Monday, January 14, 2013

Stories From the Kitchen

When I first came to the UK, I HARDLY cook. Hardly is probably an understatement. My 'bibik' would always do it for me even when I wanted a bowl of Maggi mee. The only dish I could proudly claim to cooking it well would be spaghetti bolognese.

Living alone and far away from home would teach you a lot of things. One of the things I have learned to do in my first few months here is cooking. At first I was content with cooking using those Brahim packets my mum packed from home. For beginners, they are God-sent. Have your chicken/beef/fish ready, pour in the paste and voila, Malaysian food cooked within 10 minutes! 

I remember the first week in Sheffield when Hanna and I wanted to make scrambled eggs in the kitchen for the first time. Don't know what was up with us back then but we were unsure what goes into the pan. *facepalm* Tu laa, mak suruh rajin masuk dapur dulu, tak nak. 

Our cooking skills were non-existent but we somehow managed to feed ourselves without having to eat out very often. Think we were on fried rice every day for the next few weeks to come. Whatever kind of fried rice you could think of, we had it. Veggie fried rice, chicken fried rice, seafood fried rice, anchovies fried rice. Those and Brahim meals, of course.

But after a few months, we got bored of eating the same thing day in, day out. And it was decided, we HAVE to learn to cook properly. I can't imagine eating all these for the next 3 years. I was on the track to start losing weight too so, I had to find better food alternatives than fried rice and processed meals. 

Cooking can be fun. It is both science and art. The science of mixing the right ingredients and their measurements to get the right balance of tastes. The art of making your dish appetising and appealing. The only thing I find agitating about cooking is the time it takes up and of course, the cleaning up afterwards. 40 minutes to cook and only 10 minutes to finish up everything. Heh.

I love my food baked. It's healthier and hassle-free. I've been getting creative with my marinate sauces and mixes too. Sometimes I just throw in whatever is left in the fridge and hope something good would come out of it. At times, that works and other times, well...still edible la. 

I would sometimes email my parents photos of the meal I've cooked and they couldn't be prouder. Yahh, from not knowing (or refusing) to cook at home, I'm cooking my own food every day now. Guess they expect me to do the same when I come back for summer break soon. Haha.

The thing with cooking is that it is a skill you CAN pick up. That's why I don't believe it when people say "I can't cook." or "Cooking is the one thing I can't do." It requires a bit of time and effort, yes. But it's not rocket science. Take it from me, someone who wasn't sure how to make scrambled eggs in the beginning :p

Some photos of what I've cooked here. They are far from great but for baby steps, they are not too bad. Next on my list is learning how to cook Malay food from scratch. They prove to be more of a challenge since they require more ingredients, time and patience. 

Soon soon.

Sambal sardin. So simple yet so satisfying. Prepare your sambal beforehand and cook it with whatever you want.

Roasted soy-garlic chicken and caramelised sweet potatoes. Since I'm trying to be on a healthier diet, I've substituted potatoes with sweet potatoes. They are packed with better and more nutrients.

Made my own chocolate hummus spread. It's chocolate spread with a twist and definitely a healthier option than Nutella (though admittedly, not as good).

 Would sometimes do some baking with Hanna especially when we have guests over or dinner parties to attend. Our specialty: muffins! We call ourselves 'Muffats'. Hehe.

Friends from near and far would sometimes come over for dinner. This dinner had Hazman from Glasgow, Amir from London and a few other Sheffield peeps. I made lamb teriyaki while Shaz made his famous ayam masak merah. 

Shrimp-Mushroom Carbonara using only cottage cheese and egg. Yes, another healthier option compared to the thick, creamy, cheesy carbonara pasta.

Light meal of baked mushrooms stuffed with cottage cheese and cinnamon powder.

I love salmon! So I always try to figure out new ways to cook the fish so I won't get tired of it. This is baked salmon with cottage cheese and mint sauce.

Brown rice, stir fry veggies and baked haddock. Nothing too hard but they pack a punch in my stomach. 

Baked salmon with sour cream and onion.

One of my proudest moments; homemade burger (yes, I made the patty myself) and creamy broccoli soup.

Another favourite of mine: Aglio Olio