As you can tell, I haven’t had a great deal of time to cook lately. It’s mainly been work, and keeping up with the various bits and pieces that make up a full life. Am also juggling a new personal project that I hope I can share at some point soon. Unfortunately, cooking has taken the, um, back burner. Today I only managed to quickly rustle up some lunch out of bits and pieces in the fridge and it turned out pretty well!
I knew I wanted something healthy, so it was brown rice and cracked buckwheat. There was leftover romaine, cabbage and basil in the fridge, together with some fish slices. I was inspired by a version of nasi ulam Mum made a few weeks back where she shredded fried wolf herring into rice and local herbs and squeezed plenty of lime juice over it. This time, I wanted a Western version of it and did the lazy thing of combining it all with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It turned out pretty well!
¼ cup brown rice
2 tbsp buckwheat
1 cup water
1 small fish fillet, sliced
1 small head romaine lettuce
1 handful shredded cabbage
25g basil leaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Cook the brown rice and buckwheat together with the water in a rice cooker.
When cooked, fluff the rice mixture and stir in the fish slices. Turn off the cooker and leave the fish to cook in the residual heat.
Prepare the vegetables (wash, slice, chop).
Combine the fish and rice mixture with the vegetables and tear the basil leaves gently over.
Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, top with a few grinds of salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve.
Iluma is one of those places that seems like such a good idea but once you go in, you get bored so fast 10 minutes seems like an age. Unsurprisingly for a teenage-oriented place, this place is teeming with kid-wallet-friendly places. Empire State is one of them. Surprisingly for a teenage-oriented joint, this place has decent value for money food!
I insisted on having salad, so this starter came along. I was pleasantly surprised to see the fairly sophisticated touch of pistachios and grape halves under the balsamic cream dressing. Of course the teenage touch was having way too much dressing so after a while I gave up trying to scrape the extra off. Can’t fault them for being generous though.
I thought I’d have a change from burger (DC was on a bit of a burger roll), so I went for the completely different spaghetti meatball. If I was a teenager, I’d be in heaven: it was one hell of a plate of pasta. Think of a huge plate of spaghetti smothered in bolognaise sauce and then have a giant meatball on top of it all. It’s crazy mound of food and it took ages to get through.
DC of course went for the Empire State Burger. In a rare moment of weakness, he declared it the best burger he’d had in a while. I felt that while it was incredibly juicy, there wasn’t a whole lot of taste to it aside from salt. It wasn’t a bad burger though, and was hardly asking to be gourmet.
This is a great joint for having a lot of food at decent prices. The tagline is spot-on: they’re sure to stuff you till you’re full. It’s a great place to take a teenager (or a DC for that matter!).
201 Victoria Street
#04-03 Iluma At Bugis
Tel: 6238 7076
I’m going to be horribly lazy today and post a recipe for something that doesn’t quite count as cooking. I’d bought a pack of organic herb salad and wanted a fairly virtuous dressing that would stand up to the herbs but not interfere too much with the already complex flavours. A peek into the fridge and the idea hit: anchovies and mustard. Together, they would make a very assertive yet blunt combination. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to round off the flavour, a good couple of squeezes of lemon juice to sharpen things up, then emulsify with good extra virgin olive oil and voila, a quick salad dressing that complemented the herb salad incredibly well.
2 anchovy fillets
4 tsp mustard
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
juice of half a lemon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
In a small mortar and pestle, mash the anchovies to a paste, then stir in the mustard and keep grinding gently with the pestle. Add the vinegar and lemon juice and stir to a thick paste.
Add the olive oil in drops at first, stirring vigorously, then gradually add more till you get a running, emulsified dressing. Taste, adding more mustard and vinegar if it’s too salty.
Dress the salad to taste. Serve.
Try not to look too unglam as you lick the bowl clean.
This is what I try to make my typical breakfast: lots of fruit with some dairy and complex carbohydrates. I think it’s a tad heavy on the sugar, but at least the jam is homemade and the Yakult gives me some sort of lactobacteria. I slice bread only when I need it and end up lazily using the chopping board as my serving platter too.
The bread I make is very dense and quite moist, like the German fitnessbrot I grew up eating, so it doesn’t go stale easily. It’s based on a Cooks Illustratedalmost no-knead bread recipe. I’ve modified it slightly to suit my own needs. My bread is dense because my tins are non-stick, meaning that the dough doesn’t get enough grip to rise high against its walls. If you have a regular (as opposed to non-stick) metal tin, go ahead and use that instead for a lighter bread. Don’t oil the sides, if not the high temperature of the oven will turn it into a gloopy mess that takes an eternity of scrubbing to remove. And use only metal tins because you need the metal to conduct heat to get the dough hot immediately. Fear not, the rest of the process is dead easy.
As for the flour, feel free to use all plain flour or all finely ground whole wheat flour, normally sold at atta flour or chappati flour at places like Phoon Huat. As long as the flour makes up three cups, try using a bit of rye or other grains for varying taste and texture. If you don’t have whey, just use water with a few spoonfuls of milk. Or try the original recipe with a quarter cup of beer in it.
1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup atta chappati flour (very finely ground whole wheat)
¼ tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1¼ cup whey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
Blend all the ingredients together in a bowl and cover with a dry towel. Leave to rise for 12 to 18 hours.
Punch down the dough and knead by pushing and folding over the dough 10 times.
Put into a 20 cm diameter round springform tin and allow to rise for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven 30 minutes ahead to 250°C or as hot as your oven will go.
Cover the tin tightly with aluminium foil and put onto lower oven shelve. Turn down the oven to 200°C.
After 3o minutes, uncover and bake for a further 30 minutes.
Leave to cool for about 30 minutes. Cut and serve immediately to enjoy the crisp crust.