Sunday afternoon. I remember there are prawns, squid, chicken, mussel meat and a quarter piece of Spanish chorizo in my freezer. When I open my spice cupboard, the red color of paprika and yellow turmeric stands out shining among the rest. Turned to my paper bag and saw onion smiling at me. Then an idea starts to form in my head. I found red pepper, garlic, shallots, cloves and rice. The ingredients are almost complete except I am missing a bay leaf. I thought fresh basil from my corridor may be a good substitute.
Tune radio to my favorite Class95 and poured myself a glass of Merlot from Australia.
Aware that I don’t have the right pan to make this dish, I changed the cooking method a little. Heat up some olive oil over medium fire and fry the chorizo for one minute on both sides. With the same oil, seal the chicken and put it aside. Continue to brown some chopped garlic and put in the rest of the seafood. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and fry for three minutes before adding a gulp of white wine. Put seafood aside and save the sauce for later use. Heat up new olive oil and fry chopped onion, shallot, garlic and a few cloves. When you smell aroma fills the air, put in washed rice follow by paprika, turmeric powder and the seafood sauce. Stir fry for a while and add in red pepper. Add hot water or chicken stock to cover rice. Lay all other ingredients on top and cover the lid over small fire for 15 minutes. Squeeze a quarter of a lemon and throw in some chopped basil before stirring.
I’ve never liked brinjals or eggplants when I was young. Only much later than I realized it’s the way it was cooked in the old oriental style that makes it mushy. I am quite afraid of mushy food.
I learnt to enjoy it after I followed a chef on TV to fry it till caramelized and top it on pasta in crushed raw tomato sauce with basil, sea salt and lots of black pepper. That’s when I know that other than onions, brinjals and eggplants can be cooked till caramelized as well and it taste really good.
Grilling or pan fry works for me. This time, although it takes more effort, I pan fried it to avoid getting hard edges that results from grilling.
1 large brinjal cut into pieces about half a centimeter thick (egg plants are more expensive in Singapore)
Extra virgin olive oil
Chopped cherry tomatoes
Heat up enough olive oil in a non-stick pan over small-medium fire. Put in brinjals and add salt and pepper. Fry both sides till brown and caramelized. Remove from pan and cool it in the fridge for an hour. Squeeze a quarter lemon and serve with chopped cherry tomatoes.
I like black olives in tomato salad or marinara sauce (Click here for my marinara sauce recipe). With the closure of Carrefour Singapore, I had a hard time trying to top up my olive bottle. I can only find green olives in other supermarkets. Black ones that are imported from Spain or Italy seem to be hiding themselves away. Green olives are good too but I just got that special love for black ones.
Pickled small crunchy onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Emulsify olive oil with vinegar, dry herbs, salt and pepper. Mix well with all other ingredients. If you happen to have fresh basil, throw some in. Basil is good friend with tomatoes.
There are days when I would rather do minimum cooking and washing. This afternoon is one of them. I opened my fridge and found left over roast chicken, an avocado that was just ripe, pesto sauce that I’ve made and freeze and two big Portobello mushrooms. I knew I’ve found lunch!
I cook with music and it must be there from the moment I draw my knife. I normally keep my mini hi-fi tuned to our local station Class 95FM with non-stop love songs from the 80s and 90s. These are songs with the power to arouse my emotions and awaken all my senses to create the right aroma, taste, texture and color for my dish with love.
Along with music, tasting a glass of wine when I am cooking increases the sensation to elevate the whole process to a different level. It keeps my momentum going when I need to take short breaks while waiting for the fragrance of the garlic to infuse into the olive oil or when my marinara sauce is simmering away with fresh basil, onions, garlic and Italian canned tomatoes.
Something that adds to the happiness is to appreciate all the ingredients in front of me. I give huge respect to the farmers who had put in hard work to plant, rear and cultivate all the beautiful produce that are able to help me create my dish. No ingredients are to be taken for granted. Every grain of rice, every dash of black pepper is precious and should be treated with great value.
When you cook with passion and love, people can taste it.
I’m so glad to have explored making fresh pesto sauce (Click here for the recipe). Once you have it in your fridge, you can create any dish you can come up with. This time, I blend it with pan fried chicken fillet.
Chicken fillet, cut into bite size
Prepare pesto paste by adding extra virgin olive oil to create a smooth sauce.
Here’s a tip when using stainless steel pan for frying. After heating up pan with olive oil, sprinkle some salt before putting in chicken fillet. This will help to avoid meat sticking onto pan while frying. Fry fillet for three minutes on each side and add black pepper.
Off heat and stir in pesto sauce. Garnish with chopped cherry tomatoes and serve immediately.
I know this is one of the most basic recipes but this particular dish is special to me. Finally, after seven weeks, I get to use my fresh basil that I have planted from seed and this is not even the first actual harvest yet. Due to the lack of planting space along my small corridor in Singapore, I took the pain to remove these sprouts from my overcrowded pot to make way for those lucky ones which were left to blossom on.
Half an onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 can of Italian tomato
Heat up olive oil in a pot with onions and garlic. The fragrance from the onion and garlic will infuse into the oil when heated up together. Add salt to avoid onions from burning. Sautee till onion turns translucent. Add black pepper, tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30mins.
Cook pasta to al dente and drain away water. Add in enough sauce and stir to cover pasta. Serve immediately with extra sauce and parmigiano cheese.
Deep fried chicken wings can be found everywhere in Singapore. As much as I love it like many others, the burning weather over here do not allow us to have it as often as we like before a sore throat develops commonly follow by cough. Today, I turn it into Italian style.
10 mid joint wings
Season wings with salt and black pepper. In a pan, heat up olive oil over medium high fire and fry wings till golden brown. Put wings aside for later use. Add left over juice into sauce. When sauce is ready, put in the wings and simmer for 15 minutes.
Refer to my post meatballs in tomato sauce . This time, I substitute grated carrots with baby carrots.
This is my first attempt on carbonara. Instead of bacon, I crave for chicken that day.
Italian spaghetti no.3
300g chicken fillet
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
chopped fresh tomatoes for garnish
1/2 cup fresh cream
big handful of grated parmigiano cheese
pinch of sea salt
good amount of freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pot of water to boil and add salt. Put in spaghetti and cook to al dente.
While spaghetti is cooking, heat up olive oil in a pan and fry onions till it turns translucent. Put in chicken fillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry chicken fillet till slightly brown. Add in white wine.
Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl.
Remove pan with chicken away from heat, put in spaghetti follow by sauce mixture and stir well till sauce becomes silky. Sprinkle chopped tomatoes.
I tried a nice meat sauce spaghetti in Interlaken, Switzerland. Not knowing the recipe, I created my own version. This is a recipe for two.
Streaky Bacon, 50g
Mince Beef, 150g
Italian Canned Tomato, 1 can
Chopped Onion, 1/2 bulb
Red Wine, 1/4 cup
Freshly Chopped Rosemary
Freshly Crushed Black Pepper
Heat up a pan with some olive oil and fry bacon till crispy then put aside for later use.
In the same pan, add in more olive oil and saute onion and garlic till golden brown.
Add in mince beef, salt, pepper and rosemary. Saute for 30 seconds.
Add in red wine follow by crushed tomatoes. Add in a little pasta water and simmer sauce for 8 minutes.
Toss spaghetti in the sauce with bacon and serve immediately with parmigiano cheese.