The Occasional Cook

~Pottering about in my Pink Kitchen

Borek or Spanakopita — July 14, 2019

Borek or Spanakopita

Ok once I learn to make something new and easy, I get completely obsessed. My latest obsession is with this spinach and cheese in phyllo pastry. It’s simple to make and everyone likes it. Well, most anyone.

I’ve made so many versions of it so I’m just going to post my latest one, and in my opinion the best version simply because using fresh spinach is so much more delicious than the frozen ones I’ve been using.

The concept is simple. A cheese and spinach filling. A custard topping. And phyllo pastry as the base and cover.

For this picture, I’ve moved on to the second layer. Many do it with only one layer but I find if you have the extra ingredients, making two layers makes it thicker and more moorish. So first spread cooked spinach.

And then add cheese. I’ve been using feta all along but for this particular day, my supermarket ran out of feta. So I used dollops of ricotta cheese and sharp cheddar. Season with lots of sea salt and black pepper.

Then the custard. For this custard, I what three whole eggs with one tub (125ml) of Greek yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of milk and that’s it.

Cover the dough. And because I learn from experience, I watched how some people would cut the pastry into squares first before baking. It helps! If you don’t, yes, it will look prettier but the process of cutting crispy phyllo in front of guests is a huge mess!

And then voila! It’s all ready to be served.

For the cheesy part, feel free to experiment. My aunt uses mozzarella, and I think next time I’ll do these pastries in individual portions. With mozzarella and pine nuts!

Enjoy trying! It’s an easy dish to whip up for last minute entertaining. 🙂

Cencaru Bakar Sambal (Baked Scadfish in Sambal) — June 18, 2019

Cencaru Bakar Sambal (Baked Scadfish in Sambal)

There’s a firm favourite fish amongst the Malays from the ladies side. Most men I know do not like this fish. It has quite a strong smell but once cooked, it’s delicious. It has a firm flesh, the skin a bit tough so you can’t eat the crispy skin. You’ve got to peel the out skin first after cooking to enjoy the firm sweet meaty flesh.

In Malay, this fish is called cencaru and even the local fishmongers know that it’s well liked by the Malays and not so by the other races. If not why would he tempt me by calling out just as I was walking or if the supermarket, ‘Ikan cencaru nak tak?’ (Do you want this cencaru fish?’ Haven’t eaten this fish in years, I caved and walked back to him, and before I knew it, I had three fish in my hand.

It’s best eaten fried or baked with sambal or soy sauce chilli padi dip. I made the first version, or rather got the Helper to do so for me.

We first made the sambal paste together and cooked the sambal through. After that, slit the top part of the fish and stuff as much sambal as you can. Before this, we seasoned the fish with salt and ground turmeric. And then bake. My kitchen smelled of fish! But afterwards, when the fish was done and the house smelled normal again, we both enjoyed eating the fish with hot plain rice. It’s a kampong favourite and us so modern in our sanitized public apartments have forgotten to appreciate the foods of the past.

Sambal paste

1. blend soft already boiled down dried chillies (about 20 pieces) with three onions and four cloves of garlic till very fine.

2. Fry over medium heat till cooked.

3. Add a bit of tamarind paste, salt and sugar to taste. The sambal should be sweet and tangy.

Ramly…of Sorts Burger — May 28, 2019

Ramly…of Sorts Burger

For those living in this region, the Ramly burger is like the epitome of street food burgers. Beef patties are grilled and encased in a thin layer of omelette. The sauce…that’s their secret. Lots and lots of brown sauce, mayonnaise, chilli sauce…. the perfect night stack in Malaysia.

The burger Ramly is banned in Singapore, but there are many stalls during bazaars selling these burgers under the Ramly banner. They used other patties but because the original patties are banned, I guess the manner how these burgers are made allowed the Singaporean vendors to use the Ramly name.

At home, I decided to make my own version. Well, for this one that The May made them. I used expensive Angus beef patties instead of the cheap unhealthy frozen kinds because I wanted the kids to eat healthily. But we followed the Ramly style, with an omelette encasing the juicy patties. And for The Son, a slice of cheese on the beef patties before it got wrapped in the golden eggy blanket.

It was a hit for dinner that night. Will definitely make it again!

Raw kale salad with orange and olives — May 27, 2019

Raw kale salad with orange and olives

I learnt how to make raw kale salad watching some YouTube videos. And I learnt that you need to massage the leaves so they aren’t so hard.

It’s not easy to get kale in this part of the world but last week, I think because maybe it’s in season, the local supermarket was selling them cheap! I bought a packet but there was a lot. One bunch of kale can feed a family of five!

I cut the leaves small and massaged them for a few second. A few minutes is just too much for me! And then since I had mandarin oranges, I cut a few, added a few tablespoons of olives. Oh, and two boiled eggs. For the dressing, because I was pressed for time, I just drizzled store bought Caesar dressing.

First time eating raw kale salad but I think I’ll be making this more often so that I’ll eat healthily this year.

Shakshuka with Meat — May 4, 2019

Shakshuka with Meat

This time yet another variation of shakshuka. This time with ground beef at the bottom.

I seasoned the ground beef with this fragrant spice mix for madhi rice I bought in Kuala Lumpur by Chef Ammar. And then season with salt and pepper. It consists of coriander, cardamom, cumin amongst other spices.

For the tomato sauce, I used capsicum and mushrooms.

And then all it took was simply putting the minced beef at the bottom followed by sauce and then cracking the eggs in. I served with Greek honey yogurt and lots of chopped coriander. I also had four good quality fried sausages so I just placed them around the dish.

And that was my May Day brunch for the family. 🙂

Sambal Goreng Tahu Tempeh (Version 1: The Simple One) — May 2, 2019

Sambal Goreng Tahu Tempeh (Version 1: The Simple One)

Fasting month is coming and The Hubster mentioned he’d like to eat this every morning. I’ve never cooked it before. Even when I was more diligent in cooking as a young Wife. So now I thought I’d better learn to cook this dish.

This shall be variation 1. Simply because I’ll try other versions when I have all the ingredients I actually need.

This variation is missing 1. Tamarind water/paste 2. All the herbal aromatics like kaffir lime leaves or fresh local Bay leaves 3. Galangal

But no matter. I’ve learned how to use substitutes and the result was good. The Hubster was a happy man and I felt more confident also knowing if ever we have to move to a Western country, and I will actually blow a sizeable amount of money on tempeh there, I can cook this dish. 🙂

First up, the tofu. It needs to be the firmer kind. And soft on the inside. Cut into cubes and fry.

Next, the tempeh. Cut into cubes and fry.

Then, the Long beans. Cut into bite sized lengths.

And then, prawns. Wash and devein.

The paste. Onions, dried chillies, garlic. By right blend also the lemongrass but since I had my blended chilli paste separate (from the freezer made prior by The Helper) I sliced thin the lemongrass.

The substitutes: No tamarind water so I used one piece of tamarind fruit (asam gelugur). I didn’t have fresh Bay leaves so I used dried Bay leaves.

The cooking process.

1. In oil, fry the blended chilli paste. Add the thinly chopped and sliced lemongrass. Add one bruised lemongrass and then sautee till the oil separates from the mixture.

2. Add the prawns.

3. Add the Long beans.

4. Add two tablespoons of coconut cream and the asam gelugur.

5. Once prawns and beans are cooked, add the tofu and tempeh cubes.

6. Season with salt and sugar.

Spaghetti Primavera — March 19, 2019

Spaghetti Primavera

I remember when I was a young Uni grad working part time at this Italian restaurant. And on the menu was spaghetti primavera. All I remembered was simply pasta with a whole lot of vegetables.

And since I am on a mission to feed myself and the family more vegetables, I decided to make my own version of it by adding more vegetables then I could remember in that Italian restaurant version!

I first sautéed garlic in olive oil and then added sliced shiitake mushrooms. Cook till browned. And then added zucchini slices and blanched broccoli followed by cherry tomatoes. And then I added my cooked spaghetti in and toss to mix. The last was from my fridge, I had a glass container full of my oven baked capsicum and slices of garlic in olive oil slices. I added about two huge tablespoons including some of the oil into the mixture. Season with sea salt and black pepper and a handful of grated Parmesan. To serve, sprinkle some red pepper flakes.

I am happy that the family ate this up. Lots of goodness in a plate. If you want to add more vegetables in your diet, I strongly recommend this simple yet delicious and nourishing dish!

Shakshouka — March 16, 2019

Shakshouka

Riding on the theme of tomatoes again, I made shakshouka. Such a fun dish to pronounce. But also very easy to make and so delicious.

I tried making it twice. First time in a pyrex dish and baked in the oven. And the second time over the stove. I prefer the second method. It’s easier, and I can control the eggs better.

It seriously is a very simple dish to make. Again, I used tinned tomatoes. And for depth, smoked paprika, cumin (ground), coriander (ground), dried mint. And of course sea salt and a pinch of sugar. Next time, I will use a spoonful of jarred harissa. The trick is to add plenty of other vegetables so it doesn’t just become a tomato soup. I added chopped capsicums and mushrooms to this shakshouka.

And to serve, a huge dollop of Greek yogurt. That really elevated the dish! I copied this from a café I tried shakshouka from. Except that they used sour cream instead of Greek Yogurt. I prefer the yogurt (friendlier to the waist too!). Sprinkle lots of Italian parsley on top to serve.

It’s best eaten with slices of sourdough bread, but I didn’t have any so just regular toasts work just as fine.

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Tomato based Beef Stew —

Tomato based Beef Stew

Lately, I’ve been pretty much obsessed with tomatoes. So one weekend, I decided to make beef stew, but wanted it to be with a tomato-based. So instead of just regular water, I poured it lots and lots of tomatoes. Jar, packet, tin…you name it, I’ve got ’em all in whate’er packaging it can come in. It’s really idiot proof, really, and the photos will show exactly how it’s done. Just a matter of browning the meat, and then putting it back inside and adding in all the veggies and tomatoes. Leave it to simmer till beef is tender. And voila! A meal for the entire family. The only thing was I forgot to brown the onions, so I did it separately in another pan. Don’t forget to season. I just used sea salt, black pepper and a pinch of Italian dried herbs.

 

 

 

Haloumi Tomato Sticks — March 2, 2019

Haloumi Tomato Sticks

Such a simple recipe (in fact, not even a recipe!) but so delightful and delicious.

Cut haloumi into squares, fry them till very brown in olive oil, and skewer them with cherry tomatoes. Just before serving, place skewers on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for about only 5 minutes.

I am so going to make this my signature dish to bring for family events! See how pretty it sits together with the other potluck dishes 🙂