Yesterday was a wonderful day. I spent my whole day in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. I must admit I enjoy the process of writing down the recipe and recording the minor changes I make while cooking it. It is very important for me to decode the cooking process such that any person can follow my recipe. I know there are many good cooks out there but there are still many of us who can barely cook. To standardise a recipe and allow others to reproduce it blindly is something I really aspire to achieve.
It does take a few attempts to get a recipe right so don’t be disheartened if the first time you make a recipe and it doesn’t turn out perfect. Moreover, sometimes I have been very happy with the recipes that didn’t turn out as they were suppose to. Same ingredients and some totally different but equally tasty meals, the magic of cooking never ceases to amaze me.
To add to my excitement I had four girlfriends coming over. There is something amazing about being surrounded by girlfriends. I’m not against men but women are just different and better (I may add). They are encouraging, supportive, patient and there is so much compassion in their listening. It is blissful!
I had spent two days looking for recipe inspirations. With recipes written down in my notebook and the shopping done a day earlier I was ready to start cooking in the morning.
The school is off for Christmas break and I had kids at home and that can be a challenge. Yahya my youngest is always full of questions, he has so much he wants to know and his constant “Mama” is something I still have to get use to. So cooking started later then I had envisaged and eventually I sent the kids out to watch a movie to get some peace of mind. They were so excited. I was equally excited to get some quiet time in the house.
I started with making the breads. The menu was a bread basket with my special 12 grain and seed bread, nan Bread and Zaatar Manakish. The aroma of bread baking in the oven is indescribable. It is pleasant just like a spring day and brings in happy thoughts.
Kneading the dough, is therapeutic. It melts away the stress of the day as you follow the rhythm of pushing the dough away from yourself, folding it over, turning it around and repeating this over and over again. Your mind is free to wander away while your hands move in a monotonous manner. I often day dream while I’m kneading. Once the dough is kneaded, it is covered and put in a warm place to rise.
The next dish I wanted to make was the cauliflower soup. I quickly chopped the onions and cut the cauliflower into florets. It was a simple recipe with onions, spices, and the cauliflower browned in tablespoon of oil for few minutes. Then went in milk and vegetable stock. Cover and let it cook for thirty minutes. Blend and you are done. I have learnt that some of the tastiest recipes are some of the easiest too. This one was definitely on the top of list of tastiest recipes.
With the soup cooking I got ready to make the Sticky Toffee Pudding. I love this dessert. It was introduced to me by my lovely friend Susan. She had casually mentioned one day that she had really enjoyed a sticky toffee date pudding for dinner and couldn’t get the flavour out of her mind. I think it was the delightful look on her face as if she relived the heavenly flavour which intrigued me. I was looking for the recipe immediately (but that is a story for another day).
The divine aroma of the sticky toffee pudding baking in the oven made me delirious. Aha I would not be wrong to say I was in heaven.
As it continued to bake I got the dough out and started preparations for the nan bread. The dough was rolled out into balls and then flattened into tear shaped breads, all ready to go in the oven to bake. I really cannot decide if I preferred the sweet aroma of the sticky toffee pudding or the earthy smell of the bread baking.
After the nan Bread I made the Zaatar Manakish bread, the Zaatar (a spice blend of herbs) when brushed on the dough with olive oil and baked has a salty, savoury aroma which tantalising the senses. So difficult to resist biting in a Zaatar Manakish as it comes out fresh from the oven.
For the main course I had planned Potato Mushroom and Spinach pots and grilled Fenugreek Chicken. I had boiled the potatoes earlier in the morning and the chicken was already marinating in the fridge. That just gave me enough time to make the dip. I was planning to make a feta cheese pistachio dip. It was a recipe I had come across when surfing food blogs for inspirations and had saved it to make on a special day. Pistachio and feta cheese worked remarkably well with each other. It was a salty slightly tangy dip that gave immense flavour to the bread. It was really hard to stop at one bite.
The potato mushroom spinach pot was a warm comforting meal. Simple dish of baked mashed potatoes with cream, butter, cheese baked with garlic and thyme fried mushroom and spinach in the centre. This was truly comfort food at its best.
Both the chicken and the potatoes baked in the oven together leaving me time to do the finishing touches to setting the table and getting ready for my friends.
Time flies when you are having fun and it was so true today. We sat down on the table to eat. The conversation was around the recent work trips and experiences. It was so nice to hear from everyone. The cauliflower soup had us all, totally engaged with the food. I was quite surprised with the flavours I had not imagined it to turn out like this. It was creamy and indulgent, yet mildly spicy. Just perfect with the bread and feta and pistachio dip.
We discussed how difficult it is to cook food. I begged to differ as I feel it is more difficult to find a good recipe as there are too many cookbooks and way to many recipes on the internet. It takes some research and effort to find a good recipe (read a lot of time). With a good recipe cooking is a breeze and trust me as I only started cooking recently.
It was lovely to chit chat with the girls. They listened, laughed and told stories. I had asked one of them to get me some ingredients from her trip to Israel. I hadn’t realised that English was not written on packaged stuff and not many people spoke it. She had to spend so much time looking for the stuff I had requested and only way to do it was to match the pictures to ingredients on shelf. I felt truly honoured that she had gone through so much trouble to get me some interesting regional ingredients. Im so excited to be cooking with them over next few weeks.
It is a blissful feeling to be surrounded by friends. I wish they would be in Singapore more often. Looking forward to the next time.
I’ll be sharing the recipes over the next few days for the menu I cooked today.