Yesterday, March 26th was an important day. Apart from the fact that it was a dear friend's birthday, March 26th also marked the day when I had a first taste of demonstrating my cooking skills LIVE! Imagine that!! I showed a group of 16 ladies in my Siglap community in Singapore as part of my grassroots reach out - how to prepare this easy delicious nourishing Chinese Vegan Hot & Sour Soup. A bit hesitant and a tad nervous at first - because there I was, an Indian showing how to prepare a Chinese dish to a group of mostly Chinese ladies!! What in the world would they not know which I would??
Truth be told, I wasn't even planning to demonstrate this month's cooking class. These cooking demos are conducted during the last Sat of every month and we are always are on the lookout for demonstrators or culinary experts to show us how to cook a particular cuisine every month. Last month, we had a lady, Nora, who showed us how to make Choc Almond Slices under Baking theme. This month's theme was Chinese cooking. Devoid of instructors, Alice my fellow committee member, volunteered to conduct this month's class. I was actually 'sucked' in to fill in the extra time because her dishes would take a very short time.
Since we are on this page, can I add something about Alice? Alice is a born orator and her love for cooking was so evident during yesterday's cooking class. She was 'alive' with her chatty description of all the ingredients and engaged the participants very well. I am having a kind of writer's block here because I just can't come up with the right words to describe her demo style. All in all, she was a blast!!
But I must say, me being roped in was a blessing in disguise. I had an exhilarating experience! My nerves calmed down after the first few mins and soon I was giving them tips to make it to their preference. Everyone liked the soup and one exclaimed it was so easy to prepare and yet so tasty!! It was whole new experience for me. I was quite high on endorphins late into the night :)
1/2 (half) tbsp. canola oil
4 dried shitake mushrooms
12 dried tiger lily buds
2 cups of hot water
2 cups of room temperature water
½ a block of firm tofu, cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 chilli padi (bird's eye chilli), sliced (or more if you prefer spicier)
1 and 1/2 tsp mushroom seasoning
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tin braised peanuts, drained
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp water
1/3 cup spring onions, chopped
Extra sliced chilli padi for garnish
1 tsp sesame oil
Wash the shitake mushrooms and tiger lily buds and then soak in 2 cups of hot water for 30 mins.
After 30 mins, cut the stems off the shitake mushrooms and discard. Slice the caps thinly. Cut the tiger lily buds in half. Set both aside. Strain and reserve the soaking liquid.
Heat the canola oil in a soup pot and fry the minced garlic and sliced chilli padi till fragrant.
Then add the mushroom seasoning and stir for a minute.
Then add in the reserved soaking liquid, 2 cups of water, rice vinegar and light soy sauce.
Let it come to a boil and then add in the sliced shitake mushrooms, tiger lily buds, braised peanuts and tofu strips.
Let the whole soup boil well for another 2-3 mins.
Then pour in the cornstarch mixture and then the soup will thicken.
Just before serving, garnish with chopped spring onions, sliced chilli padis and swirl in the sesame oil.
You can add in a variety of other ingredients – silken tofu instead of firm tofu, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms etc and if you prefer a non-vegan soup, you can swirl in 1 beaten egg at the end. Or you can even substitute the 4 cups of water with chicken stock if you would rather opt for a non vegetarian version.
Pilau, Pulao, Pilaf....so many different terms to describe the same thing. A Middle Eastern or an Indian rice dish cooked with spices and has added meat or vegetables. There are numerous types of pilaus out there - Beef Pilau, Chicken Pilau, Spiced Pilau, Vegetable Pilau and so on.
Green Peas Pilau is a specialty of my friend Amutha who wowed us two Fridays ago during our potluck lunch at my abode (See picture below). I was grateful for her Green Peas Pilau which served as a main dish. Otherwise, it would have been more of a potluck tea with so many other sides!! She makes a mean Lentil Fritters (Medhu Vadais) too accompanied by an equally unbelievable Coconut Tamarind Chutney. My other friends from Temasek Primary School in Singapore (where my girls had their elementary education) would vouch for that. Right, ladies? :)
Thanks for showing up my dear friends - each time we make an effort even with our super busy schedules, we all contribute to the growth and strength of our friendship. We have known each other for more than 6 years. Along the way, new friends have joined in, some have left and one has even moved to Sydney. Nevertheless, may God bless the remaining us with an even closer friendship as we age and our kids leave our nest :) I am sure we'll need each other even more then.
Anyway, Amutha's Green Peas Pilau was quite delicious with the nuts, crunchy fried onions and the subtle flavour of coriander and mint leaves in the basmati grains. It married very well with the Spicy Garbanzo Curry I served during the lunch. Green Peas Pilau would go with many other types of curry too because of its mild delicious flavour. Here is her mouth watering recipe :
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1.5 cups Basmati Rice
4.5 cups of water
1 cup coriander leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1.5 cups grated coconut
5 green chillies
2 tbsp. oil
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
10 pieces cashewnuts
10 pieces almonds
1 cup green peas
1/2 (half) cup of mixed coriander & mint leaves
Salt to taste
2 tbsps. fried onions
Extra coriander and mint leaves for garnish.
Blend 1 cup each of coriander and mint leaves with the green chillies and grated coconut. Pour in 4.5 cups of water to your blender and use this as a base for cooking your rice. Set aside.
In a medium sized pan, heat the oil and fry the dry spices - star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and cumin seeds.
Then add in the ginger garlic paste followed by the sliced onions.
When a lovely aroma of fried onions, spices and ginger garlic spreads in your kitchen, add the cashew nuts and almonds.
After a few minutes of stirring, add in the green peas and salt.
Toss in the 1/2 cup of mixed coriander and mint leaves in now and let it cook for a few minutes. Let the flavors blend together.
Then, add in the basmati rice followed by the 4.5 cups of blended mixture.
increase the heat to medium and let it come to a light boil in about 10 mins or so.
Transfer to your rice cooker and cook as you usually do.
Serve garnished with fried onions and more coriander or mint leaves.
Thanks for sharing your recipe with us dear Amutha :)
One of my older daughter Ranya's favorite dishes, this is a simple tomato based curry of French beans and potatoes. One always acquaints food with a certain memory - the first time you had savoured it, the time you had first whipped it up, the times when your loved one asks for it etc. For me, I remember picking Ranya up from school in her younger days and she clapping her hands in glee when I would tell her its French beans and potato curry that day. Beautiful memories of our children.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
10 French beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into big cubes
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped big
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp chilli paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped big
1/2 cup coriander leaves
Extra coriander leaves for garnish
Heat the oil in a pot and fry the chopped onions.
Add in the ginger garlic paste and let the aroma fill the air.
After a few minutes, add in the chilli paste, turmeric powder and salt.
Stir and then toss in the chopped tomatoes and coriander leaves.
Mix well and pour in 1/2 cup of water.
Boil on high heat till the tomatoes are all mushy.
Cool for 5 mins and then blend well to a smooth paste.
Pour the paste back into the pot. Add another cup of water into the blender, wash it down and then pour this into the pot too.
Toss in the cut French beans and cook for 5 minutes before adding in the cubed potatoes.
Let the gravy cook till the sauce is all absorbed and the vegetables are just tender.
Serve with any light curry garnished with coriander leaves.
You can easily substitute the potatoes with tofu cubes for a protein packed dish.
'This is one of the most basic of dishes for regular Asian cooks. Broccoli stir fried with tofu? Who can't do that? You may think. But you would be surprised that there are some beginner cooks who may not know how to cook such a basic dish. My Cooking Frenz committee member mentioned recently during our meeting - what we may think is so simple may actually be out of reach to someone else. Wise words, Alice :) Cooking Frenz is an initiative I joined recently to reach out to the women in my community thru what else? Cooking , of course! :)
A close friend Nisha asked me just yesterday ' Any more tofu dishes, dear? Quick dinner meals with tofu?' This recipe was in the typing process- I rushed it out especially for you dear. No problem Nish - you are truly worth rushing it out for :)
Ingredients (Serves 4)
2 tbsps. canola oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bird's eye chilli (chilli padi), sliced
1 medium head of broccoli, stems removed and kept for veg stock
1 block of firm tofu, cubed
A handful of cashew nuts
3 tsps. light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
Halved small limes and sliced bird's eye chillies on the side
Break the broccoli into florets, wash and steam for 5 mins. Don't over cook otherwise they would all disintegrate and become mushy in the final step. Then plunge into ice cold water to retain its beautiful green hue.
Heat the oil and fry the minced garlic and sliced bird's eye chilli.
Then add in the tofu cubes, dark soy sauce, 2 tsps of light soy sauce and cashew. Saute on high heat till the tofu cubes are browned .
Then add in the drained broccoli and the remaining 1 tsp light soy sauce.
Mix well and serve piping hot with steamed Jasmine Rice or a Simple Fried Rice
You have the protein (tofu and cashews), carbs (rice) and the power vitamins & minerals (broccoli). You can't go wrong in this dish.
Using only 7 ingredients (including oil and salt), this dish is really quick and easy to whip up. The idea for this dish came on a regular weekday evening. Whenever I make pasta at home, I saute some vegetables to include in the pasta sauce before adding in the cooked pasta. Just to incorporate some nutrition into an otherwise plain carbohydrate loaded dish.
I happen to take a taste test on one of the days to check if the zucchini and mushroom slices were cooked and to see if the flavors were balanced. Then it hit me. I could just make a simple side dish just out of these ingredients. Using high heat, this dish can be ready in 10 mins!
An absolutely delicious, unique and aromatic dish. You are bound to have someone saying 'What is that wonderful aroma?" Try it out - you'll know what I mean.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 zucchini around 300gm, washed, cut half and sliced
12 button mushrooms, washed and sliced
1/3 cup roasted walnuts
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and fry the minced garlic.
On high heat, arrange the mushroom in a single layer and let them caramalize. This would reduce the amount of water released. Too much water released by the mushrooms will result in a soggy dish! Do not stir while the mushrooms are cooking.
After around 3 mins, turn the mushroom slices around to the other side to caramalize both sides evenly. At this point, add in the zucchini slices.
Season with salt, chilli flakes and then toss in the roasted walnuts. Remember saute means to cook on high heat, so watch the vegetables like an eagle eyeing its prey!
Stir and cook till any minimal water evaporates and the vegetables have cooked and are a gorgeous golden brown color.
Serve piping hot.
A simple weekday delight. Sure to turn around a mushroom hater :)
String hoppers are a traditional Indian and Sri Lankan food consisting of rice flour paste pressed into a thin noodle form and then steamed. It can also made from Ragi four (finger millet flour). Ready made ones available in shops tend to be a lot bigger than home made ones. Because of its versatility, String hoppers (or Idiyappam or Putu Mayam) can be eaten with any curry resulting in a simple satisfying meal.
It is mostly served as a main course for breakfast or dinner together with a curry and coconut chutney. String hoppers can also be stir fried with egg to make it a one pot simple dish. This is a staple in my family and a hit with my girls too.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 tbsp canola oil
5 -6 pieces of String hoppers
1/3 cup skim milk
1 onion finely chopped
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tomato chopped
2 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
A few sprigs of coriander leaves, chopped and extra for garnishing
Break the string hoppers into bite sized pieces and sprinkle a little skim milk over to soften them. This is not required if your string hoppers have just been steamed and are already quite soft. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a medium sized pot and fry the chopped onion.
After 2-3 mins on medium heat, add in the ginger garlic paste. Let it fry well.
Then add in all the spice powders and salt. The ready made string hoppers would have salt added so watch out for the salt.
Then add in the tomato and coriander leaves.
Push the mixture to a side of the pot and scramble the beaten eggs.
Then give everything a good stir and serve immediately, garnished with coriander leaves.
Egg & Coconut Milk Pudding or Vatlappam is a traditional sweet treat served during our Muslim festivals in my family. It is served with thin crepes of rice flour called Appams. It is a high protein dessert and it is quite delicious even on its own. This dessert is very popular among ethnic Sri Lankan. It is traditionally made with egg, coconut milk, jaggery (palm sugar),cashew nuts and then flavored with cardamoms and cloves.
Originating from Sri Lanka in the 1900s, it became quite popular among the Tamil Muslims of Tamil Nadu, India. It became a must have dessert in most religious festival days and during other celebrations.
Ingredients ( Makes a 5 inch round pudding)
4 eggs beaten and then sieved
3/4 cup sugar
1 and half tbsp roasted gram
15 -20 cashewnuts
100 ml coconut milk
1 tsp Vanilla essence
3/4 tsp salt
Raisins and Saffron strands for decoration
Prepare a 5 inch round baking tin or a metal container by applying a little butter on the bottom and the sides.
Soak the roasted gram, cashewnuts and cardamoms in hot water for 2-3 hrs.
Drain and then grind the cardamom seeds only (discard the pods), cashewnuts and roasted gram.
Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the saffron strands and raisins) with this ground mixture.
Beat well and pour into the prepared baking tin or metal container. Garnish with saffron strands and raisins.
Steam for 45 mins.