Winter is coming. I thought about taking up a deal at one of the local gyms, $50 for a month of hot yoga, but the idea of driving somewhere to exercise when I can run right here, for free…well, it wasn’t convincing. So I needed a new project. One Thursday night, watching back-to-back cooking shows on SBS (as you do), I had my next idea.
Each week, I would choose one chef and recreate their recipes for dinner every night. Since I got this idea while watching Poh & Co, I started with Poh Ling Yeow, a Malaysian-Australian who lives in Adelaide. In 2009, she was the runner-up in Masterchef Australia, a show I do not watch. I had no idea who she was, but really that’s irrelevant anyway. On to the project.
It started at the farmer’s market. I had a list and bought exactly what was on it, down to the number of carrots (4). It was a satisfying venture, to not go overboard for once. I am reminded of the time I bought two heads of cabbage and they sat in the fridge, 1/4 chunk removed from each, for two weeks before I acquiesced and threw them in the compost bin. That did not happen this week.
Saturday – Malaysian Curry Puffs
I’ve never deep fried anything before. I thought you had to have special equipment, but all you need is oil and a pot. These turned out surprisingly well, even though I couldn’t find the Malaysian meat curry powder the recipe called for and had to invent something out of what I had in my pantry. I don’t remember what I used. This isn’t a cooking blog.
Recipe: Malaysian Curry Puffs
Would I make this recipe again? Yes. But it made 20 curry puffs and I came down with a cold the next night and couldn’t eat them so Jared really had to carry the team.
Sunday – Gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil sauce
I chose gnocchi because I wanted some vegetarian dishes in the mix – we usually eat meat once a week, at most, and the Project was shaping up to be pretty meat-heavy.
I tried to make gnocchi in Korea once, and it was a true disaster. I don’t know what went wrong but I never attempted it again until Poh came along. This time, success.
Would I make this recipe again? Yes. Except I’d make the gnocchi smaller, put less olive oil in the tomato sauce and possibly less garlic. I loaded up on garlic because it’s supposed to be good when you’re sick. I’m better now, so you be the judge.
Monday – leftovers
I made an important discovery early into the Poh Project. Her recipes are typically for 6-8 people, a fact I had not paid attention to while planning the week’s meals. We were already drowning in a sea of curry puffs and gnocchi. Instead, I prepared the pickles and pork ball mix in advance for the next night’s meal and felt like a forward-thinking domestic goddess.
Tuesday – Vietnamese pork balls with rice vermicelli and pickles
Despite having successfully pickled vegetables (another tasty first) and marinated the pork the night before, Jared claims that he ‘made’ this dinner. It is in part true because I had an appointment that night, leaving him to roll the meatballs, put them in the oven, mix up some dressing, and boil noodles. Let’s call it a team effort.
Recipe: Vietnamese pork balls
Would I make this recipe again? Yes. The balls were good and I was really into the pickled vegetables. Which, of course resulted in 3 jars of veggies instead of Poh’s 1. Still not sure how that happened.
Wednesday: Went out to dinner
We went out to the new Ethiopian restaurant (YUM) with Jared’s parents so Poh got a rest.
Thursday: Char hoon
Jared had the day off when this recipe was scheduled, so he was saddled with cooking duties. I came home to a very unhappy husband who had spent an hour making a broth out of prawns and then peeling them. Not fun for most people, but especially one who doesn’t particularly care for seafood. I took over halfway through and put in too many noodles, resulting in a massive pot of congealed noodle soup that could have fed the whole of Newcastle.
The next day I told my co-worker about it. She’s Chinese and explained that this isn’t a soup intended to produce leftovers, because “the noodles will turn solid. You put only enough noodles for the people eating.” When I told her the recipe had called for cornflour ‘for thickening’ she laughed hysterically, imagining a giant brick of noodle, which is exactly what I had waiting for me in the fridge for lunch.
Recipe: Char hoon
Would I make this recipe again? No. It actually tasted good, but it was not as simple as Poh made it look, nor as rewarding.
This is meant to be cooked with chicken, but in an effort to cut out the meat I roasted chickpeas and made focaccia bread instead. It was surprisingly delicious and a rousing success. As the main part of the dish was Poh’s recipe, I consider it in keeping with the Project.
Would I make this recipe again: Yes, but probably with less oil – the recipe called for an entire cup of olive oil, to be soaked up by the eggplant. I used 2/3 and still felt like that was too much.
Saturday: Soup (non-Poh)
Technically the Poh Project was supposed to end on Saturday, but I pushed the pizza-making back by a day and made pumpkin soup. Mainly because I was feeling lazy but also because our compost bin sprung a pumpkin vine this year and we got SIX pumpkins from it. #miracle
Sunday: Mauro’s perfect pizza dough
I never knew that you’re supposed to let pizza dough mature overnight before proving, so I dutifully followed the recipe to the letter. Including the part where you pour water into the flour while it is ‘on your work surface’ rather than in a bowl, which as you can imagine led to rivers of floury water all over the counter. I might add that this did not happen to Mauro.
But I did something right, because this pizza was excellent. Topped with some passata, basil, and heavy on the mozzarella cheese rounds, it was a keeper.
Recipe: Pizza dough
Would I make this recipe again? Yes. It’s my new pizza dough go-to.
That concludes the Poh Project. It was a fun experiment, but I was surprised at how rigid it felt to plan out every meal for the whole week. I got obsessed with having to check them all off the list – after all, I had the ingredients and couldn’t bear wasting them. At the end of the week I wasn’t ready to launch right into Rachel Khoo or Jamie Oliver, but I’ve got no regrets about passing on hot yoga.