Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quick Dinner 1 - Slightly Spicy Salt and Pepper Fish

Reality has set in. I've had to say good bye to my life as a housewife/lady of leisure - and hello to 10 hour days that leave me with very little time or energy to prepare elaborate meals every night of the week. Planning weekly menus and cooking on the weekends to stock up for the work week are tasks that have become more important than ever. But I must admit that on some weekends, I'd rather laze about than spend the day cooking. Hence, the need for a repertoire of dinners that can be whipped up in 20 minutes flat.

Thankfully, Mr. P has been so patient and supportive as I adjust to this change in pace. Because he works closer to home, he's put his hand up to do the prep work for me so that I walk into the kitchen with all ingredients in place and ready to go. I must say, we are making a great team so far.

This dish has become a staple for many reasons. It's quick and simple, it tastes great and is very satisfying. I guess you could also say it is pretty light and healthy, just use as little oil as possible when frying.
Dinner is Served in 20 Minutes Flat.
4 hoki or dory fillets, sliced into 2 inch pieces
2-3 stalks of scallions, chopped (white and green parts separated)
1/2 a sweet red chili, minced
1-2 cloves garlic
1 egg
1 cup of wholemeal flour 
salt and pepper
1 wedge of lemon
2T or less of rice bran oil

Season the fish lightly with a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Spread the flour on a plate and season lightly with salt and pepper. Dip the pieces of fish in the egg and lay on the seasoned flour to coat evenly.  

Saute the white scallion pieces in very little oil, add in the garlic and chili once it softens, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Add a little more oil. When the oil is hot, slide the pieces of fish into the pan and fry for about 2 minutes on each side or. Do not crowd the pan or the coating will get soggy. When the fish is golden brown, remove from heat and keep warm in a 160C oven while cooking the rest of the pieces. When all your fish is cooked through, put them all back into the pan and toss with the scallion, garlic, chili mixture. Top with the green scallion parts and serve immediately.

We love to eat this with a salad on the side, dressed with Japanese dressing. Of course, Mr. P has to have it with hot steaming white rice. 


Monday, January 10, 2011

Jamming for the Holidays

Oh dear, where did the time go? I can't believe I let two months pass without posting a new entry on this blog. I feel like I've cheated on blogging but the truth is, things got pretty busy over here.  My parents were here for most of November and we had so much fun taking them around. Not to mention, I was very happy cooking for four, sometimes six, rather than two. Many dishes were made and in time, they will be shared.

Towards the end of their visit my spouse visa also got granted. Because I am now allowed to work in Australia, I have been on hyper job-hunt mode. With that, cooking and blogging have been relegated (hopefully only for the time being). Having said that I am determined to get back into it. I guess I just need some time to re-adjust my daily schedule especially because the priority did moved from experimenting and documenting experiments, to the more serious task of securing employment. Then the holidays came and went and just like that, we are well into the New Year.

I'm happy to say that I'm getting my groove back. Throughout this period, we've still had some great dinners, sumptuous breakfasts and other experiments. Having had a full week, I was extremely delighted to find time in the kitchen. Some may get this and some may find it strange but for me, being in the kitchen is truly a release of stress, tension and even a bad mood.

Falling under "other experiments" are the jams I made as Christmas gifts. One day I read a recipe for banana-mango jam from the issue of Yummy magazine that my mom brought from the Philippines. I was so intrigued, I decided to make something of the bananas that needed to be consumed before going dark. I didn't have mango though but I had apricots and passionfruit. I simply used those fruits in place of the mango and voila, I amazed Mr. P and myself with a delicious concoction that went so well with goat cheese and toast. It was really good!

Right about this time, we were thinking of gift items for the family members we were going to be seeing over the holidays. Mr. P promptly suggested that this could be it. I thought about it and decided it was a great idea to go with homemade gifts this year. I remembered an Ina Garten recipe that combined strawberries and basil. But, for the second jam that ws to go into the basket, I really wanted to use sage. My basil plant was still a baby and yet I had sage growing like a weed in our balcony. I tested both anyway and confirmed that this fruit-herb combination would work. Recipes all set and off I went to buy the ingredients, containers, and packaging supplies. It was time to jam.

Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the jams themselves but I have photos of how I intended to pack them up for gift-giving time. We were quite happy with the look and even happier to know that the recipients and their families truly enjoyed these little concoctions.

With this experiment done, I really would like to venture into making more interesting combinations later on. I guess with anything else in life, it's just a matter of finding the perfect match.

Banana-Passionfruit-Apricot Jam 
(adapted from Pixie Sevilla-Santos' Banana-Mango jam recipe in the Sept 2010 issue of Yummy Magazine)
4 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 kilo of the fruits, combined (I think I had 4 bananas, 3 apricots and 3 cups of passionfruit pulp)

Cook the sugar and water until it reaches the soft ball stage (to test, drop a small amount of the boiling syrup into cold water, if you can gather the strands into a soft ball, you are there). This takes about 8-10 minutes of rapid boiling, or if you are using a thermometer (I didn't) it should be at 112C.

Once you've reached this stage, put the peeled and sliced bananas and apricots into the pot. Add the passionfruit pulp. Boil for about 15 more minutes until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Take note that while it is hot, it may seem runny. Once the jam cools, it will set more.

Strawberry and Sage Jam
1 kilo of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 cups raw sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
rind of 2 lemons
5 sage leaves

Combine all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring consistently. Once the strawberries break down, lower the heat and add the sage leaves. Continue to boil slowly until you reach your desired consistency. The flavour of the sage will gently infuse into the strawberry mixture.

For both recipes, pour the jams into sterilised jars while hot and seal tightly. Put the sealed jars into a pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Let them sit in the boiling water for 10-15 minutes. This process will give your jams a long shelf life.

I hope this is just the start of some unlikely but lovely matches to be made in my kitchen!