Oh tempeh!

Tempeh

I have a newfound love and it’s called tempeh. Somewhat like cheese, tempeh is soybeans that have been fermented with a fungus to give it that white cake-like structure. It is often used as a meat substitute and is quite versatile. You can stir fry it, bake it, deep fry it and serve it on its own or as part of a meal. Some people even use it as a veggie burger patty!

While this was hard to find in Europe – I was tempted to buy a tempeh kit and make my own – and only Malay sellers stock these (forget about trying to find them at a Chinese veg stall) in Singapore, wet markets here in Penang sell plenty of these 100 gm cakes…yes, even at the Chinese veggie stall. You can also find them at hypermarkets like Giant and Tesco. They don’t cost much…in fact, a cake goes for about RM1.50 to RM2.

Prepwork is easy with tempeh. There is no need to wash the cake; just remove from the packaging, cut the cake into whatever size you want it to be in and fry it with anything – onions, diced garlic, sambal, chilli…it’s up to you, really. Some people like theirs hard and crunchy (you’ll probably have to shallow fry or deep fry it) but that’s too much work and too much oil so I just stir fry mine with some spicy sambal and four angle beans (also known as winged beans) – another favourite veggie that is common in Malay cuisine but not so much in Chinese cuisine.

Taste-wise, tempeh is a little bit nutty and earthy – somewhat like eating mushrooms with peanuts! If you fry yours like mine and with similar vegetables, you’ll find that the soft texture of the tempeh goes well with an added crunch from the four angle beans. Oh, if your kids are not adverse to this, you can make it kid-friendly and fry up some with some minced garlic and hey presto, a quick and easy side dish!

Sambal tempeh & four angle beans

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Pineapple & cashew nut pilaf

Pineapple & cashew nut pilaf

This rather simple recipe is great for vegetarians and makes a fine dish on its own or as a side dish. We had this as a main dish for lunch and then had enough leftovers to turn this into a side dish for dinner – it went along wonderfully with some beef stew.

Versatile yet flavourful – you can add other vegetables like peas, carrots, etc – you can also adapt this for a rice cooker. Just toss everything together, pour (the rice, pineapples, vegetables, everything except the stock) into the rice cooker and add in the stock. Start your rice cooker and wait!

Pineapple & cashew nut pilaf
From Mini Cookbooks’ Asian Rice Dishes

Ingredients

90 gms butter
1 small pineapple – cubed
3 tbsp raisins
Some spring onions – chopped
75 gms cashew nuts
1 tbsp coriander seeds – coarsely crushed
1/4 tsp paprika powder
1 medium sized capsicum – cubed
360 gms basmati rice – washed, soaked in cold water for 30 mins and drained
625 ml stock
4 hard boiled eggs – peeled
Salt to taste

Method

  1. Melt half the butter in a wok over moderate heat. When foam appears, add the pineapples and raisins and fry for 2-3 minutes or until they turn slightly light golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining butter in the wok over moderate heat and add the spring onions. Cook until golden brown before adding in the coriander seed, paprika powder, capsicum and cashew nuts. Fry for about 3-4 minutes and stir occasionally.
  3. Add the rice and salt and continue cooking while stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the pineapples and raisins, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and remove from the heat. Serve with the hard boiled eggs as a side dish or a main dish.
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Three mushroom pasta

Three mushroom pasta

We have been on a diet/lifestyle change for the past one week, thanks to influence from my sister-in-law’s family. It’s a “meat once a day” rule which means that out of the three meals we eat, only one of it will have meat – either lunch or dinner. The other two meals will be strictly just vegetables and fruit with grains and/or dairy. Hopefully it’ll help with trimming the waistline – that reminds me; I need to check out thule bike racks for the bikes in our garage. Hm.

For someone like me who grew up eating more meat than vegetables and had meat with every meal (breakfast, lunch AND dinner), it’s quite something to adjust to but I took it in my stride. For me, the challenge was more on coming up with vegetarian dishes rather than downing them. So far, I made ratatouille, stir fried eggplant, vegetable curry, salad, and soup (Western-styled) but am fast running out of ideas. Luckily I placed an order for a vegetarian cookbook – I’m in dire need of something like that as my bookshelf has a lot of recipes on one pot meals, kid’s meals, world cuisine (italian, etc), cakes & other bakes and just about anything other than vegetables!

After some thought, I decided to churn out some mushroom pasta. There was some lovely girolles (a kind of forest mushroom) for sale. At first I wanted to make an omelette with it but we had some meat for lunch (I forgot what it was!) so I decided on a mushroom pasta. Took me a while to hunt around for another type of mushroom on top of the button mushroom we had in the fridge.

Once I found what I wanted, it was a matter of prepping and then cooking them. Eva was excited at seeing a big basket of mushrooms as we had gone mushroom hunting during the summer holidays which allowed her to see where and how people used to get wild mushrooms instead of just harvesting them from a farm. The mushrooms were washed and roughly sliced up before being cooked with some garlic, onions and a Provence herb mix. A little fish sauce was added to finish it up.

The result is some very yummy mushroom pasta that was finished up in no time!

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Soup here I come!

What do you do with leftover bones?

Of lately, I have begun to keep chicken carcasses for one thing – making awesomely good stock/soup!

We usually buy roast chicken from the market on Thursdays (it’s my day off cooking – heheheh) and then freeze the carcass. Yesterday, while doing some minor grocery shopping, I saw that fresh chicken was on sale at the nearby supermarket (can you beat €2 for a whole chicken?). So one went into the freezer and the other? Well, I made steamed chicken rice. Hehehe.

Now what did I do with the carcass? As you can see above, it’s in a pot of water with some onions, celery and Chinese cabbage. Should make great soup for tomorrow noodle dish!

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Quick cook!

Simple chicken-pepper wrap

Being alone with two kids means finding a way to prepare meals quickly and without fuss, preferably in under 30 minutes! In between making sure that Eva isn’t up to her nonsense, looking at reviews on term life insurance without medical examination, Noah fussing in the bouncer and well, trying to make sure that we still eat well and healthily, I came up with a simple chicken-pepper wrap.

No real recipe here – just stir fry cubes of chicken fillet with onions and red bell peppers together with garlic powder. Finish off with chopped spring onions and serve up in a wrap! Not my finest but hey, no complaints from Eva and well, it gets the job done. Hehehe.

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Meat with leek, tomato & mushroom pie

Meat with leek, tomato & mushroom pie

Another one of those hearty yet light dishes which is great on a cold autumn evening. It’s pretty easy to whip up – I started working on this at 5pm and by 6pm, it was all set for the dining table to be consumed. No leftovers too! Everyone loved how this dish turned out.

The pastry must be rolled to the right thickness – too thin and it’ll break during the transfer, too thick and it won’t taste right. The addition of cherry tomatoes directly into the dish and not into the pan to cook makes the resulting sauce/juice oozing from the pie sweeter and all the more fragrant. Feel free to try this with seafood, fish and other meats as well as other vegetables like potato, zucchini, eggplant and carrots. Definitely a keeper!

Meat with leek, tomato & mushroom pie

Ingredients

(A) Pastry
Approx 80-100 gms plain flour
Approx 40-50 gms butter – cubed
A sprinkle of ice cold water

(B) Filling
Some fresh button mushrooms – quartered
2 medium sized leeks
About 1 cup cherry tomatoes
Some chicken breast – skinless and cubed
Some mince beef
A handful of smoked pork belly
Salt & pepper to taste / Vegetable stock cube
Egg yolk (for glazing)

Method

  1. Prepare the pastry by mixing in the butter with the flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add in some water to bind into a firm dough. Place aside in the fridge.
  2. In a pan, add some oil before tossing in the leeks and smoked pork belly. Fry until fragrant and the leeks slightly burnt/caramelized before adding in the mushroom, beef, chicken and the stock cube. Fry until the meat is semi-cooked before putting aside.
  3. In an ovenproof dish, toss in the cherry tomatoes before spreading the filling over. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and roll out until it reaches the size needed to cover the dish.
  4. Place the dough over the dish and seal the edges before trimming off the excess. Remember to slit the top to allow steam to escape.
  5. Brush some egg yolk over the pastry and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm as is or with a serving of French loaf to soak up the excess juices.
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Simple beef stew

I am beginning to fall in love with my pressure cooker and stews. Earlier, I have been busy cooking up beef bourguignon, Italian-styled beef stews and even vegetable soups, experimenting with spices and wines. Even Eva felt that they were yummy – “C’est bon!” she declares. Then again, just about nearly everything is yummy – except that cake I made previously (she refused to touch it – LOL – a testament of what a disaster it was).

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, which doesn’t require much time slaving in front of the stove and more time for surfing on Gateway computers, this is it. That is provided you have a pressure cooker. Just dump everything, wait for the liquid to boil, cover and activate by locking in the cover. Once the pressure builds, it’s a matter of leaving it to continue cooking while you go about doing other things. Me? While this was cooking away, I was busy changing Noah’s diaper followed by a good breastfeeding session. Once I was done and while my mum burped him, I dumped the vegetables into the pressure cooker (release the pressure first, naturally) and cooked it for a futher 10 to 15 minutes. That allowed me to check my emails and such. Amazing, no?

Definitely a tool I’d recommend to cooks out there! Oh, apologies for the lack of photos – everyone was too hungry and well, there will always be another time for pictures! Kekekeke.

Simple beef stew

Ingredients
1 kg stewing beef
2 cups fresh mushroom – quartered
5 medium sized potatos – peeled & cubed
1 medium sized onion – diced
3 medium sized carrots – peeled & cubed
100 gms streaky bacon – cubed
1 star anise
3 cloves
Some vegetable stock
Some olive oil

(B) Thickening
1/2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp water

Method

  1. In the pressure cooker, fry the spices, onion and bacon in olive oil until fragrant before adding in the beef.
  2. Fry the beef on high heat for five minutes before adding in the vegetable stock. Once the liquid comes to the boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Release the pressure and remove the lid. Add the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Add thickening, then dish out and serve immediately.
  4. Release the pressure and remove the lid. Add thickening, then dish out and serve immediately with thick slices of bread or a side serving of rice.
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Simple and quick pumpkin soup

(No pictures here because we were all too hungry and well, soup is soup. Hehehehe.)

For those days when it’s just too tiring to do anything else or for those lovely cool autumn nights, this is one recipe that is a pure keeper!

Simple and quick pumpkin soup

Ingredients
1 medium sized butternut squash (or any other type of pumpkin)
1 large red bell pepper
1 large yellow onion
Approx 1 liter of stock – I used vegetable & beef stock
Some croutons and fried bacon for garnishing – optional
Olive oil

Method

  1. Half the bell pepper, onion and butternut squash, and place the cut portions in a baking pan. Drizzle some olive oil over and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for half an hour or until the pumpkin is soft. Place aside to cool when ready.
  2. Place the bell pepper and onion in a food processor or blender together with the scooped out flesh from the squash. Blend until smooth – add some stock if necessary.
  3. Once the mix is smooth, pour into the stock and heat over a gentle flame until it simmers. Season with salt and pepper if needed and serve warm or hot with some croutons and fried bacon. My hubs likes his soups with a bit of cream and strips of hard cheese (Comte, cheddar, Colby, etc).
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