Thom & Aimee

Two Hobbits. The Kitchen. The Garden. And trouble ensues.

Tag: olive oil

The Novice Cook: Tomatoes, Eggs, Bread and Mozzarella

They say cooking for your family and friends is a form of love and appreciation. For me, cooking is almost like therapy, but it truly becomes enjoyment when I am alone in the kitchen. Why? When one has parents like mine, there is a limit on how much one can take on senseless questions: “are you sure you can handle it”, “do you need help”, or “should I call Ned to come over”.

Yes, the Novice Cook is looking terribly vulnerable, and holding a knife can be awfully dangerous when pissed. Taking on my promise that I would return to the kitchen, I decided breakfast would be the best time to truly immerse myself into the experience. Waking up at 7am on a weekend morning meant that everyone else was still in bed, and all I can hear were the birds and the droning sounds of tomatoes being chopped up.

I decided to roast a simple dish of lightly seasoned tomatoes, eggs, mozzarella and bread in the oven. Hardly rocket science. The recipe might not be complicated but it requires plenty of waiting. If I had known, I would have grilled some sausages on the side. All I did was stare at the oven and wishing that I was back in bed.

The tricky part was the eggs. I must have mentioned it before but I’ve never ever fried an egg my entire life. Poached, yes. Baking them was an easy way out. I did manage to break a few yolks because of sleep depravation. However, the end result were wobbly eggs set against pure whites. I did increase the time because they didn’t cook enough as specified. Watching the oven has its good points.

By the time the dish was ready, no one was awake. So lucky me, I had first dips. It actually reminded me of the Shakshuka that Ned made some time back. The tangy sweetness of the tomatoes, the crisp crust of the bread, stringy buttery mozzarella and freshness of the eggs. With minimal seasoning, it’s a wonder how this dish managed to bring so much to the plate.

We had second breakfast afterwards though. I should really have cooked those sausages.

The recipe is from Hugh’s Three Good Things.

The Novice Cook: Asparagus, Ham and Poached Egg on Toast

Last of our asparagus goodness was to celebrate Mother’s Day. Being women ourselves, it isn’t difficult to imagine what motherhood will be like in the future. We may not be mothers ourselves now but to see our own Mom work tirelessly for close to 30 years of her life is admirable and worthy of respect. It may be the simple things that we take for granted like putting dinner on the table everyday, doing the laundry or even just being there to listen to our whining. Sometimes, we rebel and say things we wished we hadn’t said. But deep down inside, Mom knows that she is always our best friend and cuddly bear for hugs.

We are never one to celebrate this overly commercialised festivity, but to save Mom from any cooking, what better way to say thank you with a breakfast full of goodness. And it was a great opportunity to finish up all the asparagus we bought over the weekend. Although this was part of my Novice Cook project, I had a little help from Ned with the poached eggs. You see, I have yet to fry an egg, much less a poached one.

Hugh’s recipe originally had Parma ham, which was available but really just too expensive. Plus, we weren’t keen on vacuum packed ham from the supermarkets.  One can use raw, cured Proscuitto ham by wrapping the soft meat around each asparagus spear while the vegetable is still hot. This allows the fat in the meat to soften and release its aroma. We wanted to minimise cooking, so the Parma ham was replaced with regular apple-flavoured gammon ham.

Eggs and asparagus are natural partners, especially when there is yolk present to dip the spears in. Hugh’s recipe did not require malt vinegar and I insisted on following it. But we figured the addition of malt vinegar did help with the consistency of the poached eggs, which you can refer to our previous eggy recipe here. The key to perfectly done poached eggs are to use very very fresh eggs, preferably free-range. And a little confidence. If you’d like to ‘glam’ this dish up a little, you can add in some homemade hollandaise sauce (which you can find here).

This was just a small token in appreciation to mom, but as all moms do, it’s their kids’ happiness that matter to them. That’s why moms are just made of awesome.

This recipe is from Hugh’s Three Good Things.

The Novice Cook: Roasted Peppers with Sourdough and Goat’s Cheese

One major reason why I decided to make goat’s cheese was because I stared at this recipe for so long. I love recipes that inspire, whether to start cooking or to eat better. For me, it was taking chances and learning new things. Although I haven’t got the confidence to make my own sourdough bread, homemade goat’s cheese was definitely a big start.

Being blissfully alone at home over the weekend, I stepped into the kitchen, turned on some slow jazz and pretended I was hosting my very own cook show. My only audience were my dad’s pet fishes and frogs, so there was no way they could laugh at me for not knowing how to peel the peppers.

Cooking has made me appreciate the beauty of simple tasks. The mere crushing of the rosemary and garlic, and roasting of the peppers releases such wonderful smells – conjuring an intoxicating image of a rustic Italian kitchen. The joy of sniping away fresh herbs from your garden, and watching pieces of bread turn golden brown with luscious peppery olive oil. Ah, the sweet life of a domesticated goddess!

I had my few share of misadventures (as usual): having no idea how to grill the peppers, I threw them into the microwave instead. As a result, the fruit lost a lot of the juice goodness. It was probably why i found it a chore to peel the skins off. I had no clue how long peppers took to cook, so each time spent in the microwave and later in the pan was probably inaccurate. Despite so, the dish was pretty awesome.

Although preparing a meal for oneself can sometimes be a little too much work, but the moment I sat down to gobble down my very own lunch, it was worth all the dirty utensils in the sink. Freshly picked herbs, succulent peppers, homemade goat’s cheese and organic sourdough bread, it was the right combination to make a perfect Sunday.

Recipe can be found in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Good Things (my handsome man).

The Novice Cook: Venison With Capers And Lemon

Since N’s away swaying to some indie music at a Gathering of Hipsters (also known as Laneway Festival), I decided to take over the kitchen. Yes, me attempting to make a dish that doesn’t include a hot pot of water and a packet of noodles. Well, the good news is that I did not set the kitchen on fire. The only embarrassing moment was when I had to ask my Mom how to cut a lemon.

Let me tell you the True-True: it’s a secret desire of mine to become a Domestic Goddess. Someday. We all need to start somewhere. That’s where Hugh’s Three Good Things came in. The beauty of Hugh’s philosophy in this book was about easily accessible ingredients, unfussy techniques, flexible recipes and basically, anyone should not be daunted by cooking. What really got me started were the clear instructions; there were no complicated or intimidating methods. Just pure simple cooking at its very core. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks Hugh is strangely attractive.)

In fact, I’m going to start a little project. I’ll try to cook every single recipe from this book to improve my skills and increase my repertoire, which explains “The Novice Cook” title. Nigella, watch your back.

We had some venison leftover from our last post. The zingy flavours of the lemon and sharp saltiness of the capers melded perfectly with the meat. I was surprised how fast it was to prepare this dish. The moment the flesh hits the hot pan was like rainbow shooting out from a unicorn’s mouth. The smoke, the sounds and the colours! I’m very good at undercooking food, so this dish benefitted from my bad habits as venison does not require much cooking. The recipe is so straightforward that extra tips would be unnecessary.

Serve it with some salad, and of course, some red wine. And bon appétit!

(I just received news that my cousin has given birth to a girl. Now I’m giddy with joy and the wine is not helping.)

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Penne with Prawn, Olives and Feta Cheese (Greek Pasta Salad)

Penne with Prawn, Olives and Feta Cheese
Pasta is fast becoming our family’s food of convenience. That and Japanese soba noodles, so apologies on the overload of pasta recipes.

Why this Greek pasta salad? It was one of those slow work days when my colleagues and I decided to have a little Mediterranean pot luck lunch in the office. Pasta was the only thing that covered all grounds: easy to cook, portable, ability to serve it cold, and a sure crowd and tummy pleaser. Well, the other reason was because I was craving for my colleague’s homemade hummus, hence the Mediterranean theme.

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Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing

Every part of the world has an apple cake of their own. An English apple cake would be different from a Swedish Äppelkaka or a Russian Sharlotka. The Americans have their pie, and the French their tarte tatin.

And Yotam Ottolenghi has his Apple and Olive Oil cake. Okay, Yotam is not a country but a chef from Israel who is based in the UK. The fact that this recipe does not include butter but olive oil intrigued us. With the subtleties of olive oil and playfulness of cinnamon, the apple still remains very much the star.

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Tomato & Thyme Foccacia

So here I am, seated in my little corner with the laptop propped on my lap – how do I even begin this entry? (You see, D has been bugging me to post this entry and I’ve procrastinated for a week)

I do suppose this project began when D and I took a trip down to Tekka Market, for a hope to chance upon some fruit or vegetable we could instill in a dish. The moment we laid our eyes on these fresh vibrant tomatoes – we were sold. Plus, it costs much cheaper in Tekka than in the supermarkets in Singapore.

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Cherry Tomato & Rosemary Spaghetti

Anyone who knows me know that I don’t cook. These are the usual excuses: pure intimidation, insufficient time, laziness, lack of knowledge, and laziness. If anything, this was the very first dish that got me cooking. (I still can’t gauge when pasta is cooked though. N calls me a kitchen noob.)

This requires almost no cooking at all. It’s food down to its basics, and despite its simplicity, it is full of robust flavours. I loved it so much that I had it for lunch everyday at one point.

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