No time to prep? Try 'the farmer & the fisherman' — a fuss-free one-pan wonder

‘The farmer & the fisherman’ combines the best of land and sea in one pan — Pictures by CK Lim
‘The farmer & the fisherman’ combines the best of land and sea in one pan — Pictures by CK Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — Sometimes the fun in cooking is in all the myriad ways we can attempt to make raw ingredients both edible and delectable.

We can boil and broil, roast and toast. Sous vide or stew, steam or fry. Even with the latter method, there’s an entire spectrum — do we stir-fry or deep-fry?

All we need is time and the weekend is when we finally have time for ourselves. Or at least that’s the idea.

Some Saturdays and Sundays are indeed idyllic affairs, with nary a care in the world we can contemplate a brunch staple of avocado toast with bacon and scrambled eggs or a decadent Duck à l’Orange for dinner.

Other weekends are more harried, when work spills over or we have a multitude of errands to run. Every minute counts. No long hours of prep work, please. No beautifully organised mise en place. No time for any of that.

Weekends like these you’d find a decent one-pan or one-pot dish to be a saving grace. More than that, if we could muster the assistance of some time savers (canned foods come to mind) all the better.

There’s no need to sacrifice taste for tempo though. Nor do we have to forsake making and eating a healthy, nutritious meal.

Sardines in extra virgin olive oil – a great source of good fats
Sardines in extra virgin olive oil – a great source of good fats

Whenever I’m strapped for time, I know I can make my favourite one-pan dish in a jiffy. “The farmer & the fisherman” combines the best of land and sea, without any of the complicated cooking techniques or preparation.

Here, the use of sambal means we can eschew all the chopping and pounding that comes with preparing the aromatics such as garlic, shallots and chillies. Any step that will help speed up the process when we are hungry but short on time is a boon.

While sambal does provide the heat, its sweetness is also a nice counterbalance to the acidity of the tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are nice but canned ones mean no chopping is required.

'Sambal' for heat (left). Crack the eggs into a small bowl first (right).
'Sambal' for heat (left). Crack the eggs into a small bowl first (right).

Beans are easier from cans too; no overnight soaking. Use cannellini or any beans you like best — from black beans to borlotti, lentils to chickpeas. Legumes are a great source of protein so those who are into building muscle should love them.

Parboiled rice provides a healthy boost of resistant starch and all the better if they are saved from an earlier cooking session. Kept in an airtight container in the freezer, cooked rice will keep for months and no defrosting is necessary here — just dump it straight into the pan!

For a touch more sustenance, sardines in extra virgin olive oil — again from a can — are a great source of good fats. To finish, an egg or two or three (why not?): the oozing yolk adds richness to this humble fare.

An absolutely delicious and satisfying one-pan wonder — what’s not to like?

Use cannellini or any beans you like best – from black beans to borlotti
Use cannellini or any beans you like best – from black beans to borlotti

THE FARMER & THE FISHERMAN: RICE, BEANS, TOMATOES & SARDINES

It really is just rice, beans, tomatoes and sardines — humble fare and a humble name. The depth of flavours, therefore, is in the details.

Cooking your sambal from scratch is entirely optional; I find store-bought jars of the stuff to be perfectly acceptable. However, making your own for future use during a particularly free weekend will pay ample dividends.

Use fresh tomatoes or canned, but be wary of the water content. The former especially will often have too much liquid so one way is to squeeze the juices out and use only the pulp.

Fresh tomatoes are nice but canned ones mean no chopping is required
Fresh tomatoes are nice but canned ones mean no chopping is required

I prefer using canned tomatoes for this reason; the liquids are thickened with tomato paste and everything tastes more tomato-ey. Canned diced tomatoes work best though the canned tomatoes can easily be crushed in the pan.

Finally, opting for fish sauce rather than plain old salt offers a much appreciated hit of umami. A little extra to remind us that humble fare doesn't have to be modest in the flavour department.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 tablespoons sambal

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can cannellini beans (or your preferred type of beans)

250g cooked parboiled rice

1 can sardines in extra-virgin olive oil

Fish sauce and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 eggs

Parboiled rice provides a healthy boost of resistant starch
Parboiled rice provides a healthy boost of resistant starch

Method

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the sambal and sauté until fragrant.

Add the diced tomatoes, cannellini beans and cooked parboiled rice. Stir to combine. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Once the liquid has reduced into a stew-like gravy, add the sardines and all the extra-virgin olive oil it’s been packed in. Using your spatula, break the sardines into bite-sized pieces but not mush — you still want some chunky texture to this dish.

There is a richness to every spoonful of this humble fare
There is a richness to every spoonful of this humble fare

Season with fish sauce and freshly ground black pepper. Check the taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Crack the three eggs into a small bowl first rather than directly into the pan. This way, if there are any pieces of shell, they’d be easier to fish out.

Use the spatula to make three indentations in the rice-bean-tomato stew. Pour one egg into each indentation. Cover the pan to allow the eggs to cook to your desired doneness.

Once your eggs are done the way you like them, remove the pan from the heat and serve immediately.

For more Weekend Kitchen stories and recipes, visit https://lifeforbeginners.com/weekend-kitchen/.

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