Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Make you own food dehydrator and biltong!

I was browsing ikeahacker (http://ikeahacker.blogspot.com) when I came across a post about making your own biltong.

wait. ikea hacker? yup, it's a site where folks submit their ikea hacks, basically hacking their ikea furniture to something else! the site is run by jules, a Malaysian who was once interviewed on bfm. way to go girl!

biltong? it's like beef jerky but thicker and supposedly tastes better. a favourite among South Africans and carnivores.

and biltong is made simply by drying marinated meat. well, wanted to make some treats for tonto and this is just the ticker! meat snack treats are very expensive, around rm20 for a 150g pack. so why not make your own?

first you need to make a biltong box. various schemes are available on the net and I hacked my own version using some thrown away planks I found in the neighbourhood during my daily walks with tonto.

built a very crude looking box, held together via furniture bracket and screws, the construction shouldn't take more than an hour, using only hand tools. chopsticks are placed at the top to hold good old paper clips (use the bigger sized ones) which hangs the meat strips.

near the base of the box, fit a light bulb socket (I use E27 type here) and the necessary wiring to light it up. I considered a dimmer as well as a timer but opted out for a "very quick" hack.

the biggest trouble I had was sourcing for a thermometer. dang! the easily available ones are all body thermometers, good to only 42c but we need good heat in the range of 60 to 70c. I finally found a few good ones at an instrument specialist store for rm75. I later found i could get the same thing from another store for half the price! @#%#!!

anyway using a 60w light bulb, I could only get around 50c so this isn't sufficient. a 100w bulb is perfect as I got 60 to 70c with it. now don't use energy saving bulbs here as we want the heat here. you can put on your green cap later.

last item to get is beef. bought half kg of Indian beef sliced thinly of course. you know our Hindu brothers don't consume beef hence cows live to an old age in India. the old cows are then slaughtered and the frozen meat imported here. these are about half the price of local beef. now you understand why your local nasi kandar stall sells beef curry cheaper than chicken curry?

as this experimental jerky is meant for tonto, we forego marinating the meat and only washed it with a little vinegar. the vinegar will darken the meat as well as soften the sinews inside. you need to soak in vinegar for a few hours as this is an old cow!

and about 8 hours later... we have jerky!

tonto absolutely loves it! the aroma got him running around in circles. he followed me wherever I went, well until I put the jerky away.

the pictures explain the rest.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Our impoverished taste buds...

Isn't it amazing that despite all the tastes our taste bud could experience, we limit ourselves to just a few?

Consider a trip to a fast food joint. You'll be assailed with just 3 types of taste : salty, sweet and fats. Lots of salt in your fries, burger patty; teaspoons of sugar in your soft drink; blobs of fat in your burger/salad dressing...

It's understandable. Inferior ingredients are usually masked with strong flavours and by making it savoury, you'll "think" it tastes "good".

Now in M'sia, the same observation applies to hawker food. Out of 10th stalls I sample, 9 would be guilty of too much salt in the servings. The tenth, unfortunately, suffers from poor business! It seems to me that this is what the public wants.

Many a times, we are recommended to check out some great restaurants. Again, we usually find their cooking to use too much salt. And these restaurants are highly recommended! Also, have seen those foodie shows on TV where the reviewer comments "the food is salty enough". Arghhhhhhh!

So what is this fascination with salty food? Seems like it is a requisite for "good taste".

I long for the fresh taste of a choy sum stalk, the inherent sweetness of a carrot, the subtle nuances of herbs. With quality ingredients, just a dash of seasoning is all you need. A dash of pepper, a sprinkling of sea salt, few leaves of rosemary, few drops of mustard..

Is this too much to ask for?
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Monday, August 9, 2010

easy chicken liver treat for tonto

we love to give treats to tonto but quality treats are so expensive! and many of those in the market are pure junk food. and the better ones also contain preservatives and flavouring, hardly suitable for dogs. so we are left to... make our own!

and making your own is soooo cheap. since people have developed an aversion to all things liver these days, you could buy 10 pieces of chicken liver (kampung chicken! - or free range chicken) for only rm1. sigh... you can't even get a can of poisonous coke for this amount!

so here is this recipe, adapted from this site.

  • 10 pieces of raw chicken liver
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour (i just use our regular wholemeal bread flour)
  • 2 cups of instant oat
  • 2 eggs
just 4 ingredients! so easy! 

now comes the squeamish part. you need to "puree" the liver... it's like a gob of blood and oh... it smells awful!

then mix everything together, including the 2 raw eggs. believe me, it's all a gooey mess! the original recipe calls for half the flour and half the oats but i went double as that's even worse.

we shape them up in little strips and balls so that it's more interesting for tonto.

bake at 160c for 30-40 minutes. it smells quite good after baking. and tastes good too!

Monday, August 2, 2010

malaysian consumer blog

i have been reading utusan konsumer for years now. my dad subscribes this mag and has been doing so since... i started to read or before that. so i know how valuable a source of info this is.

and now that they have a website. this is even better!

not only you learn about your rights as a consumer here in malaysia (do you know that your liability for losing your credit card is limited to only rm250?), you also learn about the environment (and our horrible impact on it), you learn about personal finance, what goes inside our food etc etc etc...

an oft heard remark i get from people about this mag is that "if you read it long enough, there's nothing left to eat!"   what ignorance! as they say, ignorance is bliss. if you want to continue to be ignorant, go ahead!

be informed. learn. don't lament when things go wrong later when you have all the opportunity to start off right.

the latest issue talk about high fructose corn syrup. i learned about this recently when watching "food, inc" (a must watch!) and it's scary that corn "products" can be found everywhere! in coca cola, in your bread spread...

read and learn!