Not Your Average Avo-Toast

 
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I am forever grateful to the person who thought of cutting into a delicious smooth avocado, mixing in some flavour, and adding it onto toast. It seems avo-toasts are popping on a lot of cafe and bistro menus these day, most delicious and creative in its own right, but I think I might have discovered and created one of my favorite creations to date. Here’s my take on this new classic,  that’s taken this era of health consciousness by storm.

What you need:

  • knife

  • bowl

  • can opener

  • saucepan

What goes in:

  • avocado

  • canned chickpeas

  • pumpernickel toast (or toast of choice)  

  • sesame seed oil

  • powdered tumeric

  • cayenne powder

  • small red onion

  • lemon juice

Pre-preparation:

  1. Open the can of chickpeas. Empty out the water and rinse the chickpeas with water. Bring water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the can of chickpeas and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the chickpeas are soft.

  2. Drain the chickpeas and let it cool before putting into a container to leave in the fridge. Note: this recipe only uses about a quarter to half the can.

What to do:

  1. OPTIONAL: Toast the pumpernickel toast to preference.

  2. Cut an avocado in half, take the seed out, and chop each half of the avocado into small squares by holding it in one hand and cutting into a grid: cutting vertically and horizontally and eventually around the whole avocado. Once this is done, place all the cubes into a bowl.

  3. Add about a quarter or about half of the can of chickpeas into the bowl.

  4. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze about half a lemon juice into the bowl. Add about one tablespoon of sesame oil or until everything is lightly coated before mixing.

  5. Season the mixture with a pinch of salt, grounded pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper and mix again.

  6. It’s time to plate! Place the toast on a plate and add the mixture onto the toast.

Trust me, the winner here is the sesame oil. It adds a very pleasant toasty taste to the whole dish.

 

Fluffy Sweet Potato Pancakes

 
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Who doesn’t love a wonderful stack of fluffy pancakes! I guess some people don’t so I am going to try my hardest not to judge you, whoever you are! Although, as much as I love pancakes, I admit I do question it’s nutritional value, which is why I’ve added my own twist to a classic to bring you the best of two worlds. Delicious fluffy cakes with improved nutritional value! Do I need to say more to convince you of this recipe?

The mega ingredient I’ll be adding to this recipe is SWEET POTATOES! YAY.

What you need:

  • bowl

  • plate

  • whisk

  • fork

  • saucepan

  • frypan or griddle

  • Optional: paper towel

  • Optional: food processor

What goes in:

  • one small sweet potato

  • one egg

  • fresh milk (or milk of choice)

  • coconut oil

  • Arrowhead Mills organic sprouted grain pancake & waffle mix

  • pink salt

  • real maple syrup or sweetener of choice

  • Optional toppings: greek yogurt

  • Optional toppings: roasted cashews

  • Optional Toppings: chia seeds

  • Optional Toppings: flax seeds

Pre-preparation:

  1. Wash and peel one sweet potato. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sweet potato in. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until soft.

  2. OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: Pulverize a handful of roasted cashews in a food processor until it turns into a powder.

What to do:

  1. Beat the sweet potato in a bowl with a fork until it becomes a smooth soft paste.

  2. Dip a paper towel into some coconut oil to lather onto the frying pan. Heat the frying pan on low heat.

  3. Add ¼ cup of the Arrowhead Mills flour, one egg, ¼ cup of fresh milk, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil into the bowl and mix well with a whisk or fork. Try to get all the lumps out as you mix.

  4. Bring the heat to a medium to high heat before pouring the mixture slowly onto the hot frying pan. Pour slowly and stop once the mixture starts to form pancake size you want.

  5. Let the pancake cook until it starts to bubble on one side before flipping onto the other side. It should take about 5-8 minutes to cook each side depending on how thick the pour is. Note: Don’t give yourself a hard time if the pancakes don’t come out as perfect circles, appreciate the inconsistency and beauty of a homemade pancake.

  6. Repeat this process until all the pancake mixture has been used.

  7. On a plate, stack the pancakes from large to small. Optional toppings: Add a dollop of greek yogurt, sprinkle of chia seeds, flax seeds, and the powdered roasted cashews. Finally, drizzle maple syrup or sweetener of choice onto this lovely stack!  

 

Avo-Chickpea Breakfast Greatness

 
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Breakfast is a joyous time for me because of a few reasons: one because I tend to wake up with a grumbling stomach (probably because of how much exercise I do), two because this means I wake up feeling ravenous (a.k.a. h-angry), three because breakfast is the first real decision I am presented with that'll start my day off. Yes, breakfast is a joyous time for me because deciding what to eat for breakfast also means a precedent into how the rest of my day plays out.

If that’s not convincing enough to prioritize breakfast, then here’s a recipe that’s been a game-changer on my mornings. Nutritious, simple, delicious, and 100% filling!

I recommend doing some preparation the night before to enhance the ease of this dish in the morning.

What you need:

  • knife

  • chopping board

  • bowl

What goes in:

  • one avocado

  • one small red onion

  • canned chickpeas

  • a handful of cherry tomatoes

  • half of a lemon

  • virgin olive oil

  • fresh basil

  • pumpernickel toast (or choice of toast)

  • salt

  • grounded pepper

Pre-Preparation:

  1. Bring water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the can of chickpeas and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the chickpeas are soft.

  2. Drain the chickpeas and let it cool before putting into a container to leave in the fridge. Note: this recipe only uses about a quarter of the can.

  3. Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarts and place it into a container to leave in the fridge.

  4. Chop the red onion into small pieces and place into a container to leave in the fridge.

YES, THAT’S ALL THE PREPARATION NEEDED.

What to do:

  1. Cut an avocado in half, take the seed out, and chop each half of the avocado into small squares by holding it in one hand and cutting into a grid: cutting vertically and horizontally and eventually around the whole avocado. Once this is done, place all the cubes into a bowl.

  2. Toast the pumpernickel toast.

  3. Grab a handful of fresh basil and chop into small pieces or tear apart using hands.

  4. While the bread is toasting, add a quarter of the chickpeas, all the cherry tomatoes, and the red onion into the bowl. Squeeze about half a lemon and add about two tablespoons of olive oil into the mixture. Seasons with salt and pepper, then mix well.

  5. Place the mixture onto the toast and IT’S READY!

 

Seoul Searching

This trip was my first adventure into South Korea and at first glance, the city feels just like any other first-world metropolitan city I’ve visited. The cleanliness and organization of Tokyo, the sky-high buildings like back home in Singapore, beautiful public areas reminiscent of many European capitals, and the crisp clean air of many cities in the Northern hemisphere. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find Seoul ranked amongst the world’s top economic powerhouses.

Arriving in the transition from winter to spring, April felt like the start of the city’s peak season. What struck me the most about Seoul though was not it’s bustling energy or after dark culture, where the city came to life after the sun went down. Rather it was the cultural contradictions which were apparent throughout my encounters in the city.

South Korea is known as one of the world’s most hierarchical, homogenous, and conservative societies. This is a city where following the herd is what’s normal or in fact, what’s expected. A city with an overwhelming preference towards being in a relationship (try to walk anywhere in Seoul without seeing at least ten couples every minute), where people’s sense of style is distinctly similar even when they’re fashioning ‘uncommon’ fashion sense; there seems to be a homogeneous custom to how South Koreans approach everything.

Seoul is a city at the crossroads of trying to find the balance between tradition and globalization. Where the dynamic is about finding the balance between influences from the West and how to make certain aspects of these adopted cultures their own. As we walked about the various areas in the city, I couldn’t help but notice the underlying narrative to Seoul: the acceptance towards a more open-minded way of life versus the grip to preserve a timid conservatism of a more traditional culture. K-pop, Korean cosmetics, and normalizing plastic surgery is what has caught international attention in recent years and is also an appropriate representation of the polarized ideals I encountered in this modern metropolis. 

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Seoul is a massive city of 25.6 million people, so the list below is by no means an extensive travel recommendation. There was a lot more the city had to offer, but my friend and I chose to roam the city freely with no itinerary other than some recommendations we had from friends. We took Seoul by foot and train a day at a time, and here’s what we managed to see in four nights and five days:

Travel Tip:

It’s far to get from the airport into the main city, so a cab ride was expensive-- about SGD80/USD 60 one way! I highly recommend taking either the airport to city bus or the train. On my way home I took the airport bus and it was 10,000 Won (about SGD12/ USD9). If you’re planning to take the bus, remember to leave enough cash for the ride. The buses came every 15 minutes. They were very swift in moving through each station and did not tolerate any waiting around.

Jongno-gu District

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Jongno-gu is where our Airbnb was located. It was centrally located and easy to find and navigate the city from.

Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin

Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin

Gwanghwamun Square (Cultural Site) is where you’ll find the statues of King Sejong of the Joseon Dynasty and Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. The admiral is recognized as one of South Korea’s greatest naval commanders from his victory against Japanese warships, at the Battle of Myeongnyang, despite being outnumbered by 120 warships. While King Sejong is credited as one of South Korea’s founding father, as he had a hand in establishing the use of Hangul (Korean language) and establishing Seoul as the country’s capital. Underneath King Sejong’s statue, you’ll find the entrance to a free museum. Amongst the variety of ancient artifacts displayed, I found the original scripts of how King Sejong helped Korea transition away from using Chinese characters into using the Korean language of Hangul the most fascinating.

Statue of King Sejong

Statue of King Sejong

Original characters of the Korean language of Hangul

Original characters of the Korean language of Hangul

Gyongbokgung Palace (Cultural Site) is located at the end of the square and is considered the largest of the 5 remaining palaces. This was home to the Joseon Dynasty. On a beautiful day, amongst modern city skylines and the backdrop of beautiful hills, the palace grounds were wonderful to roam around. The traditional architectural design and details of the palace were marvelous to see. I highly recommend making a stop here. Entrance fee: KRW 3,000 (About SGD 4/ USD3).

Main entrance to the whole palace

Main entrance to the whole palace

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The throne room at the palace. This picture doesn't do justice to the glorious details.

The throne room at the palace. This picture doesn't do justice to the glorious details.

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The expansive courtyards of the palace.

The expansive courtyards of the palace.

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Cheonggyecheon Stream (Public Area) is a beautiful 11 KM stretch of public space. Stretching through the metropolis of Seoul’s Downtown region, the stream was a beautiful slice of nature in the midst of this concrete jungle. Go for a run or dip your feet in. We spent a wonderful afternoon walking along the water towards the Gyongbokgung Palace. The area surrounding the stream felt like a small park, where locals and tourist gathered to enjoy the beautiful weather that day.

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Yoogane Myongdong (Restaurant) is a must if you’re in the area! The restaurant at Jongno-gu is the restaurant’s original location, which has now become a chain throughout the city. It is known for its kimchi fried rice and let me tell you, this was our first meal and it definitely did not disappoint!

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Korean Fried Chicken is world famous. We ventured to a few different spots throughout our time in Seoul. Most of the places had similar offerings, so what we ended up looking for was whether they served Kloud Beer, as that was our preferred local beer. The area had the most variety of Korean Fried Chicken, so I recommend looking at the menu and going for the flavors which gets your mouth watering the most.

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Left to right: Tteok-bokki, gimbap, & chap chae.

Left to right: Tteok-bokki, gimbap, & chap chae.

Gwangjang Market (also known as Kwangjang Market - the sounds of 'G' and 'K' are interchangeable in Korean) is the oldest traditional market in Seoul, which spans a space of 42,000 square meters. You will be able to find a range of low-end to high-quality products here, ranging from traditional silks and garments to ready-made fashion apparel. We didn’t get to see the market during the day, but on our way home one night, we chanced upon this market and was enticed by the smells and crowds enjoying the street food available inside the market.

This market was a highlight! I highly recommend eating here! This was one of the best meals I had in Seoul. The chap chae (Korean stir fried vegetables and glass noodle dish), tteok-bokki (spicy stir fried Korean rice cakes), and the gimbap (basically Korean sushi stuffed with pickled vegetables) were the best I’ve ever had in my entire life.

Note: This was my first time to South Korea, but I’ve grown up dining at Korean restaurants so the dishes I tasted weren’t new but the street food was the best Korean food I’ve ever tasted.

Hongdae/ Hongik University Street

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Neighboring a University renowned for its architecture and art departments, Hongdae has a distinctive alternative and creative climate. The moment you step out of the train station, there’s a strong sense of youthful vibrancy and eclectic energy. This is where you will find cheap booze, cheap food, and cheap fashion. It’s also an area where I came into close interaction with what youth and pop-culture is like in Seoul.

The streets were cluttered with student performers and spectators. Different acts performing right next to each other, dishing out their rendition of popular Western music or the latest from K-pop. Singing, dancing, and flashing killer moves and fashion-- while some had larger crowds than others with what seemed to be a solid crew of fans, friends, and followers alike, chanting and cheering them along. Local boutiques ranging from vintage stores, to beautiful local made coats to counterfeit and localized street style accessorized the bustling street side.

Picasso Street at Hongdae is known for the graffiti which lines the walls

Picasso Street at Hongdae is known for the graffiti which lines the walls

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Myeong-dong District

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The area is one of Seoul’s main shopping districts. There were definitely a lot more tourists here than any of the other areas we visited. The streets were filled with a variety of shops, some local and a lot of international brands ranging from the likes Zara to luxury department stores like Lotte.

If you’re not into touristy areas, this is an area to avoid, but the one winning element about this area, (which a local friend recommended) are the great deals you’ll get for Korean cosmetics. South Korea is renowned for its skincare and Myeong-dong, renowned for its homegrown cosmetic shops, is where you want to go to get your year’s worth of products. Many of the shops cater to tourists and are equipped with some English speaking staff. (Note: Incredibly helpful in a city where most people do not speak English) These stores are also well prepared to give tourists the best deals. From freebies to buy-1-get-1 free type deals, Myeong-dong is what I’ll call Seoul’s skincare tourist haven.

Kong Ho Dong Baekejong (Restaurant) Baekjeong which roughly translated means butcher in Korean is a Korean BBQ spot owned by ex-wrestler and comedian/emcee of the same name. The restaurant is also a well-known spot in Koreatown in Los Angeles. That was where I first dined at this restaurant.

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Dongdaemun District

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (Cultural Site) is a massive grey modern building designed with slick curves and large concrete structures. Designed by the late and renowned architect Zara Hadid of Samoo Architects and Engineers, The Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a representation of Seoul’s effort towards modernization. Sitting in a large open space right at the heart of the district, the building sits in stark contrast to the rest of the architecture in the surrounding areas.

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Tip: Make sure to explore the design store inside, which is located at the 2nd floor.

Youth Runway Market, which happens every Friday and Saturday from 8PM-midnight. The market was lined with crafts and products by local designers. The dominant craft of choice was definitely jewelry and to be completely honest, the designs and variety in the designs were a little underwhelming. Many of the jewelry displayed by different sellers looked quite similar.

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Accompanying the market is an open air area of food trucks and food vendors, dishing out a more modern take on Korean food culture. The food ranged from fusion local delites to Chinese food, Japanese food, and even cotton candy. There was a variety of drool worthy food to enjoy if you’re looking for a modern casual fare. The only downside was as most of the attendees were students, there was no alcohol on sale.

Tip: Walk down into the mall below to get beers or booze before going to get food.

Gangnam-gu District

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An area made famous by the viral K-pop song, Gangnam Style, by Korean pop star PSY, the area is known as an upscale, high society and exclusive neighbourhood. The area didn’t look much different to the other areas we walked through, but this was the only area in Seoul where I came in contact with how accepted and casual plastic surgery is in the city. Roaming through the streets towering with skyscrapers and retailers, this was the only area where I  saw girls freely roaming the streets with bandages still on their face.

Pro Ganjang Gejang Sinsa was our stop for lunch in Gangnam. This was definitely on the pricey side (unfortunately I forgot to take note of how much it was and I can’t find the receipt I thought I kept), but with booze and side dishes expect to spend over SGD100/USD75. The crab was sweet, fresh, and incredibly tasty. Nothing like anything I’ve tried before and as I am a foodie at heart, it was definitely a culinary experience worth the spend. The texture of the meat is similar to raw salmon but as they only served female blue crab, the raw crab eggs really enhanced the texture and flavor. It’s hard to describe it but I can see how this is an acquired taste I wouldn’t recommend for picky eaters. We ordered some soju and beer, along with seaweed soup and raw blue crab bibimbap (Korean rice and vegetable dish). Both were tremendous accompaniments! The seaweed soup was a combination of salty and savory goodness, while the bibimbap (which is usually served with meat over a hot stone bowl) had a unique and refreshing taste. In terms of experience and flavor, this was definitely my favorite meal!

Garosu-gil Sinsa-dong is a shopping street lined with symmetrical trees, local boutiques, international brands and local cafes alike. Garosu-gil (which means tree-lined street) Sinsa-dong is one of the more renowned shopping streets in Seoul. Expect to spend more than what you spent in other parts of Seoul, as the items in the shops were more upscale compared to the other areas we visited. Beyond shopping, the area was fun to walk around, as it was lined with unique architecture and  interesting shop design.

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Sitting in one of the back streets in the area is one of the world’s instafamous bakeries. Originating in the United States Mr. Holmes Bakehouse is a bakery iconic for they’re muffin and croissant hybrid known as a cruffin. Catapulting them to instagram fame is their clever use of pink neon signage, which reads “I got baked in Seoul.” Do a quick look on the tagged images of both their San Francisco and Korean Instagram page and you’ll see how iconic their neon signs are. Lured by the bakery’s fame and variety of creative offerings, I went in to try their churros croissant. It was magical, to say the least, and my tastebuds were pleasantly rewarded with a burst of fresh and soft vanilla cream nestled at the center of Mr. Holmes’ wonderfully sugared crispy croissant.

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Side note: I had the best cornflake cookie in my life when I had chanced upon the same bakery in Larchmont, Los Angeles, California a few months back. I seem to be fated with this terrific bakery.

Itaewon District

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An area known for its pubs, bars, and nightlife, this was a side to Seoul that was very different to the other areas we visited. The streets were loud, busy and scattered with locals and tourists alike. Roaming around the main area of Itaewon, there was a range of different places on offer. From Japanese Izakaya's to Irish pubs, to fancy clubs and nicer bars, the streets of Itaewon on a Saturday night was an area of organized chaos, filled with a variety of options to please an array of preferences.

Cakeshop and Contra, which is part of the same establishment, hid on a distant corner in Itaewon. The spot was four floors of gritty vibrancy, starting with a hip hop/garage/grunge room at the basement, to the dark techno room on the second floor, to the classy and quiet lounge above, and a rooftop (which due to the cold weather we did not take a peak at). The whole space was an experience on its own. What you’ll find here is an alternative side to Seoul that’s beyond the mainstream. Walking out and ending our night at about 2AM, the streets of Itaewon was as busy, if not busier than the 9PM crowd.

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Overall Seoul was a fun city to explore. It’s a 24-hour city that comes out of its shell once the sun is down, a city full of modern conveniences and rich cultural history, and a city where nights can very easily blend into mornings. It’s a city radiating in a fast paced, heavy drinking, and late night culture, that’s full of stimulation and a place where people can drift into and get lost in. It’s also a city I definitely wouldn’t mind visiting again!

Creamy Salmon Orecchiette

 
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There are some days when I open the fridge and all that’s there are leftovers. If you’re like me, this is when I get the most excited because it means it’s time to get creative in the kitchen. If there’s two things I always have ready, it’s red rice and pasta (versatile and simple carbohydrates which are ready to accompany any leftovers)!

That day I had a whole lot of fish dip that would’ve gone bad, so I decided making a pasta dish was the right idea.

Note: The fish dip I use in this recipe is a slightly different dip from my original recipe. In this version I used two additional ingredients: turmeric powder and one small red onion. It really added a lot of punch to the final flavor and made an awesome base for my pasta!

What you need:

  • saucepan

  • frying pan

  • spatula

  • pasta drain

  • food processor (or chopping board & knife)

What goes in:

  • my fish dip

  • anchovies

  • red chilis

  • olive oil

  • pink salt

  • grounded black pepper

  • orecchiette (or any other pasta. I recommend something like a spiral pasta or a penne if you can’t find orecchiette)

  • italian parsley

What to do:

  1. Bring some water to a boil in the saucepan. Once boiling bring the temperature down to medium heat and add a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil. Add in the orecchiette.

  2. Place the anchovies, red chillies, and a handful of italian parsley into a food processor. Season with pink salt and grounded pepper.

  3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and keep a cup of the starchy water aside.

  4. Place the frying pan onto medium heat and add the red chilies and anchovy paste. Once it’s start sizzling, add in the leftover fish dip and add a dash of olive oil. Add a dash of the starchy water and using a spatula mix it in with the rest of the ingredients in the pan until it unifies as one sauce.

  5. Add in the pasta and mix it all up until all the pasta is coated well. Taste here and season with pink salt and grounded pepper if needed.

Time to devour this nutritious and delicious plate!

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Rise & Shine Porridge

 

For those of you who are allergic to nuts, I am sorry, but this recipe is not for you. For those of you who can eat peanut butter but don’t enjoy it, I have no sympathy for you. Peanut butter makes me happy! It tastes amazing, the texture is addictive, and its versatility is worth an applause. A known companion to apples, sometimes carrots, to PB&Js, and of course thanks to TV chef Jamie Oliver, peanut butter can also be used for a Gado-Gado (apparently), which is a classic dish from my hometown of Jakarta.

I woke up madly craving peanut butter and I didn’t think eating it out of the jar for breakfast was the move, so my brain went to work and viola the peanut butter rise & shine porridge is born and ready to brighten up all your mornings. Get excited! 

What you need:

  • saucepan

  • wooden spatula

  • measuring cup

What goes in:

  • rolled oats

  • peanut butter (either smooth or crunchy depending on preference)

  • fresh milk (you can substitute this with any other kinds of milk)

  • manuka honey

  • nutmeg powder

  • almonds (optional)

  • pink salt (optional)

Toppings (optional):

  • granola

  • chia

  • flax seeds

What to do:

  1. Add about 1 ½ cups of fresh milk into the saucepan and place over a medium to high heat. Add the almonds into the saucepan and bring to a boil.

  2. Once the milk is boiling, bring the heat to a low to medium heat. Add about 2 cups of rolled oats. Note: If too much of the milk has evaporated, add as much milk as needed to keep the porridge at the right texture. Not too watery and not too dry or thick.

  3. Add two to three tablespoons (or to taste), a pinch of pink salt, a pinch of nutmeg powder and one tablespoon of manuka honey (or to taste) into the saucepan.

  4. Stir the mixture for about 10-12 minutes, until the oats are cooked.

  5. Place in a bowl or deep plate and top off with granola, chia seeds, and flax seeds.

This peanut butter deliciousness is FINALLY ready to enter your belly!

 

Avo Sun-dried Tomato Bowl

 
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Still buzzing from my birthday trip to Bali back in August, I was romanced by the complex flavors which came to light through my vegan food adventures in Canggu. What surprised me the most was not that vegan food was so widely available throughout Canggu and other parts of Bali (specifically in areas where foreigners have made their home), rather it was the variety of dishes and flavors in vegan cuisine that I never knew was possible. The Rendang Burger at Peloton Supershop in Canggu and the Pink Beetroot Latte at Kynd Community are some of the standouts from my tasty discoveries.

My first interaction with veganism was when I was living in Los Angeles. There was good vegan food there, but compared to what I tasted in Bali, I’ve got to give it to the Aussie’s in Bali who brought the cuisine to life for me. It’s not just in the presentations, but also in the creativity of the menus. (Look through the different cafes in Melbourne on Instagram and you’ll notice how alive their passion for cafe culture is, which is translated in the creativity of their food and presentations. But, of course, not all of the good cafes in Melbourne are vegan). Through my adventures in Bali, I have been inspired to create vegan dishes which are just as tasty and beautiful to look at. Here’s my simple rendition of a vegan bowl, packed with nutritious healthy fats and delicious flavors.

What you need:

  • knife

  • chopping board

  • three bowls

What goes in:

  • avocado

  • small red onion

  • ½ lemon

  • sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil)

  • pesto

  • pink salt

  • fresh grounded black pepper

  • thyme

  • red rice

What to do:

  1. Use about 6 pieces of sundried tomatoes. Chop the sundried tomatoes into fine pieces and place into a bowl. Season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and a dash of thyme powder.

  2. Add one teaspoon of pesto into the bowl and mix well. Set this aside for now.

  3. Chop the small red onions into fine pieces.

  4. Slice the avocado in half and cut into small squares. Tip: I cut the avocado into squares in its skin and then push it out at the end.

  5. Add the small onion and avocado into another bowl. Add the juice of half a lemon and season with salt and pepper. Then mix well.

  6. Place a bowl of cooked red rice into a bowl. Then top it off with the avocado mixture and then the sun-dried tomato mixture.

Now it’s time to enjoy!

 

Quinoa & Oats Turmeric Breakfast Porridge

 
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There are some mornings I wake up and think, is there more to breakfast than granola, yogurt, toast, eggs, and avos? YES, of course, there is! Anything quick and simple for breakfast is a top priority. I don’t want to have to do too much because my brain is just waking up and I’d rather not lose a finger to start my day. Of course, eggs, toast, and fruit are always easy or maybe yogurt and granola, but doesn't it get boring?

There’s a observable division in cultures in the breakfast porridge game. In Asia, when we think of porridge we think of savory porridges, which can be enjoyed any time of the day; although depending on where in Asia, porridge sometimes is more thought of as a breakfast food (e.g. like in Indonesia where ‘bubur ayam’, or in other words, chicken porridge is typically a breakfast dish). In Western cultures, porridge is thought of as a sweet breakfast food, but unlike in Asian cultures where porridge is screaming with taste and flavors, like an always welcomed warm fuzzy hug, the Western version of porridge tends to be associated with blandness or food served in old folks homes. Let’s change that perception! It’s time to say hello to my delicious breakfast porridge to fuel your dayl. Here’s my answer to spicing up breakfast.

What you need:

  • pot

  • wooden spatula

What goes in:

  • powdered cinnamon

  • powdered ginger

  • powdered turmeric

  • manuka honey

  • chia seeds (optional)

  • coconut cream

  • regular milk (or another substitute milk)

  • pink salt

  • quinoa

  • rolled oats

What to do:

  1. Add about two cups of fresh milk and one cup of coconut cream into the pot and heat the milk on a medium to high heat on the stove.

  2. Once the milk has come to a boil add about a teaspoon of turmeric, one teaspoon of ginger, and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Add a tablespoon of manuka honey and stir in the mixture.

  3. Then add a pinch of salt. Add in about two cups of quinoa and one and a half cups of rolled oats.

  4. Keep stirring until some of the fresh milk has evaporated and the porridge becomes a thicker mixture. Note: I usually taste and add a little more honey or spices to perfect the taste.

  5. Once cooked, move into a bowl or plate and top it off with a dash of fresh milk. Sprinkle some chia seeds on top. Let it cool for a few minutes before munching and it’s finally ready to enjoy!

 

Japanese Yakiniku Bowl

 

If I had to choose one type of cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, my answer would be Japanese. The variety and flavors in Japanese cuisine make it a winner in my books. Honestly, the lure of what the Japanese call ‘umami’ is too good to resist.

Note: My recipe is likely not an authentic Japanese recipe, but here’s my take on the famous Japanese yakiniku bowl. Enjoy!

What you need:

  • saucepan

  • chopping board

  • sharp knife

  • chopsticks

What goes in:

  • red onion

  • two cloves of garlic

  • spring onion

  • enoki mushrooms

  • bok choy (Chinese Chard) *Spinach works well here too, but I like the crunch of bok choy

  • thin slices of red meat

  • yakiniku sauce

  • coconut oil (not a very Japanese but it’s what I predominantly use in my cooking)

  • red rice (or your choice of rice and/or base)

  • pink salt

  • grounded black pepper

What to do:

  1. Chop the red onion into long slices. If it’s a palm sized red onion use half, but if it’s a small red onion use the whole onion. Finely dice the garlic. Chop off and throw away the end of one stem of spring onion, then chop into small circular pieces.

  2. Heat the saucepan over a medium heat. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the red onion and garlic. Cook until browned.

  3. Add the yakiniku sauce. Let it simmer for a few seconds.

  4. Start laying each meat slice into the simmering sauce. Cook over a low to medium heat. I find the best way to cook the meat, so it doesn’t overcook, is use chopsticks to dip each slice of meat in the simmering sauce in a swaying lateral motion.  Using the chopsticks sway the meat on one side and then onto the other side until it is cooked. Note: Try not to cook the meat in one clump of meat, I find this will make the meat tough as part of the meat will tend to overcook. If you can’t use chopsticks, tongs work well as well. Also, remember to cook the part of the meat which was held up by the chopsticks or tongs.

  5. Once the meat is cooked place on a plate and set it aside. Add in the bok choy and cook until it is wilted.

  6. Turn off the stove and get your rice or choice of base ready in a bowl.

  7. Use the chopsticks to lay each meat carefully in the bowl.

  8. Pour the rest of the vegetables and sauce onto the bed of meat. Top it off with the spring onions and the bowl is ready to be devoured!

I’m salivating just from typing this up! Enjoy!

 

The Charming Canals of Venice, Italy

 

Italian architecture has a distinct voice that’s impossible to miss. There’s so much to admire about each city I visited, but through the days I was roaming around this wonderful country, no city left such an impression on me like Venice did. Entering Venice, the sense of adventure is unavoidable. Bewildered at such a peculiar city. A city where traveling by water is more convenient than maneuvering through what probably is the most isolated maze of pedestrian streets of any operational city in the world, and a place where boats are the main mode of transport. Where instead of a public train or bus, one of the most accessible public transport around is the public water ferries. Shuttling people through floating stations where my balance is tested due to the sway of waves from boats zooming by. Yes, there’s definitely a sense of discovery coming back to Venice (maybe also because I was much younger when I was here last), but nevertheless – Venice is undoubtedly one of the world’s most unique cities.

There are many aspects of Venice which make it unique. Imagine the city back when it was first built and inhabited. If it commands fascination today, the city must’ve been a real wonder back in the day when it was new. Think about how many floating cities there are. Arguably only nine in total, but none quite like Venice. The marriage of Italian architecture, with its eye-catching facades and Venice’s creative city blueprint, is what charms millions each time. What I hadn’t noticed on my previous visit to Venice was how artistic the city’s community is.

Wandering through the various shops which line the narrow turns and bustling corners sits shops with crafts screaming with creativity. From the jewelry gems, I came across to the striking masquerade masks displayed. Creativity is part of the city’s identity. Why is such an interesting city host to such creative inhabitants? That is a question I’d like to explore further the next time I come back (and I will definitely be back). Even amongst the murky canal waters which double as the city’s sewage system, the unbearable hordes of summer tourists (ironically, myself included) pushing through the crowded streets on a hot summer’s day, Venice was still a seductive city. Captivating my every attention.

One thing I’d like to note, before arriving at Venice I didn’t realize the crisis Venice is facing as a dying city. I only knew about the city’s sinking problem, but what I was ignorant to was the problem it faces against tourism. Sitting conveniently along the Mediterranean and along a route most cruise ships take, the city’s locals are drowned out by the millions of tourist who arrive in the quaint city each year. I can tell you myself, visiting Venice in July (what’s considered high season) was beautiful but more unpleasant rather than enjoyable due to the number of people (or shall I say tourists) around. At every corner, at every bridge, there was no way to escape the crowd. I remember thinking to myself, oh how terrible it would be if I lived in a city where my day-to-day becomes more difficult because of tourists.

Where I live, Singapore, is a cruise ship stop too. I find myself complaining about the tourists crowding my city, but to experience the density of Venice is a whole other thing. For now, I wish to share this with you, so we can be aware of the problems our world faces. I wish there was something more I can do because Venice is a magical city worth fighting for.

 

The Colors of Corfu

 

Arriving at Corfu the first thing I noticed was how different the architecture of Corfu was compared to the Italian cities I had visited on my summer adventure. The walls of Italian homes are bright and colorfully painted, but at the same time, modest and muted (not what Italians are typically known for). Not a vibrant red, like that of fresh Italian cherry tomatoes, rather an earthy shade of red which resembled the color of old red bricks. Arriving at Corfu, however, it wasn't the architecture that caught my eyes. When we arrived in Corfu, Greece the color which caught my eye the most were the colors of nature.

Quaint village named Afionas, Greece

Quaint village named Afionas, Greece

The flowers were wonderfully vibrant, the blue skies seemed more inviting than the previous cities we visited, and even the tree barks appeared more dynamic. I barely took notice of the homes or buildings, whether fortunate or not— a city’s architecture (that of man-made sculpting I may add) is what I usually notice most about a town or city, but Corfu made a different impression on me.

The natural beauty of Greece is undeniable. It’s rich soil, delicious produce and of course marvelous food, and terrific landscapes are what has placed Greece on the global radar for travel. Despite where the country is economically— unfortunately evident in the piles of rubbish scattered at trash points around Corfu, is not an accurate representation of the real beauty Greece has to offer. Certainly not of Corfu. Amongst the secluded coastlines, scattered netting to catch olives, and the occasional snake crossing the street, Corfu made a memorable impression on me (or maybe it was what we were shown, but I tend to side with optimism anyways). There was so much natural color screaming attention. There was fresh air to breathe in and of course, the delicious olives and food patiently waiting a visit. 

Note: We went on an amazing tour, which took us through hidden passages to secret spots (areas where even Corfu locals know about, so said our tour guide). I highly recommend the tour if you’re ever in Corfu.



 

 

Holiday Truths

 

A holiday means different things to different people, but two qualities that should be essential to a holiday is a real adoption of taking it easy and letting loose. Surprisingly, easier said than done for some. I used to stress about how much I ate or how little I worked out during my holidays, but I finally reached a point of accepting a holiday for what it is, a holiday! Here are two tips, to make a holiday worthwhile:

#1 - Take It Easy

There are some of us who enjoy working out during time off, while others find it more difficult to sweat it out while on holidays. Whether you’re the former or the latter, it really is about what fits your lifestyle. I am of the latter.

I find it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to workout during a holiday because my intent for a holiday is always to give myself a break. To me, that means giving my mind and body a break as well! Adding routine into a holiday is the opposite of what I enjoy, especially on holidays shorter than a week.

If you don’t get a workout in during a holiday, don’t sweat it! There’s no reason to feel guilty about taking a holiday (i.e. a break) while on holiday. It’s called a holiday for a reason. Unless if I’m away for more than a week, then I’ll usually do a simple 30-45 minute middle to high-intensity workout or if I am nearby a nice area to run, I’ll make the effort to go for a jog. What’s important here is to find what works for you, but don’t let any worry corrupt any part of the holiday.

If you don’t get in a workout during the holidays, then be ready to commit to a routine once the holiday is over. Rest goes a long way anyways!

#2 - Let Loose

Unless you’re on a restrictive diet due to a health condition, there’s no reason to discount your food experience while on holiday! I love food! I love tasting new food! I love discovering new food! I love eating food! I basically love everything to do with food, so whenever I am on holiday, especially to a new country or new city, I enjoy experiencing the local flavors. I can say it’s a hobby of mine.

It doesn’t mean go crazy and eat as much as I want, but what I mean is don’t be afraid to eat what each place is known for. In Italy, there was no way I could go through my holiday without eating lots of pasta and pizza. Neither could I pass on the chance to devour delicious Italian gelato, especially during a hot summer like this year's. More importantly, I allowed myself to enjoy every bite, every drop, and every lingering taste without any sense of guilt.

Here’s an important mindset, you’re on holiday! Let loose a little! I mean eating gelato every day is not what I recommended, but on a holiday, it’s really not the end of the world because what I remind myself when I am on holiday is that the holidays are temporary (unless you’re some lucky person who holidays for a living then this advice isn’t for you). My ‘routine’ or lack thereof isn’t a problem. It’s only temporary! Best of all, with adequate rest-- physically and mentally, I usually come back from a holiday even more committed and ready towards my routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shabu-Shabu Udon Bowl

 

When the Japanese bug bites, there’s no way to steer away. Japanese food is something I have every week at least once or twice a week, sometimes even everyday! It’s really just that good. One of my favorite out of the library of delicacies is the Japanese hot pot, or what is called Shabu Shabu! It’s healthy, simple, and so tasty! Japanese hot pot is usually enjoyed with a group of people or at least two people, where the raw ingredients are prepared and set aside alongside a hot pot for everyone to cook in. There’s typically two different dipping sauces: a sesame based sauce and a ponzu sauce (which is a vinegar sauce made of yuzu lemon and soy sauce). I prefer the ponzu sauce, so you’ll notice I’ll only be using one type of sauce for my dish.

I didn’t have a hot pot set, nor did I need to cook for more than one, so I decided to satisfy my cravings by making a bowl of shabu shabu udon noodles. There’s not much difference to the cooking process, but my take on Japanese shabu shabu eliminates the shared experience of cooking as you eat. Instead I combined everything into a delicious bowl of unparalleled yumminess!

Tip: It would be easier to find these ingredients in a Japanese food store.

What you need:

  • a pot

  • chopsticks

  • large bowl

What goes in:

  • thinly sliced raw meat

  • raw spinach

  • enoki mushrooms

  • japanese fish cake

  • soft tofu

  • Japanese udon

  • shabu shabu ponzu sauce

  • two cloves of garlic

  • one stem of spring onion

  • white radish

  • Japanese dried kelp

What to do:

  1. Pour some ponzu sauce in a small bowl. Grate the radish into small pieces then  finely dice along with the garlic and spring onion. Add the diced ingredients into the ponzu sauce and set aside.

  2. Boil water in the pot at high heat and add the kelp into the water.

  3. Once the water starts to boil, lower the heat to medium to high heat.

  4. Now it’s time to start cooking the meat. My preference is to cook the meat one by one to avoid overcooking it. Use chopsticks to pick up the meat and dip it into the boiling water several times until the meat is fully cooked. Set aside all the cooked meat in a large empty bowl. Note: Remember to cook the part the chopsticks was holding on to. Tongs work well here as well.

  5. Once all the meat is cooked, you’ll notice a broth that’s left. Cook all the all the leftover ingredients in the broth for a few minutes.

  6. Once everything is cooked, turn off the stove and pour the contents of the pot into the bowl with the meat. Note: If your bowl isn’t big enough, empty the contents and pour some of the broth into the bowl.

And, it’s ready to eat!

There are two ways of eating this dish. You can either dip each food item in the ponzu sauce as you go along or pour all of the ponzu mixture into the bowl. It wasn’t very Japanese of me to do so, but I prefered the latter.

 

 

 

Salmon Yogurt Dip

 

What you need:

  • food processor

  • knife

  • chopping board

  • rubber spatula (or regular spatula or spoon is fine too)

What goes in:

  • three packs of smoked salmon

  • red caviar

  • celery

  • half a cucumber

  • 100g of sundried tomatoes

  • fresh dill

  • two garlic bulbs

  • one small red onion (or half of a large red onion)

  • greek yogurt (I used Fage)

  • softened cream cheese

  • pink salt (regular salt is fine too)

  • grounded pepper

  • baguette or crackers 

  1. Chop the celery into medium size chunks. Chop the cucumber in half. Keep one half in the fridge. Chop the other half of the cucumber into medium size chunks. Add both into the food processor.

  2. Add the garlic, sundried tomatoes, onion, and fresh dill into the food processor. Season with about a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Pulse the mixture twice or three times. The mixture should still be quite chunky.

  3. Add half of the softened cream and about half a tub of fage into the food processor and pulverize until mixed well. Tip: If you prefer a chunkier dip, pulse the mixture once in step two and only pulse the mixture two or three times after the yogurt and cream cheese have been added.

  4. Mix in the red caviar and it’s time to eat. 

This one will get even your tongue dancing (it's that good)! 

Tip: The dip goes really well with Japanese seaweed crackers too!

 

Nutty Protein Pancake

 

Yes, like most humans, I do have those days where I am madly craving pancakes. I mean honestly who doesn’t love a soft stack of fluffy edible pillows. If you aren’t a fan of pancakes (GASP!), I have nothing more to say to you.

Here’s the truth, I have been trying for too long to make a good pancake batter. I tried to use the different types of healthy alternatives to regular flour. Quinoa flour, flaxseed flour, and a few more I can’t recall anymore but I have failed to make a delicious stack. Probably due to my lack in baking skills, the texture never ends up right or it ends up tasting a little funny. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), my cravings for pancakes has never subsided. Thus, here I was walking down the supermarket aisle, tempted to have another go at a healthy batter. To my avail, I came across Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake & Waffle Whole Grain Mix. This is where my pancake success story begins! (I don’t know if my excitement is translatable, but I AM MAD EXCITED that I’ve finally found a healthy pancake mix).

What you need:

  • large mixing bowl

  • small bowl

  • whisk

  • frying pan or griddle

  • paper kitchen towel

  • spatula

What goes in:

Toppings:

  • chia seeds

  • agave nectar (honey or maple syrup works well too)

What to do:

  1. Crack the egg open and separate the yolk from the white. Use the cracked egg shell to separate the yolk from the whites. Hold the yolk in one side of the shell and then passing it on to the other half of the shell; allowing the whites to drop into a bowl.

  2. Add the pancake mix, protein powder, and a pinch of baking soda into a mixing bowl and set aside.

  3. Lather some coconut oil onto the frying pan using a paper kitchen towel and leave the pan or griddle on low heat. This is to ensure the batter doesn’t stick to the pan or griddle. (I suggest scooping a tablespoon of coconut oil or pouring some into a small dish before using the kitchen towel to soak the coconut oil).

  4. Whisk the egg whites for a few minutes until it turns into a foam. Add the yolk in and whisk again. Once whisked well, pour the egg into the mixing bowl.

  5. Add the peanut butter and start whisking the mixture. Then pour the milk into the bowl. Note: If the mixture is too thick, add more milk. If the mixture is too watery, add more flour.

  6. Turn up the heat to medium heat. Wait 2-3 minutes before pouring the batter. Slowly pour the batter onto the pan or griddle. Pour towards the center of the pan or griddle, making sure there is enough space for the pancake to expand into a circle. Pour the desired amount for the desired size. Note: The more batter you pour, the thicker and larger the pancake becomes. Also, once the batter has been pour onto the pan or griddle, do not add more batter to the same pancake.

  7. Wait until the pancake starts to bubble all over, then that’s when you know it’s time to use the spatula to turn the pancake over. Pay attention to the sides of the pancake to judge whether the pancake is cooked through and ready to plate.

  8. Drizzle agave nectar onto the pancake and sprinkle chia seeds to top it off. Honey or maple syrup works well here too.

Enjoy these fluffy beauties!

 

 

Coconut Oil Yaki Udon

 

There’s a lot of things I love about Japanese food, but it’s always a strong contender for my palate. Simple and delicious. This is my take on the well known Yaki Udon, one of Japan’s star pub food. More commonly known to be listed on the menus of Izakayas (Japanese bar food), with my own twist on things of course. The unconventional use of coconut oil is what made the discovery of this recipe so pleasing. Enjoy!

What you need:

  • saucepan

  • frying pan

  • chopping board

  • chopsticks (or if chopsticks aren’t available, a fork will do)

  • strainer

What goes in:

  • pre-packed udon noodles

  • japanese fish cake

  • soft tofu or tofu of choice

  • yakiniku sauce

  • sesame oil

  • fresh spring onions

  • red onion

  • garlic

  • pink salt

  • sesame seeds

  • ground pepper

  • coconut oil

What to do:

  1. Start the water to boil. Once the water is at a boil. Throw in the pre-packed udons, cook for a few minutes before emptying into a strainer.

  2. Chop up the spring onions, red onion, and garlic. Throw the ends of three strands and chop the rest of the spring onions. Dice up the garlic until fine.

  3. Heat up the frying pan at medium heat. Add the tablespoon of virgin coconut oil along with the garlic and red onion, cook until browned. Then add a pinch of pink salt and ground pepper.

  4. Once the garlic and red onion is browned, throw in the udon and add about four tablespoons of yakiniku sauce and two tablespoons of sesame oil, or to taste. Sprinkle some sesame seeds before adding the tofu. Using the chopsticks to mix all the ingredients in and lacquer the noodles with the delicious juice in the pan.

  5. All that’s left, is to sprinkle fresh spring onions!

Time to enjoy this grub!

What makes this recipe special is the sweet touch of coconut oil. Coconut oil adds an unexpected but incredibly pleasant sweetness to the dish. As usual, just another recipe made on a whim, dictated by my loving tummy.

 

Spiral Anchovy Basil Pasta

 

Pasta is one of the most versatile ingredients around and I absolutely love it! You can really do anything with pasta (although the Italians out there might cringe at this statement).

I’ve always loved the classic aglio olio. A lot of why I love it so much is because it’s not so heavy on the sauce. In an aglio olio dish you’re really able to appreciate the texture and flavor of the pasta itself, without the clutter of the heavy sauces! The classic aglio olio dish is what has inspire this dish. Enjoy!

What you need:

  • pot

  • saucepan

  • spatula

  • food processor and/or chopping board

  • sharp knife

  • strainer (not necessary, but makes draining the pasta a lot easier)

What goes in:

  • brown rice vegetable spiral pasta

  • half of a green and yellow capsicum

  • a handful of fresh basil

  • sundried tomatoes

  • small can of anchovies

  • two cloves of garlic

  • two small chillies (or to taste)

  • pink salt

  • ground black pepper

  • virgin olive oil

What to do:

I like to chop most of my raw ingredients first and get everything ready before heading for the stove. It keeps me organized throughout the steps and helps me to avoid over cooking the pasta.

  1. Place two cloves of peeled garlic and the two chillies into the food processor, add a dash of salt and pepper and blend until fine. Then empty out the food processor. Alternatively, chop both ingredients until fine and season with salt and pepper. Place the ingredients aside once completed.

  2. Add the fresh basil, anchovies, and sun dried tomatoes into the food processor and pulse until fine. Alternatively chop all ingredients until fine. Make sure to add a dash of salt and pepper as well.

  3. Add water, a dash of virgin olive oil, and a dash of salt into the pot. Start heating the pot.

  4. Use the chopping board to chop half of a capsicum into small dices. Alternatively, instead of using two halves using one whole capsicum works as well.

  5. Once the water starts to boil add in the pasta. Cook for a couple of minutes. Stir the pot once in awhile. Note: Make sure not to boil the pasta for too long. You want to end up with an al dente pasta not a soggy pasta. Remember after boiling, the pasta will be cooked more with the other ingredients.

  6. Pour the pasta into a strainer to drain and leave a little of the starchy water in the pot. Let both rest aside.

  7. Heat the saucepan on a medium to low heat and add a dash of olive oil. Add the garlic and chillies and cook until the garlic browns. Once browned add the basil mixture into the saucepan and mix well.

  8. Add in the cooked pasta, a dash of the starchy water, and some olive oil. Mix well until all the pasta is coated well with the mixture.  Taste and add a dash of salt and pepper if needed.

And it’s time to plate!