Poulet roti au vin rouge

Sometime last year, I went for Rachel Khoo’s meet and greet session at Kinokuniya. I haven’t gotten around to cooking any of the recipes from her My Little French Kitchen. It’s mostly because of the laziness and the fact that I have not been spending much time in the kitchen. But of course, my trip Down Under rekindled my love for food and especially food photography so I just had to try the simplest recipe in this book.

Let me be honest, I have about 10 recipe books lying around in my room but I’ve only had made about 10 recipes from the hundreds of recipes I have. Let’s just say I’m using the book as inspiration to my photography work. Truly though, some of the ingredients in my books are very difficult to come by. Not to mention how expensive they can be. I’ve yet to find any local celebrity chefs who have published a book that’s attractive enough for my eye. After all, I do get turned on by food photos and styling that are impeccable.

Anyways, the recipe calls for red wine, but for obvious reasons that I only eat halal, I replaced the wine with chicken stock instead. This would be a very fast and easy Ang Moh version of ayam masak merah, I think.

kanelbular-1Roast Red Wine Chicken – Le Halal Version (Adapted from Rachel Khoo’s My Little French Kitchen)

Serves 4-6 

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Marinating time: 30 minutes or overnight

Cooking time: 1 hour

150ml hot water

1 cube of chicken stock

100g tomato paste

3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked (I used rosemary because I was out of thyme – hahahha get it?)

3 sprigs of fresh marjoram, leaves picked (I used tarragon as I was in a major rut – okay I should stop)

100ml red wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

salt and freshly ground black pepper (please do not ever use white pepper)

500g baby potatoes, washed and quartered

3 onions, peeled and quartered

6 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthways

  1. Wash and clean the chicken pieces. Rub them with a bit of salt to enhance the flavour of the chicken.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees under the grill setting.
  3. In a deep roasting pan, add hot water, tomato paste and chicken stock together and stir till the stock dissolves.
  4. Add in the apple cider vinegar.
  5. Rub chicken with the herbs of your choice, and generously add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Arrange the chicken nicely in the pan, and add in the onions, carrots and potatoes in between the pieces of chicken.
  7. Leave to marinate overnight or 30 minutes. I was too hungry so I placed it in the oven immediately.
  8. Cover the pan with a piece of aluminium foil and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
  9. After the first 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue cooking the chicken for another 30 minutes, or until the skin is crisp.
  10. Serve with couscous or some freshly baked bread.
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Biscotti

Ever since I came back from Daylesford three weeks ago, I’ve been inspired to do a bit more baking and cooking in the kitchen. You see, I’ve been busy taking wedding and portrait photos that I lost touch on the very reason I picked up a camera – food. I used to make magic in the kitchen all the time. Now that I’m busy working, and the fact that I photograph food for Halalfoodhunt all the time, my kitchen skills got a bit rusty.

Thank god I still know my way around the kitchen. I scavenged my pantry and found enough things for me to make these. Here’s a quick biscotti recipe I adapted from here that’s great with coffee or some warm milk.

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  • 113 grams butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups self rising flour
  • half cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 200 grams dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet or sheet pan.
  2. Mix the butter and sugar, until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and beat well.
  4. Add flour to butter mixture and mix until incorporated.
  5. Divide  the dough in half and shape each half into a 9inch by 2 inch log.  The mixture will be quite sticky so wet your hands with cold water for easier handling.
  6. Place logs several inches apart.  The logs will spread, so allow 2-3 inches between logs.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and cool logs for 5 minutes.  Move logs to a wire rack to cool further, about 10-15 minutes.
  9. Slice the logs, using a serrated knife.
  10. Place the slices cut side down onto an ungreased cookie sheet or sheet pan.
  11. Bake 5 minutes, turn the slices to the other cut side and bake for 5 more minutes.
  12. Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.
  13. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler.
  14. Dip half of the biscotti lengthwise into the chocolate.
  15. Serve with hot coffee or warm milk.
  16. Keep in the fridge as our tropical climate is bad for the chocolate!

How to be Happy

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I know of a girl whose parents parted ways and she cried all night listening to Pink’s Family Portrait. She woke up dizzy each morning but was always ready to put on a smile the second she left home. She drowned herself in school – studying and spending all her time with school activities. She avoided going home early, except for days she misses her cats. She seemed like a goody-two-shoes but she still got into trouble sometimes. She was always up to mischief but she charmed her way around others. She makes unintentional jokes while in the principal’s office and tries to crack some with her friends. To others, she was happy being a clown.

I know of a girl who was a victim of bullying. She was physically, mentally and emotionally abused. She woke up with her eyes swollen each morning but was always ready to put on a smile the second she left home. She developed a relationship with food, finding comfort in each bite she took. While her peers were dating or enjoying themselves, she read cookbooks in the school library, oftentimes going AWOL during classes she despised. She tries staying up in the classes she loved even though she would rather lie on the big couch in the corner of the school library. She found respite in sneaking food into the temple of books knowing for a fact the consequence of her actions. To others, she was happy doing things in the spur of the moment.

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I know of a girl, who used to hate men, fall in love only to get her heart shattered. She woke up weak and with only enough appetite to get through the day. She gave the love she wanted hoping for it to be reciprocated. She was happy so she made beautiful food because she thought love deserves to be fed well. She stopped making magic the day love stopped loving her. To others, she deserves to be happy. To her, she was happy with love.

I know of a girl who finally broke free. She woke up smelling the roses and courage to get through the day. She gave life the love it deserves and learned that for her to be happy she had to love herself. For her to be happy she had to be grateful for what was served to her on a plate. For her to be happy she had to know her intentions for every single action she takes. For her to be happy she had to give up certain things and people she surrounded herself with. For her to be happy she had to always be grateful for everything that comes her way, even calamities that seem disastrous to others.For her to be happy she had to see a sunshine after every rain.

For her to be happy, she had to be free.

This is part of the Life Lessons series which is actually a weekly assignment for my class with Safinah Institute’s Life Lessons from the Big Screen. Inshallah I will be sharing my assignment write up weekly, if time permits. Hope you enjoy this piece!

Thank You

I celebrate the first anniversary of my photography business tomorrow, and while it took me a while to decide which date I want to make it my company’s birthday, I wanted to be sure it’s a date that is significant not just for me but for those who helped built my business. I decided to make 10 April 2014 my company’s birthday because it is the also the day of my first overseas photography trip. It’s the day my beautiful clients Sadiyah and Masri got married in Perth last year.

It was really by chance that I saw Nora Zee’s Facebook status in March 2014 when a friend of mine tagged me in her post saying she was looking for a photographer to accompany her to Perth. I was still unemployed, and I was not sure if I wanted to do photography for real. I was freelancing as a trainer, doing odd jobs and relief teaching here and there. I’m no stranger to working without a stable income since that was what I was doing through out university. But after a year and a half in the teaching force, I must I admit, I was stuck.

As much as I got rid of the idea of a monthly pay check in my head, those around me could not do so. Sadly, my mother took the biggest blow. She could not accept the fact that I was running a business. Or rather, trying to run a business. I can deny this fact as much as I want but I knew she had her insecurities because my father ran businesses before and that took a toll on her marriage – I basically reminded her of my dad.

An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and I am proud to say I am my mother and father’s daughter. Though my dad has not been in my life for a while now, I thank him for making me who I am today. I learnt through his mistakes so that I would not make the same mistakes as a young entrepreneur. I thank him for that one time in primary school I got into trouble for reselling erasers I bought from the school bookshop to my friends – in my defence, I was being entrepreneurial.

So exactly a year ago, when I headed to Perth with Nora for Sadiyah and Masri’s wedding, I told myself that it was now or never. I am barely 25, single, no student debt or loans to clear and basically have a lot of time on my hands. This past year has not been easy. Yet each time I’m faced with a difficulty or obstacle, Allah shows me to the right direction. Each time I had doubts on myself, He shows me signs as if saying “Girl, you’re on the right track. Don’t bother turning back.”

While He definitely took away some things or people away from my life, He is indeed the most just. I believe on that not just a rainbow would appear after the storm, but a pot of gold awaits at the end of the rainbow.

As I write this in the comfort of my friend’s apartment in Melbourne, I cannot thank Allah enough. I thank Allah for letting me meet wonderful colleagues, partners and clients who believe in me. I thank Him for letting me cross paths with amazing photographers who are willing to share their tips and always giving me feedback when it comes to photos.

I thank Allah for the life He has bestowed upon me.

2014 in Pictures

Somehow, I cannot believe that a year has flew by yet again. Apart from some failed New Year’s resolutions made at the end of last year, I think I pretty much nailed 2014. I started the year with only one thing in mind – do whatever I want. I thought to myself, while I still had no form of whatever commitments, I should adopt 2014 as my gap year to be responsible for my own happiness. Life is, after all, too short for disappointments. This past year, I chose my battles and made it a point for myself to choose gratitude over anything else.

In January, I loved and lost. I also got hired by Mini Monsters Ltd teaching little kids Malay speech and drama.

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In February, I turned 24. I also worked on The 24 Hour Selfie which was released on my birthday itself. Never did I realise it impacted so many people when in actual fact I just needed to distract myself from heartbreak but at the same time learn to use my new lens.

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In March, I officially launched my photography website where I dump all of my work for your viewing pleasure.

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In April, I headed for my first overseas assignment Down Under, in Perth, with ISHQ by Nora Zee. I cannot stop thanking the bride, Sadiyah, as well as Nora for the wonderful opportunity. The amount of faith they had in me when I was still pretty much a noob. A short crash course by a new mentor certainly helped a lot with this assignment.

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In May, I headed to Krabi with my mother. It was the first trip out of the country that I brought my mother to all on my own.

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In June, I had assistants shooting with me and for me during wedding assignments. Kinda felt good to be a bit of a boss, I suppose?

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In July, it was pretty much Ramadhan and Eid. And I had my darling Ikea and Harry Potter buddy Maisarah back in Singapore with me.

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In August, I wrote this article on The Shawl Label.

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In September, I went to KL for a food fiesta with my darling Shireen.

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In October, I became a bridesmaid for the second time this year. This time it was my good friend Aisyah Manab aka Manab who got hitched to the love of her life. Photo credits to Abang Rizal from Tru My Lens.

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In November, I travelled to Siam Reap, Cambodia with Nani. Turns out she’s an awesome travel partner. Now to find one for life. Haha.

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In December, I’m packed for back to back weddings. So here’s a sneak from one of the weddings I shot.

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I’m excited for 2015. Here’s to new adventures and exciting times ahead! Happy New Year everyone!!

Chasing Shams

I arrived home from work this afternoon with a throbbing migraine and pretty much puked my entire lunch out. I have gotten used to my erratic working hours and I’ve survived a few months of health so naturally today’s lack of productivity and day spent in bed came as a shock to me. I guess this is God’s way of telling me “Guuurrlll you’ve been so healthy and too happy here’s me reminding you life is short and unpredictable!”

Anyhoos, I got back from a short five-day trip to Cambodia with my good friend Nani last Thursday. It was pretty much a random trip we decided to go on. Besides, I could not have started November if I had not gone for the trip. Wedding season is back and I’m about to go crazy. As much as everyone else is off for their year-end holidays, I’m going to be stuck in sunny Singapura for the next five months. But I ain’t complaining. Come April 2015, another adventure awaits!

Nani and I enjoyed Siam Reap very much. It was laid back, chill and filled with loads of fun activities. The sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat were beautiful. Gorgeous. Beyond amazing, I think. Perhaps it’s because I was on vacation that the sunrise looked extra beautiful. I mean, I would not have been bothered to wake up at 4am in Singapura to catch the sunrise. Unless… well unless someone dragged me.

You know, adulthood is biting me in the butt, especially when it comes to emotions. Matters of the heart is a painful thing to deal with as an adult. You win some, you lose some. Then there are major decisions you make in your life that determine pretty much the rest of your adult life. One wrong move and you’re out, sista. I really suck at blogging now but I think my photos are getting better. Meh. Enjoy them.

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat

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What is life?

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Sambal Belado

 

When it comes to food, my family would know best. I grew up with home cooked meals made with love by my mother and nanny. I would often come home from school being able to smell whatever my mother was cooking a level away from home. It still puzzles my mum how I can detect what she was cooking just from smelling the beautiful aromas of onion, garlic and a plethora of spices. I might have picked up cat genes from hanging out too much with my three furballs.

Sambal belado is a typical Minang sambal served often with fried fish or fried chicken. It’s something I would consider a cross between a chutney and a salsa – except that this sambal is not for the faint hearted. The combination of spicy, sweet, salty and sour creates a burst of umami flavours in your mouth. Well, to me that is what makes a sambal really syiok. I really hate it when I eat sambals that only look red but aren’t potent enough for my tastebuds. My mother thinks my tastebuds have gone haywire because my tolerance for spiciness is beyond crazy.

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The anatomy of a sambal.

Three weeks ago, my mother left for a holiday Down Under. I was left home alone with my cats. I thought I would rejoice at the thought of freedom and independence, but apparently my appetite and tastebuds were screaming for my mother. Missing Malay food – not wait – missing Malay food cooked by my mum proved that I was actually missing her. I rarely eat Malay food when I’m eating out unless there isn’t a choice. So I woke up one morning with a huge craving for ayam belado only to find out that the stash my mum freezes were all gone. I had no where to go. I had to pluck up the courage and cook myself some sambal belado. After cross-referring to a few recipes online and a god-sent phone call from my mother, this is my take on her famous sambal belado.

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Ayam Goreng Sambal Belado

Ingredients:

500g fresh red chillies

200g fresh red bird’s eye chillies

2 medium sized red onions

1 bulb of garlic

1 inch of fresh ginger

2 stalks of lemongrass

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Method:

  1. Wash and cute both types of chillies into chunks.
  2. In a food processor, blitz the chillies coarsely. You want them to be roughly chopped. Set aside.
  3. Peel and wash red onions. Blitz the onions in the food processor. Again, you want them to be roughly chopped. Set aside.
  4. Peel garlic and ginger. Cut them into chunks and blitz them into a fine paste using a food processor. You may add a bit of water into the mixture so that it blends into a smooth paste.
  5. In a wok, heat oil on a medium heat.
  6. Sauté roughly chopped onions until fragrant. Add in ginger and garlic paste and sauté until it has thicken a bit.
  7. Add in chillies and lemongrass and continue to fry.
  8. Add in salt, lemon juice and sugar and continue to fry until the sambal has thicken and the oil starts to get red. This pecah minyak process would take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Do not leave the sambal unattended. Continue stir occasionally until it is cooked.
  10. Serve with freshly fried chicken or fish on a bed of white rice.

Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcakes

Lately, there has been a craze for kampung cupcakes in Singapore. Furthermore, since Halalfoodhunt has been running for the past six months, people have been coming to me to ask for such kampung cupcake recipes. Alright, let pause for a while and allow me to explain what kampung cupcakes are.

Kampung cupcakes are cupcakes inspired by flavours of traditional Malay kuih such as ondeh-ondeh, kuih talam, putri salad and many more.

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When I first discovered about kampung cupcakes, I was apprehensive about making them. As much as I appear to be modern and all, I still love my traditional Malay kuih the way they are. Then, I succumbed to peer pressure and relented. I had to try making this ondeh-ondeh cupcake, especially since Fluffbakery keeps having their sold out. I totally winged this recipe. I made minor adjustments to a vanilla cupcake recipe, and basically followed my gut. So before I forget the recipe (I have a habit of not taking note of my recipes), here it is.

Feedback from my friends is that the taste of coconut is not overpowering, and the infusion of gula melaka and real pandan extract makes you forget you’re eating a cupcake. I hope this recipe will work fine for you!

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Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcake

makes 12 cupcakes

Real Pandan Extract

1 huge bunch of pandan leaves, cut into smaller pieces

1/2 cup water

  • Blend the pandan leaves and water together in a blender.
  • Strain the pandan juice through a fine sieve, or a cheesecloth if you prefer.
  • Squeeze out as much juice as you possibly can.

Pandan Cupcake

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups caster sugar

125g unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons real pandan extract

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg.
  2. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt through a fine sieve. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  4. Add in eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add flour mixture, alternating with milk and the pandan extract.
  6. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl and beat for another minute or two until the batter is well incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter equally into a muffin tin that has been lined with cupcake liners.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Ensure that the cupcakes are cooled down to room temperature before you core and fill them.

Pandan gula melaka filling

200g gula melaka, cut into smaller pieces

150ml water

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

  1. In a pan, add the water to the gula melaka and let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes, or until all the sugar has been dissolved and the sugar solution thickens.
  2. Let cool to room temperature before adding the desiccated coconut and mix it well.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup desiccated coconut

  1. Beat whipping cream with sugar and vanilla on medium high until stiff peaks.
  2. Gently fold in the desiccated coconut into the cream.
  3. To assemble, core the cupcakes, then fill in with the filling and pipe the coconut whip cream on top as desired.

The Perfect New York Cheesecake

I’ve made a few cheesecakes in my life. Some of them dry and heavy, others too sweet and tangy. Yesterday, I made the perfect New York Cheesecake. It came out with a beautiful flat top, no cracks and a perfect height for my liking. I was almost in tears.

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I realised the secret was a lot of patience. All in all, a cheesecake is very easy to make. It is how you bake it that makes a difference. I’ve tried making cheesecakes with and without a water bath, and at different temperatures. After watching a few YouTube videos, I finally found the perfect method. I was jittery throughout the 2 hours the cake was in the oven so I had to force myself to keep calm and watch an episode or two of Orange is the New Black on my laptop. But trust me. It was worth it.

This is probably the only recipe I know by hard because it’s actually my sister’s recipe. Hehe perks of being bullied into helping them I suppose.

New York Cheesecake

200g chocolate digestives (I used the ones from Marks and Spencers)

80g melted butter

3 packs of Philadelphia cream cheese (softened to room temperature)

200ml Bulla Premium Sour Cream (you can use light sour cream too)

1 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

juice from half a lemon

3 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blitz the digestives in a food processor. Add the melted butter and mix well. Press the biscuit base into the base of the spring-form pan to form a crust of about 1 centimetres. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar till fluffy, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in vanilla essence and lemon juice.
  4. Gradually add eggs, one at a time and be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to mix everything well.
  5. Add in sour cream and give the batter one last mix.
  6. Before pouring the batter into the spring form pan, wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminium foil. This will prevent any leakages or any water from the water bath leaking into the pan.
  7. Place the spring form pan in a bigger baking pan. Fill the bigger pan with hot water.
  8. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring form pan. Make the top as neat and smooth as possible. Cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil.
  9. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour. After an hour, continue to bake but remove the aluminium foil on top. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the top has a nice brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  10. DO NOT TAKE THE CAKE OUT OF THE OVEN. Switch off the oven, and leave the door of your oven slightly ajar by placing a wooden spoon to keep it open. Leave it in the oven for another 45 minutes. This will prevent the cake from cracking due to the sudden change in temperature.
  11. Take the cake out and remove from water bath and let it cool for another 2 hours before placing in the fridge overnight.
  12. Cake is best served chill with coffee on the side. Enjoy!

Beef Stew with Focaccia

It’s day 9 of Ramadhan and somehow I’ve taken over my mum’s kitchen for good. I’m enjoying this gap year very much – taking photos, cooking, experimenting with new recipes, traveling – basically doing a lot of what I love. I’ve lasted seven months of freelancing thus far and life seems great right now. Alhamdulillah, the doors of rizq (wealth/earnings – there doesn’t seem to be an apt English word for it) are always open. I cannot thank Him enough for His bountiful blessings on me and my family.

I have been cooking a lot this Ramadhan, except for the days I am forced to iftar outside, I’m practically in the kitchen. It helps that HalalFoodHunt lets me hone my photography skills and develop recipes from the comforts of my home. If you’re wondering what this HalalFoodHunt is, click on it and check it out. You won’t regret it, well, unless you’re still fasting at this time of the day ’cause all you’ll see are food, food and more food.

This is my first time making this stew, and I’m pretty stoked by the results. I read up on a few recipes, mainly Jamie Oliver’s, Nigella as well as At Home with Magnolia Bakery. Since I’ve been under-utilizing my cookbooks, I forced myself to use the one from Magnolia Bakery. I altered the recipe here and there in terms of method but the ingredients are pretty much the same. The recipe calls for red wine but for obvious reasons, I switched it with chicken stock instead. I served the stew with some homemade focaccia bread and they were a hit with my mum and brother. Speaking of which, I think I’ll put up the recipe for the focaccia up soon.

Beef Stew (Adapted from At Home with Magnolia)

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Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

One large red onion, diced

Three shallots, finely sliced

Half a knob of garlic, chopped

300g premium beef, cubed

2 heap tablespoons of plain flour

1 tablespoon of paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

One carrot, diced

One celery stick, diced

One can of chopped pomodoro tomatoes

One tablespoon tomato paste

One cube of chicken stock

Three medium sized russet potatoes, cut into chunks

 

Method:

  1. In a deep pot, heat up oil on a medium heat.
  2. Sautee onion and shallots till fragrant. Add in garlic.
  3. In a bowl, rub in flour, paprika, salt and pepper with the meat. Ensure all of the meat is coated.
  4. Add in the meat with all of the remaining flour mixture into the pot. Fry all sides of the meat.
  5. After the meat has browned, add in carrots and celery, and mix well.
  6. Add in tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, and 2 cups of water into the pot.
  7. Simmer on low heat for 2 hours, remember to stir constantly.
  8. Add in potatoes and continue to cook for another half and hour, stirring every now and then.
  9. Serve with bread or on a bed of rice.