Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cooking Right Looking Good in 2019 With Alce Nero

Cooking Right Looking Good 2019 was a cooking class and cooking competition organized by Alce Nero at Berjaya University College. This event was jointly organized with 100 Comments and co-sponsored by OilumNutriva and Eubos for bloggers to show their cooking skills and be judged for taste and presentation. When I knew about this event, I registered for it because I love to cook and learn new recipes for my family to eat. 

Here's a short video on my fun cooking class experience.

Posing with Alce Nero organic products

I arrived early and visited some of the booths by Alce Nero, Oilum, Nutriva and Eubos to know more about the products they offer. Alce Nero is a leading provider of organic food such as pasta, sauces, jam, honey, fruit juice and biscuits. These products are healthy because they are free from chemicals and pesticides. As a mom myself, I want my children to eat organic food so they can grow up healthily and Alce Nero products would be my first choice when it comes to grocery shopping.

Posing with Nutriva nutritional yeast flakes and health drinks

Posing with Eubos cream which is for deep hydration moisturization

Mr. Andrew Tan, Director of Olium brand, products for dry skin 

The exciting part came when it was time to cook! Participants divided ourselves into groups of 2 to 3 and formed a total of 8 teams. We were given 3 recipes to cook under the guidance of Chef Athira, Chef Lecturer of Berjaya University College. She earned her Master of Philosophy (Food Studies) from Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, Le Mirail, France. My team partners were Sebrinah Yeo and Shermyn Lim. We worked very well as a team and had our food prepared in a very tight schedule. We were given about 2.5 hours to cook 3 dishes.

Me, Shermyn and Sebrinah

Mr. Nathan Deverre (Strategic Marketing Advisor, Ayam Brand Malaysia) and Chef Athira with her assistants

Chef Athira taught participants how to cook Chinese Strawberry Jam Cakes, a sweet and crunchy dessert which just came in time for us to cook for Chinese New Year celebration. I was happy to learn this so I can make them for my children to eat. Chef Athira asked us to mix the ingredients and use our hands to knead the dough using crumbling method. Recipe is below for those who are interested to try.

Photo credit : Sebrinah Yeo

Yield: 4 servings (A Recipe by Berjaya University College & Alce Nero)

Traditionally pineapple are used but this can be replaced with strawberry Jam for this CNY all-time favourite.


For the Filling:
1 (270 g) jar Strawberry jam

For the Pastry:
250 grams cake flour
60 grams icing sugar
1/4 cup fat free milk powder
1/4 cup custard powder
180 grams cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks

1.   To make the pastry, add all ingredients except egg yolks into a food processor. Turn on and let it mix for about 2 minutes or until it becomes little balls of dough. At first the dough will turn very crumbly as your food processor breaks down the butter, but it will eventually turn soft into the little dough balls. If you want to try the recipe without egg you can just squeeze these dough balls together to form one big ball of dough. Otherwise, add egg yolks in and pulse for about 1 minute, until smooth dough forms.
2.   Scoop out 1.5 tbsp dough balls and shape between palms to form round balls. Continue until all dough is used up. Set aside.
3.   Take strawberry jam filling from the fridge. Scoop out 1 tbsp of filling and compress between palms. Filling will be sticky and wet to work with. Gently roll between palms to shape into balls. Make enough filling balls to match the dough balls.

4.   Lightly grease the inside of your mould, by brushing them with oil. You can also shape it into your liking.
5.   Take a sheet of plastic wrap and stretch over a flat surface, keeping it as smooth as possible.
I found that plastic wrap really helped to make these cakes pretty. You want the plastic wrap to be 
smooth because your dough will have creases if your plastic wrap has creases. Take one of your dough balls and place it on top of the plastic wrap. Press down with your palm until it spreads out to a thin round. You want the round to be just big enough that it will wrap over the filling. The round should be thin because the pastry is supposed to be only a thin layer of crust. However, keep the middle section of your round slightly thicker and thin out more on the edges. This way, when you bunch all the edges together to seal your pastry, the bunched edges won't become too thick, which would make one side of your cake uneven.
6.   Place a teaspoon of the strawberry jam filling ball in the middle of your round. Lift one side of plastic wrap and peel the round from that side. You should be able to easily peel it off and the bottom side of the round should be completely smooth. Lift round completely from plastic wrap and then cover your pineapple filling with the dough, sealing the edges on top, attempting to smooth them as much as possible.
7.   Place your square mould on top of the plastic wrap. Place your dough ball inside the square, with the bunch up ends side facing up, smooth side faces down. Carefully push and spread your ball until it spreads out completely across the square mould. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it. The dough should fit completely inside the mould. Try to smooth the surface of the dough as much as possible. Flip over. The underside of your dough should look nearly completely smooth and should fill the entire square mould.
8.   Place mould, with the smooth side facing up, on a baking sheet lined with silicone mats or parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350°F. While your oven is heating up, finish making the rest of your strawberry cakes.
9.   Bake for about 25 minutes or until the tops turn a light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes. After about 15 minutes, gently push the cakes out the moulds. You can eat immediately or wait for them to finish cooling. Store any uneaten ones in an airtight container at room temperature.

While we waited for the Strawberry Jam Cakes to bake in the oven, we were taught the second recipe which was Italian Seafood Laksa. I never thought I could cook Laksa but this dish was quite easy to cook because Chef Athira gave clear instructions. We needed to roast the 'belacan' to get the fragrance out, blend it with the cut pieces of shallots, chilli, lemon grass, root ginger and 1 tea spoon ground turmeric powder to make the paste. We were also taught how to clean the lump of hair from mussels and the correct way to clean, devein and peel prawn shells. 

Photo credit: Sebrinah Yeo

Yield: 4 servings (A Recipe by Berjaya University College & Alce Nero)

24 raw tiger prawns
500 g fresh mussels with shell (approximately 6-7 pcs)
110 g Alce Nero organic spaghetti
400 ml Ayam Brand coconut milk
50 g shelled, unsalted macadamia nuts or peanuts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
50 g piece of cucumber, peeled
110 g beansprouts, cleaned
Juice of 1 lime
A small bunch of fresh basil, stalks discarded and leaves roughly shredded A small bunch of fresh mint, stalks discarded and leaves roughly shredded Sea salt to taste

For the paste:
3 medium red chillies, deseeded and chopped
1 dessert spoon dried shrimp paste
4 shallots, peeled
2 stems of lemon grass, trimmed and outer layer removed, stems chopped
A small piece of fresh galangal or root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 dessert spoon ground turmeric

1.   Prepare the seafood. Peel the prawns, then run the point of a small, sharp knife along the back of each one and remove any black threads that may be present. Set aside. Scrub the mussels under cold running water and remove any barnacles and pull off the little hairy
'beards'. Discard any mussels that are broken or don't close when given a sharp tap with a knife.
2.   Cook the spaghetti al dente and drain the pasta in a colander when they are ready, rinse in cold water and set aside.
3.   To prepare the paste, place all the paste ingredients, plus a tablespoon of water, into a blender or the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Now place the macadamias or peanuts in a medium saucepan and dry-roast over a medium heat until golden brown, then remove to a plate. Add the oil to the same pan and, when warm, add the prepared paste and cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and stir, then leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
4.   Meanwhile, cut the cucumber into four slices lengthwise, then cut each into four long strips.
Set aside.
5.   Roughly chop the toasted nuts.
6.   When the coconut-milk mixture is ready, add the spaghetti, cucumber, three-quarters of the beansprouts and the lime juice. Now season to salt, with taste, then bring back to a simmer, add the prawns and mussels and cook for 3-5 minutes – the prawns should turn a pretty pink colour and all the mussels should open. Discard any mussels that don't open during cooking. Now add half the shredded herbs, then mix the remaining herbs with the chopped nuts. Finally, ladle the laksa into four deep bowls, then sprinkle over the remaining beansprouts and the herb mixture.

The third dish was the Tri-Color Asian Pasta Salad. This was a very tasty and delicious appetizer which I really love. Since we had to cook 3 dishes in a very short time, 1 representative from each group was asked to learn this dish from Chef Athira. In my group, Sebrinah volunteered to learn and cook this while Shermyn and myself continued cooking the Italian Seafood Laksa and decorated it.

Yield: 4 servings (A Recipe by Berjaya University College & Alce Nero)

2 cups uncooked Alce Nero organic fusilli tricolore pasta
2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch strips
1 cup snow peas, halved
2 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Alce Nero Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1.   Cook fusilli according between 8 to 12 minutes. Test dry pasta for doneness after about 4 minutes of cooking by tasting it. Drain and rinse in cold water.
2.   Place the pasta in a large bowl; add carrots, peas, onions and red pepper. Set aside.
3.   In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients until smooth. Pour over salad and toss to coat.
Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
4.   Optional: You may add “Ayam Brand Tuna Flakes in Water”, drained to the pasta for added twist to this summer favourite.

We were glad to finish the 3 dishes in time for judging. It was not easy to cook under time constraint but glad we did it! Our food tasted great but we were not creative enough on food decoration. We did not win  but we had fun learning to cook as a team. Our Chinese Strawberry Jam Cakes was very delicious according to Chef Athira because she said it was very crunchy. Our Tri-Color Asian Pasta Salad tasted good too.

Chef Athira and Nathan Deverre tasting our Italian Seafood Laksa.

I really enjoyed myself learning to cook and hope to join more cooking classes in the future. If you have time, do try out these recipes. Have fun cooking at home!

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