Sunday, June 26, 2011

Combat Gloom: Sunday Brunch

Dear Malaysian rain,
You are so inappropriate. You're like this manipulative woman I know. She pretends to bring the sun with her and makes everyone giddy for around 10 minutes (I think it has something to do with the jiggle factor and boisterousness). The minute you cozy up to her - BAM! - she rains on your parade. With you, Rain, it's just... literal (except that there's no parade, just long walks in my case). My editor and ex-client are currently babbling on Twitter about sunny breakfasts in Cairo and an Egyptian dish called Sharkasiyya (which I am yet to make - recipe please, Heba) and all I can think of is you and how you ruin all my plans. See, it would be nice to have brunch outdoors or even on the balcony but you keep us locked inside. Unless you live in a desert or in the Hindi movie, Lagaan, I don't know why anyone would ever use the idiom "right as rain". So today, I shall not give in to a prolonged spell of bad spirits. I shall instead pretend that my beloved albeit cancer-giving sun is out and I shall see it in the face of every sunny-side up I make until it comes back and becomes the light of my life again. Until then, stick it where the sun don't shine. :) 
Happy is the bride that the sun shines on      
P.S. Another reason why I dislike you is this - When I take a photo in color, I expect it to be in color. You make everything look black and white or just a random shade of gray. You can find a serious column about eggs written by pretentious columnist me if you continue below - published on Saturday, July 9th, 2011. 

For the most part of my life, I ate eggs prepared one way – brown and rubbery. According to my childhood-commandeered specifications, they had to have almost no bounce and should come together so that I could no longer see flecks of singled out egg yolk. I cringed at the thought of seeing them separated and didn't take to the idea that egg yolks could ooze onto the other elements already beautifying my plate.

On the other hand, the thought of green-tinged stiff yolk would have me discarding breakfast all-together and the thought of eating eggs without a side of bread was unacceptable. Naturally, bread was used to mask the eggy flavors and feed my growing carb addiction.

But today, I'd like to make a public apology to eggs; not for eating them because I'm heartless like that, but for underestimating their value in my little world of food. Only after making hollandaise, sabayon, mayonnaise and crème brulée all using egg yolks that I once condemned did I begin to realize that I had done eggs a great injustice. I had shunned them in their simplest, most unscrambled form. Shame on me.

On balmy, wet weekends, I like to work with whatever I have at home to disguise it as “brunch” on that languid morning. The practice usually leaves me scorning my sarcastic self as the meal in creation unfolds into something worthy of being called brunch.

It came to me as I was cracking an egg one Sunday, a thought that many take for granted. I should take the leap and eat, without hesitation, a sunny side up, involving its sinful runny yolk. My husband was doing it. What's standing in my way? Besides, it would come with the added benefit of using one pan. Childhood specifications should be abolished when it comes to food. You're old enough now, I thought, almost aloud. Get over your whiny self.

It was after overcoming this precise trouble that I let loose. Only then did I force away my involuntary “no thank you” that instinctively pops up when trying new things; concerning food that is and not roller coasters.

I can happily say that I can no longer count the number of runny egg yolks I've embraced. Filling cakes, pastries and souffles (both savoury and sweet) with air, lending a worthwhile base to sauces, giving custards their richness and meringues their shells, I don't know how vegans manage.

Besides, I couldn't manage living in Asia without embracing their egg-loving culture. I would be laughed out of the country. No joke. Malaysians add eggs to so many of their dishes that I cannot ever recall going out for one type or another version of local food and not finding at least one egg incorporated into someone's dish, whether cooked or cracked raw onto the dish, disguised or in clear view.

Here you can have sweet and sour eggs for breakfast or you can opt for Thai “Son-in-Law Eggs” with tamarind. I still can't find someone to explain to me why they're called that. There's also stir-fried shrimp omelettes and scorchingly hot egg curries.

You'll find eggs in soups, sweet egg tarts, dumplings, and spicy crab sauce; or openly flaunting themselves in entirety as a salted egg adapting an ancient method of preservation using salted charcoal going hand in hand with its sister, century egg (pi dan), that allows the yolk to reach a dark greenish grey color and the egg whites to turn a translucent jelly-like brown. Now do you understand why I would be laughed out?

While I make sunshine-inspired brunches in the rain, here's an idea for a summery breakfast by the beach that will take you to the closest mini-market for the ingredients, assuming you don't have this stuff lying around already. If you're in a bigger city, try sourcing out some good Egyptian sausage for this. It'll work its magic well but don't skip the chili and don’t use bread. Instead, shock your sleepy taste buds awake and teach your children to accept heat in the morning. They'll need it when they travel later on in life to pursue yoga in India or a party in Bali.

Spicy Brunch for Two
You'll need:
4 eggs
2 handfuls of wild rocket
3 medium potatoes, cubed (any kind will do. No fuss.)
2-3 bird's eye chili, sliced finely (depending on your tolerance for heat)
4 Vienna sausages, split length-wise and sliced (You can use anything else. That's what I had lying around.)
1 small red onion, diced
2 scallions, sliced
1 handful of parsley, chopped
A splash of olive oil
A walnut-sized piece of butter
salt/fleur de sel and freshly cracked pepper to taste 
Set a pan on the stove and allow it to reach medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil and add the onion and potatoes. Leave to cook for around 10 minutes. Add the sliced sausage, scallion and chili and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Turn up the heat in the last 3 minutes to scorch the edges of the potatoes and sausage. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley. In a separate pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Break open eggs into the pan and immediately reduce your heat to low. Cook slowly until the whites are set and the yolks begin to thicken.
Serve up two eggs per person atop the spicy potatoes and sausages with a side of fresh wild rocket. 
I can't believe I spent years of my life not eating eggs like this. Liquid gold.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tirmis on My Terms

Dear Tirmis,
I hope you don't mind if I call you Tirmis. You see, I can't seem to take you seriously when they call you "Lupini Bean". In fact, I didn't know that Lupini was your other name until after I got married which was over 3 years ago. (Thanks for not coming to the wedding, by the way.) Let's go back in time. Remember when we were kids? I would call out to you from my bedroom window, "Tiiirrrmiiiisss!" but to my disappointment, you didn't always come running home. You hung out downtown by the Nile instead. I don't get why you would never come over. Don't you know that mommy cooks everything she finds in her house with equal love and care? Why didn't you jump into the shopping cart at the grocery store? Why didn't you hide in the cupboard until she found you and got so bored of seeing you that she made you? Couldn't you see my love for you? Couldn't you feel my yearning, my longing, my need to run up to the hand-drawn tirmis cart on the street and let Tirmis Man give me a paper cone full of yellow you? According to Mommy, Tirmis Man who sold you wasn't very clean and neither was his cart so in turn, you weren't either. I couldn't meet you on the street like other kids either. No siree, not me. Especially after my cousin's husband entertained us with a story about how the people who prepare you by the Nile supposedly pee on you to get rid of your bitterness and add that extra saltiness we collectively crave as Egyptians. I couldn't have you at home because you refused to come over AND I couldn't buy you from the supposedly unclean Tirmis Man. The only times I got to have you were when we went out to a proper establishment where they would dump you, tirmis, on the table in hopes that maybe we'd buy more drinks to get more termis. [You should thank me because by now, I've said your name so many times that everyone foreign to Egypt knows your Egyptian name.] So Tirmis... Essmat, my friend, is leaving back to Cairo where you're casually hanging by Tahrir Square and she had some of you left in her kitchen in Malaysia because you managed to jump into her shopping cart here so she gave you to me and now you are under my mercy, all 500 grams of you. Serves you right for avoiding me for 26 years. Enjoy being soaked and boiled - our torturous version of waterboarding. After all, we've got to get rid of your bitter edge. 
Cackling and Callousness,

Egyptian Termis (Lupini Beans)
You'll need:
250 grams of lupini beans
The juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
salt to taste
[After being soaked for a day.]
Lupini beans are very bitter. They must be boiled and soaked in several changes of water for several days. They're eaten by biting the seed to press the flesh into the mouth and then discarding the skin. Soak the lupini beans for 24 hours and drain the next day. Fill a pot with water and add the beans. Bring to a boil then leave to simmer until the bean is soft but firm. Drain again and add to salter water. Continue to change the salted water until the bitterness subsides. To serve, add the beans to a serving dish, add the lime juice and the cumin and mix through. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Revisiting Pound Cake

One thing that really bothers me about life abroad is saying goodbye to friends. My memories and a column for The Daily News Egypt dedicated to a woman who has become my sister over the past few years. Watch out Cairo. An amazing baker and sugar artist is arriving soon. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dragonfruit-kiwi smoothie & a post about "Me!"

Who needs to start incorporating more fruit into her diet? Me! Who needs to start doing it in a way that doesn't involve as much chewing? Me! Who needs to stop being lazy to bite into an apple? Me! Who doesn't like raw apples very much? Me! Who needs to start loving fruit wholeheartedly? Me! Who loves the little seeds in kiwis? Me! Who thought of doubling the seed love by doubling the seedy fruit? Me! Who found the dragonfruit? Me! Who used the no-skills part of her brain to make a smoothie? Me!  

Dragonfruit-Kiwi Smoothie
Serves 2
1 small dragonfruit, roughly diced
2 kiwis, sliced
The juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon of sugar
10-12 ice cubes

Chop up the dragonfruit and kiwi. Put them in the blender. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon onto the fruit and sprinkle with sugar. Add the ice cubes. Blend until smooth and serve. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Doughnut Muffins & the Art of Lining Up

Hello, hello. Something a little weird happened. I wrote my The Daily News Egypt column for this week focusing on the donut stores in Malaysia. After sending the column off to my editor, I discover that it was also National Donut Day in the States. Weird but irrelevant to us in other parts of the world. Is there an International Donut Day? 
Sugar Doughnut Muffins
(Recipe from Baking Bites)
Makes 24 mini-muffins/10 standard muffins
You’ll need
3/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon of baking power
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
3/4 cup of milk (low fat is fine)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
1/2 cup of sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a muffin tin with vegetable oil. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and egg until light in color. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pour the dry mixture into the egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour in the vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Divide batter evenly into 10 muffin cups or 24 mini-muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes for standard-sized muffins or 11-13 minutes for mini-muffins, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While muffins are baking, melt the butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl. When muffins are done, lightly brush the top of each with some melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in sugar. Leave to cool before serving.
Related Posts with Thumbnails