I Challenged Myself to Cook Every Day Because I’m A 29-Year-Old Who Only Knows How To Toast Bread

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As a 29-year-old adult, I’d rather toast some bread or eat fast food than cook for myself.

That was until last week — since the much dreaded yet necessary Movement Control Order (MCO) requirement, I didn’t have much choice than to cook.

Luckily, there’s a lot of recipes that are really easy to make. So I’ve decided to use this period to experiment with new dishes and level up my cooking skills.

1. Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes with Garlic | 10mins

Cherry Tomato Garlic
Source: Nadia Mahmood

I love the simplicity of this dish, which was introduced to me by my younger sister. Plus, it’s not time-consuming at all — the whole process took about 10-15 minutes.

What I used:

2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter

2 pints of cherry tomatoes

Salt and pepper, as you like

4 garlic cloves (minced)

1 tablespoon of minced fresh basil

The first thing I did was heat the butter in a saute pan. Make sure it’s large enough to hold all the tomatoes in one layer.

I used butter instead of olive oil because I have an unhealthy obsession with it, but you can use whichever oil you prefer.

Then, I added garlic into the pan and cooked over a medium heat for 30 seconds, followed by adding the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper.

When everything was simmering inside the pan, I reduced the heat and let it cook for another 2 to 5 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes began to soften and wrinkle.

I continued to stir the ingredients until the garlic turned golden brown, and it was done!

Avocado Toast
Source: Nadia Mahmood

You may stop when the garlic is fragrant enough, but I prefer when it’s a little burnt because there’s an extra oomph when it caramelises with the tomatoes.

Best served with bread, cream cheese, and avocado, which are bursting with flavours. Who needs fancy hipster cafes anymore?

2. Steamed Tofu with Garlic Soy Dressing | 12 mins

Source: charinyaskitchen

This isn’t a typical Malay dish, so I only discovered it back in 2008, when I was 17.

My mom found out about this recipe on the radio and it instantly became my favourite. She would make it for me every time I come home from college, or when we’re celebrating. Oh memories…

When I saw it on my friend’s Instagram story recently, I got really excited and wanted to try it for myself!

What I used:

1 box of silky tofu

1 tablespoon of fried shallots

1 tablespoon of garlic

1 tablespoon of oyster sauce

1 tablespoon of chopped spring onions

1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce

1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce

I started with rinsing the silky tofu and let it steam. While it was steaming, I used the time to slice the garlic thinly and sauté it until golden brown in another pan.

After 15 minutes, I removed the tofu from heat and drained the excess water.

When that’s done, I spread oyster sauce, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce and topped the tofu with fried shallots, garlic & chopped spring onions as garnish.

Here’s a tip: Pair it with white rice and other dishes to make your dining experience go from 50% to 100% real quick!

3. Lasagna with Pesto Sauce | 10 mins

Pesto Lasagna
Source: Nadia Mahmood

Lasagna with pesto sauce is out of this world! However, since preparing lasagna takes a lot of work, I left that to my little sister.

I love how she baked the lasagna in small foil containers instead of a big one, because they’re cooked throughout and it was easier to eat.

Plus, no one fought over who has more because they were all divided equally.

As usual, I took on the easier task and made the best pesto sauce my family has ever tasted.

Kidding. It was their first time trying out the pairing, so who knows?

What I used:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1 cup olive oil/butter

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

The process was amazingly fast and easy. All I had to do was blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth, and serve.

Normally, using olive oil would be the most ideal ingredient to make pesto sauce. But I ran out of it, so I substituted it with butter instead (I said I was obsessed).

The original recipe also suggested using pine nuts, (whatever that is), but I don’t have any. As it turns out, my sauce still tasted pretty good without those nuts and I’m really proud of it.

The classic richness of the lasagna is elevated with so much flavour as it contrasts beautifully with the creamy basil pesto, while the garlic keeps things lively.

My sister used beef in her lasagna, but pesto sauce goes amazingly well with chicken and seafood too.

Trust me, it’ll change the way you eat lasagna forever.

4. Deep-Fried Eggplant Fritters | 20 mins

Fried Eggplant
Source: Nadia Mahmood

This is another easy dish. Unfortunately, I accidentally cut my finger while trying to impress my sister with my slicing skills, and still had to carry on with the frying. Oh well.

What I used:

2 eggplants

2 eggs

1 cup of flour

Salt to taste

First, I prepared a bowl of water and added salt in it. This is to place the eggplants in before frying to prevent them from “bruising”.

Then, I sliced the eggplants into 1cm to 2cm slices, let them soak in the bowl and waited 2 minutes before draining.

While waiting for oil to heat in a frying pan, I used the time to whisk the eggs in another bowl.

I took a few slices of eggplant at a time and dipped them in the beaten egg, then coated them with flour.

Here comes the tricky part —  frying the eggplants. With my injured finger and all, I braced myself through the tiny oil explosions while trying to get the eggplants until each side is golden brown.

I repeated the process until all the eggplant chips were cooked, and it was done!

Tip: You can eat it with rice and sambal, or snack on it like chips. So good!

5. Dalgona Coffee | 10 mins

Dalgona Coffee
Source: Nadia Mahmood

Of course, I had to try the viral coffee trend that everyone’s doing since the MCO.

Dalgona coffee started in South Korea, where their popular toffee candy known as dalgona comes from. Since then, Dalgona Coffee has gone viral on Tik-Tok.

Mainly because I needed my daily supply of coffee, and also the fact that my TikTok-fanatic sister was making it three times per day to get the technique right.

It is a drink that’s meant to be made at home and shared online.

What I used:

2 tablespoons coffee

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

The first thing I did was whip the mixture of sugar and coffee in hot water using a hand mixing machine.

It got thick and fluffy after about 5 minutes. Once it started to look like ice cream, I poured it in a tall glass filled with milk and ice. And…that’s all there is to it!

The taste is almost similar to Affogato, but with a more enjoyable texture.

As expected, sugar and coffee gave me heart palpitations. I had trouble sleeping and only managed to doze off for two hours that night.

If you’re like me, I’d highly recommend drinking this not later than 4PM.

Conclusion

I love food, and I’ve now realised that cooking is not hard at all. You just have to start with the simple stuff. Start somewhere.

This MCO period has allowed me to challenge myself to prepare meals from scratch and I’m extremely glad I did.

All in all, I hope my story could inspire you to explore this skill too, if you haven’t already!

For more stories like this, read: Working From Home: Ups And Downs Of Remote Working and Advice From An Introvert: 5 Tips to Survive Social Distancing.

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