Lesson 1.3 How to make vegetable stock

In case any one of you are wondering about the previous entry on Amour doux, that is actually a post that I need to submit for a contest on Project Food Blog. I’m not entering to win but I find the challenge really challenging and so I participated. Well, you could of course vote for me if you find that I am good enough. In any case, I would be trying out the challenge whether or not I am moving on to the next stage. =)

For today, the lesson from my MS textbook is on how to make vegetable stock. For this recipe that is to follow, the vegetables are lightly browned to give the stock intense flavour. This is helpful especially since there is no base of flavour provided by meat as compared to the previous two kinds of stock.

I basically use celery, carrots, corainder (because I love it), onions and garlic for the stock and of course, how could we do without oil, pepper and some salt?

The 3 steps are basically browning the vegetables, making the stock and then straining it.

Browning the vegetables.
Heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring often until they begin to brown. Add celery, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir occasionally until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Making the stock. Pour in enough water to cover vegetables by 1 inch ( for me, 2 inches). Add the herbs (corainder) and the remaining onion. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook (uncover) for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Straining the stock. Pour stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl. pressing on vegetables to extract as much flavourful liquid as possible. Discard solids. If not using immediately, cool in an ice-water bath before transferring to airtight containers. Vegetable stock can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months; thaw completely before using (Martha Stewart’s Cooking School).

Let’s just see how I would use my vegetable stock next. Hmmm….

Amour doux (Project Food Blog entry #1)

Amour doux. Sweet love.

It all begins with love – a love for that special someone, the kind of love that will compel you to go the extra mile, despite the troubles. 

My mom showed me that kind of love, right from the kitchen. Nope, she’s not a housewife; she helped out in my father’s business. Despite her busyness, she dutifully prepared the basic 3-course Cantonese meals, without fail. I remember the Chinese lunchbox which she would bring to school when I had extra lessons during that crucial year in elementary school. All my classmates had canteen food; I had home-cooked food and the envy of both my classmates and teachers. Mom didn’t believe in splurging us with gifts because such practices would turn us into spolit-brats. However, she indulged in giving us the best in the meals she prepared and even though she’s such a proficient cook, she would survey our facial expression for feedback in her culinary arts.

As I get older, I came to appreciate all that she has done and understand why she would stand in the kitchen for hours, toiling in the heat. It’s all because of love. Today, I cook and bake to see that kind of smile on my husband’s face, that kind of delight in his eyes. I cook and bake for friends and loved ones and always return to the original kitchen, to the arms of its owner just so that the food that I make could create a smile on her face, and of course to receive her critique too.

Many chefs continue to toil in the kitchen because they want to make people happy with their food; their smiles are their rewards. In the same way, this blog is created to share the love with many others in this culinary journey. We may not be connected physically but the sharing of resources, the joy and the pain pull us all together and bind us as one family.

This blog is special and unique because the food is created from a labour of love. With it comes many sweet memories only the owner could experience. They could be food consumed when she’s young or with her loved ones or bites that she had when she’s on the road. With such memories, she tries to recreate those dishes and gives her own perspective to them. And this blog will continue as long as there is love, love for the culinary arts, love in the heart of the owner, as well as in the recipients of her labour.

This blog also tracks the culinary journey I am embarking through self-study and from the many aspiring cooks out there and especially from the special women in my life, namely my mom and Ken’s auntie who showed me, along with the cuisine that they cook, the heritage that is connected with it – Cantonese and Peranakan.  It is my desire that I would learn to master these two cuisine and pass on to the next generation.

This entry is also dedicated to my beloved husband who supports me in all that I’m doing. I wouldn’t have gone this far without his encouragement and love.  Thank you for the love that you have showered upon me. I thank God for you.

And now these three remains: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Pic of tiffin from http://www.happytiffin.com/latch-tiffins/three-tier-tiffins.html

Potato cakes with beef

Originally, the name given to this dish is Shanghai potato cakes with pork, after Food Network followed one of their cooks’ Chinese grandmother’s recipe. This is said to be a pure comfort food, Shanghai style. However, instead of using pork, I used beef since that is what is in the fridge.

There were a lot of steps, a bit troublesome but really turned out delicious. The hubs was commenting that they were like Begedil, just that these cakes weren’t deep-fried. Phew! And I must say, they are good with mustard although you can eat them on their own. I thought adding Chinese chives would add to the authenticity of those pancakes that I saw when I was in Shanghai. But these are nice too!

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Storing fresh produce

The following are the ideal storage conditions for some of the most comon fruits and vegetables.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes: Store unwashed, in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place – not the refrigerator.
Onions, shallots, garlic: Store at room temperature in a dark, dry, well-ventilated space – though not with tubers. Each emits a natural gas that causes the other to rot.
Stem vegetables (celery, asparagus): Store in the crisper section of the refrigerator in sealed plastic bags.
Buds and flowers (broccoli, cabage, Brussels sprouts, artichokes): Store in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper.
Tomatoes: Store at room temperature on the countertop – never in the refrigerator.
Lettuces, herbs, salad and cooking greens: Soak separated leaves in cool water, then spin dry in a salad spinner. Store loosely packed inacontainer with a damp paper towel over the top, then covered with plastic wrap.
Mushrooms: Store, unwashed, in a single layer on a plate, covered with a slightly damp paper towel on an upper refrigerator shelf.
Berries: Store unwashed and covered with plastic wrap in a single layer on a paper towel-lined plate in the refrigerator.
Apples, lemons, limes, oranges: Store in plastic bags in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
Peaches, melon: Let sit at room temperature for a few days to soften, then store in the refrigertor for 3 to 5 days.

Source: Food network kitchens cookbook.