It’s that time of the year again in Singapore – third quarter – and if one is a parent, the children’s test or exam weeks are upon us again.
For the rest of us, we are not spared! We have ‘life’s’ exams and so as we try to fulfill work deadlines one after another, fatique and stress inevitably creeps its way into our daily life.
At times like these, the best ways to render comfort and sooth tired souls is to whip up some homemade drinks or other nourishing foods such as congee.
But how to do this without running ourselves more frazzled?
Also, isn’t it cheaper to just buy that chrysanthenum drink or meat porridge from a stall vendor? Yes, that would be so much easier because time is such a treasured commodity and if given any extra time for a breather, many of us would prioritise sleep over any thing else!
But buying any herbal drink or nourishing soups or congee from a vendor, though convenient, hardly gives you control over the drink’s or food’s ingredients to make it a healthy wholesome drink or food for your family. A little give-and-take is necessary in this case and it is with this intent I set out to discover some of the easier surefire ways to prepare such foods and drinks successfully at the first attempt!
The following are some of the cooling teas/drinks or soups that I have replicated successfully using the EASIEST way I know. The recipes are good enough to follow exactly if you have guests or need to brew something to bring along for a potluck party!
1. LONGAN AND WOLFBERRY TEA
I like the longan and wolfberry tea. It is my kind of drink – no need to add sugar. I bought the dried longan from NTUC ( dried food section) I already had the wolfberries.
I was prompted to make the tea on my daughter’s 3rd day of exam – something comforting and heartwarming for a morale booster. Furthermore, wolfberries is very good for the eyes!
2. IRON GODDESS OF MERCY TEA WITH APPLE SLICES
I made this for fun really.
I was intrigued at how a Chinese tea can be sweetened naturally – by adding apples.
Ingredients: Water: 800ml ; Iron Goddess of Mercy tea: 1 tbsp of leaves or 3 teabags; apples(any variety)-3 small, peeled,cored and thinly sliced
Method: Boil the water. Place the tea leaves or tea bags in a pot and add the hot water. Leave for 5mins. Add apple slices and leave to steep for 15 mins. Serve warm.
3. CHRYSANTHEMUM TEA
Ah..this my family likes! Sweet, cooling, familiar – what’s there not to like?
This is how I prepare mine the SIMPLE way.
I fill my crockpot with 2 litres of water, add 150 grams of honey rock sugar, stuff 30 grams of yellow chrysanthemum petals inside two spice pouches and drop that in too. Leave everything inside the crockpot for at least 3 hours (if set on High) or overnight (if set on Low)
The end in mind is to have completely dissolved rock sugar and the petals to have steeped in liquid for at least an hour after the water has reached boiling point.
Notes: My husband and I like to drink this bitter (without the honey rock sugar) ; so once the drink is brewed we take our fill and only after that do my teenage children pop in the honey rock sugar to have their sweet tea 🙂
I am sidetracking here a little now…I guess I like surefire recipes that work because it is easier to ‘teach’ them to my children ( I come from that school of thought that anyone who can read can cook)
There is another reason….when I was very young, I saw my 65-year-old granny lose her astute sense of taste after being the cook in the family for so many years. After that occurred, her dishes were always too salty or off the mark. I reckon it was quite a blow to her because after that she had to relinquish her role of cooking and delegate it to a maid which we employed to assist her in other household chores too (which she still insisted on doing!)
This memory strengthens my resolve to collate all the favourite recipes for hand-me-downs now…one never knows when one might suffer the same plight.
4. LEMON GRASS AND GINGER TEA
You know the kind of tea you get served at a spa?
Calm and relaxing and soothing to the throat and warming the tummy?
As I wanted to replicate that sort of relaxing ambience at home ( oh, why not? ), drive out ‘wind’ from our tummies which crops up too often because of a harried city lifestyle and detox (timely for my hubby too who had just returned from overseas and had a few too good meals too many), I decided to make this tea.
I just followed the steps from this recipe with some modifications.
I changed the ingredients to 2 litres of water, 80 grams of honey rock sugar, 80 grams of lightly bruised thinly sliced ginger pieces (also stuffed in spices pouches), 5 pandan leaves tied in a knot (unchanged) and 180 grams of lemongrass.
I threw all the required ingredients in the slow cooker and put it on Low overnight or 6-8 hours (or if you wish on High for at least 3 hours); the end in mind is to bring water to a boil and let the brew simmer for at least 30 minutes.
It’s very relaxing to have this drink at night but be prepared to burp a lot and pass wind..you have been warned ^^
5. Fried White Bee Hoon
A detoxification (detox) tea like lemongrass ginger tea should have a simple dish to go with it and what better than a ‘plain’ beehoon like this (you can prepare this in advance for a lazy Sunday lunch and thereafter enjoy the lemongrass ginger tea..)
I was inspired by this link but as I always ‘shop from my pantry first’ I made some modifications..
I had an extra packet of bee hoon (400g)so I used that. I also had on hand a packet of frozen seafood (400g) as well as a packet of minced meat (300g) (might as well clear everything!)
It’s that hard to get your daily serving of greens rich in vitamin C when you eat out so I bought about 4 packets of greens (‘xiao bai cai’ was on offer at 45cents per pack at 200g each) to supplement the bee hoon.
As in the recipe, I did not want to put onions so I replaced it with leeks (quantity up to you and even this is optional-remember..keep it SIMPLE)
You can actually follow the steps in frying the bee hoon from the above link.
But this is my method:
First, I soaked the 400 grams of dry bee hoon inside water. Once they were softened, I removed them, drained them, then snipped them. This makes for easier handling of the beehoon later while frying them.
Secondly, I heated up 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and began frying the leeks (omit this step if you are not using), then any uncooked ingredients (like the minced meat which had been marinated using the recipe from Beef Mince Congee (the link can be found below under my next dish “Meat Congee”). This was subsequently followed by frying the seafood I had on hand.
Thirdly, after all the above were cooked through and through, I poured the 400 ml of stock (1 stock cube earlier dissolved inside warm water)into the wok, added 7 to 8 tbsp of light soy sauce and brought the whole mixture to a boil!
Fourthly, I poured the beehoon into the stock. Cover the wok with the lid and set your timer (I always use timer!) to 2 mins. After 2 mins, remove the lid, off the fire, transfer the wok to a cooler part of the stove and stir the beehoon thoroughly.
This is the surefire way of getting the beehoon to the right consistency : the beehoon would have absorbed most of the stock by and become adequately soft and ready to dish out and serve!
6. MEAT CONGEE
I could use the same chicken stock as the ‘white’ beehoon to cook this (Knorr stock cubes) but when I or someone else in the family fall ill, I prefer to rely on the homemade garlic-rich chicken stock I have on hand to cook congee – I could be just imagining it – but I feel better after consuming congee made from it 🙂
The link to making this chicken stock is here:
The congee is also a great breakfast food for children who are sitting for exams. It is comforting and satisfying to eat a small bowl of warm chicken or pork congee in the morning. A great morale booster!
What is more, if you, the main cook in the family, fall ill, you just need to cook one dish which you, as well as the rest of the family, can partake.
Honestly, I only eat congee when I am sick but after experimenting with different ways to confirm a surefire way to prepare it, I may think about whipping it up on any other ordinary day 🙂
The surefire way I cook it is inspired by these two recipes: Ginger Chicken Jook (to cook the porridge) and Beef Mince Congee (to marinate the meat if I am making meat congee)
I now understand why many like to eat congee as an everyday food. It is calming…comforting..hydrating..
Using the slow cooker or rice cooker to cook, the quantity of stock is 7 cups to 1 cup of rice or 3 cups of stock to half a cup of rice (I modified the quantity of liquid from the Ginger Chicken Jook recipe because cooking in a covered pot means one needs LESS liquid to cook)
Before starting to cook the congee, marinate the 150g of minced meat accordingly (I used the recipe from the Beef Mince Congee for this)
…..and while you are at it, prepare an extra serving of marinated meat to freeze so that when there is an emergency ( like when you are sick or you just need something hydrating and comforting) you have the meat on standby and can just throw everything in a jiffy into the rice cooker or slow cooker and wa la! you have a ready nourishing meal with very little effort.
That is a very destressing thought!
So..after you have the rice, the stock , the minced ginger, the marinated meat, just place everything into the rice cooker (press ‘congee’ once to cook) or the slow cooker (High to cook within 3-4 hours OR Low to cook overnight or 6-8 hours)
7. Citrus Coriander and Carrot Soup
Another detox drink (soup really) I wish to introduce AND is good for the eyes is the citrus carrot coriander soup.
I first received this recipe when I and my husband attended a massage session at Mayuri Ayurvedic Spa umpteen years ago.
The consultant recommended this soup recipe for both of us because of our similar mind body constitution ( ‘dosha’)
This soup is really for anyone! It tastes amazing..very comforting..a refreshing taste..very low-fat and low carbohydrates (because no oil and also carrots and oranges are main ingredients). I consider it as one of my best tasting ANTIOXIDANT soups!
I cooked this for a recent potluck and was repeatedly asked for what went into it.
I have modified the original recipe by omitting the ghee and also because I cook this in a slow cooker..
Simply add the following to a slow cooker and mix everything up before turning the slow cooker on high (as always 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low) The end in mind is to have tender soft carrots:)
You may blend the soup after it has cooled if you so wish.
2 tbsp of coriander leaves and/or 4 tbsp of evaporated milk were suggested in the original recipe as a soup garnish (optional especially if one is lactose intolerant)
Ingredients: 2 tsp of coriander powder, 3/4 tsp of salt (can omit), 1/4 tsp of (preferably freshly grounded) black pepper, diced 500 grams of carrots, chopped 100g of onions, 900ml of stock or water and 300ml of orange juice(fresh orange juice is recommended in the given recipe but I cheated and used unsweetened orange juice from a carton..still yummy!)
So there you have it..
some cooling drinks, a detox soup, hydrating and comforting congees and a ‘plain’ rice vermicelli to nourish and heal from within the body- beauty inside out..
Create a loving ambience <3 in the home with these surefire recipes which require really simple preps!
Your family will love you all the more for it and your body as well as theirs will thank you for it.
To top it all off, your kitchen, the hearth of the home, will smell that more inviting!!