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Photo credit: YOUTHOPIA/JEREMY NA

Five easy Instagram-worthy dishes you can try cooking at home

These may not be the most complicated, but are a must-know for any home-based Instagram chef.

Jeremy Na

Just like that Khalid song, Young, dumb and broke. Ok maybe not dumb but definitely the other two.


Published: 24 November 2020, 6:08 PM

COVID-19 meant that people are staying home more often and many picked up different hobbies to help keep themselves sane. Some started working out, some learned how to play an instrument while others like me got serious about cooking.

Seeing all my friends start cooking encouraged me to do the same.  Hopefully, the following fuss-free dishes will inspire you to pick up cooking. Trust me – if I can do it, anyone can.

1. Mozzarella stuffed pesto chicken breast

Who said healthy food can’t taste good? Savoury and full of cheesy goodness, this dish is a solution to those looking to get their protein fix for the day. The combination of pan seared chicken breast, mozzarella cheese and pesto sauce make for an extremely flavourful yet healthy meal.

When eaten right after cooking, the dish is full of different textures as you bite through the light crust on the chicken into the juicy meat and finally into the melted cheese. 

 

Be sure to snap a picture right as you cut into the chicken to catch some Insta-worthy moments! PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/JEREMY NA

 

For this dish, you only need pesto, cheese and a cut of chicken. I used to be intimidated by pesto until I realised that it’s essentially just blended arugula, basil and cashews with olive oil. 

An alternative for those who don’t wish to go through the hassle of making it, is to simply buy a tub of it at a supermarket. It’s not too expensive at around $10 and will last you a long time.

After you have your pesto ready, simply coat the chicken with a generous amount of it before slicing the chicken down the middle and stuffing it with mozzarella. Put a little more cheese than you think is necessary as it shrinks a little during the cooking process. 

Sear the chicken on high heat for about 90 seconds on each side before lowering the heat to medium and let it sizzle for an additional five minutes on each side before serving.

If there is one point I cannot stress enough, it’s to have faith in your food and stop prodding it every five seconds. Leave it to sit and sizzle. That way, you’ll have a nice browned crust.

2. Smoked duck pesto pasta

Remember the pesto from the previous dish? You can use it in this one too! The beauty of pesto is that it’s healthy, tasty and super versatile, and can be a substitute for the usual bolognese or aglio olio. 

This dish is for all the carb-lovers out there. Personally, I use the healthiness of the pesto as an excuse to stuff myself full of delicious pasta – but that’s up to you.

The umami flavour of the smoked duck really packs a punch and complements the slight bitterness from the pesto sauce.

 

This dish is the perfect way to weave vegetables into your daily diet. Especially if you hate the taste of vegetables. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/JEREMY NA

 

To make this dish, you’ll need pesto, olive oil, any fatty cut of meat and pasta. 

First, throw your pasta into a boiling pot of lightly salted water and let it boil for about eight to nine minutes. 

While the pasta is cooking, throw your smoked duck into a frying pan with some olive oil on medium-high heat for about two minutes on each side. Feel free to add in a few cloves of garlic if you’re feeling adventurous.

Once your pasta is done, drain and transfer your noodles into the same pan. The leftover oil from the smoked duck means that you don’t need additional olive oil. While frying on medium heat, drop a few tablespoons of pesto into your noodles and mix well. 

3. Pan-seared garlic salmon

After learning to cook this dish, I can confidently say that I am never paying more than $10 for any salmon dish ever again. 

For salmon, I like to keep the seasonings simple so that the natural taste of the fish can shine through. Seasonings for this dish thus only include garlic, lemon and a little bit of olive oil. The saltiness of the garlic serves to elevate its natural flavours while the acidity of the lemon cuts through the savoury to balance the dish out. 

 

A good way to tell if your salmon is fresh is by checking its colour. Fresh salmon is a vibrant orange and ironically, shouldn’t smell too fishy. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/ JEREMY NA

 

Firstly, grab yourself a fresh cut of salmon, pat it dry and sprinkle minced garlic over the top of the fillet. If you have herbs like parsley or rosemary, feel free to add a little as well. Patting the salmon dry will allow for an easier sear which will add a little more flavour as well.

Since salmon is a naturally fatty fish, a small amount of olive oil will suffice which makes this dish that much healthier.

Lower the salmon skin-side down onto a hot pan set at high heat for about two to three minutes depending on the thickness of your cut. When you start to see the edges turn opaque, flip the fish over and lower the heat to medium-high. At this point, squeeze some lemon juice over the fish and let it cook for another three minutes. 

You can test the doneness of the fish by prodding it with a spatula. If it’s too soft, it’s undercooked.

4. Cocktail shrimp

Easily the most addictive dish here, you can accidentally down an entire plate of cocktail shrimps by yourself if you’re not careful. Along with being ridiculously easy to make, it’s also super quick and takes about 10 to 15 minutes from peeling to serving.

Served with a tangy spicy sauce, these juicy shrimps are guaranteed to impress your friends and family… in groups of no more than five of course.

 

Often served at classy parties and high end restaurants, you can make it yourself within 15 minutes with a little practice. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/JEREMY NA

 

This dish requires you to have shrimps, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and wasabi.

To start, peel and devein however many shrimps you plan to eat. I recommend preparing slightly more than what you think is necessary since these go down so easily. 

You want to drizzle them with some olive oil and lightly salt them before sprinkling on some pepper. After this, simply pop them in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees and start making the sauce.

For the sauce, mix a quarter cup of ketchup with one-third teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Then, add in just a tiny amount of wasabi. Be careful, as store-bought wasabi tends to be a lot stronger than the restaurant variety.

Remove your shrimps from the oven and serve.

5. Mapo tofu

With all the previous entries having a more western take on things, here’s one for those for a more Asian palate.

There’s not much better than some silky soft tofu and spicy savoury sauce when it’s chilly outside. Served hot with rice, this is one of the few foods that feel like a nice warm hug on a cold rainy night.

 

While I chose a vegetarian approach on this one, adding meat is as simple as throwing in some minced chicken before pouring the sauce over the hot pan. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/JEREMY NA

 

To make mapo tofu, you need garlic, ginger, spring onions and tofu. For the seasonings, you need broad bean paste, mirin, miso, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and finally cornstarch.

I know, it seems like a lot. But rest assured, the hardest part is over once you have gathered the ingredients.

Combine all the seasonings together and mix well before mincing the garlic and ginger. Drain the tofu and cut into small cubes.

Finally, pour the sauce into the frying pan. Once it starts to boil, throw in the tofu and gently stir so it doesn’t break.

Sprinkle some spring onions on top and it’s ready to serve.

Hopefully, these five simple dishes encourage you to pick up cooking as well. Most importantly, don’t forget to take some pictures for the ‘gram.


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