On labour day I made meatball subs according to the foodjimoto recipe and they were amazing and there were plenty of leftovers for dinner again on Thursday. So my mum microwaved the meatballs in marinara and was simmering the minestrone soup I made on saturday and toasting the focaccia before I got home for dinner on Thursday and made the entire corridor of my block smell of a really amazing Italian restaurant. I was wondering where the smell was coming from while walking home and getting right hungry when I arrived at my door and realized the smell came from my house! It must be really sad to be my neighbours. Typically when nice smells are emanating from my house I am inside where all the action is. In the last month I’ve made soup, sandwiches, hazelnut cake, beef barbacoa burritos, chocolate fondue, baked ham, baked bread, it must really suck to live next door and not get to eat any. It feels amazing when the nice smell permeating one entire floor of HDB flats is coming from your house and is about to be your dinner. Most of the time I just smell frying garlic or fried fish (the nasi lemak kind).
So. I’ve never made marinara sauce before and it’s actually really easy – chopped up sweet onion (or spanish onion if you’re in wegmans), about half a cup of red wine, and sliced up bacon. Add to it tomato puree and tomatos from a can and that’s it! Liangze loves tomatoes for their umami and practically drank the marinara.
Speaking of umami we found tubes of umami paste selling in Jones the Grocer. They have a big fat 5 printed on the ends specifying it as the fifth taste, and the component ingredients are basically mashed up everything that gives umami – tomatoes, anchovies, capers, and a bunch of other things I can’t remember.
Another note about italian recipes/sausage – so sausage in american terms refers to the seasoned ground pork one finds in the mcdonald’s breakfast sandwiches. Obviously you cannot find raw sausage in the supermarkets here so I had to make my own for the meatballs. Here’s an interesting fact – sausages contain anise! I didn’t have anise so I subbed it with fennel seed (which I somehow, mysteriously have in a little packet) and it was really authentic.
It is so much easier to cook with a well-stocked kitchen with all kinds of funny ingredients lying around. I think the greatest inertia to cook overseas is all the set up you have to do. I had so many condiments and ingredients left over before moving back to Singapore I had to give them all to Chris. And I mean, what’s she gonna do with a bottle of fish sauce really?
Here are some contraptions that most kitchens probably don’t have –
1. An electric steamer. It’s this plastic frame machine with a well in which you pour water, and flip the switch. The water heats up really quickly and then you can put your pao or siewmai or whatnot in the upper compartment to be steamed evenly.
2. An immersion blender. Probably western households might have one to puree baby food but it’s mainly used for making soup – minestrone, mushroom, even soya bean milk if you like. I used it to make the liquid that I stewed my beef chuck in to make beef barbacoa. Had to blend up quite a few chiles to get the mexican kick. I foresee myself using it soon to make hollandaise for eggs benedict.
3. A no hands electric can opener – the kind that you can just perch on a can, press a button, and it somehow orbits the can, biting off the lid as it goes around until it reaches the origin.
4. A spaghetti measure
5. One of those corkscrew knives that can slice your cucumber up helically by screwing the knife through the cucumber.
6. An egg timer which you submerge in water with your eggs – It’s red, and turns black inwards. There are different markings on the egg to tell you whether your eggs are half cooked, soft boiled, or completely done. Very accurate.
7. A strawberry corer and grapefruit knife (that digs the pulpy flesh out of a grapefruit, leaving the fibrous separations behind)
8. A thermal pot that completely insulates an inner pot (that can be put on the stove) such that cooking is continued by maintaining the temperature, but without electricity.
9. One of those double container glass cruets (that looks somewhat like a Klein bottle) in which the inner cruet is filled with balsamic vinegar and the outer cruet is filled with EV olive oil.
10. A bread maker :D