Warm Mushroom and Water Chestnut Salad

Why is a mushroom a great friend to have? Because he’s a fungi. (No? Okay).

Mushroom Salad

If you, like me, are on a mission to stay away from junk food snacking, then warm salads are your best friends. They provide you that cosy, comfy, warm feeling and keep you full for longer. Bonus points for the health part too. The best part is that they aren’t that difficult to make, you can prepare large portions and store them in the refrigerator for reheating whenever your body says “nom-nom time”.

So the other day I came across a stall selling fresh young water chestnut that are my mum’s favourite. It made her happily squeal louder than she should have. I didn’t know what the fuss was about until I promised to try making her a water chestnut salad. I hadn’t cooked with water chestnut before but it looked rather innocent and friendly (insert puppy face fused with water chestnut). It turned out to be surprisingly yum because of its interesting, crunchy and lush texture. More water chestnuts, please!

Mushroom Salad 3

This is an Asian Stir-Fry style salad, so I suggest you keep your ingredients ready before you start cooking. Here’s what you will need:

Ingredients

  • Button Mushrooms – 2 cups (quartered)
  • Water Chestnut – 1 cup (chunks)
  • Boiled Broccoli – 1 cup
  • Ginger paste – 1 tbsp.
  • Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp.
  • Vegetable Oil – 3 tbsp.
  • Onions – ½ cup (thinly sliced)
  • Black Bean Sauce – 3 tbsps.
  • Brown Sugar – 1 tbsp.
  • Five Spice Powder – 1 tsp.
  • Chinese Rice Wine Vinegar – 1 tbsp.
  • Green Chillies – finely chopped (optional)
  • Spring onion greens and coriander to garnish
  • Seasoning

Method

Now that you have everything, it’s time to rock on with your wok on (couldn’t resist) high heat.

Add the oil and let it heat up. Once the oil is smoking, add the green chillies, onions and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté till the onions are slightly fried. Then, add all the sauces and condiments (black bean sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and five spice powder) because you want them to latch on to your vegetables whilst they cook. First add the water chestnut and sauté it till the edges brown. Then add the mushrooms and finally the broccoli. Your wok must be smoking by now (if it isn’t then turn up the heat). This will give a beautiful smoky flavour to the dish. Lastly, season it with salt and pepper according to your liking. Garnish with greens and tuck in.

Happy healthy snacking (pat on your back)!

Mushroom salad 2

Spinach and Corn Quiche

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This one is my take on the classic ‘Spinach and Corn Quiche’ or as I fondly call it, the ‘Corny Popeye’. Tastes way better than it sounds (haha!).

I’m a huge fan of both, Popeye and spinach but for those of you who get queasy at the mere mention of spinach, give this a try and you’ll be surprised to know how pleasant the quiche tastes. Not very spinach-y, plus the creamy béchamel makes it feature high on my  ‘comfort food’ list.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, you can go easy on the spinach and go crazy with other herbs. Coriander, parsley, thyme, your wish!

This is a good way to trick your folks into eating healthy (Yes, I am the self-appointed food-grandma of my family). Nobody eats spinach without making a fuss so it must be disguised fancily and served with extra love and a wicked grin.

I. For the crust

  • All purpose flour: 3 cups
  • Butter: 2 sticks
  • Olive Oil: 2 tbsps.
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Chilled water: 3-4 tbsps.

It is best to prepare the crust first and then start working on the filling. To make the crust rub the flour, olive oil and butter together with your fingers till the mixture becomes crumbly. Add one tablespoon of chilled water at a time to bind the dough. It is very important to use chilled water for the crust so that the butter in it doesn’t melt. After forming a ball out of the dough, cover it in cling-film and roughly roll it out on a flat surface. I use a rolling-pin till I get a circular shape and then work on it with my palms to stretch it out. Roll the dough onto a tart tin, trim off the excess bits and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

II. For the filling:

  • Spinach: 3 cups (chopped)
  • Onion: 1 (chopped)
  • Corn: 1 cup (boiled)
  • Assorted dried herbs
  • Garlic powder: 2 tbsp or chopped garlic
  • Green chillies: 2 (finely chopped)
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • Oil: 1 tsp

Start by heating oil in a pan.  Add the onions and sauté till translucent. Now add the green chillies (depending on how spicy you want it) and spinach. The spinach will begin to wilt and release water once you add salt so save the salt for the end. Sprinkle your favourite assorted herbs, dried or fresh (I used dried thyme, rosemary and oregano), boiled corn and garlic powder. Finally, season it with salt and cracked black pepper and allow most of the water from the spinach to evaporate. Cool this filling.

III. For the béchamel (white sauce):

  • Plain flour: 1 tbsp
  • Butter/ Olive oil: 1 tbsp
  • Milk: ½ a cup
  • Cream: ½ a cup

I used to have nightmares about lumpy béchamel until I learnt this sure-shot technique. Heat the butter in a pot (if your calorie meter is going bonkers after reading ‘butter’ then use olive oil. It works just fine). Add the flour and start mixing till the flour has lost its rawness. Take it off the flame and add milk. Put on some old music and whisk away… It should take about 5 minutes to remove the lumps. Now add the cream and put the heat back on till the mixture is dense and creamy.

To Assemble:

Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 F. Poke the crust with a fork before putting it in the oven and blind bake for 10 minutes.

Now spread the filling on top of the crust, pour the béchamel over it, making sure you coat it evenly and pop it into the oven again, this time for around 30-35 minutes.

Remove, slice and serve.

Don’t forget to put on a smug face when you see everyone happily eating spinach!