I wanted a bowl of calm. A spoonful of a Zen garden with limpid, darkly-soothing pools of elegantly standing lily pads and gracefully gliding, vermilion-flashing koi. If only I could partake of that invisible yet fluid harmony between the visual, the smell and the taste that I had experienced in many Asian meals. I felt I had been unable to achieve that beautiful balance in similar home-cooked dishes. This time I was determined to get my recipe for homemade harmony, right.
Four elements came to mind. A broth that spoke a baritone – rich, reassuring yet clear. Rice, so essentially Asian and a versatile vehicle of all kinds of flavours. Something meaty yet light to build a deeply complex umami soul. And finally, the colour and crunch of greens to balance it all. So I decided chicken-mushroom broth with hot, sour and sweet sesame rice balls and chilli garlic Chinese mustard greens would be the foods to suit my mood. Continue reading →
You can be a breast person or a leg-lover. A few may even be wingmen or women. But you can be sure nobody wants to be a friend to chopped liver. This delicious, nutrient-packed and inexpensive part of a chicken has always been treated like the ugly step sister. I think chicken livers deserve a second chance. It’s time to push aside the pates and bring on the pepper. Spices can make chicken liver sing. Paired with the potent mix of pepper, green chillies and curry leaves, they become delightful savoury morsels, slightly charred and fiery outside and soft and fragrant inside. This quick, South-Indian style stir fry is unbelievably simple and is delicious eaten with plain rice or even toast; but serve it as an appetiser with ice-cold beer and you will proudly declare yourself a liver lover. Continue reading →
Contemplating an empty nest is my current nightmare. Like a bystander I watch my life morph into speedlines and do nothing while quiet panic spreads through me like spilt ink. I hear our son, spouting wisecracks and witticisms. It’s no longer knock-knock jokes; his humour gleams with a sharp, wicked edge. Straightforward strains of Linking Park have fallen by the wayside as Skrillex screeches out of his room and plays strange games with my head. A million symptoms of growing up (awkward pecks on the cheek, reluctant hugs) pop out at me without any warning and the silent, helpless scream in my head gets louder.
But I also feel pride at his newly acquired worldliness, his take on global politics, his logical and informed analysis of every issue related to football, not to forget his growing height which is a couple of millimetres shy of mine. This schizophrenia must afflict all mothers with its strange cocktail of happiness, pride, wistfulness and the realisation that time is not our friend. Yet it’s not all about letting them go, it’s also about discovering new conversations, sharing growing-up stories, changing our own outdated view of the world and being young with them while they can be grown-up with us. Continue reading →
You could also call it Tricoloured Salad but I think it sounds so much sexier in French, don’t you? Call it whatever you like but this salad is so hearty, healthy and delicious that it doesn’t need jazzed-up names to enhance its appeal. Often when I’m short of time and an automatic to-do list is flipping like a Rolodex in my head,stressing me, I make a simple yet substantial salad for lunch or dinner. That way, I spend lesser time preparing a meal, and it fills my boys’ tummies after school and office, while retaining all the goodness and relative lightness of a salad meal. Continue reading →
Auburns, rusts and sepias are seeping into the landscape, slowly and surely painting over the greens. The purple-flowering Pride of India outside my kitchen window has a carpet of fallen leaves at its feet. Like slow tears, it sheds leaves all day and soon its white branches will be quite shorn of their proud plume. As much as I love summer and mentally resign myself to the inevitability of winter, the warm colours of autumn always manage to touch me. Every time I drive past the maples lining the streets, I sit up and admire their deeply blushing beauty, trying to spot the most stunning of them.
But with the rosy-cheeked allure of autumn comes a cold chill. The juxtaposition of warm colours and cold weather echoes an irony that would fascinate poets and romanticists – beauty, sadness, decay – it’s all there. The growing cold changes everything; the scarves and jackets come out, the refrigerator gets a new set of residents and in our minds we seek the reassuring embrace of fireplaces, blankets and hearty comforting meals. Continue reading →
“Nice day for a white wedding…” drawled Billy Idol in his black voice on my phone as I wrestled (like I do everyday) with the lunch menu for a warm Saturday afternoon. His words lit the end of a long fuse in my brain, exploding in a star-burst of an idea to make a cold, white soup I’d seen in my newest cookbook – Fresh Spanish by Sergio Vasquez gifted to me by a friend. Simple, classic and elegant, this soup is ‘different’ and stylish enough to wow guests at a celebratory or casual lunch. With no butter, cheese or meat, it’s as healthy as they come; packed with the goodness of almonds, garlic, olive oil and grapes. Continue reading →
Chillies….on any given day you are likely to find at least five types of fresh and/or dried chillies in my fridge and kitchen cupboard. I simply love the flavour variations of different chillies and both my husband and son love them. Some are mild and sweet, some smoky, others fiery hot and still others that have a peppery tickle. Substituting one kind for another can drastically alter a dish, so it’s important to use the right kind of chilly as specified by a recipe. Continue reading →
Having survived a smothering by skies saturated with endless columns of cumulonimbus that almost caused a repeat of the Great Flood, I spent the first clear day chasing the sun at my local food market. During the rain, I sought the warm cocoon of spicy curries and deep, rich soups. But all that forced hibernation made me want to run out of my cave and inhale the freshly-spun sunshine. And the market was buzzing with infectious energy; I even spotted shocking pink, people-watching gerberas peer eagerly above their white buckets.
There was fresh produce everywhere – glowing bottle green cucumbers, cornelian carrots, perfumed basil and thyme, red-blooded plump tomatoes and happy, yellow lemons. They all screamed salad! So after overloading my baskets and popping over to my favourite Polish sausage-maker for a juicy leg of smoked turkey, I all but skipped my way home to an afternoon of salad and sauvignon blanc (yes it was as decadent as it sounds).
After the excesses of the weekend, I prefer to cook light on Mondays. But for my 12-year old, the first school day of the week is packed tight with academics, PE, football and swimming. By the time he gets home at five, he’s ready to eat a horse (maybe even an elephant), and his question is always the same “What’s for dinner Ma?” Like his question, my dilemma in deciding the menu also remains unchanged – the decision between a hearty dish(read meat, veggies and carbs) and a lighter, mostly meat-free meal. And so we tussle every week and although he eats whatever’s put in front of him, on some Mondays he does so reluctantly (and of course makes enough faces so that his unhappiness is duly registered!). But like all moms, I would like nothing better that for my child to enjoy what he eats, especially at the end of a long, tiring day.
So, determined to end this tug-of-war, I decided to give a little to get a little (in simple terms, a healthy compromise). From my side I broke my meatless meal rule – but I did opt for very lean meat. And for his part he agreed to a ‘more veggies with a little meat’ dish (which was great!) The peace having been brokered, I made a Thai-style meatball and rice noodle soup, which all parties were more than happy with. Continue reading →
These days my straw searches for the the last dregs of sweetness, love and light left at the bottom of my glass of festive spirit. January is limping towards the finish line, it’s back to school routine again and New Year’s resolutions are hitting their first (and in many cases their last, fatal) roadblocks. And I’m sure like me, you are constantly pinching your waist and watching the fat fill your palm. Yes, it’s the morning-after once again.
This annual hangover needs to be tackled on many levels – by eating healthy, working out and staying motivated towards your goals for the year (all, easier said than done). To be honest, my workout has seen better days and motivation is more like a pendulum, but I find it easier to eat healthy. In fact, after all the excesses of November and December, my body craves a more modest and frugal diet. Continue reading →