Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

Hello Everyone! One more day until the end of April, which means that this will be my last recipe from the Philippines on our journey through the Flavours of Southeast Asia. I most definitely had fun tackling healthier alternatives of classic and much loved Pinoy dishes, as well as celebrating Amcarmen’s Kitchen turning seven years old!

Tonight, I’ll be sharing a recipe in response to a challenge that my friend brought up in our exclusive interview. It started off with her asking me if there are any ingredients that I would never cook with on my blog, to which I responded with: raisins, cucumber, and cilantro. She then hit me with a surprise challenge which is to make a dish with at least two of the three ingredients that I listed – something that I would have to like and eat!

To quote her:

“…something that you had previously found to be a negative experience, is going to be turned into a positive experience, so I’m changing your life!”

And here’s my response; no twists or a fancy remake of this side dish, just straight up, humble atchara. Atchara (also spelled achara or atsara) is a pickle made typically out of grated unripe papaya. Other vegetables such as carrots, capsicum (bell pepper), onion, garlic, and ginger are also added to make up this pickle. Raisins may also be added, but are optional.

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

All of these are then mixed together in a solution of vinegar, sugar, and salt. The key is finding the right balance of sourness and sweetness in the pickling solution. It is then placed in airtight jars where it will keep without refrigeration, however once opened it is preferably kept chilled to maintain its flavour. Ideally, you’ll want the atchara to mature for about a week before consuming it, for it to fully develop its flavour. The longer you keep it, the better it tastes. Once opened, you can keep it in the fridge for up to two months.

Atchara is usually served with grilled or fried dishes; I like to have atchara as an accompaniment to fried fish to give it a little more life. Technically it goes well with any meal that is fatty and salty, as the sharpness of the atchara helps cut through that greasy aftertaste in your mouth.

Since the challenge is to make a dish that includes two of the three ingredients that I dislike the most, the atchara that I will be sharing with everyone tonight includes cucumbers and raisins. The Southeast Asian variations of atchara, or as they collectively call it in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, acar, is mainly made of pickling cucumbers together with carrots and shallot, sometimes even daikon. I’ve had this version of acar when I was living in Brunei, and it was actually delicious as an accompaniment to various fried dishes!

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya) Ingredients

PREP TIME 1 HOUR 30 MINS | COOKING TIME 10 MINS | MAKES 3 JARS*

*I had jars of varying sizes, but if I were to estimate, I think they’d fit into about 3 medium-sized jars.

INGREDIENTS

For the pickle

  • 1 medium unripe papaya, shredded
  • 1 small carrot, sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1 small red capsicum, sliced thinly
  • 1 packet (50g) raisins
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • Spring onion stalks

For the pickling solution

  • 1 & 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 1 small-sized brown onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, julienned
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt

METHOD

  1. Combine the shredded papaya together with the salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl, setting it aside to sit for about an hour or until the papaya starts to release its liquid. Then place the shredded papaya in a cheesecloth and firmly squeeze to get rid of any excess juices.
  2. Pickling Solution: Meanwhile, in a small-sized saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add the whole black peppercorns ginger, garlic, and onions. Continue to cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Once done, set aside to cool down slightly.
  4. Atchara: Combine the shredded papaya together with all the prepared vegetables into a large mixing bowl. Add the warm pickling solution and gently toss to combine. Cover and set aside to completely cool down.
  5. Once cool, transfer the atchara into sterilised jars with tight-fitting lids. You may keep them on the countertop or immediately place them in the fridge for about a week to let the flavours develop before serving.
  6. Serve, cold or at room temperature, with your choice of fried and/or grilled meat/seafood. Enjoy!

1888

The verdict? I definitely loved the pickled cucumbers, in fact I always scoop out for them for every serving. The raisins? I don’t know; there’s just something about them that I don’t like and I can’t explain it. I tried one and after that, I still picked them out.

Atchara (Pickled Green Papaya)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Health Tip: High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Hello Everyone! I am back on Amcarmen’s Kitchen for the year and I would just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year and a Happy Chinese New Year to all my Chinese Family, Friends, and Followers! May the Year of the Golden Rooster bring you and your family your family Happiness that comes from within, the best of Luck to keep you pushing, and Peace in all days of this New Year. Gong Xi Fa Cai! 恭喜發財!

Now, before I move on to this evening’s post, I just want to clarify to those who haven’t read or been following my blog last month – I did mention that I would be taking a break from Amcarmen’s Kitchen due to the fact that I had a hectic schedule for the past few weeks, preventing me from having the energy to be in the kitchen on my only day off for the month of January. When the New Year kicked in, I had been staying a little later in the office every night to expedite the completion of the many design collaterals needed for the 19th Consumer Fair that happened just last week from the 18th to the 22nd of January 2017. Right after the Consumer Fair, we had family friends visiting us for 5 days, and then I had a Car Launching Event to manager alongside another colleague just 2 days ago. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since the start of the year and I still haven’t been able to have a good rest as the inevitable post-Consumer Fair virus decided to kick in. I am currently, and slowly recovering from a blocked nose, an itchy throat, and a migraine as I am writing this post. Thank goodness for the long weekend ahead, otherwise I wouldn’t be seeing myself recovering for the next week or so.

Now, all that aside, let’s get onto tonight’s post! Tonight will be something different, but it will serve as the ultimate guideline for the year to come. As you can see from the title, the main focus of this post is to target High Blood Pressure, or also known as, Hypertension. In my recent trip to the Philippines, back in the middle of 2016, I underwent a health check as part of my requirement to process my employment permit to work in Brunei. It was then that I found that I suffer from high blood pressure. I admit that when I found out about this, I was feeling a little bit depressed; and whilst I was still in the Philippines back then awaiting for the approval of my employment visa, I sat down and started researching on hypertension and what foods to eat/avoid to help regulate blood pressure levels. Ever since I found out about my blood pressure levels being exceedingly high, I have also made changes to the food I eat, and have tried to become more active in my lifestyle habits.

High Blood Pressure, or Hypertension, is a serious health problem, where over time it causes blood vessel damage that can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and other health problems. Hypertension is sometimes known as the silent killer because there are no real symptoms to detect whether or not you are prone High Blood Pressure. If you don’t get your blood pressure checked regularly, hypertension could go unnoticed, and untreated, for years.

Your diet plays a big role in whether you have high or normal blood pressure. Dietary recommendations for lowering blood pressure include reducing your intake of fat, sodium, and alcohol. It is also suggested that you eat more foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. In general, you should eat more high-fibre, low-sodium, low-fat protein sources, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Here are 20 foods & drinks that you should include in your daily diet to help prevent, lower, or control your high blood pressure naturally without the need for medication:

1. Avocado – All you need is about half a medium-sized avocado everyday as it provides 1% of the calcium, 5% of the magnesium, and 10% of the potassium that you need daily. The dark green flesh just under an avocado’s brittle skin contains large amounts of disease-fighting compounds.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Avocados


2. Bananas – Slice a banana into your breakfast cereal or oatmeal, or take one to work everyday for a quick, easy, and inexpensive snack. One medium-sized banana provides 1% of the calcium, 8% of the magnesium, and 12% of the potassium you need daily.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Bananas


3. Beets – People with High Blood Pressure saw significant improvements from drinking beetroot juice. The nitrates found in the juice brought down one’s high blood pressure within just 24 hours. If you’re not too keen on drinking beetroot juice, you can easily roast or steam the whole root and add it to a green-packed salad, stir-fry, or stews.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Beets


4. Berries – Blueberries especially, are rich in natural compounds where when consumed, is known to prevent hypertension and reduce high blood pressure. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are easy to add to your diet; put them in your cereal every morning or keep some in the freezer for a quick and healthy dessert.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Berries


5. Broccoli – This cruciferous vegetable is a famous source of cancer-fighting nutrients. One cup of cooked broccoli provides 6% of the calcium, 8% of the magnesium, and 14% of the potassium you need everyday.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Broccoli


6. Celery – To lower mild cases of high blood pressure, one would eat about a cup of chopped celery daily. You should begin to see results after only a week or two. Celery contains a chemical that smoothes the muscles lining blood vessels, which increases vessel diameter and allows for easier blood flow at lower pressures.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Celery


7. Fat-free Plain Yogurt – Cool and creamy, yogurt is a star ingredient in mineral-rich breakfasts, sauces and salad dressings, and even in entrée dishes. You can control the fat and nutrient content by making your own yogurt at home for your high blood pressure diet. Here’s a recipe to making your own yogurt at home.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Fat-free Plain Yoghurt


8. Hibiscus Tea – Hibiscus tea has been a traditional remedy for high blood pressure and one that must be used continuously to maintain its positive results. Look specifically for tea made from Hibiscus sabdariffa. It is generally made from the flowers and fruit of the plant.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Hibiscus Tea


9. Kiwi – Kiwis contain more vitamin C than a same-size serving of orange slices. One kiwifruit provides 2% of the calcium, 7% of the magnesium, and 9% of the potassium you need every day.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Kiwis


10. Leafy Greens – Leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, arugula (rocket), kale, turnip greens, collard greens, and spinach are high in potassium. This allows your kidneys to get rid of more sodium through your urine, which lowers your blood pressure. Stray away from canned vegetables though as they contain high amounts of sodium; instead, opt for frozen vegetables as they contain as many nutrients as fresh vegetables and are easy to store.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Leafy Greens


11. Oatmeal – Oatmeal for your breakfast is a great way to charge up for the day. It is high-fibre, low-fat, and low-sodium, which is essentially just what you need to help lower your blood pressure. On its own, oatmeal can be bland; however, you should refrain from adding too much sugar. Instead, add fresh or frozen berries (see point 4) to sweeten it up, and maybe just a touch of honey.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Oatmeal


12. Peaches & Nectarines – Frozen unsweetened peach slices are a great alternative to fresh peaches and nectarines on a high blood pressure diet. Just defrost ahead of time or, for smoothies, simply toss in the blender. One medium peach or nectarine provides 1% of the calcium, 3% of the magnesium, and 8% of the potassium you need every day.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Peaches & Nectarines


13. Pomegranate Juice – The pomegranate has been revered as the “fruit of life.” One of its remarkable powers is to improve cardiovascular health. If you drink pomegranate juice to naturally lower your blood pressure, be sure your juice has no added sugars.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Pomegranate Juice


14. Pork Tenderloin – Meat lover’s can now rejoice! You’re probably wondering how pork even made it onto this list, well just 85 grams (3 oz) of pork tenderloin provide 6% of the magnesium and 15% of the potassium you need every day. This lean cut provides plenty of meaty flavour and satisfaction without the overload of saturated fat found in fattier types of beef and pork.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Pork Tenderloin


15. Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes – Potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in potassium and magnesium, two minerals that can help to lower your blood pressure. One medium sweet potato with the skin provides 4% of the calcium, 8% of the magnesium (7% without the skin), and 15% of the potassium (10% without the skin) you need every day. Bake several sweet potatoes at one time so you’ll have a ready supply for quick smoothies and other recipes.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes


16. Quinoa – This high-protein whole grain has a mild yet nutty flavour, contains a variety of health-protecting nutrients along with an impressive amount of magnesium, and cooks in less than half the time it takes to make brown rice. A half-cup of cooked quinoa provides 1.5% of the calcium, 15% of the magnesium, and 4.5% of the potassium you need every day. Quinoa is gluten free, making it a great option if you’re gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. The most widely available quinoa is a golden beige color, but red and black varieties are also available and worth a try for your high blood pressure diet.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Quinoa


17. Red Capsicum – One cup of raw red capsicum provides 1% of the calcium, 4% of the magnesium, and 9% of the potassium you need every day.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Red Capsicum


18. Skim Milk – Skim milk is an excellent source of calcium and is low in fat. These are both important elements of a diet for lowering blood pressure. Swap out your higher-fat milk for skim milk. If you’re not a fan of milk altogether, then eat more low-fat or nonfat yoghurt. Just make sure to avoid yoghurt that is high in sugar.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Skim Milk


19. Tilapia – This mild white fish is available year-round in supermarkets and fish stores, fresh or as frozen fillets. You can roast it, bake it, and sauté it, flavor it with a variety of seasonings, and even top it with mineral-rich kiwi-avocado salsa (see points 1 and 9). Just 133 grams (4 oz) of tilapia provides 8% of the magnesium and 8% of the potassium you need every day.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Tilapia


20. White Beans – And last but not least, you can use this comfort food in side dishes, soups, and entrées. As a meatless source of protein, it’s a great choice for vegetarians. One cup of white beans provides 13% of the calcium, 30% of the magnesium, and 24% of the potassium you need every day.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): White Beans

Of course there are other factors that help control, lower, or prevent high blood pressure such as exercising regularly and keeping an eye on your waistline, but I won’t be going into too much detail on those aspects. Just always remember that eating foods that are rich in minerals is better than taking supplements.

So yes, earlier above I made mention that this list will serve as the ultimate guideline to the monthly themes on Amcarmen’s Kitchen – each month I will pick a certain food to cook with from the list above and dish up meals highlighting the chosen ingredient. For example, I have chosen to focus on Bananas for the month of February. Stay tuned as Amcarmen’s Kitchen will be back with some exciting recipes starting this Wednesday!

Cheers!

*Note: All imagery used in this blog post do not belong to me, they have been sourced from Google Images and Freepik. Likewise, information gathered for this post has been sourced from Dr. David Williams, Eating Well, Health Line & Prevention.

– Ally xx

California-inspired Quinoa Salad

California-inspired Quinoa Salad

California-inspired Quinoa Salad Ingredients

Hello Everyone! A new month calls for a new theme on the blog, and for the month of September, I’ve got some creative and healthy quinoa recipes for everyone! Now, I remember the times where people would ask me… “What is quinoa (kee-NOO-ah)?” Firstly, I’d correct them and say that it’s pronounced KEEN-wah, and not kee-NOO-ah – but then again after doing some research, I realised that both are actually correct in a way. Apologies to those that I’ve made a big fuss with in terms of how to pronounce this grain.

So back to the question, what is quinoa? Well, I have always been stumped whenever this question pops up, and all I could respond was “it’s a grain, like rice – but it’s not really rice.” Yeah, that doesn’t help. Quinoa is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. The seeds are cooked in the same manner as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and fibre. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa also has a low glycemic index, which is good for blood sugar control, however, be mindful as it is still pretty high in carbs, so it is not a good choice for a low-carb diet.

California-inspired Quinoa Salad Ingredients

Find the original recipe over on Jo Cooks. She used sultanas in her salad, I didn’t. If you know me personally, I really despise raisins and sultanas – don’t ask me why, I just do. So I’ve omitted them from my salad and replaced them with wake instead. Wakame is a sea vegetable; edible seaweed or kelp common in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines. It has a subtly sweet flavour and is most often served in soups and salads. Wakame is a good source of the following (Source: MindBodyGreen):

  1. Magnesium: A mineral critical in the contraction and relaxation of muscles, function of certain enzymes in the body, production and transport of energy, and the production of protein.
  2. Iodine: Iodine is needed for strong metabolism of cells – the process of converting food into energy. It also maintains the balance of the thyroid gland and is needed for the production of thyroid hormones.
  3. Calcium: Wakame easily allows for the absorption of calcium into the human body. Each 100 grams of raw wakame contains 150mg of calcium. Calcium is needed for strong healthy bones and the prevention of osteoporosis.
  4. Iron: We need iron because it is essential for the production of red blood cells and the prevention of anemia.
  5. Vitamins!
    • Vitamins A, C, E, and K: These vitamins are all amazing for skin health and repair as well as immunology.
    • Vitamin D: Promotes the absorption of calcium for healthy bones and enhances the nerve, muscle, and immune systems.
    • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): We need riboflavin to use the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the foods we eat. Riboflavin helps us use these nutrients for energy in our bodies for growth and is also necessary for red blood cell production. Riboflavin functions as an antioxidant and works in the body with other vitamins such as niacin, folate, and vitamin B6.
  6. Folate: Helps the body make new cells and is especially important for pregnant women.
  7. Lignans: Thought to play a role in preventing certain types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

California-inspired Quinoa Salad Ingredients

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 10 MINS | SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

For the salad

  • 1 cup shelled edamame, steamed
  • 3/4 cup almond slices (toasted if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup tri-coloured quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, or parsley if you don’t like cilantro
  • 1/4 cup wakame
  • 1 large mango, cut into small chunks
  • 1 small red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
For the dressing
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Ground salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon

METHOD

As easy as whisking all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, and then tossing all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl until well mixed; dressed and then served cold. Enjoy! It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days, but of course, it’s always better when it is consumed right away!

California-inspired Quinoa Salad

California-inspired Quinoa Salad

California-inspired Quinoa Salad

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

Hello Everyone! I can’t believe that it’s already February, which means sad times ahead as I only have less than two week in this beautiful city I have been calling home for the past 4 years. I’m finding it difficult to wrap my head around the fact that once I leave, the possibility of coming back is unlikely. Yes I will be back for graduation, but after that it’s quite possible that it’s sayōnara for good.

So why am I starting off my blog post on this matter? Well it’s because leaving and knowing you won’t be back in a long time has me in this cleaning-up-the-pantry phase. I discovered that I have a tin of pearl barley in my pantry and so I wanted to make use of this. I came across a recipe on the Food Network for a Barley Greek Salad and decided to give this a try. I didn’t change much of the recipe besides the fact that I used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar only because I had about a quarter of a bottle left of balsamic. I didn’t want to buy a whole new bottle of red wine vinegar seeing as I didn’t have any (since my whole point is to clear the pantry)! I also decided to throw in some avocado chunks instead of cucumber because for those who know me, cucumber isn’t my thing.

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

Easy, simple, and packed with lots of flavour. Good for a light and healthy (I presume) lunch or as a side to a classic Aussie summer BBQ. The flavours worked really well together; you’ve got the saltiness from the olives, counterbalanced with the acidity of the balsamic vinegar. You’ve got the freshness of the added vegetables as well as the crunch from the diced capsicum, chewiness from the pearl barley, and creaminess of the avocado. Like fireworks in your mouth I tell you; an absolute burst of flavours to the palette!

Greek-inspired Barley Salad Ingredients

PREP TIME 15 MINS | COOKING TIME 45 MINS | SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup danish feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 punnet (250g) cherry tomato medley, quartered
  • 1 small red capsicum, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
  • 1 small red spanish onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp balsamic (or red wine) vinegar
  • 3 tbsp fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of salt

METHOD

  1. Combine the barley, 3 cups water, and a pinch salt in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the barley is tender, approximately 45 minutes. Strain* and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, feta, olives, mint, capsicum and shallots in a large bowl. Once the barley has cooled down, add it to the bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a separate small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and dress the salad and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It’s best to make the barley salad at least 3 hours ahead of time so the flavours have time to incorporate and mingle into each other.

*Optional: when straining the barley, reserve the water for drinking. There are numerous health benefits associated to drinking barley water such as lowering cholesterol levels in the body because of its high fibre content. Barley water also helps reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. It is a good source of magnesium, which reacts with various enzymes involving glucose levels in the body. To find out more about the health benefits of barley water, check out the Diet Health Club.

Greek-inspired Barley Salad

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Baked Eggs with Chorizo & Red Capsicum

Baked Eggs with Chorizo & Red Capsicum

Hello Everyone! So I actually cooked up these bad boys over the weekend for a lovely Sunday brunch. I honestly did not intentionally make it look like a face – it just so happened that when I pulled them out of the oven and was taking photos of the outcome did I realise it was smiling back at me. A happy Sunday indeed (even though it’s like Thursday already). Also, don’t forget to check out the original recipe on SBS.

Baked Eggs with Chorizo & Red Capsicum Ingredients

PREP TIME 5 MINS | COOKING TIME 20-25 MINS | SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 250ml tomato passata
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, cut into slices
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Ground sea salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. In a small frypan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and gently sweat the onions and garlic. Add the sliced capsicum and cook for another 4–5 minutes to soften them a bit.
  3. Add the chorizo slices to pan with the vegetables and stir to cook until the capsicum and onions are really soft. Add the bay leaf, passata, and a splash of water. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the sauce to 4 individual shallow ramekins and crack an egg in each. Bake for about 5–10 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve immediately with a side of soldiers.

Baked Eggs with Chorizo & Red Capsicum

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com