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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Are you a patient cook?
I am not. My ferocious appetite gets the better of me. I’m always nipping off my ingredients way before the dish is done.
That’s probably the reason why I’ve never bothered with making Chinese-styled soups. Like prawn noodle soup for instance. No chance to sneak a bite because it would be flavourless anyway.
But all that’s changed. I now have my very own personal chef who possesses all the patience I lack. A chef by profession, I have indeed struck gold 😉
He, unlike me, is super patient in the kitchen (he’s been in F&B for 15 years for crying out loud) and immensely knowledgable. The amateur cook in me shrivels away with embarrassment every time we step into the kitchen. He’s the head chef and me, his humble sous chef. Together we will conquer the world of deliciousness one recipe at a time, the slow cooking way. And by slow, I do mean from scratch. Because come on, I have a legit chef at the helm in my life now *wink*.
First slow recipe we did (confession – I only chopped the shallots. He kind of did everything else) was prawn noodle soup.
If you think it’s mighty tedious, you are RIGHT. Labour-intensive much. That only means that the flavours will be mighty fine as well. You could be the judge but oh wait, you’re reading this on a computer screen. It’s ok, I will invite you to our kitchen one day (when we open our thingamajig ok?).
Step 1: Peel 1kg fresh prawns (whatever you can lay hands on). Set aside the flesh. Reserve shells and heads.
Step 2: Stir-fry chopped shallots and garlic till golden brown then add in prawn shells and heads. Cook for 5 minutes. Add in 1 tablespoon brown sugar.
Step 3: Throw in dried shrimps, a handful of ikan bilis (anchovies) and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add one star anise and top up with water (enough to cover).
Step 4: Bring a pot of water to the boil. Blanch pre-cut 300g pork ribs. Drain water and set aside.
Step 5: Throw in blanched pork ribs into prawn broth and simmer for one hour (or till tender). Remove ribs and set aside.
Step 6: Strain prawn head/shell mixture and blend those splendid umami elements in a blender. Remove awesome super mixture and pass through a muslin cloth (or a strainer).
Step 7: Add cooked pork ribs to the heavenly broth.
Step 8: Season broth to taste (salt, white pepper).
Step 9: Poach prawn flesh in broth for 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Step 10: Cook noodles of your preference (we used yellow egg noodles).
Step 11: Add broth to noodles and serve. We like our vegetables so we combined the power of prawn with a side of kai lan drizzled with oyster sauce.
That’s it! Hats off to all you hawkers out there who cook prawn noodle soup every day.
P.S. My personal prawn noodle soup stall is Whampoa Prawn Noodles at Tekka Market. To die for. Slurp.