Monday, 31 August 2015

My Home Gardening - Vegetables 自耕自煮 (蔬菜篇)

I grow my vegetables on our roof terrace - a small area with abundant sunlight. This is where I grow all the edibles. And they are all organic....

1. Arugula Rockets

Arugula Rockets - I used French Arugula seeds. They were rather expensive (I paid SGD 9.90 for a small packet) but well worth the value. It took 5 weeks from seedling to  its first harvest. Almost 100% of the seeds sprouted but 15% succumbed to the continuous rainy days few weeks ago. They were too young and weak to withstand the continuous downpour. The surviving ones are ever blooming now. The more I trim and harvest, the better they seem to grow. I am seeing many more rounds of harvests before I exhaust them. 

It is essential to fertilize with organic fertilizers every 7 to 10 days from beginning. 

I used them as toppings for my Grilled Salmon Pizza. The peppery taste was excellent. I could taste its freshness in between my teeth....

2. Wild Rockets

Wild Rockets seem more beaten by Singapore's hot and humid climate in comparison to Arugula Rockets. It took much longer from seedling to harvest. I almost thought I lost the whole batch. The success rate from seedling to sprouting was about 50%. As I prefer Wild Rockets for salads & greens, I am still insistent to keep this on my list. 
Tough as they may be, my Wild Rocket leaves are still beautifully shaped. That is satisfying.

3. Eggplant

I cannot be happier with this eggplant. It has been flowering and fruiting continuously. I do give it a "flowering & fruiting" spa mist (spray fertilizer) on a weekly basis though.

This is a plant that need support assistance. I cable tie each main stem with a standing pole to let it thrive. Otherwise, they may not bear much fruits.

Eggplant needs excessive watering and very efficient drainage from the pot. I water it twice a day in hot weathers. These drooping leaves were in process of 'reviving' after my second round of watering today.

I am in the process of planting and seedling other local vegetables. I will share their photos when the crops are ready for some shots.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Duck Soup with Salted Vegetables & Tofu 咸菜豆腐鸭汤

The marriage of salty and sour tastes from the few key ingredients in 咸菜豆腐鸭汤 always serve to tantalize our appetites, making us hungry for more....

Salted vegetables 咸菜 (aka salted mustard green) are cooling in nature. Hence, I personally prefer to neutralize with some 'heaty' ingredients such as ginger, garlic and white peppercorns.

This is a must-have traditional dish in many South East Asian Chinese families. There are many variations and versions. As usual, I prefer to prepare mine as a single pot dish to just go with fragrant rice. 

Ingredients (enough for 4 pax) :

  • Half a duck (chopped into pieces)(skin removed, washed & drained)
  • 300 gm salted vegetables/giam chye/salted mustard green 咸菜 (soaked in water for 15 to 30 minutes before cook)
  • 3 pcs pickled sour plums (available in supermarkets/markets)
  • 1 carrot (chopped into chunks)
  • 2 tomatoes (chopped into quarters)
  • 1 standard tray of tofu/beancurd (available in supermarkets/markets)(cut into chunks)
  • 2-3 tsp white peppercorns (grounded or crushed with pestle & mortar)
  • 2 whole garlic (I prefer to peel so that the soup would be 'cleaner')
  • 4-5 slices ginger
  • 2 litre water

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon)    

Tip : Choose the stem portion of the salted vegetables. It works better for soups. The leaf portions are more suitable for other cooking processes such as stir frying.

Pickled sour plums available from supermarket/markets.

Method :

Blanch duck pieces in boiling water for 5 minutes to remove scum beforehand. Rinse and clean duck meat in running water after that.
Add all ingredients and spices into soup pot EXCEPT tomatoes and tofu.
Add 2 liters water into soup pot. Turn on high heat till water/soup reaches boiling point. Once the water/soup boils, turn to low-medium heat and continue to boil for 1.5 to 2 hours. Duck meat is tough. It takes longer to reach tenderness. I prefer to boil minimum 2 hours.
Add tomatoes and tofu to boil 10 minutes before your intended serving time. 
Duck meat tender and still tasty. Salted vegetables still flavourful.
Comforting....especially on a rainy day.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Chicken Lettuce Wraps 鸡丁生菜卷

The Chicken Lettuce Wraps - A single dish good enough to go with a bowl of plain rice. It is a dish that screams mom's home cooked food (家常菜)!

It is very easy to prepare and cook. And very budget friendly. 

Ingredients (enough for 2 to 4 pax if served together with rice) :

  • 1 big pc of boneless chicken thigh (washed, drained and chopped to dices)(I rubbed the chicken with a pinch of salt after drained and set it aside for 10 minutes before cook)
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables 
  • 4 pcs dried mushrooms (soak to soften and diced)
  • 6 to 8 pcs iceberg lettuce (washed and drained)(to be used as wraps)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 4 slices of ginger (finely chopped or grated) 
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 stalk of spring onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 stalk cilantro/coriander (optional)(finely chopped)
  • 1 pc red chilli  (optional)(sliced)
  • 2 tbsp shaoxing wine or rice wine 
  • 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
  • few drops of dark soy sauce
  • a small pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon)    

Tip : I prefer finely chopped water chestnuts but substituted with frozen mixed vegetables as I ran out of water chestnuts. You do not have to strictly follow the recipe on the usage of ingredients. Just make use of what comes handy to you.

Method :

Heat cooking oil in skillet or wok. Then sauté aromatic ingredients in the following sequence : ginger, onions, garlic.
At medium to high heat, fold in the chicken dices and stir fry for 1 minute. 
Add diced mushrooms when chicken is about 70% cooked. After that, you may add 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce, few drops of dark soy sauce, a small pinch of salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tbsp rice wine. Stir all ingredients.
When chicken is almost cooked, add mixed vegetables (or finely chopped water chestnut if you have). Toss the ingredients again for another 1 minute.
When all ingredients are cooked, turn off the heat/fire and add red-cut chilli (optional), coriander (optional) and spring onions. Give it a final toss with 1 tsp sesame oil and transfer to serving bowl.
Ready to be served with iceberg lettuce.
This is really yummy! Exactly from a mom's kitchen.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes dishes usually do not take the limelight as they are often served as side dishes. This is no different. I made this to share the oven space while baking a 12-inch pizza and also because I harvested too much rosemary this morning. 

It turned out to be very delicious....almost overshadowed the Grilled Salmon Pizza that came out from the same oven.

Ingredients (enough for 2 pax) :
  • 3 potatoes (do not peel)(washed and drained)(cut into quarters)
  • 1 to 2 stalks of rosemary (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp grounded black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crispy sambal shrimps or chilli flakes (optional)(available in supermarkets)

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon) 

Method :

Sprinkle salt and grounded pepper on potatoes. Add 1 tbsp olive oil.
Add finely chopped rosemary (use the leaf portions only). If you prefer the potatoes to be slightly spicy, sprinkle a little crispy sambal shrimps or chilli flakes on potatoes. Toss all ingredients evenly. Cover with aluminium foil and bake in oven (at 180 degrees celsius for 1 hour). Remove from oven every 15 minutes to give it a thorough toss to ensure even taste.
Remove from oven after 1 hour and roasted potatoes are ready to be served.
The aftertaste remained in our mouths the whole evening.

Grilled Salmon Pizza with Crispy Sambal Shrimps

My Arugula Rocket gave me its first harvest after I sowed the seeds 5 weeks ago. I was excited with my labour of love. I was not expecting good harvest as it was my first attempt to grow vegetables in my small organic herbs terrace. I was wrong! 

I thought the peppery flavour from the arugula leaves would marry well with the piece of salmon that I was thawing in the refrigerator and Grilled Salmon Pizza seemed like a good idea.

Most online recipes use smoked salmon for pizzas. I had no intention to follow suit. My recipe would minimise the usual 'fishy' smell from cooked salmon, thereby, making the pizza absolutely delicious.

Ingredients & Condiments :
  • 1 pc of 12-inch pizza crust (available in supermarkets)
  • 1 cup of arugula rocket leaves 
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of salmon (about 300 gm)(sliced to thin pieces)(pre-marinated with few drops of sesame oil and 1/2 tsp teriyaki sauce)
  • 1 large onion (sliced to rings)
  • 2-3 small peppers (optional)(sliced to thin pieces)
  • 1 cup of pizza sauce (mix 4 tbsp sour cream with 2 stalks of finely chopped parsley well)
  • 1 tbsp crispy sambal shrimps (available in supermarkets)

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon) 

The same crispy sambal shrimp that I used for my seafood paella.

Method :

Grease 12 inch pizza pan and pre-heat oven at 180 degrees celsius (for 15 minutes). I still feel that it is nicer to bake the pizza directly on the oven rack (without a pan) as it gives us a crispier crust, but the thought of cleaning the oven rack.....duh...
Spread pizza sauce on crust. Do not spread to the brim. Leave an edge.
As I was already using sour cream as base, mozzarella cheese was added sparingly to avoid the pizza being too rich, too oily. I only added shredded mozzarella cheese at the centre for flavouring purpose.
This is the essential part. Onions must be added to complement the salmon. This would bring down the 'fishy' smell of the salmon quite significantly. In this instance, I added a little sliced peppers too.
Arrange salmon pieces on top of the onions.
Sprinkle crispy sambal shrimps on the salmon pieces and pizza is ready for oven.
Bake pizza in oven at 180 degrees celsius for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, increase heat to 200 degrees celsius and bake for another 5 minutes. At these temperatures, the salmon would still retain its moisture whilst the cheese would be slightly burnt when the pizza is removed fro the oven.
Remove hot pizza from oven.
Top with arugula rocket leaves and the pizza is good to be served.
If you prefer it to be more spicy, just sprinkle more crispy sambal shrimps (or chilli flakes) on your pizza before eating.
Absolutely can savour the freshness of all ingredients.