Tag Archives: homecooked meals

Sequencing and the order of priority

My friends would know this about me – priority, priority and priority. I applied this a lot at work, at school, in personal life, in motherhood and yes, even at cooking.

One of the questions people loved to ask was how I managed to cook after work, and to keep it within 30min. While I did not cook anything fancy, it would usually still be a delicious home cooked meal of 2 dishes with rice. Delicious with the constraint that it bore minimal or no salt so that X could dine with us, hence, I still felt I had done a good job as well as ensuring a good mix of meat, fish and vegetables.

The fact that Z could tell me that he enjoyed dinner, despite being spoilt with dinners at restaurants, make me feel very appreciated.

Sequence to get things done – Example, say if I were cooking chicken soup & stir-fried vegetables with seafood:

1900h – Grab rice from fridge (and grab the plate of thawed food at the same time), pour the required amount into measuring cup, rinse rice, fill to desired water level and set to cook
1901h – Rinse soup pot, fill water and boil at stove.
1902h – Take seasoning from fridge (alternate with red dates, dried scallops, dried mushroom) or process other ingredients such as potatoes, carrots, pearl beans, celery, pumpkin, old cucumber, corn, apples, pears.  By the time you were done processing, the pot of water should be boiling so it would be time to throw the ingredients in.
1907h – Cut fats and skin from chicken thigh parts
1912h – Place chicken into pot of soup, set to medium heat after the soup boiled
1913h – Soak vegetables, rinse saucepan, wipe saucepan dry, add a little oil to the pan
1915h – Take onion and garlic from fridge to peel and chop or slice.  Once done, set side.
1917h – Clean the seafood (usually prawns or squids) i.e via shelling, cut into frying pieces, add a dash of salt and set aside.  Wash vegetables and cut to smaller pieces for frying.
1920h – Heat saucepan to high heat and add garlic/onion to stir fry till golden brown.
1921h – Add vegetables in and fry.
1923h – Lower heat to low, take the chance to wash the salt off the seafood and add to saucepan.  Stir fry further and taste.  If need be, add a dash of less salt fish sauce.
1926h – The vegetables dish is ready.
1927-1930h – The rice is probably ready by now.  Turn off stove fire for soup as it should be ready too.  Serve.

The second dish could also be alternated with simpler and faster dishes to prepare such as steamed fish, pan fried fish, baked fish, omelette (i.e. with ham, mushroom, sausages, prawns, leek, cheese and more).

Well, cooking was not so difficult, right?

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Variations of egg dishes

1. Mushroom, chopped leek, ham

2. Chopped mashed tomatoes, mushroom, ham

3. Salted egg yolk

4. Prawns

5. Taiwanese sausage

6. Cai po (but an extreme oil splattering experience)

Eggs, whether stir fried in Chinese style or pan fried in western style with butter and cheese, were always easy to make.

Like what I had always seen from hotel breakfast buffets, you simply throw all the items to cook together and the eggs go in last.

If I wanted a more oriental finishing, I would leave the egg to cook till it turned brown.

If I felt like a scrambled egg finishing, I would sautéed the ingredients with butter at the start and add cheese shortly after the eggs.

For a true blue western omelette finishing, it was rather challenging to achieve with my current skills. Plus, as long as it tasted good, I did not really cared how it looked and thankfully, Mr H and Z were in agreement.

New fish dish

Although I was only a functional cook (aka cooked for the sake of cooking), I always tried to produce different dishes. I tried to apply some of my creativity to cooking. Most would work, some were passable.

Mr H was used to hearing, “trying something new today ok?”

I was lucky that I had the more discerning taste bud of the two. That also meant he was encouraging.

I took a chance and tried this:

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I washed the threadfin and laid the fillets into the foil. I added chili padi, a dash of fish sauce, a sprinkle of brown sugar, a tiny bit of salt and squeezed lime juice into it. I wrapped up the fish and baked in the oven for 20min. It actually tasted pretty decent and was surprisingly good. If we had lemongrass, this might actually taste like Thai cuisine.

Alongside with this dish, there were pumpkin cod fish porridge and stir fried baby kailan with ham and mushroom. They were not featured because they were rapidly consumed before I remembered to snap a shot.

Quick fix – all in one

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This was one of my favorite dishes to cook because it was an one-pot progressive dish.

I would boil about 200ml of water and put peeled/chopped carrots in. While the carrots were boiled, I would peel and chop potatoes, then add into the pot. Then I would move on to cleaning and cutting away fats from the chicken meat before adding to pot. After about 20min, everything would be booked and I would add the washed vegetables on top to let it cook for 5min. Yes, the dish was done.

There would be minimal wash up too.

Of course, pan fried fish always sealed the deal. Wash with salt, coat with potato flour, add a little oil, place the fish fillet in the pan for 3 minutes at medium heat, flip to the other side for 3 minutes and presto! It would be done.

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Confessions of a functional cook

5 years ago, if someone had told me that I would be cooking dinners for my family daily today, I would have laughed it off.  I would have told you that it was impossible, as I had done so when someone asked if I would be a mother, and if I would even have a second child.  As it seemed, becoming a mother showed me how humble pies should be eaten.

One pie at a time.

It was not without pressure that I ended up doing what I did today.  The pressure came from my perfectionist-but-claimed-she-was-not mom.   I would lament how difficult it was to cook.  I used to volunteer washing dishes during Home Economics classes because I was afraid of the splattering oil.  I was 13/14.  I would lament how I had no time to cook because I would rather be sipping happy hours martinis than to attempt something so challenging.

I also did not know how to buy vegetables and meat from supermarket.  I did not know how to do many things with regards to cooking.

Mr H also thought it was perfectly fine.

Until Z turned one year old and this little boy loved his rice with soups.  Bundled with some experience from cooking baby puree, I tried my hand at cooking.  I also had my mother who took the time to bring me to my nearest wet market for orientation.  We learnt how to buy groceries from wet market because certain products such as fish were so much cheaper and fresher than supermarkets.  Actually, once you started off with the right ingredients, it did not matter how you cook (as long as you did not burn the food, overcook or undercook), the food would taste pretty good.

My initial wet market experiences were scary.  I looked at the formidable dialect speaking aunties spewing their orders with confidence.  I only stood dumbly as one after another auntie cut my queue.  I supposed the fishmonger felt bad for me because he would shout, “Ah girl, what you want?”  I would fret over how to handle the monies because it was obviously suicidal to use my Chanel wallet.  Despite owning so many wallets and coin pouches, I did not have a suitable money holder for wet market’s use.  He might have offered me a plastic bag.

Well, the main thing was we all learnt.  Today, Mr H would be the wet-market goer because we had established a buying relationship with the market vendors, mainly due to parking reasons.  With an oversubscribed parking situation, it would be wiser for Mr H to drive instead of me since I had a smashing history of knocking into stationary objects in the carpark.

So Mr H was the operations guy, while I did the food planning.  I would usually plan what to cook for weekday evenings and rejoice when it was Friday.  Cooking at home was not cheaper because I typically spent about $50 – $70 per week on ingredients to cook 5-6 meals.  By the time you factored in labour cost, home cooked food surely did not come cheap, but at a higher quality and value.

Quick fix under 20min

Pre-condition: Soak the dried scallops in the morning and keep in fridge

Chicken soup with pearl beans and dried scallops

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I set it to full boil all the way because I needed the chopped chicken pieces to cook fast.

Steamed frogs’ legs in chicken essence with ginger and spring onions

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I was rather generous with the spring onion because Mr H and Z loved these (considered as the vegetable component in the equation) and I wanted to clear stocks. Frogs’ legs required minimal cleaning and could only be steamed for 10-15min, depending on the mode of steaming.

So there, another easy meal put together.

三菜一汤 on Channel 8

This aired on every Friday now at 8-9pm.

It gave a pretty good idea on the interesting ways to cook a meal. I viewed this as a resource. Unlike the conventional cooking shows, this was pretty solid, yet simple and creative; and the only reason why I took note was because my mom tried and tested some.

I would say the recipes are probably good for intermediate and advanced folks. You could take the ideas, modify and suit to your cooking.

Last night, the few dishes which caught my interest was steamed fish in honey, baked Assam fish in parchment paper and I forgot the rest since I was not that keen.