No more boring mid-week dishes: 3 recipes to elevate rice, beetroot and chicken soup

Here are some ways to spruce up even the most unassuming of ingredients

Chicken & quinoa soup, kimchi fried rice and roast beet rice. Courtesy Nicole Barua
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Even as a chef and a person who derives an addicting amount of pleasure from standing over a stove for hours, I can still recognise the drudgery and altogether exhaustive nature of pulling together meals during the week. Inevitably, after a long day of work, your brain goes on autopilot and you find yourself making the same dishes repeatedly.

These meals can leave you and your loved ones uninspired and unsatiated because, let’s face it, variety, my dear, is the spice of life.

So, I posit that perhaps through you and me, we can work together to elevate home cooking, we can lift each other up one unassuming ingredient at a time. Here I bring you three recipes from my kitchen unapologetically brought together by laziness, my desire to always enjoy my food and, in one instance, to pay heed to the loud voice in my head of my personal trainer asking me to “eat healthy”.

Add these to your weekly roster of dishes to make both your spirit and your tummy happy.

Rice is always nice

Rice, especially white rice, takes no more than 12 minutes to cook up through the absorption method. You can leave it to do its thing, whilst you prep other dishes. It is easy on the stomach and also one of those things that is always leftover from a large meal. Repurposing it gives the frugal me quite the head rush.

Kimchi fried rice

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

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Kimchi fried rice. Photo: Nicole Barua 


  • 3 eggs, whisked with salt and pepper
  • 2 ½ tbsps olive oil, divided
  • 50g spring onions, chop and divide the white and green parts
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 180g sliced cabbage kimchi and its juice
  • 180g chicken/beef cocktail sausages, sliced (can be substituted with poached chicken breast)
  • 180g cooked basmati rice
  • 1½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 sheet nori, cut into ribbons
  • Small knob of butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • Sprinkle of gochugaru Korean chili flakes
  • Sprinkle of Korean sesame
  • Fried egg, one per person (optional)


  • Cook the rice and let it cool completely in the fridge, while you prep the rest of the ingredients. This helps keep the rice fluffy (alternatively use leftover rice).
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, add the whisked egg, and gently fold into big curds, until cooked. Remove and set aside. Next add half a tablespoon of olive oil and fry the sausage on high flame, until coloured on both sides. Remove and set with eggs.
  • Add the last tablespoon of oil, then the garlic, and let it sizzle for a few seconds. Add spring onion whites and stir on a full flame.
  • Add the sliced kimchi along with its juices on medium flame, stir a little and then add the rice and mix quickly on a high flame. Add the sesame oil, a sprinkle of salt and the Korean chili flakes.
  • Once everything is incorporated, add the cooked egg and sausage, and stir on a low flame, then add the butter and stir.
  • Do a taste test, then add salt if desired or more kimchi. Garnish with the leftover spring onions, lay the nori on top and sprinkle with some sesame.
  • For added richness, serve with a fried egg on top.

Freeze the beetroot 

Beetroots are notorious for spoiling quickly. I buy about half a kilo at one go, roast them simply wrapped in foil at 180°C, until a knife can go through them (so about 35 to 45 minutes), peel and blitz them for but a minute to get a grainy texture. This freezes well for up to 3 months and can be used to with a spice combination to punch up some white rice.

Roast beet rice

Serves 2

Prep time: 5 minutes (if puree is prepped in advance)

Cook time: 18 minutes


  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3½ tbsp roasted beetroot puree (if frozen, allow to thaw a little while rice cooks)
  • ½ tsp ghee (omit if vegan)
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ½ inch green chili
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ½ tsp butter (optional)
  • Lime wedges, coriander and mint leaves, to garnish


  • Wash and strain the rice, set into a little pot with water and salt. Once it comes to a boil, lower the flame, cover with a lid and allow to cook for 12 minutes. Turn off the flame but don't touch the rice for a few minutes, then fluff slightly with a fork.
  • In a pan, heat up the ghee and olive oil. Add the chili and, once it sizzles, add the cumin and fennel, and stir around. Next add the grated garlic and saute on a low flame.
  • Once the garlic is slightly golden, add the beetroot puree and stir on a medium flame, to evaporate any excess liquid. Next add the rice and continue to stir on a high flame (if needed) until all the rice has turned a lovely red-pink.
  • Take off the heat, add the butter (if using), then rip some mint leaves by hand and into the rice. Stir and serve hot, garnished with coriander and lime wedges.

Soup up

Harking back to my personal trainer’s voice in my head, heard especially loud every time I am about to bite into a buttered piece of bread, I can’t say the food tyrant has managed to dissuade me from eating what I want, but I try and eat healthier but no less tastier with dishes like this. The fact that it’s a one-pot meal is an added pro.

Vegetarians can replace the chicken stock and add in veg like potatoes, spinach, pumpkin or sweet potato. You can also swap the dried herbs with coriander stalks, chopped fine.

Chicken and quinoa soup

Serves 2 to 4 people

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 30 mins

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Chicken and quinoa soup. Photo: Nicole Barua 

Ingredients for the soup

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup red onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 3 green chillies (optional)
  • ½ cup carrots, grated
  • 1/3 cup celery in a small dice
  • ½ tsp dried sage
  • 1½ litre chicken stock
  • ½ cup quinoa (I use white)
  • Sea salt and freshly crushed pepper, to season
  • 1 tsp lemon or lime zest
  • 1/3 cup lime or lemon juice
  • 250g chicken breast, sliced to cook faster
  • Lime wedges, to garnish

Ingredients for the yoghurt topping

  • ½ cup Greek yoghurt
  • 3 jalapenos pickles chopped
  • Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped


  • Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom pot, add the onions and allow them to turn translucent but not colour.
  • Add the carrots and stir for two minutes. Add the celery and chili, stir, then add the garlic and stir till fragrant. Make sure nothing colours too much.
  • On a low flame, add the sage and stir. Then add the quinoa and stir until you can smell its nutty flavor, about 30 seconds. Add the heated chicken stock. Stir and raise the flame to allow it to boil. Season with salt, pepper and zest.
  • Once it is boiling, add the chicken breast, lower the flame and cover the pot to poach the chicken, about 12 to 15 minutes, then remove the chicken, allow to cool slightly and shred it.
  • Check if the quinoa is done (the tails on the granules would have extended slightly), then add the lime/lemon juice and stir.
  • Turn the stove off and check the seasoning. You can add the chicken back to the soup at this point or add it on top.
  • Whisk the Greek yogurt with a fork, add in the chopped jalpenos and mix.
  • Serve the soup topped with a dollop of the jalapeno-infused yogurt (wait until the soup is not scalding hot as the yogurt may split), sprinkle chopped coriander and garnish with lime wedges.