Easiest soup ever

When I come home from uni or work in the middle of winter, or even just a cold, rainy day, one of the most comforting things to find is a saucepan simmering with steaming, nutritious soup. The soups my mum makes are more broths under the English definition but I prefer them like that – no cream, no milk, no mush that was apparently once vegetables.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of soup – pumpkin, tomato, potato, minestrone, chicken etc, etc – but I love even more the lightness of Chinese soups. One of my favourites is sweet corn soup. No chicken, just sweet corn. In fact, my mum doesn’t even make it using stock and yes, that can be a bit bland compared to one made with a good stock, but I love it nonetheless.

I’ve made my own variation before but the most recent attempt has been my favourite so far. It really all comes down to the stock. Unfortunately, I can’t say I made my own stock this time so I guess I can’t credit the success to myself entirely. I wanted to use a vegetarian stock but literally had nothing in the fridge to make it with, except a couple of carrots and some old stems of celery, so I just used store-bought stock, which I think is perfectly fine.

I used 400ml of Campbell’s vegetarian stock, heated it up with a can of creamy sweetcorn after very gently frying some crushed/finely diced (or chopped, whatever!) garlic and ginger in the saucepan. Once that boils, you just simmer everything for about 10 minutes and then lightly beat an egg and dribble that into the soup so it forms long, wispy strands. If you want to add sesame oil, add that at the very end before serving. The same goes for spring onions and/or coriander.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

This has got to be one of the easiest soups to make and for me, it beats the time and process required to make other vegetable soups (don’t get me started on my attempt at pumpkin soup), plus it tastes fantastic too. It’s also really easy to add some chicken or even ham to the pot. Finally, this soup has never been something I’ve had just on its own but always as an accompaniment to a larger meal because it’s so light.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Welcome to the 60s…with a touch of ‘Nam

Tease. Spray. Tease. Spray. Tease. Tease. Tease. That’s what I spent a good hour doing last Friday afternoon, trying to get my silky, black-that-looks-red-under-the-light hair into a bouffant. It wasn’t just for fun, although I wish I had the time to throw myself back to the 50s and 60s all the time; it was for my dance studio fundraiser, which was 60s themed.

That was after I spent three hours making, for the first time, Vietnamese rice paper rolls. I’m not really sure how many I made in the end – it was enough to fill up three medium plastic plates – but it felt like it took forever. It was fiddly, messy, wet and testing. Testing of how tightly I could roll everything up without ripping the paper; testing of how well I could judge the ratios of all the cucumber, carrots, vermicelli, mint, coriander, mung beans, hoisin + soy + sesame + garlic sauce mix so that I had enough of everything and not too much or too little of anything; and testing of my conviction to finish it all.

I often think to myself when I’m cooking, and in many other situations as well, and I asked myself constantly that day: is this really worth it? Will anyone actually appreciate all the time I put into this?? I tasted the end product a number of times because quite a few of the rolls weren’t done tightly enough so the fillings were prone to falling out, or the paper ripped so the fillings actually did fall out. They needed a bit more flavour but they did taste really refreshing and light. I ended up dripping some sweet chilli sauce over the top in the hope that this would give the rolls more flavour. I assume people enjoyed them because there were none left at the end of the night. But then again, there wasn’t really much left of anything by the end of the night. Dancing makes for hungry play.

From this experience, I would not recommend making these rice paper rolls for an event unless you have a lot of time and delicate handwork. That’s not to say they’re not worth the effort – if made well, with care and good flavours, these can be spectacular – but just remember to be friendly with Time if you do make them.

I looked at two recipes for these rolls:
http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/2472/vietnamese-rice-paper-rolls.aspx

http://au.tv.yahoo.com/my-kitchen-rules/recipes/article/-/9051095/vietnamese-prawn-rice-paper-rolls-with-asian-coleslaw-and-lemon-grass-chicken-wings/

Also, I didn’t make a dipping sauce. The lovely mums helping out in the kitchen on the night walked around with the food on platters, offering them to the guests, so I don’t think they would have appreciated sloshy dipping sauce spilling everywhere. However, if it’s appropriate definitely make a dipping sauce – it just adds so much more flavour and you don’t want to spend all that time making something bland and uninteresting.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

How your falafels should NOT look

Have you ever heard people complain about how the news is always so negative? Or perhaps you yourself have lamented the depressing nature of the news? One of the things that I think all of my fellow post-grad journo students knew before being taught it in our course is that bad news sells. Death, destruction, despair, grief, loss. Stories with these elements create strong reactions in people; much stronger, I believe, than reading about someone else’s triumphs.

On Monday night us lucky magazine journalism students had the pleasure of hearing a talk by Kirsten Matthew, editor of Urbis magazine and blogger at Kiwi. Apple. Kiwi. In her talk she mentioned that going by her blog stats, she found that people liked hearing more about her disasters than successes. I found this highly unsurprising.

I’m still undecided about whether that would be the same case with my blog or not, even though I do see the entertainment value for my followers and readers in displaying my cooking failures. Everyone has flaws and I can imagine it getting a bit boring after a while just reading about the good stuff all the time.

But, I also think people follow food blogs because they want to learn from others and to, whether secretly or not, indulge in some food porn now and then. I have to admit that I don’t read every single post that I see from those blogs that I do follow and many times I “like” posts purely because of the photos. I also think that’s the case with many other bloggers.

As you would know if you read one of my previous posts I love falafels and will choose it over any meat dish if I know the place I’m at does them really well. So, I thought, why not make my own? I didn’t actually save the recipe I followed (oops)  but this one looks pretty good and close to the ingredients I used.

Everything went really well up until the frying part. For whatever the reason (oil too hot, fried for too long), the poor falafels turned out like, well, mini cow patties:

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

You can’t tell me that those aren’t some super hideous, smirk-inducing falafels.

The outsides were bordering on rock-hard but the insides were still slightly underdone. The taste was, however, very pleasant, although that wasn’t quite enough to detract from the fact that they looked ugly as hell.

Does the concept of bad news sells apply to food blogging too? We shall see after this!

Hummus, hummous, humos, hommus, hoummos

Whichever way you spell it, hummus tastes damn good and I can’t believe how simple it is to make. You’ll probably either laugh or roll your eyes when I say that the main reason I hadn’t made my own hummus until now is because I wasn’t sure whether the food processor at home worked or not. I remember trying it out once a while ago but it didn’t turn on so I thought it was broken. I probably didn’t turn it on properly because it worked like a noisy wonder yesterday.

There are so many different hummus recipes out there on the interwebs but I chose this one mainly because of the pictures and also the dedication they’ve put into getting the hummus nice and smooth. I’ve never really had “fancy” hummus (spinach-garlic-edamame hummus!) so I guess I wanted to stick with something more simple, too.

There isn’t really anything else I can think of to comment about making hummus except that it’s dead easy. I guess the hardest part is cleaning the food processor afterwards but I managed to weasel my way out of that one with the help of my boyfriend 😛

Blend tahini and lemon juice first. Photo: Tao Lin

Blend tahini and lemon juice first. Photo: Tao Lin

Add cumin, kosher salt, garlic. Photo: Tao Lin

Add cumin, kosher salt, garlic. Photo: Tao Lin

Chickpeas in and blend it all up. Photo: Tao Lin

Chickpeas in and blend it all up. Photo: Tao Lin

My not-very-pretty attempt serving up of hummus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

My not-very-pretty attempt serving up of hummus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

Also, this:

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

…is delicious!!! I know it’s very high in sugar and probably not that good for you but it’s really one of the tastiest drinks I’ve had. Just need a Turkish tea set now 😀