The age-old weeknight dilemma – tired as s***t, but still want some good, hot plate of home-cooked dinner to eat while not wearing pants and watching Netflix.
I don’t know about you, but I can attest based on my own experience that being a busy bee in a city can easily lure me into a pit of underwhelming takeouts that are usually unhealthy and frankly, expensive. Case in point, a plate of spaghetti vongole (spaghetti with clams) can go so wrong in so many ways. The restaurant charges you a fortune, the pasta isn’t even that great, and worse, the clams died 5 months ago with that smelly fishy smell.
The truth is, spaghetti vongole is so, so, so easy to make. And this comes from a girl who would never attempt to cook anything that takes more than 5 steps. It takes literally 15 mins, and it costs a fraction from eating out, so you can finally go for that well-deserved nose job. You need a few ingredients, and although the original recipe asks for some wine/broth for the sauce, I find that using some pasta water is definitely sufficient. On your way back from office, stop by the grocer’s and pick up some clams (preferably alive) and a couple more basic ingredients that you probably already have anyway, and you’re good to go.
This recipe makes 2 plates of pasta.
What You Need
Dried pasta (amount is dependent on how hungry you are, tbh)
100-200 gms small clams
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 large red chili, de-seeded and chopped
1 bunch of coriander, stalks chopped
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
What You Do
Here’s the most common misconceptions about Italian food; that they’re expensive to make and only people who have won the Masterchef can make them.
In fact, it is actually quite the opposite. Most Italian food are made using simple ingredients, and the recipes are pretty basic and easy to follow (my biggest pet peeve is going to restaurants in Malaysia and getting charged the equivalent of 3 gold nuggets for a plate of basic pasta). Now, enter the gnocchi, which is basically just humble potato dumplings. They are soft pillows of dumplings in a simple sauce (sometimes butter/oil based, sometimes tomato-based), and they make for a great simple weekend lunch while you chill with a tall glass of cold drink and enjoy the balmy weather.
This one is is coated in a simple, herby lemony butter sauce, and made more perfect with a combination of some crispy fried sage leaves.
This recipe makes 2 pasta servings.
What You Need:
1 large Russet potato, peeled
1 1/2 cups of fine flour
1 bunch fresh sage leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
What You Do:
1. Cut the potato into small pieces and boil until soft. Drain. Mash the potato.
2. Prep a working surface. Make sure it’s dry, and dust it with a good amount of flour.
3. Pile the mashed potato on it. Make a well in the middle.
4. Crack an egg. Whisk it slightly, pour it in that well. Add 1/5 tsp salt.
5. Now remember the flour? The trick is to add the flour bit by bit into the mixture, until you get the consistency you want.
6. Slowly work the dough into the egg well, and as you mix them, add more flour. We’re not trying to make bread here, so there’s no fancy technique, just use your hands and make a dough that doesn’t fall apart (add more flour if it does). Relax.
7. Roll them into long sections about 1.5 inch diameter, and then cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. They don’t have to look symmetrical. Again, relax.
8. Now the sauce - in a pan, put 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, lemon zest, and salt. Turn a very low heat on, let everything melt and infuse.
9. When the oil starts bubbling, put in the sage leaves (make sure they are dry! Otherwise the oil will spatter). You want them to crisp up.
10. Meanwhile, boil some salted water and add the gnocchi to cook. This will take 2-3 minutes only. The dumplings are ready when they float.
11. Add the gnocchi straight into the butter sauce pan. Some people prefer to let the dumplings brown a little on the outside.
12. Remove to a plate, place the sage leaves on top, drizzle some lemon juice, add some freshly cracked black pepper, grate some parmesan if you’d like (optional).
13. There you go. You’re not Italian, but close enough.
Note: the gnocchi is great frozen to. Just make sure each piece doesn't touch each other, and keep them in a lined container. Keeps in the freezer for up to a month.
I’m not the biggest fan of red meat. Growing up, it was a rare delicacy and my family seemed to enjoy fish a lot more. And as I grew older, I don’t really think it’s the healthiest option of protein, so I take it only about once or twice a week.
Because of this, for some reason, whenever I cook red meat at home I always make a big deal out of it. You know, to make it more ‘special’ since it’s just an occasional treat (like my Vietnamese steaks, which you can get the recipe for here). This time around, I decided to make a slow-cooked beef ragu. It’s called slow cooked because it was on the stove for more than an hour, folks. In my book that is considered an eternity in the kitchen. #workinggirlproblems
What I like the most about this dish is that it elevates the usual spaghetti Bologniese – vegetables cooked slowly so that they’re soft and becomes part of the rich tomato sauce, and the meat is cooked gently until it literally melts in your mouth. Eat it with some fresh pasta and it feels like an indulgent treat in your own home.
It’s definitely a recipe to try, even more so if you make a big batch out of it, so you can keep some in the freezer for those days where you’re too lazy to cook but still want good, comforting food.
This recipe makes for at least 4 servings with pasta.
What You Need:
250-300g steak, preferably with high marbling, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ heart of celery, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
Pasta of choice (I prefer fresh lasagne sheets, which I then cut into thick slices to make parpadelle)
What You Do:
These days it’s always raining and life has been feeling a bit like a sob chickflick. Very few things give me comfort, and one of those that do is, well – comfort food. One of my favourite comfort food staples is always a large bowl of pasta, or more specifically the creamy kind. Unfortunately a classic spaghetti carbonara isn’t really waist-friendly. I find that using the classic cheese and yolk alone means you use a LOT of cheese and yolk, and just because I’m having a hard time does NOT mean I want to wake up the next day looking like Bridget Jones post-breakup with Mr Darcy.
This recipe certainly isn’t the classic carbonara recipe – it substitutes some of the yolk and cheese with dollops of yoghurt; a much healthier option! It also introduces bright green asparagus into the pasta, and paired with a simple chopped salad (chopped lettuce, chopped tomatoes, splash of balsamic vinegar, pepper, olive oil) you’re easily getting your 3 out of 5 daily veg requirement.
This recipe makes 2 servings.
What You Need:
For the sauce:
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp. natural yoghurt
1 heaped tbsp. grated Parmesan (grating means cheese disperses better, so you use less)
Juice of ¼ lemon
For the pasta:
Spaghetti or Fettucine
3 strips of bacon of your choice, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 handful asparagus, snapped and cut into 2-inch lengths
Pinch of cracked black pepper
What You Do:
This recipe was totally made up by a huge craving I had one night for a giant bowl of pasta and some kind of crispy meat and cheese. It’s an adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s sausage fusilli recipe, but since I didn’t have English sausages and I don’t take any form of alcohol and I love my veggies, here’s an improvisation. The chicken bits are nice and crunchy especially if you chop them up small enough, but not too fine that they resemble minced chicken. The trick is to also really use the pasta water to get silky, shiny pasta.
It’s one of my favourite weekday dinner options, as it’s protein and veg all in one pan. One of those key occasions where the stars align and you can be lazy AND still make/eat awesome food!
This recipe serves one.
What you need:
100 gm of chicken fillet, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground aniseed
1 tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp oregano flakes
1 handful spinach
Juice from ½ lemon
Parmesan, amount according to preference
What you do:
I don’t eat meat on Mondays. Mostly because I think I consume too much meat than I actually need, so it’s good to give it a break sometimes. ‘Meat Free Mondays’ is also a great opportunity to dedicate one day a week of eating just clean, healthy meals that are plant-based or recipes that are low-cal and low-fat.
Admittedly, going meat free can sometimes be a challenge if you love the rich taste of meat. So to avoid the craving I experimented with a lot of recipes to make sure I don’t miss flesh at all. Here is a recipe of a super easy basil pesto. I made it for my parents last week and they loved it! It may require you to hit Cold Storage, but it’s worth it.
Here’s what you need:
A good bunch of fresh basil
1 clove of garlic
A handful of pine nuts (slightly pricey, but lasts long on the shelf!)
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large tablespoon Capers
Sage leaves (optional)
Here’s what you do:
1. Boil pasta according to packet instructions. Save some of the pasta boiling water.
2. In a small food processor/blender/pestleandmortar, place the basil, garlic, pine nuts (you can toast them if you like), salt, pepper, and a good glug of olive oil. Blend/pound these into a pulp.
3. Place the pesto in a large mixing bowl.
4. Add drained pasta into the mixing bowl.
5. Mix pasta, the basil pesto, cheese and pasta cooking water until you get a nice sauce consistency and the pasta is all nicely coated.
6. Taste and adjust with salt if needed.
7. In a small pan, heat some olive oil and fry the capers until they look crispy (you can fry the sage leaves as well if you have them). Remove capers from oil.
8. Put the pasta on a plate in the fanciest way you can possibly manage and top with the capers, sage and a drizzle of the olive oil from the pan.
9. Eat to your heart’s content.