It’s been the strangest of years. Notwithstanding the absence large parties, I realised that I have been equally busy cooking for small parties. The same effort is still needed for every festive meal. So after yesterday’s thanksgiving meal for the women’s ministry leaders I found myself teetering on the edge of exhaustion. So much for a small celebration!
Then today I flipped open the Sunday Times and was reading an article called “Silent Nights” which listed the effects of further Covid19 lockdowns on seasonal celebrations in different parts of the world. It really got me thinking – I had lined up a bunch of dinners for family, colleagues and friends this season and it seemed that I had made myself busier than before. Now don’t get me wrong – I adore cooking and hosting, and it is wonderful to meet friends face to face, albeit in small groups of 5. But when I think back to the first Silent Night where Jesus was born, the ultimate disruptor of all history, with little royal fanfare at his birth, I started to wonder…could it be that this most disruptive of modern catastrophes, the Covid19 pandemic, be one of the most painful blessings of all? In the midst of social distancing we seem to be forced to give up the noise and clangor of a commercial Christmas for a deeper appreciation and remembrance of the night that changed the world. Anyway it just got me thinking that now of all times, we need to simplify and pay attention to the non-negotiable in our lives. Time to reflect, grow, listen, seems now to be more important than the frenetic gifting and partying of Christmases past.
I think for me, the whole Covid19 season has all been about the unexpected and learning how to adapt to it. In some ways this festive season I’ve also had to adapt to my energy levels and to simplify my schedule as needed. So after yesterday’s giant cook out of rich foods, I craved absolute simplicity and comfort food.
So last night after the celebration I had the foresight to thaw out a packet of ground beef overnight with the thought of making something super easy like spaghetti bolognese or a beef bowl for lunch. But this morning when I woke up I really felt like having a hot bowl of noodle soup (comfort food craving). And that was when I thought of making some Mee Bakso.
Over the past couple of years, because of some trips to Indonesia, I had actually fallen in love with Indonesian food. This is actually distinct from Malay food, which I was more familiar with, growing up in Singapore. Mee Bakso is a noodle dish that is nothing more than a meatball noodle soup. The tricky bit about the meatballs is making it low carb as the original beef balls are usually laden with corn flour or tapioca flour. In this recipe I used almond flour instead, which makes the meatballs less dense, but lacks the starchiness of the original sort. I actually think these beef balls were pretty successful as they were flavourful and firm but not hard or dense in texture.
This was the easiest lunch ever. It consisted essentially of 3 parts – making the beef soup stock (really easy in an Instant Pot), making the beef balls from scratch and finally assembling the bowls of soup. In all, the prep time was about 1/2 hour and the soup took about an hour to pressure cook (during which time we were having online Sunday service!). Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
So here’s the recipe for Low Carb Mee Bakso. Homemade goodness in a bowl…
Low Carb Mee Bakso
- Beef Stock
- 600-700g beef bones
- 2 celery ribs, cut into large pieces
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 medium onion, cut into large pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and slightly smashed
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp sugar substitute
- 3 L water
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 750g ground beef
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 3 spring onion sprigs, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp coriander stems, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 portion of shirataki noodles per person
- 3 hard boiled eggs, cut into half
- 1 bunch of green leafy vegetables (I used baby Shanghai greens)
- 1/2 cup coriander leaves
- 1/4 cup fried shallots
- salt and white pepper to taste
- sambal belachan and dark soy sauce to serve
- Place all the ingredients for the soup stock into the Instant Pot and seal. Set on manual high pressure for 1 hour, then allow natural pressure release.
- While the stock is being pressure-cooked, prepare the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, mix the meatball ingredients together (I find it easier to do this by hand). For a taste test, I usually roll a small ball up and microwave for a minute to check the flavor and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Roll up the meatballs, about 1-1.5 inches in diameter and place on a prep tray.
- When the stock is done, drain the stock into a soup pot. Skim off the oil at the surface of the stock.
- Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat. Blanch the vegetables for one minute, then remove and set aside.
- Gently drop the meatballs into the simmering stock and allow them to cook (about 5 minutes). When fully cooked, the beef balls will float to the surface of the soup.
- Assemble the bowls, with 1 portion of shirataki noodles, 2 tbsp of blanched vegetables, 1/2 hard-boiled egg, 3-4 beef balls and a few ladles of soup. Top the soup with a tbsp of fried shallots and some coriander. Serve hot with sambal belachan and dark soy sauce on the side.