Category Archives: Nicholas Pillai’s Recipes

Salty Spicy Chicken (Uppu Chicken Paratel)

About six or seven years ago I took the train into KL and for some reason I got down at Sentral and took a Taxi to go further into KL…  Till this day I cannot think why but I did it, probably to meet a friend from Australia or perhaps the Netherlands.  I cannot seem to remember.  So I got into this taxi with an old Indian driver and he started talking to me.  I am talkative in taxis, I hate being quiet all through the journey to my destination be it a long or short one gazing into my phone or something like that.  This man was in his 70s, I know he was much older then my father.  He asked me what I did, so I told him and he was quite excited and gave me this recipe.

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His mother used to cook it when he was a kid and his late wife would make it for him and his children who were now working in big places and seldom had time for him.  That is why he drove a taxi to rid his boredom.  This recipe had only Five ingredients;  Chicken pieces, a bowl of cut onions, a bowl of dried chillies, some oil and a bit of salt.  I of course argued it might be rather insipid and boring, but he assured me it would be really nice.  He missed it he told me and he gave me this recipe so I will try it.  Of course it was not a difficult recipe to remember as he did drum it into my head a few times to make sure I didn’t forget.

I got out of the taxi and promised I would try this recipe and he assured me I would be happy.

Well it took me all this time to actually get a chook and the rest of the ingredients but I never forgot the recipe of course.  Yesterday I cooked it for the Assunta Nuns as they have no cook at the moment.  So here goes.   Please note, I added a bit of turmeric just to give it some color, which was quite unnecessary.

Here is the recipe:

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Chicken                                               about 1.8 to 2 kilos – cut into 24 pieces.  You may cut it smaller but I detest having to go through small bones. Marinade the chicken with a little salt and ½ teaspoon of Turmeric.

Onions                                                  4 to 5 large onions cut into segments

Dried Chillies                                      20 or so

Salt                                                        to taste

Oil                                                           ¼ cup

20150817_081131Potatoes                                              3 or 4 – I added this just because I like potatoes.                                                                     Boil till done.

Method:

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  1. Heat Oil and add in onions. Fry the onions till they are slightly translucent.20150817_080003
  2. Add in the dried chillies and fry till the onions are really done. This will ensure the Chillies have enough time to let out its flavor.20150817_080633
  3. Add in the chicken and stir till it is cooked. You might need to add in a bit of water if it is too dry. Fire has to be medium steady.  Fry till chicken is cooked and add in salt.  This took me about 30 minutes or so.  Add in potatoes and cooked for about 10 more minutes.20150817_08254020150817_082603

I was quite shocked with the end result.  It was really nice.  Simple and delicious.  Yus reckoned the potatoes should be fried.  I think she might be right because it somehow didn’t look so nice.

My walking encyclopedia Susheela says it is called Uppu Chicken Paratel.  Uppu meaning Salt.  This dish actually goes well with beer and liquor I am told.

I will be cooking this dish for 120 people next month. Let’s see how they handle this.

So there you go. If you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll find thing you never knew you never knew..Pocahontas sang that!

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Biskut Arab or Ghee Cookies

20150718_214135The first time I ate Biskut Arab or Ghee Cookies was when I was invited for Hari Raya to my friend Abdul Rahman’s house.  I remember that day like it was only a few years ago.  Abdul Rahman lived quite faraway from where I lived but I remember he would pray at the mosque in my area which meant he had to leave  his part of town quite early in the morning to reach here in time (didn’t occur to me back then of course).  Thinking now, it was a big sacrifice for him.

So after prayers he would come to my house or I would wait somewhere and we would get on a bus.  I never took buses back then, so it was kind of an adventure for me.  It was so exciting I have to say.

I cannot even remember where he lived, because the bus ride was so exciting and we talked and talked so I really and truly cannot tell you where he lived but I am pretty sure it was like a long house.  Rows and rows of half wooden houses and we would get off the bus and I would plod along with him, through these rows and rows of houses and there his mother Mak Cik, would be there to happily greet me.

And then the cookie trays would come out and of course I have no shame at all, because I love home made cookies.

Long time ago, the Malays always made their cookies differently, it would as my mum would say a Malay Village smell, and Mak Cik’s cookies along with my Aunty Shina’s cookies.  You never get that scent or smell in Malay cookies anymore unless it comes from a village far away.  Only one other person came close and that was my other friend Muhammad Aidil.  His mother and sisters gave me cookies reminisce to the good old days only because he was from a village in Johore. The smell, the scent of each cookie was just indescribable.

I was told a few years ago, this smell was created because all the flour and sugar and anything dried that needed to go into the making of cookies were dried in the sun before the baking took place.   People do not do this nowadays.

So this year my friend Hafiq gives me a recipe book.  He made wonderful Rendang Tok and Peanut Sauce from this book.  And I, made this cookie.  I had to change a few things because somehow it would not come out right if I followed the recipe to a T, so here goes.  The end result was the closest I have ever tasted to Abdul Rahman’s mums Biskut Arab.  Still hers tasted better, probably because no one really bothered about sugar back then.

  • Plain Flour                                           2 cups + ½ cup
  • Ghee                                                    ½ cup
  • Castor Sugar                                       ½ cup
  • Icing Sugar                                          1/3 cup

Method:

1. Dry fry the flour for a few minutes in a non stick pan till it is a light light creamy brown.  Make sure it is on low flame. Leave to cool and Sieve it before use.

2.  Preheat Oven to 170 to 180 C.  Grease two cookie sheets.

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3.  In a bowl, mix in Ghee  with both sugars.  Gradually add in flour 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup till you are able to combine the dough and it is still soft but till in one piece. You may use up all the flour or a little more of less depending on the temperature of the day.

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4.  Make round balls, place on a greased tray and bake for about 20 minutes.  I always start at the lowest rung and work my way up every 5 minutes or so.

5.  Remove when it is done. Cookies might not be very brown of perhaps it is just me not liking brown cookies. Leave to cool and gently remove from tray. Cookies should melt in your mouth.

6. I place some in the fridge just so it will harden.

Cookies were just divine. sweet though, so you can cut some sugar but do be careful as cutting down too much sugar might affect the texture.

You may modernize these cookies with a bit of Maddons Salt Flakes to kill the sweetness.

All in all I loved it.  It made me think of Mak Cik and Abdul Rahman… and the late Aunty Shina.  By the way Mak Cik also made unforgettable Beriani.

You see food always brings us all together regardless of belief and creed.

Selamat Hari Raya everyone.

Ode to Petai! – Minced Beef with Petai

Today I had to cook for Aunty Mary who is becoming increasingly fussy in her old age.  So I got some minced beef, and I thought I would do something Eurasian with the potatoes, onions and perhaps some green peas, but alas, as I started, I started adding more and more stuff and suddenly I sent Yus to the market to get Petai, which she willingly did because she too likes it. I even added some Chinese Mushrooms, which I had in a soup I slow cooked last week, so I threw in the soup and diced the mushrooms. So here is my simple recipe, as it took me all of 20 minutes to prepare and cook.  You might add some cubed carrots if you like. For non beef eaters, I think Minced Mutton would do well actually.

AND I DID EVERYTHING, not Yus.

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Minced Beef                              500 gm
Onions                                       1 Large – sliced thinly
Garlic                                         5 or 6 pips – minced
Chinese Black Mushrooms   5 or 6 – soaked, boiled and cut into cubes
Stock                                         2 or 3 cups – I had some soup in the fridge
Potatoes                                   4 – sliced – sounds a lot I know, but I like potatoes
PETAI                                      200 gm
Chilly Flakes                           1 tbsp
Belacan Powder                     2 tsp
Sugar                                       2 tsp or a little more
Salt and Pepper to taste
Oil

Method:

1. Heat oil and add in onions and garlic.
2. Saute till onions are limp, then add in minced beef and fry it with the onion garlic till it cooked.
3. Add in stock and leave to boil.
4. Add in potatoes and mushrooms.
5. Leave to simmer but don’t forget to add in Belacan Powder as well.
6. Cook till potatoes are done. Toss in the chilly flakes.
7. Season to taste.
8. I think tonight I will be eating RICE! 😦