The Occasional Cook

~Pottering about in my Pink Kitchen

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.

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!

Char Kway Teow — November 6, 2019

Char Kway Teow

Char kway teow is soooo famous in Singapore and Malaysia. It’s got to be cooked in a Super hot wok so you could have that Smokey flavour or what the locals call ‘wok hei’ – the breath of the wok. And for the chinese, it is cooked in lard and lots of chinese pork sausages.

My ex-colleagues got me a trinity of books by The Meat Men, a local group of youtubers who have their own cooking channel. I tried making it at home, and it was ok. I had to omit the lard but at home the main problem is getting that wok hei flavour. You’ve got to use a Super hot cast iron or metal wok to get the same effect. Non-stick will not do.

I followed this recipe for the sauce closely and I must say, it works! The kway Teow turned out sweet and it was good enough. I’ll be trying to make this again soon but for this initial version, here’s how I did it.

First, buy some cockles, wash clean and take out the meat.

In a hot work, add oil and then your meat, sausages, chopped garlic. Add a dollop of chilli paste. Stir fry. Then add noodles. I used my leftover pad Thai noodles but the fresh broader Chinese rice noodles will be better. Add the sauce and stir fry. Lastly, add cockles and vegetables, cover to wilt then stir fry again till cooked.

The recipe called for eggs and prawn but since I had neither that day, I omitted.

Here’s the full recipe from the book to try:

Gimbap — October 19, 2019

Gimbap

Today’s light lunch of Korean gimbap. Easy to make and easy to eat!

First, prepare short grain Japanese rice. Pickled daikon strips, carrot strips and fried beef slices that had been marinated with soy sauce.

Place seaweed onto a rolling bamboo mat with rice and all the other ingredients. Then roll tight.

Once rolled, brush with a light layer of sesame oil.

With a sharp knife, cut into slices and enjoy! This was really good on a hot weekend. I’ll be making this for work lunches soon!

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.

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.

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 🙂