For the past two weeks or so, Marina Mustafa’s cookbook Memorable Recipes for Malay Occasions has been in my kitchen, as I was reviewing the book for StarTwo. I liked the book from the moment I flipped through the pages in Popular late last year, and had specifically asked for a copy to review. Check out the review here, with two recipes I tried out.
I am always on the look out for good local cookbooks, especially those on Malay cooking. I like Marina’s cookbook for many reasons, but mostly because it’s full of heart and charm. I was compelled to try many of the recipes, drawn by the stories behind them.
I chose a super easy recipe to test first. Some friends were coming for tea, and I made the ubi kayu bersantan partly because it was the writer’s favourite recipe. It was easy enough, and the santan sauce was delicious. I have always had steamed ubi kayu sprinkled with sugar and grated coconut, so this was a delightful change.
I tried the Nasi Tomato and Ayam Masak Merah the next day, and was a little confused by the recipes – the nasi tomato recipe didin’t specify the amount of tomato puree needed, and there was no chilli in the ayam masak merah recipe. But I had bought all the ingredients, plus I am kinda on a quest to find the right nasi tomato and ayam masak merah recipe.
I fiddled a little with the recipes, like use less ghee. A ladleful of ghee sounded too daunting and I used only 2 tablespoons.
So, it was not surprising that the one complaint I got was that the rice was not aromatic enough…”nasi tomato is supposed to be fragrant….this is not,” I was educated….ahem!
Midweek, I had a really good and enjoyable interview with Marina, and her beautiful mom and lovely daughter. They are the real deal; they are warm and generous and really passionate about their family, food and cooking. I always believe that the nicest people cook the nicest food, and was even more inspired to try out the recipes.
I then tried a kuih lapis recipe because it is an heirloom recipe, and it looks easy. Of course, nothing to do with baking is easy in my hands. I have a basic cake mixer that was part of the three or eight cheap cake mixer that a friend got as her wedding gift. So, when I beat my egg whites, it didn’t form into peaks _ I later YouTubed beating egg white till fluffy, and realise my beaten egg whites didn’t look anything like those in the video. Major #fail.
Anyway, my kuih lapis looks like a disaster, hence no pixs. But it tasted really delicious and moist. In the hands of an able baker, that recipe will work beautifully.
Anyway, I adjusted my confidence level and decided to try something easier last weekend… which means no kuih (because I have yet to recover from my kuih kosui attempts) and no baking.
So, I chose Marina’s family favourite – Daging Masak Kicap – a kinda Malay-style beef stew. I liked it because it used kicap manis, which I love. The recipe specifies salty soy sauce _ I wasn’t sure if that meant light or thick soy sauce, so I use a tablespoon of each.
I love the aroma of this stew – the house smelt of star anise, clove and cardamon. The stew was easy to make; basically it was just putting everything into the pot, and boiling them slowly. I also used carrots even though it wasn’t in the recipe because I had some in the fridge.
We usually have pork in soya sauce, which is thick soya sauce with garlic and white pepper, so this beef stew was a good variation. It’s a good dish to serve to children too, as there is potato and it’s not spicy. What I like most is how aromatic this stew is.
Marina’s book can be found at Popular Bookstore, and other leading book shops.
For more of Marina’s recipes, go to her page ”Cooking With Marina Mustafa” on Facebook, or visit her blog http://cookingwithmarina mustafa.vox.com.
DAGING MASAK KICAP
1kg lean beef, cubed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 potatoes (deskinned, cut into 4)
2 tomatoes (cut into 4 wedges)
1 cup sweet soy sauce
2 tbsp salty soy sauce
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
10 bulbs shallots
6 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
Boil the water in a pot, together with the blended ingredients and spices.
As soon as the water boils, reduce the heat and put in the beef. Cook for 30 minutes, covered.
Add the potatoes.
Pour in both the soy sauces and the seasoning.
When the potatoes have cooked, and the beef tender, put in the tomatoes. Turn off the heat.
Eat with hot rice when ready. Perfect if eaten with your fingers!