Pasta Mania

I’ve just noticed how many different pasta dishes I have backlogged so I thought I’d just lump them all together in one post. It must be because I’ve been quite lazy these days and pasta is really quick to make and you can make it any way you want it with whatever you have in the pantry and it’s always really cheap! Win-win.

Chicken Fettucine Alfredo

I had the strangest craving for a Chicken Fettucine Alfredo for the longest time and just had to make it. It’s really strange because I don’t think I’ve ever had it (it’s such an American dish!) but somehow I had to have it. I used this recipe but left out the tomatoes and sour cream and used more milk instead. In the end, my sauce was pretty watery but on the plus side, it was way less disgusting. You know how when you have something too creamy and you can’t have too much of it cos it grosses you out after a few bites? This wasn’t a problem with more milk instead of cream. Also, my tip is don’t use the San Remo fettucine. It was all stuck together and utterly disgusting! Gah!

Oh, and a tip: add nutmeg. It’ll make it so much better.

Tuna and Chickpea Pasta

Another really easy dish and as you can tell, I ran out of just one type of pasta so I had to mix it up.

Tuna and Chickpea Pasta
Serves 3-4

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 large can of tuna (drained)
1 can of chickpeas
1 bottle of tomato passata
Lemon juice
Pasta (amount up to you), cooked until al dente

1. Heat some olive oil up in a pan, add onion and sweat the onions.

2. Add the tomato passata, tuna and chickpeas. Leave a while to simmer until the chickpeas are a little more tender. Season to taste.

3. Scoop sauce up over the pasta, then squeeze some lemon juice over the top to finish.

Bacon, Anchovies and Broccoli Pasta

This is one of my favourite spontaneous pasta dishes ever! Just have to remember to go really light on the salt when making this, though.

Bacon, Anchovies, and Broccoli Pasta
Serves 2

5 garlic cloves, diced
2 rashers of bacon, diced
1 broccoli floret, cut up and blanched in hot water for 2-3 minutes
2 anchovy fillets
Handful of Panka breadcrumbs
Pasta of choice, cooked until al dente

1. Heat oil up in a pan, then add in bacon. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add in the garlic and anchovies. The anchovies will melt so keep stirring so that it coats everything.

2. Add in broccoli and breadcrumbs. Quickly toss to coat everything together. Season to taste.

3. Add in pasta and mix everything together. Serve immediately.

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Easy Breezy

Pork & Fennel Sausage and Spinach Pasta

I’m pretty sure this dish was something I created on a whim when I was starving, too lazy to head out to get groceries and was desperate to use all that was left in the refrigerator. It turned out to be pretty spectacular (if slightly greasy!) so I guess the recipe is worth sharing.

Pork & Fennel Sausage and Spinach Pasta
Serves 2

2 pork & fennel sausages, cased removed
1-2 handfuls of spinach, rinsed and drained (or dabbed dry with a paper towel)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Sliced fresh chilli, or two teaspoons of dried chilli flakes (optional)
Pasta of choice, cooked until al dente
Olive oil

1. Heat up olive oil in a frying pan, then add in your garlic and cook until lightly browned.

2. Add your sausage meat and mince it up as it cooks to separate it.

3. Add in your cooked pasta and stir until thoroughly mixed. Season to taste, and add in the chilli if using.

4. Turn off the fire, then throw in the spinach leaves. Gently stir through and serve immediately.

Pretty fantastic for a quick weekday meal.


A Pork Day’s Night

Pork Chops on Creamy Polenta

Spicy Pork Ragu Rigatoni

Winter has well and truly descended upon us and with the cooler temperature comes the usual cravings for heartier meals. I’ve been more than a little slack lately and have mostly been using up the scraps in our freezer to make meals. I discovered some pork chops that I simply marinated in Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce, some rosemary and salt and pepper. It was then baked then seared on a hot pan. The baking tray was deglazed with red wine and we got some killer gravy from that. The creamy polenta was made with some homemade chicken stock and lots of butter and cream cheese. I’d never been more excited to have polenta before.

The spicy pork ragu rigatoni was a recipe from Delicious magazine. I finally bit the bullet and subscribed to both Delicious and Gourmet Traveler. I’m glad I no longer have to pop by the newsagent for my monthly copies. I live right opposite one but I like to pretend that I’m so hard done by such a tedious task. I improvised the recipe, as I usually do, and I made it a lot spicier than Delicious suggested but I’m Malaysian, what do you want from me? It was 2 Tbsp of chilli flakes to the suggested 1 tsp. Pft, 1 tsp is something you can barely taste!

I’m currently down with my first winter flu of the year. I am grumpy and lethargic and I wish my immune system would buck up already. If you need me, I’ll be wallowing in self-pity in bed… where I’ve been for the past three days.


Wrapped

I lied. Here’s a final picture post of all the things I missed from 2010, before I move on. Really.

From the Christmas BBQ at Nick’s.

One of the main approaches when it comes to a BBQ for many people is to not BBQ everything. My mother was persistently reminding me to tell Nick that he had to have to get some fried noodles handy. If things can be baked off, do it. Salads, pasta, rice, noodles, garlic bread, etc. should always be on standby because it’s unpredictable how long starting up the grill would take and people might want to nibble on something else while waiting for the meats to be cooked.

This is one of my favourite things to make and it’s always well-received. It’s not some magic trick; the recipe’s right here on Kitchen Wench’s site. It involves a two-day marinade but it is well worth all that effort and space in your refrigerator.

Barbecued Piri Piri Prawns

A quick Google search by Nick gave us this gem of a recipe. It’s ridiculously good. The prawns had so much flavour and still maintained the satisfying crunch that only the best cooked prawns provide. Credit to Dennis who was the Grill Master of the day. Two thumbs up and a very enthusiastic nod of endorsement for this recipe.

Lamb chops and pork + fennel sausages

Another product of a Google search was this recipe for the lamb. Ignore the skordalia bit and the last two ingredients in the lamb recipe. Basically all that was needed was the cumin seeds, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and oil. I really liked this as well. The cumin made it different and wonderful. It was nice not to be faced with yet another Worcestershire + BBQ sauce marinated meat, you know?

Grill at work

Avocado and Corn Salad

Another byproduct of a Google search. I never understand why people think I’m pulling their leg or trying to be secretive when I admit that I usually Google my recipes, not having to rely on a heavy endorsement from someone I know personally. Google does not lie!

Recipe here but in all honesty I could do without the shallots. I liked it fine with, and everyone seemed to love it with so I may be in the minority on this, but I thought it tasted so much better without the shallots. A really useful recipe for anytime of the year, to be honest. This recipe I’m going to store in my repertoire of To Be Used Forever And Ever because it’s fuss-free and bare-pantry-friendly.

Yosa’s amazing Greek Salad

Yosa is an amazing, amazing cook. Seriously. Look at that gorgeous salad! It disappeared with absolutely no trace by the end of the day. I still can’t get over her delicious ham from Christmas Eve dinner. She took the leftovers home and returned with… pea and ham soup! Seriously, how awesome is that? I was more than happy to have it with some crusty bread on one of the miserable rainy days that followed the sunny Christmas day.

There was also a ton more food at the BBQ; a healthy heap of steaks, fried kuey teow, fried noodles, fried rice, and fried mee hoon. There’s a very good reason why we had leftovers to feed us all for a few days after!

And from my kitchen, the last few dishes before the year ended.

Vanilla macarons with raspberry+lemon buttercream

I decided to try my hand at macarons again. I’ve still yet to try the aged egg whites method, which I intend to soon. I keep saying that but I’m a terrible procrastinator. I’ve learned a little more about the little nuances about macarons now that I’ve made them again and the first two trays were a little bit sadder than I’d have liked them to be.

So my tip when it comes to macarons is:
1. Don’t be afraid to leave them in the oven a little longer because I always had a problem with hollowed out centres and I thought I messed up during the macraronage process but nay, it’s the cooking time. My subsequent macarons were perfect!

2. Bake off almond flour in the oven for 5 minutes or so before using. There’s a possibility that almond flour that’s from the supermarket may be a little old and there’s a little too much moisture (oil) that’s been excreted so a quick bake off in the oven ensures that it’s drier and therefore, fresher. Or so my logic claims is a reasonable deduction.

3. Grind almond flour with sugar THEN sieve them all together. Always, always sieve. I didn’t this time around and suffered with the annoying bumps in my macarons.

I have no other tips. I don’t really count how many times I fold my batter before piping them out, I don’t age my egg whites (I use the Swiss Meringue method), and I don’t know what does and doesn’t make feet because I’ve always managed to get feet on mine. And I’ve also always gotten a glossy finish so I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing right here. I guess I’ve been lucky because I’ve never failed at making macarons before. They were not store-perfect but they always had the characteristics of what a macaron should be. Kitchen luck!

But as you can see, the consequences of not sieving your almond flour and sugar is the lumps that make for horrible uneven surfaces. Preferably, this tower of macarons would be straight!

For the buttercream, I whipped up a batch of French Buttercream with some lemon juice added. Unfortunately it became a little too runny for my liking so I decided to whip in some raspberry jam. This created a gorgeous red marbled effect in the otherwise cream coloured buttercream, which I kinda loved. The lucky coincidence was that it went perfectly together.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I ended up consuming a lot of this batch of macarons by myself. They were addictive! Plus, macarons are SO ridiculously cheap when you make them yourself. They’re definitely not worth $4 per macaron!

I also recently dabbled in making my own pasta. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. This was a semolina pasta and didn’t require any drying time, which was nice. Unfortunately my stupid el cheapo pasta machine didn’t have a spaghetti cut setting, just angel hair and fettucine so I ended up with what looked unimpressively like Chinese egg noodles!

Spaghetti con Pesce D’acqua Dolce

It was a lovely dish with white wine, barramundi fillets (which I destroyed because I simply cannot cook fish perfectly!), prawns and capers. I loveloveloved this dish despite its sad appearance.

I also tried my hand at cooking with rabbit. Melbourne had been unseasonably cool in December and it was actually perfect weather for a hearty ragu! The rabbit was delicious and I loved it, my only complaint is that it is so full of tiny bones! Deboning it was an arduous and slow task that has me second guessing my desire to ever cook this dish again.

However, it is supremely delicious and tender. There was a tiny hint of spiciness to it and just… mmm. The recipe was from the Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook, as was the spaghetti dish above.

And now, we’re done with 2010! Whew!


Updates Pending…

I actually have plenty to blog about. I have a few posts to put up when I actually stop feeling lazy and get to writing up the words to accompany the pictures. So here’s a sneak preview…

Rolled sugar cookies & steamed fruit cake for Christmas

Macarons

Semolina pasta

Rabbit Ragu on penne

Yellow Nectarine Shortbread

All in due time! I promise!


Conduct

One of the things I think my mother should be proudest of in her job of raising her personal three-person circus is the good manners she’s managed to instill in us. I’m not talking about not being brutally sarcastic and having sharp-as-a-whip tongues because we all seem to possess these qualities too (hey, we can’t help it if we have zero tolerance for idiots) but I’m referring to being really decent human beings. We never go to parties empty-handed, we never treat anyone like they’re beneath us (unless provoked, of course), we never fail to use our Ps and Qs, and most of all, we’re unfailingly polite, courteous and gracious.

Goons

Mum may not have done such a good job on teaching us how to pose for photographs…

It’s a mix of being raised by a teacher (and a discipline teacher at that!) and a traditionalist Chinese woman. When dining with elder Chinese people, we would actually address each and every elder person at the table to invite them to eat before us in a chorus of, “Uncle, eat! Auntie, eat! Mum, eat! Dad, eat!” spoken in Chinese, of course. It’s about serving elders before you regardless if it’s a piece of chicken or the refilling of a teacup. We ensure everyone has had a first serving before reaching for seconds. We never ever take a last piece of a dish unless we’ve been “invited” to do so. I’m sure if you’re Asian, you know exactly the kind of delicate dance of manners that is involved when dining out with relatives and your elders despite the uproarious noise levels that may deceive one into thinking that everything is majorly casual. If you’ve ever watched Joy Luck Club and thought, “Geez, that’s an exaggeration!”, I’m here to tell you that it’s all true.

Circa 1992

I address my siblings as Eldest Brother and Second Brother in Chinese. I’ve never grown up calling them by their names despite us having really silly pet names for each other. There have been many crude Chinese words and impolitically correct terms used to address each other fondly, which are unfortunately way too rude to be publicised, along with names like Bird, Dope, Loser, etc.

Recent family portrait, sans me and second brother’s fiancee on his 30th

Despite all of that silliness, my mum still gets compliments from her friends about how well-behaved we are. I think that’s just a major part of being a human being, though. All of my friends are equally as polite and beautifully behaved and I so adore them for it. We may have really inappropriate humour and conversations, but they’ve never exhibited behaviour that was less than.

Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up so accustomed with manners being such a prominent part of everyday life that I’m seriously rattled by people who epitomise bad manners. I usually make leeways for personal life matters and subsequent apologies but continuous bad behaviour and lack of courtesy and grace really gets my blood boiling. In my opinion, you can be the wealthiest man on earth but if you’re a rude prick, you’re worth diddly-squat. Just like how money can’t buy style, money certainly can’t buy class and manners either.

My friends tell me I spoil them by gifting them with free meals and sweets but I honestly don’t mind because they’re such lovely people. They rigorously stroke my ego by gracing me with their gratitude and praise — probably explains why I had trouble fitting into most of the hats in David Jones last weekend! In all honesty, my friends are so great at being really casual about everything and repaying me in kind, and I don’t mean in the monetary sense, that I don’t think much at all about my feeding them. The generosity definitely flows both ways, as it should with all great friendships.

Meatball sandwich

Meatball Sandwich

On Friday and Saturday night, I fed two of my best friends separately just because we were camping in my apartment. Miss S came by to hang with me on Friday night for a good girly catchup and a sleepover, and I was making this anyway so we had it for dinner. The following night, Miss J also stayed the night after spending the night with me studying.

Both girly chitchatting and studying were definitely physically exhausting so it was good to be so filled up after! The recipe was from the Gourmet Traveler Annual Cookbook, which is quite possibly one of my favourite things right now. It is just an inexhaustible source of recipes that all sound so delicious and easy that I want to cook from it for a few months. It’s currently so heavily tabbed that I’m not quite sure of what to make of my usual trusty colour-coded system.

Day Two

It looked a lot prettier on the second day, although it was equally as delicious on both days. I adored the tomato sauce that I made from scratch. It was ridiculous how delicious it was!

On the third day, with the tiny bit of leftovers I had left, I boiled up some pasta and topped it with the tomato sauce and meatballs. I so enjoy versatile meals and leftovers.

Meatball Sandwich with Homemade Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet Traveler Annual Cookbook 2010
Serves 6

For meatballs:
200g soft white bread, crust removed, quartered
500g minced pork
1 cup mint, firmly packed, finely chopped
1 tomato, seeds removed, finely diced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Soak bread in 200ml cold water until just soft, squeeze out excess water, then finely tear into a large bowl.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients, season to taste and mix well to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.

3. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on lined trays. Refrigerate until required.

For tomato sauce:
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
1 can of chopped tomatoes (no salt added)
60ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh bay leaf
1/2 cinnamon quill
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
60ml tomato passata
2-3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp butter (or more cos that never hurts!)

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion and garlic and saute until tender. Add bay leaf, cinnamon, basil, fresh and canned tomatoes; then reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally.

2. Add passata, butter and red wine vinegar, season to taste and simmer for flavours to develop. Remove from heat and keep warm.

To assemble:
60ml olive oil
6 crusty rolls (I used parmesan flavoured baguettes), halved lengthways
Comte cheese or other good melting cheese, grated
Choice of salad of greens or potato chips (heated up) to serve

1. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add half the meatballs and turn occasionally until cooked through, about 4-6 minutes. Wipe pan clean and repeat with remaining oil and meatballs.

2. Preheat oven/grill to medium-high. Place base of bread rolls on a tray, divide meatballs among rolls, top with tomato sauce followed by grated Comte (amount is up to your discretion) and grill until cheese melts. Sandwich with top of rolls and serve with greens or potato chips.

As for my two amazing friends, I have to say that their friendship; their roles as sounding boards and my voices of reason, as well as the endless laughs we shared are repayment enough for all my efforts.

My amazing Miss J and Miss S

Disclaimer: I appear to be about 5’0 in this photo but trust that I’m actually 5’5 and I just have really tall friends!


Toma(y)to, Toma(h)to

This might possibly be one of my last (or final few) blog post(s) for a month or so because things are really starting to get intense with my workload. So intense that I’ve drawn a regimented work schedule to ensure that I stay on track and get productive. Honestly, we all know I’ll suck at keeping to it to the T but I will try my hardest. I have of course generously penciled in good breaks for myself like trips to the gym and nice dinners with my amazing support system lest I go crazy. It’ll also be a nice break to head out of my apartment/library and be forced to interact with human beings occasionally.

Another reason for the lack of food posts is that my housemate is leaving on a small holiday for a while so I’ll be all by my lonesome and well, cooking pretty food isn’t as fun without anyone cheering me on and giving me their enthusiastic feedback. I will however be susceptible to procrastibaketion. I used to be teased for my Stress Brownies because when I’d get overwhelmed by my essays, I’d whip up a batch of brownies at about 2 a.m. just to have something better to do. So mayyyybeeee there’ll be baked goods. I have a bunch of egg whites to use up actually, so I may be trying a pavlova soon.

Tomato and Basil Spaghetti

Tomato and Basil Spaghetti

I like to think of myself as a non-fussy eater but there’s one thing I absolutely abhor: fresh tomatoes. I hate it in sandwiches and am always picking them out and disgusted that I have to deal with the slimy mess that’s left behind. The texture of it just reminds me of… well, vomit. It might be me projecting a childhood experience with tomatoes and the reappearance of a meal when I was sick but it seriously grosses me out. I’ve seen people bite into a tomato like it’s an apple and that’s skincrawlingly unacceptable in my books. Why oh why!

That said, when I saw Ruhlman’s recipe for this pasta dish, I knew I just had to make it. Seriously, read the recipe and watch the video. You’ll want to make it, too.

As much as I dislike raw tomatoes, I seriously loved this dish. It was ridiculously satisfying and pleasurable to (cook and) eat. Yet another recipe to add to my lazy weekday repertoire.

Maybe I can be talked out of my tomato-hate yet. I’m not going to crazily add it to my sandwiches or bite into a juicy fruit anytime soon but perhaps I won’t be so quick to dismiss it as something revolting. Baby steps, baby steps.

Upon seeing this, Joyce sent me a desperate request to cook this for her with the addition of bacon. Well really now, am I going to say no to that?

Ps. I took a look at my stats for the first time ever last night and noticed that I’ve received a grand total of 7,500+ hits to date. What?! When did that happen? Thank you for reading, all of you. I had no idea that a thousand people had dropped by let alone over 7000! It’s comforting, albeit a little disturbing to know that I’m not babbling to a silent abyss after all :)