Mission clear out the fridge

Stuffed portobello mushrooms with tofu & spinach
Every now and then there is a little game I like to challenge myself with. It involves scavenging for leftover (sometimes wilting) ingredients in the fridge and trying to turn these into a scrumptiously inventive meal, rather than letting them end up in the bin. I absolutely hate food wastage. Living in London while paying an insane amount of rent each month meant that I felt (the pain of) every single cent of the 5 quid Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference cherry tomatoes. You learn to value every precious juicy ball of goodness in the pack, racking your brains to find new ways to use the tomatoes to avoid them wasting away past their expiry date.

There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a creative way to transform leftover ingredients into a new, exciting dish. Maybe it’s just me, but it sure feels like hitting the jackpot when I’ve managed to completely clear out my fridge without throwing anything away. I tend to rely on the following transformation templates:

  • Carrots, sugar snaps, generally most green leafy veg are great used up in stir fries
  • Potatoes, celery, leeks act as useful base when blitzed into heartwarming soups
  • Last night’s grilled salmon will turn into yummy fishcakes for lunch
  • Cold rice is actually the best fried rice while risotto makes decadently cheesy arancini balls
  • Extra quinoa/cous cous/pulses can significantly bulk up a salad or soup
  • A frittata works wonders to swallow up any remaining ingredients into a filling brunch
  • Just about anything can be tossed into a pasta style dish – a can of sweet chopped tomatoes hides many sins
I made the dish below, Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Tofu and Spinach, last night when i was determined to finish off some portobello mushrooms, remaining shavings of mozzarella cheese, not so crunchy spinach, and a half block of tofu. This actually makes for a pretty filling meal with a side serving of quinoa. With this dish I’ve also learned another useful fridge straggler clearing tip – you cannot go wrong with a blanket of cheese on anything. Ever. 

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Tofu and Spinach

Basic Ingredients
Portobello mushrooms, tofu, spinach, onion, tomato puree, Italian dried herbs mix, salt & pepper, mozzarella cheese, quinoa (optional)

The preparation
1. Remove mushroom stalks and finely chop

2. Pan fry tofu until golden brown on all sides
3. Saute onion with olive oil. Add tofu and keep stirring to break this up into small pieces. Add spinach, chopped mushroom stalks, tomato puree, Italian dried herbs, and season.
4. Scoop mixture into portobello mushrooms. Top with mozzarella cheese.
5. Bake until tops are golden brown.
6. Cook quinoa (with chicken broth) and serve on the side.  

Visit Love Food Hate Waste for some resourceful ideas on what you can do with leftovers.

To new beginnings

Vegetarian breakfast fry-up
The first day of a brand new year always unfolds a fresh wave of optimism, hope, and excitement about the endless possibilities the next 12 months hold. 
At the stroke of midnight it feels as if your slate is magically wiped clean of any past grievances, opening the door to reinvention and new experiences. 

I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions.  I tend to set my goals and achievements as and when I am inspired to do so rather than at the beginning of the new year. However I do believe in having a clear mantra each year, which I use as point of inspiration to understand any key decisions, occurrences, or challenges I am faced with. Establishing my own philosophy based on pure intentions that I can relate to, helps me to become a more grounded (and hopefully honest) person. I would like to hope that with each mantra I set (and as the years go by and I get a little bit wiser!), I’ll be a step closer to understanding the universe and why it has led me to where I am at that point in time. 

To welcome 2011, I toasted with a nice glass of champagne (they do it in style in Dusseldorf!) to ‘new adventures and new chapters’. I knew 2011 would be a pivotal point in my life with my move to KL and turning 30, so everything I set out to do was with the intention of transformation and testing my comfort zone. And what an experience 2011 has been, to the extent that I had maybe just one too many adventures. This realisation kicked in after I was pulled over by a police car for running a red light (on justifiable grounds might I add) and an expired road tax all on the same night (not to mention mowing down my gate a couple of days beforehand).

So for 2012, I’m opting for a mantra that is perhaps a little less exciting but more appreciative of everything that is around me. For me, 2012 is about seeking positive energy and joyful moments in everything I do. Surrounding myself with positive people that can inspire laughter, a sense of understanding, and the tendency to see life with a ‘glass half full’ attitude will naturally bring out the best in me to acknowledge all the small moments that matter.    

As I opened my eyes for my first morning of 2012, I was thankful that I absolutely had no plans  – no runs, no yoga classes, errands, or commitments. It’s been a while since I’ve intentionally planned to have no plans. Usually when I don’t feel like doing anything, this is a forced response to having to recover from a big night out or sheer work exhaustion. When you have the luxury of time on your hands, one of the best ways to start the morning is preparing a long, self-rewarding breakfast that helps set the right tone and mood for the rest of day. My vegetarian breakfast fryup was extra special today as I prepared the meal with family in the kitchen. What was possibly more miraculous was the fact that my dad freely volunteered to eat something I had prepared when he normally shuns my cooking as hippie food. To appease him, I was slightly more decadent with my treatment of the portobello mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and spinach (I don’t normally use a lot of butter or cream in my cooking). In this case, the richness of the herb butter on the portobello mushrooms was not overpowering and actually helped integrate and accentuate the flavours of the other ingredients. I absolutely love cherry tomatoes that have been slightly over roasted, where the slightest bite easily triggers an explosion of sweetness. So with family in the kitchen, lovely over roasted cherry tomatoes, and buttery portobello mushrooms, my 2012 is off to a positive and joyful start. 

Vegetarian breakfast fry up (portobello mushrooms with herb butter, cherry tomatoes & rosemary, spinach and scrambled eggs)

Basic ingredients
Portobello mushrooms, butter, mixed herbs (I use dried), cherry tomatoes, rosemary, spinach, garlic, eggs, sour cream, salt & pepper.

The joy begins with
1. For portobello mushrooms with herb butter – mash butter with mixed herbs and seasoning until the butter has quite a smooth consistency to make it easier to apply. Spread mixture into the portobello mushrooms (I actually like leaving the stalks on my mushrooms, especially in Malaysia when the size of portobello mushrooms are TINY!). 

2.  For the roasted cherry tomatoes & rosemary – halve cherry tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and rosemary. Grill with the portobello mushrooms so that the juices from both have a chance to amalgamate (lovely to soak up with some bread!!). 
3. For the spinach – sauté garlic with olive oil. Add spinach and cook until the leaves have wilted, season. Before taking off the heat, add a tablespoon of sour cream to the pan and mix. 
4. Serve all of the above with scrambled eggs and toast. I poured the juices from the roasted vegetables onto the plate as well.
5. Appreciate the moment. 

An ode to Sunday brunches

Bulgur Wheat, Puy Lentils  Mushroom & Caramalised Onions Salad
I can easily say that hands down, today has been the best Sunday I’ve had in KL. I broke away from the usual routine of isolating myself at the yoga centre to feast on the brunch buffet at the newly opened Acme Bar & Coffee at The Troika. Their Sunday brunch setup reminds me so much of Ottolenghi’s cafes in London – platters of wholesome salads, imagination, fusion of ingredients, and odd combinations that work so well together. I loved the fact that there were various moments of ‘oh wow this is good’ as we sampled new dishes. 

Not only was there delicious food, but great company as well. Today reminded me of how Sundays should be spent – lazily eating copious amounts of good food, over an extended period of time with great people, and surrounding yourself with conversation and laughter. The usual Sunday blues (well more like panic attack) of going back to work after being on leave for 2 days last week seemed like a distant memory once the food coma kicked in. 🙂 

Returning home after spending three and a half hours feasting away, I was not in a rush for my next meal but was inspired to try out the recipe below for tomorrow’s work lunch – Bulgur Wheat, Puy Lentils, Mushrooms & Caramalised Onions. This is slightly inspired by the Acme Bar & Coffee Bar’s Bulgar, Quinoa & Onion salad but I was out of quinoa and had to improvise! I’ll be tucking away into this and thinking of my perfect Sunday when shit hits the fan at work tomorrow. 

Image

Bulgur Wheat, Puy Lentils  Mushroom & Caramalised Onions Salad

Basic ingredients
Bulgur wheat, portobello mushrooms, puy lentils, spinach, slivered almonds, cumin and paprika for the bulgur wheat, chicken stock, onions, butter, feta cheese (*at the time of the picture taking I had completely forgotten to add in the feta so this salad can easily work without it as well)

The magic
1. Cook the bulgur wheat with chicken stock and cumin. Season with paprika and pepper.

2. Sautee the portobello mushrooms with olive oil.
3. Boil the puy lentils in some salted water.
4. Toast the almonds. 
5. Now this is where the magic ingredient comes in – the caramelised onions is what makes this dish. I loved the fact that the Acme Bar & Coffee had lovely sweet onions in their salad. Sautee onions in butter until they have caramelized. 
6. Mix all the above ingredients together with the spinach.
7. Top with crumbled feta cheese as a bonus.  

Seven easy steps to get to the goodness of ‘forget Sunday blues’ in a bowl.