Cod and tomato chowder

Cod and tomato chowder

Cod and tomato chowder

I’m inherently lazy, and soups are just so easy to make that I can’t seem to stop.

This was dinner last night – hearty vegetables and a great flavoured soup made this a healthy and satisfying meal.

This recipe is from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite cookbook. All the recipes in there look fantastic; my only criticism of it so far is the way the graphic designer laid out the recipes. Each paragraph starts off with a part of the sentence in bold, large and coloured font, and my eye kept skipping over it as if it was a sub-head. It’s easy to miss important instructions that way, like when to add the tomatoes. Took me three times to read the recipe before I realized my missing tomatoes was written in that fancy coloured text.
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Curry mee – Langkawi and Penang, Malaysia

Curry mee is a curry and coconut milk noodle soup. In many parts of Malaysia and in Singapore, it is known as laksa or curry laksa. In Penang, it is known as curry mee as laksa in Penang refers to assam laksa, a very differently flavoured dish. (More about that to come in a different post.)

I had curry mee twice during my trip. The first was at a small place in Langkawi, an island in Malaysia that is popular for its beach resorts. I don’t remember the name of the place but it was like a mini-cafeteria in a strip-mall near Underwater World, and sold a variety of Malaysian and western foods. The burgers apparently sucked somewhat and the Hainanese chicken rice was so-so. I had curry mee and Ribena, a blackcurrent drink popular in parts of Asia and in the United Kingdom. The curry mee wasn’t bad. Decent spicing, vegetables weren’t too soggy… I just wish there had been more of them and a little less noodles. This photo is also the current image header for this blog, which I wrote about earlier. And yes, I was mocked by my father for buying Ribena (adults usually see this as a kid’s drink). And then I was laughed at for taking a photo of it. But hey, I like the taste and it has vitamin C.

Curry mee and Ribena - Langkawi

Curry mee and Ribena - Langkawi

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Raymond Blanc’s favourite recipe

Raymond Blanc demonstrates how to make his favourite recipe, a simple chocolate mousse that is low in sugar and contains very few ingredients. Mmmm yummy. He’s fun to watch too.

The recipe is also listed on that page, as well as a couple of variations that can be made – chocolate fondant and chocolate soup.

Oatmeal convert

I didn’t mean to double post today but I’m just so surprised at this revelation that I have to share.

For years and years, I’ve always thought the only good oatmeal was the kind that you ate in cookies or bars. Baked with lots of sugar, yum.

I’ve tried eating oatmeal for years (instant, non-instant, with dried fruit, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, with milk, and so on and so on), and every time I would shove it down reluctantly, repeating the mantra – “it’s good for me” until I was finished with the bowl.

Last month Serious Eats posted an article about Mark Bittman’s savoury oatmeal. It’s something I’ve kept in mind since, but since I really don’t like oatmeal I have been reluctant to try it. Well today, I finally did. Holy cow does it taste good with soy sauce! Why didn’t I think of this years earlier! Why didn’t my Chinese parents force feed me this before?!

You can click on the above link for specific instructions but basically you make your oatmeal like you regularly do, then add some light soy sauce and some green onions/scallions for garnish and a bit of crunch. The dish ends up tasting more like a brown rice jook (a.k.a. congee) than any oatmeal I’ve ever had before. (And by the way, I’m actually using a 5-cereal blend that includes oats, but now I think I’ll  a bag of steel-cut oats to my grocery list.)

Doing a quick Google search reveals that there are many other suggestions to make savoury oatmeal interesting. Adding a cooked egg, with the yolk dripping into your oatmeal, adding ginger and/or garlic to the water during the cooking process, using soup stock to cook the grains, making an oatmeal risotto… there are so many possibilities. I feel like yelling “Eureka!” as new world of breakfast has been opened to me. Excuse me, I think I’m going for a second helping.

Vegetable and bean soup

Vegetable and bean soup

Vegetable and bean soup

In my efforts to eat more vegetables and reduce the amount of daily calories, I took my tortellini soup and changed it up. Took out the tortellini, added more vegetables, and added a can of white kidney beans (cannellini beans).

One of the vegetables I added was a bunch of roughly chopped kale. This is the first time I have ever eaten kale, and it worked wonderfully in the soup. The leaves are quite tough, so the first servings of soup had some still crunchy kale in it. The kale softened in subsequent servings of the soup the next day. If I had used spinach on the other hand, it would have been overcooked and wilted if left in the soup, and I would have had to add fresh spinach every time I ate a bowl of the soup.

The beans added some protein and, together with a piece of whole grain toast, made the soup into a healthy meal with few calories.

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Cheese tortellini and vegetable soup

When I first made this dish, I used an Internet recipe that I cannot find anymore despite a thorough search through bookmarks, e-mails, print-outs and Google. While there are many tortellini soup recipes on the Internet, none that I read seemed quite right. I wanted something simple but hearty. And something that didn’t require sausage. For some reason, 70% of the Internet recipies I’ve found include Italian sausage! So when I needed to make this dish again, I used my very flimsy memory and flavour preferences, and made up my own version.

Cheese tortellini and vegetable soup

Cheese tortellini and vegetable soup

Cheese tortellini and vegetable soup

Makes approximately 6-8 servings.

Olive oil
One chopped medium onion
5-8 diced or pressed cloves of garlic
One to two cups chopped celery, including leaves (I find the leaves are a nice substitute for parsley.)
One to two cups chopped carrots
One can diced or crushed tomatoes (796 mL/28 oz)
900 mL/32 oz/4 cups of broth (I used two cartons of low-sodium beef broth but you could use chicken or vegetable broth. And you can use homemade stock of course, but I don’t bother because if I make fresh stock/broth, I’m drinking it as soup right then and there. I don’t necessarily agree that sticking water in with some vegetables for a few minutes will make a better stock than one with flavour already included.)
One package of fresh cheese tortellini (350 g)
Italian seasoning, fresh ground black pepper, and salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot and fry your garlic and onions until the onions start to turn translucent but do not let the garlic burn.

Add your celery, carrots, tomatoes, and soup stock. Add the spices. Let simmer until the vegetables are tender enough for your taste. I would recommend not letting it cook until the vegetables are very soft, as a slight bit of crunch is nice to have when eating the soup.

Add the tortellini and cook until the tortellini float to the top, and add additional spices if needed.

The tortellini will soak up a lot of soup, so you may need to add more stock if you are serving leftovers of this dish the next day. Another option is to cook only part of the tortellini package, and cook the remainder when you heat up the soup leftovers.

Variations: Add chopped parsley to the soup. Add other vegetables like spinach. Top soup with some freshly shredded Parmesan or similar cheese. Try using different tortellini like tri-coloured or herbed pasta.

Pea and ginger soup

This is a ridiculously simple recipe. It’s also got a great clear taste with a slight bite of ginger. If I wanted it to be fancy I’d probably strain it before serving, but as it was just for me I ate the bits of peas instead. More fibre is always a good thing for your body. 😉

Pea and ginger soup

Pea and ginger soup

Pea and Ginger Soup

– serves 2 to 3 –
Recipe from Mark Bittman, found at Serious Eats

2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Pour the chicken stock into a large pot along with the peas and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.