A Thankful Feast

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THE turkey has been carved and the stuffing gobbled — the traditional American celebration of Thanksgiving may be over, but being Malaysians, any festival that involves food never seems to end. After all, there’s always a reason to be thankful.

With that in mind, I approached Goa-born chef Sapna Anand (author of New Indian Kitchen) about creating a Malaysianised Thanksgiving spread exclusively for The Edge Financial Daily, without deviating too much from the classic menu. She was taken slightly aback, but rose to the creative culinary challenge like the adventurous chef that she is.

“I walked into a wet market, looked around and tried to match the flavours and the taste and see what would go with the traditional ingredients,” she said, adding that she wanted to keep the authentic Thanksgiving menu experience. “But at the same time … I wanted to give this exclusive spread an edge,” concluded Sapna, with no pun intended.

The results are three creations that are great as side dishes — and desserts.

Asian style Brussels sprout
Method:
•    Chop off the firm bottom bit of some 500gms of Brussels sprouts.
•    Discard the first layer and finely chop the sprouts lengthwise or shred using a mandolin slicer.
•    Thinly slice some shallots, 1 tablespoon of ginger and 2 cloves of garlic.
•    In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of sesame oil, toss in the garlic, followed by the ginger and shallots.
•    Sauté for about 3 minutes on medium heat and then add in the shredded Brussels sprouts.
•    Season with salt and crushed black pepper. Continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes.
•    Garnish with finely chopped spring onions and/or coriander leaves.
•    Sprinkle black and white sesame seeds.
•    Serve warm.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Chef’s tip: Shred the Brussels sprouts a day earlier and keep them fresh by sealing them in a zip lock bag and store in the fridge.
Taste review: Very much like a Chinese stir-fry vegetable dish; this dish had a hint of welcome bitterness that was complemented by the sesame oil and seeds. A warm and comforting dish.

Cranberry pink peppercorn and Bentong ginger relish
Method:
•    Defrost 2 cups of frozen cranberries.
•    In a large pot, bring to boil the cranberries.
•    Add in half a cup of goji berries and another half cup of water.
•    Add ½ a teaspoon palm sugar and grate 1 tbsp of ginger as you watch it boil.
•    Continue to cook on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes or until sauce thickens.
•    Season with salt to taste.
•    Sprinkle Sarawak pink peppercorn for garnish.

Prep time: 15 minutes and can be prepared 2-3 days in advance
Cook time: 15-20 minutes.
Chef’s tips: The amount of palm sugar and ginger can be adjusted according to taste and the Bentong ginger can be replaced by old ginger. Goji berries can either be skipped or replaced by raisins. Be careful of the pink peppercorns; too much of it as garnish might increase the level of spiciness of the dish.
Taste review: The sharp taste of this dish would have been perfect with a chicken or turkey. On its own, it was spicy because of the ginger and the added garnish of the pink peppercorn. An interestingly demure dish that is packed with a punch.

Passion Fruit Creme Brûlée
Method:
•    Wash and dry ramekin moulds.
•    Preheat oven at 170° C.
•    Strain the juices from 3-4 passion fruit. Keep the seeds.
•    Prepare 3 egg yolks in a mixing bowl.
•    In a large pot, bring 2 cups of cream and ½ cup of granulated sugar to a light boil.
•    Take cream off the heat, add in the passion fruit juice and 1tbsp of vanilla essence.
•    Stir to combine.
•    Gradually in 2 parts, add the hot cream into the eggs, mixing gently each time.
•    Stir well to combine.
•    Strain the cream and egg mix back into the pot. You will get a nice smooth mix when strained.
•    Bring it back on low heat, whisking gently for about 5 minutes or till sauce reaches a consistency that evenly coats the back of a spoon.
•    Pour the mixture into ramekin moulds.
•    Place the moulds in a deep dish baking tray and put them in oven.  
•    Gently pour water into the deep dish tray, covering the moulds halfway.
•    Reduce the heat to 150° C and bake for about 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the moulds or until the cream is lightly set.
•    Take the tray off the oven and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
•    Chill the moulds in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.
•    When ready to serve, sprinkle fine granulated sugar evenly and using a blow torch, carefully caramelise the top till light brown.

Prep time: 15 minutes or can be made a day in advance
Chef’s tips: Test to see if the crème has set by gently shaking the tray. If the crème jiggles then it’s ready. Add 2-3 tbsp additional sugar if you prefer sweeter tasting Crème Brûlée. The seeds can be toasted in the oven or dried in the sun and sprinkled after the sugar has been caramelised.
Taste review: The perfect end to the meal. It wasn’t sweet as we assume desserts to be but it did not have that tangy taste of passion fruit. It was smooth and gentle to the palate. The sun-dried seeds that were sprinkled on the top gave the dish and extra texture and elevated its taste. A highly recommended dish to try at home.

As for the meat dish, chef Sapna said: “For bold Asian flavours, you can make a Rendang style roast chicken.  Simply buy the ready-made Rendang paste and mix it with oil to get a smooth paste. Then, rub it generously under the chicken skin. To baste the chicken, melt butter and mix with chilli oil or chilli flakes. Baste occasionally so that the meat does not dry out. You may stuff the chicken with garlic cloves, onions and ginger to give it that added ummph! The secret is not to be afraid to try.”

The homemaker and chef, who lived in the United States for over two years before settling in Malaysia for the past 14 years said: “The point of Thanksgiving is to get together with family and friends while feasting and bonding over food and laughter. So, cook with love. Don’t look at cooking as a chore. Pick easy and hearty recipes. Nutrition is equally important as taste. And always plan ahead, so you have better time management and you will not be flustered on the day. “

The Edge Financial Daily is thankful for its loyal readers and encourages you to count your blessings at least for this year. Happy belated Thanksgiving!

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 1, 2014.