The #CookForFamily is a bloggers-for-bloggers initiative by Daniel from Daniel's Food Diary, with the simple objective of getting more bloggers, and hopefully their fans and followers, to start cooking and bonding with their families. I'm pleased and honoured to be part of this little project as I'm a firm believer in home-cooked food and that cooking a meal at home need not be an elaborate affair; and actually achievable within an hour.
I grew up eating mostly home-cooked food as my mum is a homemaker, so in a way she influences and spurs my interest in cooking from a tender age. After I got married, I was determined to cook at least three times a week, but sometimes it's hard to keep up the energy with busy work schedules. So hubby and I used to dine out quite often, which is detrimental to our waistlines and pocket in the long run! When I do cook, it tends to be very quick and easy meals, and often one-pot dishes. Therefore, it sort of became a norm for me to cook simple dishes, usually done within an hour or so. And I'm the sort of person who use estimation for seasonings (based on instinct and to save time) instead of specific measurements.
After conceiving dear son, I started to ponder about home-cook meals more frequently, as I also want him to grow up surrounded with the love and warmth of home-cook food just like my mum did. During the two years as a SAHM, I cooked nearly every day, both lunch for myself as well as dinner. Lunch would usually be something soupy like noodles with various ingredients, or pan-fried salmon/snapper fillet. Dinner would be slightly more elaborate, usually long-brewed soup such as lotus root burdock soup, with stir-fried vegetables and fish/chicken/pork dish. Dear son's meal had to be cooked separately, usually kiddy porridge or pasta, until he is old enough to eat our type of food.
When I decided to start working again few months back, cooking once again is a major concern/consideration as I still want to be able to cook for hubby and dear son on a daily basis. Catering or dining out are not viable options in the long run. Thankfully I found a part-time job which allows me to leave office at around 4.15pm. By the time I reach home at about 5pm, I have about an hour to cook before dear son returns home from his childcare centre. Well, it is a mad rush and very tiring at times, but I managed to cook about 4-5 times per week.
Ít's all about planning in advance and time management I guess. I usually plan the upcoming week's menu on Friday night, and buy all the ingredients at the wet market or supermarket during weekends. Then I try to prepare the ingredients a night before, such as cutting the vegetables/ingredients, marinating the meat etc. If cooking soup, I will wake up earlier and basically just put all the ingredients in an electric pot and set the timer. By the time I reached home, I just need to reheat the soup and add some seasonings.
Nowadays, since dear son can take more "adult" food, I try to cook common dishes for us, so that it's faster and less taxing. A typical meal could be beetroot, sweetcorn and carrot soup with steamed egg, or one-pot dish like chicken stew with carrot, potato, baby corn, mushroom etc. Else, it can also be fishball and vegetable soup with fried rice/pumpkin rice/cabbage rice.
Anyways, for this #CookForFamily initiative, I'm going to introduce this Fish Head soup, recipe adapted from a book written by a renown local chinese writer, You Jing (尤今 - 听面包唱歌). In fact, I've blogged about a recipe from her other book (螃蟹爬上树) before. This dish can be a one-pot dish as the ingredients are quite generous and nutritious. The soup boasts of a rich broth (made from dried shrimp) with natural sweetness from the fish and onion, coupled with "tanginess" from the tomatoes and salted vegetables. Best of all, even dear son can eat such as the fish meat, tofu and tomato.
1 red snapper fish head (fish head can be replaced with a larger quantity of fish fillet)
200g red snapper fish fillet
100-120g salted vegetables (cut into medium pieces)
2-3 yellow/white onion (cut into wedges)
3 tomatoes (cut into quarters)
1/4 piece ginger (smashed)
2 red chilli (optional)
1 box silken tofu (cut into medium pieces)
1 stalk spring onions (optional)
2L dried shrimp broth (120g dried shrimp & 2L water)
1) Prepare the dried shrimp broth first. Heat 2 tbsp of canola/sunflower oil in pot, stir fry dried shrimps until fragrant. Pour in water and bring to boil. Reduce to low heat and cook for 15-20 mins. Strain the dried shrimps and broth is ready to use.
2) Wash the fish head/fish fillet with salt.
3) Place fish head, salted vegetable, onion, tomatoes, ginger, chilli into the pot and add the broth.
4) After the soup comes to boil, reduce to low heat and cook for about 30-45 mins.
5) Add the fish fillet and silken tofu, cook at high heat for 2 minutes.
6) Adjust taste with some salt if necessary. Sprinkle some spring onions before serving.
Feel free to add or omit ingredients to your liking. As for seasonings, pls adjust according to taste. Sometimes when the soup is too saltish, I cheat by adding some water :p
This soup can easily be done within an hour. If broth is prepared beforehand, even less time is required. In fact, the broth can be prepared in large quantity and freeze for subsequent use. The broth recipe is from a chinese recipe book called Slurpy Boiled Soup 滚汤来了. If there's really no time to cook broth, water can be used like the original recipe, just that I find the soup not as fragrant and rich.
The original recipe in Chinese as follows:
石斑鱼头 1 个 (约1公斤)
石斑鱼肉 1 块 (约300克)
咸菜 250克 (切段)
大洋葱 4个 (切片)
番茄 3个 (切块)
姜 1 块 (40克, 拍扁)
辣椒 2条 (怕辣者可免)
嫩豆腐 1块 (切块)
青葱 1小把 (切段)
- 把鱼头, 咸菜, 大洋葱, 番茄, 辣椒, 姜块放入锅里, 注入3公升水.
- 水沸后, 将火转小, 煮约50分钟.
- 把石斑鱼块放入汤里, 以猛火煮约2分钟, 最后, 加入嫩豆腐, 撒入葱段.