My ultra random food cravings make it impossible for me to stick to a specific diet. Some days it’s pork belly and other days, cacio e pepe (love love love carbs).
The two times that I tried, was only because of my desperate measure to lose weight (the flab glides on once you turn 30 mind you)! In 2014, it was a 5 day juice cleanse (it involved 7am hot yoga every morning too) and in 2015, I went bonkers attempting the terrifying 10-day Mastercleanse (a colon clearing ritual that consisted of sustaining on a very intriguing type of lemonade – lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar).
Only lesson I learnt from those times is balance and moderation. Too much of anything is never any good. Even if it is a super food. Take rice for example. Nutritionists may tell you brown rice trumps white rice but then brown rice is supposedly arsenic too. But before you go back to white rice, you find out it is not any better because it has a high glycemic index (GI) and would increase your risk of diabetes.
Don’t even get me started on gluten. ‘Gluten-free’ is suddenly the way to go even if you do not have celiac disease. News flash everyone; a gluten-free diet does not mean you are healthier. You might be saying no to many vitamins, minerals and fibre that are found in the whole grains you’re so busy avoiding. I say this only because I too, went through a brief phase, looking to eliminate gluten in my life. Of course I failed terribly because I love bread too damn much.
Food is a way of life, and more than anything else, the focus should be on whether you’re putting nourishing foods into your body. Call it clean eating, or healthy eating if you may, but it simply means preparing more food yourself. And though Daryl and I both have 9 to 5 jobs, we try our very best to cook more. Weekdays are more challenging, therefore we sometimes compensate by cooking more on the weekends. And we have been busy at it!
Last weekend, it was my turn to play chef. I pale in comparison to him, but I try my very best. I thought hard about what my menu was going to be. Decadent or wholesome? Mediterranean or Asian? It took me a week to finalise my dishes because two of my friends had dietary restrictions. One was a pescatarian and another, a lacto-vegetarian (in case you’re wondering, that means yes to milk and yoghurt but no to eggs, no to cheese with rennet and of course, meat and seafood). At the end of the day, my inner green domestic goddess revealed herself quite naturally despite the initial fretting of how I was to work within my limitation (because duh, I really do love my meats!) 😉
I just made the entire meal vegetarian, in order not to alienate my lovely friends.
Appetisers were sweet potato fries (hand-cut mind you), hummus (hand-soaked, hand-peeled, hand-made…. yes my hands were quite involved) and greek bruschetta.
Freshly boiled chickpeas is the way to go if you’re looking for that delicious thick creamy texture that’s reminiscent of the traditional Arabic style hummus. Which means, prep starts about a day earlier. The chickpeas have to be soaked overnight before boiling. For extra creaminess, throw in some bicarbonate soda in your soaking water. That allows the skin to separate easily. Hummus is basically a combination of boiled chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic cloves, ground cumin, sumac, and olive oil. And you salt it to taste. Everything goes into the blender (but not before the ardous task of washing/peeling the skins off!). You don’t really need a recipe with hummus because it’s that easy. But here’s a rough guide of the ratio I used: 500g dry chickpeas, 250g tahnini, juice of 2 lemons, 2 garlic cloves, chopped, a dash of ground cumin and sumac. Add however much olive oil you want. You need it to make the paste wet enough for the blender to whirr smoothly.
Psst. The basil in the bruschetta was plucked from our very fragrant basil plant!
The main course – Tofu mushroom summer noodles were a hit and you can see how much Tanvi (the lacto-vegetarian) loved it.
Dessert was a simple summer berry chocolate chia seed pudding.
Five dishes, and four happy friends later, I think I have unlocked a personal achievement. My inner Donna Hay has come out to play. And if you like to join me, drop me an email at email@example.com because I want to seriously start a supperclub of sorts. No more talking about it. It’s time to put my whisk, ladle, spatula ya-da, ya-da where my pot and pan is!
That pot right there. That’s a vessel of love. Packed with plump lup cheong (chinese sausage), black fungus, lily buds, chicken thighs, and wholesome brown basmati rice, that’s an unadulterated Hong Kong style claypot rice for hungry people. I take no credit for this amazing culinary feat. Hats off to my darling chef who whipped this up in less than an hour. All for my family who were coming to visit. We had two things to celebrate – my brother turned 27 this Wednesday and my father had a successful follow-up op (he had a minor accident last year). How else would we celebrate such a joyous occasion than with an enormous helping of comfort food!
Speaking of comfort, food is a language I am most comfortable with, thanks to early childhood conditioning. My greedy formative years spoiled by Dad’s fantastic cooking have indeed shaped my attitude towards cooking and eating.
Hervé This, an exemplary figure in the world of molecular gastronomy puts it quite simply, “Cooking is love, art, technique”. The emotional aspect of cooking reigns supreme, above expression or method. The most perfectly cooked egg is just protein and carbs if it were one of the many churned out by your nearby brunch place. No emotion, memory or feeling tagged to it.
Cooking is more than slicing, dicing, sautéing, frying, steaming, yada yada. A sequence of steps driven by a purpose to feed those you care about. That’s cooking for love right there. Throw in art and technique, and the cycle is complete. That ensures you won’t have a burnt pot of rice 😉 Or maybe a tagine of charcoal black grains!
Daryl used to work in Hong Kong so he was more familiar with the Hong Kong style claypot rice. And that was what he cooked up in a sexy fire engine red Le Creuset tagine. I’m not sure it made the rice any tastier; we just didn’t have a claypot and couldn’t be bothered to buy one.
Personally, it made for an enticing tableside ‘show’. Call it culinary theatrics or showmanship if you will but it worked! Just look at our unveiling:
No different than presenting a delicious work of art at a gallery where the guests are all welcomed to partake of that ‘not quite picasso but more so pollack-esque’ piece.
The technique part was easy when you have a trained chef at the helm. My chef certainly didn’t disappoint. If you’d like to try your hand at this claypot rice, check out the recipe at Daryl’s site.
We had oyster sauce kailan for our greens. Daryl’s repertoire apparently is not limited to the kitchen. He is an excellent decorator too. Check out the table he laid out. Impressive aye. I have no doubts that our future bistro/restaurant/cafe is going to be spectacularly handsome.
A beautiful empty table does not compare to a food filled one with bustling chatter. I love it when our family dines together (something that never was a habit because of our schedules). Now, we have new furry additions like darling Savannah, a sprightly cocker spaniel I love so dearly.
On to what we were here to celebrate! The birthday boy makes a wish (or 27 wishes maybe).
“Come let’s take a family photo,” my mother gestures. And after struggling with my camera (I forgot how to set the timer) and after many takes later, we had a beautiful family photo.
Extremely thankful for the generous amounts of food and love I have in my life.
I do love my family as much as I love food and cooking. I must do this more often.
Credits: Daryl a.k.a. The Chef who Lifts for cooking this scrumptious meal. 😀