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
Approx 80-100 gms plain flour
Approx 40-50 gms butter – cubed
A sprinkle of ice cold water
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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I ran out of ideas on what to make for dinner and decided to use the tortilla chips my parents bought – they would be heading back soon and I didn’t want to have any chips lying around (bad for Eva)! My parents wanted something light and since Noah has been fussy of lately, I wanted something that I could prepare earlier and put together quickly when necessary. Plus me turning into a panda (maybe I should buy a silver panda to commemorate me having another child!) and complex recipes equals a disaster!
So I ran out and bought some avocados as well as mince beef and bell peppers. Ended up with some pretty interesting nachos and really fabulous guacamole! Do note that with nachos, it’s best to use cheese that melts like mozzarella topped off with a strong flavoured cheese like cheddar or Gruyère. They didn’t have any of these so I settled for Emmental. Not the best of choices but it makes for a decent meal. Also, feel free to pile your nachos high up with plenty of layers of chips and mince as well as cheese. Do feel free to substitute beef with chicken, turkey or even pork and don’t worry – you can use different cuts of meat and not just mince!
Nachos The Grousson Style
Tortilla chips (unsalted)
1 Red & 1 yellow bell pepper – chopped and sliced (size is up to you)
1 cup fresh button mushrooms – chopped roughly
500 gms minced beef
1 medium sized onion – diced finely
A handful of smoked pork belly
Grated cheese – mozzarella & cheddar is preferred
1 stock cube
- Line the tortilla chips in a pan or ovenproof dish of your choice and place aside.
- In a pan, add some oil before tossing in the onions and smoked pork belly. Fry until fragrant before adding in the peppers, mushroom, beef and the stock cube. Fry until the beef is cooked and the mushroom is soft.
- Once ready, spread the meat mix over the chips before topping off with some grated cheese. Bake under the grill under the cheese is golden brown. Serve with some guacamole and sour cream.
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
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
Some vegetable stock
Some olive oil
1/2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp water
- In the pressure cooker, fry the spices, onion and bacon in olive oil until fragrant before adding in the beef.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
This is actually more for Eva and I was sort of inspired by the idea of a potato gratin. I used pumpkin instead because I wanted something with some colour in it plus it has been a while since Eva last had some orange coloured food. Yes, her diet is much healthier than mine or Nil’s and thanks to that, she hardly gets sick and is ultra active – saves us a bundle considering that we don’t have any form of social security benefits. After scouting around for a recipe online, I finally decided to wing in by adapting a few recipes with what I have observed in Nil’s family whenever they prepare certain gratins.
The result is a very lightly flavoured, no salt, cheesy gratin that has pumpkin bursting with flavour…not to mention a certain melt. Eva loved this and finished quite a large portion on her own. I reckon it’s the cheese and bacon as well. It was not too hard for her to manage at all since the pumpkin and bacon is ultra soft so makes for a good toddler meal that is both healthy and yums! Oh, feel free to make this for adults as well by adding onions, more herbs and even other vegetables like zucchini and yes, potatoes!
Adapted from Pumpkin Gratin and Roasted Pumpkin Gratin
1 medium-small (1 1/2 to 2 cups) butternut squash, cubed
4 strips streaky bacon, roughly cut
1 to 1 1/2 cup cheddar & Colby, grated
4 tbsp flour
3 tbsp milk
A pinch of pepper and mixed herbs
Some olive oil
- Preheat oven to 200 °C. Oil a small loaf pan and place aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the butternut, bacon, pepper and herbs together with 1 cup of cheddar and the flour until well combined.
- Pour into the prepared loaf pan and spread out. Sprinkle the remaining cheese onto the mixture and drizzle the milk over the gratin. Finish with a light drizzle of olive oil.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and the pumpkin is soft.
- Serve warm as is or as a side dish.
Working with a tabletop oven is definitely challenging! Unlike with regular convection stove top ovens where I know what to expect in terms of time, heat and so forth, tabletop ovens are a different thing altogether – the heat distribution is different, the duration and temperature varies and so forth. My only way around it is to start from scratch and use it for a variety of dishes ranging from meats to desserts and cookies just to be doubly sure about how a certain item is going to turn out the moment I put it into the oven. With this dish, I found myself standing in front of the oven too often for my liking, so much so that I had to juggle entertaining Eva, checking out Outer Banks vacation rentals AND baking! ARGH!
This dish is tangy but subtly tinged with that sharp gingery taste – just great for getting rid of that slight salty sea taste that most sea fishes have. I used snapper slices for this dish but you can replace it with just about anything you like, from tuna to salmon and other white-meat fishes like cod, and trout. Feel free to experiment by using different citrus fruits – orange, lime, grapefruit – and herbs – oregano, rosemary, dill – when and if you replace the fish with breeds like tuna and salmon. I didn’t add in any salt or pepper because the fish sauce is salty enough coupled with the natural salty taste of seafish and I wanted to retain that natural flavour without any hint of pepper – black or white. I would have liked it a little bit more brown on the top, but this is still quite yummy.
Most of all, I love the fact that this is a very healthy dish – minimal oil with lots of natural flavours. It’s definitely different from what I’ve been eating all this while WITHOUT the use of an oven. Do note that temperatures here will depend largely on the thickness of your fish. Mine were nearly 1 inch thick so I had to bake them for much longer!
Lemon-ginger baked fish
Two medium-large fillets/slices of white fish
Handful of chives
1 1/2 whole lemons
1 inch ginger
Salt & pepper to taste (optional)
- Thinly slice the lemon, julienne the ginger and finely chop up the chives.
- Wash and pat dry the fish slices and prepare the baking pan by lining it first with lemon slices before sprinkling over the ginger shreds.
- Place the fish slices over the ginger shreds and then sprinkle the chives before lining the tops with ginger shred and lemon slice. Extra lemon slices can be squeezed over the fish and tossed into the baking pan as well.
- Lightly dress the fish in some fish sauce and olive oil.
- Let it sit in the fridge for about 45 minutes before baking. When ready, preheat the oven to 210°C and bake the fish covered for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 240°C.
- Bake the fish again but this time uncovered for another 10-20 minutes (depending on how thick your fish slices are) or until the lemon tops have browned a little. Serve hot with a side serving of fresh salad or rice and don’t forget to use the sauce left behind from the baking process.
Pork trotter in black vinegar with ginger is a common dish served during confinement periods after pregnancy as it is said that the calcium in the bones and the heat from the ginger helps to revitalise and replenish nutrients in the new mother’s body. I do know of friends who serve this dish up for Chinese New Year so I guess it can be more than just a confinement dish staple.
The key ingredients are two things – ginger and vinegar. Matured ginger is used here because it imparts a stronger and more intense flavour. Forget getting tender, young buds; you need rough and tough old ginger, the kind that looks wrinkly and old. Now, while white vinegar is common in Western dishes, black vinegar on the other hand is another story altogether. It is usually made from black glutinous rice and most of the time, these bottles of dark acidic liquid come from China. And no, I wouldn’t even think about telling you that it’s okay to substitute black vinegar with normal white table vinegar because that’s just sacrilege.
One of the reasons why I made this is because Mum has been bugging me about whether the black vinegar sold here is “authentic” – I have no idea what she means by authentic since even back at home, we buy imported black vinegar. For this dish, I used the Narcissus “Yongchun Loagu” Black Vinegar which I discovered is also sold back at home (see here (under “black vinegar” category).
It turned out to be exactly how I remember it except that Mum made hers much thicker and in a claypot (I used a normal stainless steel pot) – I think I went overkill on the vinegar. She uses a whole bottle for over one kilo of meat while I just had around 600 to 800 gms of meat. Eeks. Still, I was very generous with the ginger and all. I wonder if I can keep the “stock” in the freezer for another time.
Anyway, time to go back to my sewing (thought I’d pop in and share this recipe), use some of my eye creams and moisturisers (I seriously need a full facial and such). Geh.
Pork trotter in black vinegar & ginger
Approx 800 gms pork trotter
Approx 500 gms (or more) matured ginger
650 ml black vinegar
500 gms cane sugar
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- Boil the pork trotter to remove impurities and such for 5 to 10 minutes. Wash, drain and place aside.
- Keeping the peel on the ginger on, wash and slice into thick chunks. Fry in sesame oil until fragrant before adding in the black vinegar and sugar (adjust the sugar to taste). Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to gently boil for about an hour.
- Add the pork trotters in and lower the heat to a simmer and boil until they are soft. It’ll take about an hour. The resulting fragrance should be sweet and gingery.
- Serve hot as is or with a side serving of rice and other dishes.
** Cross-posted on the baby blog **
When I was growing up as a little girl in Petaling Jaya, one of my grandfather’s favourite meat dish was from a stall in the corner of the meat section at the market just 10 minutes on foot from our home. It was the Chinese styled roast pork with its fragrant yet succulent flesh topped off with a crispy crackle. The master before this dish, or so my grandfather believes, started off his roast pork and char siew business as a young man with just a bicycle from which he would sell these juicy cuts of meats.
Today, he is still in business and while his son manages the “raw” part, he (and his wife) is pretty much still going strong. I remember getting thick cuts of meats whenever I visit the market with or without my parents – yes, you could say that he watched me grow up, and even joked about providing a whole roast pig for my wedding (or my father’s second wedding – he enjoys teasing my parents). True to form, he did provide the roast pork for my “hen” party and it was the first dish to go.
While I like my roast pork juicy with a chewy skin, Nil and my father share similar taste – dry and lean parts with a crispy and “foamy” crackle. I hadn’t really thought of making this despite having some mild cravings for something that reminded me so much of home and family, mainly because it is difficult to get a hold of large chunks of cuts unless we were willing to travel much further away from our usual grocery spots. But a chance visit with a car (yes, we finally have a car…but just until Eva is born) allowed us to stock up on items that we would have never bought…one of them being a whole one over kilo chunk of pork.
Overall, I’m rather happy with the results – we got the best of both worlds in terms of the crackle and juiciness of the meat. But one thing’s for sure, I need to work on my chopping skills. Despite my cooking skill and experience in the kitchen, I’m still paranoid about chopping off my fingers with a butcher’s cleaver.
Chinese roast pork (siew yoke)
Adapted from Chef Kou Kim Hai’s recipe
1 kg pork (preferably belly or around the ribs) with skin
Approx 10 gms of five spice powder
- Wash the meat and score the skin lengthwise. Be careful not to cut through to the fat. Pat dry.
- Rub the meat section (sides and bottom) with five spice powder vigariously before placing in the fridge, skin side up and uncovered for marinate overnight.
- When the meat is ready, preheat the oven to 170 C and heat a pan with some oil and fry the skin side for at least 2 to five minutes. The skin side will curl inwards so use your fingers and press gently to ensure that the entire skin side is fried. This helps with the crackling.
- Place the meat on a roasting pan and roast for 50 minutes. Check on the meat every 15 to 20 minutes and remove the juice from the pan.
- If the crackle is not ready, turn on the grill and move the pan closer to the heating element. Grill for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the crackle is crispy and puffy.
- Turn off the oven and allow the meat to rest inside the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Chop (not slice otherwise the crackle will split from the meat) into appropriate sized slices and serve warm with rice or as is.
…without the usual potatoes! (Too much carbs!)
Anyway, I’m just popping by to say that I’m still alive and still very much up to my elbows in booties & mittens. I should have them all done up and sent off by Friday.
In the meantime, yes, I’m alive.