Something you probably didn’t know about me – I love to cook! That doesn’t mean I’m a great cook. I just love being in the kitchen and experimenting with different flavours. So yes, playing “masak-masak” was my favourite pastime as a child. How did you guess?! Lol.
I used to pretend I was a chef, and even DIY-ed a hat; which, looking back, looks nothing like a chef’s hat. Lol. Case in point...
How good is my cooking?
Well, let’s just say that there hasn’t been any casualties reported up-to-date. Lol
Disclaimer. I’m no pro, so please forgive me if I don’t use the correct technical jargons or techniques.
Also, since everyone has a different preference in taste (ie. degree of saltiness, sweetness, threshold for sourness, etc), try not to follow my measurements to the tee. While I like full flavours in my food, it may be too intense for some. Hence, I encourage you to keep tasting as you cook. That’s what makes it all so fun, really; the process of experimenting until you find the perfect taste, for you. :-)
So here we go.
Squid and mushroom pasta.
#htTIP: If you prefer to go vegetarian, simply omit the squid ;-)
The things you’ll need (I’m assuming that salt and cooking oil is something that is readily available in your kitchen :-D):
1) Pasta – cooked, al dente. I prefer angel hair pasta, but you can use spaghetti or whichever type of pasta you like best. For that special flavour, I like to add a bit of salt and chicken stock into the water that I boil the pasta in. Also, to prevent the pasta from sticking together, a few drops of olive oil should do the trick. Feel free to let me know if you'd like me to do a separate post on “How to cook perfect pasta”.
2) Fresh squid – cleaned and skinned.
3) Buna-shimeji/brown-beech mushrooms
4) Mini king oyster mushrooms
6) Tomato puree (1 can for 2 servings)
7) Italian herbs – or if you have fresh basil, rosemary, oregano and parsley, even better!
8 ) Ponzu sauce - if you can’t get a hold of this, you can substitute it with a mixture of soya sauce, vinegar and a squeeze of lemon
9) Butter – I prefer salted butter, but you can the unsalted version if you like
10) Garlic powder
11) White pepper
12) Sugar (brown/white)
13) 1 slice of cheese – My secret ingredient. I always opt for the full flavoured cheddar. Yum!
14) Light soya sauce
15) Mirin – this is my must-have in the kitchen. Nevertheless, if you can’t get a hold of this, you can use sugar as a substitute.
a) Cut the squid according to your desired thickness. I usually cut them to an inch as they’ll shrink later, in the heat.
b) Mince the onions
#htTIP: Chewing gum while cutting onions prevent you from crying.
Basically, chewing gum while cutting onions prevents tears, by forcing you to breathe through your mouth. This disperses the irritant released by the onion, so that a significantly smaller amount reaches the lachrymal glands, preventing them from being irritated enough to release tears. [Referenced from ehow.com] Click here to read more.
c) Clean and cut the buna-shimeji mushrooms from the base (if you bought it in a cluster, like I did)
d) Thinly slice the mini king oyster mushrooms
e) On medium heat, pan-fry the mini king oyster mushrooms with a slice of butter and a pinch of salt, until tender. Preferably, using a non-stick wok/pan. Set aside (sprinkle some parsley flakes and black pepper if you like ;-))
f) In the same heated pan, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ponzu sauce (depending on how many mushrooms you have), a pinch of sugar and throw the buna-shimeji mushrooms in. Mix well and stir fry until all the sauce is absorbed into the mushrooms. Set aside.
g) In the same heated pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil (I like to use olive oil) and pan fry the minced onions until slightly brown. Do not overcook. Your onions should be tender but not too soft. Set aside.
h) In the same heated pan (you should have a bit of leftover oil from pan frying the onions), stir fry the squid until half cooked. Add a pinch of salt before dishing it out. Set aside and leave the “juice” from the squid behind in the pan.
i) In the same heated pan, pour in the tomato puree (mix with the leftover "juice" from stir frying the squid). Turn the heat down, unless you want hot tomato sauce splashing on you as you cook. Add 2 sprinkles of garlic powder, 1 sprinkle of Italian herbs, a teaspoon of chicken stock (optional), pepper and salt to taste. Once you get the desired degree of saltiness/spice, add in 1 tablespoon of mirin (or substitute with a generous pinch of sugar). Adjust and add more salt/pepper according to your preferred taste.
j) Once you are happy with the taste, add the onions into the sauce. Mix well.
k) Dissolve the slice of cheese into the sauce. Mix well. Can you taste the difference? :-D
#htTIP: I would probably get told off by the proper chefs for doing this, but for me, dissolving a slice of cheese into any tomato based pasta sauce always helps balance the tanginess of the tomato. My little secret!
l) Finally, and you must make sure that you do this last – throw in the squid, mix evenly and turn off the heat as soon as you see the edges of the squid start to curl. Do not overcook, unless you like the idea of chewing on rubber.
m) Time to plate your dish. Put a serving of pasta on a plate, pour a generous amount of sauce onto it, and top with the mushrooms. Add a sprinkle of parsley flakes and a dash of black pepper if you like.
Technically, you can actually dump the onions, mushrooms and squid into the tomato puree for a much simpler job, and you’d still have a pretty edible pasta sauce. Edible, not yummy. I personally, prefer to detail my food. I believe that each dish/meal should consist of different layers of flavours. It gives depth to the taste and a treat to the worthy tongue.
At the base, the pasta should already have a bit of flavor from the chicken stock. And sitting on it is a nice tangy but not too overpowering sauce with squid slices that are cooked just right. The buttery flavour of the tender yet chewy mini king oyster mushrooms will give the tanginess of the sauce a nice balance, while the ponzu flavoured buna-shimeji mushrooms will provide you with that special twist of flavour to the overall meal.
Dig in and enjoy as the different layers of flavours unfold in your mouth with each bite. Bon appétit!