MEATBALLS SPINACH PORRIDGE

Tried and tested. Twice this time! A year ago, spinach rice porridge with meatballs was added to my list of Asian home cook recipes. It is dead simple and power-up meal to make for family. The Chow family name it the Popeye's porridge. When I was young, Popeye the sailor man was one of the cartoon series I was hooked. Gone were the days when I binge watched Popeye's video tapes during school holidays, episode after episode. So Mummy Chow took the chance to name this rice porridge after Popeye and convinced us to each finish two bowls of spinach porridge which supposedly help us grow stronger and smarter like Popeye.

Her brilliance works. I actually believed what she said and asked for more than two with the urge to become stronger to wrestle with my dad. Imagine 5 people could finish 4 cups of white porridge! All in all this recipe has been stuck in my head for 20 years, and the second time making this pot of goodness was different than the original. 

Instead of using Thai Jasmine Rice (which most Asian families consume as a staple), red rice was used to achieve a nutty flavour in the rice porridge. The unpolished grains is rich in fibre due to the bran, and it helps fight asthma (a problem I encountered in my late teens), reducing fine lines on the skin, firms up skin and minimise the damage brought on by our day to day exposure to UV rays. A natural anti-wrinkle remedy isn't it? 

century egg and salted egg.jpg

Oh, the final touch to this pipping hot porridge is the natural salt from 4 big heroes: century egg, salted eggs, braised peanuts and fried anchovies. They go beautifully well to sweeten the rice porridge, and there's no need extra seasoning was added to the porridge towards the end.  Each of them has a distinctive fragrant and taste. Let any Asian do a blind taste test, they will identify them quickly, anytime. Also, I like my anchovies to be slightly on the dark brown side, with a charred taste but absolute crisp. 

Staring at the sizzling rice porridge under over hot fire is one of the kitchen frustrations when the stomach starts shouting for attention. The stare down lasted for 20 seconds, just 20 seconds will do. With the risk that my tongue might get burn, I slurped the porridge gingerly and served myself the first bowl with a huge portion of fried anchovies.

* One trick to prevent yourself from a burning sensation on the tongue, simply use a porcelain spoon to scoop the corner of the porridge in a clockwise direction, the temperature is just right to taste this porridge without having to gently blow it. If there is any leftover, keep it in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Heat it up over high heat and the result is no less than before.

Ingredients ( serves 4)

  • 1 cup red rice
  • 2 salted egg
  • 1 century egg
  • 10 stalks Chinese round spinach
  • 200g minced pork
  • 1 can braised peanuts
  • 3 tbsp ikan bilis (anchovies) 

To marinade meatballs

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • ½  tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp corn flour

Condiment

  • Fried baby ikan bills (anchovies)

Preparation

  1. For pork balls, combine the seasoning with the minced pork and mix it with a tablespoon to form a huge ball in a bowl. Slam the ball of minced pork 5 times to get the QQ texture. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Scoop 1 big teaspoon of meat and roll them to balls in between palms. 
  2. Pluck spinach leaves and set side. Pluck away root of the spinach, and break the stem in three parts.
  3. To remove the clay and rice husk from the century egg, rub the surface off the egg in its plastic bag. The coating will break slowly and you’ll be able to see the white shell without making your hands dirty. Then, take the egg out of the bag and rub the surface gently while rinsing it under water till the clay has been fully removed.
  4. Gently crack the egg on the edge of a hard surface (a bowl, or the sink) and peel the shell. 
  5. Repeat step 3 when handling salted eggs. Crack open salted eggs and separate yolks from egg white into 2 bowls. Cut salted yolks 
  6. Slice century egg in small chunks and set aside.

Directions

  1. Pour red rice on a strainer and wash the grains thoroughly. Drain the grains, pour into a small stock pot and filled with it up with 6 cups of water. Set it to boil over medium heat for 20 minutes. 
  2. Check the hardness of red rice after 20 minutes, if it is still hard and starts drying up, add another two cups of water and let it boil for another 10 minutes. 
  3. While porridge is boiling, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil onto frying pan (sunny side up size) over medium heat for 1 minute. Add ikan bilis and fry for 5-7 minutes or until they turn golden brown and crispy. 
  4. Once red rice has soften, add spinach stems and meatballs in the center. Scoop porridge on the outer corner inwards to cover pork balls and spinach. Close lid and let it simmer for 6-8 minutes. 
  5. Open the lid and add spinach leaves, century egg and salted eggs. Add braised peanuts from the can only, dispose the sauce away. Turn down the heat and stir porridge gently to combine. 
  6. When salted egg chunks have turned light orange, pour salted egg white to the porridge. Gently stir porridge for 30 seconds once the egg white swirls are formed. Turn off heat immediately. 
  7. Serve porridge in bowls and sprinkle fried ikan bilis on top. 

Enjoy! Xx

- Ally

NEW YEAR IN SCOTLAND | CHICKEN RICE

Howdy Guys! I was just counting on my fingers and realised six weeks have passed in the blink of an eye. This post is clearly overdue as I returned from Scotland shortly after New Year’s Day. Although I’ve not been back for long, I'm already having vacation withdrawal symptoms. I want to escape the unpredictable weather patterns here in Singapore. One moment rain is pelting the corridor of my office. Ten minutes later, sunny skies and soaring humidity. I dread having to do outdoor video productions at the moment, soaked with rain or perspiration—or both. I miss the walks in Scotland. I’d wear layer over layer… over layer, and stay toasty and dry all day. Now only a cotton dress and umbrella are my options to combat the wet heat of Singapore, hehehe. I miss Scotland :(

Back in December, I spent my New Year’s in Banchory, a quiet and beautiful town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Taking time off from work and visiting a whole new setting gave me the perfect opportunity to reflect on what I’d achieved last year, and on the potential solutions to rectify lingering problems. I planned out my next steps for continually self-improving in 2016. After twelve splendid days with the luxury of a huge larder of food and plenty of time to cook meals, I felt refreshed, revitalized and well prepared for the new year ahead.

It was quite a pity when I only got one chance to hike up Banchory’s local hill, Scolty. However, it was a gorgeous day: mellow rays falling tenderly on my skin, a light refreshing frosty breeze, and a small forest of snow-coated trees!

After our adventure up Scolty I decided to treat everyone to a Singaporean staple: Chicken Rice. This home recipe was passed down by my grandma, who is Hainanese. Every Chinese New Year and Dumpling Festival, she'd wake up early in the morning to prepare her own special version of Chicken Rice, and a wide spread of other foods for prayers. Over the years of observing and assisting her, I realised how important time management was. For example, you need to know what to cook first and to prepare last so that everything can be plated in time for dinner. With this in mind, I give you the following recipe and instructions :)

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 small ginger root
  • ½ cabbage, in small chunks
  • 1 stalk of parsley, chopped in quarters
  • 2 cups of jasmine rice
  • 2 cubes of chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 cucumber, sliced (for serving)
  • 8 baby tomatoes, halves (for serving)

For the paste

  • 3 ginger root, chopped in large chunks
  • 2 stalks spring onions, sliced in strips bulb 
  • ½ garlic, chopped
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chilli flakes

Kitchen Equipment

  • Cleaver (for chicken)
  • Vegetable knife
  • 2 chopping boards (one for chicken, one for vegetables; to avoid cross contamination)
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Food Processor
  • Large pot/pan for the stock ~Stockpot (should be able to fit the whole chicken submerged in water)
  • Small pot/pan (for cooking up the ginger and garlic side accompaniments)
  • 6 toothpicks (to hold the stuffed chicken together)

Preparation

  • Fill 3/4 of stockpot with water, bring to boil
  • Peel 1 root of ginger and 1 head of garlic, pound with pestle/mortar until till juice flows out. (This will be the stuffing for the chicken.)
  • Peel remaining ginger and chop into large chunks
  • Cut away the fat from the chicken and remove the pores (using the other chopping board)

Cooking

  • Bring water to the boil in the Stockpot, before adding the cabbage and chicken stock
  • Put stuffing into chicken (including pouring any remaining juice from the mortar) 
  • Use toothpicks to seal up the chicken. Turn the chicken upside down to ensure stuffing doesn't flow out. Slowly dip it into the Stockpot by holding onto the wings. Ensure water level practically covers the chicken, otherwise add more water into the pot. 
  • Let it cook for 30 minutes (still at a boil). Use a toothpick/skewer to pierce the top of the chicken to check if it’s cooked. If the toothpick is warm, then turn over the chicken cook for another 30 minutes. 
  • Once chicken is cooked, bring it out from the pot and place it in a plate of ice cubes to let it cool down for 10 minutes.
  • Rinse jasmine rice, add in 3 cups of chicken broth. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from the ice plate, pull out the toothpicks and scoop out stuffing. 
  • Cleave chicken into slices (usually I’ll debone them also for a fuss-free eating)
  • Drizzle sesame oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley on top of the chicken slices.
  • Season remaining chicken broth with pepper.

Pastes to accompany chicken

  • For the ginger and spring onion paste, first add in large chunks of ginger into the food processor and add a generous amount of avocado oil. Blend the mixture till smooth.
  • Pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil into frying pan and add in spring onions. Stir fry them   till soft.
  • Pour in ginger paste and stir fry it with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and serve. Next, on a serparate bowl, add 2 tablespoons of chilli flakes and chopped garlic by the side to serve.

When eating

Dip chicken with a choice of either the ginger & spring onion paste, or chili & garlic paste. As the chicken may taste a little oily for some, I strongly suggest adding some refreshing cucumber and tomatoes.

Tip

If you are preparing this for dinner, I would encourage that preparation starts around 3pm. This gives you enough time to slice, chop, and pound everything before 6pm (3 hours total). Finally, be mindful that the chicken has to be entirely cooked (no pink shades) before serving. Undercooked chicken is a prime candidate for food poisoning. Please let’s not let this happen!