I've been holding off a bit on the food posts of late, because when I enter the kitchen these days it's often in a flurry of inspiration and I don't have the wherewithal to fetch the camera. I have been continuing to document, though. I've been repeating several recipes multiple times in different variations, particularly the cheesesteak which I've probably made about 4 or 5 times by now. I've tried it with various cuts, from the prohibitively expensive, authentic but delicious rib eye, the wonderful and reasonably priced rump steak, and the difficult-to-find skirt steak. I've also been experimenting with using beef seasoning, particularly the Rajah brand, which deepens the flavour immensely. It actually deepens the flavour so much I wonder if it might be too much, if it's disguising the flavour of the cut itself. But I can't be sure without more testing.

The biggest discovery that I made was to actually cook the steak properly as steak rather than the sauted-beef method that's popular and probably more authentic. This means the standard steak cooking method of browning in a hot pan. I cook it until medium rare. You can feel free to do it as rare as you like, because you can easily cook it more at the saute stage. Then remove from the pan and deglaze, reserving the fond. You let the steak cool and slice it into whatever consistency you like. I do chunky pieces. Then cook the rest of the recipe with a covered pan and lastly add in the steak chunks with the various juices. You'll have incredibly juicy cheesesteak mix and chunks that yield to the teeth.

I've found that toasting the ciabatta lightly in the grill before putting in the filling enhances the comfort-feeling of the sandwich. It's controversial but I've started adding cold mayonnaise after the steak mixture. I think this adds a lovely sharpness which offsets the giant umami hit from the brown stuff. This does require a bit more care in adding the cheese, though, because you have to ensure the cheese is melted properly before adding it to the sandwich, so you need to somehow melt the cheese onto the steak mix before. I'm thinking of even trying a lemony mayonnaise? Sounds crazy but perhaps it could work. I tried gherkins as a condiment and found them rather disappointing, I really expected the pickle flavour to work well but for some reason it didn't. Jalapenos work better than gherkins, although I'm not sure I'd consider this a spicy sandwich.

I've also had some thoughts on soto ayam, having re-cooked it recently with excellent results. Thigh works better than breast for this in my view, although I'd certainly remove the skin next time. Two teaspoons of sambal ulek is enough to cover about one bowl when eating with rice. I found out that I really don't like the Maggi Malaysian sauce and need to stop eating it. However, the notorious Maggi liquid seasoning does go very well with reduced-rice that's destined for a South Asian dish, such as rice that you might drown in a big bowl of soto. I can't tell what it is with these dishes but they just go down with such aplomb, I feel like I could eat bowls and bowls of them without ever being sated. This is a characteristic of both Owen's nasi goreng and Owen's soto ayam, though curiously not the pangek ikan. I think the latter may be because the fat content from the coconut milk tends to fill you up. The only common characteristic between those two dishes that I can see is that they're both lean and pungent, getting their kick from a vinegary sambal.

I got some experience in braising from attempting to cook a Mexican short rib in adobo having been inspired by the menu at a local restaurant. But although I succeeded in making edible food twice, both attempts were almost but not entirely unlike the restaurant version, and both were utterly different from each other to boot. The first was smoky, deep, but slightly bitter, having got burned from excessively high oven heat and having the sauce scraped and melded with it: I tempered it with some muscovado sugar, but it stayed questionable. The second was the opposite: done on a low heat for an extremely long time, it fell off the bone more satisfactorily than the first one, but doesn't seem to have absorbed so much flavour in comparison to the first one. Perhaps the truth lies in the middle. Who knew slow cooking could be so difficult?