Tuesday 13 March 2012

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Lemon

A simple easy to do side dish for busy people.



Original recipe yield: Serves 2, as a side dish

1 packet of asparagus, rough ends trimmed (approximately 300 gms)
Olive oil, as needed
Italian herbs (optional)
4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
Lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
Pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Throw in garlic. After a couple of minutes, before the garlic browns, throw in a dash of italian herbs and the asparagus. Roast over pan for less than 5 minutes - use a wooden stirrer to test if the asparagus is still crunchy, not wilting (if so, it's overcooked!). Throw in salt and pepper to taste.
2. Drizzle lemon juice over the asparagus. Serve hot!

Note: Use thicker asparagus shoots if they are available to you. It's easier to prevent them from overcooking.

Be careful not to get the garlic burnt. This dish is supposed to be subtle, to replicate what it's like baking the asparagus in an oven. However, with such thin asparagus shoots, it's best to cook them over a pan to prevent them from overcooking.

Healthy Mushroom & Chicken Risotto

I am not a big fan of rice dishes, but was tempted earlier today to try a new recipe. A few days back, I had a bit of craving for that wild mushroom soup (not the creamy milky version you so often get in restaurants) and thought it would be good to try making a mushroom sauce based risotto. I had something similar a couple of years back in a restaurant in Holland Village, and wanted to recreate that taste long forgotten.

PREP TIME 15 mins
COOK IN 1 hour (I used brown short grain rice which I believe takes longer to cook, it should cook in half an hour if you use the normal arborio rice for risottos)

Original recipe yield: Serves 2 as a main course


300 gms of fresh mixed mushrooms (packet comprising of portebello, white and brown swiss mushrooms)

200 gms of chicken breast, sliced

Dry white wine, 1 glass or 1/2 glass, as preferred

Vegetable or fish stock, 1 cube or 1/2 cube, as preferred

1 cup brown short grain rice (rightfully, you should use arborio rice)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

Mixed italian herbs (a dash)

Thyme (optional)

Tarragon (optional)

Spring onions / chives (optional)

Parmesan, 1/2 cup shredded

Olive oil, as needed

40 gm butter (optional)

Sea salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste


1. Heat some olive oil over a deep saucepan. Throw in the chopped garlic and onions. Throw in a dash of italian herbs. When the onions turn translucent, throw the uncooked rice in and mix well. Stir for around a couple of minutes until the rice grains appear glassy.
2. Add the wine into the mixture over medium heat and stir, until the wine is more or less absorbed and the flavours develop in the rice grains.
3. On the side, make a stock mixture (of maybe 5-6 cups of water with broken chicken/vegetable stock) and stir 1/2 cup bit by bit into the saucepan with the rice. Once the liquid is more or less absorbed, stir in another 1/2 cup. Repeat this process until the rice grains are cooked al dente (firm yet tender to the bite).
4. On the side, separately marinate the chicken slices with sea salt, pepper and a dash of tarragon (or italian herbs). Fry in olive oil in a saucepan till browned and set aside.
5. Next, fry the mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil and butter (optional). Once the rice grains (cooked separately) are more or less cooked, throw the mushrooms mixture (with butter sauce/oil) into the risotto mixture. Continue cooking on medium low heat and keep on stirring.
6. Once done, stir in the shredded parmesan. Garnish with thyme/chopped spring onions and top with the stir fried chicken. Your risotto is ready for consumption!

1. I wanted my risotto to be steeped in the wild mushroom sauce. I used a blender to blend half of the mushrooms very finely. For the other half I had I chopped them roughly, for texture in the risotto. This can be adjusted depending on your reference.
2. Though most risotto recipes call for cream and cheese, I left the parmesan out this time, on request from the husband. I used butter though when I fried the mushrooms, as all cooks know, it gives an instant great flavour to any dish. If you are health conscious, use either butter to fry the mushrooms or top your risotto with parmesan, but not both. Either one is enough to give your risotto a great taste. Still the flavours were fully developed and this is a recipe I will return to again.
3. Keep on stirring - it's very important not to overcook or undercook the rice grains. However, it is not wise to pour too much water into the saucepan at any one time in your bid to cook the rice grains. The technique is to pour in half a cup at a time, and to keep on stirring until most of the liquid water is absorbed, and then re-adding in the next half a cup of water. You have to be there when it's cooking. Making risotto is a laborious process, but well worth it if that's what you are craving at the moment! You need lots of patience.
4. Because I used brown rice (short grain) but not the usual arborio rice, I took around an hour, longer than anticipated. For some reason, it took a really long time to cook. Most risotto recipes wherein the arborio rice is used have a cooking time of 35 minutes.

Monday 12 March 2012

Greek Fish Soup (Psaro Soupa)

This dish was inspired by the homemade fish soup I savoured at Stalactites, a greek restaurant in Melbourne.

PREP TIME Rather long, unless you have the convenience of a hand held blender to finely chop the vegetables
COOK IN 45 mins

Original recipe yield: Serves 4, with bread on the side.


1/3 kg (approximately) of firm fish
1/3 cup olive oil
2 onions sliced (very finely)
2 potatoes sliced (into cubes)
2 carrots sliced (into very small cubes)
1 cup celery chopped
1 clove garlic minced
2 cups tomatoes (1/2 can peeled tomatoes) (chopped tomatoes)
1 wineglass dry white wine (and one for the cook ;))
6 cups water or fish stock
1 bay leaf (optional)
Peppercorns (to taste)
Sea salt (to taste)
1/2 lemon (juice of) (important)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 cup rice (semi-cooked, should be no more than equivalent of the total amount of celery and carrots when cooked, since you don't want the rice to overwhelm the soup dish)


1. Put uncooked rice (1/2 cup) for 4 people in water and boil. When rice is slightly al dente, drain and set aside. Do not overcook.
2. Thinly slice fish (I used toman (local fish) or any firm flesh fish like snapper will do) & marinate the fish slices with salt and pepper.
3. Separately, in a pan, heat olive oil, fry onion, potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic. Sprinkle water and let it simmer for 5 mins, add tomatoes, wine, water (6 cups with 1 cube stock), bay leave (if you have this) and peppercorns, bring to boil and continue simmering at low heat for around 30 mins. Add drained rice, salt, lemon juice, parsley and fish at the very last step. Bring to boil, lower heat and continue cooking until fish is tender, for about fifteen minutes.
4. Taste the soup - add more lemon juice if more zestiness is desired.

1. I used a Bosch handheld blender to pulse through the vegetables coarsely - this saved a lot of time on preparation even though the vegetables were not evenly chopped (not quite possible with a simple handheld blender). Generally, the soup should have the appearance of a summer vegetable soup, but with fish slices and a zesty punch to it.

2. For a less heavy meal option, leave out the rice and simply have the soup on its own.