Clever Cooks, Gen DIY-er

The best cookbook I’ll ever own

Who doesn’t love a good cookbook? Big and bold with page after page of beautifully plated food, they’re a feast for the eyes of the food-obsessed.

Last time I checked, however, ‘oohing and aahing’ over a photograph of Gelato Messina’s rum baba gelato or Annabel Langbein’s slow-roast lamb with herb crust does not constitute as cooking, and a cookbook that doesn’t inspire a meal belongs on a coffee table, not the kitchen bench.

Most titles I own have a handful of bookmarked recipes. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Thrifty Asian

Leftovers – Mum’s way

Last weekend, my Aussie mother-in-law showed me her photos from her Vietnam trip. Amongst the scenery shots of Hoi An and Ha Long Bay were the photos of food. The food, she said, was lovely and healthy, though the soup that was brought out with each meal was ‘very bland’.

While the tour guides had been very careful to explain the stories behind the sights, they had not bothered to explain the method to Vietnamese dining. Soup is usually brought out in a large communal bowl. Instead of serving it at the start of the meal as an entree, it is poured over rice and served with a salty dish (i.e. stir fry). There is also a dipping bowl filled with fish sauce for the bland bit of tofu that you’ve fished out of your soup.

Explaining this to my mother-in-law made me reminisce over the family meals Mum cooks. Mum doesn’t reinvent leftovers like I do. Instead, she batch cooks her food and then dishes it out over several nights. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Glut(tony), Thrifty Asian

Kongnamul banchan (soybean-sprout side dish from Korea)

My mother uses bean sprouts in her rice paper rolls, salads, noodle broths, stir fries and savoury crepes. Like Metamucil, it keeps her regular and she’ll happily crunch through kilos of the stuff.

Unfortunately, I’m not so keen on bean sprouts, which means that a packet from the supermarket usually goes slimy before I have the chance to finish it off.

Bean-sprout shelf-life can be extended by blanching them (yuck)* or turning them into Korean kongnamul banchan (nom). Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Thrifty Asian

Mystery meats terrine

After reading half a dozen frugal-themed cookbooks for the blog, I’ve noticed that most focus on Western traditions: Urban Pantry turns stale bread into breadcrumbs, crostini and easy bread pudding, Smart Food has a whole section dedicated to pasta, and every book I’ve picked up has a variation of roast chicken with forty cloves of garlic. There’s the token oriental recipe thrown in, such as Vietnamese chicken meatballs (The $120 Food Challenge) or Sichuan-style eggplant (The Thrifty Kitchen), but I believe Asian cuisine has so much more to offer. Hence I’ve started ‘Thrifty Asian’, a new category on thrifty culinary practices from the region.

The first recipe that I would like to share with you is courtesy of Trang from Hai Phong, Vietnam. She’s been trying to replicate her mother’s giò tai heo (pork-ear terrine) and was kind enough to share her version of the dish with me. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Going Green

Nice as Splice

When the weather warms up, we start craving icy poles. Unfortunately, store-bought varieties come with additives, packaging, and a $2+ price tag.

Homemade icy poles are a cheap and easy-to-make alternative. You’ll need to buy, borrow, or create your own moulds, but once obtained, these moulds can be reused (unlike the throwaway paddle sticks that come with a Splice). Continue reading