Lentil & Sausage Soup

An earthy soup typically made during autumn and winter, which is very simple to make. We made it for lunch as a comfort food on a cool rainy day.

Time

15 minutes of preparation,
45 minutes of simmering

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • half a big red onion, chopped
  • 2 spiced sausages
  • 260g of lentils
  • salt to taste

  1. In a pot, add a generous amount of olive oil.
  1. On a medium-low flame, cook chopped onions and sausages, until the onions turn translucent. This takes about 7-8 minutes.
  1. Add lentils and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring gently every now and then.
  1. Add room-temperature water about 3-4 finger-high above the lentils. Increase the flame to high and allow the water to boil.
  1. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the flame to the lowest, cover the pot, and allow the soup to simmer for 45 minutes.
  1. Add salt to taste before serving the soup warm. Similar to beans, add salt only at the end, or you will harden the skins of the lentils and the insides will not cook.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Lentils (French lentils) – Scoop at Great World City
  • Chorizo sausage – Huber’s

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Peaches in Wine

Perhaps this is too simple to be called a recipe! But it is a most refreshing dessert, and a good way not to waste peaches which turn out to be too tart or not sweet enough. The longer you let it rest in the fridge, the better it will taste as the peaches will absorb more wine and sugar.

Time

5 minutes of preparation
2 hours of refrigeration, or overnight

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • 2-3 peaches
  • half a bottle of red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  1. Peel your peaches and cut into chunks.
  1. Mix the peaches, wine and sugar in a bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar, and leave it to rest in the fridge.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Peaches – Blu Kouzina

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Pan-Fried Meatballs

The juicy meatball is a versatile recipe, with many ingredients that can be added and substituted. We list our variations below. This is an excellent way to use old bread, and leftover milk or wine.

When we were young children, we called our grandmother a “meatball cannon”. During Sunday lunch when all the cousins were gathered, after the first servings (never in small portions, of course) she would go around the children’s table with a huge bowl of meatballs, asking who would like to have seconds. If you lowered your head and avoided eye contact, she would give you 2 or 3. If you made the mistake of making eye contact… she would raise her eyebrows and with a nod of her head, shot 5-7 meatballs with her spatula (and the quickest hand movement) onto your dish. Needless to say, the meatballs were heavenly, but still…! She made all kinds of meatballs, pan-fried like these ones, and others which were deep-fried, with or without sauces… those recipes for next time!

Time

5-10 minutes of preparation
10-15 minutes of cooking

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 3 persons.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g of old bread
  • Enough milk to soak bread
  • 500g minced pork, preferably fatty
  • 150g minced pancetta (optional). We minced leftover pancetta in a food processor.
  • 300g mix of grated cheese: pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano
  • 2-3 cloves of grated garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 500g bread crumbs
  1. Remove the crusts of the old bread. In a bowl, soak the soft inner part with milk until soft. A soft white bread will take half a minute to soften, and sourdough bread about 5 minutes. We used sourdough.
  1. In a large metal bowl, use your hands to combine into a mixture:
    • minced pancetta
    • minced pork
    • bread white (squeeze excessive milk with your hands before adding)
    • grated cheese
    • grated garlic
    • black pepper
    • salt. Be careful that the pancetta is already salty.
  1. Have a feel of how your mixture sticks together. If the mixture feels very firm on its own, skip this step. Otherwise, crack an egg and combine it into the mixture with your hands. If you feel the mixture is too “runny” and breaks apart easily, add another egg.
  1. On medium-high flame, heat a generous amount of oil in your pan.
  1. As the oil is heating up, fill a tray with bread crumbs. Either with your hands, or with spoons, shape a handful of meatball mixture into a ¾” (2cm)-thick, 1½” (3-4cm)-wide disk, and cover it with bread crumbs on all sides. Add your disks to the pan of heated oil.
  1. Allow each side to cook until golden for 4-5 minutes. Cut a piece to check if the meat has cooked thoroughly (without any pinkness).
  1. Remove from the pan, allow to cool slightly, and serve. We ate this with a very simple side dish of sliced potatoes baked with roughly chopped onions and tomatoes, capers and olives. It baked in the oven while we were making the meatballs.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Pancetta – Huber’s. We did not buy it specially for this recipe, as we had leftovers after making Ragù alla Bolognese and Pasta e Fagioli.
  • Cage-free eggs (Farmer Brown, New Zealand Free Range Eggs) – Cold Storage

Variations

Our typical variations for this recipe:

Substitutions

  • Meat: Any other fatty meat, really. Beef, mutton, you name it.
  • Milk to soak bread: Red wine. This is an excellent way to use that extra bit of wine from last night’s dinner. My wife prefers red wine to milk in the meatballs.
  • Cheese: Pick a grated cheese of your choice.

Additions

Remember that any additional ingredient should be added before the egg. The egg should be the last thing you add to the mix, as it determines the consistency of your mixture. My grandmother, for one, never had the need to add any egg to her mixture and she made the juiciest meatballs.

  • Flavours: Chopped spring onions. My wife loves the extra kick of flavour.

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Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta & Beans

This rustic recipe is one of my all-time favourites. All over Italy, this dish of pasta and beans is regularly served at home, with each family having its personal adaptations. As a humble dish it is not typically served at restaurants, perhaps only at trattorie, smaller diners which serve home-cooked dishes.

This recipe can be made vegetarian by skipping the skin of guanciale/pancetta, and further adjusted to vegan by using semola (non-egg) pasta. The vegan version is the most popular in the South of Italy. You may also cook this bean “soup” without pasta, but remember to allow the pot to rest for at least 0.5 to 1 hour at the end before serving.

Time

10 mins of preparation,
1.5 hours of slow cooking,
1 hour of resting

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 4 persons.

  1. Peel the fresh borlotti beans from their pods.
  2. Chop carrots and celeries into big chunks, and grind in a food processor. Set aside.
  3. On medium flame, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, sautee the chopped carrots and celeries for 5 minutes until they sweat. They “sweat” when you see the water evaporating. It is also very important that you do not add any salt at this point.
  4. Add the beans and allow to sautee for 2 minutes.
  5. Add cold water up to 3 or 4 fingers deep and cover the pot. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the flame to the lowest setting and allow to simmer for 1 hour. As the pot simmers, peel and cut your potatoes.
  6. Add the chinese cabbage and potato chunks and cook for another 0.5 hour, or until the beans are the softness of your liking.
  7. Increase the flame to medium and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and a bit of hot water if the soup is too thick until it cooks. Our maltagliati is homemade and takes only 3 minutes to cook.
  8. After your pasta has cooked, switch off the flame. Add salt to taste and allow to rest for an hour for the flavours to soak in the soup before serving.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Borlotti beans – Tiong Bahru Market
  • Guanciale – Da Paolo, or Huber’s

Borlotti Beans

The fresh borlotti beans are sold at the “wet market” with their pods, which are pink. To obtain the beans, pinch off one tip and apply some pressure to the edge, and slide your fingers down to open the pod.

At the supermarket, you will also be able to find canned borlotti beans, but fresh ingredients taste the best.

I am curious how they are used in the local cuisines but unfortunately my wife is very averse to beans and legumes in general.

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Chinese Cabbage

The chinese cabbage is softer in texture and flavour. It will dissolve into the sauce.

You may also use other types of cabbage such as the round cabbage or “black” cabbage, if you prefer stronger flavours. As the leaves are tougher than the chinese cabbage, cook them earlier together with the beans, instead of adding them with the potatoes.

Maltagliati

We used maltagliati, which was the remnant pieces of the homemade Fettuccine that we stored in the freezer.

Pork Rind

We had the skin of guanciale which we trimmed off while making pasta all’Amatriciana. You may also use the skin of pancetta. This bit will add flavour to your oil base and becomes soft as it cooks.

Salt and Beans

When you cook beans or legumes (such as chickpeas and lentils), do not add any salt until the end of the cooking. Otherwise, their skin hardens up and their insides do not cook.

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Fettuccine (Pasta Machine Guide)

Using a Pasta Machine is one of the ways to shape Egg Pasta Dough (or non-egg semolina pasta as well). Remember that you need to allow your dough to rest before you can shape it:

  • To shape the dough on the same day, let it rest for at least 1 hour after kneading (at room temperature and covered with a cling wrap).
  • If you let the dough rest overnight in the fridge, take it out of the fridge and let it rest for at least half an hour (at room temperature and covered with a cling wrap).

For this recipe, we use Kitchen Aid Pasta Machine. If you use a manually operated pasta machine, the sheet roller would have the same “1” to “6” settings which indicate the thickness of the pasta dough you are rolling, with “1” being the thickest.

Before you start, set up the working space:

  • Pasta machine with the sheet roller attachment
  • Wooden board (to place your dough, sprinkled with semolina)
  • A bag of semolina flour within arm’s reach from wooden board
  • Clean surface covered with cloth (to distribute your pasta sheets)
  • A tray with generous amount of semolina flour

Time

30 minutes

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 5 persons.

I. Roll out pasta sheets

  1. Sprinkle semolina flour on the wooden board and egg pasta dough.
  1. Cut your dough into half. Cut it again into another half. You will have a quarter about the size of your palm.
  1. Gently shape your quarter into a roughly rectangular piece. Turn both sides through the semolina on the wooden board.
  1. Set the pasta machine sheet roller to “1” (thickest) and switch on your machine. Run the dough through the top of the roller.
  1. Change the setting of the machine to “2”. Add semolina to both sides of the sheet, and run it again through the roller.
    Repeat this step, increasing the machine setting by a number each time, until the piece is run through setting number “6”.
  1. Place your thin sheet onto a cloth. Cut into desired length and slice uneven ends to create rectangular sheets. Sprinkle semolina on the sheet to prevent it from sticking.
    Repeat steps 1 to 6, until you use all your egg pasta dough. Do not throw away the remaining cut ends, which can be used as “maltagliati” (“badly shaped”) typically used for soups with beans or peas.

II. Run it through the shape cutter

  1. Change your pasta machine attachment to the Fettuccine Cutter (or your desired shape cutter). Run your thin sheet through the cutter.
  1. Hold the fettuccine bundle and run it through semolina flour in the tray. Roll the bundle up and set aside while you work on the other sheets.
  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water (with salt), or store in the freezer.

We seasoned our pasta with Ragu alla Bolognese.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Semolina flour – Scoop, the nearest to us at Great World City
    Other options: Phoon Huat, Little Farms

Semolina vs Other Flours

Semolina works better than “00” white flours to keep pasta dry. If you do not have any semolina at home, you may use other white flours.

Hand Rolling vs Pasta Machine Sheet Roller

My grandmother could roll out very thin pasta sheets by hand, using a big wooden board and a long wooden rod, and she was much faster than the machine. It is doable, of course, but takes a lot of skill.

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Pork Lard & Golden Crisps

Pork Lard
Golden Crisps
Day of preparation
After cooling & storage in the fridge

Time

10 mins of preparation,
4-5 hours of slow cooking.

Ingredients

  • 4kg pork lard
  • 1 glass of water
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  1. Cut pork lard into small pieces.
  2. On the lowest flame, place pork lard into a pot with 1 glass of water (to prevent burning) and heat until golden brown and crispy. The pieces will exude the fats while becoming crispy. This will take a few hours of slow cooking. Ideally, you should use a pot with a broad base so that the lard is more well distributed.
  3. Use a strainer to pick up the golden crisps and move them to a container. Use immediately (on its own or to add flavours to other dishes) or store in a container in the fridge after they cool.
  4. Strain the oil (or “liquefied fats”) into jars and leave to cool for several hours or overnight. Store jars in the fridge after they cool.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Pork lard – Tiong Bahru Market

“After-Life”

A few dishes for which we have used the pork lard:

  • Pork and sultana pie (with homemade filo dough), using both the crisps and the lard;
  • Quiche pie crust, using the lard.

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