A tasty and healthy “cream” of tomato recipe

Since my baby girl C was born slightly more than a year ago, I’ve started on a collection of hand-written recipes in a book, to be eventually given to her as her sixteenth birthday present. When the day comes for her to live on her own and cook for herself, she will have the recipes on hand to make the food that I cooked for her, food that she loved, and food that we ate together as a family. Continue Reading →

Honey and cinnamon-glazed butternut squash and spiced bar nuts

Without a doubt, Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I love the glittery lights and vintage ornaments on our tree, my son’s non-stop singing of his rendition of “Jingle Bells” at the top of his voice, mad shopping for presents followed by mad gift-wrapping, and most of all, catching up with extended family and close friends over endless days of gorging on rich, decadent food. Continue Reading →

Power Breakfasts: honey, banana and peanut butter bars

When I think of a nutritious breakfast on-the-go, muesli bars are the ideal. Compact, tasty and substantial enough to keep you filled until lunch, I keep a container of these in the fridge at all times, for a quick bite in the car when we are strapped for time in the mornings. My son loves them as an afternoon snack when he comes home from school, and because these bars are so moist, soft and chewy, I also give small bits (after taking out the nuts) to my 14 month-old daughter to nibble on when she’s peckish. Some added chocolate chips will take them into dessert territory; a healthy, yet still indulgent accompaniment to a cup of tea after dinner. Continue Reading →

Wholemeal Carrot Cake

Every afternoon, between 4-5pm, I put my feet up for ten minutes to savour a slice of something sweet with my cuppa. This slot is pretty much etched in my schedule. It allows me to catch my breath and re-charge before I get on with what I call “evening mayhem”; the dinner-bath-bed routine for my two kids. On the really crazy busy days when I’m deprived of my afternoon snack, I turn into something rather scary. Continue Reading →

Classic British Flapjacks

I have a thing for British food personalities. Maybe I’m drawn to their accent, the way they speak with their hands and how easy they make cooking seem. Or it could just be because familiarity breeds liking; they get tonnes of airtime on TV, and their countless glossy cookbooks dominate the food section in bookstores. For whatever the reason, these guys first got me hooked on cooking and eating when I was in my teens, and today, a lot of what I do in the kitchen is still inspired by them. Continue Reading →

A delicious and nutritious roasted vegetables tray bake

A bowlful of roasted spuds would qualify as comfort food for most. My perfect potato nugget is crisp on the outside, creamy and fluffy on the inside, cooked in olive oil, and seasoned generously with sea salt and black pepper. My cheeky son, A, doesn’t quite fancy white potatoes, but absolutely adores sweet potatoes. Roasting intensifies their sweetness, turning them super caramelised and downright addictive. He prefers sweet potato fries/nuggets to steamed rice anytime, and requests for them about once a week. I’m always happy to oblige, considering how nutritious they are.

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Pantry Basics: A quick pickle recipe—Japanese pikurusu

Pikurusu

Two months ago, when we happened to have some extra Japanese cucumbers and carrots in the fridge, I thought I’d take advantage of T’s nap time to try out this quick Japanese pickle recipe. CH’s mom—who’d hung up her apron decades ago, long before I’d first met CH, and adamantly declines to cook—happened to be spending the day with T and offered to help. It was to be the first time in over a decade of marriage that I got the chance to cook alongside my mother-in-law.

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Rachel Khoo’s Puy lentil salad with goat’s cheese, beetroot and dill vinaigrette: a satisfying alternative to meat

Last year, following a friend’s initiative, in the name of sustainability, I decided to cut down on the amount of meat and fish I consume and try my best not to eat meat during weekdays. I also started looking for recipes and cookbooks that are more vegetable-centric. Continue Reading →

Simple savoury souffle

One of the easiest ways to impress friends, when entertaining at home, is by making a souffle. Souffles, as anyone who has made them will attest, can be a total pain in the butt. Dessert souffles especially are tricky and can lead to embarrassment and failure if not executed perfectly. Over the years, however, S and I have realized that savoury souffles are considerably easier to make, and a slightly fallen cheese souffle is fine, whereas a limp and soggy chocolate souffle is simply icky.

S’s favourite savoury souffle (to make at home, that is) is a zucchini souffle. She really likes that the mixture can pretty much be assembled ahead of time—save for the whisking of the egg whites (and, of course, the baking). I think she also likes that this dish is somewhat healthy. Well, once you get past all the egg and cheese, it is technically a vegetable course. (Keep reading…)

Fried hornets and tomato soup

Huge apologies that it’s taken me so long to put up a new post. S and I have been back from Bhutan for just 5 days and it feels like we haven’t even begun to catch up on all the work that’s piled up while we’ve been away.

Our trip to Bhutan was, as I’ve said before, simply amazing. It’s a truly stunning, gorgeous and unique place. And while it’s a country in the midst of some pretty amazing transitions, I have faith that the folks in charge will ensure that its culture and natural beauty will be respected and protected.

While I love so many aspects of this magical kingdom, the one aspect that I’ve never been a huge fan of is its cuisine. When I first visited Bhutan back in 1996 (years before all the fancy-shmancy hotels opened up), I traveled across the country for a couple of weeks. Frighteningly, at almost every meal, I was served the same dish — emadatse and rice. Emadatse is considered by many to be Bhutan’s national dish. It’s a powerful, super-spicy curry made with cheese and chillies. At brekkie, I was offered cold rice and emadatse. Lunch and dinner was hot rice with some edatatse. After that visit, I came to the belief — shared famously by Ruth Reichl — that Bhutanese cuisine might just be the worst in the world.

On this most recent trip, however, S and I were served two home-cooked Bhutanese meals, one cooked by my friend’s wife and the other by a friend of theirs. While emadatse (to my slight horror) was served at both meals, so too were many other local dishes, many of which were surprisingly very good.

But of all the local treats that S and I tasted and enjoyed during our trip, the one that I have to admit I actually enjoyed the most may actually have been the most bizarre. Before lunch with our friends on our last day in town, my buddy’s wife asked if we’d ever eaten hornets. I think I answered something like, “Um… sorry, what? Did you say hornets?” She had. And served us what she explained was a local delicacy two ways: stir-fried with garlic, shallots and ginger and smoked. The stir-fried hornets were delicious. Crispy, spicy, full of yummy meaty flavors. Of course, it was only after S and I had devoured a full serving of the fried hornets, my Bhutanese buddy whispered to me that he actually doesn’t eat the things himself.

Hornets aside, the very best thing I ate in Bhutan was a simple Indian soup served at Uma Paro. In fact, all the very best things I ate during the trip were at Uma Paro. The chefs there are simply fantastic, offering their customers a wide range of Western classics, fusion dishes, Bhutanese specialties and Indian fare. Two night in a row, I opted to eat Indian. On both occasions, I had the Tomato Dhania Shorba as my first course. This tomato soup was simply stunning, made with the freshest ingredients and prepared beautifully. I’ve begged the chefs at Uma Paro to share their recipe and am running it below. Please note that it’s been written in “chef-speak”, i.e. it’s a tad brief and perhaps not even accurate. I plan to try making it later this week and see if it actually works or not. If any of you try it out, I’d be keen to know how or if you tweak it.

Uma Paro Tomato Dhania Shorba

300g tomatoes
20g coriander leaves
250ml vegetable stock
1 whole red chilli
1 bay leaf
5g peppercorns
1g asafoetida
3 cloves garlic
1 inch of fresh ginger, crushed into a paste
salt to taste
2 tsp vegetable oil
5g cumin
1 pinch Kasoori Methi powder
cream

Make a stock of tomatoes and the stems from the coriander.

Add the vegetable stock.

Blend when the tomatoes become soft.

Temper with ginger paste, garlic cloves, asafoetida, crushed pepper, whole cumin, and the red chilli.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and and some cream.

Add a pinch of Kasoori Methi powder before serving.

A light, simple mushroom pasta

shroompasta.jpg

For Chinese New Year, friends of ours gave us a lovely selection of locally cultivated mushrooms from Mycofarm. They were irresistibly beautiful. The tall willow mushrooms were lusciously brown and the Hiratake oyster mushrooms were a soft, almost suede-like shade of gray (oh, what I would give for a pair of shoes in that shade). The first-flush shiitakes were plump, meaty, fresh. Laid out in their paper box, the mushrooms looked like an edible bouquet. I was torn between just staring at them and actually tasting them.

shrooms.jpgI eagerly combed through Antonio Carluccio’s treasure trove of recipes in the Complete Mushroom Book (his guide to wild and cultivated mushrooms is a must-read), but couldn’t decide on a recipe. (I am still toying with the idea of buttery, individual tart cases filled with braised duck leg topped with mushrooms sauteed in salted French butter.)

Today, CH decided to use our stash of mushrooms in a pasta. Ordinarily, he would have chosen to add them to a carbonara, alfredo or some other rich, waist-enlarging sauce. While I do enjoy these sauces, I adore tomato-based sauces even more (he doesn’t). I’m also constantly asking him to make lighter sauces. While it may be okay for him to be a chubby hubby, I don’t want to become a super-sized spouse. To make his wife happy, CH decided to showcase our mushrooms in Tetsuya‘s light, tomato-based mushroom ragout accented with touches of Japanese flavour. Tossed with gorgeous saffron linguine, the dish was a sight to behold and yummy to boot. This simple recipe is a definite keeper.

shroompasta2.jpg

Tetsuya‘s pasta with a ragout of oriental mushrooms
from the Tetsuya cookbook

50g linguine
30g shimeji mushrooms, sliced
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
12 oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sake
2 teaspoons mirin
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
80ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon julienned parsley
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons peeled and diced tomato
1 pinch chilli powder
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
chives, cut into 2cm lengths

Cook the linguine in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside. Sauté the mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil. Once the mushrooms have wilted, add the sake, mirin and soy sauce. Then add the chicken stock. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the pasta and parsley. Toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the tomato, chilli powder, sesame seeds and chives. Serve immediately.

(The mixed punnets of mushrooms are only available at 9 Seletar West Farmway 5. Tel: 6773 0377. But I am told that the individual varieties are available at NTUC, Cold Storage and Carrefour.)