Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Life through instagram

There are a lot of stories behind my instagram photos, and I don't always get to tell them in the short captions accompanying the posts. These are some of those stories. 

On flowers

I am not normally into flowers, like ever. And yes, you read it right, I am not into flowers. Yes they are beautiful, yes they bring smiles to people's faces and all that jazz. I just don't like them. Le husb knows this very early on, and he bought me flowers once, and let's just say that he wasn't expecting my reaction. In retrospect, I must have appeared ungrateful, but it saved me from a lifetime of 'torture'. These days, I receive flowers randomly from various people I met. I am thankful for this token of gratitude (and there is this little voice inside that wishes for shoes instead).

For my last birthday, I was the delighted recipient of two identical bunches of flowers from the Little Flowers Company. A happy coincidence like this always makes me laugh, I mean, what were the odds of receiving the same bunch of flowers delivered at the same time? They were from three different people, one of whom had the most gorgeous manicure as pictured above.

On food preparation aka cooking

There are some people in this planet who plan their meals, and then cook them from scratch, and they seemingly effortlessly manage to do this on a regular basis as if it is just another part of living - and it actually is. I am trying to be one of those people. I have successfully incorporated some form of exercise routine over the past couple of years out of my desire to actually be healthier, and I do need to eat on a regular basis for the rest of my life, so it is probably a good idea to get into this whole cooking and preparing my food thing sorted out soon.

I don't believe that I have an aversion to cooking per se, but I do have an aversion to cutting things - fruits, vegetables, meat - anything. I have non-existent knife skills. If I can get away with cooking without doing much chopping, slicing and the like, I think it would be a lot easier to get a handle on. In fact, the cooking portion of the whole food prep thing is actually the easier bit - and also fun, because hey, I get to experiment! Needless to say, I tend to modify recipes - mostly out of necessity because I am (1) allergic to coconut and (2) gluten-intolerant.

The making of banana pancakes

successful kitchen experiment: banana pancakes with caramelised banana. doesnt look good, but le boyf likes! #banana #pancakes #bananapancakes #icooked

My friend gave me the recipe for Yotam's sweet potato cakes (here), which I tried to make a couple of times with varying degrees of success (the first was a disaster). I didn't actually modify that recipe per se, but I wasn't following it to the t, which was probably the root of the issue (and the subsequent sub-par result). I was talking to my friend's girlfriend about this, which led us to discussing what other forms of 'cakes' could we make - the most obvious being (white) potato cakes (duh), followed by the next candidate: bananas.

Fast forward to a few experiments later - there we have it. Scrumptious banana pancakes, devoured with varying degrees of eagerness, presumably because past the second experiment, we were pretty much banana-ed out. Despite frequent experimenting, I am afraid I still haven't gotten this thing figured out, thus the discrepancies in the quality of output. For those who are wondering, this is what I basically do:

  • Mash some super ripe bananas in a bowl. These bananas are the ones covered with brown spots, you know, the ones that you are tempted to throw away because they look so ... ugly. But they are perfect for this dish! 
  • Mix with a beaten egg and some flour (use gluten free flour if you are gluten intolerant, otherwise use the normal version). The aim is to get a semi thick consistency batter, so use your own judgment. I use one egg to two bananas to a handful of flour. 
  • Add your favourite 'topping' into the batter, the clear favourite so far being sultanas, but you can add any dried fruits you want (just chop them up first if they are chunky). I also add cinnamon powder for some fragrance, but you can skip this if you don't feel like it. 
  • Melt some butter and fry the banana batter. 
  • OPTIONAL: I chop up some bananas and cook them with some butter on the same pan (don't wash it first). This simple process caramelises the banana pieces beautifully. You can add sugar if you want, but I skipped it because I think there's enough (natural) sugar in the bananas. 

The making of chicken peri coke

I am not really sure on how this happened but I found a bottle of coke in the fridge that was fast losing its fritz. I intended to cook chicken that evening (due to some intense protein cravings) marinated with peri peri sauce, and thought to myself that adding coke into the mix might just be the thing that could get my creative juices flowing. I tried previously to cook garlic chicken lemonade, which was surprisingly nice, and I figured applying similar principles would work here.

(another) successful kitchen experiment: chicken-peri-coke doesn't look too enticing but le boyf likes! served with caramelised onion chilly sauce on the side. i obviously have been watching one too many cooking shows!#icooked #chicken

This one is actually so simple that it is rather embarrassing to disclose the details. Grab some chicken, pour some peri-peri sauce and coke and tomato sauce, with some garlic and onion. At this point, you have two options. First, you can let the chicken marinate for an hour or so, and then cook it however you want to (fry, grill, etc). Second (and this is what I did), quickly poach the chicken in the coke mixture, followed by a roast in the oven until the chicken is cooked. Add whatever vegetables you want - obviously, the root vegetables you have to cook with the chicken, and for other vegetables, like the capsicums above, you put in the tray about five minutes before the chicken is ready. Oh, remember to baste the chicken so that it remains moist, with the most enhanced flavour.

And to appear sophisticated, make a sauce to drizzle over the chicken from the left over poaching liquid (or marinate, depending on which option you used). If you have a lot of liquid, all you need to do is to thicken it - use diluted corn flour or butter and flour mix or whatever preferred thickening method you have up your sleeve.

And then, serve with rice, or bread, or whatever you want. We ate this chicken with salad and rice. One more thing, you gotta add salt and pepper to your liking. It really is doesn't matter when you add these, just make sure that you do. I successfully forgotten to add these during the cooking process, so I added them at the very end, no biggie.

On chocolate barring

I asked a friend to come over my place because (1) I missed her and (2) I wanted a taster to my kitchen experiments. Le husb is the designated taster in the house, and I think he has a tendency to be biased, you know, the whole when your wife cooks for you, you gotta be supportive by telling her that everything's nice kind of thing (happy wife = happy life). In order to entice her to come over, I asked her if there's any particular recipe that she wanted to try. She sent over 3 or 4 recipes (with pictures to boot!) and I picked the easiest one available because ... laziness.

#repost @angel_xin.yi with @repostapp --- Treats! Made from scratch with love by @drbelleb

The recipe provided I had to modify out of necessity. First, I took out all the coconut components (coconut oil and shredded coconuts). Second, I took out all the sugar components. I tried to make it gluten free, but didn't end up executing it as such, which really means, I can't eat much of these babies (without suffering in pain) which is okay because I don't have a sweet tooth.

This is also embarrassingly simple. Melt some chocolate of choice (white, milk or dark), mix with peanut butter and butter, then add in some nuts of choice, oats (the non-gluten free component here) and dried fruits of choice. Spread the mix in a tray and put in the fridge to solidify (takes about 30 mins or so). Then cut up into slices or pieces, then eat. Serve with tea or coffee, or milk!

Needless to say, this was a crowd popular, the 'crowd' being my dear friend, le husb and le husb's friend. I unfortunately forgot to ask my friend to bring these home for her boyf (who is my good friend), whom I'm pretty sure, out of jealousy, remarked that it was impossible for me to make low sugar chocolate bars. Oh well. His sentiment would have been accurate until these happened.

On Boo's birthday

Every household, I think, has a designated cook, just like every household has a designated CFO, or even CEO. I am obviously not the designated cook of this household because I am still figuring out this whole cooking thing. It was le husb's birthday and for some weird reason, I decided to cook everything from scratch. I made another batch of chocolate bars - slightly different because I added coffee into the mix to make the bars taste bitter. If I were to do this again, I would do it with a better quality cooking chocolate, like one with a lower sugar content, although I am not sure how this would affect the flavour/taste of all the additional material. The one combination I just thought about is one with orange zest and a dash of orange juice!

boo's birthday dinner cooked by me! turns out i can totally do this! #icooked
The rest was not so easy, probably because there were a few things to cook to make this meal. The couscous was cooked with chicken stock and dressed with olive oil and sultanas. The sultanas are optional, but cooking the couscous with chicken stock means it is erring on the salty side (hold off on the salt), so the sultanas add bursts of sweet surprises on the palette. The chickpeas were combined with sweet paprika and chillies, red capsicum, carrot and tomatoes to make this monochromatic dish. You can't really see it from the above picture, but I added chorizos into this mix (chop them first). If you want to make this vegetarian, just skip this. I honestly don't think the chorizos will make a difference to the flavour of the dish. To the left is beef stroganoff topped with spring onions. This is easier than I thought - onions, garlic, beef, mushroom cooked with butter and thick cream with some worcestershire sauce. The resultant output is a low sugar (could probably do without the sultanas) and gluten free meal!

If these were an indication of how we are going to eat our way through 2015, then I say that we are going to be extremely well fed!

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