Tag Archives: carrots

Inspiration

7 Nov

Yesterday, I didnt post, even though I really really wanted to. I had nothing to say, nothing to write, and the things I did cook had been posted already. I had the cookblogger’s version of writer’s block, and it was a bit scary. I sat in front of my laptop, and started to write about… Cook’s Tips? Orange Olive Oil Cake? Nothing inspired me. Nothing made me excited or happy or intrigued. There was nothing to say, really, so I didnt say it.

Today when I woke up, I found I still had that feeling. May be it has something to do with the weather – hot (as always) but slightly damp, overcast and softly raining. Curling up in bed with a good book and a cat seemed like a plan. But I know myself. I am the best (or worst, depending on who you ask) procrastinator in the world. I could curl up with a good book and a cat forever and a day, and be perfectly happy. One of the things this blog has given me is discipline, and there was that nagging empty feeling inside because I hadnt posted.

Its a strange thing, this discipline. I never understood it before, not clearly, but the discipline of writing this blog is a gift I give myself. I feel good when I write a blog post. Not just because I get wonderful responses that stroke my (still slightly fragile) cook’s ego. Not just because I enjoy having a history of my food thoughts and creations. But because something in me has begun to flower and bloom – and the discipline of writing every day is like sunshine and water to that nascent joyous self. It makes me realise I can do anything I set my mind to do – and I can do it consistently, over time, and learn and grow from it.

So after finishing the book, and cuddling the cat – because, after all, I am still me, and I love my sensual lazy creature comfort Sundays… I hauled myself out of bed, had a cup of coffee, and thought about what I should do today and where I should go in order to find some inspiration. And I realised that it was Sunday – and that means the Bangsar Sunday Market would be just beginning and a little wander through all the sights and sounds and colours of that market might just be what my soul needed… and my be even my tummy!

Many years ago, there was a woman who came with her two children and sold the most astonishingly delicious home made vegetarian nasi lemak (with about 10 different dishes to choose from – rendang, char siew, masak lemak – all made with veggie proteins) for the princely sum of RM5 (about USD1.50). I thought I would find her again, take some photos, choose my dinner, and wander home with a meal and a blog all done… but a very friendly gossipy auntie told me the nasi lemak lady couldnt afford the license for her stall and so did not come any more. I almost turned back then, but I am glad I didnt.

The Bangsar Market is on Jalan Maarof, right next to the mosque, in front of Bangsar Village II. Its an open air market with plenty of stalls. Many neighbourhoods have open air markets one or two days a week. Its when the residents can come and buy fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meats from stall holders who are traders – and who deal directly with farmers and fishermen and the like. This is our version of the western farmer’s markets – and I have been going to market in Malaysia for as long as I can remember. My grandmother used to take my sister and I to the wet market in what is now the very touristy Central Market in the centre of town. I can remember the scents, the textures, the colours, the haggling and bargaining and laughter and teasing as if it was yesterday.

So, since I could not find my nasi lemak lady, I thought a slow stroll through the stalls might re-awaken my mind … and oh my goodness, it did so much more than that! The colours, sights, sounds, textures. Everything conspired to pull me in, to tempt and tease and slowly bring me back into myself. I thought Whole Foods was amazing … but this! Such abundance, such freshness, such textures. Everything was so beautiful, people were so knowledgeable and friendly and I wanted to touch and stroke and poke and sample everything. Instead, I took photos, and these are my inspirations. My grounding, my home…

Bangsar Market

Vegetables of every colour and texture arranged in gorgeous glistening piles … just waiting to be taken home and turned into delectableness!

Green Green Green

Every possible shade of verdant green you could imagine …

Green Green Green

In overlapping patterns of green

Beautiful

And the most delicate shades of smooth cool green

Purple and Green

And patterned green juxtaposed against deep purple … Which brought me to…

Mangosteens

The bruised beauty of my favourite fruits… mangosteens …

Purple Red

And earthy purplered beets… melding into …

Tentacles

The bloodred tentacles of roselle (with a tiny green bug nestled in a petal). And then I move on to sweeter reds …

Pink

The juicy bright pink seductiveness of watermelon … prettier than any lipstick…

Pink

The fragile yet wild blushing pink of the dragonfruit gave way suddenly to sunshine …

Orange

 

Carrots arranged with pride and care …

Yellow

The patterns of bright bananas (pisang mas) and honey papayas ….

Beautiful

Offset by the jagged symmetry and perfume of luscious looking pineapples.

Everywhere I looked, everything I touched… beautiful. Inspiring. The noise and jostling of the crowd of people. The light soft coolness of the rain cutting through humid heat…

And in the midst of it all… In their own space and silence.

Dog

A woman with a fabulous looking knife, preparing jackfruit, and her dog, kipping a nap in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.

I think … I think I have my inspiration back …. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

 

 

Kind-of-Ratatouille-a-la-Karo

14 Oct

with Spinach Couscous!Tonight’s dinner may not be much to look at but it sure was delicious! And it was an intersection of different food thoughts that have been running through my head in the last few weeks. Inspired by so many things – my friend Karo’s post about the grated courgettes (zucchini), the Medjool dates at Per Se, and Karo’s link to Ottolenghi’s website.

Dinner needed to be fast and yet different tonight. Suddenly, autumn is upon us. I think we had our last 80 degree day a few days back, and now the crisp chill of cold is in the air around us. So dinner needed to be a response to that – warm and hearty, yet with echoes of sunshiney places. I didnt really think I wanted to do a ratatouille (though that often speaks of sunshine and warmth), mainly because I didnt have enough tomatoes. And I wanted to do the zucchini grated, and see what happened.

I started cooking with the thought that I was going to grate everything – but it didnt work out that way. Im pretty glad about that because I think I would have had a dark brown looking sludge by the end of it! Some stuff was grated, some stayed basically intact. You could serve this kind-of-ratatouille with french bread, rice, pasta – or as I did, with spinach couscous for a lush hint of colour and raw spinach flavour.

This is an example of my favourite free-form cooking – starting with a few ideas, and some beautiful ingredients, and seeing what happens. The end result was pretty damn tasty, completely vegan, rich and complex. The spice choices leant a hint of sunshine to the dark cold night, and we all went to bed happy and satisfied. All is right with the world ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp plus more as needed olive oil
  • 1 small onion grated (mostly liquid)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more as is your preference), grated
  • 1 small eggplant (aubergine) – diced
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch (or more) cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, peeled and minced
  • 1 zucchini (courgette) grated
  • 1 Medjool date, pitted and chopped very small
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
  • 1/2 orange sweet pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped tomatoes (I used baby heirloom)
  • 1/2 cup or so water
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts (toasted)
  • Spinach couscous

First off, toast your cashew nuts if they are raw. Use a non stick frying pan, dont add any oil, and toast over a medium fire until lightly browned. Pour off into a small bowl and set aside.

Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to the frying pan. You might need to add more oil as you go through the various ingredients, but try to be miserly with the oil – you dont want an overly greasy end dish. Instead, use more or less heat (and eventually water) to control the cooking process.

Grate a small onion directly into the pan. The onion I grated ended up being quite watery – this is fine. If you have lovely little grated shards of onion, this is good too. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is glossy and soft. Grate in the garlic and stir to combine. Lower the heat and let the onion and garlic get acquainted.

While the onion and garlic are bubbling together gently, dice the eggplant into small cubes, keeping the skin intact. Bring the heat up a little (and add a touch of olive oil if you think it needs it), and add all the eggplant, mixing well.

Season the eggplant and onion mixture with the paprika, oregano, pepper, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.

Cook for about 5 minutes on high-ish heat. You want to burn the eggplant a little bit, and allow the onions to melt into the mix. When you start smelling that wonderful eggplant roasted burnt scent (its unmistakable) add the next part.

Add the mushrooms and mix extremely well. The mushrooms will let go of their liquid – encourage this by mixing thoroughly.

Lower the heat to medium, and let everything simmer together while you grate the zucchini. Squeeze most of the liquid out of the grated zucchini, and add to the pan. Sautee together, and mix very well. The zucchini will act as a paste and start to incorporate everything together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. add the minced date, and mix together. Allow everything to saute on medium heat for a few minutes.

Add carrots, sweet pepper and tomatoes to the pan, bring the heat to high, and stir to combine. As soon as everything starts to pop and sizzle, add the water, and allow the mixture to bubble. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Add the cashews, and taste everything to make sure its a singular whole. Serve over spinach couscous or a grain of your choice!

 

Vegetable Soup with Matzoh Balls

19 Sep

With Matzoh Balls!My sister and I caught the Baby Queen Z’s cold, so we are all a tad miserable. Even though its a gorgeous day outside, colds and flus almost demand a good, homemade vegetable soup. When we were little, it used to be a chicken soup with matzoh balls, so I decided to make them and add them to the vegetable soup. Matzoh balls are a supremely comforting Jewish tradition – matzoh cracker meal, combined with salt, egg and a bit of soup stock to make dumplings. Eating them feels like being enveloped in a pure cashmere blanket. And when youre ill, they are very nourishing.

I went vegetarian with the matzoh balls, though I did find good vegan recipes here and here. To be honest, I just wasnt up to trying the vegan version … not feeling focused or well enough to pay attention to multiple ingredients. But the soup is vegan – and I made it creamy and thick by whizzing it up with my immersion blender. Literally less than a minute and all those amazing veggies were pureed in a silken mass. I made the matzoh balls and boiled them in the soup pot (with the soup safely stored in a heatproof bowl) and then when they were done, introduced them to the soup.

Good, healthy, nourishing and full of vegetable love. Sure to make us all better in a jiffy!

Vegetable Soup

This makes 1 big potful. Adjust the vegetables to what you have in the fridge, but note that I almost always use onion or leek or both, carrot, and a can of plum tomatoes. Everything else comes and goes, but those are the constants ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, topped and tailed, and roughly chopped (leave the skin on)
  • 1 zucchini, roughly chopped (skin on)
  • 1 can plum tomatoes in their juice
  • 1 cup potatoes, chopped (skin on)
  • 1/2 head of rapini or broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and leek until they go soft and slightly melty, and a little browned along the edges. This is quite important as they form the basis of the soup, so you want to cook them long enough to caramelise a bit. This can take up to ten minutes depending on heat source.

Add the carrots, stir to combine, and let them soften, about three to four minutes.

Add the zucchini, stir to combine and let it soften, about two to three minutes.

Open a can of plum tomatoes in their juice, and pour over the soup base. I usually use one hand to hold and pour the tomatoes, and the other hand to catch the tomatoes as they fall into the soup and lightly crush them.

Fill the can with water twice, and add to the soup pot. Stir everything to combine.

Taste and lightly salt and pepper.

Add the potatoes, rapini and spinach, and lower the heat to a soft simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot. If there isnt, top it up.

Adjust salt and pepper.

You can eat the soup just as it is – broth and wonderful chunks of vegetables. But when I am ill, I like a smooth soup, so I take it off the heat, and use my immersion blender to make a really thick silky soup. The choice is up to you.

Matzoh balls

To be honest, you could use just about any cracker in this soup – saltines or oyster or water biscuits would all do. But if you have matzoh, use it – there is something very particular about this delicious taste that owes itself to the matzoh meal. Also, if you use salted crackers, adjust salt accordingly.

This will make for quite a salty unboiled mixture. Dont worry. A lot of the salt will boil out in the pot.

  • 1 cup matzoh meal
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp soup stock

To make the matzoh meal, take a matzoh cracker or two, break it up into smallish pieces, and place in a sturdy ziploc plastic bag. Using a wine bottle, rolling pin or other hard, heavy implement, smash the matzoh cracker until it is dust! Very therapeutic ๐Ÿ˜‰

In a small bowl, combine the matzoh meal and the salt. In a separate small cup or bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and soup stock until combined well. Pour the egg mixture over the matzoh meal, and stir lightly to combine. It will be quite sticky and soft.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To boil the matzoh balls, transfer the soup into a large heatproof bowl. Its okay if a bit of soup remains – this will enrich the boiling liquid for the matzoh balls.

Fill the pot with water, and bring to the boil.

Take the matzoh mixture out of the fridge, and using your hands, make small balls (about 1 inch in diametre) and drop them in the boiling water. Remember that matzoh balls expand to more than twice their size, so dont make huge balls!

Boil for 20 – 30 minutes, or until cooked through. You will know when they are completely cooked when you cut through one and it is light and fluffy all the way through, having absorbed enough water to cook the insides.

Transfer the cooked matzoh balls to the soup, drain and rinse the pot, and transfer soup and matzoh balls back. Reheat gently. Eat and feel better!

Birthday Dinner!

23 Aug

Tonight was my beloved sister’s birthday dinner. It was a feast of feasts. I am so full I can barely type, let alone remember all the recipes! So am going to let the pictures do the talking. I will post recipes soon, I promise! Happy Birthday beloved MZ!

By the way, I decided that everything was going to be served cold or at room temperature except for the mushroom pie, which came hot from the oven. It is a hot humid summer’s day, and it was just so much nicer to eat things that were not burning hot. I also found that this really enhanced flavour… things just taste better, in my opinion, when they are not at extremes of temperature (the only exception to this is of course ice cream)… room temperature lets the full flavour come out undisturbed.

Hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed the meal – family, friends, laughter and a whole lot of love.

Broccolini with lemon and almonds

Broccolini – very easy, and astoundingly delicious. Toasted almonds. Broccolini (basically baby broccoli with little flowers) given a boiling water bath for a mere minute or two until just tender. Cooled for a moment in ice water. Then dunked into about 1/3 cup olive oil + juice + grated rind of a lemon. Bit of salt and pepper. Toss with almonds and refrigerate overnight. The almonds make this dish really nutty and beautiful, and the lemon makes it bright and sparkly.

Roasted Butternut + Arugula

Roasted butternut on a bed of arugula. A simple olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper dressing sparingly poured over the top. Strewn with sprouts, which I dislike, but which the birthday girl adores!

Parsnip Mash with Truffle Oil

Parsnip mash with truffle oil and cracked black pepper…. easy peasy. Peeled, sliced parsnips, simmered in milk. When soft, drained, mashed with a bit of the reserved milk, some butter, salt and cracked black pepper. About a tablespoon of white truffle oil mixed in at the end. Sublime and silken.

Honey glazed carrots

Gorgeous organic carrots – honey glazed, with a touch of cinnamon and a heap of butter. A little burnt, and a lot delicious. Our Mum’s recipe…

Heirloom tomatoes

Chopped heirloom tomatoes, slicked with olive oil, salt + pepper, and chopped parsley and basil from the garden. So goood!

Fig, ricotta + goat's cheese tart

A fig tart from my imagination that turned out beautifully! A walnut crust, with a ricotta + mascarpone base. Sweet wine poached figs, sliced and stuffed with goat’s cheese. It was REALLY good. I will post the recipe tomorrow!

For the Birthday Woman!

Personalised mushroom pie ๐Ÿ˜‰ Portobello, white button, shiitake, and truffle oil, bound with a bit of sour cream, panko and fresh parmesan, baked in a puff pastry crust.

:)

And finally a blackout birthday cake, with lashings of fresh cream.

Happy Happy Birthday to my most beloved sister. You are my heart ๐Ÿ™‚

Frittata!

18 Aug

Ahhhhh… here I am in my “other” home, with my beloved M + Z + B + the AuPairNation of Essia + Julia. And of course, the King, Raai. Its wonderful to be back, and I am blissfully babied out. It was a 24 hour journey to get here, so I let myself off one day of blogging. But today, I cooked and so I thought it would be a good idea to start to blog again … I find that if I let anything go for more than a day, it becomes a habit NOT to do it!

I love cooking in my sister’s kitchen. Its large, airy, comfortable. Everything is so well organised, and its totally open plan. I love her knives, her pots and pans, and particularly, I love the contents of her fridge! There is always something interesting in there that will challenge me to create something delicious. Today, I was cooking for 6 people for lunch, so I decided on a frittata. Its a really simple open omelette, with the fillings added before the eggs. Its fluffy, and is finished in the oven, so that the cheese melts and browns a bit. Delicious – and it can contract and expand to take on whatever is in the fridge! Plus, its wonderfully easy to feed a hoard of people.

Along with the frittata, I made an apple berry crumble, and for dinner a very simple vegetarian curry with brown rice. The remains of the frittata were delicious sliced with dinner. Meals at my sisters are like this… I cook, and we always find ways to incorporate the previous meal into the current one. Simple food, cooked with organic and local ingredients. So much joy … And she has a huge basil plant, her own tomatoes, and a fig tree that is positively laden with swollen purple fruit. I think I am going to have fun here!

I am giving you the approximate ingredients for my frittata today. Use what you have in the fridge – and be experimental. But make sure you use your own judgement about what you mix together into the frittata. I wouldnt add blue cheese, but feta makes a wonderfully salty counterpoint to just about anything. Onions, peas and carrots go well with lots of things, but olives are quite a specific taste and might not meld well with parmesan, for example. Think about what youre putting together into the frittata, and then give yourself permission to experiment! Also be logical. I used 3 different kinds of cheeses because my sister had that in the fridge – but if you only have one cheese, then use that and dont go out and buy extra!

This is a wonderful dish to serve for lunch or breakfast, and its as tasty cold as it is hot, so its fantastic to serve at a picnic or in hot weather ๐Ÿ™‚

This will serve six

  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • salt and pepper
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • splash of port wine
  • 1/4 cup water (about)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 2 small carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed baby tomatoes (roma and plum), sliced
  • 4 vegetarian sausages, crumbled
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 cup feta, grated
  • 4 tbsp hummus (optional, but it added lots of protein and it was delicious!)
  • 1/4 cup cheddar, grated

In a large, oven proof frying pan, heat the olive oil, over medium heat, and fry the onions and garlic until glossy and soft. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar and wine, and let the onions colour and burn just a little bit. Pour a bit of water into the pan, and scrape up the juices and burnt bits if any.

Add the vegetables, and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. You dont want it too salty as the cheeses will add salt too. Crumble in the sausages and stir well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, parmesan and feta. When the vegetables and vegetarian sausage have been combined to your liking, arrange them evenly over the bottom of the frying pan. Lower the heat, and pour over the egg mixture. Using a wooden spoon, move the egg mixture around gently in the pan to encourage it to cook about half way through. DONT mix it though – you just want to kind of poke holes in the bottom that will be filled by uncooked eggs!

Spoon the hummus over, if using. Switch the oven broiler on, and sprinkle over the cheddar.

Slide the frittata in the oven for maximum 5 minutes. It will cook through, puff up a little, and the cheese on top will melt and brown a bit.

Serve immediately with fresh brown bread. Or wait a while, till its cooled, refrigerate and serve it sliced, for a summer meal that it light, and delicious.

Vegetarian Chili + Tacos

11 Jul

Taco DinnerThis is a meal for a celebration. A birthday, a party, a World Cup final. Or even just because. Its so delicious – and its good for you too! No cream or butter, and lots of fresh vegetables. You can make it vegan by cutting out the sour cream and cheese sides (or finding wonderful alternatives – soy cheese is surprisingly tasty). It looks lush and bountiful, and making it is really the work of one afternoon. There are lots of fiddly bits, and I admit, I dont make my own tacos, and I supplement my salsa by purchasing a good branded one (I used Paul Newman’s peach salsa this evening). The heat is also up to you. I give measurements for a medium spicy chili, but really do what feels natural to you.

I also use dried pinto beans. Why? Well, in part because I am stubborn, and Ive always made it that way. But also because even with an overnight soaking, they need at least 3 – 4 hours to cook. This forces you to cook the chili for long enough so that it really becomes thick and luscious, and for all the flavours to meld.

Feel free to halve this recipe, but really, its a meal for a big group of people!

Serves 8 – 12

Vegetarian Chili

  • 500 g pinto beans
  • 3 – 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion minced
  • 7 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 – 2 red chilis, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp crushed chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp smoked hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 250 g can white beans
  • 250 g lentils
  • 250 g can kidney beans
  • 500 g can pomodoro tomatoes in their own sauce
  • 1 – 2 c fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • handful of dried chanterelle and portobello mushrooms reconstituted in hot water for 15 minutes
  • juice of 3 small limes
  • Handful of Italian parsley (or fresh coriander if you really must)

In a saucepan or heatproof bowl, rinse and sort the pinto beans. Make sure there are no grit or stones in the beans – a nasty bite of food if there ever was. Cover with water and leave overnight.

The next day, about 4 – 6 hours before you want to eat, in a large, heavy pan (I use a dutch oven or heavy bottomed 5 quart stock pan), over medium low heat, heat oil and soften onions and garlic. Saute until glossy, and then add the celery, carrots, mushrooms, pepper and chilis, mixing well after each addition. Cook for about 3 – 5 minutes until the mixture has softened and let go of some of its liquid.

Add the bay leaf, basil, cinnamon, herbs, pepper flakes, cayenne, coriander, cumin, oregano, and smoked hot paprika, and mix very very well. Season with salt and pepper.

Add about 3/4 of the pinto beans (you can freeze the rest and use in a soup or stock), the white beans, lentils, and kidney beans, mixing well after each addition. Add the pomodoro tomatoes and their liquid and stir to combine. Cover and let simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.

After about 15 minutes, uncover the pan. It will be very liquid. Add the fresh tomatoes, the mustard, cocoa powder, sugar, and red wine. Chop the dried mushrooms fine, and add to the stew, along with the juice of 3 small limes. Cook, over very low heat, for at least 3 hours and up to 6 if you want, stirring every 10 – 15 minutes so it doesnt burn on the bottom. The chili will go from liquid to a very thick savoury stew. Taste for spice and salt and pepper, and adjust to your liking.

Just before serving, sprinkle over some chopped fresh parsley. If you like fresh coriander (I hate it), please feel free to substitute!

Tomato Salsa

I dont add any spice to this salsa because I think it would interfere with the chili and the bought salsas I am serving. However, if this is the only salsa youre serving, feel free to add 1 – 2 chilis, chopped fine.

  • 1 – 2 cups baby roma tomatoes (or 2 – 3 large juicy tomatoes)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 yellow onion, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/4 cup mixed fresh basil and Italian parsley, chopped
  • Juice of 4 – 5 small limes

Chop the tomatoes in a small dice. Add the minced onions, and salt and pepper, and mix well. Chop the basil and Italian parsley, and add and mix well. Juice 4 – 5 small limes, and add this liquid to the salsa. Mix, cover and store in the fridge until serving time.

Guacamole

I am a purist. I like guacamole simple – as many avocados as I can afford, mashed with a bit of salt and pepper and lime. Unbelievably delicious.

  • 4 ripe avocados (dark skinned)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Juice of 5 small limes
  • 1 avocado pit

Cut your avocados in half lengthwise, using the pit as a guide for your knife. Using a spoon, carve out chunks of avocado into a pretty serving dish. Make sure you scrape out all the beautiful dark green flesh that is right next to the peel.

Mash the avocado with a fork until it is a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste, and the juice of 5 small limes. You wont taste the limes in the finished guacamole, just a really intense avocado flavour.

Pop the avocado pit into the serving bowl to ensure that the avocado does not brown, and store, covered, in the fridge until time to serve.

To serve

To serve this feast, you will need:

  • White and yellow corn tacos, heated briefly in the oven (figure 3 taco shells per person, or 2 if you add the wraps)
  • Soft burrito wraps, warmed briefly in the oven
  • Vegetarian chili
  • Tomato Salsa
  • Store bought salsa as an addition, refrigerated
  • Guacamole
  • Shredded lettuce (I use a combo of lettuce, baby spinach and parsley)
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded cheddar or jack cheese

Arrange on pretty serving platters, and let your guests make their own! So much fun!

All photos copyright Chan KY

Hand: Ezril

My Tomato Sauce

5 Jul

For pasta, for pizza, for salsa… for just about anything. When I need a pasta sauce that is delectable, this is the one I go to. Its been “developed” over more than 20 years of cooking tomato sauce. I have friends who remember me cooking a version of this sauce when I was 14 years old! Im almost 40 now ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย Its ingredients are malleable but there are some broad rules that I usually stick to:

  • Keep a base of onions and loads of garlic
  • Always use a mix of tomatoes – I use at least 2 types of fresh tomatoes, canned pomodoro, and tomato paste. This ensures a really deep level of tomato flavour. Sun dried tomatoes are also awesome in this sauce.
  • Try and use a mix of fresh and dried herbs. Again, these impart very different flavours, and mixing them really lends depth to the sauce
  • You can use a mix of vegetables (see below for what I put into it) but try and make sure there are some carrots for sweetness

I first started cooking this sauce in high school when I used to have loads of people over for pool parties. It was the most forgiving sauce because you could simmer it for ages, and it just got better and better. As long as the basic rules were followed, and the bones of the sauce were respected, you could add just about any vegetable (bar potatoes or pumpkin) that you wanted.

When I went to university, I started making this sauce for my housemates. There was always something missing, until one day, I hit on a magic combination. And this is the secret to the sauce, without which you will not have the same sublime flavour and glossiness. These are non negotiable. You need at least 1 eggplant for silky smooth, shiny unctuousness, and a big handful of prunes for a dusky sweetness that you just cant place in the final taste. These two ingredients are secret because they both melt into the sauce, encouraging and supporting its flavour without pushing their own agenda into the story. Eggplant and prunes. Who would have guessed?! Please do not try and make this sauce without these two – I promise, it will make you so very happy that you trusted me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

For about 4 – 6 cups of finished sauce, you will need:

  • 2 medium white onions (approx 2 cups), minced
  • 7 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter (optional)
  • Salt and pepeper
  • Fresh basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano and rosemary, minced fine – about 1/2 cup in total
  • 1 large or about 5 baby eggplant (approx 2 cups) roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large red pepper (approx 1 cup), deseeded, roughly chopped
  • 4 – 6 baby carrots (approx 1 cup), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 medium zucchini (approx 1 cup), roughly chopped
  • 2 cup mixed tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used cherry and baby roma)
  • 8 medium portobello mushrooms (approx 3 cups) peeled and very roughly chopped
  • 2 x 400 g cans of pomodoro tomatoes in juice – about 4 cups, made up with wine or water if needed
  • 15 pitted prunes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp mixed Italian herbs (dry)

In a heavy 5 qt saucepan, soften onions and garlic in about 2 tbsp olive oil and butter (if you are not using the butter, just use a little more olive oil), over high heat. Keep the olive oil by the side of the stove, and add more when you feel the ingredients are sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Season the onion mixture with salt and pepper, and add about 3 tbsp of the minced mixed fresh herbs, and mix well. Lower heat to medium high, and add the eggplant. Mix well to ensure its covered with oil and onions. Add ย balsamic vinegar, and mix to brown a little.

Add red pepper and mix well, and then a few minutes later, add carrots and mix well.

Add all the red wine and the tomato paste, mix well, and turn the heat to low. Add zucchini, mix well, and then add the raw tomatoes and mix well. Add the mushrooms and mix to combine all, keeping check that nothing is sticking and add olive oil if neccessary.

Measure out 2 cans of pomodoro tomatoes in juice into a large measuring cup and make up to 4 cups with wine or water if needed. Smash the tomatoes with a fork so they are roughly chopped, and add all at once to the pan.

Cover the sauce, and allow to begin to simmer and steam. Meanwhile, pit the prunes, and chop roughly. Add the prunes and brown sugar to the sauce and mix well.

Let the sauce simmer, covered, for approx 15 – 20 minutes, mixing every five to ten minutes to ensure it does not burn.

Uncover, mix very well, and let simmer for at least 45 minutes to a couple of hours, over low heat, or until reduced by half. Ensure you check the sauce every 15 minutes or so to ensure it does not burn. You can add more wine if you want a particularly deeply wine-ey sauce.

Taste for flavour and season with salt and pepper if needed, or even some more sugar, and add dried herbs. About five or ten minutes before finished, add the rest of the fresh herbs to let their scent permeate the sauce.

Once the sauce is to your liking, take off heat and decide if you want to keep it chunky (which is nice for some pastas, salsas, etc) or if you want to blend it smooth. I use an immersion blender here. If you do blend it please make sure it has cooled to at least lukewarm – hot splashing tomato sauce is a real pain!

If you are using this as a pizza sauce as I will be, make sure you have at least one cook’s meal with about half a cup of sauce mixed with some angel hair pasta! Soul satisfying.

This freezes extremely well. I often freeze in an ice cube maker and then transfer to a zip loc bag. Alternatively, measure out by cupfuls into a sandwich ziploc bag and freeze flat. Keeps for up to 6 months.

Special thanks to AngelKitten for transcribing all the ingredients and keeping track of me!

Photos copyright Chan KY

A Simple Vegetable Soup for a Tired Mummy

29 Jun

I loved the fresh fruit and vegetables we got at Whole Foods – what a feast for the senses! When MZ was exhausted and didnt really even have the energy to eat (thats what happens when you are at full time work and have a gorgeous babygirl), I would try and make her things that would taste good, but go down easy. This vegetable soup is really as simple as it reads – inspired by what was in the store, and flavoured by nothing more than a little rind of parmesan and salt and pepper. The vegetables were all organic, and their flavour and colour were vivid and vibrant. You dont really need spices or herbs when the veg are this good. Wonderful served with a simple grilled cheese sandwich, or even some bread and tomatoes.

Serves 4

  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 large portobello mushrooms, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 3 – 4 carrots, washed and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, washed and chopped
  • 1 small head of broccoli, washed and chopped
  • 1 small butternut, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • Handful of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Rind of parmesan if you have it (omit for vegan)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and soften onion and garlic. Once they have softened, and are glistening happily, add the mushrooms, and stir to combine. As soon as the mushrooms release some of their liquid, add the carrots. Stir to combine.

Add the zucchini, and allow it to release its own liquid into the pan. Stir all together, and add the broccoli, butternut, spinach and water, and stir all well. Pop in the rind of parmesan (this will add a bit of salt, and a haunting dusky note that is just lovely), if you have it, and cover with a lid for about five minutes, lowering the heat.

Once you take the lid off, take out the parmesan, and think about your choices. You could mash and mush the vegetables by hand with a potato masher, or you could transfer cup by cup to a blender or food processor. Dont completely liquidise the soup – you want it chunky and thick. After you pulse gently, transfer back to pan, and take another cup of vegetables to puree. Do this until you have the consistency you prefer, and only now taste for salt and pepper. Sometimes the vegetables are so fresh and sweet, you dont need much addition.

Serve with plenty of love.

Malaysian Vegetarian Curry in the USA for MZ

28 Jun

One of the things M really wanted when I was cooking for her was a vegetarian curry. This is what I came up with, given the ingredients I could source in her part of the world!

Curry and rice must be one of the most ultimate comfort foods for us. Theres something about the warmth and heat – the pedas and the panas – that sends a glow to the soul. Its relatively easy to make as long as you take a couple of things into consideration: make sure you think about the vegetables you are adding, and ensure they all get proper and respectful cooking time; fry the spices – you want them to release their volatile oils and infuse their scent into the whole house; make sure there is some protein in the curry as vegetarian food like this needs to be balanced; think about colour, size and texture when you choose your vegetables; and finally, know your heat (spice) limit, and stick to it!

For a curry feeding 4 – 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 – 3 tbsp peanut oil (or a mix of canola and roasted sesame oil if you cant find peanut, coconut oil is also nice)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Thumb sized portion of ginger, minced or grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 red chili (or more, according to your taste) minced fine (with or without seeds, according to your heat desire)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ย good quality red curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp each: cumin + coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 – 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
  • 2 – 3 leaves limau perut or curry leaves
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 yellow squash, washed and cubed
  • 2 – 3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium head broccoli, separated into small spears
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • 1 packet baked tofu (or chickpeas if you cant find baked tofu)

Heat in a large pan or saucepan, over medium heat, heat oil until almost smoking. Add onion, garlic, and ginger, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Let onion soften, this should only take a few seconds. Add red chili, stir again, and check if oil has all been absorbed. If it has, move all ingredients to the sides of the pan, so you make a well in the centre, and add a little bit more oil. Add the curry powder and spice powders and fry until they separate from the oil and the scents have been released. You will know when this happens!

As soon as the spice powders have fried, stir all together, add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, lemongrass and limau perut and stir. Add the potatoes, and stir to coat. Let the potatoes fry for a minute, and brown a little bit. Once the potatoes have browned, add a little water, and add the squash, carrots, and broccoli in stages, stirring to combine well. Add the coconut milk, and allow all the vegetables to cook to lightly cook (you dont want them boiled, but more like lightly poached).

Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. I have also added some brown sugar (tiny pinch) to add a deeper resonance if necessary.

Add frozen peas and baked tofu and allow to heat through. Taste again.

I always think curry is best reheated gently the next day, once all the flavours have had a chance to get acquainted. And always try and serve it warm, not piping hot – you destroy any flavour if you serve it boiling hot.

Serve with brown rice and enjoy memories of home and family and heat and humidity.

Memories of a Vegetarian Thanksgiving

23 Jun

A Thanksgiving for everyone – even the turkey!

M + I cooking together, for Z’s first Thanksgiving…

  • Honey glazed carrots
  • Green beans with crispy friend onions
  • Cornbread stuffing with jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, kale, and dried cranberries
  • Cranberry honey whiskey sauce
  • Puff pastry roll with mushrooms and pine nuts
  • Garlic mash potatoes
  • Red wine onion gravy
  • Roasted butternut and sweet potato with a maple glaze
  • Berry crumble
  • Pecan pie
  • Red wine and honey poached pears dipped in bittersweet chocolate with vanilla ice cream

… and there are only 4 of us sitting down to dinner!

This was the first Thanksgiving I celebrated in my sister, M’s house in Washington DC. I was there helping to look after Z, my beloved niece. My sister is vegetarian too, and with the advent of her daughter, we found that she was pretty intolerant to milk and dairy products. So we held back on layering the butter everywhere, though we didn’t completely do without it. It was a sumptuous meal, redolent of the most beautiful produce of the season. The colors where phenomenal, and M’s non-vegetarian BSA and our TBH didn’t even miss the turkey!

One of these days, I will try and recreate it and post the recipes. But the menu itself is pretty phenomenal!