Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Caramel Pecan Sauce

serves 8-10

For the Pudding:

2 garnet sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons butter
1-1 pound loaf day old Challah bread, cut into cubes (about 6 cups)
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk

For the Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
½ cup pecan halves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cream

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 3-inch chunks. Steam until tender (about 15 minutes). Set aside to cool.

While the potatoes steam, generously butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and place the bread cubes in the dish. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, spices, salt, milk and heavy cream.

Once the sweet potatoes are cool, mash them well (you can put them through a food mill for a smoother texture, but I didn't). Add them to the egg mixture and blend thoroughly. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and press down on the bread with the back of a wooden spoon to ensure all the bread cubes are soaked in the custard mixture. Let sit for about 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350° F (you may let it sit up to 4 hours, refrigerated if needed).

Place the bread pudding in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until browned and the custard is set, rotating the pan halfway through for even browning.

While the bread pudding bakes, make the sauce:
Melt the butter and add the pecans. Cook the pecans in the butter, stirring, until fragrant (about 3-4 minutes). Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar melts. Add the cream and stir to blend until smooth. Sauce can be made ahead and reheated. Serve warm pudding with heated sauce poured over and whipped cream on the side (if desired).

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Steamed Fish With Lemon Grass (Pla Neung Takrai)

adapted from Stylish Thai In Minutes by Vatcharin Bhumichitr

1 whole fish, about 500g (grouper, sea bass, pomfret or any lean, firm
textured fish)
4 stalks lemon grass

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Thai bird's eye chili, finely sliced
3 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
3½ tbsp lime juice
2 tsp sugar

Make sure the fish has been scaled, gutted and cleaned. Score fish
with 2 or 3 diagonal cuts on both sides.

Remove outer layer of lemon grass. Trim the top and bottom of the
stalks to fit a heat proof dish. Bruise the lemon grass with the back
of a knife and then halved each stalk length wise. Stuff a few pieces
into the cuts on the fish. Layer the rest of the lemon grass on the

Place fish on the bed of lemon grass and steam over medium to high
heat for about 15 minutes or until cooked.

Put together the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Stir until the
sugar has dissolved. Add chili and garlic to the sauce. Let stand for
at least 30 minutes before use to allow the flavors to blend.

When the fish is cooked, remove it from the steamer straight away.
There will be be some liquid in the dish due to moisture from the fish
and the lemon grass. Spoon that liquid over the fish. Then pour the
sauce over and around the fish. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve

Freshness of the fish is in my opinion what makes or break this dish.
If possible, get the fish fresh from the market and cook it on the
same day.

I specify the use of Thai fish sauce in this recipe because it is
milder in flavor and as the sauce is not cooked, a more robust fish
sauce like the Vietnamese or Chinese variety may be too salty and
fishy. If you have to use Vietnamese or Chinese fish sauce, replace 1
to 2 tablespoon of the fish sauce with water to dilute.

The sauce used here is very similar to a popular Vietnamese dipping
sauce known as nuoc cham. I usually make extra to use as dipping
sauce, salad dressing and marinade. It will keep in the fridge for
about a week.

Thai-style steamed fish

2 trout fillets, each weighing about
a small knob of fresh root ginger ,
peeled and chopped
1 small garlic clove , chopped
1 small red chilli (not bird's eye),
seeded and finely chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
3 baby pak choi , each quartered
2 tbsp soy sauce

Nestle the fish fillets side by side on a large square of foil and
scatter the ginger, garlic, chilli and lime zest over them. Drizzle
the lime juice on top and then scatter the pieces of pak choi
around and on top of the fish. Pour the soy sauce over the pak
choi and loosely seal the foil to make a package, making sure
you leave space at the top for the steam to circulate as the fish

Steam for 15 minutes. (If you haven't got a steamer, put the
parcel on a heatproof plate over a pan of gently simmering water,
cover with a lid and steam.)