Archive for the ‘One dish (pot) wonders’ Category

Organic quinoa & veggie salad

I got to try quinoa (pronounced “kee-NO-wah” or “KEEN-wah”) through my friend SM and have been quite obsessed about it ever since. I have long known about it but just did not get a chance to taste it until a year + ago at an organic cafe in Taman Tun.

Essentially a seed, quinoa is more popularly known as a gluten free grain that is bursting rich in essential nutrients such as lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair; manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and a high iron content. Dated back to ancient Peruvian times, quinoa has a mild nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture when cooked. Read more about the goodness and history of quinoa here and here.

You can eat quinoa on its own like rice, or cook it with other gluten free grains like millet, buckwheat, brown rice and amaranth (same botanical family as quinoa) to eat with cooked dishes, or simply make a salad combined with vegetables or other ingredients.

Quinoa is a staple food for me, it is an ingredient that can be found permanently in my kitchen cupboard, and comes in really handy if I need something filling and nutritious. As I have problems digesting gluten-filled grains, this is my best option besides brown rice.

The simplest, fastest and my favorite way to eat quinoa, is to make a quick and simple veggie salad, tweaking the popular Middle Eastern salad, Tabbouleh, made using a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs (tomato, cucumber, spring onion, mint leaves and parsley), bulgur wheat, and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Quinoa is used in place of bulgur as a gluten free option.

You’ll get a refreshing and nutritious salad bursting with a combination of flavours, yet light and filling at the same time. You can basically add anything to this salad. I love to toss in some torn lettuce leaves, avocado cubes, roasted saltless nuts (my favourites are almond and cashew) and torn nori sheets. That would make a hearty breakfast, or a great accompaniment to pasta or mains.

I get my supply of organic quinoa from the healthfood stores. For those staying in KL and surrounding areas, you can easily get them from Country Farm Organics or Village Grocer in Bangsar Village. Country Farm Organics is my preferred store and brand as the grains are really clean and require less rinsing before cooking. Organic quinoa isn’t cheap, but I have not seen any non-organic ones so far, not in KL at least. Pricing ranges from RM14 – 19 per pack (500g), normally comes in either plain white quinoa, or mixed 3 colours.

Serving size: 2
Preparation/cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (organic ingredients used whenever available):
3 tbsp organic quinoa (plain or mixed colours), rinsed with running water in a strainer
1 cup water
pinch of salt

1/2 small cucumber, seeded and diced
5 – 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 – 5 pcs Romaine, iceberg, butterhead or other types of lettuce, torn into smaller pieces
1 small ripe avocado, cubed
1/4 red or green capsicum, diced (optional)
1 stalk spring onion, thinly sliced
2 – 3 sprigs flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 – 3 stalks fresh mint (leaves only), chopped
1 large piece of unflavoured nori sheet (the ones you use to make sushi)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste


1. Toss quinoa lightly in a small pot (you need one with a lid) on low heat until you get a nutty aroma. (This step is optional, you can skip this and go straight to step 2)
2. Add water and salt and cook on medium heat for about 5 – 10 minutes, then reduce to low heat and continue to cook about 10 – 15 minutes until you see the grains start to get translucent and fluffy and the quinoa germ separates from the kernel (they look like little white rings). [While doing this, prepare the vegetables and fresh herbs]
3. Remove pot from the heat, fluff the quinoa grains lightly with a fork, cover with the lid of the pot and leave aside for another 10 – 15 minutes. This is to ensure the quinoa grains are properly cooked.
4. Combine all vegetables and herbs with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add in quinoa, roasted nuts and toss well. Top with torn nori sheets.

Below are some of the photos that I took a couple of weeks back, after the arrival of my (new) antique cutting board from France. The cutting board is so well used, rustic, and full of characters that I just had to find reasons to photograph it! The board is seen here with some of the ingredients used to make this simple and nutritious salad.


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With the pretty mini eggplants still sitting in the refrigerator, I had to figure out how to cook them. Also known as brinjal or aubergine, eggplant is a very versatile vegetable, you can create lots of dishes from it. But I am not familiar with this small variety and how they would taste like. I guess with curry, you will not go wrong. So I decided to try my fool proof fish & vegetable curry with these little beauties. stingray fish curry-diptych

You can find eggplant in almost any countries in the world, well at least those I’ve visited. It is one of the vegetables that you can find in almost every supermarket in Europe, aside from tomato, potato, onions and garlic. I cooked this dish a number of times when I was traveling in Italy and France, where they were found in abundance. It’s very simple to make, even someone who has never cooked will be able to do this right. What’s challenging to find is the curry powder, as you may not find curry powder in every supermarket in Europe.

Back home in Malaysia, I would use fish curry powder but when I was traveling in Europe, I just basically used any curry powder that was available in the supermarket. This is the best comfort Asian food for me when the weather is cold, and to share with many people. The spiciness is very mild, so most people would be able to tolerate it. It has a sweet and sour taste, coupled with the richness from the coconut milk or milk makes it a very appetizing meal!

I cooked this dish twice in Italy, and once in France. When I cooked it for the second time in Italy, I plucked some of the vegetables fresh from the organic farm I was at, and it tasted really good, we had it with bread. It was cooked using a large 2-feet deep copper pot over wood fire. Boy, it was definitely an experience to remember! (photo here with Guenther and Matt from the farm helping me to cook the stew)

It is best to use fish with harder flesh (such as mackerel, stingray and grouper) and avoid fillet as the fish fillet tends to break up easily and you will not be able to taste the fish properly!

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes
Serving: 4

500 g of stingray (or mackerel or grouper) , cut into small pieces of 2 cm thick, rubbed with 1/2 tsp salt and leave for 20 minutes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 shallots (if you can’t find shallots when you travel in Europe, use small onions), sliced thinly
1 inch ginger (optional, if you can’t find at the supermarket), thinly julienned
1 medium long eggplant, cut into triangle wedges
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut each into 6 wedges
2 medium onion, cut each into 6 wedges
8 – 10 okra (ladies finger), halved (I couldn’t find okra in supermarkets in Italy and France, so I substituted with carrot or potato, cut into large chunks)
3 cabbage leaves (optional), torn into smaller pieces
2 tbsp fish curry powder (or any curry powder if you can’t find the fish one)
2 tbsp cooking oil (you can use olive oil also)
1 liter water
200 ml coconut milk (fresh or packet), substitute with milk if you can’t find coconut milk
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lime juice (or kalamansi lime (kasturi) or lemon)


  1. Heat up oil in a large pot and fry garlic, shallot and ginger until tender.
  2. Add onion wedges, eggplant and cabbage (or carrot and potato if you are using), add water and stir evenly. Close lid and leave to simmer on low heat for around 10 minutes before adding okra and tomato and simmer for another 5 minutes before adding the fish. Close the lid of the pot and continue to simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes until fish is thoroughly cooked (when the flesh is firm and no longer translucent). If you use potato, poke with a fork to check if the chunks are cooked.
  3. Add in coconut milk and stir evenly. Season with sugar and salt (adjust according to your taste) and add in the lime juice, stir evenly before turning off the fire.
  4. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Note: The mini eggplant turned out a bit bitter, compared to the regular long eggplant…

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Sweet sour pork chop rice-IMG_6461-5800-contrast copyWhen I was traveling in Europe from early July till mid August this year, I missed Asian cuisine so much. I don’t normally cook Asian or Chinese dishes that much at home, but if I do, it is more for sustenance or if I have foreign friends in town which prefer to dine on Chinese or Asian cuisine.

When I was in Europe, I reached my saturation point for pizza and pasta in Italy; sandwiches, salad and bread in France (I couldn’t afford nice restaurant food everyday!) after a couple of weeks. I was yearning for Asian food every evening after an exhaustive day sight seeing and walking non-stop, it’s like a comfort food when you’re tired and worn out. I’ve never loved backpackers’ hostels that much until I went to Europe! Simply because they have cooking facilities which allow me to cook up a quick delicious meal that costs a lot lesser than what you would normally pay at a nice restaurant.

The first thing after I settle in at any backpackers’ hostel, is to ask where the supermarket is, then I will check out the kitchen and cooking facilities. I normally check the hostels if they have cooking facilities, before I book them online, or email them before I book. And after that I would go to the supermarket to do an inventory to see what they sell and plan what I can prepare during the length of my stay. I have basic cooking ingredients which I carry around, but many backpacker’s hostel with cooking facilities where I stayed in Italy and France do have the basic stuff such as salt, sugar, pepper, and if you are lucky, olive oil and even flour and dry herbs/spices.

Eiffel tower-IMG_4473-auto-contrast copyThis dish was created in my hostel in Paris, which was situated right next to a small supermarket, and another bigger supermarket with more complete range of ingredients 10 minutes walk away. I made this for myself and Gary, my dorm mate from Melbourne, Australia. Most smaller supermarkets in Paris are not very well stocked, it’s not easy to find Asian ingredients, but you can still find common ingredients that enable you to cook up a delicious Asian dish within a short period of time.

I recreated this today for lunch so that I could photograph the dish, and it’s so delicious that I almost licked the plate clean! It’s very easy to prepare, fool proof, and not expensive too! Gary and I paid about €4 each for the dish + a bottle of Rosé wine! (Eating similar dish like this at an Asian restaurant in France or Italy will easily cost a few more Euros!) You can easily get all these ingredients at most supermarkets in Paris or other parts of France if you are planning to travel there.

Kids will love this too, as the sweet and sourish taste of the gravy definitely appeals to them!

Paris-Louvre-CY&Gary-IMG_4448-shade-sGary and I at the Lourve…

Cooking time: 20 mins
Preparation: 15 mins
Serving: 2

1 medium-sized pork chop or lean pork loin, sliced about 5 mm thick, marinated for 15 minutes with salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp corn flour (this can be omitted if you find it too troublesome to get when you’re traveling)
1 sweet bell pepper (capsicum), red or green, diced into small squares
2 large ripe tomato, cut into small chunks
5 button mushroom (champignon), quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 small onion, chopped finely
3 tbsp cooking oil or olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce (optional, if you can’t find them at the supermarket)
3 tbsp white/Rosé wine (optional, use this from the bottle that you’re going to drink later)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 cup long grain Asian rice
2 cups water


1. Cook rice. If you are staying in a backpacker’s hostel with no rice cooker or a steamer, follow this step. Wash rice with water and drain away the water. (If you use pre-cooked rice, follow the instructions on the pack) Boil the 2 cups of water in a pot and add in the rice when the water reaches boiling point, stir evenly. Turn down heat, cover with lid and cook for about 10 – 15 minutes until water is almost fully dried, turn off heat and let the remaining moisture get absorbed into the rice. This should take another 10 – 15 minutes or so. If you have a rice cooker, just cook rice (1 part of rice to 2 parts of water) using the normal procedure or you can steam them.
2. Heat oil in a deep pan, fry the pork chop slices until light brown and fragrant. Dish out and put aside.
3. Fry chopped garlic and onion with the remaining oil until tender, add tomato chunks, water and soy sauce, cook until tomato chunks turn tender and mushy.
4. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and the fried pork chop slices, cook until tender and gravy thickens. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Serve hot with rice.

Note: You can substitute pork chop with beef steak, minced pork or beef and cook in the same manner.
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