The Occasional Cook

~Pottering about in my Pink Kitchen

Saffron Rice with Za’atar Chicken — March 20, 2020

Saffron Rice with Za’atar Chicken

Today’s simple dinner was inspired by sheer inertia. After staying home for several days cooking daily, I decided to create something simple yet delicious.

Saffron rice is really simple to make. This time round I used butter from an Indian store here. The butter is imported from India and it’s got a very strong flavour. Not good on bread or western type of cooking but for this rice, because it reminded me of ghee, I thought it made the rice more flavourful.

This is the brand of butter. I’ll never buy a
gain when this butter runs out because it’s just too strong for my daily use.

Add about 50g if butter together with a few turns of olive oil into a saucepan. Add half a white onion finely chopped and a stick of cinnamon. Over low fire, cook the onions till very soft and translucent.
In a separate small bowl, add a pinch of saffron to some milk. In the saucepan with the softened onions now, add about 500 ml
of chicken stock (I used boxed ones) and two teaspoons of salt. Add the saffron milk mixture and stir well. Pour the liquid into two cups of washed basmati rice that have been sitting in a rice cooker. Close the rice cooker lid and press the ‘cook’ button. We Asians cannot love without a rice cooker! Hassle free staple every day!

For the za’atar chicken, marinade a small whole chicken with two tablespoons of za’atar spice blend, one whole lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Before roasting in the oven, marinade the chicken for a few hours.

And voila! The rice turned out perfect! It was flavourful and the chicken was tasty and juicy and crispy all at the same time.
I served this with a side of mesclun greens and a bowl of coriander, tomato, green chilli and lemon juice chutney made from scratch. Just blend one fresh tomato (roast them over a flame or in a pan first), two green chillies (depending on how hot you like), a bunch of coriander and one whole lemon juice. Season with some salt.

Fried Garoupa with Sweet and Sour Sauce — February 2, 2020

Fried Garoupa with Sweet and Sour Sauce

It’s still Chinese New Year here and hence the price of fish here is exorbitant. Well, generally prices of foods and goods here are crazy high compared to elsewhere but with CNY, it’s worse when it comes to fish. But I forgot. And I had to feed the family. And so I went home with two small pieces of greasy Garoua for $30 SGD. My mom was so shocked when I told her the story.

Which meant that I had to make sure the fish did justice to my pocket! Inspired by Marion (she has like the best YouTube channel ever!), I tried to emulate her fried fish with sweet and sour sauce.

First step. Frying the fish. We all will never have a pan big enough to fry a whole fish. And even though my pricey Garoua were small, I still had that tail overhang and of course while trying to get that part cooked, I killed it. Haha. So I suggest getting a giant wok or getting a smaller fish. Marion’s step to coat it with corn flour first works.

So there’s the fish, coated with flour )but before that rubbed with some salt) frying away. And while that’s frying, you make the sauce.

In a saucepan, add a bit of oil and sesame oil then sauté minced garlic. Add sliced ginger (I used about 6 small pieces) and then diced capsicums. You should add cubes onion pieces too but in my household nobody eats onions so I had to omit that. Then add freshly cubes pineapple pieces. Marion said you’ve got to use fresh. I had no choice but to use canned. She was right, fresh is better. I also added one finely chopped green chilli padi, or bird eye’s chilli.

For the saucy bit, add a bit of water (enough to cover the vegetables), then four tablespoons of brown sugar, one teaspoon of tamarind paste, one tablespoon of soy sauce and a splash of lemon juice. You should add a bit of Chinese five spice powder but I had forgotten that. I added as well one tablespoon of Heinz All Natural ketchup.

And then that’s I! Voila! Sprinkle with lots of fresh coriander and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal that would really cost much more in restaurants (despite my complaints of pricey fish during CNY period).

I had made a simple soy sauce fried sea prawns to go with the fish as well. Hence that plate of prawns in the background.

Try it but be prepared to do lots of cleaning up too! Frying fish and seafood is a lot of mess. 😅

Happy New Year 2020 Menu — January 3, 2020

Happy New Year 2020 Menu

We sail into a new decade today and so I’ve decided to treat the family members to some hearty brunch food.

First up, smashed avocado. Just lightly seasoned with sea salt and black pepper and just a touch of lemon juice.

Baked quails! Not quail eggs but the Mama bird itself. Marinated with this spice a friend got for me from Scotland. Serve it with a kale salad.

Mustard potato salad. Simply mix tablespoonfuls of wholegrain mustard with Japanese kewpie mayonnaise, coarsely ground black pepper, salt and a tiny splash of cider vinegar.

Poached eggs. I fail at making them using a saucepan so I had to use the poachmaker. But delicious nonetheless.

To a brand new year with more cooking go relax the mind and nourish the soul.

Nasi Lemak Rice — December 13, 2019

Nasi Lemak Rice

Nasi lemak, or coconut rice, is extremely popular here. In my home, it’s incomplete if it’s not served with fried kangkong, a type of green popular in Southeast Asia.

This is how you can make the rice easily in a rice cooker. If ever I have to move to the west for Long periods of time, the most important cooking appliance will definitely be a rice cooker. This is followed with a blender or chopper. 😅

Recipe:

1. 3 cups of jasmine or Long grained basmati rice. My family only eats basmati rice so I’ve used it here

2. One packet of coconut cream. About 200 ml.

3. About 3 cups of water. I use the traditional Asian method of measuring water for rice. It should not rise above the middle line of your middle finger from the surface of the rice grains in the pot

4. 1.5 tsp of fine salt.

5. 6-7 pandan leaves

6. 3-4 pieces of ginger slices

And then turn on the rice cooker. Before you know it, voila! Fragrant coconut rice!

Sambal Stingray —

Sambal Stingray

Recently the Girl has grown more adventurous in her food taste. A growing teen means you’ll have to start catering not only kiddy food at home but also adultish food so one day she asked for a favourite hawker dish here in this region.

Stingray or a type of skate fish? I’m not sure what it’s called elsewhere is a delicious fish when grilled with sambal and in banana leaf.

It’s actually simple to make! It was my first time making this fish dish and now that I know how to, I’ll be making it at least once every few months.

The first step is to make the sambal. I’ve gotten quite lazy because I’ve had to cook almost every day recently and making your own dried chilli paste is too much work. Thankfully, dried chilli paste now comes in a jar! How convenient.

So in a blender goes two or three red onions (the sizes here are much smaller than in the West. I think it’s called Indian onions here?), garlic, two stalks of tender lemongrass stems, two tablespoons of dried chilli paste from the jar, some leftover sambal belacan from a jar (original recipes just call for belacan, fermented shrimp paste but this whole ingredient can be omitted), and ginger. And with modern conveniences, I also used ginger garlic paste from a jar.

Fry the finely blended chilli paste mixture in quite a lot of oil till the oil separates. You can add a few pieces of kaffir lime leaves for the added aroma and a teaspoon of tamarind paste. I’ve added my tamarind in the blender so I didn’t have to add more. Then, lay a piece of softened banana leaf on a baking tray. Place some of the cooked sambal on it. Place the fish on and then smother with more of the sambal. Either grill in the oven or do it over a pan (but with a lid to cook). Serve with plenty of cut Calamansi limes. Delicious!

Easy Everyday Fried Chicken — December 8, 2019

Easy Everyday Fried Chicken

This is a very common way to marinade chicken or even fish at home or hawker stalls. It’s quick and tasty and the fried chicken or fish will taste good even on its own without rice.

Simply add powdered turmeric and salt to the protein of choice and voila. That’s it. In Malay it’s simply called ‘garam kunyit’ – garam meaning salt and kunyit means turmeric.

But to make it crunchier, add a bit of corn flour. And for spicier, a little bit of hot chilli powder or cayenne.

It’s a staple in Malay homes with children because that’s all there is to it for these little kids’ lunch. Rice and fried chicken or fish. And that’ll keep them full after they come back from school. Be careful though not to add too much of turmeric powder. When I first got married and started cooking, I added too much and the smell of turmeric was overwhelming. About one or two tablespoons, depending on the amount of chicken you have will suffice.

Try it. It’ll be a new spin to KFC like chicken at home.

Lamb Tagine with Salty and Sweet Dried Prunes — November 24, 2019

Lamb Tagine with Salty and Sweet Dried Prunes

I made lamb tagine in a sauce pan pot after reading a lot of websites and watching YouTube videos. This I reckon is a good tagine because the seasoning is mild but fragrant. I learnt using one important spice that made a lot of difference from watching this lady Chef from a hotel make it on YouTube. The secret ingredient is…ground cinnamon!

Tagine is so simple to make (compared to Malay, Indian or Peranakan cooking you know) and so I’ll be making this quite often since the family loves it so much. But of course, different variations. Lamb is costly here in Singapore 😦

Here in my bowl, I have 1.8 kg of good quality lamb cubes. Marinade with 1 tbsp of ground cumin, 1 tbsp of ground coriander, 1/2 tbsp of sweet smoked paprika and 1 tbsp of ground cinnamon. Of course, add salt to taste before this.

Sauté two large white onions which have been quite finely chopped. Add ginger and garlic paste. Sauté till onions are soft and wilted.

Add marinated lamb cubes. Stir and brown lamb cubes. Then add 250 ml of chicken stock (I used the packet ones) and salt. Add some saffron threads, about half a teaspoon. Close lid and mimic tagine cooking. (I’m so buying a tagine soon).

While the meat is stewing away, in another saucepan, add some of the stewing liquid from the lamb and salted sweet prunes. By right, you should use sweet prunes. But…well when I went to the Chinese grocer, he had only these so I got them. But because these are saltier than normal prunes, I had to add more honey. So I added 3 tbsp of honey, 2 tsp of ground cinnamon and some water till the prunes are soft and have expanded somewhat.

Stir the prune mixture once the lamb is cooked and tender. Before that, I had added some carrots too. Don’t add too early or the carrots will be too mushy.

And I had some very sweet and delicious boiled Australian white potatoes. I pan fried the boiled cubes of potatoes in some butter and added them in too.

Lastly, stir in fresh coriander and then serve with the easy flatbread from Jamie Oliver’s wonderful recipe.

Before serving, sprinkle some dried fruits and nuts which you can easily purchase now in the snack section.

My lunch spread yesterday. Tagine with flatbread and roasted bone marrow and garlic baked chicken wings. I love the holiday season. More cooking coming up!

Macaroni Goreng(Fried Macaroni) — November 21, 2019

Macaroni Goreng(Fried Macaroni)

This is my ultimate comfort food. And it’s so easy to make…now. I think I posted this many years ago when I started this food blog for my daughter but now that I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve discovered shortcuts.

The chilli paste in many Malay home cooking is a blend of dried chillies, onions and garlic. But I’ve discovered bottled ground chillies. It doesn’t have the onions but it doesn’t matter anyway.

This is how I cooked my delicious comforting lunch. It’s spicy and tangy, and that’s how I love it.

In plenty of oil (I used olive oil) cook till the oil separates one heaped teaspoon of chopped garlic, and 1-2 tbsp of ground chilli from the bottle. If you don’t have this, then it won’t taste as good but you can substitute with a bit more of ground chilli flakes. Here, I added a packed of chilli flakes so that I could have more colour.

Then add minced beef. Here, I have 300g of minced beef.

Make sure the meat is well cooked. Then add a packet of chopped tomatoes. I like these form Sainbury’s. Add one heaped tablespoon of ground cumin, 2 Teaspoons of sugar and salt to taste.

Let the mixture simmer nicely till the oil is really bright red and everything looks soft and unctuous.

Then add cooked macaroni.

Mix macaroni well with the sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Sprinkle with spring onions cut to fairly large pieces.

Then serve with a sprinkling of fried shallots. Yummy!

Easy Flatbread — November 17, 2019

Easy Flatbread

I finally decided to make Jamie Oliver’s flatbread after so many people around me have raved about how simple and good the recipe is.

And indeed it is! I made using 2.5 cups of plain flour, 2 tubs (140g each) of yogurt, baking powder, salt and enough olive oil to form a dough. Let the dough rest for at least half an hour after kneading and forming them into two balls.

For the flatbreads I made, I tried to mimic naan bread and hence slathered some melted butter, garlic and coriander before placing the dough on a hot pan.

This is indeed an easy and cost saving option if you ever need some good bread for gravy dishes or curries. I served mine with some leftover keema (minced meat Indian curry) I had bought the previous day from a hawker centre.

Turkish Eggs — November 14, 2019

Turkish Eggs

I first ate Turkish eggs in one of those hipster cafes here and was pleasantly surprised by how delicious that bowl of poached eggs were.

This morning I decided to make Turkish eggs using Nigella Lawson’s sort of recipe? Or maybe method is the correct word which I found on YouTube.

It’s incredibly easy to make. I only had one ingredient missing – the Aleppo pepper. But I substituted that with smoked sweet paprika and it worked very well indeed.

The first step is to make the chilli oil. I places about 30g of butter in a small pan and melted it slowly till brown. It could do a bit browner but I didn’t want to risk burning my butter so when they were all nicely melted and slightly brown, I added a few swigs of good quality olive oil and sprinkled a strong dash of the smoked paprika from the tin.

Then mix a packet of Greek yogurt with some sea salt. And last make the poached egg and assemble.

Sprinkle some parsley and sea salt over the egg and eat with toasted ciabatta slices. Heavenly!! This is now my favourite breakfast dish to make. So simple yet satisfying.