recent forays into the kitchen

In my quests to 1) save more money and 2) have a healthier diet, I have been doing a fair bit of cooking in the recent months. I tend to cook double servings in the evenings so I can pack for lunch the following day - this saves me the cost of a dinner and a lunch everyday!

Although I try to plan the home menu to be on the better side of the health-o-meter with a few rules in mind - I try to use fresh produce more instead of processed food these days, no MSG, rarely ever add any salt at all, only olive oil is used for cooking, every meal has the daily minimum required serving of nutrients the body requires, among a few others - I do occasionally reward myself with a few sinful concoctions, especially on weekends.

Here are just some of the homemade creations in the month of January and half of February.

I made a whole lot of wantons with two types of fillings - prawns with marinated minced pork; and fresh shitake mushrooms with chopped carrots and marinated minced pork - which I cooked in two different ways: i) clear wanton soup with a lot of bak choy and ii) Szechuan style dumplings tossed in a self created spicy and sour sauce. I had contemplated deep frying a third batch but decided against it as that dish would have dropped into the negative on the health-o-meter scale.

These fresh shitake - egg tofu - marinated minced pork with chopped carrots stacks are something I came up with on a whim. I sprinkled some spring onions over them to add some colour to the otherwise boring looking dish, added a bit of soy sauce and steamed them in the rice cooker. I have never seen or eaten anything that looks like this but it turned out really yummy! The picture on the left shows the Szechuan style dumplings in the foreground.

This dish below must be the oiliest, fattiest, most indulgent dish created in my kitchen in the last two months. Thanks to Jamie Oliver, the rich and extremely creamy meaty mushroom sauce went perfectly with the oven roasted pork loin and sausage combination. I would very gladly pay AUD25-30 for such a dish cooked to such standards.

On the other end of the scale, these homemade Vietnamese rice paper rolls are so light to eat and so full of goodness I had them for consecutive days when I wasn't feeling in the best of health. Some of what I used for the fillings include: carrots, boiled chicken pieces, spring onions, parsley, cucumbers, boiled prawns, boiled crab sticks, boiled rice vermicelli and crushed almonds or peanuts.

An occasional treat to go with the plain rice paper rolls could be some self marinated honey soy oven baked chicken which can be eaten on its own or shredded to be added as a filling to the rolls.

Another yummy healthy light dinner snack on the home menu was Sang Choy Bao, greatly modified from the traditional versions that usually tag along with the Peking Duck dish when ordered at Chinese restaurants.

I always order the same pasta dish whenever I visit my favourite café along Danks Street - Sopra Café above Fratelli Fresh - Rigatoni Ragu Alla Bolognese. I tried to replicate this dish in my kitchen and got about 80% close to how I expected it to turn out. The following months will definitely see me experimenting a few more times to perfect it to expectations, time permitting.

I had a craving for some assam fish curry and so made some. I am embarrassed to say that instant curry paste pack was used for this although I did contribute some additional seasoning to enhance the taste. Some fresh fish fillets and fish head from the market, lots of tomatoes and onions were all I needed otherwise. I searched everywhere in the vicinity for some lady's fingers (they call them okra here in OZ) but in vain so had to do without them.

Pappadums, cucumber slices and roti prata that were the substitutes for rice and salad went perfectly well with the assam fish curry.

In contrast with the assam fish curry, this Thai red curry with king prawns was cooked from scratch, ie. the chilli paste and curry sauce were blended from raw ingredients.

Because of my longstanding history with such respiratory ailments, I decided to revive my herbal soup drinking habit. I now try to make these supposedly lung nourishing soups fortnightly, if not every week.

On scorching summer days such as this, salads are lifesavers on the dinner table. I had lots of fun making this Tuscan salad of basil leaves, tomatoes and crispy ciabatta which also happens to be my favourite salad from the many listed in Jamie Oliver's big book of recipes lying in the kitchen.

Another of the many first time attempts on top of those listed above, was this virgin try at making lasagne. A vegetarian one - asparagus and green pea lasagne was chosen in order to lessen the guilt at cooking and eating such a rich sinful dish.

My previously non existent cooking genes seem to be surfacing and I'm all set to flaunt it with a vengeance!


Xuan-er said...

really impressive
i also wanna some bites

D.D. said...

You are killing me with all the photos! Argh .....!