Monday, July 20, 2009

Tuna Bacon Pasta Salad

Whenever there is a pot luck gathering, I like to bring a pasta salad of some kind. It's easy to transport, easy to make in small or larger quantities, and can be prepared a day ahead of time. For the version I made for last weekend's gathering, I added tuna, bacon, and peppers (capsicum) together with spiral pasta in 2 colours. This pasta is great eaten cold - perfect for bento and picnics, but it can also be heated up if you are serving it at night as a side dish.

Continue reading for the recipe...

Tuna Bacon Pasta Salad
(makes a huge bowl. Decrease the quantities for a smaller portion)
500g spiral pasta (or 250g plain spiral pasta and 250g spinach spiral pasta)
2 red peppers (capsicum)
2 yellow peppers (capsicum)
1 green pepper (capsicum)
200 - 300g bacon (I use back bacon as it has less fat)
2 x 185g canned tuna (in water or olive oil)
2 cloves garlic
light olive oil (or other cooking oil)
1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
Note: The different coloured peppers (capsicum) are used to make the pasta more attractive - you can also just use one colour if you prefer.

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet (less 1 minute). Drain, rinse under cold water to stop the pasta cooking, then set aside.

2. Dice the red and yellow peppers (capsicum) into small pieces. Dice the green pepper (capsicum) into small pieces and set aside separately. Chop the bacon into small pieces.

3. Peel and chop the garlic.

4. In a large pot (I use the same pot I used to boil the pasta to save on washing up) add a little olive oil (or cooking oil) and fry the bacon on medium heat. Add the red and yellow peppers (capsicum) and fry lightly. Add the canned tuna and stir. Pour the mixture into another bowl and set aside. 

5. Rinse out the pot, then add some olive oil (around 4 - 5 Tbsp depending on the amount of pasta you made). Add the chopped garlic, and over low heat, slowly fry the garlic until fragrant and golden. Be careful not to brown or burn the garlic. 

6. Turn the heat to high, and pour the cooked pasta into the garlic oil. (You may need to rinse the pasta a little to loosen it if it has stuck together.) Coat the pasta with the garlic oil, then turn the heat to low, and add the tuna bacon mix. Add the tomato pasta, and season with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Turn off heat, add the uncooked chopped green peppers (capsicum) and stir well. Taste, and season with more pepper, salt and tomato paste if necessary. (The tomato paste is used to add flavour, not to make the pasta taste tomato-y.)

Tip: I find the flavours of the pasta develop well when left in the fridge overnight. If you are making this for a gathering, picnic, or for your bento, make the pasta a day ahead and store it covered in the fridge in an airtight container. Remove it from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before serving.


Teriyaki Cod

For some reason, I don't cook fish very often. I think it is because I just have it in my head that fish is a bit fiddly to make. However an easy recipe and one of my favourite fish recipes is teriyaki cod fish. This dish is also perfect to put into your bento lunches. (To be honest, a good slice of cod fish is quite expensive here, so I don't make this that often.)

This is a slight update on the recipe I posted for this dish before- this is now my latest standard way for making all things teriyaki... 

Teriyaki Cod Fish
2 pieces black cod fish fillet
4 Tbsp soya sauce
3 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sugar

1. Mix the liquids and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Marinate the fish in the liquid for 15 minutes.

2. Heat up a small frying pan, and add the fish. Leave for a minute, then turn over. When the fish is just cooked through, remove from the pan.

3. Pour the rest of the marinade into the pan, and let it bubble until the liquid has reduced and thickened into a sauce. Turn off the heat. Coat the fish with the teriyaki sauce and serve. 

Back to Bento

After a (long) break, I'm trying to get back to making bento - just a simple one, made with one of my favourite bento staples - Beef and Tofu meatballs (you can't taste the tofu at all, but adding tofu makes the meatballs juicy, even after it has been frozen and re-fried). Here, they have been glazed with homemade teriyaki sauce. The rest of the bento is just some edamame, a happy hard boiiled egg, and rice. Simple, but filling and tasty.

Teriyaki sauce
4 Tbsp soya sauce
3 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sugar

Mix all the ingredients together in a small frying pan, and heat over medium heat until bubbling. Keep the sauce bubbling (adjusting the heat lower if necessary) until the liquid reduces and thickens. Add the meatballs and coat with the sauce. (If you are defrosting the meatballs, make sure you fry them until the meatballs are fully heated through.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chicken Salad

chicken salad
Ever been asked in a survey what dish you would pick if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life? Well, if I had to choose, it would be chicken salad. There's something about cold chicken and raw vegetables that just work so well together. 

With the summer heat truly upon us in Hong Kong right now, many a night I feel like something cool and refreshing. It may seem too light a meal, eating salad for dinner, but if you add enough goodies inside it, it makes for quite a filling dish.

There are endless variations to the chicken salad, but my favourite is a mixture of vegetables, potato and chicken without (egads!) any dressing. Firstly, I'm not too fond of mayonnaise or any other dressing overpowering the salad, and secondly, I'm always trying to cut down on the calorie intake. Plus, if your veggies and chicken are fresh, the natural taste of the dish is really all you need. And if you must, put some dressing on a side dish and mix a little as you go along, rather than pouring it all in at the start...

My favourite chicken salad combo right now is:

Shreddded chicken (roast chicken gives the salad more flavour, but you can also poach or panfry some chicken), lettuce, baby spinach leaves, roma tomatoes, baby potatoes (microwaved or boiled until soft and melting), sliced green peppers (capsicums), mixed together with a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper. Yum!

To make the salad more filling, you could also add some spiral/shell pasta, or some corn...

Fruit Salad

fruit salad
This is not the most exciting of photos, or recipes, but it's been one of our favourite desserts lately - fruit salad. I suppose a fruit salad should have more than 2 types of fruits inside it, but that often doesn't bother me... It's a great way to get reluctant fruit eaters (such as myself) to enjoy fruit. Somehow, eating an apple or watermelon is a bit boring, but when you chop it up and mix it with another fruit, the blending of flavours makes the experience more tasty and satisfying. It's also a great way to use up fruit which you've bought but discover isn't so sweet, or is a bit dry - just mix it with a slightly sweeter, riper fruit or a more juicy one.

Combinations I like right now, although basically any fruit combo would work-

  • watermelon, pineapple (with or without seedless grapes) - this works especially well if your watermelon is not too sweet, and your pineapple is very sweet. This combo is also good with a squeeze of lime juice);
  • apples, plums, peaches and chinese pears (takes longer, but I find peeling the skin off the fruit makes it blend together better);
  • strawberries, kiwifruit, blueberries and chinese pears;
  • watermelon and green seedless grapes (put chopped watermelon squares and grapes into little glasses and freeze them for few hours for a nice icy treat!)