Monday, May 31, 2010

A Feminine Dish

I like flowers, and only fresh flowers. Whenever my hubby buys me flowers, it'll move me to tears. Also, flowers make the house feel more homely, especially coming home from a hard day's work, the sight of fresh flowers in the living room greeting the eyes is always warm and assuring.

As you might have guessed, I've entertained the thought of cooking some dishes with flower-related ingredients, though I was a little apprehensive at first that my hubby might be repulsed by such ideas. Anyway, since he'd given me a free hand at preparing meals for him, with only one request that I should not include any shell or mussel-like stuff in the menu (he seems to have a great dislike for these slimy fellows which I could not understand either), I'd figure it's alright with flowers then. Hehe...

Just to make it more palatable (or bearable for his taste buds), I've chosen fresh lily bulbs, stir-fry with brown mushrooms and garnished with edamame (a kinda green baby soybean that you'll find in Japanese eateries). It's fairly simple to cook, and could have taste better with sake added, which I did not manage to this time round.

My hubby's verdict? "Looks like onion but tastes like Bai-He..." Huh? Hello! Bai-He is the Chinese name for lily, you know or not? Haiz... I anyhow cook, he anyhow eat and don't even know what he's eating... Aiyoh!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Unagi Don

The first meal I prepared for my hubby was about one month after renovating our house. We fixed a date on a Friday, just eight days before our wedding, after work to go over to our new home for dinner. It was more than ten years since I last cooked, so naturally I was a little anxious. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to do something simple: Unagi don, or Japanese teriyaki sauce eel with rice, and omelette.

First was to cook the rice in my Zojirushi rice cooker, which usually takes 35-40 minutes. About 10 minutes before it's cooked (usually you can smell the fragance of the rice when it's about done), I'd put in the ready-cooked unagi on top of the rice and let the cooker finish the job. Here's how it looked like when done:

Next was cutting the onions and beating the eggs, then pouring the mixture into a heated wok that was lightly oiled, and stir fry till slightly brown.

It was a quick and easy meal to prepare, really. But judging from my hubby's satisfied expression, I dare say that he's quite happy with it.

Note: I bought the ready-cooked Japanese eel (unagi) flavoured with teriyaki sauce from Carrefour. It's definitely a tasty dish to prepare if you're in a hurry, but at about $9.80-$12.50 a packet, it's certainly not a dish you'll eat everyday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chicken Feet

Today's the eve of holiday, and just last night, my hubby remarked that his company is giving the staff an hour's early release to go home and have some family time. "In that case, why don't you prepare dinner then?" I suggested. "I don't mind, but I anyhow cook, you anyhow eat, OK?" He sure learned fast.

Frankly, my hubby is no stranger to cooking. In fact, he picked up the skill while he was in the States on a six months overseas training some twenty years ago. Though he hardly cooks at home, he never ceases to surprise or delight me when he's called to the task. I had wanted to write about the first meal I prepared for him in our new home, but tonite's dinner touched me so much I decided I had to blog it.

On my way home from work, I smsed my hubby and told him if he's too tired, we could buy back. He replied that he already bought some stuff to prepare tonite's meal, but chose not to reveal what he's up to. I came home a little earlier than him, and when he stepped into the house, he declared the kitchen out of bound to me. Huh! Since the weather was kinda hot, I opted to take a cold shower while he busied himself in my kitchen.

After freshening up, I came into the dining area and there was this aroma that made my tummy growled with hunger. "I'm almost done. Waiting for you before I cook the noodles," he said. Within minutes, he filled up the bowls with Korean kimchi flavoured noodles and  a little soup stock, then proceeded to lay the nicely boiled baby Chinese pakchoi on one side, and my favourite soy sauced deep fried chicken feet* on the other.

It was certainly a delightful surprise to me, and the portions** were just right for the two of us (hubby has always been pretty good in his sense of estimation) so nothing went to waste. I look forward to the next time when he shall cook for me again. Maybe the next holiday when I shall take a break from cooking? Hmm...

* The more elegant name, as it is known to many Chinese, is "Phoenix's claws".
** There's a plate of pakchoi and eight chicken feet in total, actually.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Clipso Modulo

Don't worry. I'm not talking French or Italian here. This is the name of my first pressure cooker by Tefal (a french company, of course!), an 8 litre stainless steel beauty I bought from Tangs.
Mum didn't use one when I was living with her, and even now she still prefers the conventional way of cooking with just the heavy steel wok and the standard steel or claypot for brewing soup.

But I've heard a lot about the benefits of using a pressure cooker, especially from my elder sister who is an avid cook herself. Besides the time-saving advantage, which is important for working women like me with little time to prepare dinner after coming back from work till hubby returns home, a pressure cooker actually makes cooking much easier with minimum attention and best of all, it retains most of the nutrients to ensure a healthier, tastier meal.

Quite simply put, my philosophy in cooking: Fresh is best!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Small but Personal

Today, I'll like to share something about my kitchen. Below is the floorplan of our four-room apartment. The kitchen, which is a little over 100 square foot (about 10 square metre), is located just beside the dining area and about 10 paces from the main door.

To get a better view, this is the kitchen looking from the entrance, with laminated solid plywood cabinets and drawers, and a white homogeneous polymer kitchen top. We decided to install frosted glass wall for the backing to facilitate ease of cleaning up after cooking. In the middle is a toughened glass-top with two gas hobs and an overhead hood where I do most of the cooking.

Here is the kitchen top from another angle, with a paper towel and plastic wrap dispenser mounted at the side cabinet, alongside a portable vacuum cleaner, and an extended power plug. My hubby is the handyman around the house, and he does the fitting and fixing to make sure I have everything within reach where I wanted them to be.

This is the kitchen sink area with the drip pan above, where I keep my cups, bowls and plates.

In order to maximize available space, my hubby fitted two rows of hooks so I can hang all my cooking utensils and tools.

In case you're wondering, I do have a microwave oven, which is placed on top of the washing machine, just next to the fridge, opposite the kitchen cabinets.

Yes, I know my kitchen's kinda small, but it's where I feel free to be myself, to experiment with different recipes and styles of cooking, knowing that I can count on my hubby to clean up the mess I make, and to taste my dishes and give me honest, constructive feedbacks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

J is for Cooking

Those who love cooking will quite likely have watched the film Julie and Julia, which depicts two women of exceptional characters and qualities, and yet shared one common passion: cooking.
Julia Child had, in some ways, revolutionalized the art of cooking with her ground-breaking book Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Julie Powell took up the challenge to try out all the 524 recipes in 365 days and documented each attempt in her blog, a mind-staggering feat for a modern woman who has to juggle between holding a dead-end day job and making time for her relationship.
Both women are admirable in their own ways, to say the least, and inspirational to some extent. But I don't think I want to put myself in that kind of stressful situation that Powell subjected herself to, even though I know my hubby will give me the support I need.
Every woman has her own journey of self-discovery and adventure in the world of cooking within the confines of her own kitchen. And certainly there are valuable experiences and insightful gains to share with my readers about this journey that I have undertaken more than a year ago, and am still exploring. I will share what I have learnt, make some humor out of my blunders, and give some helpful tips on cooking and health that I've picked up along the way.
I won't promise you anything close to what Julie and Julia had achieved. I couldn't anyway, probably. But if you're willing to stick around long enough, I'm sure you'll find something useful, perhaps even delightful, that it'll make cooking just as pleasant for you as it is for me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Dream Come True

My dad passed away when I was in eighth grade. Mum, who'd been a housewife, had to take up two odd jobs to sustain a family of four growing teens. Naturally, the task of preparing meals were left to my sister, she being the eldest, and myself. That probably was the first time I really tried my hands at cooking.
My interest in cooking, however, began much earlier when I was about nine or ten. On one special occasion, I saw mum making dumplings for dad's workers, and I heard him proudly saying to them, "My wife made these!" I found myself imagining that one day I would be like mum, doing my future hubby proud by being an able wife with culinary skills just like her.
But it was not until years later, when I started working that I dreamt of having my very own kitchen, complete with all the furnishings, that'll enable me to cook whatever my heart fancies. At that time, I was staying with mum, my elder brother and his wife, and my younger brother. The family kitchen was out-of-bound to all except mum, who'd since stopped working as we've all grown up and doing fine with our careers, and reverted back to her home-maker's role.
This dream finally came true when I married my hubby and bought a four-room apartment to start our lives together. It's not as spacious as I'd like it to be, but I'm happy and content that I now have my very own kitchen with all the basic accessories needed to realize my childhood aspiration.


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