I’m a Jamie Oliver fan. Simply because I’ve tried several of his recipes and they have all been fantastic. Jamie’s latest cookbook ‘Jamie Does…’ is an exploration of food and culture of various places including Morocco, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Italy and France. I’ve also watched the TV series and have drooled over many, many goodies and gorgeous sceneries.
The very first dish I attempted from this new book is from the Spanish section. It’s a Chorizo and Tomato salad. Oh. My. Gawd. I loved this so much. It was so simple yet totally delicious. Crispy, salty chorizo mixed in with sweet juicy tomatoes in a simple vinaigrette and eaten with warm bread. So, so, so good. Even hubby who isn’t a big tomato fan gave the thumbs up, while he mopped up the last bit of juices on the plate.
Chorizo and Tomato Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s new book – ‘Jamie Does…’
1 chorizo sausage (raw), sliced roughly
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 stalk spring onions, finely chopped
Fresh ground pepper
white wine vinegar
fresh flat-leaved parsley, shopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Cook the chorizo in a lug of olive oil, you want them to be nice and crispy…once they’re ready, tilt the pan so the chorizo and oil are all on one side of the pan – throw the sliced garlic in the oil. Once the garlic starts to produce its wonderful aroma, it’s ready.
While the chorizo is cooking, prepare the tomato salad with some olive oil, salt, pepper and white wine vinegar (Jamie uses sherry vinegar but I didn’t have any)…toss in the spring onions and parsley.
Mix the cooked chorizo and garlic (and some of the flavour-packed oil) into the tomato salad and you’re ready! How easy was that?
Yum…I just had this two nights ago, but I’m thinking of getting more of it RIGHT NOW! It’s a great summer dish…I pictured myself sitting on a sunny patio, barefoot and enjoying the sunshine while I tucked into this dish, washing it down with a nice, cold glass of rosé. (Day-dreaming obviously – cos there’s no sun, no patio…but I could conjure up another one of this lovely salad and I still have some pink zinfandel waiting for me in my patio-less apartment).
How ironic that just as I was ranting about the heat over the weekend on my last post, it’s turned to grey skies and rain this week. Our portable air-conditioner sits dormant in our bedroom and we’re back to preparing ‘cool weather’ food. I know, the joys of summer in London. Really, I’m not complaining – I kinda enjoy having sunny hot weeks broken with a refreshing cool one like this. Fingers-crossed we get sunshine again soon though because I’m not ready for summer to be over.
What better way to warm up the evening than with a curry. Haven’t had a curry for ages, so I thought I’d make a healthy version of Meatball and Spinach curry.
This version is healthier because in place of rich coconut milk, I used regular semi-skimmed milk. To make up for the lack of creaminess and flavour of the coconut milk, I used two types of curry paste – thai red curry paste as well as the Indian rogan josh. The Thai paste provided the earthy flavours of lemongrass, chilli, ginger and cumin while the rogan josh gave sweet flavours of tomatoes and paprika. There’s no rule that you cannot mix curry pastes and I find that if you are not cooking a type-specific curry such as a thai red curry or a jalfrezi, sometimes mixing flavours give really good results.
(Slightly Healthier) Meatball and Spinach Curry
500g minced pork (seasoned with ½ tsp each of stock powder, cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, sugar, 1 tsp of cornflour and 2 tsp of light soy)
450g baby spinach leaves
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp thai red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy)
1 tbsp rogan josh paste (I use Patak’s)
2 cups of semi-skimmed milk (or less if you prefer a punchier sauce)
Form seasoned minced pork into small balls just slightly smaller than a ping pong ball. Brown the meatballs, remove from wok/pot and set aside on kitchen towels (to soak up the turmeric-stained oil). In the same wok, pop in the onions and cook till slightly soft (but not browned), add in curry pastes and fry till fragrant and oil is released from the pastes. Add in the meatballs, mix to coat them in the pastes, then add in the milk. Let the liquid come to a boil, add spinach leaves. Season to taste and once all the leaves are wilted – it’s ready to serve.
My hubby has no qualms about eating vegetables – as long as they are cooked. Somehow cool, crisp, uncooked salad leaves are in his ‘sometimes-only-if-I-have-to’ food list. Considering it’s been a rather sweltering summer (thus far), my ideal meal of choice is usually a salad, not quite so for my other half though.
I compromised…with a grilled vegetable salad. Which he actually loved!
Out came my spanking new (ok, not that new) grill pan and a load of veggies including asparagus, zucchini and shitake mushrooms. This simple grilled trio worked so well together and made for a refreshing and delicious side.
A bunch of asparagus, trimmed and left whole
3 small zucchinis, sliced evenly lengthways
1 punnet of fresh shitake mushrooms
1 large lime, halved and grilled for that added smoky flavour
Olive oil for greasing pan and dressing
Large pinch of sea salt for seasoning
Cracked black pepper
Toasted pine nuts
Grease grill pan lightly, and grill veggies in batches. Place cooked veggies on a platter, drizzle olive oil and squeeze grilled lime juice over it. Season and toss along with the toasted pine nuts.
Yam or taro cake is a common Southeast Asian snack (mainly Singapore and Malaysia). This savoury steamed cake is often served fresh, drizzled with sweet soy and chilli sauce. It is a quick breakfast favourite. Another version of this yam cake is found in dim sum restaurants, where they are served sliced up and pan fried. Very much like the radish cakes one finds at dim sum places.
My favourite part of a yam cake is not the rice cake bit, nor the yam bit but the little itty bitty bits on top. The ‘breakfast style’ yam cakes are usually topped with crispy fried shallots, dried prawns and spring onions. So when I decided to make some yam cake, I knew I have to make it with loads of that delicious topping!
Most recipes call for the yam to be cubed and steamed. For my version, I shredded the yam, and cubed a handful of them and stir fried the lot with half of the dried prawns. The cubed yam and dried prawns gave the cake a more interesting texture and flavour, rather than having a mouthful of steamed rice flour and yam mush.
I also didn’t have a steamer or wok big enough, so I improvised and ‘steamed’ the cake in my oven in a water bath covered with foil. It worked well but I think I should reduce the cooking time in future as I found the finished cake a little overcooked.
Nonetheless, it was a very rewarding attempt. Loads of yummy yam cake – hubby and I had that for dinner, lunch and dinner again. One yam for three full meals – how economical!
250 grams rice flour
125 grams wheat flour
2 ½ cups warm water
¾ tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp five spice powder
1 medium sized yam, shred ¾ of the yam and cube the rest
120 grams dried prawns (minced and fried till crispy)
Fresh spring onion, chopped
Fresh chilli, finely diced
Stir fry the dried prawns till crispy. Remove and set aside. In the same wok, add 2 tablespoons of oil and stir fry the yam (both shredded and cubed) and half of the dried prawns. Add a little bit of water to soften the yam while cooking – fry for about five minutes or until the shredded yam is just cooked.
Mix the rice flour, wheat flour and add in the warm water. Mix well and add in salt, sugar, oil, white pepper and five spice. Add in the cooked yam and mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Oil a deep dish before adding the mixture and steam for 45 minutes on high heat. In my case, I steamed it in a water bath in my oven, covered tightly with foil. I recommend cooking it for 45 minutes or until the cake is springy and slightly firm to touch. (I cooked this one for 60 minutes which was a tad too long)
Now for the best bits – Cool the yam cake before garnishing with the rest of the dried prawns, crispy fried shallots, spring onion and chilli.
Serve drizzled with sweet soy (kecap manis) and chilli sauce. Enjoy!
The lettuce wedge salad was once a ubiquitous menu item of the 1950s and 1960s and only lost its appeal in the seventies when more interesting salads came on the scene. Apparently, the wedge has seen its way back in trendy menus but I have yet to come across one. Truthfully, would I order the wedge salad if I saw it on a menu? Come on, it’s so easy to make at home, I’d probably just feel ripped off if I did.
Looking through the various resources at hand, I’ve noticed that the wedge salads of today are mostly done with a blue cheese dressing. Hubby’s not a fan of blue cheese and getting him to eat salad on its own is difficult enough, there will be no chance that he’ll even come close if he caught a whiff of blue cheese. I had to improvise.
In place of the blue cheese dressing, I made a much lighter mustard mayo dressing which worked out really well. It was sweet, slightly tangy and had a little kick to it from the English mustard. The combination of refreshing, crunchy iceberg leaves, salty, crispy smoked bacon and pine nuts was delicious.
I’m guessing the lettuce wedge will be making more of an appearance at our dining table this summer and no, blue cheese dressing will not be joining.
My (hopefully) healthier version of the lettuce wedge salad
1 small head of iceberg lettuce
2 rashers of smoked bacon
handful of pine nuts
Half cup of light mayo
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp of english mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
olive oil to thin the dressing
Cut the lettuce into wedges
Cut bacon rashers into bits and fry till crisp
Mix the dressing ingredients together, drizzle over lettuce wedges. Top with bacon and pine nuts…and voila!
I don’t know how on earth full-time working mothers manage without help. I only have to feed my hubby and myself and as it is, I often find that I need to prep and plan ahead otherwise we end up eating out, or worse yet eating junk. I have to remember to defrost food before I head off to work, or check that the vegetables are still in good condition. In cases when there’s no food defrosting, or if the salad pack is sitting in its own icky juices (yuk!), a back-up plan is required. This is when canned food comes in very handy.
I saw this recipe for spicy corn fritters awhile back and thought it’d be nice to try it out one day. In anticipation (and planning ahead, thank you), I had three cans of sweet corn sitting in my pantry waiting, waiting, waiting. Finally, last night was corn fritter night. Mainly because I didn’t have food defrosting and my crisper was sad and empty.
Now I highly recommend this fritter recipe. It’s simple to follow and the results were yumtastic! The fritters were crisp (well, some of the suffered because I took a while to take photos) and full of plump sweet corn. The subtle flavours of coriander and cumin came across beautifully and my own added pinch of hot chilli flakes to the batter gave that extra zing.
The dipping sauce was a great side-kick to the dish too! You could possibly use bottled stuff, but I reckon the sauce completed the dish. It was vinegary, sweet and spicy and I couldn’t stop dipping extra french salad leaves in them after I had finished my fritters. It’s like an extra punchy sweet and sour sauce. Very more-ish, very delish. Highly recommended – this recipe’s definitely a keeper!
SPICY CORN FRITTERS
From Simply Recipes
- 3/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red chili pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups of corn kernels, (see steps for cutting corn from a cob) cut from 3 large cobs (or frozen corn, defrost and drain first)
- 4 large scallions or green onions, finely sliced (about half a cup)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Grapeseed, canola, or peanut oil (a high smoke point oil) for frying
Make the dipping sauce by combining all of the sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high, let boil for 5-10 minutes or so, until the mixture becomes somewhat syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool. The sauce should continue to thicken as it cools. If it becomes too thick, you can add a little water to it to thin it out a bit.
Tofu in its true form is one of the most flavourless food substance you can find. (Not quite selling it here am I?) However, it is this lack of flavour that gives it versatility. Numerous cooks and chefs replace meat with tofu as the core protein element in many dishes. Apparently, pound for pound tofu has as much protein as meat. Not a bad deal if you’re trying to cut down on red meat I suppose.
I use quite a bit of tofu in my cooking. Medium organic tofu is a regular item in my weekly grocery list. I love that it is easy to incorporate tofu into most of my dishes, or even use it as the main source of protein. I’ve already written about one of my favourite tofu-based dishes – mapo tofu.
This time, I’ve created a light salad that is perfect for a summery dinner.
- 1 pack of medium tofu cut into thick batons
- ¾ cup cornflour seasoned lightly with salt, pepper and a half a tsp of stock powder
- Vegetable oil for shallow frying
Dry the tofu batons as much as possible with paper towels. As tofu has quite high water content, you’ll never get it totally dry…just ensure it is not sopping wet or it will create an unwanted sticky batter with the cornflour. You want the flour to be relatively dry.
Heat a pan of vegetable oil, when it’s at medium heat, roll the batons in the seasoned cornflour and place in hot oil. Watch the heat, the floured tofu browns rather quickly. Fry on all sides till nice and golden. Drain excess oil on paper towels.
- 1 can of coconut milk
- ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
- 2 tbsp of soy sauce
- 3 shallots, grated
- 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce OR brown sugar
- ½ tsp vegetable oil
In a saucepan, heat the vegetable oil, then add grated shallots. Saute for 2 mins. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend well and bring to a light boil. Drizzle over crispy tofu and salad. Enjoy!
The simplest things are sometimes the scrummiest. On days when you’re all out of oomph, a quick, comforting meal is all it takes to make it all better. For me, Mapo Tofu does a pretty good job of that.
According to our dear friend Wiki, the name ‘mapo’ is sometimes translated as ‘pockmarked lady’. What?? I know, how unappetising right? I much prefer the more sanguine description of ‘ma’ – meaning ‘numb’, which is what happens to your mouth when you eat the fiery peppercorns and chilli in the dish. Considering the dish originates from Szechuan China, it’s not surprising that chilli and peppercorns are star ingredients.
I don’t think I’ve ever followed a specific recipe for this dish. It’s pretty basic. Stir fry minced pork with garlic, spicy chilli bean paste / chilli oil, soy or oyster sauce (depending on how salty the chilli bean paste is), add stock, bring to a boil, add cubed medium tofu. Thicken the sauce with cornstarch if necessary, garnish with spring onions (which I forgot this time)…serve with steamed rice. Done!
The original Mexican quesadilla - supposedly folded tortillas with melted cheese and maybe another ingredient like beans, chicken or vegetables for variety. However the ‘Americanised’ version of the tortilla has taken over and what we now know as quesadilla is actually ‘sincronizada’ – which means ‘to be synchronised’ referring to the two tortillas fused together with cheese, like a sandwich. I never knew that, until now. Researching for this blog has opened my eyes to very interesting things.
Anyway, if that was indeed true I made some sincronizada, but for the sake of common ‘wrong’ knowledge…let’s just call it quesadilla.
Tortilla wraps have been quite a regular dinner option these days simply because it’s quick and there’s no cooking involved, just some ‘construction’ work. To jazz up the same ingredients a little, I thought making quesadillas may be a nice twist to a weeknight dinner.
Being Asian, cooking and the concept of ‘less is more’ doesn’t quite go together. I stuffed this baby to the max! There were roasted chicken pieces, sweet Ramiro peppers, mushroom, onion and cheese. More, more, more!!
The idea was to have a bunch of the ingredients spread on a tortilla, topped with cheese, covered with another tortilla, and placed under the grill or in the oven. With the exception of the pack of pre-roasted chicken breast fillets, I only cooked up the mushrooms. Everything else was left to be heated up in the tortilla sandwich while the cheese melted.
I don’t quite fancy the taste of raw onions, so I marinated some sliced up eschalion shallots with red wine vinegar and sugar. Like magic, the raw bite of the shallots melted away in the acidic marinate and you get the sweet flavours of the shallots without the stink.
Served with a side baby herb leaf salad, this was a very satisfying faux-mexican meal. All done in 30 mins. Sweeeeeet.
I’m a big fan of mushrooms. For something that belongs to a species of fungi, it is delectable in many ways. I have only good things to say about these spongy, fleshy things – they are full of B vitamins and minerals, they are fat and calorie free (how awesome!) and they are versatile and very easy to cook with.
I use mushrooms in pastas, soups, stews, frittatas, fry-ups and the list goes on. It is very strangely ‘meaty’ and enhances and flavours the food it is cooked with. I even like the little canapé stuffed mushroom cups at cocktail parties – which actually gave me the inspiration to make a large version of it for dinner one night. If it’s good in bite-size, it’s good extra large too.
There are many versions of stuffed mushrooms out in the virtual cooking world but I decided to create my own with Portobello mushrooms, pancetta and mozzarella cheese.
Firstly, I browned some onions and pancetta, and to that I added diced red peppers and chopped stems from the mushroom. (Nothing goes to waste!) Cook till the peppers are just softened. Season with salt, pepper and parsley.
Remove the cooked pancetta and pepper mix into a bowl and to that I mixed in a few tablespoons of fine bread crumbs.
Preheat the grill, rub a little olive oil on the mushrooms, stuff it full with the mix and top with sliced mozzarella cheese. That’s it! Grill for about 15 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked and cheese is all melted, crisp and gooey at the same time. Mmm mmm… mozzaportos are delicious and surprising very filling.
I think I’m ready for summer. I’ve been playing with a whole bunch of salad ideas in my head. I should write them down – but writing a post about them will suffice for now.
Since the sunshiny weather in London is but a farce – it’s still blinkingly cold – I thought a warm salad will be just the thing for a sunny spring Sunday lunch.
This salad is simple, nutritious and very tasty. My hubby who often asks ‘where’s the meat’ when a meatless dish is served, thoroughly enjoyed it – and without a squeak about the lack of animal protein. phew.
If I had access to a variety of wild mushroom, it would be even better but those darn things are very expensive and not readily available at the local supermarket. I made do with some closed cup mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms and a tiny bit of dried porcini mushroom for the added earthiness.
In a hot pan, I drizzled some olive oil, lightly browned some thinly sliced shallots before adding all of the mushrooms and some garlic to cook, seasoned with salt and pepper. The salt draws out the water from the mushrooms and I cooked them till the liquid’s reduced. A couple minutes before the mushrooms are ready, I added frozen garden peas to the mix. The sweet juices from the mushroom, peas and shallots produced an added dressing for the salad. Most convenient!
I used French salad leaves tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The mushroom juices did the rest of the tasty work. Topped with shaved parmesan – this warm salad was hearty and satisfying, even for the meat-lover in me.
This is another one of those ‘crave’ posts. Soon kueh, or bangkwang kueh to some, is a southeast asian morning or afternoon snack – a simple, steamed turnip dumpling. I haven’t sighted any of these in London and I do not remember when was the last time I had one of these babies. And so, in another desperate attempt to savour these childhood faves of mine, I virtually dusted off an old email from a good friend who had given me the recipe a couple of years back.
Another reason for the major two-year delay in making soon kueh, aside from utter laziness, is the fact that the turnip (yambean or jicama) for this recipe does not exist in the UK. I had to google for a suitable substitute for this particular type of turnip and the closest and most available fellow root vege is daikon radish (known as mooli in the UK). I had used mooli in my chinese carrot cake recipe before and was hoping that it’d work just as well. And it did.
The making of the filling was the easy bit. I julienned a large mooli instead of shredding it, as I prefered having more of a bite to the vegetable, and also to prevent it from turning to mush…Now, the skin of the dumpling was a different story. It’s a very sticky dough, which requires partial cooking in a pot before kneading. Kneading steaming hot dough is not quite as fun as you can imagine, plus it gets really sticky and messy, so there was quite a bit of oil and extra tapioca flour on the side to prevent the dough from clinging on to my tabletop and hands too much. It took me about three hours from start to when we devoured the dumplings, but I had fun in what my hubby refers to as my ‘cave-time’ – julienning, cooking, cooling, kneading and forming these dumplings.
Ironically, you can just pop out to a shop in Singapore to buy these for no more than S$0.70 per piece…I definitely spent way too much, and took way too long to make ‘em. But it was worth it.
The recipe below makes 28 mid-size dumplings. Good thing about soon kueh is that you can eat them slightly cooled. (In fact, I prefer it that way) Serve with a generous drizzle of sticky sweet caramel soy sauce and Lingam’s chilli sauce, garnished with crispy fried shallots. Oh…yum.
I do not normally post recipes, but since this wasn’t taken from a website or book, I thought I’d post it…Credit for this recipe goes to my friend, Sue Koh – Susie, you’re amazing and I miss you!
Ingredients for filling:
1 turnip – shredded
15 dried shrimps
1-2tsp of light soya sauce
dash of pepper
(**I added some diced chinese mushrooms to it as well)
Ingredients for the dough:
300g rice flour
30g tapioca flour
300ml cold water
300ml boiling water
1. Fry shallots till they are dark brown in colour.
2. Add the dried shrimps, white pepper and soya sauce to shallots.
3. Add turnip and some chicken stock. Final filling should look slightly moist in texture and light brown in colour. Set aside.
4. Mix both flour together in a big glass bowl
5. Add cold water & mix till smooth paste/liquid is formed.
6. Heat up 300ml water till it comes to a boil. Pour the dough into the boiling water, stirring at the same time. When dough is almost done, remove from heat.
7. Grease the palm of your hands and knead dough for about 10 to 15 mins until the dough is smooth.
8. To form the wrapper, pinch some dough about the size of a ping pong ball. Sprinkle some tapioca starch on your hand (prevents sticking). Roll the ball into a flat disc.
9. Spoon some filling onto the wrapper and seal the edges
10. Steam Soon Kuehs for 10 mins.
11. Brush some garlic oil over kuehs – prevents sticking.
What happens when you fail to plan out your week properly before hitting the buy button on your online grocery website? You end up with a whole bunch of stuff you do not need, do not wish to eat, do not have time to cook with…a whole bunch of ‘do nots’. Yup, that’s me.
I was over enthusiastic with my vegetable order this week, and forgot all about the fact that I have two dinner plans and a whole weekend away! Desperately trying to save my vegies from a slow-decompose-in-the-crisper death, I decided to use them all up in one go last night. Well, at least I tried to.
Lately I’ve been in a soup craze (best thing to have on a cold winter’s day right?) so I thought I’d make a pot of vegetable miso soup. Simple, healthy and quick. I used a head of sweetheart cabbage, a bag of stringbeans, a couple of carrots, three leeks, water and red miso paste.
I gave the chopped up vegies a quick heat through with some vegetable oil in my soup pot before I added water and mixed in three tablespoons of miso paste. Seasoned with some salt and flavoured soy and presto! We have soup.
I brought some soup to work for my lunch today, the soup was miso-tastic – unfortunately, the vegies were a tad too mushy for my liking, but I could add some firm tofu or noodles next time for a better texture. At least most of the vegetables are used up now. I just hope the aubergine, zucchini and tomatoes will live to fulfill their purpose. I’m sensing a ratatouille may be on its way.
Yesterday was Singapore’s 44th birthday. When I was living in Melbourne, my Singapore friends and I would clad ourselves in red and celebrate National Day by feasting on food that we miss from home. In other words, we’d head to the nearest Singapore café to delight ourselves in some laksa, fish head mee hoon, rojak, fried hokkien prawn mee etc. Or seeing that it’s still wintry cold in August, we would also have steamboat in one of our homes. Man…those were the days.
Now in London, it’s humid summer time and steamboat is out of the question. I had a mooli (white radish) sitting in my fridge, all limp and close to disgusting. But that unappetizing sight actually gave me an idea. I could make carrot cake! It does mean I have to get a new firm, fresh mooli, a grater and loads of other ingredients.
P too was filled with enthusiasm for my carrot cake quest (why wouldn’t he?) and so we headed to Harrod’s after church to seek out a new grater for me. I know, getting a grater from Harrod’s? Well, firstly Harrod’s is the closest department store to church and secondly, we didn’t think it through. But I did score a pretty, ‘soft-touch’ grater for about eight quid. :) (Please don’t convert that to Aust or Sing dollars…I might puke.)
Anyway, homemade carrot cake is quite a bit of work. First I had to make the ‘cake’ before I can progress to the hawker style dish full of garlicky, eggy goodness.
I got the carrot cake recipe from kuali.com. Go to the site for details if you want to try it out.
After 40 mins of steaming and the cake has cooled, I diced it up and fried it with some garlic, preserved turnip (chai por) and lots of beaten eggs. Seasoned with light and dark soy sauce, chilli sauce and a bit of kecap manis.
And I sing…“Count on me Singapore, count on me to give my best and more…”
P rubs his belly and nods…