Food: The Baon Brigade Redux

Almost a year ago, my cousin and I made a pact to celebrate home-cooked meals as often as we could. We both snuck out of the office, our brains frosted from wretched airconditioning, desperate for comfort and warmth. And food. Simple, honest to goodness, good food. The kind that smells good, looks as good as it smells, tastes as good as it looks. The kind that makes you close your eyes and smile after your first bite, the kind you know was made with love and you can taste it.

Well, a year has nearly gone by and though the documentation has long been abandoned, the promise to cook our own or cook the way our mothers and their mothers did lives on. One of the earlier things I had realised in this new country is that fresh food will not be an easy feat. And while I had never actually harvested my own rice or vegetables from the backyard, it was always comforting to know that all ingredients purchased from the little market at the corner also meant the day’s profit for the stall’s vendors. Also that these were harvested by farmers in our own soil, maybe some kilometers up north. Not to mention the fact that practically each and every meal I’d have at home was simmered, marinated, sauteed, grilled, and garnished by people I love. 

So of course it can be quite unsettling to constantly purchase ‘fresh produce’ such as basil, chillies, onions from the painfully cold supermarket (like Cold Storage) which packages and distributes all exported goods because none of it is grown on this land. Basically, it just doesn’t feel right. Neither does dining out each and every meal with limited options in a pricey restaurant or foodcourt or hawker centre, constantly praying what I’m eating is not full of MSG or margarine. But more often than not, hunger trumps all conditions, and resignation is the dominant flavour. Of course, I count myself lucky each time I stuff my face that I am even in a position to think and choose the quality of what I eat. But that thought in itself just leaves me shaking my head, that this is all just messed up.

So before I get carried away the way I always do, though I’d share that I banged out my first feast in my new home. I just really wanted to have something good, healthy, and clean (and not think about what I’d eat for the next few days). The recipe came from a colleague, a sweet South African girl named Simone, who whipped this up for an office party and was delighted that her dish had many fans. 

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Forgive the awful food carrier and image quality — I promised myself I’d finally get some nice plates soon. And maybe a good camera.

Mediterranean Summer Chickpea Salad 

3 small red onions, peeled
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful of ripe red cherry tomatoes
2 lemons
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 handfuls of soaked and cooked chickpeas (or a 410g can)
a handful of chopped fresh mint
a handful of fresh green or purple basil
2 handfuls coriander leaves, chopped
a half tsp of cumin, toasted very quickly and lightly ground

  • First, work on finely slicing the onions, crushing the garlic, and chopping the cherry tomatoes and herbs.
  • Mix them all together with the juice of 1 1/2 lemons. 
  • Mix in some virgin olive oil.
  • Heat the chickpeas in a pan, then mix with the other stuff. 
  • As you’re mixing along, season with ground pepper and cumin. 
  • Drizzle with some lemon juice and olive oil, garnish with remaining herbs.
  • Enjoy.

*Simone shared that this recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s and tweaked a bit. 

If you’re one of those who love food so much enough to also think so much about how its made, you might enjoy the stuff they’re saying and cooking up over at GOOD, with Nicola Twilley as food editor. 

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