Sunday, August 15

cooking is my therapy

Hello? Hello? *Tap tap tap on the mike*

Testing 1, 2, 3. Anyone there?

I'm still alive! More than alive, I've about doubled in size since posting anything substantial here, what with the way I've been cooking and eating. Here's what I've been gorging on.

I've developed quite an obsession with quinoa (above). My journalistic training compels me to add here that it is a seed crop that originated from South America and it is pronounced "keen wah". A friend asks: "How does quinoa taste? Would I be keen on it and go wah after trying?"

I can't quite describe the taste. It is sort of nutty and creamy, and there is a pleasant, addictive bite to it. Depending on what you add, it can take on the flavours of, say, the miso paste that is mixed into it -- mmm, umami -- or the wafu salad dressing I like.

On top of being super yummy, it is also super healthy -- high in fibre, proteins, minerals, etc etc etc -- and super easy to cook -- just pop into the rice cooker with double the amount of water.

Quinoa is also super versatile. I have made a chocolate cake (above) with it. Yes, chocolate cake! It tastes just like a regular cake too, meaning it does not taste like cardboard masquerading as health food.

The original recipe is from The 10 cent Diet, but I have tweaked it a little:

1. Cook 2/3 cup of quinoa with double that amount of water in the rice cooker and then fluff and allow to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease two 8" round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.

3. Melt 180g butter and let it cool.

4. Combine 1/3 cup milk, 4 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a blender, add the cooked quinoa and butter. Blend until smooth.

5. Whisk together 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 baking soda in a large bowl. Add the contents of the blender and mix well.

6. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake on center rack of oven for 40-45 minutes (until a knife inserted comes out clean).

7. Remove cakes from oven and cool completely in the pans before serving or icing.

The icing recipe is from my lurve, the baker extraordinaire of Crummb who is my Martha On Speed Dial, and it is idiot-proof. She advises that I use Millac whipping cream from Phoon Huat (or any whipping cream that has a "stabilising agent" in its list of ingredients, otherwise it will not set in our climate).

Add icing sugar (to taste) to 500g of whipping cream and whip until stiff. Yum! According to my Martha, you can also add mascarpone or white chocolate, but don't ask me what quantities, because I haven't tried making it yet.

I have also made quinoa into baked patties (above, with charsiew sauce pork chop), but, to be honest, they look better than they taste (very dry, need a lot of sauce to help them go down), so I won't bother listing the recipe.

I've also rekindled my love affair with cold noodles, specifically, somen (above). (It's the lesser known noodle from Japan, very thin and delicate, and cooks in mere minutes.) On a hot afternoon, it is the perfect quick lunch with carrot sticks, topped with seaweed and spring onions, and eaten with ice-cold dipping sauce.

After a particularly mind-blowing, stomach-bursting dinner at Osvaldo some time back, I've been hankering for good sun-dried tomatoes. Those from Cold Storage's deli section -- daylight robbery prices some more! -- just don't cut it. Then I stumble upon this recipe for slow-roasted tomatoes (above, pre-roasting) from ever-reliable Smitten Kitchen:

1. Preheat oven to 100 deg C.

2. Slice about 500g of cherry/honey tomatoes (two punnets in my case) into halves.

3. Place on parchment paper in a baking tray with whole cloves of unpeeled garlic.

4. Drizzle with olive oil -- just enough to make the tomatoes glisten -- and sprinkle very lightly with salt and pepper.

5. Bake for about three hours (do check after two hours, mine take less than three hours). They will look shrivelled and ugly but still taste juicy and explode when you bite into them.

6. Leftovers can be refrigerated, covered with olive oil.

I've used them in wholemeal wraps, with leftover bolognese sauce (see below), lettuce and grated pecorino romano. So so so good. Also good in baked eggs (see further below).

Another cooking experiment that went swimmingly well: Bolognese sauce. And so easy too. (I adapted the recipe from the River Cottage guy, but being lazy to measure, based the quantities on agar-ration.)

1. Chop streaky bacon and fry in a hot pan until the fat runs clear. Remove from heat.

2. Brown minced beef in small batches until cooked. Remove from heat.

3. Fry finely chopped garlic and onions until soft.

4. Add 1 can of tinned tomatoes (400g). (The recipe also called for 250g of sieved roasted tomatoes, which I omitted because I had none and anyway, how do you sieve roasted tomatoes?), but I'm thinking the next time I attempt this, I will add the slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped roughly, from above.)

5. Bring to a merry bubble and allow to thicken slightly. Add 250ml water, the bacon and minced beef, a liberal sprinkling of McCormick's Italian seasoning (there is no shame in not having fresh thyme, rosemary, basil, etc), salt and pepper.

6. Simmer uncovered for an hour, stirring until thick.

7. Serve over spaghetti. Grate a mound of pecorino romano (my new fave cheese!) over the whole plate and devour.

The moment I saw my foodie colleague's Facebook photos of baked eggs, I knew I had to make them. Mine (above) were a little over-cooked, being my first time and all, but still very eggy and delish. Comfort food at its best.

1. Preheat oven toaster at 200 deg C.

2. Chop streaky bacon and place in ramekin. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, until it sizzles.

3. Add slow-roasted tomatoes, then crack two eggs into the ramekin. (I find it easier to crack the eggs into a bowl first.)

4. Bake for another six to eight minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks still runny. Remove from heat and top with pepper or, in my case, Japanese seven spices or togarashi, which I've been sprinkling on practically everything, from chicken soup to salad.

Demmit, now I've made myself hungry!

Saturday, August 7

doodles at 30,000 ft

The "I Lego NY" guy is back with a visual diary documenting a flight from New York to Berlin (with a layover in London).

On a related note, I've been toying with the idea of taking up a course and I think I've decided. I'm going to learn to draw, and I don't mean like a five-year-old. Does anyone know where I can take lessons? I don't want to join a CC class with other five-year-olds.