Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

Category: Budget Recipes Page 1 of 4

Cooking for the Village

Cooking for a large family has always been such a whirl. It always starts with a fluster of inspiration from surfing Pinterest and saving one too many news feeds of Tasty videos. This is followed by the random mad impulse to visit the supermarket to scour for good deals. Usually the Man (my endearingly patient hubby) strategically grabs a basket….with the not so subtle intention to ahem, keep me in line and give me “perimeters” for spending.

Other than that, here’s what we usually do to keep homecooking on a budget:

1. Visit good quality supermarkets for reduced items. Just today we flashed by Cold Storage and nabbed some half -priced buys of chicken, flower crab and portabellos. Usually, the reduce have day after use-by dates so one really has to be prepared to whip up something the day itself or the next day. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you get stuff that hold out for longer. Just remember to check when they are due and work your meals around it!

2. Look in your fridge and work with what you already have. Remember, half the time we over-buy and over-stock as we forget what we have in our pantry. It’s the same with fresh produce. Check in with what u already have and Google their pairings. There could be recipes you never thought existed. Today, I had an epiphany while staring at the miso tub in my fridge and its remaining shelf life. Typically miso goes in soup but garlic and miso is an ingenious pairing and when used as a marinade on chicken, is an absolute recipe keeper. The pictures speak for themselves!

3. Think of ways to extend the meal. Plan to use every item/part of the cooking process well. Some days ago, I bought mint leaves which I used in a tzatziki dip. I rolled over the remaining leaves in some vietnamese rice rolls the next day. Today’s winning miso chicken dish was also dutifully extended. The chicken and miso juices left in the pan were fully absorbed by the lovely Daiso udon noodles I boiled specially for our carbo-nivores.

This is tonight’s complete Japanese Fusion Weekend pig out: Garlic Miso Chicken, absolutely delectable in that garlicky saltiness. Cucumber Wakame Seaweed Salad, a 5 minute refreshing sweet sour crunch to cut through the oil and udon that’s soaks up the delicious juices and layered with furikake and seaweed.

Here’s the modified recipe just for those of you who would like to feed a village ?

Garlic Miso Chicken (adapted fr Feeds 10 pax


Parts of chicken (I used 6 thighs and 6 drums)

1 bulb of garlic, finely minced

4 Tbsp. Miso – I used white miso

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

3 Tbsp. mirin

1 Tbsp. sugar

1. Prick the chicken with a fork. Combine minced garlic with miso, add soy sauce, mirin, sugar in a bowl and stir into a marinade. Rub it over the chicken and set it to marinade in the fridge for at least three hours.

2. Set to broiler mode, 180degrees in the oven for 50minutes, turning the chicken midway. Keep an eye on chicken towards the end to estimate doneness.

Cucumber Wakame Salad…/


Flat udon noodles. $2 a pack from Daiso. Boil noodles till al dente. Throw into juices in pan and sprinkle furikake to taste. Top with crispy seaweed(optional)

Coq Au Vin (Chicken in Wine)

My first attempt at Coq Au Vin is recorded here.  This classic French dish premiered fashionably in my trusty Dutch Oven…which is made in France by the way. Cry foul or cry fowl, if you will, because this dish is just unjustifiably good.


There is absolutely nothing, NOTHING that can go wrong when you start with frying some lardon (or more commonly known as bacon) and you leave the drippings of that in the pot to brown the chicken, and leave the drippings of that to fry the onions, celery, garlic, carrots, cremini (brown) mushrooms, potatoes and whatever else have you (it doesn’t matter really because whatever is in that oil is already a winner).

The stars–definitely the wine. Slush up the crusted drippings at the end of the pot with some white wine (I used Hua tiao jiu because am fusion and brave like that), followed by the deep rich red wine. Throw in the herbs; bay leaf, thyme, tomato paste to give some tang and then the chicken stock/water and then you whack it in the oven.

Out comes magic. Fall apart chicken and the flavours of the rich braise in velvety wine. Julia Child might be proud.

Ingredients (Serves 8)
200g back bacon (cut into thick strips)
2 tbsp olive oil
1kg or so of Chicken parts (I used 3legs and 6 thighs)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup Hua Tiao Jiu or any cognac or white wine
1 big yellow onion diced
2 carrots diced
2-3 sticks celery diced
500g fresh cremini (brown) mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 potatoes
3 tbsp plain flour
2 garlic cloves smashed
2 cups of good red wine
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp of tomato paste

1. Toss in the bacon in a heavy casserole or dutch oven and fry the bacon with olive oil on medium heat till oil renders and lightly brown. Transfer bacon out and leave drippings in pot.

2. Pat dry chicken parts and season with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken till nicely brown on both sides. Work in batches, turning frequently and don’t crowd the pan so chicken can brown evenly.

3. Set aside chicken and leave the drippings. Fry the onion, celery till its aromatic and onions soft, 5-8min, add in garlic, carrot, bay leave, mushrooms, and thyme herbs. Fry for a few minutes.

4. Pour in the Hua tiao Jiu or cognac and let it deglaze the pan and bits at the bottom. Now add in the red wine and cook for about 8minutes. Add the tomato paste and flour. Paste should be thickish and slurry. Add in the chicken stock next and bring to boil over the stove. Return the chicken to the pot and add potatoes. Simmer on medium low for 20minutes on stove.

4. For fall apart chicken, pull out some chicken pieces to the top of the Dutch oven/casserole and put uncovered in oven for another 20minutes at 200degrees. This is to let the chicken brown and crisp nicely.

Durian Fever: Butter Durian Ice Cream

Whether you revere or revile them, durians have taken over our little island in the last few weeks in a thorny invasion. Like most typically Asian families who love the fruit, we’ve jumped on the bandwagon to feast ferociously on it. Our irresistible haul of the week: meaty fragrant butter durians from the market! Butter durians are creamy and buttery with small seeds, quite similar to Mao Shan Wang, with less of a bitter aftertaste.

Like good citizens of a durian-crazed land, we are doing our due diligence by paying tribute with a concoction of our signature durian ice cream this morning, a request from all the durian cum ice cream lovers in our family–the King of Fruit bathed in cream…how fitting…and yet another way to preserve our obsession. Please share and spread the love to all durian fanatics you know!

Here’s how we made it in close to 20 minutes in 6 easy steps.

Durian ice cream in 6 easy steps!

Pix1: Remove durian meat (about 2 cups) and set aside. Meanwhile put mixer bowl and beater paddles in the freezer to chill.
Pix2: Make durian purée: in a blender, blend durian meat with 20ml of milk and half a can of condensed milk (between 150-180ml adjust for preference). Add a bit of milk at a time if it’s too stiff.
Pix3: remove mixing bowl and set up hand mixer. Start whipping chilled cream. We used 350ml Dairy Farmer’s Thickened Cream. We also added in Red Man’s Whip Topping (200ml) because we had some in the fridge for more volume.
Pix4: Whip to stiff peaks (8-10mins)
Pix5: Fold in durian purée and mix in.
Pix6: Voila! Ready to pour into containers for freezing for at least 12 hours or overnight. Makes about 2 pints.

Lessons from a Pot of Braise

It’s been some time since I’ve had the mental space to feel philosophical about food; which actually says something, or rather a lot of things about our recent pattern of life: eat because you must fill your stomach, cook because we have to and MSG is baaaaad, live another day because well, that’s what we gotta do….

Not. Or at least, this is what this pot of rib stew spoke “aloud” to me in all of its poetic savoury grandeur: we don’t live life because “we have to” but because “we want to”. We are meant for much more. Nothing is routine or a drudgery unless we choose to make it so. That choice and our very intricate human will to cast aside our dodgy attitudes of just being and existing and transform us into people becoming.

Over time and with consistency, we need to “braise” our hearts and attitudes with the right ingredients and the right temperature to extract the best out from ourselves. That routine-ness is not burdensome, but a process that makes it worthwhile to press on. It will yield something treasured and delightful. While subjected to the slow pressures of life, we must be careful not to fall out of the discipline and joy of thanksgiving, contentment and into the confines of a routine, average meal, or worse, an ordinary, banal existence where we become dull to wonder. That’s some brewed thoughts today from a pot of braise and from a little less ordinary housewife.

Braised Ribs with Radish (adapted from

2 pounds of pork spare ribs
1 large white radish chopped to chunks
4 ounces of ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices
6 cloves of garlic, peel and smashed
Vegetable oil

2 pieces of dried red chili – seeds removed
2 pieces of star anise
One whole nutmeg
One piece of dried orange peel, soaked in hot water and softened
2 tablespoons of Chu Hou sauce (Chu Hou sauce,柱侯醬) Amoy/ Lee Kum Kee brands
One tablespoon of wine
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of oyster sauce

One piece of rock sugar, about the size of an egg
4 cups of hot water

Garnish: Sesame oil and chopped spring onions

1. In a Dutch oven, earthenware pot,
brown the meat on all sides in oil.

To braise the meat:
2. Heat some oil (medium heat) in an earthenware pot or dutch oven. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute.
3. Add the ingredients A, including the water used for soaking the orange peel. Stir everything together and cook the paste for a minute or two.
4. Add the ribs and radish pieces and stir it into the sauce.Add the rock sugar and hot water. Stir to thin the sauce.
Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn the heat down to the lowest setting. The rock sugar will be a hard lump. It will dissolve slowly during the cooking to sweeten the sauce.
Cover the pot to braise the ribs for an hour.
5. Check the pot from time to time. Add more water if needed. Cook until the ribs are tender. If the sauce is too thin, remove the meat and boil the sauce down. Or make a paste using a tablespoon of cornstarch and cold water. Add to the sauce, stir to cook until the sauce has thickened.
To serve: Add a splash of sesame oil and garnish with chopped green onions.

Lessons for a pot of braise

Setting Up Cosy Corners

What do you do when you have growing children and limited space? Other than bumping into walls and into each other, or secretly donating tired-looking toys to make more space around the house, it’s always nice if each child has a special secret place–call it a cosy corner of sorts. But what if you don’t technically have the space in the house for one? Your child may just come up with incentive just to create one with abit of imagination.

The little one doesn’t enjoy being in a separate playroom from her siblings who are all older and occupied with their own things. So she set up home near us—under the kitchen counter. It’s close to where I usually am (in the kitchen: prime real estate mind you) and where she is, she can “call out” to her siblings to come and play with her when she gets bored and to visit her “house”, which currently now is minimalistic with just two chairs and some knick knacks (*grateful*).She takes her stuffed animal friends for occasional walks on their stroller while I cook or clean and drops by to “enquire” of me once in awhile. How nice of her:).

Kids….let them be near you, while you work, and do life together:).

Cozy Corners

Cozy Corners

Love & Quiches – Easy Quiche for Valentine’s

Affection is a strange creature. Sometimes, it takes the form of extravagant public displays. Other times, more subtly, with love & quiches going together.

Let me explain. It was Valentine’s Day a few weekends ago, when the husband, I and all our kids in tow, walked past some university students hawking their Valentine’s wares: a single stalk or a bunch of roses of your choice. They gestured towards us and posed to my pram-pushing middle-aged gentleman, an irresistible opportunity:  “Would you like to buy a rose for you wife?” It was not a surprising proposition given that roses or flowers, for that matter, are the passionate one-gift-says-all redemption for all men on Valentine’s Day.

The hubs turned around; I could see him toying with the idea for a split second, till he met my gaze. In an instant, we read each others cues and both instinctively agreed not to…not because we didn’t believe in romance. But because it wouldn’t feel right, it wasn’t our kind of thing, to be honest.

It’s not that we don’t believe in romance, or all that heady, giddy stuff of that thing called love. But somehow, after 10 years and four kids after, our affection for one another couldn’t be surmised in a stalk of rose. What we had was not quite giddy, romanticized or idealized. Our feelings didn’t need to be exhibited for us to feel secure. We are thankful to have “smelt the roses” together without actually needing to hold some on Valentine’s Day.

It is the constancy of our married life that is a safe deep harbour. Our “displays” of affection veer towards constant gestures like how he fills my water bottle at the start of the day and never fails to bring out the trash. For me, making his favourite meat roast and running the tub. Affection for us spells subtle and nuanced, laced in a fond nudge or gentle word, quiet consideration for the other and the warmth and pleasure of familiarity.

Thus, it is just perfectly comfortable and natural that I would show my affection to my darlings in this delectable form of a ham and cheese quiche, which I serve up especially in times when I am thoroughly thankful for the aroma of love that fill our house. Love and quiches to you all! XXOO 🙂

Love quiches

Ham Quiche with lots of love



Ham Quiche
To bake the crust, preheat oven to 180C, Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on to prepare the egg custard.

Quiche custard recipe:
6- 8 slices of ham, cut to narrow strips
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups cream (35%fatmin)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated tasty cheese

1. Arrange the ham strips evenly over the bottom of the baked crust.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and cream. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared crust and bake until the custard is golden, puffed, and set yet still slightly wiggly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes at 180C.

Dark Knight Rises: Black Hokkien Mee

Write about Superheroes.

Hokkien mee is a perennial favourite or pretty much any noodle with prawn in it, are the works. Recently, we think we’ve found another rather easy dinner companion to our noodle hit-list. This is so easy to replicate at home and so popular with our tastebuds.

The sultry cousin of Singapore Hokkien Mee, better known as 福建炒麵 or Black Hokkien mee, is a well known Malaysian dish commonly served in KL.

 If Singapore Hokkien Mee is Robin, then Black Hokkien Mee must be the Dark Knight for unlike the former, the star of this dish is none other than the dark soya sauce.


And as I’ve read, justice will only be served to the dish when the best quality of rich dark sauce is used (Cheong Chan Thick Caramel Suace is one). 

Braised with pork, squid, fish cake and cabbage as the main ingredients,not forgetting lard, the fat yellow noodles takes time to absorb all the juices and flavours from the stock to yield a wet,very palatable dish that noodle lovers would not think twice about slurping up. This dish fared awesomely in my family made of noodle lovers and slurpers of all good things. Maybe some of you might like this to round off the weekend!


Easy DIY Cupcake Stand!

This DIY Cupcake Stand on a budget can be done up in 15 minutes with simple materials you have in your kitchen at home. 

Initially, I was entertaining fancy ideas on heading out into the stores to look for a pretty cupcake stand to go with my daughter’s birthday cupcakes and maybe a dozen helium balloons. It would be pretty, pink and perfect. 

Well, Budget mum won and kicked perfectionism to the curb. Saving the earth takes priority as opposed to creating Pinterest worthy snaps of our unreal life. 

We chose to save our time, money and use whatever we could scavage from our kitchen drawers. 

Best decision ever. 

The five year old was more than squealing to help put this together: 2 IKEA cups-check. 2 paper plates, recycle a cake base with contact paper or wrapping paper and a steaming rack.

It wasn’t super pretty nor perfect looking. I reckon I could’ve added a ribbon or two but am happy with the outcome!

It’s functional and can be put together AND dismantled in quick time!

Here’s sharing our 15 minute DIY Cupcake Stand Tutorial for the budget conscious! Read more here on what we actually did to make birthday memories! 

DIY Cupcake Stand 15mins max

Here’s all you need

:1. A cake base (we used a recycled one)
2. Wrapping paper (pretty ones!…we used contact paper as I only had was easy to stick on too.)
3. Two plastic Ikea cups
4. 1 paper plate
5. Round steamer rack
5. Glue, scissors, blue tack


1. Cut contact paper, wrapping paper to fit cake board and paper plate. Stick and glue on. Add trimmings, stickers,ribbons if you like on the borders.

2. Position some blue tack on the rim of the cup, invert and stick on to big cake base. Position some blue tack on base of cup and stick on paper plate.

3. Use a steaming rack to raise the height beneath the big cake base. Arrange cupcakes to balance.

Black Pepper Beef Linguini

I’m such a Black Pepper fan girl.
If tomorrow was the end of the world, I would have black pepper crabs without a blink.
If I ordered steak outside, I would opt for black pepper sauce by default.
At Swensons, I can’t seem to stop myself from ordering the black pepper seafood pasta and I’m not usually a creature of habit.
Or maybe I am….as this post may be proving me to be.
And now, in beef country*, where I can have my beef (cheap) and eat it, I love this black pepper beef linguini recipe which is my go-to one-dish-saucy-budget stir-fry for lazy days heaped onto linguini pasta.
Black Pepper Beef Linguini is the latest on my black peppery menu. It’s my stand-in for black pepper crabs for now, but also deserving in its own right.

Black Pepper Beef Linguini
The dry chilli adds kick (add chilli padi for more umami) and the beef absolutely rocks with BLACK, green and red pepper bell(e)s in a spicy and spunky gravy mix.
This 30min prep and cook is pleasurable enough to get the little ones to fight off the spiciness as they “sweat” through it!

Currently, I’m working on expanding the membership of the Little Black Pepper Fan Club so that I can have this more often .

Black Pepper Beef Linguini

500g linguine
250g mince beef
2 ½ tablespoons cooking oil
3 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small green bell pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces
1/2 small red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces
1 onion, cut into pieces
1-2 dry chilli (optional)
1-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt, to taste
1.5 teaspoons chicken stock powder
1 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Marinate the beef for at least 15 mins
2. Bring a pot of linguine to boil for about 8 min till al dente. Drain.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or skillet over medium high heat. Stir-fry the garlic and until aromatic, and then add the green bell pepper, red bell pepper, onion, beef and black pepper. Stir-fry until you smell the aroma from the ingredients in the wok. Adjust the sauce amount to your liking. Dish onto 1 serving of pasta and mix in. Garnish with coriander.

 * This post was written when we were residing in Melbourne, Australia!

Japanese Curry: A Family Favourite

Japanese curry has a tender spot in our household as the kids were initiated into the world of curries and spices primarily through it. For one, the cloying gravy (naturally sweet with onions, carrots and apples) is so appealing to their little taste buds that it takes them away from the heat, if any at all.

It can also taste more like a stew than a curry especially in its mildest form and thus de-mystifies curry as “hot”, “stinging” or overly spicy. It is the indisputable kid’s starter to curries compared to say Indian curry, which can be a little strong in spices or even Chinese curry, which can have substantially more chilli oil and coconut (otherwise known as “kick”).

And so, because of the Kare Raisu, the kids are able to earn their medals of valour for braving their tongues through “fire”. The rite of passage is pleasurable to watch each time as you see them overcome their preconceptions of spice: at the mention of the word “curry”, they recoil and are reluctant to venture in. However, when its “Japanese curry” instead, they relax and everyone’s game for a good meal with options for seconds, priding themselves each with the titles of ” He/She who did not even need to take one glass of water”.

Making your own curry roux is also the most achievable thing, especially when you’re short on store-bought cubes. It’s also a cheaper alternative too with the option to customize the level of spiciness. We attempted our own roux that day, with some mince beef and it was just as good. Otherwise,

On top of that, Japanese Curry is easy to pair with any kind of meat: chicken, beef, pork work well with some definition of unique flavour. It is also very versatile and can be eaten with rice or pasta. Pool some sauce over white rice, crack an egg on top and layer with cheese will make this dish more than awesome.

Definitely a family favourite!

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