In the same part of the cookbook series as Uncle Lau's Teochew Recipes, Irene's Peranakan Recipes have the same simple style and layout. Peranakan refers to the descendants of the late 15th & 16th century Chinese immigrants who settled in Malaysia and Indonesia Now, normally I'd object to quotes like: "Girls have to do girls' things", being the raging bra-burning feminist that I am, but the picture of Irene herself at the stove with big glasses and 70s hair, as well as her charmingly honest history was enough to tame me.
It was one Sunday and a group of my friends, obsessed with South East Asian food, decided to get together for a British version of a potluck, also known as the Pie Out. It was the perfect opportunity to try out this new cookbook. It's not the easiest cookbook to navigate as the contents page lists the Peranakan name of the dishes, but it's a fascinating flick through.
Fish curry was well spiced with a tangy hit. The gelatinous quality of the sauce was made by the addition of lots of sliced okra.
With plenty of spicy, creamy curries (including the chicken rendang in the opening picture), a simple cleansing cucumber salad was ideal to cool mouths, even if it did have some chilli in it.
One of the dishes I made was braised green beans with prawns in spicy coconut milk. Pretty straightforward to make, the shrimp paste used to stir-fry the spice mixture gave it a deep savoury flavour that only shrimp paste makes.
My favourite accompaniment of the dishes though was pickled pineapple. Chunks of pineapple are cooked until soft with salt, sugar, chilli and cinnamon (or cassia bark in my case) and then served at room temperature. It was the perfect acidic foil for the richness of the meal.
Serves 6 with other dishes
1 small pineapple; cored, skinned and chopped into bite sized chunks
2 large red chillis, deseeded and chopped
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1 6inch stick of cinnamon, or cassia bark
In a pan, heat up the pineapple with everything else gently. No need to add any liquid. Cook gently for 20 minutes until tender. Place in a bowl to cool and serve with creamy, rich curries at room temperature or cold.
Contact Epigram for a copy of the book here.