Monday, November 26

blur like sotong


This dish had been calling out to me since I happened to watch some cooking show at my parents' place last week. I mean, sotong is my favourite food!

The original recipe from Anne Burrell called for olives though. Yucks. I substituted capers instead and I think the dish turned out more than fine.

My first attempt was a failure though, as I got distracted by chopping the capers while browning the garlic. The chao tar smell lingered in my flat for days. Moral of the story: mise en place is important. I seldom have the patience, but in this case, everything happens so fast that it helps to have all the prep work done before turning on the stove.

Cleaning the sotong can be a major pain, but the savoury, briny sotong juice that you end up with after cooking makes it worthwhile. (Or you could just buy cleaned sotong, if you can find it. I couldn't.)

400g squid (about 5 small ones or 3 big ones)
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
Red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups salad leaves (I used mesclun)

Clean the squid by pulling out the plasticky spine and the head with all the tentacles. Discard the spine and head. Peel the purplish membrane off the body and slice it lengthwise (ie. not into calamari rings).

Smash the garlic and discard the skin. Roughly chop up the capers.

Heat up a frying pan with the garlic, red pepper flakes and enough oil to coat the bottom and sides on medium high heat. Watch the pan carefully and fish out the garlic cloves when they are golden brown and a lovely smell fills your kitchen.

Throw in the sotong slices -- and jump back with a squeal. They should go from translucent to opaque in under two minutes. Season with salt. Add the wine, capers and lemon juice (my tweak on the recipe, because it seemed to be kinda fishy) and let the sauce reduce to about half. I was worried about the sotong becoming overcooked, so I rescued them from the pan while the sauce simmered.

Pour everything over the salad leaves to wilt them a little and crack some black pepper over the dish before serving.

Note: For those who don't crack open a bottle of wine without a special occasion -- ie. me -- here's a tip from my favourite food blogger, Smitten Kitchen. I used to shy away from recipes which called for one cup of white wine, because it seemed so extravagant, but now I just use Martini Bianco (which won't go bad like wine).

Thursday, November 15

savoury business

(Clockwise from left) Organic steel-cut oats with sunny-side-up, gomasio, mirin-soy sauce and spring onions; curried oats with caramalised onions and chickpeas; and oat "risotto" with pecorino and peas.

I used to call oatmeal regurgitated cardboard, that was how much I hated them. Slimy, mushy, bland -- ewww, gross.

Then, I started reading about steel-cut oats and how they are different from the usual rolled oats (a.k.a. the instant Quaker oats of my childhood). Unlike rolled oats, which obviously are rolled flat, steel-cut oats are cut (by steel, duh!) into tiny bits, take longer to cook and remain chewy after cooking. I wasn't convinced, but I bought a packet anyway from iHerb because it was so much cheaper compared to Cold Storage.

And then I proceeded to eat them for lunch three days in a row, that was how good they were.

Seeing I am the sort who chooses savoury over sweet every time, it should come as no surprise that I made my oatmeal without a hint of sugar or fruit or maple syrup.

I admit, it took a slight paradigm shift to contemplate making savoury oatmeal. (But then, I had already made savoury granola before, so it wasn't that much of a stretch.) And savoury oatmeal probably sounds revolting to most normal people, but trust me, this is so good, I actually bounce out of bed in the morning because I can't wait to cook and eat it.

Most recipes call for the oats to be stirred on the stove for 30 minutes, but seriously, who has that kind of time? I found some suggestions to add boiling water to the oats and let the pot stand overnight, but that just sounded like a recipe for a tummy ache, even if the slurry was reheated in the morning. I decided to go with the oven route because it seemed the most fuss-free (and I could walk my dog while it was being done).

Just pop 1/4 cup of oats with 3/4 cup of water into an oven-proof dish, add a pinch of salt, cover and pop into the oven for 35 minutes at 180 deg C. (Note: This is for a single serving. I made a double portion by doubling the oats and water this morning and it took 45 minutes before all the water was absorbed.) Stir once about 10 minutes before it is done. Remove from oven, test that it is al dente and add toppings (see below). Eat immediately. Cold oatmeal is an atrocity.

Organic steel-cut oats with sunny-side-up, gomasio, mirin-soy sauce and spring onions
While the oats are in the oven, fry an egg. I'm not giving you a recipe or directions for that hor.

Make the sauce by adding 1/2 cup light soya sauce, 1/4 cup mirin, juice of half a lemon and strips of lemon peel, one thinly sliced shallot, one deseeded, thinly sliced chilli padi (or more) and one cube of brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then let it reduce for a little bit, 10-15 minutes. You will need only 1-2 tablespoons of the sauce, so refrigerate the rest in a bottle. I have kept it for a week without any problems. It goes great with seared tuna, cold tofu and even as a salad dressing.

If you are too lazy to make the sauce, I think soya sauce would work as well, just that the flavours would not be so complex. 

When the oats are done, top it with a generous sprinkle of gomasio, the egg and the sauce. Stir well.

Curried oats with caramalised onions and chickpeas
To make the curried oats, stir in 1 teaspoon of curry powder to the oats 10 minutes before it is done.

While your oats are in the oven, you might as well roast some chickpeas. Open a can, drain the water, rinse, dry with paper towels and place the chickpeas on a tray in a single layer with a bit of olive oil. When the oats are done, so are the chickpeas.

Caramalised onions do take a bit of time and patience, but the results are so worth it. Not for nothing are they called the bacon of vegetarians. Simply slice two onions and fry them with 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat in a pan that is large enough for the slices to be in a thin layer (ie. not piled up and steaming instead of frying). Stir every five minutes or so, making sure to scrape the bottom for the yummy burnt bits. The onions are done when they are a rich brown colour. Some bits will be crispy while others will be soft.

If you have any self-restraint at all, you will save half the onions for other uses, such as in a pasta sauce.

Top the oatmeal with the chickpeas and caramalised onions.

Oat "risotto" with pecorino and peas 
This recipe is so easy, it is not even a recipe, it's an agar-ration. And it's my favourite of the three here. Not only is it super easy to make, I usually have all the ingredients already in the fridge.

Add frozen peas (as much as you like, about a handful) to the oats during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Grate the pecorino cheese (again, as much as you like, about two handfuls).

Stir the oats, peas and cheese together and add pepper to taste. I swear, it is creamy like risotto -- but without the need to slave over a hot stove. Best!

Thursday, November 1

winging it

My friend MS was in complete and utter disbelief when I told her I had never made chicken wings before in my entire life. In fact, I couldn't believe it either, seeing how I am such a big fan of them, especially Ikea's Best Chicken Wings In The World.

Of course, I had to immediately rectify this oversight on my part by whipping up a batch of hot wings, modifying a buffalo wing recipe from one of my fave sites, Noob Cook (I couldn't find Frank's Red Hot Original hot sauce at Cold Storage Holland Village, arguably the most angmoh supermarket around, but I think Dancing Chef's sauce rocks too).

1.5kg chicken wings and drumsticks (about 12 each, just nice for two racks)
7 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
60g butter (about 4 tbs)
6 tbsp Dancing Chef Suki Dipping Sauce
Dried chilli flakes, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 deg C.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels.

Mix the ground cayenne pepper, garlic powder and some salt and pepper evenly. Coat each piece of chicken lightly with the mixture.

Arrange the pieces on a wire rack with a foil-lined tray beneath. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the pieces and bake for another 20 minutes, until crispy.

In the meantime, melt butter over low heat in a pot and stir in the dipping sauce with dried chilli flakes, salt and pepper.

Dump the baked chicken into the pot and coat each piece thoroughly with the sauce.

Wash your hands and dig in.Wash down with a cold bottle of Asahi. Ahhh...