Thursday, 31 March 2011

Pan Fried Prawns with Glass Noodles in Thai Basil and Coriander Pesto

One of my favourite things to do with fresh herbs is pesto. I had Thai basil (learn about this very special basil in my post on Three Cup Chicken), so I decided to make pesto out of it.

And now that I have a mini-chopper I can do pesto in no time at all! I know, those Italian mamas will insist on grinding everything the traditional way in a mortar and pestle, but.. I wanted pesto fast ): To redeem myself, I have done (chunky) walnut basil pesto by hand before. The next bit about this very special pesto that's sure to send the Italian mamas reeling again, is that I didn't use Parmesan, heck I didn't use any cheese at all! To keep to the true Thai theme, I used naturally fermented soybean paste to provide the savoury factor, and used toasted crushed peanuts instead of pine nuts.

Thai Basil and Coriander Pest0
1 clove garlic
1 large handful of Thai basil (leaves only)
2 large handfuls of coriander
1 handful of unsalted (and preferably soaked) peanuts, lightly toasted
1 tbsp of fermented soybean paste (kind of like white miso)
1 green chilli, deseeded (I used Thai birds eye chilli, but you can opt for milder ones;) )
fish sauce (to taste)
1 tsp of sesame oil
extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of half a lime

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor/mini chopper, pouring in enough extra virgin olive oil till you get to the desired smooth consistency. Add the lime juice after that to add some freshness.

With my controversial pesto ready, it was time for some asian-style pesto-and-pasta!

Panfried Prawns with Glass Noodles in Thai Basil and Coriander Pesto
1 bundle of glass noodles (also known as mung bean threads/vermicelli, cellophane noodles, dang hoon. Not the same as rice noodles.)
couple of shrimps/prawns, shelled (please use more, I just only had 2 sad ones left.)
a few drops of fish sauce
a little bit of coconut oil (or evoo)
1/4 cup of Thai basil and coriander pesto

1. Soak the glass noodles in cold water for about 10 minutes to soften. Drain, then pour boiling water over the noodles and let sit for 10 seconds (these cook really fast!). Drain, then run cold water over it to stop the noodles from continuing to cook.
2. Devein the prawns by slitting the back, coat with fish sauce and fry them in a hot pan, flipping once. You'll know when they're cooked, because they turn pink and curl into that pretty butterfly shape.
3. Toss all in the pesto, and garnish with a sprig of fresh Thai basil.

I love glass noodles in all their translucent beauty and slippery goodness, and I love prawns, though I wish there were more, and when both of them are covered in that delicious savoury pesto with the fragrance of these asian herbs and the smell of toasted peanuts, it's <3!

By the way, Miz Helen decided to fill her plate up last week with my Baked Egg in Jacket Potato with Chilli, Lime and Coriander Butter (: Yay.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Three Cup Chicken 三杯鸡

I know I talked about growing your own herbs, but it's kind of funny because I really only started to learn about herbs after I moved to London.

In Singaporean food, there are a lot of spices involved, but not really herbs. Curry leaves, pandan leaves, banana leaves are used to impart fragrance, but they aren't really herbs are they? In Chinese food, especially, you don't really need anything besides coriander and spring onions. That said, they're used a lot, and go into everything from soups to stir-fries.

But once in a while, you do get the odd herb that's not one of the aforementioned two. Introducing... the Thai Basil!

It has a slight purple-ish tinge to its much tougher stalks.

It's kind of different from the sweet basil that's more commonly used here, because it has a strong anise-like scents that adds a very different dimension to dishes, and also, it holds us a lot better in cooked dishes, unlike sweet basil, which is best eaten raw I feel.

Thai Basil is an important part of Thai dishes (duh) but also in this less known Chinese chicken stirfry reminiscent of the more famous Kung Pow Chicken, called Three Cup Chicken. Three Cup because the original recipe called for 1 cup of each of these 3 Chinese pantry essentials: sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, and soy sauce.

But I guess it's a really small cup, (haha see Chinese tea cups) because you definitely do not need a cup of each. Or maybe because Half Cup Chicken just doesn't have the same ring to it. Nonetheless, what's more important is that you need to keep them in the same ratios, how easy is that to remember!

Three Cup Chicken 三杯鸡
serves 2
2 chicken legs (about 500g), deboned and chopped into small pieces
(it's important to keep them in small pieces, so they all get coated in the sauce, because they aren't marinated in seasonings like other chicken dishes e.g. sesame oil chicken 麻油鸡, and will turn out bland otherwise.)
6 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
6 thin slices of ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil (traditionally black sesame oil, which has an even stronger aroma)
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing Hua Diao Jiu, do not replace with cheap cooking wine!)
2 tbsp soy sauce (naturally fermented and aged)
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses (or you can use brown/rock sugar, but I like using molasses when I cook with soy sauce)
handful of Thai basil leaves
3-4 dried red chillies

For velveting the chicken (optional)
1 egg white, beaten but not frothy
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine

1. (optional) 20 min before you are ready to cook, marinate the chicken in the velveting mixture. 20 min later, parboil the chicken in simmering water till they turn white on the surface, but are not yet cooked. Drain and set aside.
(I'm in the midst of my Chinese stir-fry secrets experiments. You can try the baking soda /poaching in oil methods too and let me know! )
2. Heat work/pan on high heat and add the sesame oil.
3. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes till fragrant.

yes they are left whole! If you haven't yet realised, this dish is not shy on flavour!

4. Add the dried chillies and chicken pieces and stir-fry for another few minutes.
Keep stirring or you'll burn your food! This whole dish is cooked on high heat, so the meat is nicely seared and caramelised!
5. Add the other sauce ingredients, and let it simmer, covered for another 4-5 min, till there's sticky and no longer wet.
6. Add the Thai basil leaves and then immediately remove from the heat. They will wilt in the residual heat.

This dish is traditionally cooked in a claypot, so you just serve it in the claypot. I don't have one the right size, so oh well, dish out and garnish with an extra sprig of fresh Thai basil and serve with rice.

This is great humble food, simple yet bursting with flavour. The sweet salty caramelised chicken has a sticky coating of sauce (it's a dry dish, you aren't supposed to be left with a pool of gravy), amped up with the kick from the ginger and whole garlic cloves and chillies, and perfumed with that anise scent from the Thai Basil, and one of my favourite smells in the world--sesame oil! If you can;t find Thai Basil, I guess you can use normal sweet basil, it will still be good, but it will not be Three Cup Chicken.

Monday, 28 March 2011

My Windowsill Garden

It’s officially spring! I was rudely reminded of the fact when I woke up on Sunday to find that I had ‘lost’ one hour. I still don’t get daylight saving, isn’t it just a lie to yourself, but on a larger scale? Anyway. It’s spring! And spring is the time to get planting! You can’t get more cheap and local and organic than planting your own.

I wish I could do that Jamie Oliver/ Nigel Slater thing of popping out of their kitchen into the garden and picking all the herbs and vegetables and fruits they need and throwing them into their food. I can’t, of course, because I live on the 6th floor, in a London flat half the size of my mum’s bedroom in Singapore. But also because I have the opposite of green fingers, or at least, I’ve never tried growing anything other than mung bean sprouts for primary school science.

But I have a brilliant gardener of a flatmate (: Who says there’s no reason why we can’t try that out with smaller plants which take very little space to grow and require little attention, most herbs for instance.

Those are the little pots on my windowsill. That’s purple basil, coriander, mint and chilli (of course).

Look at the coriander which was sown a bit earlier!

It’s a lot of fun rotating them so they face the sun and watching them grow from nothing to a little something to a bigger something. Go get planting too!

This is part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Baked Egg in Jacket Sweet Potato, with Chilli Lime and Coriander Butter

Besides making the garlic and herb butter, I also made a flavoured butter, this time infused with the spice of chilli and the freshness of lime zest and coriander. I had them in the fridge anyway because of the type of food I usually cook, and I really wanted to give my own special twist to the usual herb butter.

These few nights have been a mad rush for deadlines, and I haven't had much time to spend fiddling with complicated recipes or those that need me to be hands on. There's been a lot of "throw vegetables and meat and herbs into the slow cooker", and of course, "throw things into the oven". But while I may compromise on effort, I don't compromise on taste or nutrition. A baked sweet potato is simple, yet oozing with sweetness (and vitamins), and topped with an egg, and of course, that yummy butter, I've got a hearty delicious supper ready.

Baked Egg in Jacket Sweet Potato, with Chilli Lime and Coriander Butter
serves 1
1 sweet potato, washed and scrubbed, but skin-on
1 egg
2 coins of chilli lime and coriander butter (see below)
a bit more butter (plain)
coarse sea salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
2. Pat the sweet potato dry and prick all over with a fork. This allows the steam to escape and prevents it from exploding. Rub melted plain butter over the skin and season with coarse sea salt to get crispier skin.

3. Bake for about 30-45 min (depends how big your sweet potato is!), till tender. Remove, and lower the heat to about 170.
4. Cut the baked sweet potato, but not all the way. Drop one thin coin of chilli butter in so it melts into the soft sweet flesh, then crack an egg over.

Might be a good idea to transfer to an (oven-safe) dish you plan to eat from (if not already), because the egg will probably ooze all over. It's messy, but I don't really mind, I like it when the liquids (egg white, sticky sweet potato juices and spicy zesty butter) all intermingle and caramelise around the sweet potato. Alternatively, you can slice a bit off the top of the sweet potato, scoop out a bit of the flesh, then crack the egg into the hole. That'd be a lot classier, but a pretty dish wasn't really my top priority then.
5. Return to oven for about 10 min more till the egg is set. Serve with another coin of chilli butter and some lightly dressed greens.

Chilli Lime and Coriander Butter
makes 1 little log
1/4 block of butter
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (i.e cilantro)
grated zest of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp chilli flakes (to taste)
sea salt (to taste)


I love this butter melted on fish (again, see previous post), but particularly on roasted root vegetables or tubers, because the spicy salty nutty melted butter just complements the concentrated sweetness of the root vegetables, and the lime zest and coriander helps to bring some freshness to counteract that stodginess.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Make your own flavoured butter

Herb butters are the best standbys for a busy weeknight, I feel. And these two weeks, I am going to be very busy, so I bought yet another block of butter (kerrygold's on offer anyway!) to set about making a few different flavours so I can just pop them into or on top of my baked/steamed/pan-fried vegetables/fish/meat<-- yes that's just how useful they are, and not to mention, easy. You can use any combination of herbs you want, or in my case, need to use up.

Garlic and Herb (Parsley) Butter
makes 1 little log
1/4 block of butter
2-3 tbsp of chopped fresh parsley (leaves only)
1 clove garlic, finely grated
sea salt, to taste (if using unsalted butter)

1. Leave the butter out till it softens.

see how yellow grassfed butter is?

2. Mix in the chopped herbs, garlic and sea salt.

3. Scoop onto clingfilm and then wrap the clingfilm around the butter mixture. Roll (the way you roll play-doh!) gently till you get a little log, then twist to seal the edges.

4. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, or till it hardens.

Just slice into coins as and when you need them!

This was a quick dinner:

Pan-fried Mackerel with Garlic and Parsley Butter
serves 1
1 mackerel fillet
sea salt, black pepper (to taste)
2-3 'coins' of flavoured butter (above)
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Score the mackerel skin, you can slash or do criss-crosses , it just helps to keep it from curling up. Season on both sides.
3. Place the mackerel skin side down on a pan over medium high heat for about 10 min (could be a bit less even, depend how thick your fillet is. Just watch the colour change. It's easy though, no work. You shouldn't try to keep poking it).
4. When almost done, add one coin of butter to the pan and swirl about the edges of the mackerel, to help the skin caramelise and crisp up more.
5. Serve with more coins of herb butter and simply cooked greens. (you can drop coins of flavoured butter into the greens too hehe. never too much eh?)

The flavour of the garlic and parsely, and most importantly, that creamy nutty butter, just melts into the "boring old pan-fried fish", making for a quick yummy dinner!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Naked Broccoli Soup with Garlic Herb Sourdough Croutons

It's St Patrick's day! And after 'bastardising' the classic Irish shepherd's pie, I thought I'd redeem myself with a very green soup!

I'm sure we've all had our own fair share of broccoli and stilton soups, and while I love the savoury richness of cheese with broccoli, I want to really celebrate the flavour of broccoli. This velvety soup has nothing but broccoli in it, no cream, no potato, no stock, no caramelised shallots. It really is just broccoli. But believe me, it's definitely not lacking in flavour or texture. I was doubtful too when I first saw Gordon Ramsay share this recipe, but I tried it, and I love it, and once again, he's a genius.

Naked Broccoli Soup
serves 2-4
1 large head of broccoli, florets only (if you want it really green)
2-3 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

1. Bring a pot of water (just enough to cover the broccoli) to the boil, with half the sea salt.
2. Add the broccoli and boil rapidly till cooked i.e. can pierce. Do not overboil unless you want brown soup.
3. Add in the remaining sea salt and black pepper and blend. Test for seasoning after that again. It's the constant seasoning in stages that makes all the difference.
(Ramsay drains the broccoli, but saves the stock- yes, that boiling water chock full of broccoli is all the stock you need- to add to the pureed broccoli. Since I like to minimise the number of dishes to wash, I make sure I start out the right amount of water and use a hand blender, so I've only got that and the pot to wash hehe)
4. Serve with a sprinkle of garlic herb sourdough croutons (see below) and a drizzle of evoo.

Garlic Herb Sourdough Croutons
you can easily double or triple the recipe for some easy salad/soup toppers; it's a great way to use up stale bread.
1 slice of sourdough bread, cut into small cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1/2 tsp of dried herbs (any you fancy)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Over medium heat, add the garlic and dried herbs to the evoo, until the garlic is lightly browned.
3. Pour the garlic and herb-infused oil over the sourdough bread cubes, tossing to coat all of them evenly.
4. Spread the bread cubes out over a baking tray, and bake for about 30 min, stirring halfway through, or till crunchy.

I'm sure you're itching to throw in a rind of parmesan or screaming "some nutmeg!" at the laptop screen, but no, just try to taste the simple clean flavours of broccoli in this creamy (yet light) soup for once, I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Indian Shepherd's Pie

It'll be St Patrick's day in a couple of days, and I thought it fitting to share a shepherd's pie on this Irish festival. Honestly, I always thought of shepherd's pie as a classic British thing, but others (the Irish?) claim it's Irish. The 2 places are so close anyway I'm sure many other things overlap.

Whatever, I'm doing it Indian-style.

I adapted a Gordon Ramsay video recipe for the classic shepherd's pie--I know many people hate his foul mouth but I love how no-nonsense he is. But I also incorporated the spices in kheema matar– this man is brilliant too– for an extra special touch of spicy goodness.

Masala Kheema Shepherd's Pie
serves 4
for the filling
500g lean minced lamb (if it's beef, it'll be cottage pie)
2 large onions, grated
1 large carrot, grated
handful of mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated (or 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste)
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 cardommom pods, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masla
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/4 cup whole plain yogurt
sea salt, black pepper
1 tbsp flour

for the mash
3-4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tsp butter
1 tbsp parmesan + extra to top (optional but it'll really lift the dish)
sea salt, black pepper

1. Boil potatoes.
2. Add oil to a hot pan, and the whole spices to toast.
3. Add the minced meat, breaking it up and searing the meat to get the caramelised brown. Season.
4. Grate in the onions, carrots, garlic and ginger. This helps them to disintegrate into the sauce better, a Ramsay tip, which is why I didn't add the onions before the mince like what vahchef did. Also add in the flour to cook out, this will help thicken the gravy later.
5. Add the mushrooms, ground spices and tomato puree, cook for 3 min more, then add the yogurt and let simmer for 10-15 min.
6. Meanwhile, your potatoes should be cooked. Drain, mash and season. Add the egg yolk, butter and parmesan to the mashed potato.
7. Add the green chillies and garam masala powder to the mince and continue to cook uncovered till you get a dry gravy. You don't want a soggy shepherd's pie. Also a good idea to pick out the cinnamon stick (and the cardamom pods) now.
8. Tip the filling into a baking dish, then top with the mashed potato and another sprinkling of parmesan. Fork through (important, to get the crispy edges!), and dot with butter.
9. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 20-25 min, or till golden.

Serve with a light salad, maybe in a more imaginative Indian style with thinly sliced red onions/ cilantro   than what I had. Anyhow, it should taste good. You can't go wrong with buttery parmesan-mashed potatoes and minced meat that's coated with rich savoury gravy, be it Irish or English, or Indian.

This is part of Hearth and Soul Blog Hop #39, Tasty Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Five-spice Roast Poussin with Mandarin Orange and Carrots

So, for my first fusion dish since that very important post, I decided to post a classic british roast chicken, but with lots of chinese flavour influence.

A poussin (pronounced poo-sun, sounds awfully french and posh doesn't it) is a teenage chicken (baby would be a chick wouldn't it??). It costs a bit more than chicken because the meat is much more tender, but my butcher was having a sale due to an oversupply of poussins, 1 pound each. That's cheaper than a chicken leg!

see how small it is!

I never really tried roasting a whole bird before, because it just doesn't make sense for one/two people. I usually roast chicken legs or sometimes chicken breasts, but this time, with a small poussin, I can finally try things like stuffing an entire lemon into the cavity. I want to try the technique of spatchcocking the next time I manage to get my hands on a whole bird!

I did this sometime in January, when mandarins and clementines were everywhere, so I decided to change it to a sweet citrus instead, and being mandarin oranges, I felt compelled to use some chinese spices. To prop up the bird, I roasted it on a bed of carrots, just because I felt very orange ;)

Five-spice Roast Poussin with Mandarin Orange and Carrots
serves 2
1 poussin
2 mandarin oranges/clementines
4-5 small carrots (or 3 large, halved lengthwise)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (hua diao/shaoxing)
few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp melted butter + a few more dabs
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
2. Parboil the carrots for about 5 min, not till it gets soft! At the same time, drop in the mandarin oranges, whole, to make it easier for the juices to release later.
3. Meanwhile, wash the poussin, pat dry and season the inside and outside of the poussin with the soy sauce, five spice powder. Rub the sesame oil and butter over the skin.
4. Poke one of the mandarin orange all over then stuff it with a sprig of thyme into the cavity of the poussin.
5. Arrange the carrots in a single layer on a roasting tray , throw the remaining thyme around, and then place the poussin on top (try to prop the legs up by being strategic with the carrots hehe).
6. Cut the other mandarin orange in half and then squeeze the juices all over the bird and carrots. Sprinkle the tbsp of Chinese rice wine around.

7. Into the oven for about 45 min, till the juices run clear!

8. Let the poussin rest, tented with foil for at least 15 min before cutting into it. I served it halved with the roasting juices spooned over.

Yes, on mashed potato,very un-Chinese I know, but it just felt right against the roast poussin and sweet carrots. I think it would also work out very well if you drop the carrots and then section the chicken, serving it over a bed of noodles and steamed vegetables, with the gravy poured over, kind of like roast duck noodles.

This is the first time I've tasted poussin. You know how if you poke baby skin you get that feeling of slight amazement at the tenderness and smoothness? It's the same with poussin! Poussin has less developed flavour than chicken though, so the five-spice and soy sauce really helps to add a punch. The mandarin orange adds sweetness without the need for sugar or honey, giving the crispy skin a deeper golden hue and the carrots, a yummy sticky glaze. I love seeing so much yellow, orange and brown on a plate, I think they're a few of the most appetising colours to the eye(:

This is part of Weekend Herb Blogging #274 hosted by Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Singapore Peanut Pancakes (Mee Jian Kuih), Sourdough-style

Yesterday was National Pancake Day in the UK! I love all these silly pancake days and apple days that I never got in Singapore.

In honour of this special day, all the supermarkets were having sales on things like self-raising flour and maple syrup, but when I think pancakes, the first thing that pops into mind are these peanut pancakes that my mum will buy fresh from the local market for breakfasts. Unlike western pancakes, they are folded over, kind of like a sandwich. There are two versions, thin and crispy, or thicker and spongy, and they will have brittle delicate edges. My favourite filling is the original one-- crushed roasted peanuts (not peanut butter!) with sugar and butter, although it's also very common to find them filled with sweet red bean paste (Chinese/Japanese style), or sweetened coconut flakes, or (tsk.) chocolate/Nutella.

I decided to adapt a recipe for sourdough pancakes to make these. There are some very good sourdough pancakes recipes, like this one by the Nourishing Gourmet, but they mostly needed some planning ahead. This one just made use of my starter, which sounded perfect because I wanted my pancakes NOW. My previous try with this recipe made a pancake that was really crumbly, almost like a biscuit, and really salty, so I made quite a few adaptations, after comparing it with the recipes for the non-sourdough pancakes.

Singapore Peanut Pancakes (Mee Jian Kuih), Sourdough-style
will yield 4 wedges (2 -4 servings)
1 cup sourdough starter
1 egg
1 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil (or evoo, if you don't mind that strong olive note in your pancakes...)
1/2 tsp natural vanilla essence
1 tsp of my make-ahead pancake mix (see below)

My Make-ahead Pancake Mix
You can make a larger mix, and keep it in your pantry for fuss-free pancakes on lazy Sunday mornings.
1 part baking soda
3 parts baking powder
5 parts raw cane sugar Rapadura

Peanut Filling
I made mine a "deluxe" version with added crushed walnuts(:
1/4 cup walnuts, soaked and dehydrated
2-3 tbsp raw cane sugar Rapadura
2 tsps of salted butter

1. Toast the nuts over medium high heat, then grind coarsely or just crush the rustic way. Mix with the sugar and set aside.

2. Heat a 9" flat pan over medium heat. Grease.
3. Whisk all the ingredients together well, making sure that you don't get lumps of pancake mix here and there.
4. Add in the sourdough starter and then whisk again, for no more than 30 seconds, and pour in the batter.
5. Roll the pan around so the batter gets evenly distributed. Some of the batter will just run over the sides of the pan a little, and that's how you get that thin crispy edge! This obviously won't work with a too large pan.

5. When the pancake is almost cooked. sprinkle the peanut filling over half of the top and dot with butter.
6. When pancake is fully cooked, flip the empty side over into a half-moon, leave for 1-2 min more than dish out.

7. Cut into 4 wedges. Or if you do this in batches in a small pan, just serve them as half-moon sandwiches!

Oh, biting into the crisp edges and soft doughiness of these pancake "sandwiches" really bring a sense of nostalgia. The aroma of those roasted nuts, together with the sweet raw cane sugar and the salty butter against the new hint of tanginess introduced by the sourdough, is pure joy. Pure joy also, is having the filling fall out all over your plate and frantically scooping them up with your hands and into your mouth, so do be a bit over-generous with yourself (:

If you don't like the idea of a sourdough mee jian kueh, but want to up the nutrition of your pancakes anyway by using wholegrain flour, you could try going ahead with the original recipe. Minus the eggs and leavening agents and add a small amount of yogurt or vinegar then leave the batter to soak overnight first, like at Heavenly Homemakers. I want to try this out, adding the rice flour as recommended by My Kitchen Snippets, which probably will help the pancake be a bit more chewy and springy. Check for future updates ;)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Reflections and Blog Self-Challenge

I have been blogging for 3 months now. Wow is it really only 3 months? I feel like I've shared and learnt so much since I started. Sometimes I wonder if I'm wasting my time blogging to an audience that just isn't there, but most times, I'm just really happy to be in the kitchen and then share my foodie adventures. And occasionally, I get really really happy when I see a stranger from the other side of the world commenting that they liked my post.

Still, I feel like my blog is lacking something that makes it really special. There are lots of real food bloggers out there, but mostly based on western recipes, and that's what I've been doing too, probably because it just seems easier to share them with the real food community.

I've been thinking of my background, the food that I grew up with, and how special that in itself is! Food in Singapore is full of colours and flavours and mouthwatering spices and comforting aromas. There are blogs about Malaysian/Singaporean cooking, but not with a real food focus. So it works out brilliantly! I hope to make use of my blog to be more in touch with the fabulous food culture back home, and for anyone who reads/follows my blog, I think you can find recipes for real food that's different and exciting.

I still want this blog to be about my adventures in the kitchen, trying out new recipes, new techniques, and I believe it still can be. Food in Singapore is full of flavours from different cultures- Indian Malay Chinese Eurasian, and more interestingly, the mix of these cultures e.g. Peranakan to come up with very distinctive yumminess. Of course, being in London, I'm heavily influenced by the seasonal produce around me, the British celebrity chefs haha, and those free recipe leaflets or newspaper cutouts. I'm not going to stop myself from trying those out. I'm going to try them out AND THEN challenge myself to inject a little bit of asia (especially southeast asia) or just be inspired, but I'm not going to force it.

So, what does this mean? Nothing really, I still stand strong in my real food beliefs, and I'm still going to do soups with celeriac and other "odd" British vegetables, but I'm just going to be sharing a lot more Chinese (real Chinese home-cooking is quite different from those deep fried spring rolls in takeaways), more Indian, Malay, Peranakan, and quite possibly a bit of Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, Korean etc. Oh I'm suddenly missing home again!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Chilli Belachan Crispy Pork Belly

What to do with leftover roast pork belly? Honestly, it's not much of a problem, who am I kidding, I'll be more than happy eating it as it is. But just to spice things up a little, I stir-fried the leftover pork belly in true Singaporean style, with some chilli and belachan (fermented shrimp paste).

Chilli Belachan Crispy Pork Belly
~100g of leftover roasted pork belly, sliced into small chunks
1 small onion, sliced thinly (or a couple of shallots would be fantastic)
1-2 dried red chillies, deseeded
1 tsp fermented shrimp paste
1 tsp unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp soy sauce (traditionally brewed)
1 tsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp evoo (or unrefined coconut oil or palm oil)

1. Over medium-high heat, fry the sliced onions in the oil, till they turn golden brown.
2. Add the dried chillies and fermented shrimp paste and toast till fragrant.
3. Add the pork belly, along with the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar, and stirfry for about 10 min more.
4. Serve over rice with some fresh coriander leaves (which I didn't have).

This dish really hit home with the mix of salty, sweet, sour, savoury and of course, spicy flavours, and the depth from the fermented shrimp paste. Really, you can't go wrong with crispy pork belly, but still.

If you have some sambal tumis, just replace the dried chillies and belachan with that, 100x better!

This is part of Full Plate Thursday.