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On Food and Being Foreign and a Chance to Win “Mastering the Art of French Eating”

October 28, 2013

MasteringArtFrenchEating1

Food is universal. And whether in Beijing or in Paris, food writer and book author Ann Mah shows us that food can forge connections and food can be a lifeline.

Ann’s debut novel Kitchen Chinese was loosely based on her time in Beijing. Now, her new memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris (Pamela Dorman Books, September 2013) reflects her experiences living in the city of her (and many a Francophile’s) dreams, Paris.

The wife of a U.S. diplomat, Ann’s dream comes true when her husband lands a plum posting in Paris. Unfortunately, her dream is put on hold when her husband is sent to Iraq for a year and she has to fend for herself in a new country with nary a support system in place.

Living in a foreign country is never easy. When Ann lived in China, she found herself under scrutiny because she looked like everyone else but she identified with being American. In France, she grapples with the language, deals with the awkwardness of adapting to local customs, faces the challenge of meeting new people, and above all she nurses her longing for her husband.

Not one to wallow in her loneliness (at least not for too long!), Ann devises a plan to distract herself and so begins her investigation into the history and origins behind French favorites like steak frites, cassoulet and boeuf Bourgignon. Through her travels to regions all over the country–Brittany, Alsace, Savoie, etc.–Ann slowly overcomes these hurdles as she meets fascinating people and learns to make herself at home in her adopted country.

Just like its title, Ann’s book is chock full of lessons about food and love. Plus, the stories she regales us with—whether she’s making soupe au pistou with a group of gossipy, middle-aged women or learning the process behind the true cheese used in traditional French fondue (hint: it’s not Gruyère!)—are a delight for both the avid, and the armchair, traveler.

I’ve asked Ann to share some thoughts about her lovely book and her publisher Viking/Penguin is graciously giving away a copy. All you have to do is leave a comment about a favorite regional dish you’ve had while traveling (in another country, in another state, doesn’t matter!) and I’ll randomly pick a winner!

~~~

Ann Mah KGL

Pat: Your feelings of being apart from your husband really resonated with me and this beautiful book came about because of that separation. Loneliness often pushes us to do things we wouldn’t  otherwise think of doing if we were in a comfortable place. Do you think it would have happened if he hadn’t gone to Iraq? If you had a choice, would you do it all over again?

Ann: This book grew out of the year I spent alone in Paris and I don’t think it would have happened if my husband hadn’t gone to Iraq. So, yes, there was a major silver lining to the experience. That being said, as much as I loved writing and researching this book, I wouldn’t choose to be separated from my husband again, especially now that we have a baby daughter.

Pat: You lived in Beijing and then in Paris. Would you say there were similarities in your experiences in the two countries although they are wildly different?

Ann: I think there were more similarities than differences — I loved exploring the regional cuisines of both places — and I noticed that both are quite fond of tripe! In both China and France, I was very grateful to be able to speak the language.

Pat: History and culture are clearly important to you as is evidenced in your book. Each dish in each chapter is painstakingly researched. How did you go about it? How did you find all your subjects to talk to and interview?

Ann: My favorite thing about traveling in France is discovering the connection between place, culture, history and food. I love the way a recipe can grow from the land and be cooked for centuries. I was able to connect with local chefs, home cooks, bean farmers (and more!) via friends and acquaintances — and also via my secret weapon, the local tourist office. French people are very proud of their region (justifiably so!) and eager to share what makes it special.

Pat: You speak Mandarin and then you picked up French quite quickly before you headed to Paris. What was it like learning a new language as an adult? Did knowing the language help with adapting to the local culture and making friends?

Ann: I always wanted to speak French so studying it was a labor of love. I think that’s half the battle in learning to speak a new language. My ability to speak French was invaluable in meeting people and discovering the local cuisine, especially in rural France where very few people speak English.

Pat: You write about all the different dishes with equal passion (even andouillette which you professed not to like). Did you have a favorite?

Ann: I love all the dishes in the book (even andouillette, which I love in theory, if not in taste). My favorite dishes in the book are the ones that were made for me by home cooks — crêpes in Brittany, soupe au Pistou in Provence, and choucroute garnie in Alsace. Granny’s version is always the best, of course!

Pat: What’s it like to be a diplomat’s wife … really?

Ann: I don’t know any other type of marriage, but I suspect being a diplomat’s wife is like being anyone’s spouse — there are ups and downs and lots of compromise. And the added bonus: lots of adventure — and an intimate familiarity with moving boxes and packing tape!

~~~

Don’t forget to leave a comment about a favorite regional dish you had while traveling for a chance to win a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating! Last day to enter: Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

(This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada)

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of Ann’s book to review but I am writing about it because I truly love it!

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Asian Meatballs with Sweet and Spicy Tamarind Sauce

October 16, 2013
Can you tell that these meatballs are made from tofu and pork? Neither can your family and guests!

Can you tell that these meatballs are made from tofu and pork? I didn’t think so, and neither will your family and guests!

I’ve been on a meatball kick lately, which is a little strange since I’m not a huge meat-eater. Maybe it’s the cooler weather. Maybe it’s all the spaghetti and meatball recipes I keep seeing. Who knows?

That being said, I didn’t want my meatballs to be too stodgy so I decided to lighten them up.

Scouring the Web and my cookbooks, I found suggestions for using extra fillers (breadcrumbs, oats, rice), adding beans, hiding veggies in the meatballs, etc. Then it came to me: why not add tofu just like the Japanese hamburger recipe in my cookbook (pg. 153).

After experimenting with ingredients and proportions, I first tossed the resulting meatballs into my favorite tomato sauce with spaghetti. My husband and son gobbled dinner up none the wiser!

About a year ago, my friend Jill O’Oconnor interviewed me for an article she wrote for the San Diego Union Tribune about Asian ingredients. We had talked about various ways to use Asian ingredients in very American recipes and she developed a recipe for Asian Turkey Meatballs with Honey-Tamarind-Chili BBQ Sauce.

Inspired by Jill, I decided to tweak her sauce and came up with my own sweet, sour, and spicy version.

~~~

Asian Meatballs with Sweet and Spicy Tamarind Sauce

1meatball

These half-tofu-half-pork meatballs are awesome as party appetizers. I’d make several batches because they will go fast, especially when chased with a cocktail or beer. They’re that good. And your guests will never know they’re made with–gasp–tofu!

Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 30 1-inch meatballs

7 ounces firm or medium-firm tofu
1 pound 4 ounces ground pork, turkey, or beef (not super-lean please!)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons chopped green onions (1 stalk)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the tofu in a non-terry dish towel or sturdy paper towel. Over the sink, wring out as much excess liquid as possible. Do this a few times until the tofu is dry and crumbly.

In a medium bowl, combine the tofu, ground pork, soy sauce, green onions, cilantro, sea salt, black pepper, and mix until smooth. Hint: use your hands! I like to microwave a little of the mixture and taste it to see if it needs any more seasoning.

Roll into 1-inch balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets about an inch apart.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the meatballs are golden and cooked through. Toss cooked meatballs with warm sauce and serve.

 

Sweet and Spicy Tamarind Sauce

Makes about 3/4 cup of sauce

1/3 cup wet tamarind (about 3 ounces)
3/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (About 1-inch chunk ginger, peeled and grated)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons sambal oelek (chili paste)

In a medium saucepan, combine the tamarind paste with water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and stir until the paste softens into a thick puree. Add the ginger, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, and chili paste. Keep stirring to prevent the sauce from burning or sticking, until the sauce becomes thick and sticky, about 10 minutes. Press this mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl or deep dish to remove any solids. Gently toss the cooked meatballs in the warm sauce.

This sauce can also be made a few days ahead of serving and reheated when needed.

~~~

Memories and a Mango Salad

September 3, 2013

When my husband was deployed for one year last year, he was entitled to a two-week R&R (rest and relaxation) trip which meant the military would fly him anywhere in the world. Many choose to go home but we decided to entrust Isaac to the grandparents and rendezvous in Vietnam.

My trip from Seattle took about 17 hours. His, two days. But that’s beside the point.

Hoi_An lanterns

A kaleidascope of lanterns brighten up the inky darkness at a Hoi An night market.

Because this is meant to be a brief post–we are moving yet again, but at least it’s only across town this time!—I’ll get to the point. One of my favorite experiences on that trip was a cooking class at the Morning Glory Cooking School  in the picturesque town of Hoi An along the central Vietnam coast. I wrote about it here.

And this gorgeous mango salad is testimony to it. Every time, I make it–and it’s quite often–I think of the blissful (and childless) two weeks my husband and I spent in Vietnam, lovers without a care in the world, taking comfort in each other and in the moment that was now.

~~~

Hoi An Mango Salad

Adapted from The Morning Glory Cookbook by Trinh Diem Vy

mango_salad2

The key to this vibrant salad is selecting a mango in the right stage of under-ripeness—you want mango slices that are slightly tart and still have some crunch (I don’t like them too sour though). Don’t focus on color as it’s not the best indicator of ripeness. Squeeze the mango gently and it should give ever so slightly but not too much. If it’s too squishy, the mango will be too sweet and mushy, and is better eaten out of hand. The breed of mango doesn’t matter as much–Ataulfo, Tommy Atkins, Kent, any of these will do.

Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 appetizer servings

1 medium (about 13 ounces) underripe mango
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 small clove garlic
2 teaspoons sugar (palm or white are fine)
2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lime juice (1 key lime)
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 small onion, sliced and soaked in water to remove its bite (about 1 cup)
1 ½ cups Vietnamese mint (rau ram or laksa leaf) and mint leaves
2 tablespoons fried shallots

Peel the mango with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Hold the mango firmly down on the chopping board (or in one hand if you are comfortable) and use a paring knife to make vertical incisions down the mango from stem-end to tip, about half-an-inch apart. Do this on both sides of the seed.

With the vegetable peeler (or the nifty knife below), “peel” strips of mango away from you.

mango_mosaic

In a mortar and pestle, grind the chili paste and garlic together. Place the chili-garlic paste in a large bowl and add the sugar, 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds, vegetable oil, lime juice, and fish sauce. Mix well.

Add the shredded mango, onion, half the mint leaves and toss until the ingredients are well coated with dressing.

Turn onto a serving tray and garnish with remaining mint leaves, sesame seeds and fried shallots.

~~~

5 Tips for Tasty Vegetables and an Umami-Laden Green Bean Recipe

August 8, 2013
Chase William Merritt Still Life with Vegetable

Vegetables were popular with 17th c. Baroque painters but alas, have yet to win over many kid-fans today  (Chase William Merritt, “Still Life with Vegetable”)

My earliest memory of eating vegetables involves my mother chasing me around the living room balancing a plateful of stir-fried spinach and rice in one hand, and desperately trying to shove dinner spoonful-by-spoonful past my uncooperative lips with the other.

I must admit I’ve come a long way since then. In fact, I even consider myself a flexitarian, preferring a larger portion of vegetables to meat (which, by the way, is the Asian way).

I’ve come to love previously abhorred greens such as ladies finger (okra), mustard cabbage, and choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage). Even spinach, my childhood nemesis, tastes sweet on my adult tongue!

The trick, I’ve learned, is to select the freshest specimens you can find, and to cook the vegetables well. This means no wilty leaves, or brown, mushy spots on your bok choy. And heaven forbid you should overcook your broccoli! These tactics are even more important now that I have a child. As many a parent has come to realize, little people are the most persnickety of vegetable eaters.

I have some tips to offer any mom or spouse with a veggie-cynic on their hands, none of which involve hiding zucchini or Brussels sprouts (a technique I don’t quite approve of). However, I don’t disapprove of embellishing with ingredients that will make vegetables more palatable for naysayers big and small.

1. Roasting can make even the most banal of vegetables as addictive as candy (just think of the roasted kale chips craze). Roasting turns kale, cauliflower, broccoli crisp and crunchy and concentrates their sweetness through caramelization.

2. Pickling vegetables is another great way to get them to slide easily down your child’s throat. My son devours pickled cucumbers and carrots by the bushel.

3. Experiment with umami-laden ingredients like oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, anchovies, and pickled veggies to amp up the flavor in a salad or stirfry. (My recipe below uses both soy sauce and pickled radish). And trust me, sambal terasi/belacan (shrimp paste and chilies) can transform ho-hum spinach into yum-yum!

salted radish

It comes in a big bag but preserved radish adds such a wonderful flavor and crunch. You’ll use it up in no time in pad Thai, omelets and numerous stirfries! Find it at Asian markets.

4. Toss vegetables like cauliflower, eggplant, okra into curry and they will soak up all that tasty goodness.

5. If all else fails, add bacon.

6. Oh, and here’s one more suggestion: buy Joe Yonan’s latest book, titled coincidentally, Eat Your Vegetables.

What’s your secret trick or dish that has been known to win over the most hardened of vegetable-haters? Please share below!

~~~

Haricots Verts with Preserved Radish

green beans with radish

Haricots verts and preserved radish are an unlikely combination but this dish is a hit with both my 3-year-old son and husband. Read: there are never any leftovers! I adapted this recipe from Steamy Kitchen’s green bean stir-fry recipe. On a whim, I used haricots verts, also called filet beans, the green bean’s slender French cousin (crikey, even their veggies are skinnier!). These beans are very tender and “beanier” in flavor when young but can turn tough if allowed to mature.

As for the preserved radish, you can buy either the sweet or salted kind at the Asian market—it will say on the bag. It doesn’t make too much of a difference as both are preserved with salt and sugar. I know it’s a big bag but you’ll use it up in no time in pad Thai, omelets and numerous stirfries! If you can’t find preserved salted radish, use more garlic or add some chopped shallots.

Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse, family meal

1 pound haricots verts, trimmed
1/8 cup preserved salted radish
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon sugar

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the haricots verts and parboil until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. (You can also microwave (3 to 4 minutes) or steam them for the same amount of time.) Don’t overcook as you will be stirfrying them later. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water.

While the beans are cooking, soak the preserved radish in a small bowl of water for a couple of minutes to get the excess salt off. Squeeze them dry then mince.

Swirl the oil into a large wok or skillet and heat over high heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the preserved radish and garlic and stir and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss in the cooked haricots verts and drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil. Sprinkle the sugar and stir and cook until the beans are coated with sauce and heated through. Serve immediately with hot cooked rice and/or a main dish.

~~~

This post is part of the monthly Let’s Lunch Twitter blogger potluck. This  month, we celebrate the launch of Washington Post food and travel editor, and fellow Let’s Luncher, Joe Yonan’s latest cookbook, Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook (Ten Speed Press, August 6, 20123). 

EatYourVegetablescover (1)

For more Let’s Lunch veggie-centric posts, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit my fellow bloggers below: 

Annabelle‘s Farmer’s Market Gazpacho at Glass of Fancy

Cheryl‘s Egg-Drop Broccoli with Ginger-Miso Gravy at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Eleanor‘s Green Beans Two Ways at Wok Star

Grace‘s Vegetable Tempura at HapaMama

Jill‘s Fusilli with Corn Sauce at Eating My Words 

Joe‘s Guaca-Chi at Joe Yonan

Linda‘s Chocolate-Zucchini Twinkies at Free Range Cookies

Linda‘s Gateway Brussels Sprouts at Spicebox Travels

Lisa‘s Totally “Free” Veggie Soup at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Vivian‘s Kangkong (Water Spinach) with Fermented Beancurd, Chili and Garlic at Vivian Pei

~~~

What’s your secret trick or dish that has been known to win over the most hardened of vegetable-haters?

Cold Chocolate and Coffee Rice Pudding (Champorado) and a Cookbook Giveaway

July 18, 2013
chocolate on top

Breaking up the chocolate bar was easy. Before unwrapping, I just broke it apart with my fingers. No mess!

You might think me crazy for craving rice pudding in the middle of summer. But this past week or two, we’ve had a deluge of thunderstorms here in northern Virginia.

And we all know there’s nothing more comforting than curling up on the couch with a rich, creamy bowl of rice pudding as you listen to the pitter patter of raindrops and spy the occasional flash of lightning above the rooftops. Especially when it’s chocolate rice pudding!

Now rice pudding recipes are as common as golden poppies carpeting a California hillside, but I was delighted to find Marvin Gapultos’s Filipino champorado (Chocolate and Coffee Rice Pudding) in his new cookbook, “The Adobo Road Cookbook–A Filipino Food Journey–From Food Blog, To Food Truck, And Beyond” (Tuttle Books, May 2013). If you didn’t know already, Marvin is the voice behind the very entertaining  Burnt Lumpia blog. And if you haven’t visited his blog, you should!

Marvin's new cookbook is an exciting treasure trove of both classic and modern Filipino recipes.

Marvin’s new cookbook is an exciting treasure trove of both classic and modern Filipino recipes.

More mocha than chocolate since it contains coffee, this rice pudding uses a particular type of rice called “malagkit,” the Tagalog name for long grain glutinous rice. My last encounter with malagkit was when I was making suman with Gloria for my cookbook.

While I was making the champorado, I imagined Gloria standing next to me in the kitchen reminding me to constantly stir the rice. “C’mon, Pat, keep stirring.” I have to admit, without Gloria at my side, I was a delinquent student and only picked up the spoon maybe once every 10 to 15 minutes. Thankfully, the rice didn’t burn and meld to the bottom of the pot (well, at least very little did!).

You are probably thinking, “I’m not going to make rice pudding in summer.” Oh, but you should.

I don’t have a problem eating hot foods in summer–I grew up eating steaming noodles and hot dessert soups in 100 degree F weather. However, as Marvin mentions, you can refrigerate the rice pudding for a few hours and eat it cold. And when the rice pudding gets cold and thickens up a little, you can do fancy things with it.

Et voilà!

cold rice pudding3

Cold rice pudding is a nice change from same ole same ole mousse or panacotta. Add some fresh summer berries and you have dessert for your next dinner party.

Aside from giving you Marvin’s awesome champorado recipe, I’m also giving you a chance to win Marvin’s cookbook. Tuttle Books has generously donated 3 copies of “The Adobo Road Cookbook” so please leave me a comment telling me how you like your rice pudding and any special touches you add. Or just say, “hi!” 

The giveaway ends Friday, July 26, 2013. (Sorry, we can only mail the book to U.S. addresses.)

~~~

Chocolate and Coffee Rice Pudding (Champorado)

chocolate rice pudding5

Marvin writes in his book that Filipinos eat champorado for breakfast, and accompanied with dried salted fish. Being the modern Pinoy that he is, Marvin adds his own twist to with bacon. I, on the other hand, chose to eat it plain. Sorry, Marvin, couldn’t do it! Know that this recipe is so simple and so adaptable. If you prefer to eat rice pudding for an afternoon snack or dessert after dinner, then use decaf coffee. Or leave it out entirely (substitute with water) if you’d like to feed it to your kids. If you don’t have malagkit, use Japanese sweet rice (short grain glutinous rice) or any short grain rice like Japanese sushi rice. Even Arborio will do. You can also vary the type of chocolate. I used a bar of bittersweet chocolate instead of semisweet chocolate chips.

Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

3/4 cup (150 grams) malagkit
3 cups (750 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) strongly brewed coffee
1/3 cup (75 grams) sugar
Pinch of salt
1 (6 ounce) bar bittersweet chocolate, crushed, or 1/3 cup (250 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (optional)

Combine the rice, milk, coffee, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over high heat. While stirring frequently, bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the mixture thickens, 30 to 40 minutes. (Be the better cook and stir more often than I did!).

Remove the rice mixture from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until they are melted and thoroughly incorporated into the rice. Stir in the coffee liqueur if using.

Spoon the pudding into individual bowls and serve warm. Or cover and chill till cold and serve with fresh berries.

Notes: If you’d like to garnish your rice pudding with bacon, cook a couple of slices till crisp, in a pan or in the oven (my preferred method—no splatter). Crumble and sprinkle over your champorado.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win one of three copies of “The Adobo Road Cookbook!”

~~~

Full disclosure: I tested recipes for Marvin and my lovely quote also appears on the cover of his cookbook. Plus, I received a free copy. However, I am writing this post because I think it’s a great cookbook and you should buy it!

Black Sesame Soba Noodles

July 15, 2013

soba

Soba, made from buckwheat flour, is prettily packed in bundles about 8 to a package. Note that many sobas are also made with wheat flour so it isn’t a gluten-free food.  Juwari, the finest–and usually most expensive–soba is made entirely of buckwheat, but please please read the labels especially if you are allergic or intolerant to wheat!

Black Sesame Soba Noodles

{Adapted from 101cookbooks.com}

black sesame noodles3

This is turning out to be my go-to recipe for a simple summer lunch. It’s done in 15 minutes, even less if you make the sesame paste ahead and refrigerate. Top the noodles with whatever you have on hand—poached chicken, pan-fried tofu, pickles, your options are only limited to what you have in your fridge!

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup toasted black sesame seeds
2-1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-1/2 teaspoon mirin or dry sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of chili pepper flakes or cayenne
12 ounces soba (3 bundles)
1 small cucumber, shredded
1 small carrot, shredded

Grind the sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle, or in a small food processor, until it resembles coarse black sand.

Stir in the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, sugar, and chili flakes and mix until a smooth paste forms. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Cook the soba according to package directions, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Rinse the noodles with cold water and drain.

Thin the sesame paste with the cooking water and toss with the noodles. Garnish with cucumber and carrot and slurp up! This dish is tasty eaten at room temperature or chilled first.

~~~

Munchie Mania: Sausage Rolls

July 11, 2013

When I was a little girl, I was quite the snacker (who am I kidding, I’m still a snacker!). Although potato chips and Planters Cheez Curls were readily available, I went for more “local” snack items like Chickadees and Twisties, or perhaps chili-coated tapioca crisps.

As a tween, I realized I required heftier munchies to sustain me throughout the day and that’s when I turned to curry puffs, fried fishballs on a stick, and my all-time favorite, sausage rolls.

one missing

Sausage rolls may sound like a strange snack to grow up eating in Singapore but it’s no doubt a colonial legacy. In fact, when we lived in England for a couple of years, sausage rolls and Devon cream teas were both staples in my diet, much to the detriment of my waistline. Sausage rolls used to be sold at just about every school canteen and roadside snack bar. Sadly, on a recent trip to Singapore I couldn’t spot them anywhere.

A few years ago, I picked up the “Singapore Heritage Food” cookbook and was excited to find a recipe for sausage rolls in there. However, the resulting product was not up to par with my taste memory—or perhaps nostalgia just made it murky.

Thankfully, my mother came to my rescue. Mum is good like that. Since we’ve moved to the U.S., she’s managed to recreate just about every childhood favorite (I’m talking about dishes that we used to go out to eat) from mee siam to chili crab. And every dish has been just as tasty, or even tastier.

One day, after I lamented about the disappointing sausage roll recipe, she decided to experiment and came up with a winner. Unlike the many sausage roll recipes I’ve seen, she uses nutmeg (it’s an Indonesian-Dutch thing) and lots of sugar to satisfy our Javanese taste buds I assume. Plus, she cuts them into smaller two-bite pieces so one is less likely to overindulge, a sensible precaution since it’s hard to stop at one. You have been warned, they are mighty greasy!

I don’t recall what my childhood sausage rolls taste like anymore. Nor does it matter as Mum’s version makes my family and I very happy–perfect for whenever we have an attack of the munchies. Amazing how fickle those taste buds can be!

~~~

Mum’s Sausage Rolls

close up

Pork and puff pastry—I can’t imagine a more sublime marriage. My mum uses the Pepperidge Farm brand of frozen puff pastry but for some reason puff pastry isn’t always stocked at the neighborhood grocery store. I ended up buying Dufour brand at Whole Foods and that set me back a pretty penny–$10 for 14 ounces! Granted it’s made with real butter but still … That’s definitely an incentive to make my own puff pastry next time. If you have a good recipe let me know.

Makes: 20 pieces
Time: 20 minutes, plus cooking time

2 slices white or whole wheat bread, torn into small pieces
1/3 cup (2 percent or whole) milk
1 pound ground pork or chicken
3 to 4 teaspoons sugar (my family likes it sweet so add less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white or black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I use freshly grated, and feel free to substitute with a different spice, say sage)
1 (14 to 17 ounce) package puff pastry, thawed completely
Flour, for dusting
1 egg, lightly beaten, and diluted with a tablespoon or two water
Black or white sesame seeds for sprinkling, optional

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Soak the bread in the milk. Combine the ground pork with the sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and unfold the puff pastry, rolling out if necessary. Cut into half to form two rectangles measuring 8 x 24-inches.

Add the soaked bread to the pork mixture and mix with your hands.

Divide the pork mixture into half and shape a mound of meat (like a mountain range) along the horizontal of each puff pastry rectangle, leaving an inch or so on either side.

meat on dough

Brush the long edges of each rectangle with the egg, then fold the sides up and pinch together to seal.

wrapping dough

Turn the rolls over so that the seams are on the bottom. Brush generously with the egg, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Cut crosswise into 1-1/2 inch pieces.

sprinkle sesame seeds

Arrange the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

cut into pieces

Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 more minutes, or until golden brown. (If using a different brand, adjust temperature and time according to package directions.) Remove to a cooling rack and leave to rest for a few minutes but devour while still warm!

Note: You can freeze the sausage rolls to keep them fresh for a later date. Just reheat them in an oven at 325 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes or in a toaster oven. I find this a good strategy as gobbling too many too quickly (and you will!) may be hazardous for your health.

~~~

This post is part of the monthly Let’s Lunch Twitter blogger potluck. This  month we pay tribute to “The Marijuana Chronicles,” an anthology that  features Cheryl Tan’s short story. For more Let’s Lunch “Munchies” posts, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit my fellow bloggers below:

Annabelle‘s Scallion Pancakes at Glass of Fancy

Anne Marie‘s Pepper-Stuffed Tater Tot, Fried Pickle, Cheese Whiz and Garlic Bread Burger at Sandwich Surprise

Cheryl‘s Spam Fries with Key Lime Mayo at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Emma‘s Homemade Pizza Rolls at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

Grace‘s Fry Sauce, with an Asian Twist at HapaMama

Linda‘s Sam Sifton’s Trinidadian Chinese Five Spice Chicken at Spice Box Travels

Lisa‘s No-Time-To-Wait Nachos at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Vivian‘s Spam Bacon & Kim Chi Sandwich at Vivian Pei

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