Steak prepared with Juniper Berry, Lavender and Sea Salt

After the slow start to the day I managed to get a decent chunk of words both in Rosemirror and in the Psychogeography paper plus started work on improving the close readings in said paper.

I had hopes of doing more once I got home but after a solid day of working and then eating this glorious steak, who could do anymore work?

By a small miracle (or rather, careful planning), I managed to stay under 2k calories today. Which is good because I miscalculated yesterday and wound up going a little bit over. Alas. I also did careful calisthenics (focusing on core and abs) and wall pushups in two rounds earlier so I reckon I’m okay.

Anyway, once a week or so I go full carnivore and this week, it’s Friday night. I bought the striploin yesterday, had it defrosting all day so that it was ready when I got back for…ze lavender and jupiter rub. It’s a combination I’ve used before and one I particularly like. Lavender and thyme garlic butter is another one I like.

In a nutshell why I tend to prefer to eat steak (and lamb!) at home. I like my rubs/marinades a lot!

Ingredients

1.5 teaspoon dried lavender
6-8  juniper berries
1.5 teaspoon olive oil
(grated) sea salt to taste
2 cloves garlic

Directions

I basically pounded the ingredients in my stone lesung batu (pestle and mortar), and then rubbed the paste all over the steak (patted dry) before a liberal grate of black pepper on both sides. Then I let it marinade for about an hour while I prepared my roasted tomato and basil soup and parboiled/roasted the taters.

When I’d consumed my tomato soup and the taters were close to done in the oven, I heated up a non-stick wok till hot, slapped the steak in it and then went off to turn the taters, cut the edges of the asparagus. I did about 5 minutes on each side of the steak, sprinkling a bit more salt on each side and threw the asparagus in halfway. Then I plated it and added about 0.4 a teaspoon of butter (not quite half a teaspoon) to the top of the steak. Did you know that’s around 1.7 grams and 14 calories? Yup. You get the taste but it doesn’t have to be too sinful 🙂

So that was yummy, and now the recipe for my soup!

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

Place 2 tomatoes chopped up in a pan with about a handful of basil leaves (also chopped up) and two bashed cloves of garlic. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes and basil. Add salt and pepper. Mix generously with your hand. Dunk in oven for about 20 minutes. When done, immediately put in blender. Add water to the pan and pour it into the blender. Blitz. Pour into a pot and add stock (I used Massel’s “chicken” vegetable stock) and about a pinch of dried parsley (adds body). When bubbling and nearly done add a tablespoon of whipping cream and a tablespoon of cooking cream.

Makes 3-4 servings. Already kept in the fridge 8)

(Dessert: 0.3 cup pineapple slices and 5 roasted almonds)

And now to curl up with a book before bed.

Listening to: Immunity — Jon Hopkins

Cream of Carrot Soup (and a quick tuna and pasta salad)

Quick and Easy recipe here. I made it in a jiffy yesterday while making my chicken in cream sauce with the leftover pan-fried chicken of the previous night.

Ingredients

2 Carrots chopped any way you like
1/4 cup of chopped red onions
1/4 cup of cooking cream
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 Massel “chicken” cube (It’s actually vegetarian but I like the flavour and it’s MSG-free)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cumin powder
A pinch or two of grated ginger (optional)

Instructions

Boil carrots with onions till soft, throw in the rest of the ingredients except for the cream + seasonings. Blitz in blender, add cream. Stir gently and season to taste.

Top with a bit more Italian parsley.

Makes 2-3 servings depending on how hungry you are.

*

Mine lasted two servings. Had it today as a starter for pan-fried salmon with dill, capers and a bit of the lemon cream sauce of the other night over mash (no butter) and a quick vegetable salad. A very satisfying dinner.

Thinking of making oven-roasted tomato soup one of these nights. There’s a recipe for it in the Faerie Magazine but I’ve also made it before. Tip from old acquaintances: roasting tomatoes with garlic and balsamic vinegar is heaven. Never fails. Imagine that gorgeousness blitzed into a soup!

I cook daily these days but they’re relatively easy meals to prep.

Example: I’ve already made tomorrow’s lunch.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of fusilli
1 can of tuna in olive oil
dill
capers
a sprinkle or so of extra virgin olive oil
two dashes white pepper
a splash of balsamic vinegar

No Directions Needed

The only cooking that happened was the boiling of the fusilli. Everything else was just stirred into the pasta. Yum!

Tomorrow I’ll make a quick vegetable salad w/ carrots and capsicum for prerequisite vegetable intake.

Why so many carrots? I accidentally ordered two bags of carrots last weekend when my groceries got delivered so it’s carrots all the way for the rest of the week. But I’m really enjoying them so am not complaining. Maybe I’ll order two bags of carrots again next time ;P

ps: People should piss me off more often, clearly. I finally got off my ass and edited, revised, formatted plus submitted the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie article I completed last year. Ha!

Friday Night Cooking Adventure

I’ve decided my sleep-schedules and internal clock have been efficient enough that I’m allowed to wake up at 630am on Saturday. Especially since a bit of cooking happened yesterday. Since I quit the delivery app, it became necessary to do meal prep for the following week. So I’ve marinaded and frozen about 6 chicken breasts in a paste I made out of: garlic, parsley, salt, extra virgin olive oil, pepper, smoked paprika and balsamic vinegar.

My original plan was to make different marinades for the different breasts but it was getting late, and I was tired. Besides the marinade yielded a really tasty chicken meal for Friday night dinner and I was really pleased with it. I call yesterday’s dinner “piccata-ish” because I made a Chicken Piccata inspired sauce but added some light cooking cream instead of butter, and just used stock.  There was a slight mishap because the gas went off while I was cooking and I bellowed in panic at the gas man, which resulted in my gas being wheeled up within 10 minutes. That was a record (sometimes it takes them an hour, I should bellow more!)!

This was a bit more lemony than I wanted but it was my first time making it and I can adjust the taste next time. It looks brown because I wasn’t so diligent with the sauce and it dried a bit, causing the need to add more stock. Still, it was extremely tasty and  the entire meal came to 610 calories (inclusive of chicken, sauce, mash and parboiled vegetables) which I thought was quite respectable.

Here’s a picture. Not very photogenic but it’s home-cooking! 200 grams of chicken (I was under-caloried and extra protein was required) over half a cup of mash (made w/ 1/2 teaspoon lowfat dairy spread + 1 dessertspoon light cooking cream + salt + parsley flakes):

I feel this time around I’m making smarter food choices and learning to count every ingredient I cook really does help me. I went from struggling to eat under 2k calories everyday to trying to eat beneath 1900 calories everyday and now I’m struggling to eat up to 1800 calories everyday. Ha! I try not to underfeed myself but the thing is I feel very satisfied with the meals and the thing is — this food plan is not about starving yourself but to make sure you’re not hungry and by making smart food choices. I’m okay with that. At least these are things I can control about my life: what I put in my body, and what time I sleep/wake up. I told myself I’d do these two simple things to make my life better. And so far, it seems to be working. Good, because it needs to be working for the long haul.

I deleted the earlier post because I promised myself that v.2 of this blog wouldn’t go to that place where I whined about people or things. That’s another simple thing I want to change about my life. But I can say that the piccata thing happened because I’d ordered a chicken piccata for yesterday’s dinner. This was before I cancelled all the meals. Heh.

All’s well that ends well. I’ll make a proper piccata next week maybe. And my first try at making a herb-crusted salmon fillet. Thanks for the cooking ideas, I guess. You know us cooks.

Some Chicken Piccata recipes for reference:

Listening to: Hollywood Dream Trip — Syrinx

Halloumi and Portabella Sandwich

Today’s sandwich is unphotogenic (so no photos, just your generic sammich) but quite lovely so I’ll likely make again. Improvised based on what’s in the fridge. I used the oregano to bring out the delightfully Mediterranean flavour. I’ve become such a fan of the wonderful Halloumi.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive  oil (about a teaspoon)
  • Chopped yellow onion (about a teaspoon)
  • Halloumi cheese (a 25g chunk sliced into two)
  • 1 portabella mushroom (20g), sliced
  • 2 slices of tomato
  • a pinch of ground oregano
  • 2 slices of bread (I use Massimo’s wheatgerm enriched bread here in Malaysia)
  • 2 slices romaine lettuce.
  • Hunt’s Hickory BBQ sauce, 1 teaspoon (or the BBQ sauce of your choice)

Instructions

Heat pan, add the extra-virgin olive oil. I use a brush to brush the oil evenly across the pan. Add halloumi slices on one side of the pan, the mushrooms on the other. Add onions and tomato slices to the mushroom side of the pan. Remove Halloumi when golden brown on each side. Add oregano to the tomatoes, onion and mushrooms. Remove from pan when nicely done. Onions should be gently caramelized, tomatoes softened, and mushrooms should be done. Place lettuce on each slice of bread. Place the Halloumi on one slice atop the lettuce, pile the mushroom, tomato and onion mixture. Add a dollop of Hickory BBQ sauce, and cover with the other slice. Ta-da!

Listening to: These Creatures — Jean Michel-Jarre, Julia Holter

Laksa Johor and Mr. Darcy

For nearly two weeks now my life has been defined by waking up early in the morning, writing, doing housework, heating up Laksa Johor to eat while watching Pride and Prejudice.  It is the 2005 version directed by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfayden, Judi Dench, Donald Sutherland, Penelope Wilton, and Tom Hollander. The Janeites, literary critics etc do not like this movie but I love it more than the much-loved BBC miniseries for many reasons. The music, the cinematography, the chemistry between Knightley and Macfayden — and the breath of fresh air it lends to an old classic.

So it’s been really comforting to dip into my plate of Laksa Johor while watching 15-20 minutes of this every morning. It became my private, happy place. So when I finished watching the movie, I started watching it again! Who cares about the critics, right?

Today I finished my last 418 calorie serving of my Laksa Johor and feel bereft.

 

It was my first time making Laksa Johor. I used this recipe nearly faithfully (I used ikan kembung — wolf mackerel instead of ikan parang — wolf herring, because I couldn’t be bothered with the bones. I did not use the tamarind pulp and stuck to the asam keping for a souring agent, because I prefer the sourness to come from the lime/lemon. Also, I used lemon instead of calamansi limes!) and was beyond thrilled with the results. I made it a bit thick which means a little bit of gravy could go a long way and so it was the consistency it should be, like a Malaysian spaghetti bolognese you eat with your hands.

However, the conversation around Wickham had me cause to explore issues to do with class that’s really part and parcel of the text. The movie of course exaggerates the class distinctions by having the Bennetts be even more vulgar and that made me think about my own families (paternal, maternal) and how the class divide can alienate even within the same bloodline.  In this time of grieving, perhaps I may have made errors of judgement in reverting to being too trusting.

For now, going within, reaching within myself to bring out as much work as I can while healing my mind, body and soul is my main priority. I won’t have any publications for the next few months so I’m taking the opportunity to have a holiday from twitter and Instagram. I’ve disabled my Facebook for the same reason as most — privacy concerns. I’ll be back on other social media between August-November and will bow out again from November to mid-March 2019. I intend to spend the time fruitfully finishing my monograph, chapters and articles due, and Rosemirror. Bowing out from social media in November will better facilitate the work I intend to do on Masks of the Apothecary then. I promised myself that if I don’t have an agent for Watermyth by end of this year, I’m querying Masks of the Apothecary next year. To refresh your memory, this is the first novel in The Yrole Triptych, that Sesen trilogy I started writing so long ago, and then put on hold for the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms sometime in 2010.

I think I’ll be making more Laksa Johor while I’m at it! It’s actually easier for me to stay away from social media these days because the time I used to spend on twitter I’m now spending counting calories on my calorie tracker. 8)

(Although I still have batches of my rather amazing curry laksa so there’s that! Ask me how much I love all versions of laksa!)

Nin’s Super-Indulgent Chicken Curry

I’m on a curry-making kick, and this one came about mostly because I wanted to finish up some ingredients in my fridge, but also because I wanted to use the kat pura valli leaves in my balcony garden.

The result? Magic!

Inspiration for this includes: The butter-onion-chilli recipe that’s part of the paternal family arsenal, previous experience cooking curry with kat pura valli leaves, and also I thought pandanus leaves would be lovely in curries (a mild suspicion that this is what makes some of the curries I’ve enjoyed in Penang that magical). Also how easy it is to make. Dudes, I’ve been making chicken curry since I was a kid, I could probably make it while sleepwalking. I’ve already made chicken curry twice in the past two weeks and suspect I will be making some more once this batch finishes.

Ingredients

  • 23 oz chicken breasts (deskinned, deboned, chopped into chunks)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 red shallots, chopped
  • ginger (3-4 slices) and garlic (3 cloves) minced together to make a paste
  • 2 green chillis, chopped up slant-wise.
  • Spices: spice mix (fenugreek, jeera/cumin, black mustard), 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1 cinnamon stick, 6 cloves, 1 1/2 star anise, 5-6 cardamom pods, 2 dried chillis broken into chunks.
  • McCormick’s garlic flakes, chilli flakes and sea salt grinder (a few dashes to taste)
  • Pepper to taste.
  • Kat pura valli leaves (Karpuravalli/borage), about 1 tablespoon, chopped. (fresh oregano a good substitute)
  • Curry leaves, about 15 leaves stripped from stem.
  • 1 large-ish potato chopped into chunks.
  • Emborg whipping cream. (About 1/3 a carton — those small square cartons!)
  • Extra light olive oil 1.5 tablespoons.
  • Alagappa meat curry powder to taste. (I used about 2 tablespoons or so, I think)
  • Salt.
  • Maggi seasoning. (1-2 dashes, optional)
  • Amchur. (mango powder,  a couple of pinches)
  • The juice of 2-3 wedges of key lime.
  • Tomatoes. (I used 18 cherry tomatoes because my students gave me two cartons)
  • Pandanus leaf. (take 2, shred from the base and tie into a bundle)
  • Water

Instructions

  1. Wash and chop the chicken, marinade with the juice of two key lime wedges, salt, pepper (I used McCormick’s garlic flakes, chilli flakes and sea salt grinder), kat pura valli leaves, about a tablespoon of curry powder, and the whipping cream. Mix it with your hands, you’ve got to get down and dirty with the marinade to make sure it’s awesome.
  2. Prep the other ingredients while the chicken is happily marinating for an hour.
  3. Heat the wok or pan with the olive oil. Gently add the spices. When they start to “pop”, add the onions and gently caramelize them. Once they’re approaching the stage of caramelizing, add the ginger garlic paste and half of the curry leaves.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of curry powder. Stir everything gently till it reaches a nice paste-like consistency. Add some water and scrape the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the chicken and stir it around so the curry powder on the chicken mixes with the paste in the pan. Add green chillis and tomatoes at this point, stirring gently.
  6. Add water, potatoes and the pandanus leaf.
  7. Let it simmer for awhile before adding the amchur, maggi seasoning, and the rest of the seasonings. Don’t be afraid to taste to ensure it’s where you want it to be!
  8. Simmer gently for about an hour, stirring at intervals. You can let the gravy reduce down or add water if you want more gravy. This curry is beautiful once the oil “breaks” or what is known in Malay as “pecah minyak”, and the fragrance fills the entire kitchen.
  9. Towards the end, add the rest of the curry leaves and squeeze one more wedge of lime if you think it needs more sourness (if not necessary, omit. The lime in the marinade and in the amchur may be enough).

This was extremely yummy, and I ate it with jasmine rice and stir-fried cabbage. It would be great with pilau rice and a light vegetable salad as well. Makes 4 servings of about 355 calories each, but since I didn’t grind the spices, I didn’t count them in. Do your own calculations to be safe 😉

Masak Singgang Ikan Tenggiri

  • 2-3 slices mackerel
  • 1 lemongrass lightly pounded or punctured at the root
  • 3-4 slices galanggal root
  • turmeric root or powder (I like my broth very turmeric-y so I use about a tablespoon but YMMV. Try 2cm if fresh turmeric root, which is what most recipes recommend)
  • 2-3 slices young ginger
  • 6-7 red shallots, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1-2 pinches sugar (I used demerara sugar as usual)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon belachan paste.
    3-5 green bird’s eye chillis, lightly pounded. (or 1 red green chilli sliced, if you can’t stand heat)
  • 2-3 small pieces asam gelugur/keping

Directions

Place everything except for the fish in a pot with enough water to make a gently fragrant broth. When the broth is bubbling and flavoursome, add the fish so it will poach. Season with some grated black pepper.

Mango and Passionfruit Chutney

Hello! This recipe came about because I had two over-ripe mangoes in the fridge plus a bottle of passionfruit pulp I’d forgotten about! I didn’t dare make my usual spicy (and sooo tasty) mango chutney so I opted for a mild and fragrant chutney gently flavoured with makrut leaves.

When I was younger, I used to like to make simple recipes complex by adding different ingredients to tweak with taste profiles. But in my fairly advanced years, I’ve recently really enjoyed very simple recipes — subtracting, rather than adding ingredients. My favourite recipes tend to happen because of necessity and because I need to clear out my modestly sized fridge. So yay to cooking the practical home cook way!

Note: Being a practical non-pro home-cook, I tend to eyeball everything first before I figure out measurements so adjust your seasonings accordingly.

Second Note: This recipe has no vinegar. The passionfruit has its own acidity that’s more than enough. Still! Don’t store this forever — should be consumed within a week or so.

Ingredients

  • Flesh of two ripe mangoes
  • 1 1/2 cups or so of passionfruit pulp
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, diced
  • 2 red shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium slices ginger, minced.
  • 2 makrut leaves, very thinly sliced.
  • 1/2 a green chilli, very thinly sliced.
  • a teaspoon of mixed fennel, fenugreek and black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin powder
  • oil (I use corn oil because it’s one of the least carcinogenic oils out there)
  • salt to taste
  • soft brown sugar to taste (about 2-3 teaspoons for me as I don’t like it overpoweringly sweet)

Directions

  1. Heat oil in wok.
  2. When it is lightly simmering, add the mixed spice mixture (fennel, fenugreek, mustard).
  3. When this pops, add onions, garlic, shallot, ginger, green chillis and makrut leaves (yes, all at once).
  4. Stir gently until fragrant.
  5. Drop in the mango flesh and then the passionfruit pulp. Stir so that it is nicely incorporated with the aromatics.
  6. Season with salt, soft brown sugar and cumin powder.
  7. Let it bubble until it reaches chutney consistency. Keep stirring.
  8. When it is cooked, let it cool, and then store in a jar.

I ate this with basmati rice, leftover thakkali pal curry, long beans curry, eggplant curry (all very mild, made the way my beloved late granny used to make `em. Yummy!), and freshly made fish cutlets flavoured with makrut leaves. Heaven!

Fruity Cinnamon Pancakes

I just made these today randomly so measurements may not be perfect. The taste however was perfection and I was very happy with it. Since sharing is caring, here you go. Enjoy! Feel free to tweak and improve upon it!

Directions

Sift a cup of wheat flour into a bowl, add a tablespoon of cornflour, 2-3 pinches baking powder and a pinch or so of sea-salt. In another bowl mix together an egg, milk, vanilla essence. Slowly fold it into the dry mixture. Add demerara sugar and cinnamon powder. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Cut up a mixture of fruit: strawberries, cherries, yellow nectarine. All diced and mixed together in a pretty pile.

Heat butter in pan. Drop in the batter in rounds. Add a sprinkle or so of fruit. When the pancake is partway cooked, add more batter to bind the fruit. Then flip it over so it is browned on the other side. Reserve some of the fruit mixture. When pancakes are done, drop the rest of the fruit mixture into the pan which should still have a bit of sizzling butter. Let the fruit mixture cook gently (you may add a sprinkle of demerara sugar if you like). Arrange fruit over pancake heap and then drizzle over maple syrup (or sugar free maple-flavoured syrup for me).

So. Yum.