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Thursday, 21 October 2021

#ewew cooks the Easiest Meat Sauce Ever!

I believe many of us have made a tomato-based meat sauce at one time or another....usually with help from our favourite brand of bottled tomato/pasta sauce.  Of course, there are those who don't believe in bottled sauces and would painstakingly make it from scratch with fresh tomatoes (refer to a Malaysianised recipe here if you're interested)...and that's fine too....whatever rocks your boat!   Well, I suppose there's nothing better than one that's freshly made, right?

But for the rest of us who are too lazy busy or don't have the luxury of time to cook it from scratch, we go for the cheat version.  We rely on bottled tomato paste and sauces...or, at least, I have.  So, who's up for the easiest meat sauce ever (which I discovered only recently)?  Not to mention it's also darn delicious! ;)

For that, you'll need a little help from Jamie Oliver!  I was browsing through Atlas Gourmet Market @ Shoppes at Four Seasons Place when I spotted it (this was way before the pandemic).  But that was so long ago (sometime in late 2018, yikes!) that Atlas Gourmet Market has now been converted into more of a bistro, pizzeria and deli than a high end grocery store (though you can still find some "atas punya" produce on sale like meats, seafood, cheese and wine).

I've always derived enjoyment browsing and walking through the aisles of high(er) end grocery stores coz they pay careful attention to shelf/produce arrangement where everything is so nicely presented...like these fresh vegetables that's so eye-catchingly colourful.  Even their organic vegetables, herbs and microgreens have their own (cold) indoor garden! ;)

I meant to cook this sooner but it was conveniently forgotten in the back of my pantry cupboard.....until recently! :O  When I took it out, I realised it was past its expiry date.  Adoi, sayang-lah if I have to throw Jamie Oliver's product away! >_<  Then I remembered a blogger-friend who was always dicing with danger by cooking and consuming expired goods.  She says some foodstuff are still good to go even after expiry.  Taking that into consideration, I googled and read somewhere that tomato-based pasta sauces can stay fresh 3 - 5 months past its expiry (because of the acidity) if the bottle is unopened (some even say it's good for 1 - 2 years but I won't go so far-lah).

So, I'm going to run with that and be brave....and use it so as not to let it go to waste.  After all, it smelled and appeared alright with no visible mold, change of colour or bulging on the cap + since it was an imported product, I was a bit more confident of its manufacturing process and packaging.

This will be the fastest pasta meat sauce you'll ever make, so don't blink or you might just miss it....hah...hah!  Start by sweating chopped onions and sauteeing minced meat of your choice (I used pork but you can use beef or chicken too) in some olive oil.  Here I'm keeping it really simple but you can always add on chopped garlic, tomatoes, celery and even bell peppers if you like.

When I got Jamie Oliver's Tomato & Chilli Pasta Sauce (I can't recall the price now but I remembered it wasn't very expensive), I also bought his (or endorsed by him) olive oil to try (this was much more expensive than the pasta sauce, I remembered).

I did like the taste of this one and since it's much pricier than the usual brands I buy, I try to reserve it for use as dressing for my salads (with the occasional use for cooking only). ^_*

Jamie Oliver's
line of vinaigrettes also include balsamic, red and white wine vinegars.  I once had a bottle each of such vinegars but ended up discarding them (when they expired) coz I don't really use vinegars all that much in my cooking.

Coming back to Jamie's Tomato & Chilli Pasta Sauce, here comes the super easy part....just empty the entire (400g) jar of sauce into your sauteed pork mince and onions (or with additional vegetables mentioned earlier).  This is a lot less work (which suits me fine) compared to the time and patience needed to simmer a pasta sauce for 1 1/2 hours if made from scratch! O_o

As with all pasta sauces, one usually adds fresh parsley (though most of us will probably use dried parsley coz that's readily available in our pantry) but I like to add a Chinese dimension to it by adding Chinese parsley (or coriander) instead as I find it more fragrant.  Put in both stalks and leaves...but I only had stalks leftover in my fridge (actually, this is a good way of using up the stalks that we're often left with after using mostly the leaves as garnish, over steamed fish and in soups).

Cook it for a few minutes more and the sauce is ready (you can add some water if the consistency is too thick for your liking).  You may wish to add some additional seasoning also (like salt & lots of black pepper) to tweak the taste just right for you.  One jar of Jamie's sauce is good for 3 servings of pasta (for me).

If that's not the easiest meat sauce you'll ever make, I don't know what can be easier or faster than that! ^.^  P/S: One day I hope to (have the will to) make it from scratch (perhaps when I'm inspired to cook it for a party and want to impress my guests that the pasta sauce is homemade...kekeke) but the allure of its simplicity coming out from a jar isn't something I'm ready to give up for now! :D

For my pasta of choice, I used spaghetti vermicelli which is slightly thinner than regular spaghetti but thicker than angel hair pasta (but in Italy, it seems it's the other way round).

I've always 'trusted' Jamie Oliver, after all, he was the very first person who taught me how to bake/roast chicken and potatoes in the oven successfully (a method which I've continued to use till today).  I'll tell you why this is the best tasting bottled pasta sauce I've come across thus far....it isn't as acidic as some of the ones I've had before. 

Not only that but, more importantly, this one has this subtle chilli warmth to it making this lovely tomato-based meat sauce that much nicer to eat (much like a chilli con carne).  It's not spicy at all but that little hint of chilli makes all the difference to the taste. ^o^

Since no-one is a fan of tomato-based pasta sauces in my household, I have two extra portions that I can freeze to be enjoyed later.  Heheh, I've consumed expired goods and lived to tell the tale! *_*

If I can get a good quality ready-made jar of pasta sauce that's equally tasty, who says I can't make my life simpler with a little help from my "friend".....lol!  Good bottled pasta sauces that can be whipped up in an instant is a saviour to anyone tasked with putting food on the table and a staple that's beneficial to have in your pantry.  Well, if I'm out grocery shopping and happen to spot Jamie's Tomato & Chilli Pasta Sauce again, I'd be sure to restock my pantry with it. ^_~

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Soy Desserts by Soy Bar

I don't indulge in sweet desserts all that much but one sweet thing I can't say no to is a soy dessert that's more commonly known here as tau fu fah.  And, of late, there has been a resurgence in popularity of this soy dessert and drink due to its reinvention.

Many of us grew up eating tau fu fah (soy bean curd) and drinking tau cheong sui (soya bean drinks) but we'd usually get this from the soy bean uncle or aunty via a roadside stall/truck.  But this simple childhood dessert has been elevated (along with its prices!) and reinvented in the likes of Soybean Factory, Soyya, Soylab, Soy Nest, Tono Soymilk, Bean Jr, Dao Desserts (just to name a few) that are dedicated to just soybean-related desserts.

So, I was pleasantly surprised one day to find a stall selling just that, Soy Desserts by Soy Bar, in one of my neighbourhood coffee shops.  I think this branch was opened a few months ago (sometime in May but I only noticed them recently).  A check on FB shows that they usually open outlets in coffee shops (that's probably the reason they can keep their prices low) + they also sell their products through their own website, Soy Bar. The prices of this one is more down to earth unlike some "atas" soy bean cafes! >_<  I can't imagine paying more than RM10 (some even above RM15) for a soy dessert as simple as tau fu fah with some fancy condiments (but nicely plated and presented-lah, of course).

Ah, this stall offers pricing that's more to my liking....hee...hee.  So I started with their Cold Bean Curd @ RM4 a tub.  Oh my, very nice-lah.....especially when it comes chilled....which is great eaten in our hot weather! ^o^  It comes already sweetened...and the best part is...it's only lightly sweet which is ideal for me.

But in case you like it sweeter, you can always ask them for additional 'sweeteners'.  They serve their soy desserts with 3 types of sugar syrup....plain (or white) sugar, black sugar or ginger sugar.

I chose the dark sugar (just to see what it tastes like).  They call it black sugar (which is actually brown sugar or wong tong).  Unfortunately, I didn't like the taste of this wong tong (not among the better ones I've had) and would prefer to go without it (ah, if it's good gula melaka, then it might be a different story-lah). Anyway, the light sweetness is already cukup (enough) for me.

This jiggly soy pudding has the taste of soy with a very smooth texture that glides effortlessly down your throat.  There are some people who can even taste a soy dessert and say it does not carry enough soy flavour, well....I wouldn't know about that coz my tongue is not so sharp (all soy desserts taste of soy to me...lol).

And the best thing about a chilled soy pudding is that you can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days (that means you can buy more at one go!) and fulfill your need for something cold anytime of the day.  If you need to order many tubs, I suggest you order direct from their website coz at RM40 for an order of 10 tubs, you get 2 tubs free (+ delivery is also free for orders above RM30).

After trying out the cold bean curd, it's time for the hot version....they call this the Traditional Bean Curd @ RM3.  It's certainly smooth and slurp-worthy...but is it any better than any good (and cheaper) tau fu fah you can get from a roadside vendor?  Well, I can't really say I detected (or tasted) any difference.

The only difference I see is that you can choose to eat this hot bean curd with ginger sugar (the tau fu fah vans usually offer only white and brown sugar).  Some ginger syrup, you can't taste the ginger...but you can with this one.  You get a nice, subtle kick from the ginger but do remember to goncang (shake) your little tub (before you pour) coz the ginger tends to settle at the bottom.

At RM3 a tub, it's (of course) cheaper than the cold bean curd and you get probably twice (maybe even triple) the amount.  I couldn't finish it in one go (after breakfast) and left the balance in the fridge.  Some might think, hey, I can just leave it in the fridge and it'll be just like cold bean curd.  No it won't! :D  Coz, from experience, they tend to leak out water and your tau fu fah will be all watery.

After trying the conventional hot bean curd, I decided to go for a fancier one.....with toppings!  This is the Four Kinds of Beancurd @ RM7.  Go big or go home, right? :D  As its name implies, the beancurd comes with four toppings (at a very good price too, I might add).  I asked for plain sugar syrup as I think it'll go best with all the different toppings.

The toppings they have include grass jelly, red bean, peanut and glutinous rice balls.  If you get the beancurd with only one topping, it'll cost RM5 irrespective of the choice of topping.  But I went for all four...what better way to try which topping I like best than to try all four, right? ;)  Some of the toppings were packed separately.

The red beans topping turned out to be a firm favourite.

If you want the least sweet topping, that would be the grass jelly.

The glutinous rice balls were chewy but soft as they should be...and also not too sweet.

I first thought the peanut topping would be an odd pairing and the least successful but I was glad to be proven wrong as the pairing did work.  It turned out more enjoyable than I expected as the crushed peanuts (it comes with sugar, bummer for me but yippee for others) gave the soft beancurd a nice, fragrant bite. With the sugar in the peanuts providing the sweetness required, I didn't need to add any further sugar syrup at all.

All in all, it was a nice soy dessert and now that I've tried all four toppings (they're not as fancy as some of those places which offer many toppings to choose from), I'll probably stick with red beans or (the occasional) crushed peanuts if I want this again (or maybe even both, hehehe!).

Their soya bean drinks come in a few flavours...red bean, black sesame, honeydew, chocolate, pumpkin and black soy (made with black beans) priced between RM5 - RM8 a bottle.  There's also the original (with or without sugar).  I'm not into flavoured soymilk, so I got the soya bean drink (original) priced at RM5 a bottle...one unsweetened and one with sugar.

If you ask me if it tastes any different from the cheaper ones we can get from the soya bean trucks, I can't say I detected any difference.  A soya bean drink is a soya bean drink...and a cold drink on a hot day to quench our thirst is what they're meant for.  Soymilk is a healthy drink we should drink more of (only if we choose the unsweetened option-lah)...but an unsweetened version isn't all that easy to drink I have to admit.

With 21 outlets (and counting) opened thus far, check their Facebook page to see if you're lucky enough to have one open in your neighbourhood coffee shops coz then you'll have easy access to one of the cheapest (not to mention delicious), somewhat fancy tau fu fah (chilled or hot) and soy bean drinks you can get.  Oops, before I forget, you'll find this stall in Restoran Xin Fu Ji (that also houses the well known Fuji Chicken Rice).  For those not from the area, it's located in a corner coffee shop opposite Public Bank.

The standout for me was the cold or chilled bean curd.  At least it's something you can't get from your regular soya bean truck, so I'll be sticking to that.  I've been having that mostly...with the occasional hot tau fu fah with red beans or crushed peanuts. ^_~

Soy Desserts by Soy Bar
may not be as prettily presented or have as many fancy toppings as some of the other soy bean cafes but I don't miss the fanciful condiments coz a simple tau fu fah doesn't need to be glamourised as it's best eaten as it is (at least to me).  We don't need to mess around with something basic that's already so good as it is.  So, if you're up for something without so many fancy toppings, don't have to be fancily platednot served in a fancy environment or don't need a fancy photo of, then you can give this cheaper (but just as good) alternative a try! ^_~

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Sally's Kitchen Homecooked Food Delivery (for September)

The week of September saw Sally's Kitchen Homecooked Food Delivery churn out mostly repeated dishes but there were a few new ones too.

Week 1 started with a cracker dish of Chicken Kaarage & Wakame (Kelp) Fried Rice @ RM13.50 with sides of sliced omelette and edamame.  This was a well presented dish with all its sides nicely placed and its fried rice looking very inviting with all those dark green, almost black, bits in it.

The chicken kaarage was well seasoned and nicely fried (not overly fried like some can be).  The 4 large chunks of chicken, finished with a light drizzle of Japanese mayo on top, were tender to the bite.  The inclusion of a squeeze of lime gave the fried chicken a welcomed lift.

The fried rice also came with some small cubes of fried tofu, fresh shiitake mushrooms and egg bits in it. Perhaps the rice could be seasoned a little bit more (as some would have preferred a bolder flavour) though I was fine with it.  Overall it was another tasty dish! ;)

The other option for the week was the Tao Yew Bak with sides of Joo Hoo Char, Braised Egg & Sambal Belacan @ RM12.  Well, I've already had a taste of the joo hoo char and braised egg in their previous Nyonya Lobak Set and Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice before.

The tao yew bak (braised pork belly in soy sauce) was tasty with a generous helping of 4 - 5 good-sized chunks of wobbly meat (even my husband felt it was a sizeable amount though he would have liked it cooked a bit more tender).

Even though I made a request for my portion of tao yew bak pieces to be leaner, it still contained some fatty parts which I (of course) discarded into my husband's box.  I did enjoy my leaner parts and the sauce had good flavours.

This week's Friday Special was yet another noodle dish of Pad Woon Sen (Stir-Fried Glass Noodles) with Pandan ChickenFried Egg & Dipping Sauce @ RM12.

I think they need a little bit more practice with the wrapping of the pandan chicken as the pandan leaves came loose.  Some of the nuggets of chicken were pale while some achieved the well-fried look.  Taste wise, it also needed a bit more work.

I did enjoy the stir-fried glass noodles that were nicely done with some crunchy, julienned cabbage and carrot.  The standout for me was the inclusion of the dipping sauce with red bird's eye chillies to give it that spicy kick but balanced out with the salty and sweet flavours of the soy dipping sauce (there might even be some lime juice in there).  It was refreshing eaten with the glass noodles (I finished the entire tub).

The following week offered Fried Pork Nasi Lemak @ RM12 with sides of Potato Curry and condiments of hard-boiled egg, fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumber & sambal.

The decent tasting fried pork slices were simply seasoned with probably salt and pepper though I did notice some red specks (either ground chilli pepper or paprika).  There was also this light dusting of batter on the pork slices which gave it that slight crispy coating.

Of course they always nail their curries and this potato curry was no different.  I'm all for any curries that have potatoes in them...and welcomes its inclusion to give the nasi lemak more sauce (the curry turned out to be more spicy than the sambal).  The cooked sambal (on the sweetish side) has certainly improved from previous times with more depth of flavour.

Their other two new menu items included Ayam Pongteh with Bok Choy (RM11) and Smoked Duck Aglio Olio (RM13.50) which I thought I'll give it a miss since 1) I'm not really a fan of ayam pongteh and 2) I'm always afraid of duck that's not rendered properly (I've had quite a few experiences with that + more often than not, the skin is usually not crispy).

If Week 2 saw the feature of all 3 new dishes, Week 3 showcased the repeat of all 3 dishes I've had before starting with the Hainanese Pork Chop Rice @ RM12.  It was called Chinese Pork Chop Rice previously...and it could still do with a bit more tenderising.

The Chicken Teriyaki Rice Set @ RM13 this time was slightly different from the previous Chicken Teriyaki Set in that it was served with a mixed salad of fresh lettuce, carrot shreds, sweet corn & cherry tomatoes accompanied by a roasted sesame dressing (instead of blanched bok choy & carrot strips previously).  It was served with the same panko-crusted fish balls and thick-rolled omelette (this time looking even more like tamagoyaki...hehe!).

I could see that the chicken teriyaki this time achieved a much deeper caramelisation and the teriyaki sauce also tasted better.  Good that there was some improvement but it still needs work.

The final repeated dish for the week was the  Fried Meehoon with Curry Vegetables @ RM12 served with a side of delicious vegetable curry (with softened vegetables of potatoes, cabbage, long beans, carrots, brinjal, ladies fingers & beancurd puffs) and crispy fried wontons (which arrived fully crispy).

The Dried Shrimps Fried Meehoon wasn't as good as I remembered (I found it fried with some dried mushrooms this time + I could hardly taste the dried shrimps).  The portion size is so generous you can easily make this into a two-meal affair...you just need to boil some rice to eat with the vegetable curry.

The final week of September saw the return of their Braised Mui Choy Pork @ RM11 with sides of braised tofu & fried egg (with a request for leaner pork).  Still as delicious.

The other option for the week was Butter Milk Chicken @ RM12 with sides of mushroom omelette & stir-fried french beans.  This was a repeated dish, just that I didn't order it the first time round.

The boneless chicken pieces had a nice crisp and they were fried with fragrant curry leaves and some red cili api in a butter milk sauce.  I had a little taste and it tasted exactly like what its name implied...milky and buttery (my son said it tasted like carbonara...maybe there might even be some cheese in there).  And that's why I don't order this for me! >_<

Friday's Special was Spaghetti Bolognese which I obviously wouldn't be attracted to order since I make that at home all the time.

Sally's Kitchen
 continues to be a saviour when my home kitchen is closed.....and I've no doubt that their kitchen will continue to thrive going forward.

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