the ubiquitous fried rice

After two long weeks of assignments, case studies, mid semester tests, and tutorials to slog through, it's good to just relax and take some time to chill for the night.

I haven't been cooking much if not at all for the past few days as my house-mate was kind enough to offer to cook for the previous few days.

Today was sort of the final stretch of this crazy week of sleep deprivation and lots of coffee consumption along the way.

Arrived home today to find myself unwilling and too lazy to rustle up a good meal. Fortunately there was leftover rice from yesterday's dinner and so fried rice it was for dinner.

There's a slew of variations and versions of the ubiquitous fried rice which has been tweaked and changed and modified over the years that everyone has their own favourite version and taste of fried rice.

It's basically a fail-safe all-in-one meal that easily satisfies and satiates you when you're pressed for time and have limited resources on hand.

I really feel silly putting up a recipe for fried rice because it's one of the easiest dish that a student on a budget can make. This applies for everyone ranging from homemakers, corporate lemmings, the starving clubber,and anyone else with basic knowledge of heating up a pan with oil and adding some ingredients and leftover rice to the pan to create an instant dish. You don't need instant fried rice powder or anything of that sort. Some salt, pepper, soy sauce, and you're good to go.

Tonight I had some thinly sliced pork marinated with a dash of teriyaki sauce and whole grain mustard and tossed with cabbage, celery and onion before finally adding the essential ingredient to any fried rice that is egg.

The chocolate brownie was doggy bagged from this little nook of a cafe along A'Beckett and Elizabeth Street called Workshop. If it weren't for my friend leading the way I would have definitely missed out on this little hidden gem of a coffee place. I thoroughly enjoyed the brownie and $2 coffee. Do make your way there if ever you are in the city. I didn't have my camera on me so I couldn't snap some shots of the place but it gives off a very relaxing vibe and jazzy slash reggae style background music where you can just chill and while away your time with cheap coffee. That is until the place turns into a bar after 6. Cool artwork splay the walls, comfy sofa, high ceilings, and great vibe. What could make a better coffee chill place?

cheesed up

I did say I'd be posting my fave risotto recipe soon. Considering I'm supposed to be studying right now, I'll have to try to make this a short one. This recipe yields two dishes.

500 ml chicken stock (keep warm)
160-200 gm arborio rice
2-3 stalks of celery finely diced
1 small onion finely diced
60-80 gm of any two or three cheeses of your liking
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat up a heavy based large pot over medium to high heat.
2. Heat up the olive oil in the pot and toss in the diced onion and celery.
3. Fry it till it becomes soft and fragrant but do not let it turn brown or burn.
4. Pour in the arborio rice and stir it in together with the aromatics for about a minute or so to coat the rice and toast it.
5. Pour in a ladle full of chicken stock and stir it around till the stock has been absorbed into the rice. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Proceed with another ladle of stock and continue to stir till all the stock has been absorbed and used. This process should take about 20-25 minutes.
6. Once the rice looks soft but not mushy or gluggy and easy to work with, turn the heat down to low and toss in the roughly chopped or sliced cheeses.
7. Stir it all around till the cheeses have been incorporated fully into the rice. You can add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste at this point.
8. Dish the risotto out into two plates, grate some Parmesan cheese over it and dig in!

My recipe is really a bastardised version of Jamie's one as I don't use wine in it and I don't even know the names of the cheeses that I use. Also, this is not for the faint of cheesy hearts.

Oh the fried chicken drumstick there, it's been marinated in whole grain mustard overnight and simply fried in a shallow pan till brown and cooked all over. It was yummy as I did not think that the mustard marinate would work. It'll definitely be a repeat and I'm too embarrassed to put up the recipe for it.

risotto regalia

This is all about risotto. If you've never heard of it before or think you may have faintly caught the name before, I don't blame you. I've never heard or knew what it was till Jamie Oliver came along.

Basically, risotto is made with Arborio rice and cooked with preferably homemade chicken or vegetable stock over a medium to low heat while stirring in the stock one ladle at a time till the appropriate amount of stock has been absorbed by the rice.

The basic risotto and easiest one I could think of following comes from my beloved 'Cook with Jamie' book which has a beautiful illustration and guide to making the perfect risotto. Thankfully the basic risotto recipe could be found online as well. It's from this basic recipe that you begin to add your other flavours, ingredients and textures that go into making your favourite risotto.

Jamie's recipe calls for wine to be added as well but seeing as I don't drink or will bother to get some wine, I've just omitted it from my risotto and they came out fine all the same. The wine is just to give it a little something extra and aroma to the dish.

Risotto #1:

This was the first risotto dish I made after I managed to get my bag of arborio rice and some nice extra virgin olive oil. Yeah, it was supposed to resemble somewhat to the picture in 'Cook with Jamie' but after altering the dish here and there, it came out resembling more like reddish mush with flecks of green celery mixed in. The reddish tinge was created with the tomato I put into it at the last few moments of cooking it and squashed it a bit to let the juices out. Since it was my first risotto, it didn't taste much of anything but tomato and celery.

Risotto #2:

The second time round, I decided to be a bit more adventurous and tried carrots with a little bit of Parmesan cheese shavings melted in at the last moment. It was a little bit better this time but something was missing. I think I should've cut the carrots into smaller pieces instead of the big fat slices I used.

Risotto #3:

Then came the cheesy risotto. The inspiration came from Mr. Oliver once again from his website called the Three Cheese Risotto because of the three different cheeses he used in it. Well, I didn't have those cheeses he used but I did have three different cheeses which I basically just added in ad-hocly towards the end and let them all meld and melt into each other and incorporate nicely into the rice. The result was oozy, gooey, and ultimate comfort food at its best.

Risotto #4 & #5:

I was pretty disappointed with how this came out. It was supposed to be my interpretation of a Chinese style risotto but apparently Chinese and Italian doesn't go too well together. They both look the same because I used the same vegetable in the two dishes. They're Chinese spinach chopped roughly and stirred into the risotto towards the end as well. The fifth risotto dish was a bit different because I wanted to go all out and try something totally different. I added in some sambal chili paste but only a little and you can see the tiny flecks of chili in the dish as well. Needless to say, it tasted really odd and I'll not do it again.

Risotto #6:

This was my take on the traditional Italian Carbonara dish except I'm using arborio rice instead of the usual spaghetti or other form of pasta. I don't think egg and cheese whisked together goes well with risotto too. Better leave the carbonara to the pasta.

Risotto #7:

The final one in my risotto trial sessions. I've been using my own homemade chicken stock made by boiling a chicken frame in water and just using the stock from it for my risotto for the past dishes. I've basically just tore out the remainder of the chicken meat from the bony frame and used up all the stock left to make this seventh risotto. It tasted a lot like chicken. Nothing too fancy or difficult. Just added a pinch of salt and pepper and it makes a hearty chickeny risotto.

Overall, I'd say that this was a rather interesting experiment into the world of risotto. The best one out of the seven was the cheesy risotto and it'll definitely be a repeat when I've figured out the specifics that go into it and will post up the recipe too.

Just give risotto a go and don't be afraid of trying new things. All you need it some creativity, curiosity, and some improvisation to go a long way.


Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, specifically. Could there be anything more comforting, homely, sinful, and humbly delicious all at the same time?

I went over to my friend's apartment where we decided upon baking up a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. Thankfully the recipe I had called for chewy chocolate chip cookies instead of the traditional ones as those were the ones she wanted to bake.

The original recipe that we used was from Baking Bites so hop on over there now for the best chewy chocolate chip recipe (in my opinion) and for other scrumptious recipes as well. It's all in the extra yolk added into the cookie dough to give it that extra chewy bite. Though I forgot to melt the butter first which would have made it a lot easier to cream together with the sugar.

I think we were too greedy and impatient so we went full on and tried to cram all the dough into two baking trays which we thought looked alright and spread out evenly. However, I think maybe we might have accidentally added a tad bit too much baking soda and the cookies started to rise and spread the minute we popped them in the oven. A lot.

The top tray of cookies came out pretty alright but the bottom one had some problems baking well and we almost left them in the oven longer than they should be. Basically they all got stuck together at the sides and we had to scrape them out carefully without totally obliterating them into tiny morsels of chewy and crispy goodness.

Luckily they came out alright in the end and we happily helped ourselves to bites after bites of the guilt-ridden goodies fresh and warm out the oven. The chocolate chips were a bit oozy and soft and the center of the cookie was soft while the outer edges were crumbly and crispy.

Sounds (and tastes) like the perfect cookie to me.

dough you just love it

Baking. Is there a more pleasurable way of spending time in the kitchen creating a beautiful cake or loaf or a tray full of warm cookies fresh from the oven using a handful of raw ingredients.

Damn I've only been away from the oven back home for two months now and I'm feeling it already. The bad thing is that my new place doesn't have an oven for me experiment new pastry recipes or new roast or grilling meals.

My baking adventures have been wide and varied. From the disastrous to the downright delicious and delectable.

Chocolate chip cookies are a time honoured tradition that every novice baker has to go through the rigor induction process of baking. No one can resist the tempting urge to just scarf down a few handfuls of chocolate infused crumbly or chewy morsels, more so to tantalize your taste buds with crispy and crunchy doughy goodness.There's been a few variations of cookies that I've experimented in the past including peanut butter filled chocolate cookies, butter cookies, cereal cookies, peanut butter cookies, cinnamon frozen cookies, and various others.

Muffins have a been a love-hate thing for me in the past. I could never bake muffins for nuts previously but after many persistent attempts, I finally got it right with Nutella and peanut butter self-frosting muffins. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures to show my effort for nuts so you'll just have to believe me when I say that they came out fragrantly peanut buttery and Nutella-rific. A bit on the sweet side but I'll tone it down the next time I make it.

Then there's the loafs. I've baked a few different loafs during the past years. Some came out pretty good while others were passable. My butter pound loaf recipe seems to be a favourite of my mom's while I prefer the banana loaf one. Loaves are easy, quick and simple no fuss quick breads to bake when you're a beginner.

Another favourite cake recipe I discovered late last year was this chocolate pudding cake recipe by Baking Bites. It's as simple as baking cakes goes. It's all mixed, baked and eaten from one pan. Absolutely sinful, chocolatey, gooey and sticky goodness. I served this up when some friends dropped by and thankfully there were seconds to go round. Didn't get a few shots of the cocoaey oozy cake back then as well.

I've tried scones and breads as well in the past which did not see the light of day as they were atrocious both in the taste department and visually fugly as well. I guess bread will just take some time for me to get used to and finally overcome my fear of them soon.

I'll be attempting to recreate some baking magic tomorrow when I go over to a friend's place to use her oven. I'm going to teach her to bake cookies or chocolate pudding cake. Yum!

And just for the record, I've been on an accidental vegetarian diet for the last two days because I've been experimenting with risotto for my dinners with limited resources like celery, cheeses, tomato, and carrots with cashew nuts thrown into the mix for snacks. Watch this space for a post on my risotto romp as I will try to perfect this simple and hearty Italian dish in due time.

chop, chop, bake, bake

So here it is. The dawn of a new blogera. After being a foodie fanatic and bakery blondie for the latter years of my life (two to three years at most) I've finally decided to chroniclelize all future endeavours of mine in this gastronomic journey that is cooking.

This came about I suppose partly due to my impulse purchase of 'Cook with Jamie' cook book and my first essential cookery bible. You can relive the experience through this recent blog post in my daily blog.

And to culminate and christen my first cooking expedition here is the result of last night's dinner.

It's a fairly traditional Japanese one meal dish called Oyakodon which I've been meaning to experiment with in a long time and finally had the chance to do so last night. There are variations to this dish and mine included some leftover beef and tuna (sounds like an odd combination but the flavours really came out quite interestingly well) while I excluded mirin from this dish which its quite essential but I didn't have it. I'll remember to get it from the nearest Asian grocery store soon.

1/2 cup rice
1/4 cup of hot chicken stock or broth
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp sugar
4 oz thinly sliced chicken meat, skinless and boneless (or use beef or pork to your liking)
1 onion (sliced thinly)
1 egg

1. Cook the rice as per instructions.
2. Heat up the chicken stock or broth in a heavy based sauce pan till it comes to a boil.
3. Add in the soy sauce and sugar. If you have mirin feel free to add in 1 tsp. Lower the heat to a simmer.
4. Toss in the chicken/beef/pork to the simmering broth. Meanwhile whisk the egg in a separate bowl.
5. Gently pour the egg mixture on top of the chicken. Do not stir. Sprinkle the sliced onions on top.
6. Once the sides of the egg start to firm up, the chicken should be cooked by now (3 minutes), give it a little stir.
7. Have your steaming bowl of rice ready and top it with the chicken egg mixture. Sprinkle with fried onion or garlic if you wish. Yields one dish.

And there you have it. Easy as pie. Or should I say oyakodon?

Anyway watch out for more cooking and foodie posts in future. Have a go at it and do comment if you feel like there's something not right with it, an improvement would do it good, or you just think it's crap.

Till next meal.