Saturday, 28 April 2012


As we start to wind things down here in preparation for a move and the summer holidays, I decided to use up whatever was left of my Basics rice to make congee. For the uninitiated, this is a savoury rice porridge made by boiling rice in an excess of water or stock for an extended period of time until a thick consistency is achieved. I do not usually have congee while I am in Chinatown, and I remember not being particularly fond of it as I grew up, but thought that this might be helpful if ill or during a cold winter's day.

I decided to have my congee with the Basics mince that I had in my freezer. As the fat content in the mince is very high, it made sense to brown them first before adding them to the congee as it was cooking.

To liven it up a bit, I also decided  to knock an egg in.

If cooked using water, the rice alone will not be very flavourful and will have to be seasoned with something else. Unfortunately, other than perhaps black pepper, there is little in the Sainsbury's Basics range that would be appropriate here. If you are more flexible however, a little soya sauce and sesame seed oil will go a long way.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mee Hoon Kueh

Growing up at home, Mee Hoon Kueh (面粉馃), literally "Flour Cake" in Hokkien, was something I ordered regularly when my family ate out, and is still something I would readily order when I fly home to visit family and friends. It is a simple hand-made noodle soup with various ingredients, commonly minced pork, leafy vegetables, a poached egg, shitake mushrooms, all topped with fried ikan bilis, or small anchovies.

Prior to my arrival in the UK as an university student, the local government gave us a pamphlet listing recipes contributed by various students who have been or are currently there, that we could make use of should we start to miss the food back home. Amongst them was one for mee hoon kueh. I did not give much thought to it, and soon forgot about it all. When I started this blog however, this was one of the things that I realised I could try doing, given the relatively simple list of ingredients and preparation. Again however, I forgot, until last evening, when a conversation with a friend back home led me to try this at home, limiting myself to Sainsbury's Basics ingredients, where possible.

It turns out that mee hoon kueh is surprisingly easy to make. There are numerous recipes out there on the Internet, but the one that I was drawn to the most was at Soy and Pepper, a food blog written by an overseas Singaporean. As the Sainsbury's Basics range is lacking in both ikan bilis (small anchovies), and even dark green leafy vegetables, I had to leave out some of the ingredients where I can.

Prepare some Sainsbury's Basics Minced Beef by seasoning with Basics pepper and a little Basics vinegar. Wrap and leave in the fridge.

Combine water and Sainsbury's Basics flour in the proportions suggested by Soy and Pepper so that you have a simple dough. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

Prepare your vegetables - I used choi sum bought from Chinatown here. Break the flour ball up into golf balls and flatten each one out as shown. Use extra flour to prevent sticking.

Prepare some stock using Sainsbury's Basics chicken stock cubes.

Add the mince once the stock is boiling. Skim off any scum and unwanted fat that appears.

Pinch off bite-size pieces of dough and add to the pot. They should cook within 10-20 seconds.

Finally, add your vegetables, and an egg to either beat into the soup or to poach.

If only I had discovered this sooner. This proved to be a filling, warm and hearty meal, which, given the recent drop in temperature in the UK, was welcome. The preparation, while not very involved, will involve some waiting time, so perhaps this is best done on weekends, or prepared in advance. The flavour can certainly be worked upon; I have noticed that some other recipes call for the use of shitake mushrooms in addition to ikan bilis to make the stock. Given that the Sainsbury's Basics range has neither of these, perhaps one way to achieve a similar effect is to boil and concentrate stock from Sainsbury's Basics mushrooms and Basics canned tuna.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Risotto Balls

While dining out this week, I came across risotto balls, effectively balls of leftover risotto coated in breadcrumbs and shallow- or deep-fried to perfection. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to see if I could try to do the same thing at home. I still have plenty of Sainsbury's Basics ingredients lying around in my kitchen, so I was more keen to use up everything I have rather than to buy something new to introduce on this blog.

Most students would have readily available the ingredients used today, so I would imagine this is another way to add variety to a budget-constrained kitchen with few ingredients.

If you don't already have some risotto, boil some Basics rice as shown. the depth of water to be added should be slightly over the distance between the tip and the point of the index finger where the nail ends. If you add too much water and end up with what I have above, calmly pour off any excess water. Stir in some Basics grated cheese, and season with pepper and Basics herb mix.

Make some breadcrumbs by toasting stale bread, and then pounding. Add Basics grated hard cheese (the Parmesan substitute) for extra flavour, if desired.

Assemble as shown. Two spoons were used to make a ball, before rolling in the bread crumbs.

Proceed to deep-fry. If you want to avoid any mess from frying, you can attempt to bake them, coating with a layer of oil before doing so at 200 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes.

While the risotto balls had great texture, the overall taste was pretty bland. I was expecting the cheese to lend some flavour, but that turned out not to be the case. Adding some ham and peas could have helped there, as well as adding some needed colour.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Welsh Rarebit (or Rabbit)

Welsh rarebit is probably one of those things you wished you knew about in university, to add variety to your diet while using up your endless supply of bread, grated cheese and beer that you have access to. I had originally planned to make this after doing the post on Beer Cheese Soup, but never got round to doing so. Now that the opportunity has presented itself again, I shall do so. I shall also keep in mind that cheese and beer are good pairings in cooking.

Welsh rarebit is essentially a heavy cheese sauce enhanced with Worcestershire sauce and mustard, and on occasion, eggs, served on hot toast. Approaches to preparation vary widely. The origin of the term is uncertain, but is largely attributed to the Welsh traditionally being poor, so much so that cheese to them is a form of meat.

The recipe I will use today is derived from the one I found on the BBC. The brew I will use is Sainsbury's Basics Bitter. As I am not much of an ale drinker myself, I will just leave a couple of photos showing the ale.

 Make a roux by melting Basics grated cheese and adding flour. Add the beer gradually until a thick sauce is formed.

Add Basics mustard and black pepper, and Basics vinegar, in lieu of Worcestershire sauce.

Spread on toast and grill.

On the whole, the toast tastes good, and offers away to stretch grated cheese with a couple of other ingredients that should be cheaply available to any student. A 1.5kg Basics flour is easily available for just over 50p, and leftover beer is usually available after most student gatherings. This could even be used for the breakfast on the morning after drinking parties, using whatever beer has not already been drunk.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Bitter£0.994x440ml+£1.96Better tasting ale
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...