Don't Call Me Chef

Published: Saturday December 6, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday December 6, 2014 MYT 12:39:50 PM

Make edible gifts for Christmas

The columnists make presents that are good enough to eat.

It’s no secret Malaysians love to eat more than anything else. So, what better gifts to leave under the Christmas tree than treats to bring a smile and gladden the tummy. A home-made jar of food – lovingly cooked and baked, and beautifully packaged – is way more personal and heartfelt. Edible gifts can also be shared so everyone can partake in your good fortunes, or you can squirrel them away to indulge on your own. But Santa might not bring you presents next Christmas.

Some of the packaging used for these gifts are created by Lee Mei Li. Catch her Craftypedia column tomorrow for instructions on how to make them.

Spread the deliciousness of fruit curds this christmas - quick to make and even quicker to consume.Food Photo shoot for Dont Call me Chef. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star

The Gift Of Passion
By S. Indramalar 

I’ve never found joy in tidying up. But, Ivy has been raving about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up so much that I figured I’d give it a go. I’m a changed person now. Don’t believe me? Ask my husband who, after many years, finally has (almost) as much space as me in our wardrobe.

What’s this got to do with food?

In the course of tidying, I had to part with many things which I had accumulated over the years. A lot of it were collectibles, momentos, etc which I’d either bought while on holiday or were given to me as presents. Presents are tricky – unless you know a person really well and know what they will use, you may end up buying gifts that people never use.

In view of that, I’ve decided to give edible gifts to friends and family. This yearend. everyone is getting fruit curd which can be used as a spread, filling for tarts or to flavour cakes. And they require just a few ingredients, very little time and hardly any cooking.

Though citrus fruits are generally used for making fruit curd, I’ve made a passionfruit curd for this column which is so yummy.

Passionfruit Curd
Makes enough for 2 medium jars

200g passionfruit pulp (from 8-10 fruits)
3 eggs
140g cold butter, diced
¾ cup sugar (more if you like it more sweet and less tart)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. On medium heat, whisk the ingredients together until the butter melts. Lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly to ensure that the eggs don’t curdle. Cook until the mixture is like custard, about 15 minutes. The test that cooks often use is to run a spoon through and if the curd can coat the back of a spoon without dripping off, it’s ready! Keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Salted Dark Chocolate-Covered Honeycomb Candy for Dont Call Me Chef.

Let’s Do The Hokey Pokey – And Eat It, Too
By Melody L. Goh

Everyone is trying to cut down on their sugar and sodium intake these days. It’s actually not that hard to do if you prepare most of your meals at home. However, when the holiday season is around, one tends to make a few exceptions.

For me, one of the things I indulge in during the year-end holidays is candy. I prefer snacking on “Christmas-themed” confections that are specially wrapped for the occasion, but these can sometimes be quite expensive.

Don’t worry, though, because you can always make your own candy and give them out to friends and family as gifts. Try this recipe for honeycomb candy (also known as the hokey pokey, sponge toffee and cinder toffee in some countries).

It’s quite a thrill to make, thanks to the chemical reaction that happens when adding sodium bicarbonate to liquid sugar.

Salted Dark Chocolate-Covered Honeycomb Candy

For the honeycomb
1¼ cups sugar
½ cup honey (or maple syrup)
1 tbsp sodium bicarbonate aka baking soda

For the chocolate
500g dark chocolate
1 tsp flaky salt or coarse sea salt

Melt the sugar and honey (you can add a tablespoon of water if you want, but it isn’t necessary) in a medium to large pot. Don’t use a small pot or pan because the “candy” will more or less quadruple in size later on.

Once the sugar has dissolved, put the heat on low and stop stirring it. Keep on boiling the mixture until it turns golden amber or it reaches 150℃ on your sugar thermometer. I prefer to do the “drop test” – dip a spoon into the mixture and place a drop of sugar liquid into cold water. That drop of liquid needs to be hard a few seconds after it touches the cold water. If it’s still soft, keep boiling on low heat.

When your sugar syrup is at the correct stage, take it off the heat and quickly add the baking soda and stir or whisk. The mixture will puff up immediately so be sure to have your prepared tray or tin close by (you can line the tray with lightly greased baking sheet or use a silicone mat, which is much easier).

While the honeycomb cools down, melt your dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl that’s placed over a bain marie.

Break the honeycomb into smaller pieces and dip each one into the melted chocolate. It is better to coat the candy in chocolate because this will help keep the crunchy texture of the honeycomb.

* This recipe yields a very big batch of honeycomb candy that’s enough to fill three medium-sized containers.

Sweet and Savoury Spiced Nuts

Easy Like Kacang Putih
By Jane F. Ragavan

Very few people will say no to a nut – I know I can’t. I start eating them one nut at a time, and halfway through the bag, I find myself shoving down handfuls.

Nuts are traditional snacks around Christmas. You can find them in mixed bags, but it is less expensive to get a variety of raw nuts that you like and make up your own combination. In the recipe, I’ve used cashews, whole unskinned almonds and skinned peanuts.

Spiced nuts are quick to make. There’s probably only one thing to remember about roasting nuts, and that’s to not let them burn. Suggestions for other spice blends are included in the recipe section.

Sweet And Savoury Spiced Nuts
Makes 2 cups

250g mixed untoasted, unsalted nuts
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
¾-1 tsp hot chilli powder (or cayenne pepper)
1 tbsp palm sugar syrup (or honey)
1–2 tsp light soy sauce
Coarse salt to taste

Place the nuts on a baking tray and roast in a 180℃ oven for 10 minutes, shaking the tray occasionally for even toasting.

In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, chilli powder, syrup and soy sauce.

Add the warm nuts and toss to coat well. Spread the mixture back on the baking tray and return to the oven, occasionally stirring the nuts and scraping the tray with a metal spatula as the coating will start to become gooey and stick to the tray. Cook until the coating is crisp. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and cool completely in the tray. Separate the nuts and store in an air-tight container. Eat as a snack or toss them in salads.

Lemon and rosemary flavoured salt to add aroma and flavour to your dishes.

Worth Your Salt
By Ivy Soon

I snack on sour rather than sweet titbits, and was always more into savoury than sweet. For Christmas, I am more excited about roasts and main dishes rather than desserts.

So, for my Christmas gifts this year, I am giving away flavoured salts. I like that they are fanciful and will elevate the dish you sprinkle them on. You can use them as finishing salts; just leave them on the table to sprinkle on the food you are serving.

It’s fun to make a variety of flavoured salts for different dishes, such as lemon and rosemary salt for lamb chops and roast chicken, or kaffir lime salt for Thai fried rice and Pad Thai, or sun-dried tomato salt for pasta and pizza, or Sichuan pepper salt for French fries and omelette.

They are also really easy to make. Just add a tablespoon or so of the flavour of your choice to 1/2 cup of sea salt. Some ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes and Sichuan peppers need to be dried in the oven on low heat, and then combined with the salt. Then, pulse in the food processor.

Lemon And Rosemary Salt
Makes ½ cup

Zest from 1 lemon
2 stalks of rosemary, cut finely
½ cup coarse sea salt

Combine all the ingredients, and dry in the oven at 50℃ for 15 minutes. Pulse in the food processor.

Tags / Keywords: edible gifts, food, nuts, curd, honeycomb candy, flavoured salt

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Edible gifts for Christmas: (from left) Passionfruit Curd; Salted Dark Chocolate-Covered Honeycomb Candy; Sweet and Savoury Spiced Nuts; and Lemon and Rosemary Salt. — Photos by RAYMOND OOI/The Star

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