Home Snippets & Cooking Disasters
My food jaunts this year have taken a pretty big step back, with Fatbee and I mostly depending on those good ol’ places (mostly in the city) that’s both cheap and tasty. Truth be told, it has reached a point where I’ve run out of new places (and recipes) to blog about!
But this blog’s more like personal sounding board for my food and travel adventures anyway, so I’ve decided to round up this compilation post covering some of the things that Fatbee and I have been eating at home. If anything else, it shows how human we are and that we too can have our incredibly lazy months!
Japanese soba with pan fried salmon
Now that the weather’s warming up, we’ve started cooking fewer one-pot stews and curries… much to Fatbee’s relief! I’d previously bought a packet of soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) from Daiso last year, but finally got around to cooking it recently. The recipe’s inspiration comes from Winston, who’d previously shown how you can make a delicious and simple meal with soba and fresh salmon. The dish we cooked here is perfect for warm weather because soba is meant to be eaten at room temperature and the other components to the dish are also very cooling on the palate.
The cooking instructions on the packet were entirely in Japanese, so we winged it. I found that cooking soba is pretty similar to cooking pasta, except it takes a shorter cooking time in briskly boiling water to be ready (about 3-5 mins). About halfway through boiling, I also added the veggies (broccolini or asparagus) and blanched it for a minute or so before setting it aside… that’s ultimate lazy cooking for you! Once ready, the noodles were transferred into a sieve and rinsed through with cool tap water to stop the cooking process. One packet of soba was enough to serve four persons.
The salmon came next, and it was a simple matter of sprinkling a few turns of salt then pan-frying on all sides over medium to high heat till the outsides are brown and crisp. If the salmon is very fresh, I like to make it crisp on the outside and slightly undercooked in the middle. Assemble everything together on a plate, sprinkle a bit of furikake (Japanese rice / seaweed seasoning) on top of the noodles, and enjoy this dish with a dipping sauce of soba tsuyu on the side. Soba tsuyu is basically a mixture of Japanese soy sauce, mirin and bonito extract, and we did the smart thing of buying a ready-made bottle of it at the Asian grocers instead of making it ourselves.
Pancakes with berry compote, mascarpone cheese, smoked maple syrup
We also found ourselves brunching out less these days. And on the rare Sundays where neither of us are working, Fatbee would make pancakes at home, thereby saving money and skipping the incredibly busy weekend brunch crowds.
It’s a very easy dish to make too… with Fatbee handling the cooking of the pancakes (there are a million recipes online), while I’d just mix a bowl of frozen berries with a bit of sugar and water and microwave it in 20-30 second pulses till it’s sticky and lightly cooked. Add a dollop of mascarpone cheese and drizzle everything over with good quality maple syrup. We used smoked maple syrup from The Melbourne Pantry and I must say it tastes friggin’ good with the pancakes.
Ling ngau man ju yoke
(Braised pork belly with lotus root and red fermented tofu)
Fakegf invited us over for dinner one evening and she cooked this Cantonese dish, whose origins came from her paternal grandmother in Hong Kong. Because I’m Peranakan in background (with it’s spicy-pungent and incredibly saucy dishes), I found myself loving how light and clean-tasting this Cantonese-style dish was despite pork belly being one of its main ingredients. The incredible deliciousness of that meal hovered in my mind for days and I finally got Fakegf to give me the recipe for this dish, which she sent to me over 6 succinct text messages.
And I’ll have to thank Fakegf for that recipe because the dish turned out perfect… exactly like how she’d made it when we visited. Succulent pieces of pork belly sitting in a gentle braising broth of ginger, garlic and red fermented beancurd (南乳 – Cantonese “nom yee”). And it’s just so nice having it with the earthy, soft-crunchy pieces of lotus root.
Smoked salmon, baby asparagus & failed poached eggs
Continuing with our home brunch efforts, here’s a $7 meal for two one Sunday morning. Problem is, we totally struggled with poaching the eggs. Tried swirling the pot of water, tried adding vinegar, and tried wrapping it in cling film… all with not much success.
And here’s Fatbee’s plate… it ended up being a brunch with Nordic elements of smoked salmon and asparagus fused with Malaysian-style kueh neng – soft boiled eggs that were meant to be poached eggs. And I nearly snorted a piece of asparagus up my nose when I saw Fatbee holding his cup o’ eggs and sipping it as if it were a cup of coffee.
A Work In Progress:
A candid look at a year in the life of Noma.
It’s funny how just when my world’s revolving around cheap eats and very little homecooking, I actually end up being interested in reading René Redzepi’s latest book(s). For those of you who have not heard of him, he is the head chef of Noma in Copenhagen, which has been ranked as the best restaurant in the world 4 times in the past 5 years. Fancy titles aside, it didn’t stop him from using the f-word within the very first paragraph of the book… ha ha!
The book’s set up very playfully. You start off by reading the Rene’s journal covering the daily events in his life at the restaurant… and along the way he’d direct you to specific recipes and candid snapshots (found in the other two books) that were inspired from the events of that day. The recipes are nigh impossible to recreate, but I wanted to read the book more for his philosophy towards food and cooking, which I got a good sense of in this very personal (and conversational) journal.
Beetroot & carrot soup
On one of the rare days where I’d actually felt like cooking, I made a simple meal of spicy slow-baked ribs with miso and garlic. To accompany that dish, we enjoyed it with a very simple beetroot and carrot soup, a dish that Winston introduced us to when we had a simple potluck dinner last year.
I omitted using pork or chicken bones to make the broth, so it’s basically chunks of beetroot and carrot lightly simmered with just enough water to cover it and a few turns of salt. If the root vegetables are fresh and sweet, it makes for a very delicious (and not to mention colourful) soup dish.
And finally, here’s something I did not make. Fakegf had been embarking on a 4-week clean-eating challenge, an effort that I have a deep respect for but definitely can’t pull off myself. Her diet consisted of uncompromising-but-wonderful dishes such as gluten-free banana pancakes with peanut butter and oven baked fish with wilted vegetables and pine nut crust.
One evening, she dropped off a few slices of homemade semi-raw carrot ‘cheesecake’ (gluten, dairy, egg and sugar-free) along with a bar of vegan rose-scented pana chocolate (sweetened with agave nectar). I am usually skeptical about these healthy raw foods, thinking they’re abit too healthy-boring. But oh my goodness that carrot cheesecake was amazing!! And with our recent enjoyable visit to Combi cafe, I can see the allure of clean-eating and probably wouldn’t mind ‘indulging’ in that pastime ever so often… pending Fatbee’s approval… ha ha ha!