Mussels! I can make mussels!

I love seafood. I eat pescetarian most of the time. This is not because I’m the type of person that names all their animal friends and talks to them all the time (I am, in fact, that person – one day this will probably cause me much mental torment). It is, simply, because I like the taste of seafood much better than all other types of meat, barring specific dishes. For example, oxtail stew, lamb ragu, chicken rice, and loh mai kai. 

Mussels!!

Most of all, I love all the things that live in shells. To eat, I mean. Not just the clammy types, but prawns, scallops, shellfish, crayfish, crab *swoon*, and all the rest of them. Of course, mussels, clams, lala, oysters, and those swirly looking things in twisty shells are part of this list.

First time I ever cooked fennel

And when I realised mussels only cost $4 for 800g at the market, my reaction was predictable. Despite the fact that I don’t know how to cook mussels.  These things make me far too excited.

In honour of my favourite mussels from Brussels, I had no choice but to learn. Shock and horror, it was pretty easy to do well. Mussels are going to become my staple dinner treat. Vongole, here I come!

Now I just need a pretty pot for them

Mussels with Garlic, Fennel and Parsley

After much internetting, I realised that you can pretty much put anything in mussels providing you steam by adding at least 1/4 inch of liquid on the bottom of the pot, and closing the lid tightly until the mussels are steamed. This is a bit of an ad-libbed recipe, based on looking at roughly 500 other mussel recipes. 

800g mussels
1 onion, sliced into rings
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 baby fennel, sliced into strips
~1 cup water
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Yield: 2 servings as a main + 2 servings the next day as a side

  1. Assuming your mussels aren’t pre-cleaned – first thing when you start, dump them in very very salty cool water on your countertop and leave them there while you prep / chop everything else, for at least 15 – 20 minutes.
    • This is to make them expel the sand they are holding on to. They are alive, and when in salt water will open up and spew out all their sand.
  2. While waiting for your mussels to expel sand, put your stock on the stove in a pot:
    • Fry the garlic until light golden, then add the onion. Lower the heat and keep going until they turn transparant.
    • Add the salt and sliced fennel. Keep cooking, the fennel might get a little charred at the edges – that’s fine.
    • Once your fennel is cooked, add the water and lemon juice. Cover the lid and let it stew until you are done with the mussels. If needed, you can add a bit more water – but let it boil down to about 1/4 inch depth from the bottom of the pan before you put the mussels in. The longer you do this for, the better it will taste. Don’t worry if it’s a bit bland now, the mussels will make it approximately 1,000,000 times tastier.
  3. The not-fun part: now that your mussels expelled all their sand, you need to clean the shells and debeard them. Do this over the sink.
    • To debeard: find the hairy weird bits poking out of the shell, and pull them all off. You might need a knife. You don’t want hairs that look like they came from someone’s armpit floating in your steamed mussels.
    • To clean: scrub hard with a dish scrubber / steel wool until the shells look clean. You may need to chip off some especially stubborn bits with a knife.
  4. You’re ready to cook your mussels! Make sure you have the right amount of liquid (about 1/4 inch depth). If not, add water / boil off. Make sure the liquid is at a rolling boil, then throw in all the clean mussels and close the lid on the pot tightly. Count around 6 minutes. Look through the lid – are the mussels open? If not you can give it a little longer. If they are, your mussels are ready!
  5. Add pepper. After that, you can either serve immediately, or you can remove the mussels and boil the stock down further before pouring it back over the cooked mussels. Your choice. I cooked mine down 🙂
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Dreams of Plum Ice Cream

Apologies up front – I don’t have a picture of the final ice cream.

Sorry. I took it to a friend’s house, and was late and too busy eating, and even managed to get a nice warmed spoon out to scoop it on to a plate in that nice egg-like shape. And then I forgot to take the picture. I also forgot to scoop it nicely but that’s another story.

So all you have is this measly process photo.

Plum + Cream

What to do, right? Make it yourself. Pretend it looks as good as that indulgent picture of cream and plum puree looks. Dream about if for a couple of days (yes I did that)

I have tried many times to make ice cream, and even took an ice cream course at Tom’s Palette in Singapore. My one and only cooking class, yays.

I have never been able to reproduce the results at home. Even though ice cream is one of my favourite things. I probably like a good ice cream better than cake (gasp). It is a gift that keeps giving, patiently waiting for you in the freezer until you need it most. Cake is fickle, it goes dry and weird after a few days. But, alas. No ice cream-making luck so far.

Until this day!

A whole new world of ice cream has opened up. Beware friends, fatness beckons.

Also – I don’t have an ice cream maker, only a food processor with a strong engine (hello, Rambo ;)). Hooray for multi-purpose appliances! If you saw the size of my kitchen, you’d understand.

Plum Ice Cream

Basic recipe adapted from A Canadian Foodie‘s rhubarb ice cream, various proportions edited. 

Plum puree

Will give you excess puree – eat it with yoghurt for breakfast 🙂

6~8 plums
4 tablesp sugar – or to taste

  1. Whizz the plums in a food processor to break them down.
  2. Add the sugar, and cook at around medium-high heat in a pan for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Add more sugar to taste. 
  3. When the consistency and sweetness is as you like, return to the food processor and blitz until the puree isn’t lumpy anymore. Cool and set aside. 

Ice cream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup of milk – I used skinny, that’s all I had that day
115g sugar
1/4 teasp salt
1.5 cups plum puree
1.25 cups heavy cream

  1. Heat the milk, sugar, and salt in a pot, until it warms up to around 50 degrees (a bit too hot to touch, but not very hot). Stir regularly. 
  2. Add the egg yolks, one by one. Turn up the heat a bit to medium, and keep stirring for about 15 minutes. You want to get the custard to set a bit – if you dip in a wooden spoon, it will coat the back of it. And if you swipe your finger across the coated spoon, the streak where you swiped your finger will stay clear of custard (I’ll take pictures next time, promise)
  3. Mix the plum into the cream.
  4. Strain the custard into the plum-cream, and whisk until it cools down. Or stick it in the fridge. Mix it again by hand when it’s cool.
  5. Put it in the freezer in a metal container for around 45 minutes. After that, remove and blitz in the food processor on a high speed, until creamy-looking.
  6. Freeze again, 6 hours up until over night. Then cut it into pieces and process again until creamy.
  7. Freeze again for a couple of hours before eating.

 

 

More Easy Vegetables: Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Easy vegetable recipes are pretty much my staple, with a throw-everything-in-and-fry omelette and rice.

Here is yet another one. Sometimes, dinner is for watching Masterchef Professional after a long day on Excel, rather than actually cooking.

Be lazy, lik ea bean

Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Learnt it from my uncle, this works with any green / leafy veg

3-4 servings of green beans, chopped
2 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp soya sauce
1 teasp sugar, brown / white
A dash of white pepper

2 thin slices of ginger – for blanching. They don’t even need to be skinned, just clean 🙂

  1. Boil some water in a pan, and drop in the two slices of ginger. Cover with a lid, and bring everything to a rolling boil. 
  2. Blanch the  beans for 30 seconds or so, taste one to check done-ness. If it’s how you like it (I like mine under-done), drain off the water and transfer to a bowl. If not, keep checking until it is cooked enough.
  3. While hot, pour all other ingredients into the bowl, and stir well. Taste. Adapt as you like.

Baked Real Whole Fish

Oh woe is me, for the want of barbecued fish but lack of a barbecue.

Photo 25-02-2013 18 47 45 Photo 25-02-2013 18 57 26

Sympathy not forthcoming, I resolved to remedy this disaster.

I ended up making baked fish with a Thai inspired sauce (what is it with me and Asian adaptations at the moment?? Note to self, please don’t let your angmoh side start getting in control of things here. If you start adapting classics like claypot chicken rice, part of you will die inside.)

Photo 25-02-2013 19 23 54

Anyway, not that it makes any of this it more acceptable, but I did note that this style of cooking = moist soft fish while retaining a nice slight char on the sauce flavours at the end.

Photo 25-02-2013 19 56 30

Thai Style Baked Fish

Method from Thaifood.About.com, edited to suit the flavour I wanted. 

Medium red snapper

10 cloves garlic
2 sticks lemongrass – white part only
1 small red chilli
1 green chilli
4 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp oyster sauce
2 tablesp fish sauce
3 teasp brown sugar
Zest of 1/4 of a large lime
Juice of 1 a large lime
A large bunch of coriander

Tin foil
An oven-safe dish large enough to hold your fish – to prevent drips

  1. Clean and scale your fish, if this hasn’t already been done.
  2. In a good food processor, dump in all the sauce ingredients except for the lime juice and the coriander.
    1. Add 80% of the coriander, reserving the rest for garnish
    2. Add half the lime juice
  3. Blend everything. Taste, and adjust lime juice and sugar as necessary.
  4. When you’re happy, roll out enough tin foil to encase the fish and drop the fish in the middle of it. Pack a couple of tablespoons of paste into the fish cavity. Slash the sides of the fish vertically a couple of times, and pack some paste into there too. Make sure paste coats both sides of the entire fish. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of sauce / paste for later.
  5. Loosely wrap the fish in the tin foil, and place in the oven safe dish. This prevents drippage and makes your life easier later on.
  6. Bake at 190 degrees C for around 20 minutes, adjust if your fish is bigger. Mine was a medium sized fish.
  7. Check if the fish is done (i.e., flesh inside the cuts on the side of the body is no longer translucent). If so, open the top of the tinfoil, pour in the rest of the sauce. Turn the oven to max / grill setting, and grill the exposed fish for around 5 minutes, or until the top reaches your desired level of charred-ness.

Cure-All for All that Ails

Cure-all of the ancients. Need I say more?


Yum yum sniff croak

 

Fine, I will. This is what I have when I’ve caught a sore throat, flu, or anything else unpleasant (that still allows me to eat). It makes all stomachs happy and even third parties will attest to its healing properties.

It is also very comforting in winter when the world is cold and cruel outside. (Psychological medicine?)

Basic Chinese Porridge (Congee / “Chook”)

I always struggle to remember my basic Chinese porridge recipe just when I need it – when I’m sick and my brain is fuddled. So, when making it as a healthy person, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write everything down (finally!).  

If you’re not sick, serve congee with a couple of sides: for example, sweet soya sauce fried fish, or a stir fried vege. Something with a strong taste can be nice (though not sambal / curry in my view). Today I served with a simple sesame-sugar long bean side.

4 cloves garlic
1.5 cm ginger
1 egg
2 dessert spoons soya sauce
1.5 rice cups of rice
7.5  rice cups water
1 any type of stock cube – or fresh if you have it 🙂

A handful of peanuts – optional, I don’t usually add this, just tried it out today
Any extras – cubed meat / fish, prawns (peeled), or veg

Sesame oil
A dash of white pepper

Yield: about 4 – 6 servings, depending on how much you eat each time.

  1. Mince ginger and garlic, then fry in a pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the rice (unrinsed), water, stock cube, and peanuts if using. Simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes until it thickens. If it remains too thin, simmer with the lid off for a while.
  3. Add soya sauce, stir in.
  4. Crack in the egg, stir in.
  5. Add any extras – fish / meat, vege if using. Cover and simmer until fully cooked. Don’t stir! Add a little extra water if it is getting too thick.
  6. Sprinkle on a little sesame oil and white pepper, garnish and serve. I garnished with fried garlic flakes.
    Garnish options, if you have them on hand: 

    • Spring onion, chopped
    • Fried garlic
    • Fried onions
    • Fried ginger
    • Fish / chicken flosses
    • Fresh coriander
      …the list is endless!

Note: freezes well. Add a little water when you reheat.

As my “extra”, I added a little fish and mussels in a soya sauce-sesame marinade:

Fish and Mussels Soya Sauce-Sesame Marinade (for Chinese Porridge)

Inspired by Smoky Wok.

A handful of mixed fish cubes and mussels
3 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp balsamic vinegar – I didn’t have Chinese vinegar, which would have been better
1/2 teasp sugar
A pinch of flour

  1. Mix everything up and leave it to sit while the rice is cooking. Then add during Step 5 (see above). 

Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

Otherwise known as “what I thought would be a waste of strawberries”.

Strawberries are pretty much perfection all on their own – they don’t need anyone fiddling around with them. Why would anyone waste good strawberries by cooking them?

Hence, I don’t really appreciate things like strawberry ice cream, strawberry pie, strawberry sauce, strawberry jam. Because I feel that it would have been better to gorge oneself silly on fresh strawberries.

Are you sure this is a good idea? Doesn't look like much but omg

But. I happened to buy a box of cheap strawberries, and some of them were pretty mushy. You know that feeling where you open the box and the middle part is all mushy and you feel really really sad? Yes, well. That was me.

However, I must not waste strawberries. I had heard strawberry balsamic reduction mentioned before on food blogs – but never really thought it was worth the strawberries. However, given that I had mushy strawberries, I figured I may as well give it a shot.

Oh my goodness.

My tastebuds have never known such heaven.

I need to make a cheese cake now, just to share this discovery with others. If all the strawberries in the world were 2D black and white movies, these are 3D technicolour with motion seats.

I ate mine over unsweetened greek yoghurt and some peaches / plums that I got from the market for $1 (for a whole box!!! more on that later)

Oh so unattractive pictures * embarrassed*

*cough* I ate it again later with caramel and macadamia ice cream.

Cheating Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

I don’t have a source for this, I just winged it based on the words “caramelised strawberry balsamic reduction”

1/2 a punnet of strawberries, washed and halved
1 tablesp balsamic vinegar
3 heaped teasp brown sugar

  1. I put everything in the toaster oven for 15 minutes on 200 degrees C. Halfway, take it out and stir. 
  2. Leave it to thicken as it cools. Control yourself, it’s really hot and you can easily burn your mouth / fingers.

On Asian Adaptations and Silken Tofu

I like silken tofu but I never know what to eat it with except soya sauce, spring onion + friends. Sometimes you need a little more kick than a peaceful meal of steamed silken tofu with soya sauce can provide.

Pre-sauce Post-sauce

Enter Szechuan inspired tofu.

Now, I hate Asian food adaptations as much as the next purist, especially because they are generally bland-ed down versions of the real stuff, but when you have just moved house and possess only half the necessary storecupboad staples, well, there isn’t really much else you can do.

Rest assured that at least this adaptation is far from bland.

A mess of peanuts

(Anyone else hate the words “silken tofu”?? Sounds so unappetising. I didn’t even know it was called that until a year or so ago).

Lunchtime!

Szechuan Inspired Tofu

No real source here – I checked out a couple of page for various other things then threw some stuff together. 

1 block silken tofu
1/4 cup peanuts, unsalted

4 garlic, peeled
1.5cm ginger, peeled
2 red chilli (or one large long red chilli)
1 tablesp kicap manis
3 tablesp light soya sauce
1 teasp white vinegar
1 teasp brown sugar
1/3 cup water
A pinch of flour – flour or cornflour are both okay

  1. Steam tofu!
  2. Meanwhile, put the garlic, ginger, and chilli in a chopper. Blend to a rough paste.
  3. Pour all the sauces into the garlic / ginger / chilli mixture, and let them all sit until the tofu is almost finished cooking.
  4. Toast the peanuts… for no more than 5 minutes! I used a toaster oven and burnt mine.
  5. In a pot, fish out most of the garlic / ginger / chilli and fry in a little oil over medium heat.
  6. When the ginger and garlic turns a little golden and becomes fragrant, add the rest of the sauce and 1/3 cup of water.
  7. Set the heat to high. Let the mixture come to a boil and simmer down until the sauce is black and reduced a little. Then, add the pinch of flour and stir until the sauce thickens.
  8. Pour sauce and peanuts over steamed tofu and serve hot, with rice.