Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Silky smooth steamed eggs

The debate whether eggs are good or bad is over, at least in my house. We are no longer counting the number of eggs we consumed over the week. Nowadays, it's eggs on demand - I cook it whenever someone feels like eating it. And if you are not a fan of meat, eggs are a good source of protein.

Eggs are not only quintessential breakfast, it can be served at lunch, dinner or even at tea time (if you want a filling snack).

There are many ways to prepare eggs - boiled, poached, scrambled, baked and steamed.
I like steamed egg whenever I run out of fresh vegetables or need a quick and nourishing dish. It's not hard to make steamed eggs, just like it's not hard to scramble or boil eggs. But to achieve a silky, satiny and smooth, almost tau-fu-fa (soya custard) like texture was tricky - it would sometimes turn out lumpy, too watery or hard, but not anymore. It's silky smooth, steamed eggs every time now thanks to my mom-in-law's recipe.

There are only two basic ingredients to make steamed eggs - eggs and water. The success depends on the amount of water used when making it. Get that wrong and you will end up with lumpy or watery steamed egg which is not too bad but it isn't pleasant either (if you are used to eating smooth steamed eggs, all the time). 
Luckily, I have found a fool proof method/recipe, which has worked every time.
All you need to remember is to follow this ratio every time you make steamed eggs: 1 egg to 3 parts water from halved egg shell - the correct mathematical ratio would be 1 part egg : 1.5 water.

I made a big batch of steamed eggs using 4 eggs, some water, spring onions, fried garlic and salt. I added all these ingredients before steaming it. But I will share with you, recipe for 2 eggs.


2 eggs
Cooled boiler water - 6 parts of halved egg shell
For garnish Sesame seed oil
Soy sauce



Get your steamer ready - add about an inch or two water and let it boil.
Crack eggs into bowl. Put 6 parts of water using the halved shell and whisk it. Sieve it into your ceramic bowl and transfer this bowl into your steamer. You could remove the bubbles on your egg mixture using a spoon but I find it to be time consuming. Sieving is a better and quicker option because it will ensure nothing foreign - like egg shell - will be in your steamed eggs.

Cover the bowl and steam for 15 minutes or more. It is ready when the mixture looks like custard and is a little wobbly when you shake it.

Carefully remove the bowl and dribble some sesame seed oil and soya sauce on it. You may also top it with some fried shallots or garlic, spring onions, shrimps, shredded chicken or anything you fancy.

Once you have mastered preparing plain custard-like steamed eggs you can start adding ingredients into the mixture itself, before steaming it. Here are some suggestions:
Crab stick (thinly sliced), Prawns (chopped), Spring onions, Mushrooms, Chicken
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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Popeye the Sailor Man - Spinach power (Recipe)

How many of you can remember Popeye the Sailor Man? Do you remember his power food? The food that transformed this ordinary guy into a strong and brave guy with bulging biceps and super powers to take out big bully Brutus and save his sweetheart Olive.
Just a mouthful of spinach was all he needed and he could do things no ordinary person can do.

We didn't have spinach in can back then but my mom would make 'rajma saag' that looked a lot like the spinach Popeye would eat. I hated rajma saag but ate it anyway because I believed it would make me as strong as Popeye.

Spinach is a good source of iron (so is lentils and pumpkin seeds, to name a few). One cup of spinach gives you close to 7mg of iron. Children ages 4-8 need 10mg of iron daily.

I try to serve spinach as much as I can and it's quite easy to do so because it is very versatile and blends well with many recipes.

Unlike kale, spinach does not have a strong taste. I use spinach in my lasagne, pasta, pies, quiche, fried rice, soup noodles and fried eggs. You can eat it raw too. Add it to smoothies, sandwich, salads and roti.

Here is a breakfast recipe that has spinach in it. It is a good way to start your day and will ensure you stay full the whole morning - egg and spinach bagel.

After paratha, this is my second favourite. Although no salmon was added in this breakfast dish, you would be fooled to thinking there was. Served over onion bagel it worked very well but I think it would work on toast too.


4 eggs
1 cup spinach (chopped)
1-2 tomatoes (chopped)
1-2 tbs oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk egg with salt.
Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté tomatoes until they sweat. Add spinach and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the eggs. Let the egg set before scrambling it. At this point you may flavour it with some pepper (I didn't because my toddler doesn't like heat). You may add some milk if your scrambled eggs looks a little dry.

Toast your bagel, spread some cream cheese (I used Greek cream cheese, it is creamier and thicker than Philadelphia cream cheese) and top it with scrambled egg. Serve with a freshly brewed coffee.

Here are some other interesting ways you can incorporate spinach...
Spinach & fruits smoothie (Recipe coming soon)

Spinach Paratha
Raw spinach on home baked bread
Spinach prawn spaghetti (Recipe click here)

Vietnamese spinach porridge (Recipe click here)

For more recipes, please head over to my Recipes page

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Carrot cake in a jar!?

Carrot Cake smoothie

My first attempt at baking a carrot cake was for my father-in-law who turned 70. Not to brag but it was tasty. Even the cream cheese frosting stayed on the cake! 
I probably made this cake twice because it involved too much work and had a long (too long for my cooking standards) list of ingredients.

So when I discovered carrot cake smoothie, I just had to try it. And it only required 4 ingredients! You cannot beat that.

The recipe
1/4 cup soaked nuts (overnight)
1 cup carrots
2 very ripe bananas
1 cup of cold soya milk (can be replaced with milk or any other nut milk)

Blend nuts with milk until it turns into a smooth consistency. Be patient as this may take some time if you are using  a simple blender. Then add carrots and blitz again. Put the bananas in the end. Add more milk or any other liquid to thin it out.

Serve immediately or store it in your fridge, in an air tight container.

It was very easy to prepare this carrot cake as you can see my little chef did most of the work (supervised, of course).

We know carrots can be quite fibrous and blending these in an ordinary blender may not give you a smooth smoothie. So I roasted the carrots, in hopes that it would break much easier in my ordinary blender (you can steam it too). But if you own a high powered blender like Vitamix, you can blend it raw.

The results
Carrots blended well but the hazelnuts didn't. I did not mind having some texture in my smoothie. As for the rest of the family, 3 out of 4 drank it happily but my fussiest critic did not like the nutty taste in her drink. "It's getting stuck to my teeth!" she complained, but I will definitely make this smoothie again. It's packed with wholesome goodness and can keep you going the whole morning without feeling hungry.

The benefits
All vegetables are fibrous carbohydrates which will keep you feeling full longer than refined carbs that you find in processed food. It is "nature's Brillo pad, scrubbing your intestines clean as it works its way through your body" (Kimberly Lord Stewart)

If you don't like your smoothie thick, add more (cold) liquid to water it down and enjoy sipping it while watching your favourite show. The amount of liquid (milk or water) varies depending on personal preference.

Try it and let me know what you think of this smoothie.

For more recipes, please head over to my Recipes page

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Recipe : Vietnamese Porridge (my remedy for the sick)

This recipe was an accidental discovery when I was searching for a very smooth and runny porridge. Thanks to the haze situation my kids were suffering from a throat infection and they did not want to eat anything because it irritated their throat.

This porridge isn't very different from the basic Chinese porridge but the texture and aroma that you get from this is divine and makes even the "I have no appetite, mummy" kids want to dig in. the original recipe calls for a handful of ingredients (onion, chicken and rice) but since my kids have not been eating well I decided to fortify this very basic porridge by adding some spinach to it, which in my opinion made it look more appealing (if you don't mind greens).

The recipe

1 cup rice
2 chicken thighs (cut into half)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup spinach
10 cups water
3 garlic cloves
1" ginger, chopped
For garnish
Spring onions
Sesame oil

In a large pot boil the onion and chicken for half hour (add optional ingredients). Reduce heat and take out chicken once its cooked. Remove as much meat as possible and return the bones together with some of the shredded meat and rice to the pot. Gently simmer for another half hour to an hour. At this point you will have to watch over the porridge and stir I occasionally, so that the rice does not stick to the bottom and get burned. Add more water if the water runs dry and rice hasn't broken.
Once you get to a runny porridge consistency, you should add the chopped spinach, mix well and cover. The steam will allow the spinach to cook.
To serve, simply put few drops of sesame oil and some spring onions.
Chicken is cooked when its flesh easily flakes off the bone

Chopped spinach ready to be added to my porridge

Porridge is ready when most of the rice is broken

If you are not a fan of spinach, omit the last step and enjoy your porridge with some light soya sauce and fried garlic.

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Recipe : Spinach prawn pasta

My love affair started with food when I discovered Anyone can cook.

Here is my simplified version of Spinach prawn pasta

The recipe
Serves 4
1-2 tbs olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced.
3 large plump tomatoes
10 large prawns
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of half of it
3-4 tbs of sweet yogurt (or fresh cream)
Handful spinach & cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Feta cheese

Bring a large pan of water to boil and blanch large tomatoes. Skin it, chop it and keep aside.
Cook pasta according to package but keep it al dente.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and fry garlic till golden and put aside. Add prawns, lemon zest and chopped tomatoes into the same frying pan and fry until prawns are cooked (don't overcook it) and the tomatoes start to sweat. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta, yogurt and give it a good mix. Throw in the spinach and cherry tomatoes and give it a good stir, remove from heat and keep it covered for a couple of minutes while you get your plates ready.
Dish out onto your plate and crumble some feta cheese and fried garlic on it. Serve immediately.

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Anyone can cook

Overnight oats for breakfast, Vietnamese porridge for lunch and prawn pasta for dinner. It was indeed a gastronomical experience in my house today. Something worthy to be proud of because cooking was never my forte and yet here I am proving to you Gusteau's motto "Anyone can cook". It's real, the motto, not character though. Gusteau is a fictional character form Ratatouille an animated movie by Disney/Pixar.
Vietnamese Spinach porridge (for recipe click here) 

This is a big deal for me because I was never successful in all my attempts at cooking in the past. I believe it was because there was no need for me to cook. There was always someone else in charge of cooking whenever my mom was away.

Even when I left home and attended boarding school,  I was not enticed to join other girls from my dormitory in their cook-off sessions because unlike me, who could stomach whatever awful and funny looking food that was served in the school cafeteria, they had a skill they could rely on and not get food poisoning at the same time.

Things changed once I was living in a foreign land with meagre allowances. In the beginning I was doing pretty well with my new meal plan which included cereal for breakfast, cereal for lunch and unsurprisingly cereal for dinner! For many months I was surviving on Cheerios and full fat milk because these were dirt cheap and the boxes of Cheerios were huge! And if you buy near-to-expire-date, that's another huge savings!

Although I was pretty happy and contended with my meals, I knew there was no sustainability in them. That's when I decided to join my housemates and chip in my time and effort for home cooked meals. There was a huge duty roster and each of us were tasked to cook dinner for the day.

Since it was quite clear that I had no basics in cooking, I was given one week to watch and learn tricks of the trade from my housemates, who by the way were seasoned cooks by then! "Hmm, this isn't so hard" I thought out loud and requested to start as soon as possible because frankly, it was dead boring watching them cook and I just wanted my evenings back to myself.

First attempt

After 4 long evening watching and learning, I felt very excited and rather equipped to prepare dinner for 6 people. I was even given a recipe and step-by-step instructions by one of my roommates, so nothing could go wrong. Everything was going according to plan, my rice was perfect and fluffy and the vegetable were cooking just right in the wok. But when I read that I had to add cooked rice to the vegetables, I panicked because it was quite impossible to mix 3 cups of cooked rice with the vegetables in my tiny wok. So it was white rice with mushy vegetables for dinner!
That was the first and last time I had to cook for my housemates. Instead of kicking me out, I was assigned with dirty dishes duty everyday and I happily took it because it was a much better option than having cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner again.

The new bride

Traditionally in my culture a new bride is suppose to cook a sweet dish and present it to her new family but luckily for me it was just my husband and I in our new home. Although the house had an equipped kitchen, we ate out a lot. So another learning opportunity forgone and it didn't matter to me at all. But all that changed the day some friends came over for a late night football match and these fellows insisted I made them tea as they are so used to having mamak tea while watching a match.

To my surprise there were tea leaves in my pantry so there was no excuse for not serving tea. After half hour I managed to come up with a decent looking jug of aromatic tea or so I thought. Until today I am not spared the agony of my tea blunder and am constantly reminded how awfully strong and bitter my tea was. They will humour me with their tongue scrapping actions saying that the tea I made has permanently coated their tongues.

Never say never

It's hard to believe I had such a bleak start in my cooking journey but I am glad it did not demoralise or made me fear cooking. I think it was simple because I did not see  need for me to cook back then.
I will not consider myself a seasoned cook until the day I am able to whip up a glorious and nutritional meal by simply rummaging my pantry like my mom does. But I have come a long way and have raised three wonderful mini-me's who are fit and strong, and my husband who still has his taste buds intact despite my tea blunder.

Baby steps

Daily cooked meal has become a possibility in my house thanks to advance planning. It is an activity I do with my whole family. At the start of each week, I go through some recipes and select those which I can cook with minimal effort and ingredients. Then I get my kids to help me decide which recipes they would like to have for lunch and dinner. They help me list out ingredients needed for our bi-weekly shopping list based on the recipes. This is a good tool to teach them planning and avoid unnecessary purchases or shopping meltdowns. It allows me to shop more efficiently and eliminates the instances when in the middle of cooking you realised you don't have the necessary ingredients.

Some may say that planning a meal takes out the spontaneity that makes life enjoyable but I rather have a reliable and predictable meal than try to "wing it" with hopes that the meal served is worthy to be the centrepiece on my dining table.

By planning, I am able to take advantage of a wide variety of healthy meals and select ingredients which are easily available, reasonably priced and full of goodness.  It also makes cooking a lot quicker because I don't waste time standing in front of my fridge gawking at it and tying to make up a recipe as I grab the vegetables stored in it. The biggest benefit to me personally is the ability to answer the annoyingly nagging question "Mom, what's for dinner?" and putting an end to my numerous "I don't know what to cook" calls to my husband.

Planning is time consuming and you might have to dedicate a couple of hours on your first attempt, I kid you not and it's worth it. Once you have your initial layout or table, it's just a matter of changing it's content and it will become second nature once you get hang of it.

Every night before dozing off to bed, I would do a mental check and run through my recipes. This has helped tremendously and I know exactly what to do, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

This is me, the person who used to spend hours watching Jamie Oliver and Nigella on The Asian Food Network.
So next time if you see someone watching the Food Network religiously but is not able to even fry an egg, let them because you never know when they will turn over to new leaf and start cooking up a storm for you to feast on.

Spinach prawn pasta (for recipe, click here)

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