Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pasta alla Puttanesca – Whore’s pasta

Puttanesca come from the Italian word 'puttana' which means ‘whore’, there are a few stories on the origin of this sauce. One story goes to say that due to the limited time and the inconvenience to shop at the markets, people in these 'category of profession' (presumably in Italy )  would cook simple pasta using whatever they can get from the kitchen larder, and therefore the creation of this delicious recipe.

This sauce is very simple to made, and use ingredients that is easily available. I reviewed a few version of the recipes on the Web. I picked up some ideas watching Jamie Oliver on the youtube, which to my dismay was dubbed in German. Once I have an idea of the basic ingredients, I gathered most of the ingredients that were available in the kitchen.

4 tablespoon of Olive Oil
6 cloves of Garlic, sliced
1 Onion, sliced
1 bottle (300g) of Kalamata Olives*
1 bottle (110g) of Capers**
8 pcs of Anchovies
2 Dried Chillies,
2 cans (800g) of Diced Tomatoes
Some Oregano
Sea sal;t and Pepper to taste

*Sandhurst’s Barchetta kalamata
**Sandhurst’s Baby Capers


Heat the olive oil in a pan. Saute the garlics and onions in the oil, control the heat to avoid ‘burning’ the garlics. Put in the rest ingredients in the order above. Slowly adding them to cook without dropping the temperature in the pan too quickly. When all the ingredients are in the pan, let it simmer for 25 mins or so to reduce the sauce to a saucy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While cooking the sauce, you can start boiling the water for the pasta.

The amount of sauce cooked is enough for six servings. Any excess can easily be kept in the bottle for another day’s quick meal.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bebek Betutu – Balinese Roast Duck in Banana Leaf

Back from my holidays, this is my first attempt cooking a traditional Balinese cuisine. We have no idea how it will turn up, but brave enough to invite friends over to dine with us.

When we served it, I was thrilled with the result. The flavour was intense and complex with each of the herbs flavour revealing itself, complementing each other so well, not one overwhelming the other. Honestly, we have never tasted it like this in Bali. I am trying to figure out why it is different – could be the fresh herbs and generous time given in the preparation and cooking, e.g. rubbing the herbs on the duck and the one-hour steaming followed by half an hour baking in the oven. Whatever it is, we have the advantage of ample time and fresh herbs, which is always the constraint or has cost implications for a restaurant.

1 Whole Duck, about 2 kgs
18 Shallots, sliced thinly
6 cloves of Garlic, sliced thinly
1 stalk of Lemongrass, tender inner part of the bottom third only, finely sliced
6 Macadamia or Candlenuts (buah pala), chopped
5 cm Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
7.5 cm Turmeric root, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns, crushed
5 Bird’s-eye Chillies, sliced
1 teaspoon Coriander seeds, crushed
2 teaspoon Dried Shrimp paste, dry roasted and coarsely crushed
1.5 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoon Oil
Banana Leaves, parchment paper or aluminum foil for wrapping
Wipe the duck dry and set aside. Mix all the ingredients above except for the banana leaves in a bowl. Ensure that it is mix well (I use my hand to mix it). Rub the duck inside and outside with the mixture and fill the centre of the duck with the remainder. Close the opening of the duck with satay skewers (I use little cocktail picks). Wrap it in several layers of banana leaves or foil and steam it for 50 minutes. Transfer the duck to the oven to bake at 180 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes.
To serve, remove the duck from the banana leaves and cut into small pieces and serve with the ‘stuffing’.
Tip: Shallots are very expensive here, and 18 needed! I substituted half with onions. Kencur root is unique spice usually used in Balinese cooking. It has the aroma of the camphor. I still have not acquired the flavour. I left it out from the mix - you won’t missed it, unless you are a Balinese.
In Ubud, Bali, some restaurant serve the dish with chicken instead, therefore ‘Siap Betutu’, siap is chicken in Balinese, and betutu is roast or smoked. We had this dish in Bunute Restaurant (photo on the left and below, with my son Aaron). Notice the chicken is too soggy.