When stay-home mum Nilofar Iyer was asked to fill extra time in a cooking class recently, she wondered how the students would react.
The 44-year-old volunteer with Cooking Frenz, a cooking group at Siglap Community Centre, was roped in to teach a group of mostly Chinese women how to make Chinese-style hot and sour soup.
Another instructor taught students how to make claypot rice and bittergourd salad.
Mrs Iyer, a Singaporean Indian, says: "I was nervous. After all, I'm an Indian teaching a group of Chinese about a Chinese dish. But they all loved the soup since it is so easy to prepare and suited their taste."
Indeed, the soup is a quick dish to whip up, the perfect complement to a meal. It packs a spicy punch from the chilli padi, and that is balanced with the tang of vinegar and drizzle of sesame oil for fragrance and flavour.
While her recipe is suitable for vegans, meat or seafood can be added to pad out the soup and chicken stock can take the place of water.
She became a vegetarian after meeting her husband Anand Iyer, 47, a financial consultant based in Beijing.
She jokingly calls him a "health freak" as he prefers his food boiled or steamed, with "no sugar, no oil and minimal salt".
The couple have two daughters - Ranya, 14, and Riya, 12 - both of whom are vegetarians too.
Mrs Iyer says: "If they feel the need to eat meat because of peer pressure, I won't stop them. But they tell me they don't want to kill an animal for their own benefit."
The avid cook is also into blogging, something she started when her family moved to Pennsylvania for 11/2 years because of her husband's job. They returned to Singapore last year.
"Riya started a blogsite for me on a whim because she had just learnt about blogging from her teacher," she says. "I had totally forgotten about it until she reminded me. So I thought, 'Let's just post a few recipes and see where they go'."
Her posts include everything from recipes to wellness tips to book reviews.
Some of her recipes include no- bake cookies with peanut butter, flaxseed meal and chocolate chips; broccoli tofu stir-fry with cashews; okra onion fritters; as well as a popular party dish popular - potato and broccoli, mashed with mozzarella, topped with more cheese and baked.
Next month at Cooking Frenz, she will be in her element for the Indian cuisine theme, with her mint-infused basmati rice to accompany the chicken curry by another committee member.
She says: "I enjoy cooking and sharing my recipes so that others can enjoy the fruit of their labour too. There's nothing like hearing the satisfaction and triumph in their voices and receiving compliments from family and friends.
"It's all worth it."
MAKE IT YOURSELF: HOT AND SOUR SOUP
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
12 dried lily buds
400ml hot water
1/2 Tbs canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 chilli padi, sliced (set some slices aside for garnishing)
11/2 tsp mushroom seasoning (Vegetalk brand, from FairPrice supermarkets)
400ml room temperature water
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs light soya sauce
170g braised peanuts, liquid drained
100g tau kwa (firm tofu), sliced into thin strips
2 Tbs cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbs water
2 stalks spring onion, chopped
1. Wash the shiitake mushrooms and lily buds and let them soak in the hot water for 30 minutes, then strain. Reserve the mushrooms, lily buds and soaking liquid.
2. Remove the shiitake mushroom stems and slice the caps thinly. Cut the lily buds in half. Set them aside.
3. Heat the oil in a soup pot and fry the minced garlic and sliced chilli padi on medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant.
4. Add the mushroom seasoning and stir for a minute.
5. Pour in the reserved soaking liquid from step 2, the room temperature water, rice vinegar and light soya sauce.
6. Bring the soup to a boil. Add the sliced shiitake mushrooms, lily buds, braised peanuts and tofu strips. Let the soup boil for another two to three minutes.
7. Thicken the soup by stirring in the cornstarch mixture.
8. Scoop the soup into serving bowls. Garnish each bowl with chopped spring onion and the remaining sliced chilli padi. Add a few drops of sesame oil and serve hot.
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