D makes the most spectacular meals ever, so much so that I always suspect he is a chef masquerading as a designer/architect. Coming from Singapore and growing up loitering around my grandmother's kitchen as she whipped up her incredible dishes, food is in my blood. The appreciation of and creation of food courses through my veins, so I was absolutely delighted to discover that D really can cook, so much so that I often tell him we should stay in and cook because his food tastes better than alot of what you get outside. Half my camera is loaded with photographs of the meals he has made, and ever so often do we drool over them together before he goes, "Hey I have cooked you so many meals!", ooh and ahh over the details of each one, and then he starts to threaten to start a food blog except he never has time to. In particular, his breakfasts are divine-- and he has never repeated a single breakfast before. For instance, this meal was whipped up when the stoves in my building in Cambridge were spoilt, and he cooked the eggs ingeniously with hot water. They are in a league of their own, and so sacred that I dress up* for them. So as I have always been threatening to put up food-- my other great love in life (well let's face it, love should be multiplied and hence you can love a lot of things)-- on Devilishly Pleasurable, herein do food photographs and recipes kick off. Let's hope they'll be a regular feature with all the other posts screaming out to be written, designed and posted. . .
**, there is someone who can cook for him too. Like I always tell him, it is his good karma for chef duties. I love to cook too***, and there is nothing more amazing than tasting the flavours in your mouth before you even decide what you want to eat. To me, there are no hard-and-fast recipes, but rather the distinct smells and tastes caressing your olfactory and gustatory faculties. The richness of crisp garlic punctuating the warm, salty taste of beef, blessed with a generous sprinkling of hearty sage. Or earthy, flash-fried mushrooms swimming in a buttermilk base, complete with topnotes of freshly-ground cackling black pepper. From these, the cooking journey begins-- the tastes and the emotions that they evoke in me in an organoleptically-wholesome experience spring forth what goes into the food in an intuitive manner. Cooking to me, therefore, is making a magic potion. . .
D erroneously thinks that the only thing I make is soups****. Which is completely untrue, because I make all sorts of curries, chilli con carnes, pastas and Indonesian food for him too. As well as loads others that I cannot remember. It is true that I make soups about 70% of the time, because they are rehydrating and nourishing, and therefore you always hear of the Cantonese drinking soups all the time, otherwise the constant lauding of herbal soups in Chinese cuisine or traditional Chinese medicine. Whilst it might be true that the approach to making soup seems to be 'dump everything inside to make an easy one-course meal', some soups require a lot of preparation and others might even involve grilling/frying/sauteeing some of the ingredients beforehand, making it a laborious and extremely involved process. And besides, because he's only made soup twice in the eleven months or so since we finally began living in the same country for a start (rather than living on different landchunks, as I used to call it), somebody has to make the soups, right?
***** recipe. She was a whizz in the kitchen, the way she effortlessly whipped up eight dishes or more every Sunday when the extended family gathered in the flat. I used to think of her as a cooking witch. Everyday I hope that many of the things she used to cook will one day sink into me, as the recipes (which are handed down orally or experientially) have been lost with her demise, and I guess with constant practice and my hypersensitive supertaster tastebuds, I will one day master them. She used to make sweet corn soup with chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions. One day, I remember asking her, why didn't she cook it with beef instead-- it would be even more flavoursome. She smiled and replied that if she did, she wouldn't be able to eat it as she had gout that made her unable to eat a lot of food types. It then struck me how she always cooked a large variety of dishes for us all, yet she would only be able to eat about two out of perhaps eight dishes, most of the time being fish and vegetables. Even then there were many of these that she was allergic to. Yet, selflessly did she make her rounds at the wet market regularly, expertly picking out and splurging on the freshest produce even though she was thrifty, and then magicking up so many delightful dishes for her children and grandchildren-- food that she poured her heart and soul lovingly into. The energy of the person cooking the dish comes across very clearly. Perhaps you have read Como Agua Para Chocolate or Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Her magical novel best encapsulates energy and intentions transmutes into the food that one cooks, articulating the metaphysical underlay of this process that I have always been extremely sensitive towards but never really understood what it meant.
Diced beef and sweetcorn soupToday, though, I couldn't find chicken drumsticks at the Tesco Express so I got diced beef cubes instead, and proceeded to brew the soup. Here is the recipe, if you are interested.
- Boil half a large pot of water.
- Slice half a red onion thinly, deskin and crush two cloves of garlic, chop two extra-sweet sweetcorns into thirds, and slice three carrots. Throw them into the water when it boils.
- Marinate a pack of diced beef with sea salt and pepper. Freshly-ground is best.
- After about twenty minutes, add them to the soup.
- Add in half an OXO beef stock cube.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and throw in some chopped fresh parsley.
- Let the soup simmer on low heat, adding water every forty-five minutes to top it up.
- Boil Thai rice and serve on the side.
Some soup tips
- The longer your soup brews, the more potent, delicious and concentrate it gets because the flavours get to sink in.
- If left overnight (or even better, if you can boil overnight), it will blow you away the next day.
- To accelerate the process, use a pressure cooker.
- Double-boiled soups are even tastier and more nourishing.
I also did a quick vegetable stir-fry with whatever was left in the refrigerator, rewarding myself after cleaning up the flat and working today. Stir-fries are quick, healthy and delicious. Of course, depending on where you get them from and if any nasty ingredients and flavourings have been sneaked into the mix. Besides these, they are also economical, an adaptation in Chinese history to the constant famines. Food is chopped into small pieces in order for it to cook quickly, thus saving firewood. Being bite-sized, flavour is easily distributed along to complement any of the other dishes that might be available. The wok, too, is designed so as to spread heat evenly so that food cooks fast. My grandmother had a huge wok which was probably about thirty-inches in diameter. It was the traditional kind that had to be 'conditioned' with lard before using for the first time, and was a real bitch to clean. Nevertheless, I swear that food cooked in a traditional wok as compared to some nonsensical £5 non-stick pan tastes different. I still wonder if my uncles kept that wok, and if I would be considered insane to transport it over to the UK (I, being the safekeeper of all the things my late grandparents left behind. . indulging in the many memories that every item is imbued with). Here,
- Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan/wok.
- Chop a sprig of spring onions diagonally (I like it that way), dice tomatoes, and slice some chestnut mushrooms.
- Add the onions to the pan and shake the pan, pretending to be a real Chinese chef who can flip food expertly without them tumbling out of the wok and raining on the floor.
- When your kitchen starts to smell so fragrant and you start to salivate, throw in the mushrooms and the tomatoes, before flipping the pan/wok after about forty-five seconds. Throw in some light soya sauce and grind in some pepper.
- When they all look cooked enough (you don't want your tomatoes to be all gooey, but rather a little crunchy still), i.e. about twenty seconds later, turn off the gas, and voila.
It's a pity that I couldn't capture the food properly in the low light, but here's some healthy and tasty food recipes for you to experiment with, if you so desire :)
*Here I was dressed in oversized La Senza PJs (too pretty to be worn indoors solely!) adapted as a dress, pom pom socks from Ebay, black Zara studded heels and various Topman bracelets. Plus a cheeky smile in my IJustWokeUp morning face. Months back.
**Plus, cooking for me has made his cooking improve by leaps and bounds, he has found his stylistic fashion in cooking without me always looking at him and going, "Stop checking recipes". He now cooks Indian curries from scratch even. Like I tell him smugly, people have a habit of becoming bolder and more experimental around me. It's true. It's one effect that I have on others that I'm proud of ;)
***And I am affirmative I can cook. Because I have taken charge of Christmas and guest evenings back home in Sing, and people do not take at least triple helpings if they are merely being polite. But what's funniest is how relatives go, "What? YOU cooked this?!" and nearly jump up in shock. And I have to think to myself. . just because I don't look remotely domestic doesn't mean. . . . . . [Soundtrack with 'Grrrr' in the background optional]
**** But then again, his selective memory is so bad, he has to channel my Photographic Memory Of An Elephant and ask, "so how many times did I go to ___ in (insert N months back)" all the time. It's also useful, though, so I can describe in extremely vivid detail whenever he tries to bring any case up against me. Unless his recollection of said incident was extremely acute because it was eligible to be filed under "selective memory".
***** Yes, the same Gran that I wrote about here.