[Updated 27 May 2021]
Being at home has led many people to start trying out new recipes and even trying to bake bread! However, for some of us (like me ?) who aren't very experienced with cooking, it can be daunting to suddenly be faced with complicated kitchen terminology (What's the difference between a julienne cut and a slice? When should I use baking powder over baking soda?) and recipes that include 15 different ingredients and even more steps.
If you're just starting out on your culinary adventure - fret not! We've gathered up 10 simple recipes that use 4 ingredients or less (almost all of which you might already have in your kitchen or can easily find on the supermarket shelves) for you to have a fuss-free start in the kitchen. ?
1. Kaya french toast
We're starting this list with a local favourite! ? Whether you prefer Hainanese Kaya or Nyonya Kaya, this is the classic breakfast food around the corner we love to treat ourselves too. While normal kaya toast is already amazing enough, take your breakfast up a notch by adding a french toast twist!
- (Optional) Honey, condensed milk, or grated coconut
- Beat the eggs and add in the milk.
- Coat the bread in the egg-and-milk mixture. Make sure that it's soaked all over.
- Grill the bread on the stove for a few minutes, or cut it into cubes and fry it in oil in a shallow pan.
- Spread the kaya on, and voila! You can add a thin slab of butter, drizzle honey or condensed milk over it, or garnish with grated coconut for added flavour and texture. ?
2. Overnight oats
If you're looking up breakfast ideas you've probably come across overnight oats before. ? The beauty of overnight oats is that it's not only super healthy but super convenient too! You just need rolled oats and milk for the base, and the toppings can be whatever ingredients suit your fancy. You can also use water instead of milk, but it won't be very tasty as the water adds no flavour to the oats.
Some tried-and-true combinations:
- Dates, bananas, chia seeds
- Bananas, strawberries, honey
- Maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla flavouring or syrup
- Mix the rolled oats with your milk of choice.
- Layer your ingredients on top.
- Seal the jar or bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight.
3. Fluffy omelette
Inspired by the viral omelette made in Tokyo, this recipe by Buzzfeed Tasty takes your regular omelette to fluffy heights. ? All you'll need is eggs, butter, and whatever garnish you're craving for. Whether that's classic salt and pepper, or maybe a slightly local twist with some spring onions and fried shallots, it'll be just what you need to get you ready for the day. You can also drizzle some spicy chilli sauce over it for an extra kick, or fill it with cheddar cheese for a sharp and tangy twist!
- Butter (You can put the butter onto the pan before putting on the omelette to make sure the pan is fully coated)
- (Optional) Fillings - minced meat, cheese, diced vegetables
- (Optional) Garnish with salt/pepper/spring onions/fried shallots/chilli sauce
Lunch and dinner
4. Oven-baked salmon
This is actually a recipe my mum cooks for dinner every now and then. ? Though I'm not too comfortable in the kitchen, I promise it's fool-proof even for novices. This recipe by the Food Network is the closest I can find to what she does, at least for the salmon part. The salmon will release fatty oils as it cooks, so you don't need to drizzle too much oil on it before it goes in the oven. However, do use a non-stick baking sheet or baking paper so that the skin won't stick to the surface. I recommend using a coarse salt such as rock salt or pink salt, just for an added crunch when you're digging in. ? You can also add lemon slices, chopped garlic, or fresh herbs such as rosemary or basil for extra flavour. If you want to make this into a full meal, add in some vegetables onto the tray to roast at the same time!
- Salmon fillet (the thickness/size of the fish will determine how long it takes to cook, so keep an eye until the meat starts to flake and get tender)
- Coarse ground salt (e.g. rock salt or Himalayan pink salt)
- Olive oil
- (Optional) Garnish with lemon slices/garlic/herbs
5. Cacio e Pepe
Credit: Bobbi Lin for Food52
Spaghetti and pasta are some of the easiest meals to prepare, but this Cacio e Pepe recipe by Bobbi Lin on Food52 will kick your Italian night up a notch! Using just butter, cheese, and egg, you don't need any additional ingredients to create a rich and creamy sauce that will have you drooling in no time. ? Add in a sprinkle of chilli flakes or fresh herbs as a garnish (some supermarkets also sell Italian herb mixtures for extra convenience) and this will be your new go-to dinner recipe!
- Pasta of your choice
- Unsalted butter
- Grated cheese (Parmesan recommended)
- 1 egg yolk
- (Optional) Pepper and salt to taste
- (Optional) Garnish with chilli flakes/shredded cheese/fresh herbs/Italian herb mixes
6. Kimchi fried rice
It’s hard to go wrong when making this recipe as it really only requires leftover rice and kimchi. ? But why stop there when you can add other things like mushrooms, eggs, chicken and even seafood! Raid your refrigerator to see what else you can throw into the dish for more flavour and taste. I like to mix some gochujang and soy sauce in while stir-frying to give it some extra flavour - but not too much as it can overpower the kimchi!
- Rice (Preferably a day old so that it's hard, or you can chill it in the fridge first)
- (Optional) Chopped garlic, gochujang, or soy sauce
- (Optional) Meat, vegetables, cheese, eggs, or any other topping you're craving for!
Desserts and sweets
7. Cornflake Cups/Cornflakes Madu
It's never too early to start preparing for Raya with this classic kid-friendly snack. ? Get your whole family in on it too and spend a weekend making and decorating them with your favourite toppings. There are lots of recipes out there to look at, or you can ask your aunts and uncles for any secret family tips. Drizzle some chocolate syrup or sprinkle some crushed oreos on top of it, and you're all set! These days another popular version even uses salted egg and curry leaves to add a savoury twist.
- Condensed milk or honey
- (Optional) Toppings - they can be Oreos, rainbow sprinkles, chocolate, chopped nuts, or whatever you want!
8. Dalgona Coffee
This Korean snack has taken the world by storm with the super-viral Dalgona coffee! The appeal of Dalgona coffee is probably the simplicity of its ingredients - you just need a 1:1:1 ratio of instant coffee, sugar and hot water. Some recipes have even replaced the coffee with Milo or matcha powder if that's more to your taste. ?
Once you've learnt how to make the creamy Dalgona foam, you can get creative - how about putting it on a scoop of ice cream to get Dalgona Affogato? ? You can also top it with sprinkles of coconut or chocolate for an extra crunch, or drizzle syrups to try and recreate your favourite frappes.
P.S. Find out 8 more cafe-worthy drinks you can make at home here!
- Instant coffee (not the 3-in-1 version)/Milo powder
- Hot water
- (Optional) Milk or ice cream as the base
- (Optional) Toppings - grated coconut/chocolate, strawberry jam and more!
9. Green Bean Soup
Many local desserts are super easy to make, and favourites such as green bean soup, pulut hitam, or grass jelly shaved ice usually use no more than 4-5 ingredients. ? With the weather has begun to change, there's no better time to ready a nice hot pot of green bean soup to warm you up. My mum usually adds in barley and sago for extra texture, and you can customize it by adding ingredients such as sweet potatoes or lychees for a special touch. Remember to sweeten with rock sugar, honey or coconut milk to taste!
- Green beans
- Pandan leaves
- Rock sugar/gula melaka/honey/coconut milk to sweeten
- (Optional) Other grains (barley/sago)
- (Optional) Other ingredients (sweet potato, lychee, tapioca balls)
10. Custard Pudding
Credit: Cooking With Dog
For nights when you want a sweet treat, whip up this simple dessert from just eggs, sugar, and milk! ? The popular Youtube cooking channel Cooking With Dog has an easy-to-follow recipe all ready for you. You can adjust the amount of sugar used to suit your taste, or go a step further and add on fresh berries or whipped cream to the finished product too!
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter
If you've hardly stepped foot in the kitchen before - don't worry! ? Sometimes some of the best recipes and dishes out there can also be super easy to make. Start with the basics, polish your skills, and with some practice you can eventually move on to bigger and better feasts! ?