One Pot Meals
By Julian Mokhtar
There’s nothing like home cooking. Sitting down to a tasty freshly prepared meal at the end of the day is a pleasure. If you cook yourself, it’s also gratifying to see someone enjoy your food. But, let’s be honest, it can also sometimes be a chore prepping, cooking, clearing and washing up the pots and plates, more so if you’re tired after a long day. Or, you may be only cooking for two or even just yourself. If that’s the case it may seem like too much work to cook two or three dishes to make up a balanced meal with protein and vegetables. The answer is to make dishes which can be cooked all in one pot, pan or kuali and still contain all the elements of a nutritious and balanced diet. Many such meals don’t need elaborate preparation of ingredients and can be either cooked quickly, such as by stir frying, or the pot can be placed on the stove or in the oven and left alone for an hour or longer, such as stews, braises or soups. These can be a good way to use up any leftover ingredients or portions from earlier meals. One pot meals not only require less preparation and cooking time, the best part is there’s less washing up to do afterwards. Another popular cooking option in recent times is using a multi-function electric pressure cooker. Convenient, versatile and user-friendly, this gadget can fry, steam, pressure cook and slow cook. Some models can bake as well. Prices start from around RM200, with many averaging around the RM500-600 range depending on brand and model, while higher end ones costing RM1,000 or more. Here’s a one pot meal for you to try out. Why not start with the all-time favourite, fried rice. It’s simple to make and there’s no set recipe for ingredients or measurements. I’ll set down a basic recipe here, you can vary it according to your preference and what ingredients you have available. One bowl of rice together with the other ingredients will make enough to serve two people. You can cook a bigger batch and keep the extra in the fridge or freezer for another meal. A couple of notes before starting - the total amount of vegetables and proteins should be roughly equal to the amount of rice. Don’t go too heavy on condiments like soy sauce, chicken stock, oyster sauce, kimchi or tomyam. The first three are quite salty, so use them in moderation especially if you mix two or three of them together. Kimchi and tomyam paste are strong flavours that are best used on their own. The recipe is more of a guide, you can add things that I haven't mentioned, just be sure that the flavours go well together. FRIED RICE (Ingredients) Cooked rice, of course. It's best to use overnight rice because it’s a little bit dry and won’t stick together Oil for frying Onion, garlic or both, depending on your taste. Salt Pepper Soya sauce *Optional condiments – chili, finely chopped ginger, sesame oil, oyster sauce, chicken stock powder or cube, kimchi, tom yam paste, sambal Protein - chicken, meat, prawns, fish, tofu, either cooked leftovers or fresh Vegetables, either cooked leftovers or fresh Egg. A kuali is best, but if you don’t have one it can be cooked in a saucepan or a frying pan with high sides. (Method) Prepare all ingredients. Chop the onion, garlic, chili if using, and put them in a small bowl or plate. Cut up the chicken, meat, prawn, whatever you have, into bite size pieces. Cut up the vegetables the same way. Fresh or raw vegetables like french beans or carrot should be cut into small pieces so they cook faster. If using kimchi chop up about 1 or 2 tablespoons, a little more if you’re cooking a bigger batch or you like a stronger taste. If I use chicken stock powder or oyster sauce, I mix it with a little water in a small bowl. Place your cooking vessel on a medium heat, pour in about a spoonful of oil, add sesame oil if you like. Add the onion, garlic and raw vegetables, stir until almost cooked. If using raw chicken etc, add it now and stir until cooked. Add the soy sauce and other condiments, stir briefly to coat everything. Add the rice, stir until the grains are separate and just heated and the condiments are well mixed in. Make a space in the centre and crack an egg into it. Stir it around until just cooked, then stir through the rice. Turn off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Happy cooking and look out for more dishes to cook in later articles.