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. 🙂

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.

Shakshouka — March 16, 2019


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.


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 🙂

Maakouda (Moroccan Potato Patty) —

Maakouda (Moroccan Potato Patty)

I am convinced that food unites people because there are many similar foods that every culture seems to call their own. I am pretty sure the interaction between communities has resulted in an exchange of wonderful ideas, and then adaptation.

When I first came across this, the first thought that came to my mind immediately was ‘bergedil’! ‘Begedil’ or ‘perkedil’ is a Malay/Indonesian potato patty made by frying and mashing these fried potatoes and then forming patties with the addition of fried minced meat and fried onions, is a favourite in this part of the world. Interestingly, ‘bergedil’ was introduced by the Dutch when they colonised Indonesia. The Dutch has a version of this called ‘frikadeller’. And now, I’m learning that the Moroccans also have their potato version, sans any meat.

I think the Moroccan version is much healthier. Instead of frying the potatoes, they boil them and mash them fine with spices and egg. Patties are larger and flatter. And they serve these maakouda in between bread (or eaten on its own).


I did not take a picture of the finished product on a plate because once they were off the pan, very quick hands snatched them and they were gone in seconds!

My version of the maakouda recipe

  1. 5 boiled large Russet potatoes
  2. 1 tsp smoked paprika
  3. 2 tsp ground cumin
  4. 1 tsp garlic
  5. 1 tsp French sea salt (just because)
  6. 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
  7. 1 egg

Form into patties, and then before frying, dust with plain flour and dip in beaten egg. Fry till brown and crispy.


Hot Avoacado — August 25, 2018

Hot Avoacado

I love avocado spreads! And instead of buying them ready made from the supermarket (which can be soooo expensive) I’d rather make myself. Plus it’s so easy to just dump all in a mini food processor and whiz everything to a pulp.

In my version, I used three ripe avocados, half a large tomato, a tablespoon of jalapeno hot sauce I had got from London, sea salt, black pepper and half a large lemon juice.

It was delicious!

Ayver — August 21, 2018


I first heard of ayver back in 2011 or 2013 when a colleague went on a trip to Macedonia and came back with a bottle of this wonderful red spread for us all ro share.

This evening I had four rather small red peppers and so decided to make this spread.

Original recipes, or rather, many recipes called for eggplant to be mixed but since I didn’t have any I used purely red peppers.

First I roasted them till blackened then removed the skin and seeds. I placed the red pepper meat into a food processor together with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt.

Asam Rebus — June 8, 2018

Asam Rebus

It’s fasting month and it’s the school holidays and hence I have no choice but to cook almost daily. 😂 I am sure once the term starts, the cooking will stop, and I’ll be the occasional cook again pottering about in my pink kitchen.

And because I have been so reliant on my Mama who has the Helper to assist her, I am embarrassed to say I can’t even cook a single of Mama’s cooking. So again the Helper had to tell me what to do step by step.

In Indonesia, this dish is called sayur asem and it’s so good with grilled meat and fish. Which is exactly what I intend to cook tonight. My Mama’s version is the Malay kampung style version which means there are no exact recipes, and you’ve got to keep on tasting till you get the right balance of seasoning.

The key ingredient of the dish is assam or tamarind. Asam keping or asam gelugur is the dried form of the tamarind fruit and then there’s the pulp form of the fruit, now easily available deseeded and in a paste. See below for the picture of the dried fruit. One piece can be already sour. But of course add more if the pot is larger or the fruit is smaller.

The dish calls for a lot of vegetables and the boiling method.

Step 1:

Make the rencah, or paste. My Mama’s basic recipe is one red onion, two garlic cloves, three fresh res chillies and a handful of dried ikan bilis (dried anchovies). Blend to a fine paste. According to my Indonesian Helper, the Javanese would use candelnuts in the paste. Maybe one day I’ll try and find a recipe using the Javanese version.

Step 2:

In a pot, add water and the rencah, and let boil. At this early stage, you may add the corn as it takes longer to cook. Add also a bruised lemongrass and two pieces of crushed galangal slices for the aroma.

Step 3:

Continue to let boil while prepping the rest of the vegetables. I have here long beans, baby brinjals, cabbage and a sliced tomato. But do not add cabbage till the last bit or it’ll be very soggy. Also, add the rest of the vegetables only when the rencah has boiled enough (you can smell it), about 15 minutes of rolling boil.

Step 4:

Once the vegetables are in and boiling (except for the cabbage), it is time to season the broth. Add three teaspoons of salt, one teaspoon of sugar and two or three (if small) pieces of asamgelugur. Let boil and taste. Adjust the salt and sugar content if needed. Add one teaspoon of asamjawa, the tamarind paste if it’s not sour enough. Let mixture boil and then finally add the cabbage.

This is the final product in the pot. I’ll probably update this post later after dinner to show how it’s served with the other dishes.

It’s a very healthy vegetable dish. Try it!

Update: Asam Rebus eaten with grilled fish and tempeh manis.

Coleslaw — June 7, 2018


Today I had to use that large head of cabbage before it spoils. So I decided to make coleslaw. However, I could only use half of that cabbage – it was just too big!

And, today I had a special guest come help me. The Boy helped me make the slaw. 😃

The Recipe

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I didn’t have enough of the Best/Hellman’s mayo so combined it with some Japanese mayo to make up for the shortage)
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • A sprinkling of coarse sea salt
  • Cabbage
  • 2 shredded carrots
  • Two large handfuls of cranberries

Transfer to containers to sit in the fridge for at least two hours (it’s very hot here so it takes longer for things to cool, even in the fridge 😒).

Lemak Lodeh — May 31, 2018

Lemak Lodeh

This is a VERY typical and common dish in the Malay world. So today I thought I’d make this since there was a special request for it.

There are many variations so I used the simplest one. The best part is no oil in the dish, just boil and boil.

This dish is usually eaten with lontong or compressed rice and serondeng, a coconut floss dish. But the Malays eat this with rice quite regularly too as a day to day home dish with sambal tumis.

Today’s version is not thick because the special requester asked for a thin version. And also requested for lots of vegetables. No problem there!

Step 1.

Blend one large red onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, a piece of turmeric and a small handful of ikan bilis. Blend with water to a super fine paste.

Step 2.

Boil blended paste with enough water to cover half the pot for ten or more minutes till the paste has a wonderful aroma. Add two teaspoons of salt. Basically the concept here is to cook the raw ingredients in the paste but instead of using oil to cook it down, you just boil with water long enough to cook it. A much healthier option.

Step 3.

Add bruised lemon grass and daun salam, or fresh local bay leaves.

Step 4.

Prep the vegetables. French beans, carrots, cabbage, firm tofu and tempeh. I fried the tofu and tempeh first because I wanted that golden colour in the dish later. Not the healthier option. You can choose not to fry first.

Step 5.

Add the vegetables and let boil till tender but still has a nice crisp.

Step 6.

Add one packet of coconut cream. Add a bit of salt if needed after tasting. Let simmer but don’t let it boil or the coconut cream will separate.

And this is the meal today: