Singapore Cooks

Her kitchen is her laboratory

Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef loves to experiment in the kitchen, tweaking recipes as she goes along

Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, loves to experiment in the kitchen.

"I never cook the same dish twice," she says. "As I taste, I make up the recipe as I go along."

Indeed, as she is cooking her dish of spicy porridge - high-fibre quick-cooking oats cooked to a thick, porridge-like consistency - she is constantly thinking of ways to jazz it up.

The spicy porridge is a savoury version of oats with added curry powder and is versatile enough to experiment with.

Prof Fatimah, 52, uses her own blend of spices which includes coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, but one can use curry powder from supermarkets.

She prefers to cook the oats in milk for a creamier texture, but you can use water, or a combination of both.

For added crunch, she uses a mix of cashews, walnuts, pistachios and almonds. The amount and type of nuts used can be adjusted to suit one's preference.

Stir in honey or add dates for a sweet version.

Or sprinkle Milo powder on top for a treat, adds Prof Fatimah, who is adviser to the Hari Raya Light Up Organising Committee.

The avid home cook, who is single, says: "You can crack an egg over or shave cheese on top of the porridge. Do not limit your imagination."

She eats the spicy porridge with her homemade achar (pickled vegetables) preserved with lemon and lime juice.

Using fruit juice is one of the ways she adds flavour to food, as she avoids salt, sugar and oil in her cooking.

She says: "You do not have to put sugar or salt to make food tasty. I use spices, pepper, chilli, fruit juices, garlic and ginger. If I do use olive oil, it would be just as a salad dressing."

She started cooking when she was working overseas in the 1990s and travelling frequently to Europe and the United States.

She would take curry powder with her to add to her food when she cooked.

Other dishes she has created include baked avocado, with the seed removed and an egg cracked into the centre; pasta with chicken curry or rendang sauce; as well as century egg nasi biryani, which she shared with residents in her constituency.

She says: "The biryani was very well received and it shows that you don't always have to cook traditional food.

"I like to be creative with ingredients I have at home and do a modern fusion of flavours."

SPICY PORRIDGE

INGREDIENTS

Among the dishes Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef came up with are baked avocado with egg (far left) and spicy oat porridge.
PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

  • 200g quick-cooking high-fibre oats
  • 200ml skim milk
  • Water (optional)
  • 2 Tbs curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 100g mixed nuts (cashews, walnuts, pistachios and almonds)
  • 50g raisins

METHOD

  1. Pour the oats and milk into a pot and cook on low heat.
  2. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get a thick, porridge-like consistency. Add more milk or water in small amounts if you do not want the oats to be too thick.
  3. Stir in the curry powder and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the mixed nuts and raisins.
  5. Garnish with more nuts and raisins, and serve hot.

Serves two to four

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline 'Her kitchen is her laboratory'. Print Edition | Subscribe