The new year celebrations have come and gone. Many of us have returned to work and the Christmas break seemed so long ago. The gyms are packed full of people attempting to keep to their new year resolutions of losing weight, getting fit etc etc. January is probably the month where carb intake is the lowest due to enthusiastic weight watchers who stuffed one too many roasted spuds and christmas pudding. Don’t quote me, i’m making stuff up, because I am one of those who tries very, very hard to go the non-carb or low-carb way.
Safe to say, I haven’t been very successful. When I’m after a quick and easy one dish meal, I tend to turn to rice or noodles. Hey I can’t help it – I’m asian!
So I try to be as healthy as possible, loading the dish with more vegetables and protein. This cabbage and chicken pilaf is a quick and easy one-pan meal. If you’re really not in the mood for cleaning up either, you can eat directly from the pan too – no one’s judging!
A pilaf is a rice dish (usually, but not always of Indian influence) cooked with vegetables and broth. It’s versatile, so you can chuck in protein like chicken or other meats or seafood. A way to describe it is like an Indian paella? Just with different flavours and spices and much less labour intensive and time consuming.
Simple ingredients, cooked in 30 minutes or less! Great mid-week meal.
CABBAGE & CHICKEN PILAF
3 fillets of skinless and boneless chicken thighs, sliced
1/2 a head of white cabbage, coursely shredded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 1/2 cups of long grain white rice (you can use basmati rice too)
2 cups of unsalted chicken stock
2 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp of ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste
light soy sauce to taste (optional)
In a 30cm fry pan or cast iron braiser, heat a splash of vegetable oil. Brown chicken pieces until just lightly browned.
Add in ground ginger, cumin, curry powder, garlic and rice. Stir to mix ingredients well and ensure rice is well coated with spices. Add in cabbage, mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add in chicken stock and frozen peas. Mix through and cover pan. Cook for about 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Season to taste. Sprinkle with crispy fried shallots before serving (optional).
Winter officially made its grand entrance today in Melbourne. It’s been a shade of cool grey 8 (think Copic markers). Thick fog descended upon us in the CBD from mid-morning and decided to stay for the rest of the day. M-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! What happened to the eternal sunshine that we boasted of downunder? Gah!!!!
On days like these, all I want is a plate of comforting carbs to soothe the sadness away. Preferably one that can be whipped up in no time and accompanied by a nice glass of vino. Like this simple and delicious pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil.
I’ve never been a big fan of gnocchi. Just as I’m not a big fan of mashed potato or other mushy potato products. I’d usually enjoy a couple mouthfuls and that’s about it. It’s probably something to do with the cloying texture of mushed-up taters – not my thing. Pan-fried gnocchi however, has a slightly crisp exterior and chewy insides which I recently grown to love.
The standard way to cook gnocchi is to boil them like you would any other pasta before pan-frying them. I like frying them directly, skipping the boiling process. I find that with this method, it produces a puffed up, crispier gnocchi which is super yummy.
Going along with the idea that this is a quick and easy meal, I’ve used store-bought gnocchi and canned tomatoes. Can’t get simpler than this. Prep time 2 minutes. Cooking time 15- 20 minutes. Oh yes.
Pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil
Serves 2 hungry fellas or 4 regular people
1 x 400ml can of crushed or chopped tomatoes
Large handful of basil leaves, torn
2 strips of smoked bacon, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
50g of grated parmesan
1/2 tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a pan, add gnocchi (you can pre-boil them first if you wish, but I didn’t) and fry till slightly puffed up and golden (about 7 – 10 minutes). Add garlic and bacon, fry for about 3 minutes or until aroma of fried bacon is wafting through the entire house. Add tomatoes and warm through. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Stir through torn basil leaves. Serve with another drizzle of good olive oil and grated parmesan. Done!
This summer in Melbourne is a true reminder of the song by Crowded House – Four seasons in one day. From blazing hot 38C days to chilly 15C. To make the best of it, I enjoy myself by cooking and eating cool summer salads to rich, warming soups all in the same season. Awesome isn’t it?
On one of those stinking hot days (i’m not very good in extreme heat – picture Oscar the grouch scenarios) I really didn’t feel like cooking or doing anything for that matter but I really wanted a light, healthy and delicious lunch. So despite the non-desire to cook, I left behind my personal indent on the couch and moved sloth-like to the kitchen to whip this dish up. And I was glad I did. I love dishes that require such minimal cooking but yield great results. There’s no sweating over a hot stove either – thanks to whoever invented electric kettles and microwave ovens!
PRAWN, FENNEL AND TOFU SALAD
20 medium prawns, shells removed (I used frozen ones)
150g fresh firm tofu (bean curd), cubed
1 small fennel, sliced finely
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced finely
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots (available from asian stores)
handful of fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley), leaves picked
100g glass noodles (bean thread vermicelli)
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
Prepare dressing by whisking lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar and ginger until all the sugar has dissolved.
Cook prawns – you can boil them in a pot or cook them in a bowl of water in the microwave for 5 minutes (or until cooked through), drain and set aside to cool.
Place glass noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave aside for 10 minutes, then drain and cool by running through some cold water.
Assemble salad with all of the ingredients including cooked prawns and noodles except the fried shallots.
Toss salad with dressing, then top with fried shallots. Serve cool. Yum.
There are days when the hours seem to slip by so quickly and stealthily and soon enough the sun’s setting and it’s time for dinner and oh my gosh, I haven’t prepared anything yet! Yes, yes – this is even when jobless me is at home all day fiddling around. You see, if I’m actually at work, I tend to plan ahead a lot more and usually I have something prepared, defrosted or planned for dinner.
Thank God for pasta. It has got to be one of the easiest and fastest meals to whip up…aside from baked beans on toast of course. Well, this linguini was done in 30 minutes tops, and only because the pasta took time to cook and the prawns needed to be defrosted in the microwave. It’s quick and delicious and pretty much a fail-proof, mid-week, when you’ve-forgotten-to-prep-for-dinner kinda meal.
Chilli Prawn Linguini
400g shelled, green prawns
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
handful of fresh basil leaves
400g tinned tomatoes
salt and pepper
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water according to packet instructions
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan on medium. Cook prawns for 1-2 minutes, until they begin to change colour. Add in chilli and garlic. Cook for another minute before adding in tinned tomatoes, including all the juices. Season to taste and stir through basil leaves.
Drain cooked pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta through the sauce, adding in some of the cooking liquid to get a smooth, glossy coating of sauce throughout.
So, there’s been some progress. We found a lovely apartment and have just moved in. Most of the stuff have been unpacked, but part two (currently on a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean) will only arrive later in June. What’s left to do? Setting up a kitchen from scratch. Let me just say, it’s NO FUN. I’d rather have all the things I’m familiar with – all the spices, flours and condiments, the pots, pans and baking equipment. I miss them all! I do have really nice cutlery, glassware and crockery though. Mostly gifts from our wedding five years ago. I just have to be very patient. Very, very patient as I discover how slowly ships sail…
I also ask for your patience as I get things going down under. In lieu of actual cooking, I am now using one of my few back ups from the last few days in London. I had leftover flour which I didn’t want to chuck out, and so it was either a cake or pizza. Pizza won.
So I made some home-made white pizza with spice-roasted chicken, pesto and sundried tomatoes. Great way to use up all the last bits of condiments and spices!
For the dough, I used Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough recipe and halved it.
Pizza making can be quite a mess but it’s loads of fun and definitely very therapeutic.
Makes about 4 medium pizzas
500g strong white bread flour
1/2 level tablespoon fine sea salt
7g of dried yeast
1/2 tablespoon golden caster sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
325ml lukewarm water
Sieve the flour and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
Remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas.
With this white pizza, I used pesto as the base and topped it with sliced chicken breast which I roasted with some dried herbs and spices. Sundried tomatoes gave the pizzas a zing and cheese, lots of yummy cheese is essential. The best part about home-made pizzas is that you can top your pizza with your favourite ingredients. Go crazy!
I’ll be back soon with some new posts soon. Fingers crossed. xx
Wat Dan Hor Fun – no no, I’m not making funny noises. It’s the actual name of this dish in Cantonese. Translated, it means ‘smooth/silky’ (wat) ‘egg’ (dan) ‘flat rice noodles’ (hor fun). It’s a very common dish especially in Singapore and parts of Malaysia.
How do I describe this dish? The perfect wat dan hor fun has slightly charred ‘wok-flavoured’ rice noodles, smothered in a tasty, lightly thickened stock with chiffon ribbons of egg, fish cake, prawns, chicken or pork and chinese mustard greens or bok choy.
The ‘charred wok flavoured’ noodles bit is rather important. Pre-frying the rice noodles softens and adds a whole level of tastiness to the dish. Done the right way, the wok should be searingly hot, and the noodles are lightly seasoned with soy sauce and stir fried quickly to give the noodles the wok flavour and light brown colouring. If possible, use the thicker (wider) rice noodles instead of the thin, pad thai ones. It’s rather difficult to get the right kind of rice noodles here in the UK. I got the medium width ones and they weren’t as good.
And I didn’t have a searingly hot wok. Something to do with my pathetic electric stove. I can never get the wok hot enough. So my noodles weren’t as charred as I wanted them to be.
I’ve had better attempts at making this dish, but this was the only one I took photos of. So you’re kind stuck with a dud-y version. Still good (taste wise) but the texture from the rice noodles was a big, fat FAIL.
Anyway, accompanied with good sambal chilli or pickled green chilli – hubs and I enjoyed every tasty ribbony bit of it. I’ll just have to get the right kind of rice noodles next time.
Texture is so darn important in a dish isn’t it??
RICE NOODLES IN EGG CHIFFON SAUCE (WAT DAN HOR FUN)
650gm flat rice noodles (get the wider ‘frying type’)
4 tbsp oil
2 tsp soya sauce
2 tsp dark soya sauce
120g lean pork/chicken
100g fish cake (optional)
4 whole stalks / heads of chinese mustard greens or bok choy - washed and cut into bit size
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp cornflour(heaped) mixed with 1/2 cup water
600ml stock (I used chicken stock)
1 tbsp soya sauce
pepper and salt to taste
Soften and loosen the fresh flat rice noodles as they tend to be stuck together and brittle when refrigerated. (steaming the noodles on a covered dish in a microwave is probably the quickest and best way)
Heat wok until very hot, add in enough oil to grease the wok, fry a handful of the the noodles. Add light and dark soya sauces and stir fry briskly. Allow noodles to burn a little at the edges to obtain a smoky taste. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the noodles.
Heat 1 tbsp oil and fry prawns and meat until cooked, add in garlic and fish cake and fry until fragrant.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add in the vegetables and when gravy comes to a boil, add in the cornflour mixture. Bring gravy back to a hard boil to cook the cornflour and thicken the sauce. Season to taste.
Turn off heat and mix in 2 lightly beaten eggs, stir with a pair of chopsticks to cook the eggs and create the eggy chiffon ribbons.
Dish gravy onto the fried noodles, garnish with crispy fried shallots (optional) and sambal chilli / sliced pickled green chilli).
I have been told that in Sicily, you will rarely eat anything that is produced or grown more than a few miles from where you are sitting. They believe in local, fresh and simple food. Sardines caught fresh in the morning is soon found in a delicious lunch, grilled or cooked in their unofficial ‘national dish’ – Pasta con le Sarde (Pasta with Sardines).
Pasta c’anciova e muddica (Pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs) is also a very Sicilian dish and it’s a new discovery for me. I’ve always wondered about having breadcrumbs in pasta – it’s like adding carbs to carbs! However, it’s a dish I will definitely be cooking again.
Fresh anchovies are very popular in the Mediterranean, very similar in taste to sardines. However they do not travel well and so almost all exports are cured, packed in salt or oil. Many people I know are not fond of these little flavour-packed fish but I love them! They are really great blended with butter and adds instant flavour to pasta, vegetables etc.
I saw this recipe online a while back and thought it sounded divine. It sat in my drafts folder for the longest time until I finally remembered that I have a few fillets of anchovies left which would be perfect for it.
Fresh hot spaghetti tossed in a delicious combination of melted anchovies, soft, sweet onions and garlic and topped with teeny, tiny toasted breadcrumbs and finished with an added sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil – speechless. So simple, so wonderfully tasty.
Pasta c’anciova e muddica
* 160g spaghetti
* 8 anchovy filets, salted or brined
* 1 large garlic clove
* 1 small onion
* 25-30 g bread crumbs ( I used one slice of regular sandwich bread)
* some dried chilli pepper (to taste)
* chopped parsley
* a teaspoon of grated Sicilian pecorino (optional) (I used parmigiano reggiano)
* 3 tablespoons of good quality extra-virgin olive oil
* salt for the pasta
Coarsely chop the anchovies, slice the garlic and onion paper-thin and set aside.
While you bring the water for the pasta to a boil, heat the bread crumbs in a pan over a medium flame. Stir continuously till the bread crumbs become a nice tan colour. Remove the pan from the flame, pour half the oil into it and stir till all the bread crumbs are coated. Set aside.
When the water boils, salt it and add the spaghetti. While the spaghetti cooks, heat the remaining oil in a pan on a medium-high flame. Once hot, add the chopped anchovies and with a wooden spoon, mash them till they dissolve into the oil. Add the onion and garlic and let it cook till they just start to become golden, then add the chilli, reduce the heat and cook for another two minutes; set aside.
The pasta should be ready and al dente by now: drain it well and dress it with the anchovy-onion-garlic mixture. Add two thirds of the bread crumbs, the parsley and cheese (if using) and stir well. Serve with last sprinkle of the toasted bread crumbs and light drizzle of olive oil.
My brother-in-law finally proposed to his gorgeous other half, and they’ve decided to have their wedding in Vietnam where they currently live and work. It’s very exciting news! Not only for the lovely couple but for me as well…I’ve never been to Vietnam, and I’m sure it will be an amazing and beautiful experience.
Until then, I thought it would be a great idea to join fellow bloggers in a monthly blogging event called Delicious Vietnam. The founders of this event A food lover’s journey and Ravenous Couple put this together so food enthusiasts and bloggers alike are able to come together in the blogosphere to share and explore the wonderful flavours of Vietnamese cuisine.
Aside from Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, I have never tried making vietnamese food at home. It always just seemed easier to pop into a local vietnamese restaurant and order my favourite steaming bowl of beef brisket pho.
With this event, I thought it would be nice to cook one of my other favourite Vietnamese dishes. Banh Xeo – a southern Vietnamese recipe. This is a rice flour crepe flavoured with coconut milk and turmeric and is usually made with pork, prawns and bean sprouts. The savoury crepe is crisp and fragrant,(coconut milk in a crepe mix – the Vietnamese sure know how to do it best!!) along with succulent prawns and fresh bean sprouts and eaten with the sweet and tangy Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) – this dish is certainly a winner.
Instead of sliced pork or pork belly, I used chinese sausage (lap cheong) which gives a more caremelised and sweet kick to the filling.
Usually eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves and other herbs like basil and mint, Banh Xeo is a great sharing starter. However I decided to make it a main dish, and simply shovel the deliciousness sans lettuce leaves into my gob. Yum yum.
Be patient while making the crepe, cook on medium heat and give the crepe enough time to crisp up. The crispy bits make the dish!
Adapted from Southeast Asian Flavours
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 chinese sausage, cut into thin slices
500g shelled king prawns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced yellow onions, sliced
2 cups bean sprouts
Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) - the best recipe I’ve tried so far
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1-2 bird’s eye chilies, cut into very fine rings
1 clove garlic, minced finely
- In a large bowl whisk together the rice flour, turmeric powder and salt. Add water and coconut milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Set batter to rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat up a 10-inch non-stick pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then add one portion of sausage, prawns, onions and spring onions. Stir fry until prawns are half done, turn down the heat and ladle 1/2 cup of batter into pan. Swirl pan to coat bottom evenly. Add bean sprouts over half the crepe. Drizzle a little more oil around outer edge of crepe.
- Cover pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove cover and continue to cook until edges begin to brown. Loosen crepe from bottom of pan with a soft spatula. When bottom turns light brown and crispy, fold crepe to encase bean sprouts.
(I found that by pushing more of the prawns to one side of the pan before ladling the batter – the same side where the sprouts go – allows the crepe to be less heavy on the side that you need to flip over. This avoids breakage and produces a much prettier crepe)
Thought I’d give this recipe a shot because while doing my pre-grocery shopping food surf on the couch one night, the hubs glanced over and saw that I had this recipe on the screen and commented that it looked ‘yum’…that did it. Sold to the biggest ‘yum’. Got to give it a try…plus the teensy draw of it being ‘one-pot’ of course.
Sausages and rice straight from the stove and into our bellies on a cold, snowy evening…very, very comforting indeed. It’s a very simple recipe and rather adaptable too. Add more rice if you prefer a more hearty risotto-like dish , less if you prefer something soupy. I also took the liberty of adding frozen peas. carrots and chilli to give it a touch of veggie and spice. I’m pretty sure most vegetables will cook well in this dish.
- 6 – 8 sausages (I used lincolnshire sausages)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion , finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves , crushed
- 2 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1.5 cups long grain rice
- 600ml chicken stock
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- a large handful of frozen peas
- 1 small carrot chopped
- 1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
- Squeeze meat out of sausage skins and roll into balls. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan, then brown the meatballs well on all sides until cooked – you might need to do this in batches. Set the meatballs aside.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Soften for 5 mins, stir in the spices and rice, then cook for another min. Pour in the stock and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any sausagey bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the vegetables. Simmer for 10 mins until the rice is just cooked, then stir in the meatballs with some seasoning, simmer another minute, then serve – top with spring onions and some chilli.
Have you even given a chicken an exfoliating scrub and massage? I have!
First they’re all a little loose and wrinkly…so you give it a nice sea salt scrub massage. How luxurious…rub…rub…rub…
Eh…voila! Post exfoliation chicken skin is smooth and shiny. Now you know it really does work on our face!
I’m not crazy I can assure you. I was just preparing to cook the ultimate favourite dish of my original homeland…yeah I have made one too many homes now. Singapore’s pride and joy – Chicken Rice. Otherwise known as Hainanese Chicken Rice. I first learnt how to cook this dish from a friend who is Hainanese, so I guess it’s considered somewhat authentic…somewhat.
The essentials to good chicken rice is the tenderness of the poached chicken and the fragrance of the rice.
So, back to my chicken. Having been exfoliated, stuff the chicken’s cavity with thick slices of ginger and spring onion. Bring a pot of salted water to boil (with enough water to cover the bird), immerse the chicken breast side down and let the pot come back to a boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Make sure there’s no major boiling action…just slow, slow simmering. This produces juicy, tender chicken. Just the way it should be.
There will be scum. Lots of it. If I hadn’t exfoliated the chicken, there would have been way more scum. Skim the scum off with a fine sieve or other fancy gadgets you may have.
Once cooked, dunk the chicken in an ice bath. Watch the ice melt helplessly…but leave it in the bath for about 10 minutes.In the meantime, cook the rice (instructions below) with the chicken stock, garlic and screwpine (pandan) leaves. Let the fragrance emanate through the whole house, sit in the corner with hungry hubby and wait patiently. Or leave hungry hubby alone in the corner, and head back to the kitchen to prepare homemade chicken rice chilli sauce. No no…not cheating and getting it from a jar this time.
The chilli sauce is an important factor to this dish. Along with dark soy sauce…it takes the simple, poached chicken and rice to a whole different level. It is a must have…otherwise, you’ll just have regular poached chicken and rice. It’ll still be delish I’m sure, but I’m a chilli freak.
Oh, aside from crispy deep fried chicken skin, this is about the only non-fried chicken skin I would actually eat. (If it’s not too fatty)…so this is when you’ll truly appreciate the scum-free, smooth skin of the chicken. Yummers.
FOR THE POACHED CHICKEN:
1 whole chicken (about 1.8kg), preferably organic
Course salt / sea salt
5 inches of fresh ginger, sliced
2 stalks spring onions
light soy sauce
1. Exfoliate chicken with the salt till the dead skin bits are gone and what is left is smooth, shiny skin.
2. Stuff ginger and spring onions in the chicken’s cavity.
3. In a big pot, boil some salted water. Immerse chicken breast side in, make sure there’s enough water to cover the chicken. Let the water come back to a boil, lower heat and let it simmer slowly on low for about 45 minutes.
4. Once done, lift the chicken out of the stock and immerse in ice bath for about 10 minutes. Let chicken cool completely before cutting / de-boning it.
5. Once de-boned, drizzle lightly with sesame oil and light soy sauce. Garnish and serve with rice.
FOR THE RICE:
3 cups of jasmine / long grained rice, rinsed and drained well
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 stalks of screwpine leaves, washed and knotted
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cooking oil (or chicken fat if you have some)
6 cups of chicken stock (which is why you need to cook the chicken first!)
1 tbsp of chicken stock powder (optional – but I find that it adds more flavour)
1. In a hot pan, heat the oil, add the garlic and fry till fragrant (but not browned!) add the rice, salt and stock powder and fry till the rice is slightly translucent.
2. Place rice in rice cooker, add the screwpine leaves and stock and cook as per usual. (Same way you’d cook rice in a pot if you do not have a rice cooker)
FOR THE CHILLI SAUCE:
2 – 3 large red chillies which are less spicy (I used the super spicy small ones)
2 – 3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp of chicken stock
a generous pinch of salt
1. Whiz everything up in a blender and hurrah we have chilli sauce.
Once upon a time, a little boy was given some yummy chinese-style chicken glutinous rice and he ate and ate and ate…till he could eat no more. He did not realise that glutinous rice expands quite a lot in the belly…and so he became a quite ill. He swore never to eat glutinous rice again. Little did he know that more than twenty years later, his beloved wife would make him a new, shiny and happy glutinous rice convert again. Ha!
I personally really enjoy lor mai fun (glutinous rice) – which is usually steamed with marinated chicken, mushroom and chinese sausage. There are variations of Lor Mai Fun, which is usually served as a dim sum dish. Some are steamed in a small bowl and served turned out like a jelly mould, some are steamed in lotus leaves which gives it an additional aroma and some are just mixed though and steamed.
With the lack of small bowls and lotus leaves, I picked option three.
This is definitely not a last-minute-plonk-stuff-together kinda meal, there’s some planning ahead required. Not something I’m used to doing, but I really, really wanted some Lor Mai Fun, so I had to get organised.
Paid off. Big time. Not only did I enjoy every morsel of my savoury childhood snack, hubby got to re-live his enjoyment too, minus the major tummy-ache. Smiles all round.
STEAMED GLUTINOUS RICE (LOR MAI FUN)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
It’s ridiculous how much I’m addicted to pasta. Something as simple as garlic, olive oil and chilli mixed through with freshly cooked al dente spaghetti is to me what a bar of chocolate is to most women. Comfort.
I’ve never really cooked rocket before. I’m totally limited to using this pretty (wild rocket leaves are quite pretty isn’t it?) leaf in salads. So this recipe by none other than my favourite Jamie Oliver, intrigued me. Peppery flavours of rocket wilted through hot pasta, chilli, garlic, lemon juice, parmesan. Check, check, check, check and check!
I had some thinly sliced salami in the fridge calling out to me at that time, so even though not a hint of pig is involved in the original recipe, I added them to the dish and it was goooood. Oh salty spicy salami, you complete me.
WILD ROCKET & CHILLI SPAGHETTI
Adapted from www.jamieoliver.com
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil
3 handfuls of wild rocket
zest and juice of 1 lemon
500g dried spaghetti (okay, I ran out, so I used linguini instead)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
a handful of thin deli salami roughly torn up (my addition)
Heat a wide saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Fry salami till slightly crisp, add the garlic, chilli and the anchovy fillets and fry gently for a minute or so. Add 2 handfuls of the wild rocket with the lemon zest and juice and then remove from the heat. The rocket will wilt from the heat – mix it well with the garlic, chilli and anchovies.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water, according to the packet instructions, and drain. Tip into the saucepan and toss together with the rocket and chilli sauce.
Season well with salt and pepper (although I didn’t use much salt because both the salami and anchovies are salty enough, and I had salt in my pasta cooking water) and serve with some of the reserved fresh rocket and the grated Parmesan on top.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Ahh…that age old question…
Oyako donburi, also known as Oyakodon and is literally translated as ‘parent and child rice bowl dish’ which is a reference to the chicken and egg combination. Apparently there’s a fish version, with salmon and roe! Talk about taking this poetic comparison to a whole different level.
Oyakodon is a simple dish of chicken and egg stewed in a broth of dashi or chicken stock, mirin and soy (or shoyu, if you want to be more authentic) and served over freshly cooked rice. It’s simplicity is very much in line with the Japanese way of cooking and it’s one of the more popular rice bowl dishes alongside ramen and soba meals in traditional Japanese restaurants.
Plain Japanese rice drenched with the stock combined with mirin and soy is simply divine – with chunks of tender chicken, soft sweet onions and cloud-like tufts of egg.
2-3 cups cooked Japanese rice
2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
3 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup dashi stock (or chicken stock)
2 teaspoons of mirin
1 teaspoon of Japanese soy sauce (shoyu) – you can use regular light soy sauce
Salt to taste
Chopped spring onions
- Add stock, mirin and shoyu to a pan, bring it to a simmer then add in sliced onions.
- Cook onions for about 2-3 minutes till it’s just tender, taste the stock and season accordingly with salt. Lay chicken pieces evenly over the onions. Let the chicken simmer in the stock for about 4 – 5 minutes, covered. Then turn the chicken pieces over and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Pour beaten egg evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle some of the spring onions. Do not stir. Simmer till the egg is almost set – you do not want it to be totally hardened.
- Serve the chicken and egg equally over two bowls of freshly cooked rice. Garnish with more spring onions.
Char Kuay Teow (fried rice noodles) is a Southeast Asian hawker classic. The traditional char kuay teow is stir fried over high heat with rice noodles, fish cakes, bean sprouts, eggs, cockles and most importantly, lard – which is why it has a reputation of being one of the most unhealthy hawker style food. But one of the most famously delish ones.
Aside from the fact that getting the super high heat and a seasoned wok to obtain the smoky flavour also known as ‘wok hei’ (breath of the wok) is impossible with electric stove cooking, this dish is rather easy to prepare at home. With light vegetable oil replacing lard, it is my hope that my version of char kuay teow will not be heart attack on a plate but a healthier and life-friendly dish. (I can only hope)
Best cooked in individual serves.
CHAR KUAY TEOW (single serve)
20g each of rice noodles and egg noodles
8 slices of chinese sausage
1 small clove of garlic
5-6 slices of fish cake
handful of chinese chives (or bean sprouts)
1/2 tsp chilli oil/paste
2 tsp light soy (or more if you prefer)
short dash of dark soy (for colouring – optional)
Heat up small amount of cooking oil in a hot wok, add in chinese sausage and fry till fragrant. Add in garlic, fish cake and both noodles. Stir fry quickly to mix ingredients thoroughly. Create a space by pushing the noodles aside in the wok, then crack in the egg. Break the egg up and let it fry a little before mixing the noodles through. Add in all seasoning, stir and cook till noodles are done (about 3 mins). Add in chinese chives and stir through to wilt them before serving.
I’ve just returned from a wonderful weekend in Paris…and my head is still somewhere in French gaga land. I’ve got photos to share, but it also means I have to sort through them and that takes just a little too much effort at this point. I’ll get there I’m sure…there’s a long weekend coming up, I’ll be recovered from post-holiday blues by then. Fingers crossed.
For now, I thought I’d share this simple, comforting meal that is healthy and tasty. And the best part – only one pan for washing! Good deal all round especially for those über lazy days.
Cooking basmati rice in the same pan with flavour-laden pieces of chicken and vegetables cannot go wrong. The grains soak up all the delicious spices and juices and you end up with guaranteed mouthfuls of yum.
Easy Chicken & Broccoli Pilaf
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 small boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into chunks
- ½ – 1 tbsp of your favourite curry paste (more if you like it punchy!)
- 3/4 cup of basmati rice
- 1 cup of chicken stock (or just enough to barely cover the chicken and rice)
- 1 small head of broccoli, split and cut into bite-size pieces
- ½ cup of frozen peas (optional)
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Heat up some oil in a frying pan, cook the onions for about 5 minutes till they’re soft. Add in chicken pieces and curry paste and fry till they have some colour. Add in basmati rice and mix well.
- Add in chicken stock, till they just cover the chicken and rice, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Add in broccoli and peas, cover and cook for another 10 minutes till all the stock is absorbed and the rice is cooked through.
- Stir through cooked chicken, rice and vegetables, season to taste and enjoy.
Next to its famous cousin, phở (Vietnamese rice noodles soup), the rice paper roll is probably one of the other more well-known Vietnamese favourites. In general, the spring roll-like combination of rice paper, salad, noodles, shrimp or pork is rather bland which I take it to mean – uber healthy! There’s not a single drop of oil used in this recipe, and everything in it is either boiled or steamed.
All the yumminess lie in the dipping sauce – Nước chấm – which is generally a concoction of fish sauce, lime/lemon juice/vinegar, sugar and optional aromatics like garlic and chilli.
Rice paper comes in stiff round sheets which is softened in a shallow dish of hot/warm water and then placed on a clean tea towel for some rolling action. The filling ingredients are kept simple and fresh. In this shrimp roll, I used carrots, lettuce, cucumber, coriander, cooked shrimp and cooked rice noodles. When there’s too much filling, it gets tricky handling the now sticky rice paper and the strands of rice noodles or lettuce that insists on sticking out…The key is to not over-fill and leave enough space around the sides of the rice paper for folding and rolling.
It’s a great entrée to serve at dinner parties, or as canapés or snacks. The good thing is that the rolls stay fresh covered with a damp cloth for a few hours, so it’s a great dish that can be prepared ahead of time.
Ingredients for rice paper roll:
- rice paper
- julienned carrot
- coriander leaves
- shredded lettuce
- julienned cucumber
- cooked shrimps (split in half)
- handful of cooked rice noodles
Basic Nước chấm:
Makes ¾ cup
3-4 tablespoons lime/lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 birds eye chilli, finely minced
Combine all the ingredients together, taste and adjust accordingly. There should be a good balance of tartness and sweetness. Once you’re happy with the sauce, add garlic and chilli and let the sauce sit for at least 30 minutes.
Slow-cooked peppers are to die for.
When you slow cook a bunch of sliced up peppers and red onions, magic happens. This pasta peperonata has certainly made it to my favourite pasta list. The peppers softened first and joined later by the red onions, were almost syrupy sweet. A generous splash of balsamic vinegar cuts through the sweetness and gives the sauce a full, rounded flavour.
The penne that I used in place of the recommended rigatoni, were well coated in the delicious sauce. All cheesy, gooey and irresistibly good. So good both hubby and I overate…again.
adapted from ‘Jamie’s Dinners’
• 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
• 2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced
• extra virgin olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
• 2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped, stalks reserved
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
• 2 handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese
• 500g rigatoni, penne or spaghetti
Put all the peppers in a large frying pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place a lid on, and cook slowly for 15 minutes until softened. (This slow-cooking process is what creates the pepper magic, so be patient – go watch TV or something while you wait.)
Add the onion and cook for a further 20 minutes. Then add the garlic and parsley stalks and toss around, keeping everything moving in the pan.
Have a little taste, and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Add the vinegar – it will sizzle away, so give everything a good toss. Then add one handful of the grated Parmesan.
Stir the cooked pasta through this yummy concoction, drizzle with more olive oil and serve with more of the grated parmesan.
Heaven…on a carb-laden plate.
Kimchi Bokkeumbap – literally translates as Kimchi Fried Rice. This dish is easy to prepare and rather cost effective which explains why it’s a common favourite for Korean students on a budget. This recipe calls for over-ripe or well-fermented kimchi as the deep, spicy flavours is what gives the dish that rich, robust taste which fresh kimchi apparently does not produce. I wouldn’t know as my kimchi comes from a pack…and they’re always well-fermented.
Similar to the Chinese fried rice – leftover or overnight cooked rice is best for this dish. However, many claim that the Korean fried rice is healthier than the Chinese version. Only very little oil is used in cooking bokkeumbap as the kimchi liquids help to soften and lubricate the grains while frying. Apparently, kimchi is also low-calorie and has a high-level of anti-oxidants which aids in digestion and reduces cholesterol. I don’t know how true that is, but I love kimchi anyway so if it’s good for me, then double yay!
Other popular bokkeumbap include Gaeran Bokkeumba (egg fried rice), Dakgalbi Bokkeumbap (chicken) and Seawoo Bokkeumbap (shrimp) – all typically served with a sunny-side up fried egg on top. I love it when the runny yolk is mixed through with the spicy rice…drool.
(I do not have fixed quantities with this recipe, as it’s all about using leftovers and more importantly – using our God-given sense of taste…)
Leftover / overnight long grain rice
A bowl of kimchi, roughly chopped up
A couple cloves of garlic, finely diced
Some form of greens (I used frozen peas here)
Minced pork – marinated with some light and dark soy
Eggs (fried sunny side up – before cooking the rice – saves on washing another pan)
Fresh red chilli, finely sliced (optional – for those who like it SPICY)
Spring onion for garnishing
Heat up a little cooking oil in a wok, stir fry the minced pork, adding garlic and chilli halfway through. Cook the meat till it’s nicely coloured and cooked through. Add kimchi and some of the liquid, mix well and add frozen peas. Once the mixture bubbles up again, add the rice and stir fry till mixed through and all the grains are well coated with the kimchi and pork juices. Season with light soy if necessary (please taste first as some kimchi can be well seasoned already). Serve with a fried egg and spring onion garnish.
Another one of my favourite Jamie Oliver recipes. Tried and tested quite a few times. There’s no real sauce that goes with the pasta, but the power-packed flavours are in the sausage and coated in the pan while cooking, so all that goodness sticks to the cooked pasta when stirred through.
This was also the first pasta recipe I’ve tried that uses crushed fennel seeds. I have never tried cooking with fennel seeds before, not favouring the aniseedy flavour it produces. However, I’m a convert – this aromatic herb is excellent, and in this dish the fennel seeds are cooked with the sausages and it takes regular sausage meat from normal to special. Jamie calls this dish ‘proper bloke’s sausage fusilli’. Deep down, I must be a bloke then, cos I absolutely love this. It’s a gutsy, earthy dish and very easy to prepare.
This recipe is from the ‘Cook with Jamie’ book but for a full recipe low-down, go to Jamie’s site here.
Udon is a thick, wheat based Japanese noodle, popular cooked in a soup or stir fried. It’s one of those noodles that is rather fool-proof to cook. It’s springy and easy to handle – there’s low risk of overcooking or turning it to mush. On its own, the udon noodle is pretty tasteless but it is great for handling all sorts of sauces and flavours.
Like the soba, the udon can pretty much be cooked with anything. Vegetables, meat, fish – whatever you fancy. In short, use your creativity. This is the best kind of cooking I reckon!
This version of yaki udon is made with veggies, chicken and loads of yummy sauce for the noodles to soak it all in.
2 chicken breasts, sliced and marinated in light soy
4 heads of bok choy
1/2 a small napa cabbage
fresh minced garlic
thinly sliced and julienned ginger
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp mirin
cornflour for thickening sauce
Fry ginger and garlic till fragrant before adding in marinated chicken. Stir fry the chicken till almost cooked then add in noodles, vegetables and all the sauces. Mix it well in the wok. Add in about 1/4 cup chicken stock, cover and simmer for 10 mins. Mix 1.5 teaspoons of cornflour with a tiny bit of water, stir it in the noodles to thicken the sauce before serving.
A quick and delicious weeknight dinner – oh, do be careful of sauce splash action if you’re a noodle slurper!!
Eighty-four year old Marcella Hazan is known as the godmother of Italian cooking. Now, we’re talking about Italian food here – and that is one esteemed title to be had. Her very first cookbook The Classic Italian Cookbook was only published when she was fifty. I only came across this legend of cookery when I started reading and writing food blogs and many other foodie bloggers were raving about this recipe and that recipe…I knew I had to find out more.
Epicurious did an interview with Marcella Hazan (read the full interview here) which I found totally endearing and it made me want to meet Mrs Hazan herself. She sounds like a wonderful, Italian mama. I found what she said about cooking simple food to be so true – “It’s not easy to make a simple dish because you don’t do too many things and you have to do it right.”
She’s so right. I tried her infamous tomato pasta sauce which sounds completely simple with only three ingredients – yes, three! And I think I messed it up. Firstly, I did this on a weeknight, so I had limited time and rushed the cooking process. Secondly, I didn’t have canned plum tomatoes, only chopped regular ones and finally, I forgot to buy fresh parmesan cheese and so resorted to pre-packed grated ones. The result of it was a very pleasant, simple tomato sauce but I can imagine if I had gotten the right ingredients, and gave the whole cooking process a lot more love and care…it would have been totally and amazingly delicious. I’m definitely going to get my act together and try this recipe again sometime.
Now I’ll leave you with Mrs Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter recipe:
Adapted from her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
2 cups whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt, to taste
Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow but steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.
Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.
When it comes to life-saving products, Prima Taste is one of them. It’s been fabulous living overseas (first Australia and now in the UK), but one of the major drawbacks is the constant craving for comfort food from my homeland – Singapore. Satay, kuay chup, char kuay teow, lor mee – just to name a few. I do admit that I am very fortunate to be living in metropolitan cities brimming with restaurants from all over the world, so I am not short of Singapore/Malaysia restaurants to go to satiate my cravings. However, I cannot afford to be eating out all the time, and somehow the satisfaction of creating homemade comfort food sometimes does beat having to fork out good money for someone else to do it. Key word being ‘sometimes’ though…
Ever since the clever people at Prima Taste started creating comfort food in a box for us overseas droolers…life has been vastly improved. These boxes of pastes, liquids and powders have brought our much-loved hawker dishes into our very own kitchens. I have tried quite a few of them now (there’s a limited supply of them in the UK, so I get what I can with the more exotic ones courtesy of visiting friends from home) – Curry Laksa, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Mee Siam, Beef Rendang, Satay, Sayur Lodeh, Char Kuay Teow, Chilli Crab and Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee.
It’s so convenient and by going through the easy-to-follow instructions on the pack, an extremely decent version of our hawker favourites may just appear right before you. My all-time favourite Prima Taste pack has got to be the Curry Laksa. Two steaming hot bowls of spicy, coconut based noodle soup in a jiffy! The creamy coconut soup is very authentic, and the extra sachet of sambal chilli gives the soup that much needed kick. Slurp!
I love Prima Taste. The only gripe I have with them is that they have removed the sachets of laksa leaves from the curry laksa pack. They claim that the leaves have been incorporated in the paste. I want those leaves! I love those leaves! Ah well…I guess beggars really can’t be choosers. I have my laksa, and I’m happy.
OMG…I just saw on the Prima Taste website that they now have ‘Lor Mee’ and ‘Bak Chor Mee!!! I want!!!!
Is there truly a benefit of switching to whole wheat? I’m talking about one of my favourite ‘food groups’ – pasta. We all know that choosing wholemeal/wheat bread is by far the better choice. The same applies to pasta. White pasta apparently has more calories per serve compared to whole wheat. There’s also the fibre factor in whole wheat, as well as added doses of protein and minerals such as riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. (Not that I know anything about what these minerals do). It also digests slower than white pasta, so it keeps you full for longer.
I grew up eating soft, fluffy white bread, and the switch to wholemeal bread was no song and dance. I actually really love whole grain bread, despite the tendency of having little seeds stuck in my teeth. So it was rather surprising that I took this long to make the switch to whole wheat pasta.
Whole wheat pasta can be readily found in stores now. Made from whole durum wheat or whole semolina, the uncooked pasta doesn’t look like much – in fact, some of them look like strips of dried out cardboard which didn’t help in my quest for change.
So, what’s the verdict? I’m not hating it. I have now tried different pastas, different brands, cooked differently each time. I have a feeling the switch will be the same page torn out of my white-to-whole bread history. Okay, you’ll notice the slight difference in the taste – it has a more grainy, woody flavour but it does not bother me, nor my fussier other half. Texture-wise, the change was barely discernible.
The switch is promisingly permanent methinks. Now, brown rice vs. white?…That is a different story. I haven’t quite won that battle just yet.