia she came to visit several times and each time she gave me something for my cooking. This time, it's a bottle of pure organic pistachio paste. 

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio macarons. I have been dreaming of make one ever since I can make macarons without having problems. I like pistachio nuts, but they're so expensive in this country. Around 50-60 dollars a kilo. I dreamed to make pistachio macarons that so pistachio-y having pistachios in both the shells and the filling. With that expensive price, it means I have to drop this idea. So, when Jo told me that she had pistachio paste for me, I was so happy. Thank you so much Jo, you made one of my dreams came true. All I need to do is buying a small amount of those expensive pistachios for the shells. Since it's only a small amount, it's not that expensive.

Pistachio Macarons

If you follow all my macarons journey from the first post, you will notice that I am trying to reduce the sweetness of the macarons shell, by little by little add the ratios of almond/nut to the powdered sugar or reduce the caster sugar. This time, with 130 grams of nuts and 185 grams of  powdered sugar, it's definitely less sweet. For my next batch of macarons, I will experiment more on reducing the sweetness to see how far I can go with it. Off course I also have to balance the flavor and the sweetness. Psychologically, some certain flavors already have their own "sweetness" (even though there's no sweetness in it) that would enhance the "sweet" experience in your taste buds. It's related to how our brain works... it relates a certain flavor with a certain taste. Besides, fruits already have sugar in it, so the amount of sugar in a recipe should be reduced. .. etc., etc. For many, the macarons are still way too sweet, especially the Asian people.

I made the pistachio filling using swiss meringue butter cream as the base. I managed to have a perfect sweetness. It's not so difficult to reduce the filling's sweetness (unlike the shells) since it's not that temperamental. So we can play reducing or adding sugar or flavor much more freely. The egg white in swiss meringue butter cream would make it lighter compared to the pure butter cream one, and that's why I like it a lot. Less sweet and lighter.

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons