Friday, 30 November 2007

Bento tally

A chicken fajita bento. Chicken and peppers fajita filling, grapes, a flour tortilla loosely rolled up, small container of tomato salsa and a mini Babybel cheese.

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Leftover claypot rice (with chicken, shitake, bacon and spring onions) on bottom tier. Top tier: crabsticks on a bed of edemama, half a satsuma orange and grapes.

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Prawn and egg fried rice, stir fried green beans and garlics in garlic sauce, and cherry tomatoes.

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Soft rolls filled with marmalade ham and salad leaves, a satsuma orange, cherry tomatoes and caerphilly cheese.

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Fish fragrant aubergine/eggplant (鱼香茄子)

I had one aubergine left that had to be used, and some minced pork. Putting the two together made me think of this Szechuan dish. I have made it before a couple of times with packet sauces but it never tasted quite right. The last time I cooked this from scratch, it tasted pretty good. This time I found another recipe which seems to work well, and the addition of black vinegar really gave it the authentic flavour. You can add some dried chilli, Sichuan peppercorn or chilli oil to turn up the heat if you prefer.

Fish-fragrant aubergine/eggplant (鱼香茄子)

In spite of its name, there is no fish in this dish at all. The 'fish fragrant' term comes from the vinegar-based sauce, which is often used in the cooking of fish.

Ingredients (serves 2):
- 1 medium or large aubergine, sliced into stips about 1cm thick and 5cm long
- Oil for frying and cooking
- 200g minced pork
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp chili bean paste (香辣豆瓣酱)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp light Soy Sauce
- 2 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
- 100ml water
- 2 tsp Chinese black vinegar (I use Chin Kiang brand)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Coriander or spring onions for garnish, finely chopped.

Sprinkle the aubergine slices with salt and leave for 30min to draw out some of the moisture and bitterness. Rinse and pat dry. Skip this step if using the long and slim Asian variety.

Fry the aubergine slices in hot oil for about 3-4 min, until slightly golden. Drain on some paper towels. This step is optional but gives extra flavour to the dish. Aubergine tends to soak up oil when it is still raw so I usually put it in the microwave on full power for 2 minute so that it is semi-cooked and absorbs less oil. Or you can just start from the step below.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds and then add the minced pork. Brown the meat and break up any lumps, cooking until hardly any pink colour remains. Add the chilli bean sauce, water, sugar and light soy sauce and mix well. Add the aubergine slices, stir to mix and simmer for a few minutes.

Add the cornstarch mixture and stir through. Simmer for a minute to thicken the sauce. Finally, add the black vinegar and sesame oil and mix evenly. Remove from heat and serve with a sprinkle of chopped coriander or spring onions.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Salmon and mushroom linguine in cream sauce

We've been having chicken for a while and then steak before that, so I thought it's time for some fish. I aim to cook fish/seafood at least once or twice a week. Fish is brain food and variety is also good for one's diet.

I would have cooked this with penne or shell pasta but I didn't have any on hand, so linguine had to do. Pasta shapes works better for this recipe because the cream sauce is rather sticky which makes the pasta strands a little unwieldy on the fork.

Salmon and mushroom linguine in cream sauce

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 fillets of skinless and boneless salmon, cut into cubes
4-5 button mushrooms, thinly slices
2 stalks of spring onions, sliced into 1-inch sections on the diagonal
1 clove of garlic, crushed
small cup of frozen peas
150ml double cream
Penne or other pasta shapes, enough for 2

Directions:
1. Cook pasta in boiling water according to pack instructions. While the pasta is cooking, heat some butter or olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic and mushrooms.
2. Add the spring onions and salmon, cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the cream and frozen peas and simmer for a few minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced.
3. Add the cooked pasta into the pan and toss well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.

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Monday, 26 November 2007

Last week's bento

Being away for much of the week meant only a few bento lunches. If you recall what we had for dinners last week, these were mainly leftovers!

Maki sushi with cherry tomatoes and soy sauce in chick container
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Top tier: A sweetcorn, crabstick and cucumber salad with cherry tomatoes on the side. Bottom tier: Stir fried rice vermicelli with chicken, sausage, red peppers and snow peas.
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Top tier: prawn fishcake with Kewpie mayo, edemame and container of ketchup. Bottom tier: onigiri and satsuma orange.
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Click post title for full recipe

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Ostrich steak

I bought some ostrich steaks at the food market last weekend and finally had the chance to cook them this weekend. Ostrich has the texture of beef but not the distinctive taste (which some people I know do not like). In fact, it tastes faintly gamey, like pheasant or duck, but not quite. Ostrich is very low in fat which makes for lovely firm meat but goes dry and tough very quickly if overcooked.

The best way to treat the steaks was to do as little as possible to them. I rubbed the fillets with olive oil and a paprika salt mix (with paprika, cumin seeds, dried chilli, sea salt, black peppercorns), and then grilled them on a griddle pan. Only 2-3 minutes on each side for medium-rare to avoid drying out the meat. Served with spring onion mash, grilled asparagus, grilled mushroom and caramelised red onions (red onion gravy on the side).

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It also gave us a chance to break out the new steak knives. I adore kitchen and dining ware. Our kitchen and dining room cupboards are bulging at the seam and I'm still acquiring more!

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(Entry tagged under 'beef' since it's the most approximate!)

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Thursday, 22 November 2007

Banana bread

I wonder why it's called banana bread when it is essentially cake-like? Is it because it's baked in a loaf tin?

Andy's colleagues had been asking when I was making banana bread again. The first time I made it, I gave him some to take into work because that was an experimental batch and I was making another batch two days later to take to the in-laws. Apparently they went down really well :)

Banana bread

It's very much like making muffins. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stir a few times until just combined and then pour into a loaf tin to bake. Easy peasy.


Dry ingredients:

180g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
125g melted butter (cooled)
100g castor sugar
2 eggs
3 medium or 4 small very ripe bananas (mashed with a fork)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
80g chopped walnuts (optional)
100g raisins


Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.

  • Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf tin or line with greaseproof/baking paper.

  • Mix the dry ingredients in medium-sized bowl with a spoon.

  • In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla extract. Then beat in the egg and finally add the mashed bananas.

  • Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients about a-third at a time, stirring well after each bit.

  • Stir in the chopped walnuts and raisins if using.

  • Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour-1 hour and 15 minutes. When ready, a toothpick or skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. Leave the tin on a rack to cool for 5 minutes before turning the bread out to cool on the wire rack. Makes around 8 slices.


In a recipe book that I was reading, it said to cover the top of the loaf tin with foil halfway through baking to prevent the top from over-browning. The top of mine did get quite dark and crusty, which made it slightly awkward to slice (with the middle being softer especially when still warm). Maybe I will try that next time.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Fried bee hoon (炒米粉 stir fried rice vermicelli) and sweetcorn egg-flower soup (蛋花汤)

Fried rice is one of those fantastic leftovers dishes. Leftover rice, cooked with eggs, peas, mushrooms, chicken or any random vegetable or meat in the fridge or freezer. Fried bee hoon (rice vermicelli) is similar in that one could throw in almost anything at hand and it would still taste good.

I could do a more authentic Singaporean/Malaysian version as seen here but I needed to clear out the fridge yesterday. So this is a clear-out-the-fridge version instead, using random bits of chicken, shitake mushrooms, a pepper, mange tout (snow peas) and sausage from the fridge.

Stir fried rice vermicelli

Ingredients (serves 2):
100g dried rice vermicelli
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 sausages, cooked and then sliced into rounds
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
100g mange tout/snow peas, sliced diagonally
5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (soak in hot water if using dried)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
oil for cooking
light soy sauce
oyster sauce
Sweet dark soy sauce*
Sesame oil
Chilli oil (optional)

Garnish:
Omelette strips
2 shallots, thinly sliced
Handful of coriander or spring onions, chopped


First, soak the rice vermicelli in hot water for about 15 minutes or according to instructions on the packet. Then drain and set aside. Make a thin egg omelette using one or two eggs, slice into shreds and set aside. Thinly slice two shallots and fry in oil until they are brown and crisp. Drain them on some paper towels.

Using the oil leftover in the wok or large frying pan, cook the chicken for a few minutes, add in the mushrooms and season with 1 tsp of oyster sauce. Then aside.

Add more oil if needed and then add in minced garlic. Stir until they start to colour and then add peppers and mange tout and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Season with 1 tbsp of light soy sauce.

Turn the heat right down and add in the rice vermicelli, chicken, mushroom and sausages. Add 2 tbsp of oyster sauce, 1 tbsp of light soy sauce and 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce and mix well. Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil and chilli oil. Dish onto two plates and garnish with the omelette strips, fried shallots and chopped spring onions or coriander.

(* I use ABC Kecap Manis Sweet Soy Sauce or Tiger Brand dark soy sauce by Cheun Chong Food Industries, Singapore. These are thick and sweet and very different from the dark soy sauce that you find in supermarkets or most Asian markets which are more fluid and not sweet. You can still use normal Chinese dark soy sauce for the colour although you will not get the sweetness.)

I had leftover crabsticks from making sushi over the weekend and more spring onions so I made a sweetcorn soup to go with the fried bee hoon. I usually make this with fresh or tinned crab meat but hey the point was to use up my leftovers, right? The crab meat can also be substituted with finely shredded chicken or just stick to sweetcorn for a vegetarian soup.

Crabstick and sweet corn soup

Ingredients:
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of spring onions, chopped
100g sweetcorn (I used half a small tin. Frozen or fresh is fine)
3 crabsticks, sliced
1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water
1 egg, beaten

Heat a little oil in a pot, add in the spring onions and stir for about 30 seconds. Then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Add in sweetcorn. Turn the heat down to a simmer and pour in the cornflour mixture slowly, stirring to prevent any lumps from forming. When the soup has thickened slightly, add in the crabstick. Pour the egg in a slow trickly and stir the soup at the same time to form thin strands (蛋花). Serve immediately. (The spring onions will turn brown if the soup is left heated for a long time.)

Click post title for full recipe

Monday, 19 November 2007

Melon with parma ham

We had some friends over for dinner during the weekend. I didn't want to spend too much time in the kitchen while people were having fun elsewhere. The best thing to do would be for a no-fuss no-cook starter and a main course that could be cooked in advance.

For starter, we had melon wrapped in parma ham and drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil. Very fresh and clean tasting with a savoury touch. My thumb slipped on the olive oil so there was too much on the plate. Oops.
Melon with parma

Main course was chicken and chorizo pasta based on a recipe here. Cooked earlier in the afternoon and then reheated while waiting for the pasta to cook just before serving.

Dessert was an utterly sinful dark chocolate fondant torte from that left us barely able to move after that (with half the pudding left!). You know how most boxed desserts often have suggested serving sizes that are utterly impractical (e.g. 'Serves 8' when it would serve 4 or 6). In this case, it said something like serves 8 skinny slices, 6 regular slices or 4 greedy slices. And believe me, it would have been more like 4 'sick' slices. There were four of us and we could hardly move after having had half of the torte. Our tongues felt like they were stuck to the roofs of our mouths after the first bite, the chocolate was so dense and rich. No photos of the main course or pudding because we were too intent on eating it! If you like dark chocolate, go for it.


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Sunday, 18 November 2007

Nottingham food market

I love markets of all sorts - craft markets, general goods market, farmers market, plants and gardening markets. But most of all I love food markets. The bustle, the crowd of food loving people, the smell of snacks and food cooking in the air, the variety of fresh produce on offer, and ingredients that you often won't find at most supermarkets. And the tasting. And some food markets, like the London Borough Market, one could get filled up just going around the stalls and tasting the numerous samples.

Nottingham does not have a regular market but as part of the run-up to christmas a food market has been set up once a month in mid-October, mid-November and late-December (to coincide with the annual German christmas market and a new ice rink in the market square this year). I've been to the market last month and came away with some really nice produce and was eager to visit again this month.

We were having some friends over for the afternoon and dinner yesterday so it was a pretty quick walk around the market without lingering too much. But I'll be back next month!

Organic burgers and sausages from the French Longhorn breed
Organic burgers and sausages from the French Longhorn breed

Various fortified wines and cider on sale
Selling wine

Ostrich burgers. I bought some ostrich fillet steaks and kangaroo burgers for later in the week.
Ostrich burgers

Organic produce
Organic produce

Bread
Bread

Cakes and bakes
Cakes and bakes

Different varieties of cheddar that we bought, having tried the lemon & pepper and garlic & coriander, which were gorgeous. If you are in the UK, you can order direct from their farm shop at http://www.postacheese.com/
Different varieties of cheddar

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Saturday, 17 November 2007

Bento tally for the week

Catching up on bento made and eaten this past week:

Top tier: potato salad with spring onions and edamame. Bottom tier: Prawn fishcake, cherry tomatoes and container of ketchup
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It's getting pretty cold now and it would be really nice to have a hot lunch... Woe is me that there is no microwave at work. I think it's time to bring a thermos of soup into work again soon. Top tier: A small bread roll cut in half and a chocolate heart. Bottom tier: Cherry tomatoes, melon, container of butter for the bread and garlic and coriander cheese. Chunky vegetable soup in the thermos flask.
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Top tier: Scotch egg cut in half with parsley garnish and cherry tomatoes. Bottom tier: Lemon and parsley cous cous with a cherry tomato.
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King prawn fried rice, french beans omelette and stir fried french beans and carrots.
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Friday, 16 November 2007

Apple and cinnamon muffins

There was a one-day cake sale today in my office held in aid of Children in Need. I contributed some apple and cinnamon muffins (and bought some lemon drizzle cake, yum). Another chance to use more of the garden apples and tweak the recipe that I used previously. This one turned out much better than the last, I think I'm going to stick to this recipe from now on.

Ingredients (makes 12):

300g plain flour
150g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
100g melted butter (cooled)
240ml buttermilk (milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice) or normal milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g cooking apples, peeled and chopped (roughly 2 small apples)
1 tsp cinnamon
Topping: 2 tbsp Demerara sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 200 C/gas mark 6. Put flour, caster sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a mixing bowl. Stir to mix ingredients.
2. In another bowl or large measuring jug, mix egg, milk, butter and vanilla extract.
3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir a few times. Add apple and cinnamon and mix gently to form a lumpy batter. DO NOT OVERMIX as muffins will become dry and tough. Batter should be lumpy with bits of flour.

Muffin mixture

4. Grease a muffin tin or line with paper cups. Fill each hole about ¾ full and sprinkle the Demerara topping on top. Bake in middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden and well-risen. Muffins are done when a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Apple and cinnamon muffins, improved

Andy stepped in when they were baking in the oven and said it smelled like christmas. I think it's the cinnamon. I'll probably make them again next month for a christmas party since we didn't get to have any with it all going to the cake sale!

Click post title for full recipe

Tofu and omelette

Another not-too-chewy dinner last night, in case Andy broke off his filling again! I made a tofu dish based on this recipe. I chose to use oyster sauce instead for the gravy and skipped the egg.

Silken tofu topped with prawns and shitake mushrooms in oyster sauce, garnished with spring onions.
Tofu with prawns and mushroom

Cut a box of silken tofu into cubes and put in a dish. Put the chopped prawns and sliced shitake in a pan and saute till cooked, then add in 2 tbsp of oyster sauce and some water. Add in 1 tbsp of cornflour (mixed with a little water to form a watery paste) slowly, stirring to prevent lumps. Simmer the mixture until the gravy thickens and then 1 tsp of sesame oil. Microwave the tofu for a few minutes to warm it up and pour the prawns and mushroom mixture over the top. Garnish with chopped spring onions.

It went with a favourite childhood dish that always reminds me of home. Finely sliced french beans and egg in an omelette. It may not look the prettiest but it's so delicious, and healthy too.

Green beans omelette

Finely slice 100g of green beans and put into a large bowl. Crack in two large eggs and mix well, adding 1 tsp of light soy sauce and a dash of white pepper. Heat some oil in a large frying pan and ladle the mixture into the pan (may need to do this in 2-3 batches depending on the size of your pan). Cook both sides until golden. The simplest thing ever.

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Thursday, 15 November 2007

Chicken and leek casserole

I've forgotten to post about the chicken stew that did finally got made (and eaten) over the weekend. Lovely and warming on a cold day and definitely worth waiting for.
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Ingredients (serves 2) :

Chicken legs and thighs, skin on or off
4 large shallots
1 large carrots, sliced
1 large leek, sliced
4-5 large button mushrooms, sliced
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp plain flour
1 glass of white wine
280ml/ ½ pint of milk (replace with chicken stock for a non-creamy version)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme or mixed herbs

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/gas mark 4.
2. Put a little olive oil in a casserole dish and add chicken thighs and legs. Brown the meat over medium heat and remove.
3. Pour away some chicken fat if there is too much in the pan. Then add the shallots, garlic, leek, carrots and mushrooms and sauté until the vegetables soften and start to take on a little colour.
4. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir well, then add the white wine and chicken stock or milk.
5. Stir the mixture and season with salt and pepper, adding the bay leaf and dried thyme.

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6. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
7. To thicken the gravy, remove the lid and leave casserole in the oven or simmer on the hob for another 5-10 minutes. Serve with new potatoes or fresh crusty bread.

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I should have scattered some fresh chopped parsley to add some green to the palette. But it still tasted good!

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Prawn and pea risotto

Andy had another filling done yesterdat at the dentish so I wanted to cook something that didn't require too much chewing, just in case. I've never made risotto before, even though I quite like them in the restaurants and thought I'll give it a try. People always say that it's simple but you know how it is when cooking something new, it's difficult to know in advance what might go wrong. In any case, it did work beautifully. Even if I realised belatedly that we've almost ran out of frozen peas. Fortunately I had some sugar snap peas left in the fridge so I threw them in too.


Risotto with prawns, peas, sugar snap peas and parsley, with grilled yellow peppers on the side.
Prawn and pea risotto


Ingredients (serves 2):

Chicken or vegetable stock 550ml
Butter 20g
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Dry white wine 100ml
Risotto rice 150g
Peas 1 cup
Prawns, peeled 150g
Grated parmesan cheese 25g
Small handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Shavings of parmesan cheese, to serve

Directions:

1. Place the stock in a saucepan, bring to the boil and keep on a low simmering heat.
2. Heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the prawns briefly till just cooked. Remove and set aside.
3. Melt the butter and olive oil in the same pan. Saute the onions and garlic over moderate heat until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the rice and then white wine, stir well and heat until all surplus liquid has been absorbed.
5. Add a ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir the mixture until all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to add the remaining stock ladle by ladle, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just cooked to al dente.
6. Stir in the peas and prawns to heat through. Add grated parmesan and parsley, stir well, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parmesan shavings and serve.

So, I can now testify that risotto is dead easy to cook (as long as you can stir, you can cook!). I'm going to get some quality dried mushrooms when I'm at the Borough Market and make a mushroom risotto next.

I think it's the starchiness of risotto rice... I was still feeling really full 2 hours after dinner!

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Wednesday, 14 November 2007

About Soy and Pepper

The general stuff:

Soy and Pepper is about recipes, cooking experiments, bento (lunch boxes), thoughts on food and dining and just about anything food-related that I come across. It is an East-meets-West food blog that features food and recipes ranging from Chinese, Thai and Japanese, to British and Mediterranean.

Who is behind Soy and Pepper?

I am an ethnic-Chinese from Singapore currently living in Vancouver, Canada with my husband. I don't have any formal culinary or photography training but I do love cooking and eating and taking photographs and it's been a very enjoyable learning process. My deep interest in food and cooking developed particularly after I moved to the UK. Like many overseas students and expatriates (especially from Asian countries), I miss the delicious, cheap and huge variety of food from home. Since I could not get most of those dishes in restaurants here (at least not easily or cheaply), I started to cook them myself to satisfy my cravings. One thing led to another and soon I found myself cooking, shopping, planning, reading and thinking about food almost all the time!

And I must also acknowledge the husband (AP) who happily munches through my cooking and offers feedback on what works and what doesn't. Thank goodness he has a wide and relatively adventurous palate (for a Brit anyway, heh). And he also waits patiently for his dinners while his wife snaps way too many photos.

Why a food blog?

In 2007, I found that food posts have started to take over my personal blog quite a bit and I would like to devote more space to food and cooking. Having another journal where I can specify the tags and posts to food and recipes also make it easier for me to search for particular ingredients or recipes, since I use this food blog as a personal reference/archive as well. I enjoy playing with different ingredients, recipes, techniques, presentation, and capturing the cooking process and end product the best I can in pictures and in words. It is a nice creative outlet for me and a very tasty hobby!

Why 'Soy and Pepper'?

I love cooking and eating all types of cuisine, from Chinese, Thai and Japanese to British, Italian and French. I therefore wanted a blog title to reflect this East-meets-West approach that I take to food and 'Soy and Pepper' came to mind.

(Yakun Kaya Toast, Singapore Changi Airport, Terminal 2, Arrival Hall)
Traditional Singaporean breakfast

In Singapore and Malaysia, there is a traditional breakfast of soft-boiled eggs with kaya toast, a sort of fusion breakfast as a result of British colonial past. Instead of being placed in an egg cup, the soft-boiled egg is cracked open into a saucer. Dark or light soy sauce and white pepper is added to taste and then eaten with slices of butter and kaya (egg and coconut jam) toast. It seems fitting that my blog title should reflect this meal that is so strongly associated with where I came from.

What's with all the bento stuff?

Making bento is another hobby/lifestyle that I picked up in mid-2007. After years of packing boring sandwiches into work, making and taking bento lunches into work made our lunches much more interesting and is much cheaper and often healthier than cafeteria food. The reasons behind why I do bento can be found here.

What camera do you use?

The older photos (prior to February 2008) were taken with a point-and-shoot Canon Powershot A75. I later gave in to a beginner's digital SLR, the Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi in North America). The lenses I use are Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM and Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II.

Anything else?

I am a food enthusiast who is always on the look-out for new ideas and tips on improving aspects of my cooking and photography. Comments are very welcome (although those of a solicitous or rude nature will be quietly deleted; I do not respond to spam or trolls). I can also be contacted at nilmandra[at]soyandpepper[dot]com.

If you are an overseas Singaporean or Malaysia, I hope you are similarly inspired to recreate food from home and that this website gives you some useful information to do so. Happy cooking!


(Updated 19 August 2008)

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Monday, 12 November 2007

Beef stroganoff

I felt like something beefy for dinner tonight and made beef and mushroom stroganoff. Served with rice and topped with a dollop of crème fraîche, parsley and black pepper. Veg quotient made up with roasted red peppers and courgettes on the side. I love how the oven makes the kitchen nice and warm.

Beef stroganoff and roasted Mediterranean veg

Ingredients (serves 2):

300 beef, cut into thin strips
1 knob of unsalted butter
2 tsp paprika
1 small onion, thinly sliced
150g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
150ml sour cream (I used low fat crème fraîche)
1 tsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Melt butter in a large frying pan, add the paprika and onion and cook slowly until the onion is soft and sweet, but not browned.
2. Add the mushrooms and fry gently for three minutes. Transfer the mixture to a plate and keep warm.
3. Using the same pan, heat some olive oil until hot.
4. Add the beef and fry quickly, seasoning and turning it as you do so, for just over one minute.
5. Return the onion mixture to the pan and pour in the sour cream. Bring to the boil and simmer for a minute or so, until thickened.
6. Return the beef to the pan and heat very gently for one minute - the beef should not be cooked any further.
7. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and serve with rice.

For the roasted Mediterranean veg, simply slice the peppers and courgettes, drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil, seasaon with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, and roast in an oven at 200C/gas mark 6 for 30 minutes.


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Saturday, 10 November 2007

Simple lunch

Sometimes, one just feels like having a non-cooked lunch and the simplicity of warm bread, good cheeses and nourishing soups can be very fulfilling.

Lunch for today was rosemary, sweet pepper and cheese focaccia, a block of Double Gloucester cheese, garlic and coriander cheese and cherry tomatoes.
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And you just can't go wrong with chicken soup.
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Friday, 9 November 2007

Somerset pork

I was going to do chicken stew tonight but was forced to change plans when I got to Sainsbury's. Apparently one of their depots was unexpectedly closed last night which meant they didn't have any delivery of fresh produce today, resulting in almost half of all fruit and veg shelves being empty. Amongst other things, there were no mushrooms and no leeks, which I needed. (Andy reckoned it might have to do with the storm surge in East Anglia and the area having been evacuated last night and this morning.)

So we had somerset pork casserole for dinner instead. Pork and bramley apples (from the garden), buttered new potatoes and steamed baby sweetcorn and mange tout, finished off with chopped parsley. I must admit I used a Schwartz mix, but at least it didn't have any funky E numbers or unpronounceable items in the ingredients list.

Somerset pork casserole

Hopefully we will get chicken stew tomorrow!

(I could have added a teaspoon (or two) of marmite to the pork casserole... But I think Andy would have killed me.)

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Bentos this week

Not many bentos made this week since I was away in Manchester on Thursday and the lack of groceries plus feeling completely wrung out at the end of the day meant no lunches made for today either.

Top tier: grilled chicken with edamame. Bottom tier: onigiri, grapes, mini Babybel cheese and soy sauce in container.

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Prawns in tomato sauce, rice with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and stirfried mange tout (snow peas) with shitake mushrooms in oyster sauce. If the rice in the middle was Thai pineapple rice or biryani, this could have been a traffic light bento, although the folks over at Bento Lunches thought it looked like the Italian, Mexican or Irish flag.

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A simple one: Bacon and leek quiche, cherry tomatoes, grapes and a conference pear

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Thursday, 8 November 2007

Mutant aubergine

Mutant aubergine?

I bought this aubergine (eggplant) from the farmers market last weekend. I initially saw the 'cleavage' and thought it was an aubergine that failed to be twins, and then the sticky out bit (trying to be a third fruit?).

If I had black eye peas on hand, I would have stuck two in above the 'nose'. Or one could think of something more rude, I'm sure...

Cooked this a few nights ago, thinly sliced, dipped in egg (seasoned with light soy sauce and white pepper) and pan fried. Yum. So delicious that we ate it all before I could take a photo.

A friend pointed out that Esther Rantzen would have loved this veg. She was a TV personality/presenter with this show called That's Life years ago. They had a section where viewers sent in odd shaped (and just plain rude-shaped!) vegetables.

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Monday, 5 November 2007

Bento tally for this week

Catching up up last week's bentos:

Roast chicken for Sunday dinner meant leftovers, yay. Monday's lunch was cous cous with garlic and coriander, leftover roast chicken and cherry tomatoes.

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Broccoli drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil, lime and coriander prawns and fried rice with spring onions.

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Onigiri, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and roast chicken

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Chicken pasta salad (finally, the last of the roast chicken!) in honey mustard dressing and coriander, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, mini Babybel cheese and a mango jelly.

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Ham and salad leaves in multi seeded bread, melon and cherry tomatoes.

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Ham and salad leaves in multi seeded bread with a mini Babybel cheese, cucumber, and Kewpie mayo in pig container.

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