Black bean, egg and mushroom fried rice

Chinese black bean has been all the rage in our household for a while now. Known as Douchi in Chinese, they are essentially black soy beans that are heavily salted and fermented and used extensively to flavour everything from stir-fried vegetables and meats, eggs, to rice dishes. These little umami-laden nuggets are salty and sweet in the same bite and impart their gutsy flavour to whatever you choose to pair them with.

Chinese black bean paste, as is obvious, is made by pounding the fermented black beans and making them into a savoury paste. Extra garlic and soy are sometimes added to get the right piquancy and depth of flavour. I prefer the coarsely ground pastes to the black bean ‘sauces’ that you get, and it’s always fun to hunt around for those elusive beans in the dish afterward!

I know black bean has a bad rap in the Chinese takeaway scene. Soggy batter-fried strips of chicken doused in a goopy, almost gelatinous blanket of black sauce that makes any meat or vegetable in it completely indistinguishable. Or it’s a revoltingly sweet red sauce which tastes nothing like any Chinese that I’ve ever had anywhere. Not to mention the greasy noodles or fried rice with so much oil in it, that you wouldn’t actually need a side dish. Which reminds me of a recipe that I came across recently that said “add more oil if you’d like your rice greasier”. What, WHY?

This fried rice is healthy, and makes for a quick week night dinner; you could make it more substantial by throwing in more vegetables into the pot – baby corn, peppers, carrots, and beans work very well here. If you’re looking for a variation to your regular rice dish, this is a pretty good way of upping the ante.

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BRUSCHETTA PLATTER (with tomato & basil, mushroom & thyme, olive-caper tapenade, and oven-dried tomatoes)

I never realized this until now, but food blogging brings together a few of my favourite things..cooking (of course), food styling & food photography (which have been a more recent discovery) and my penchant for mindless writing. Don’t get me wrong, I make sure that the recipes that I post on here are my absolute favourites, be it old family classics passed down from my grandmother, or new eclectic combinations that have been stumbled upon through trial and error (or a complete fluke). I treat this blog like a database for my favourite recipes so if it’s on here, you know that it’s something I want to hang on to for dear life.

Bru-shet-ah? Or bru-sket-ah? That is the million-dollar question now. It’s actually the latter, since the Italians pronounce the sound “ch” as a “c”. Pronouncing it “bru-shet-ah” is their equivalent to scraping your fingernails on a chalkboard. I know, quite dramatic that.

These little canapés can be treated as rustic or chic as is your style, and can be topped with an assortment of ingredients ranging from basic to completely extravagant. Anything goes! You may want to experiment with different ingredients, and by all means, please do, but I do try to remember that when it really comes down to it, the simpler the better. A simple bruschetta proves that there indeed is elegance in restraint.

I came across a great idea recently – you can set up a cute little bruschetta bar for a party! Plan and make the toppings for your bruschetta and get your guests to build them up with whatever they’d like – it’s more fun, half the work, and you can even ask your guests to bring over a few ingredients for it without feeling the guilt of over-burdening them. Totally do-able!

I’ve made four very simple toppings here..tomato and basil, mushroom and thyme, olive-caper tapenade, and oven-dried tomatoes. I make my own oven-dried tomatoes that I preserve in Olive oil (recipe coming up soon), but a jar of shop bought sun-dried tomatoes will suffice nicely too. I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet though.. all of this took me less than 20 minutes to put together, start to finish! And an hour to photograph and edit the pictures before I could stuff my face. I did NOT sign up for this. Continue reading

The ‘grater’ of two evils : MAC & CHEESE WITH BACON, MUSHROOMS AND PEPPERS

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I think I had you at bacon, right?

This is not the typical mac & cheese that you may have grown up eating, but I can assure you that it’s got every bit of that gooeyness and flavour that is synonymous with it. I can safely say that this version is way simpler too – no fussy béchamel sauce, cheese custard making etc.,

The first step involves frying the bacon bits and setting it aside until it’s called for later. THIS is my favourite part of the recipe – the bacon juices that collect at the bottom of the pan – liquid gold. It makes for the most incredible base flavour that permeates through the sauce and gets absorbed by all the mushrooms, peppers and onions. Almost poetic?!

The smokiness from the bacon counteracts the cheese beautifully and elevates all of its flavours. I can’t think of making this dish without the chillies, and I would strongly recommend that you leave it in, unless of course you are completely spice intolerant.

I’d like to give my mom credit for the inspiration behind this little wonder. Even though I’ve made it a few times now giving it my own twists from time to time, I know I can follow her recipes to a tee and it’ll come out just perfect!

This Mac and cheese has comfort food written all over it. Try it once and you’ll keep getting bac-on it! Continue reading

Rice and shine : MUSHROOM AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO RISOTTO

I think this recipe has officially been my crowning glory, if I may say so myself! I’m not sure if this is the perfect risotto in Gordon’s Ramsay’s books, but it tasted pretty damn good and that’s all I care about really. So don’t be intimidated; the main things that really matter are texture and timing, and this recipe is pretty forgiving in both departments.

The traditional Italian risotto doesn’t leave ‘mush’ room for flavour, so I had to throw in the sun-dried tomatoes (and the pun) to spice things up a little bit. They undoubtedly brightened up the flavour, cut through the blandness(?) of the mushrooms, and proved to be a perfect match made in food heaven. This is a recipe that you would definitely want to experiment with, and by all means do! (I tried a wacky combination of leftover bulgogi and mushroom risotto and it was amazing!)

Although the addition of the Cheddar might offend those purist risotto aficionados, Nigella would have to bear the brunt of it for starting us off on that trend. Never tried this recipe with the traditional Parmesan but be my guest, and I’d love to know how it turns out! Continue reading