vendredi, septembre 28, 2007

Le Bébé d'Amour de Ma Vie

Baby Boy

Quand on est le bébé de sa maman
On peut se permettre de tout avoir et tout faire
Parce qu'on est le bébé de sa maman
(Le plus bel enfant sur terre)
Elle ne peut pas se permettre de dire non!

Il suffit de sourire
De dire à sa maman que on l'aime (très fort)
Et éventuellement de la serrer dans ses petits bras
Elle, elle craque (elle ne peut pas faire autrement)
Elle demande, "Comment puis-je te faire plaisir, mon amour?"

On demande ainsi un bonbon,
un gâteau, une glace ou (encore) un jouet
Ou bien le droit de regarder un DVD
Parce qu'on le bébé de sa maman
Et ainsi le grand amour de sa vie.

Comment ce bébé est-il arrivé
Que Dieu lui seul a ses réponses
Moi je sais que c'est un cadeau tombé du ciel
Plus gros et plus cher que le diamant de la Reine d'Angleterre
Mon bébé est l'amour de ma vie!

J'adore tenir sa petite main quand il dort
Le regarder respirer, sourire, soupirer
J'attends qu'il me donne des baisers
Qu'il me regarde avec ses yeux pleins d'amour
Qu'il m'appelle "maman" avec sa petite voix
Pour que les frissons aillent tout droit
Dans mon coeur tout gros tout ému.

Il adore qu'on le porte
Ce que je veux bien
Mais malheureusement il est de plus en plus lourd
Même si dans mon coeur il sera toujours
Un tout petit bébé comme dans ses premiers jours.

C'est bien sûr un enfant qui n'est pas toujours sage
Il aime donner des coups de pieds à sa soeur et son frère
Les autres ils pleurent et je suis obligée
de faire semblant de l'engueuler
et parfois même de le taper!

Ce n'est pas très juste je sais
En plus ça fait mal à la maman
Car je n'ai qu'une envie dans ma vie
Ce qu'est de donner des bisous à mon fils
Le plus grand amour de ma vie
Mon petit dernier mon dernier chef d'oeuvre
Le bébé d'amour de ma vie.

Beau Lotus, Modena, le 28 septembre 2007.

mercredi, septembre 26, 2007

Creating to be Creative

I am kicking myself as I'm writing this because my inner self is telling me to be gracious and take whatever comes and not have to analyse everything to death the way I usually do. You know, just say thank you, glad you know that I'm great, keep the prize and shut up.

V of East Meets West Kitchen has very kindly (merci beaucoup encore une fois) awarded me the

which if you trace back to its origins was an award for those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo's, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.

Creative is one of those qualities that one aspires to (though some may argue that you either have it or you don't) and which if you are not born with it (like me when it comes to anything manual), you'll have to work very hard to achieve some semblance of it.

V, the Queen of endless pots of ice cream, jams, checkerboard cakes, bref, something new every day - has announced that I have won the above award for my

Way with Words and Yummy Recipes

She has diplomatically overseen the lack of creative art work on my blog, zooming down to my only talent in this life - language. Creating sensation, thought and effect/reaction with words. Or so I hope.

Since I almost never take anything for granted, I will try to live up to this new award at least while it's still hot between the hands. At the moment, I'm trying to create :

  1. Birthday Invitation Cards for Eldest Son's coming Birthday (a real chore since I'm not artistically inclined)

  2. The illusion that I'm actually doing some housework in the house (and not looking at clothes on the Internet)

  3. Something different to eat every day (and not just recycling my meat stock)

  4. Enough memory in the brain to accommodate the Italian language (not easy since I'm not getting any younger)

  5. A few lines as to why I'm nominating the following bloggers to the same award

Please applaud

Mae's Rice and Noodles for one of the most beautiful food blogs on this earth. Her breathtaking photography, artistic good taste and surely delicious recipes add much beauty to my life. And I like the fact that she has itchy fingers and has been tampering with the layout etc of her blog. Shows that she's as human as the next person, malgré tout.

Precious Moments for the beautiful (and very difficult-looking) cupcakes and other culinary wonders she is forever creating. A creative mother is certainly precious, as you must surely agree.

Jaden's Steamy Kitchen for her beautiful self, equally beautiful photos (couldn't decide which is more beautiful, actually), steamy recipes and sometimes even steamier anecdotes. Her blog is a pleasure to read.

The Dutchess of Lekker for some of the most amazing cross-stitching I've ever seen, her creative juices that go into every sphere of her life (the kitchen is her kingdom, needless to say) and her ability to create a post about snacks in the same breath as her love for Ferragamo shoes.

Passion Fusion, an architect who cooks and bakes and who writes long long posts. His is a work of art, a pleasure for the eye and the senses, an example of French perfectionism and their love for all things beautiful (and tasty).

Thank you once again V for having thought of me.

mardi, septembre 25, 2007

Lor Mee (Noodles in Gravy) and Ngoh Hiang (5 Spice Prawn and Meat Rolls)

Lor Mee

Hubby asked for a Pork Rib Rice Noodle Soup this week and I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and use the pork rib stock to make another one (prawn stock) and have as the final product a Lor Mee. Of course that meant another few days of prawn eating and saving but it was well worth it seeing that I love Lor Mee and have been craving for it.

And to go Hokkien all the way, I've also made some Ngoh Hiang to go with the noodles, only I had run out of beancurd skin and had to make them in rice paper like for Vietnamese Nems.

Lor Mee :

Light Soy Sauce
Ground Ginger

Fresh Ginger
3 Tbsps Flour
600ml Prawn Stock
3 Tbsps Oyster Sauce
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
2 Tbsps Fish Sauce
1 Tsp Sesame Oil

Fresh Yellow Noodles
Bean Sprouts
Hard-boiled Eggs
Coriander Leaves
Fried Shallots
Dark Vinegar

Marinate the seafood for a few minutes. Pan-grill them till they turn golden and set aside.

In the same casserole, heat up some oil and fry the garlic and ginger till fragrant. Add in the flour and stir well. Stir in half the prawn stock and all of the sauces and bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Lower heat slightly, add in the remaining prawn stock and the sauce left over from the seafood marinade and stir well.

Now add in the noodles (they add a particular flavour to the gravy and vice versa) and cook for a minute. Remove the noodles and place them on a plate. Serve hot with the garnishing, gravy etc.

Ngoh Hiang Filling

The Ngoh Hiang are easy to make and it was my misfortune to run out of beancurd skins. The rice paper rolls were a good substitute and I have become quite good at manipulating them, not even needing to wipe them dry after the softening. But I must admit that they were not as good as beancurd skins. Too soft and not salty enough.

Before the frying
Ngoh Hiang Filling :
Light Soy Sauce
Dark Soy Sauce
5 spice powder
Minced Pork
Minced Prawns
Water Chestnuts

lundi, septembre 24, 2007


The Duomo

We had been invited to our first meal in an Italian home last Sunday. One of the guys who works for Hubby and whom he had promoted recently invited us to his flat in Ferrara for lunch.

Ferrara in the Po Valley is a UNESCO city. Used to be a very important medieval city.

The Castle

It has quite an imposing castle in the centre of town that actually has water in its moat. Apparently it was built to defend the ruling family from subjects rebelling against tax increases (haha). There is also a cathedral with a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles and we saw the statue of Girolamo Savonarolas (often compared with the later Jansenists) who used to rule Florence and who was burnt at the stake at Ferrara. A speciality of the city is the cappelacci di zucca which is basically pumkin ravioli in a salty meat sauce. Made me wonder if I shouldn't buy a ravioli maker so that I can create my own ravioli recipes.

The Main Square

F and his wife C are a good looking and really friendly couple. They are expecting their first child and will in January move to Bologna as their current flat is quite small (imagine my 3 kids in there, like bull in a china shop) and F has been living away from home during the week for 6 years now.

And interesting confirmation about closely-knitted Italian families e.g. the couple lives in a flat owned by C's father and when they move to Bologna they'll be house-sitting C's brother's flat. And C's parents will be moving to Bologna too so as to be close to their future grandchild. And F's parents too are ready to move to Bologna if they had to! Wow.

Anyway, the Italian lunch (especially the cheese and rucola lasagne) was delicious, C loves to cook and better still, F likes to clean up after her. They really complement each other.

It is always nice meeting the people working with Hubby. So that you can put a face to the names that he has been mentioning. I expect to be entertaining quite a bit soon, though in the first part of October I'll have to deal with Eldest Son's Birthday Party first and then I'm expecting a girlfriend with whom I'm in cahoots with a little later.

Meanwhile I went to Ikea (again) last Friday. Am still short of storage space. It's starting to be a neverending story. Anyway, you may have heard of the Italians escaping taxes whenever they could and things being so bad that everyone has a codice fiscale and they actually send agents around the country checking receipts randomly outside shops.

Well, that's no myth but a reality. I was checking my receipt after paying up at Ikea and a uniformed guy came up to me asking to check my ticket. He noted the number, amount etc down and even verified what I had in my trolley. Though it was stupid and a waste of time (and my tax money) doing this at Ikea. You always have a receipt at Ikea. They should just stick to small shops and professionals like Doctors etc. Small shops certainly as once, I walked into one in a mall asking for the price of a wooden valet. The girl showed me a folder and the item had 3 prices : official normal, official discounted and no-receipt discounted. Heh heh.

vendredi, septembre 21, 2007

Health Care

I am not rocking, I am going to whine.

My worst fears have been confirmed.

We were initiated into the Italian healthcare system. The paedatrician's a really nice guy (though very Italian - always rubbing my shoulders) and the kids like him. He also took his own sweet time with us (we were there after cabinet hours, remember?). Only hic was that I had forgotten the kids' carnets de santé which contain all their past medical records.

It was so late Hubby even managed to turn up towards the end. Just when we were going to pay (our green public health cards wouldn't work as he wasn't the doctor mentioned on them). Unlike in France, prices were not posted anywhere in the cabinet. And I think we made the mistake of telling him that we have this private health insurance with FISDAF (an insurance available only to Dirigentes and above in the FIAT Group), because he beamed and told us that it was a good insurance (which is not true as we were to discover soon) and promptly wrote out 2 bills for 70 euros each.

You know that I am a Chinese born and bred because though I wanted to squeak and faint in front of the guy, I die die also tried to save face and managed to control myself - but barely.

Goodness, in Singapore, you go to the private doctor at the void deck of the flat opposite and the consultation plus medicine will normally cost around 15 euros. Why the hell should the guy be charging 70 for each child??? Especially when a guy with the right green card would have had the same consultation for free?

And when I went to the pharmacy to fill out the prescription (they do not reimburse medicine in Italy) the next day, I did a double turn when I was asked to pay 80 euros for 1 cream, 2 nasal sprays and a cough syrup. 41,41 euros for the small tube of cream for eczema. I've never bought cream from Chanel but certainly it wouldn't cost as much?

No wonder the Italians are not having kids. Preventive care is not their thing at all. And they will soon find out that this is a big mistake as it'll cost them more in the long run.

And those of you in Asia may wonder why I'm whining. Wah, free consultations, reimbursements...Nothing in most asian countries, ok?

Well, you normally need not subscribe to the public health insurance system either. Every month here, whether you need to see a doctor or not you pay and you pay quite alot. So it breaks your heart when you are badly or not at all reimbursed when you finally use the system.

So I will try to see if I could put the guy down as my family doctor (so that future visits will be for free) but I was told that it will be a huge bureaucratic process to change the names on the green cards. And he may be less motivated to work for us once he starts being paid the public rates. You can't win either way.

Meanwhile, remember the mouse I mentioned the other day? Well, I may have accidentally squashed it when I moved my boxes 'coz Hubby just found it all flat and dried up a few minutes ago. Eeeks.

jeudi, septembre 20, 2007

The Rocking Spade Identifier

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,

I am sitting in front of your computer screen sharing with you the honour that I have been bestowed by the Dutchess of Cookalot recently. Her Royal Highness has majestically tagged me

And I of course have to be the country bumpkin who left her spade in the field to walk into the Oscars award ceremony, winning a trophy and not knowing in which film I've starred earlier.

But I grabbed the prize anyway, beamed, bowed in all directions of the compass, blew kisses to the audience and promised an Internet speech - once I've figured the whole thing out.

Amazing how something that was started by this Roberta who has a blog promising to share her money-making blogging techniques with new bloggers should in 3 months make its way to my ulu part of the planet. The blogosphere is what it is - an amazingly intimate and connected community. And all the more wonderful and powerful for it.

So I was told that I have won this Rockin' Girl Blogger award for my

Tantalising recipes and honest, calling a spade a spade, attitude.

Which isn't too difficult since I am stuck in the country and have been seeing quite a number of spades lying around (actually, not true. Tractors have invaded these parts)...

But it is true that I have a big mouth and is often pretty outspoken though if I do not have anything nice to say I do usually shut my trap.

It is just that I do subscribe to the freedom of speech and I believe that everyone is responsible for what he says and should at no time be told what to or not to say. You say it, you assume it. Those who heard you either agree with you or they don't. And if they don't, they can either tell you why and start a debate, or they could just agree to disagree with you and move on.

Doesn't mean that I lack manners either, I am a trained expert in Political Science and Diplomacy, I know how to dress my words according to the situation though I may be getting rusty (and rustic) through lack of practice :-).

As for my recipes, the Dutchess was being too kind. I cook out of necessity and am so bad in taking pictures I am surprised anybody found them tantalising, but that they are mostly edible I would agree, otherwise I wouldn't dare publish them for the whole world (actually just the few people who pass through) to see.

Anyway, it warms my heart and made my day that one of those few people who passed through did like what she saw enough to nominate me for this award and I thank her again for it.

To continue with the tradition, I now hope to pass on the award to a few other female bloggers :

The Dutchess because she deserves many many times this award for always managing to tickle me as I read about her beautiful recipes, amazing cross-stitching, chic shopping (especially that thing she seems to have for matching shoes and bags) and just about anything. Never a feather out of place. How does she do it?

Umami for her authoritative opinions on and understanding about food. Hers was one of the first blogs I fed myself on and I love the way she could describe and compare what she was eating. When she tells you this particular restaurant is good, you know that she is rarely wrong.

Bibou and Angel thru the Years for the energy and positiveness that this working blogger mom exudes, being everywhere and doing everything at the same time. And alway so very eager to try out new technology on the Net, giving me double vision with her endless videos...LOL

Kuidaore whom I've just discovered recently and whose postings are a pleasure not only for the eye and the senses, but an inspiration. I love her "geekness", her love for beautiful and high calibre culinary literature and her ability to execute them ensuite and make them into her own works of art. I do not know her yet but I hope I'll have the honour of doing so one of these days.

Muchas gracias
, merci beaucoup, grazie mille and to more rocking good blogs everyone!

Happy 35th, A and PL!

My oldest friend A emailed to remind me that her Birthday's coming up. Just in case I've forgotten.

Well, I admit that I do not have the exact date in mind, but I do remember that it's in September. You do not forget it when you have your good friends' Birthdays before yours, you know, when you have them one month older than yourself (grin).

And in September, besides A, my other good friend PL is also turning 35. So I have company this year.

I have known A since we were 13. In Secondary School. PL since we were almost 19 - at University. We have certainly come a long way, haven't we?

A was my favourite buffet kaki in our younger days. We would turn up at 11am (opening) and stay till 3pm (closing) and always made sure we ate enough for our money. Those were the days before we had to worry about our cholesterol and body fat ratio etc. Those were the days.

The last buffet we did together was on my last trip back to Singapore, she bought me a seafood buffet dinner at the former Le Meridien Changi. The number of times I've helped myself to the Black Pepper Crabs...but even then, we've certainly grown up as we (especially not A as she is all svelte nowadays) didn't throw ourselves at all like we used to at the food. Is that good or is that bad?

Ah PL, gone too were the days when we would meet up in a group on Birthdays, catch a movie, shop and then go makan together. Nowadays I just organise Birthday parties for my children and a lunch for the Hub's and somehow nothing much ever happens on mine. Mais c'est la vie.

So Happy 35th, Girls and sorry that I couldn't be there to celebrate with you. But you know that you are in my thoughts and if my oven's working I would have baked a cake and eaten it in your honour.



mercredi, septembre 19, 2007

Me have cleaned house - finally

I finally vacuumed and mopped the 2 upper floors this morning. Though if I had to do this every week (and I'll definitely have to) I'd break down as housecleaning is really not quite my cup of tea. I get distracted so very easily and would really prefer to read a book, walk around, surf the Net or cook.

So I have to get some help in this department. But having a cleaning lady come is alot of responsibility. I'll have to stay around and manage her and I'm a free spirit, not a manager. R was telling me horror stories of her last few domestic helpers, catching one of them trying to leave her house with her panties in the bag, for example. Now she checks their bags etc as they leave the house and the very thought of having to do this horrifies Yours Truly.

I also have a bit of a Social Worker in me and if the lady should start to share her sob stories, I'd probably end up making her presents and playing the role of Shrink on time paid by ME. Anyway, I honestly see no point in having a clean house, just an hour after I've finally cleaned up the house, Baby Boy dumped a can of Mango Lassi on the floor and R's 2nd youngest peed all the way from the living room to the toilet.

Otherwise Eldest Son started his first Cricket lesson in school this afternoon and also spent his first night over at a friend's (R's eldest) since we arrived in Italy. R called an hour ago to inform me that the boy didn't want to take his shower, claiming to have already bathed the day before. Ai, so paiseh, right? Already she came to the house and saw that it was a mess. And I had admited to her that I never iron anything if I can help it (they iron everything in their household). Then the son didn't want to bathe. What do you think she would be thinking?

So I screamed at the stupid boy and told him to go shower like everyone else. Why doesn't God give this kid just a little common sense?

For dinner this evening, with one less mouth to feed (otherwise one chicken wouldn't be enough), I decided to indulge Hub's demand for a Roast Chicken in White Wine Sauce. Used a whole free-range chicken and roasted it in my Le Creuset casserole and the sauce turned out really good, Baby Girl was licking her plate. No picture though as I hadn't been fast enough and Hub had already started to cut up the chicken before I could get to it. Gave away the bones to the neighbour's dog. Hope he didn't leave any around in my field though. He's the sort who comes along, grabs a bone and runs off somewhere to chew it. All that need for privacy when he's chewing on a bone, huh?

Tomorrow we'll make our first visit to a doctor here in Italy. Already it's starting out not the way it should be. I'm bringing the kids to a doctor who's not mentioned on my health card so we'll have to pay for the visit ourselves (heard it's at least 50 bucks per child). But R recommends him highly as he practises homeopathie. Secondly, he's receiving us after cabinet hours (at 7:30pm), so this special treatment is worrying me a little. I must remember to go withdraw some cash before I go, I don't suppose he'll take cards. His other supposed attraction is that his receptionist is Chinese. Like can make new Chinese friend.

Then after this first lazy step, I'll have to find the courage to read up on all the documentation the Health Insurance has sent us in order to work out how the system truly works. Can't keep paying 50 bucks a visit minus the medicine as the Hub unfortunately doesn't print money. And we do have 3 kids.

mardi, septembre 18, 2007

Steamed Chicken Buns/Gai Pau

Steamed Chicken Buns

If I didn't know it better, I would worry that I'm pregnant seeing the number of sudden cravings I've been having lately (but no, just a joke, Mom, no need to freak out. I know that I'm a sow and have already fulfilled my national duty). The latest was this inexplicable desire for Gai Pau which saw me marinating slices of chicken for 48 hours and working the dough for the buns. All that when I still have 2 floors to vacuum and mop. Hubby was telling me about the need to clean the house with l'eau de Javel etc last night when all I could think of, mind you, was said Gai Pau...

The Filling :

Chicken (cut into bite-sized pieces)
5 spices powder
Light Soy Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Sesame Oil
Dry Sherry
Chicken Stock
Corn Starch
Star Anise

Marinate the chicken with ingredients from honey to dry sherry. Leave overnight in the fridge.

The next day, heat up a wok with a little oil and fry ginger, garlic and star anise till fragrant. Add in the chicken and cook till they turn golden brown. In a bowl mix the chicken stock and corn starch and pour into the wok. Add in the chives. Simmer till the stock is reduced. Add salt and pepper and adjust the other seasonings if necessary. Set aside to cool.

Before steaming

The Pau
(short-cut non-traditional method) :

400g Strong Plain Wheat Flour
4 Tsp Double-acting Baking powder
120g sugar
1 Tbsp oil
150ml room temperature fresh Milk

Sift the flour and baking powder twice (important if you want a light and fluffy bun). Dump everything else together and knead for at least 5 minutes. I actually find kneading quite addictive so it was even a pleasure. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough out lengthwise. Cut into small portions and roll out each portion into a flat disc. Put the filling in the middle and wrap around it. Place the pau on a piece of baking paper (or the bun will stick to the steamer) and then onto the steamer. The paus will expand (almost double in size) during the steaming (usually about 10 minutes over boiling water) so space them out accordingly. Made 25 mid-sized buns.

The bun's not as fine (and certainly not as pretty) as the Tim Sum paus you get in good Tim Sum restaurants, but satisfying enough nonetheless. I do not have HK flour, time nor patience so this had to do to satisfy a sudden craving. Besides, it already tasted better than the paus they were selling in the coffee shop below my parents' flat in Singapore.

Irish Beef Stew

Irish Beef Stew

Went to a supermarket in Sassuolo today. I'm finally an optimist, always hoping that I'll find something new or interesting somewhere.

Well, they had the usual stuff, though while looking through the beer section for German Weissbier (I don't ever drink beer but Hubby likes a good one occasionally), I came across a pack of Guinness Stout. I've grown up with the beer advertising (though I get confused as to which were the ones with those beautiful half naked women) and as a student in Paris, I've worked part time for an Irish-owned English language school. So I guess that I'm partial to many things Irish.

Then I arrived at the meat section and saw 2 interesting things : Charolais beef (Hub would be happy) and...Irish Beef. Hmm...I stared at the packs of Irish meat and just grabbed one of them. I have what it takes to make an Irish Beef Stew and so that's what we'll have for dinner this evening.

I used to make normal Irish Stew (with lamb or mutton - easily available in Paris especially at the Halal Butchers), Irish Beef Stew and even Irish Chicken Stew when Eldest Son was still little. And along the way I started adding red wine to my Irish stews probably due to my love for the other big stew - the French Boeuf Bourgignon. And French bread is great for accompanying the stews, which reminds me that I have no bread for my stew tonight. I never found much interest in buying bread in Italy - usually lousy texture and no taste. If the oven's working I could have tried baking one, but well...

Irish Beef Stew :

olive oil
1 Kg (Irish) beef (if you can get the cheeks it would be perfect)
6-8 cloves of garlic
2 celery sticks
1 can guinness or murphy's stout
250ml red wine (optional but recommended)
500ml beef stock
1 Tsp brown sugar
half a can of chopped tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp Lea and Perrins (Worcestershire) sauce
2 bay leaves
A few springs of thyme
100g butter
4 potatoes
3-4 tbsp Flour
Crushed Black Pepper

Heat olive oil in a pot like Le Creuset (grin). Brown the meat, then remove and set aside. Add more olive oil if necessary in the pot and brown the onion and garlic. Return the meat to the pot.

Stir in the sugar, worcestershire sauce and chopped tomatoes. Pour in the beer, red wine and the beef stock. Add the herbs and cover. Simmer for at least 2 hours.

In a separate pan, melt half the butter (I used salted) and sautée the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and celery till they turn golden. Add the buttered vegetables to the meat in the pot. In the same pan, add in the remaining butter and the flour and stir well to make a roux. Pour that into the meat and vegetable stew and let it simmer till everything's nice and tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The stew can be prepared a few days in advance and is actually better re-heated. One can also take the opportunity to remove whatever fat is visible to the naked eye when the stew is cooled. In our case, we have no space in the fridge (every day I like and try to cook something different) and it's too hot in the house to leave anything in the open, so we had to eat it immediately. Hub downed his with a glass of Guinness, of course.

As for the consistency, it's a matter of personal taste. But I like mine not watery and not thick either. I just dip my spoon into the gravy and it should just have a layer of sauce stuck on it and that's good enough for me.

Finally, I may sometimes choose not to add potatoes to cook in the stew. Instead, I would roast the potatoes with whole cloves of garlic and olive oil in the oven and serve them with the stew.

lundi, septembre 17, 2007

Lobster Risotto/Risotto au Homard/Risotto all' Astice

Risotto all'Astice

You arrived at the photo studio and of course found it closed for siesta, something that still takes some getting used to. Most shops here in Modena close between 1 and 4 in the afternoon, be it Summer or Winter and I do so very often tend to forget that and find myself on a wasted errand.

After school on this day I made my way to Formigine with the 3 kids with the express aim of having their photos taken for their new passports. Since December last year, the French Authorities demand a photograph that measures 35mm by 45mm and a measurement from chin to hairline that is between 32 and 36mm. Moral of the story, you have to spend more money and have those photographs taken in a studio, forget the machine and your own camera.

To while away the time, I decided to bring the kids to the supermarket opposite. Big mistake. Found myself screaming away as they rolled their carts down the aisles on some battle of the trolleys. Eldest Son was also filling up MY trolley with all sorts of toys I didn't say I'd buy.

Then I saw IT. A lobster. All cellophane-wrapped and waiting for me to buy it. Why not? Easy to prepare and a nice-looking dish. I wouldn't have alot of time to prepare dinner tonight so that would be perfect.

Risotto all' Astice (for 2) :

2 cups Arborio rice
800-1000g Lobster
Fumet de Poisson
Dry White Wine
Bouquet garni (bay leaves, celery, carrots, cloves, thyme, dill...)
Olive Oil
Salted Butter
Chopped Tomatoes
Crème liquide entière
Crushed Black Pepper
Coriander or Parsley
Lemon Juice and Parmesan Cheese (optional)

In a pot like Le Creuset prepare a stock in which to cook the lobster. Water - White Wine - Bouquet Garni - Fumet de Poisson brought to a boil. When the stock is fragrant, add in the lobster (cleaned, of course), cover and cook it for 10 minutes on medium heat.

When the lobster is cooked, remove it and set it on a chopping board. Remove the head and return it to the stock (simmer at least for another 15 minutes). Remove the claws, legs and set aside. Cut up the body and take out the flesh. Set aside.

In a separate casserole (I used non-stick), heat up some olive oil and brown the shallots and the lobster legs. When the shallots are done, add in some butter (I prefer salted), and when it is melted, add in the rice. Stir a little and then add in the stock. Keep adding more stock until the rice is almost cooked through. Then add in the chopped tomatoes and the cream, salt and pepper to taste. The rice should be al dente, the sauce creamy. Serve with the lobster claw, flesh etc.

For the kids, I served them Chicken Schnitzel with Peppercorn Sauce on a bed of Tagliatelle. As for the Hubby, he was really happy. How many men would return home in the week and get to eat lobster, right?

dimanche, septembre 16, 2007

Rose Petal and Orange Flower Jam/Confiture à la Rose et à la Fleur d'Oranger

Rose Petal Jam

I was trying to find another reason not to do housework and found it in the Rose Petal and Orange Flower Jam. Actually I wanted to make Filo Cigars with them as once again I have bought filo pastry for no rhyme or reason and its expiry date is drawing near. But I remembered that my oven is not working only once I've started to cook it, so now I'm stuck with a jar of very sweet, fragrant and diabetes-inducing jam.

What you need :

150g of untreated Rose Petals (or 8 Tsp Rose Water and a few drops of red food colouring)
50g Orange Flowers (or 2 Tsp Fleur d'Oranger extract)
250g granulated Sugar (good for making jam with)
250ml Water
1-2 Lemons
Zest from half a lemon

Boil the rose petals and orange flowers in the water till the colour is drained out of them. Remove the flora (if you want to you may reserve the rose petals and add them in the jam during the jarring) and add in the sugar and the juice from the lemons. Stir till the sugar is dissolved. Add in the lemon zest (which together with the lemon juice serve as natural pectin but if you want a thicker jam or if you're using only the essences you'll have to add in pectin or stuff like Sure-Jell) and bring the liquid to a rolling boil. Leave it boiling for a minute or so and then turn off the heat. Makes one jar.

Filo Cigars

Leg of Lamb with Whole Brown Lentils Indian-Style

Leg of Lamb with Whole Brown Lentils

This is one of Hubby's favourite dishes. He was so happy to know that I would be making it he hovered around me all the time I was cooking tasting it and making comments and suggestions and of course freaking me out. But it turned out good so all's well that ends well.

Leg of Lamb with Whole Brown Lentils Indian-Style :

Leg of Lamb (remove fat and cut into 2)
1 cup of whole Brown Lentils (soaked overnight, cleaned and drained)
5 Onions
1 thumb-sized Ginger
5 cloves Garlic
1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Ground Turmeric
1/4 Tsp Ground Cloves
1 Tbsp Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp Ground Coriander Seeds
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 Tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper
1 Tsp freshly crushed Black Pepper
1 can Tomato Purée
1 Tbsp Garam Masala
Lemon Juice
Salt to taste
Fresh Coriander Leaves
Fresh Chilli

Pound or mix 4 of the onions and all of the ginger and garlic into a paste.

In a solid bottomed casserole (I use Le Creuset), brown the leg of lamb in some oil till they are nicely grilled. Remove and set aside. In the same oil, brown the onion and then add in the spice paste. Fry till fragrant and then add in the ground spices (except the garam masala). Followed a little later by the tomato purée and the lentils. Stir well, return the lamb to the pot, cover, lower heat and simmer for 1-2 hours.

About 15 minutes towards the end of the cooking, add in the garam masala, salt, coriander leaves, lemon juice and fresh chilli. Serve hot with Basmati rice and in Hub's case, he made himself a Raita (Cucumber and Yoghurt Relish with spices) to go with his meal. The kids ate with us, they love lamb cooked this way too!

Hub's Raita

samedi, septembre 15, 2007

After School Activities

The Brothers in School Uniform

Eldest Son was invited to his 1st Birthday party this afternoon - by a girl he didn't know. Brazilian family who used to be at the school and going home next month so the girl just stays at home while waiting for the return. And she has invited the whole class to her Birthday party.

An afternoon at the local bowling. I accepted the invitation as it's always good for him to be with children his age and also to get rid of him for a few hours, of course. Some absence can only make the heart grow fonder.

We arrived at the bowling and waited a little outside as the Birthday Girl was late. A blue Ferrari pulled up and a little blonde girl alighted from it. R told me that it's a Swedish family (she knows them very well) who owns at least 20 Ferraris. Ironic that Hub works for the company and couldn't even afford to own a tyre of the car.

I recognised a few of the other parents. Ferrari, Tetra Pak...The school is quite small so soon everyone will know everybody at least by sight. It struck me that we now move in a priviledged circle. Where kids can afford to invite the whole class (even kids they didn't know) to a few hours of bowling which probably wouldn't be cheap (so no cheap presents either). At the local pool, I couldn't sign up the kids for the swimming lessons as they were already full. And at least half of the class consists of kids from the International School.

I have spent the whole of last week running around trying to find after school activities for the children. I am horrified by the prices. In Stuttgart, for example, I paid 65 Euros a year for the son to play football and learn Judo in a local sports club. Over here, just football alone will cost 220 Euros a year. Tennis 370, Golf 6-800.

I've been talking to a few Italians and expats and they all told me that over here, rich kids get to have fun and those whose parents couldn't afford to pay will just stay at home. In Paris and in Stuttgart, activities for children are well-organised and reasonably-priced because it is the right of (almost) every child to be exposed to a few sports and cultural activities. And they also tend to be conveniently located (the kids could usually walk, cycle or take public transport if they want to) unlike here where the mother really has to be a full-time chauffeur.

But maybe the problem is with the region where we are. Italy in general isn't too expensive, but walk into Emilia Romagna and especially in the region around Maranello and Formigine and prices start to grow crazy. A Singapore-Swedish family apparently left a few years ago because they found the region more expensive than even Sweden!

Tomorrow Hubby will bring the Son to the Golf Club to try out a bit of Golf. We'll probably sign the boy up for Golf, Tennis and Guitar this year. And at school, he may join the English and Cricket Clubs. For the Babies, I hope to get them a place in Swimming next term and maybe Ballet classes for Baby Girl. I'm still hoping to learn the flute. And maybe also pick up Golf.

So while the Son was bowling away in the afternoon, we went around looking for a tractor and also looked at some plants. Discovered this plant that claimed to be anti-mosquito (with a European Patent etc)! Fancy if we could grow this in Singapore...think of the Dengue scare.

Finally, we found our 8th scorpion this morning and just 30 minutes ago I saw a little mouse in the house (but it escaped me - though if it didn't I do not know if I'd have the courage to smash it).

Voilà some news of the moment. By the way, if you're reading this Dad, can you please try to get me on Skype tomorrow? I've just heard about the cataract and would like to know all about it.

vendredi, septembre 14, 2007

Shiu Mai/Raviolis aux Crevettes et au Porc

Steamed Shiu Mai

To have more prawn shells of course must eat more prawns. So one of the last things I made before the Hae Mee was Shiu Mai (open-faced Prawn and Pork Dumplings). And since making Shiu Mai is more or less like making normal wan tons, I've also made Wan Ton Noodles in the same evening.

Shiu Mai :
Wan Ton Wrappers
Raw peeled Prawns
Minced Pork
Water Chestnut
Chinese Mushrooms
Bamboo Shoots (optional, because I'm not too fond of them)
Light Soy Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Fish sauce
Sesame Oil
minced fresh Ginger
Corn Starch
Coriander Leaves

The Dip :
Light Soy Sauce
Sesame oil
Dark or Rice Vinegar
Chilli Oil/fresh chilli

Before being steamed

Very easy, just mix everything together in a food processor and stuff small portions onto a wrapper and fold upwards around the filling. I used my pasta pot cum steamer and prepared a soup (Ikan Bilis Stock), steaming the Shiu Mai at the same time. The Shiu Mai I served with a dip and the soup I cooked the wan tons in. I also prepared some thin egg noodles and made Kon Loh Noodles with a Stock-light Soy-Oyster-Sugar-Sesame Oil-Rice Wine sauce.

Wan Ton Egg Noodles

Actually, am quite sick of prawns now. Will cook lamb tomorrow.

Prawn Noodle Soup/Hae Mee/Xia Mian

Prawn Noodle Soup

Curiosity got the cat - this time, me.

I was trying to add in a new link to my blog when blogger invited me to update my blog model. I didn't listen to my inner voice telling me to ignore it. Click click and I found myself with this new page where I had to reorganise my links and where I couldn't find some of the non-blogger links like the foodlie blogroll etc anymore. To make it worse, somehow the blog doesn't look quite the same now. And the paragraphing has gone absolutely mad. I nearly fainted when I saw what happened to most of my older posts. It'll take ages if ever I should bother to do something about it.

But after nearly changing the colour of my blog to green, I've decided not to touch anything anymore for the moment (but you'll see that it wouldn't last - I'm very itchy backside).

I'm once again not finishing with the vacuuming (the vacuum cleaner has been left on the 1st floor since the day before), but spent the whole morning preparing myself a Prawn Noodle Soup. Sigh, such a long time since I last cooked the dish. Have been hoarding quite a bit of prawn shells for a few weeks (think of the cholesterol) and was running out of storage space in the freezer.

Mmmm...the heavenly smell in the kitchen. I just love prawns. And I have worked hard to make sure that my prawn shells and heads were nicely caramelised to give that nice natural light orange-brown colour to the soup. After that, one will have to decide if one wants to eat the Prawn Mee the way it is or add in dark soy sauce to have a darker soup.

I didn't use pig's tail and pork fat/lard as these are luxury items over here. And I do have a minimum of consciousness for my health.

The Stock :

3 litres of Water
1 Kg lean Pork Ribs
3-4 cups minimum of Prawn Heads and Shells
20 large juicy whole Prawns (peeled)
1 Star Anis
1 Cinnamon Stick
A few Cloves
1 Tbsp Peppercorns
1 Tbsp Palm Sugar
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
2 Tsp Dark Soy Sauce

I cooked the stock in my pasta pot. First blanche the pork ribs and clean them. Return them to the pot with a new batch of water, the ginger, bashed garlic and whole spices. In a separate pan, heat up some vegetable oil and brown the shallots. Remove and set aside. Add more oil to the pan and when it's very hot, add in all the prawn heads and shells. You have to be patient and allow them to become caramelised and very fragrant. This will provide the colour and flavour to the soup. Add everything to the pork stock, the palm sugar and sauces (but not the salt yet) and let it simmer for a few hours.

Prawns have since lost their caramel colour to the stock

With the pasta pot, it was easy straining the stock. Just add salt to taste and serve it with noodles (yellow, rice vermicelli, rice sticks etc), pork, kangkong (didn't have any and couldn't find spinach either as replacement), bean sprouts, fresh chilli and crispy fried shallots. Of course, one does not forget the big juicy prawns that one would have cooked briefly in the stock before serving with the noodles and the soup.

The mothers usually go to the park with the children after school on Fridays. I had to decline the invitation to join them this afternoon as I was really eager to return home to my Hae Mee. Besides, the gardener would be here to discuss the purchase of a lawnmower (more like a tractor). And more opportunity for me to kill the big pots of plants that we intend to place around the house.

jeudi, septembre 13, 2007

Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Salad Summer Rolls

Beef Salad Summer Roll

People often ask me how I could bear to live in a lonely house in the middle of a field. Point is, I actually find the solitude inspiring. When the wind rises and goes crazy outside, I feel calmer than usual looking out from the inside. Just like when I was a kid in Singapore and a thunderstorm would break out at night and it would rain cats and dogs. And I would spend the night imagining adventures in faraway lands and sleep all the better in the middle of them all.

But I do dislike the fireworks that tend to wake us all up around midnight here every other night. Unnatural and therefore all the more intrusive. At the beginning I thought we had a fireworks factory near our house. In Paris we had the right to 2 fireworks display in a year. Over here, we get them at least twice a week. Who could be so rich, right?

But investigations revealed that between June and September, there are many celebrations (many religious - now where do the churches get their money?) in the different towns and villages surrounding ours and they would all usually end with a firework display. Oh.

So back to my solitary existence (during school hours) in the house, I do so welcome the calm and the quiet, being able to be with my thoughts for once. With shopping probably out and the fact that most of the Ferrari and school mothers are not into cooking (many can't cook and most want to watch their figures), I intend to enjoy my own company to the fullest and indulge myself in useful occupations. In fact I was mopping the floor yesterday (have not done it in 2 months) when I suddenly thought of making Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Salad Summer Rolls. Just like that.

It is actually a normal Viet Beef Salad like what I usually make when the fancy strikes. Only that I've decided to wrap it in rice paper and make Spring Rolls out of them, to be eaten with a Nuoc Cham dip. Very delicious and refreshing, Hubby came back for lunch this afternoon with the express desire to finish up the rolls remaining from last night.

The Summer Rolls :

Rice Paper Rounds
Salad Leaves
Bean Sprouts
Mung Bean or Rice Vermicelli
Mint Leaves
Coriander Leaves
Lime Juice
Salt and Pepper

The Dip :
50ml Lime Juice
50ml Fish Sauce
30ml Cold Water
1-2 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tsp Plum Sauce
1-2 cloves Garlic
Chilli Padi
Some julienned Carrots

It takes some practice to handle the rice paper wraps with some success, but it'll come after 2-3 rolls. I use hot/warm water to soften the dry rice paper that one can buy from an Asian store. It takes a few seconds each (depending on the temperature of the water) and then you take it out of the water and place it on a chopping board or whatever.

One big rice paper is needed for each roll. Though my first few rolls often needed 2 until I get less nervous about it. The rice paper is not as fragile as it looks.

Fill it up with the meat (so that it shows1st thing), salad leaves, then the tanghoon, cucumber, shallots etc. Don't forget the fresh herbs, they add an aromatic touch to the whole roll. Squeeze some lime juice and sprinkle some salt and pepper over the filling.

Roll it up by folding the 2 sides inwards and then rolling the roll from the bottom to the top.

Cling-wrapped Summer Roll

The rolls are best eaten fresh, but for convenience's sake, what I usually do is that I wrap them up individually in plastic film and keep them in the fridge till I serve them. In addition, the wrapping is useful as it makes it easier to eat the roll later on i.e. you unwrap the roll bit by bit as you eat it, making it easier to hold the whole thing and dip it into the sauce.

If you are good at rolling it nice and tight, you can even slice it into 2 artistically and serve it showing off its cross-sections.

The rolls can also be filled with cooked prawns etc. A nice change from pasta and more pasta.

Meanwhile, did I tell you that I got screamed at by an Italian yesterday? They like to stick to your car like glue, and then when they nearly kissed your bum because you have found a parking lot, signaled and started to park, they pull up to your side and scream at you.

The good thing about not speaking Italian is that you didn't understand what all that emotion was about (ignorance, as we know, is bliss), but being a very curious girl, I must admit that I was a little frustrated about it. Otherwise, I see no point in having the last word on this kind of unimportant thing, so if I could make her happy by telling her that I was in the wrong, I would have done so. Only I couldn't speak in her tongue. A pity as God knows she may need it, she looked like she had eaten too much pasta and has not had enough sex. And back to pasta, they make you fat just like German sausages do. If you don't believe me, just come to Modena.

Technical Update

I have just figured out (with help from my dear Dutchess) how to create hyperlinks and am therefore busy trying to replace all those longwinded "for recipe refer to XXX archives" notes that I've been leaving in some of my recent postings. Only problem is that unless you've been reading my blog with your cursor/mouse, you may miss the fact that I've hyperlinked something to my achive or to an article in another site/blog. But don't ask anything more of me, I'm no good at such things, the fact that I even know how to switch on the computer and use it somehow is already a miracle.

My oldest friend A has asked me some time ago why I didn't have an index for my different recipes so that one need not dig through my archives to see what I have. The thing is, my darling, I have no idea how to do that, and am too lazy to figure it out. Unless some kind and computer savvy kaki like One Wheel may be interested in helping me figure that out.

Already, some may have noticed that my pictures nowadays are a little less horrible than the ones in my earliest postings, so the thing is that I progress very slowly which is better than not at all.

Thank you for bearing with me.

mercredi, septembre 12, 2007

Last Shopping Hope

The last visitable shopping outlet (Fidenza near Parma) from my place has been explored yesterday. It turned out to be a little better than the others I've visited so far, but still not particularly exciting. I'll have to forget about shopping and concentrate on other things. Maybe pick up the flute again.

I've also started my 1st Italian lesson on Monday. The teacher must surely not eat alot of pasta as she's very thin. But she seemed confident that I'll be speaking Italian in no time, which reminds me that I've yet to do my homework. I have another lesson tomorrow.

Scallop Hor Fun

With the leftover rice noodles and chicken stock from the Pho Ga, I made myself a Scallop Horfun on Monday. As you can see, still having fun with my leftovers.

lundi, septembre 10, 2007

Monza F1 Race 2007

Ze Ticket

The Hubby and the Eldest Son set out for Monza on Sunday morning all decked out in Ferrari colours (caps, T-shirts, even binoculars). But no water or lunch.

On the way there

The Son was pretty happy with his excursion, having seen Massa and Kimi from wherever he was. A number of his schoolmates were also there, so that must have added on to the festive ambiance.

Star Parade

My Star

The Hubby on the other hand grumbled about the crowds, the heat, the fact that you couldn't see much of anything (the cars went past too quickly, you'd have a better view on the TV) and of course the long queues for and steep prices of the lousy sandwiches he had to buy for their lunch.

This is a bird, a cat,!

Ze Screen
And of course Ferrari didn't win on this day.

I did well to stay at home.

dimanche, septembre 09, 2007

Prawn and Mango Wan Tons

I went to the Mantova and Max Mara outlets last week. For some reason many women told me that I was brave to do so alone. Most have been here at least for a year or 2 and have never gone shopping in those places alone. But I guess that I'm not like most women. I actually enjoy my own boring company very much.

And I did get lost on my way to the Max Mara and Geox outlets. They were having roadworks and the GPS had not been informed about it. Took me 2 hours instead of one to get there, but I wasn't conned twice, got back in under an hour.

Though you wouldn't see me going back anytime soon. Not worth the time, petrol and effort. I could spend 8 hours a week in Metzingen, but over here, in less than 2 I was ready to leave. Except for the Haute Couture (which I can't afford), Italian fashion in general is too flashy and tacky for me. And for last Season's offerings, the prices are way too high. I was told that shopping would be much more interesting in Milan. R said that we should take a train to Milan and shop there. So we shall.

Last evening we had surprise guests from France. Some childhood connaissance of Hubby's who was on his way to Croatia with his girlfriend. And this morning, the minute they left, I had to prepare lunch as R and her 2 girls were coming. Her 2 boys have gone to Monza for the F1 race today. Like my Hubby and Eldest Son. I couldn't go as it wasn't advised to bring the babies along. Maybe next year. R said that Monaco would be worth the trip.

She requested for a Chinese meal, so I made Prawn and Mango Wan Tons to start, followed by Ginger Chicken, Oily Rice, Black Pepper Prawns and Steamed Fish. But no photos to show for the effort, Hubby took my camera along with him.

I got rid of my leftover Okra with success too. R tried it and said that it was "dynamite" (I consider it a compliment since she's Indian) and took it home with her for her French hubby to try. She said that I had to cook her the dish again.

She also gave me a friendly warning. We Singaporeans are known to be friendly, outspoken, open, trusting and talkative (actually she said that I have a Big Mouth). I meet anybody I like and that person would be eating in my home in no time and would know everything about me and my mother. Over here in Modena, Ferrari families are observed, scutinised and talked about. So I ought to watch what I say and do. Apparently I wouldn't know anybody, but very soon everybody will know me.

She is right, of course. Which is why Hubby always keeps me at a distance when we go anywhere near his office. On the other hand, the truth is that I don't give a damn about what people say or think about me. First of all, I believe that we are accountable only to ourselves. I am who I am. You can't stop people from bad-mouthing you and can only leave them to find their peace with themselves. Secondly, it is horrible, but I am so full of myself that you can tell me otherwise, but I will always think that I'm intelligent, good-looking, interesting and wonderful and that's it, I'm afraid (wide grin). Thirdly, I would probably be caught slurping my soup or screaming at my kids in public, but that's the truth, I do it in private too. And who said that that's bad or wrong?

Back to the Wan Tons, they were quite good, I was told. I don't eat mangoes so I didn't try them. I made mangoless versions for myself and they were tasty. Actually, you can probably fill the skins with anything and they'll taste good anyway.

Prawn and Mango Wan Tons :
Wan Ton Skins
Raw peeled juicy Prawns
Ripe Mangoes
Red Onion
Plum Sauce
Salt and Pepper
Coriander Leaves

The Dip :
Plum Sauce
Rice Wine
Light Soy Sauce
Sesame Oil
Shredded Ginger
Red Chilli (optional)

Marinate the prawns in the plum sauce. On each wan ton skin, arrange a prawn, a slice of mango, a few strips of onion and a few coriander leaves. Fold as you like and deep fry. Serve with the plum sauce dip. Basta.

I'm starting Italian lessons tomorrow morning! And will have a busy week as usual. The spiders are back so I'll need to vacuum and I just realised that nothing much will happen in the school where activities are concerned and that I had better start looking around for activities e.g. football, ballet, tennis, guitar, judo, golf etc for my kids to join if it's not too late already. Hubby's going to look into getting us membership at the Golf Club opposite the house, but R said the problem is that there are only old people there and when you bring the kids to the pool, you get nasty looks all the time (kids scream, as you may know). Maybe I should dig a hole in the field and build one myself.

jeudi, septembre 06, 2007

Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Soup)

Pho Ga

The Sambal Okra nearly killed us, so we needed some chicken soup to save our souls (and stomachs). I am rather fond of Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Soup) and having found all the vegetables (especially the fennel bulb) that I needed at the weekly local market stall, decided to go ahead and make it.

However, I am not fond of boiled chicken and hit upon the idea of making my chicken (baizhanji) the Hainanese Chicken Rice away to start and then using the stock to make the Pho. To give you an idea of how successful it was, I used 2 whole chickens thinking that I'd be able to make oily chicken rice the next day to go with one of them, but no, no chicken meat left. All gobbled up.

Meat from One Chicken

The chicken turned out well : succulent, cooked just right, the skin elastic yet firm. The soy sauce-sesame oil mixture that I brushed over it added a fragrant touch and everybody loved it.

For the Pho Ga :
2 whole Chickens (stuffed generously with ginger and bashed garlic)
Fennel Bulb
2 Carrots
2 Onions (picked with 8 whole cloves)
1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
1-2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Tbsp whole Peppercorns (mix of black and white)
2 Star Anises
2-3 cubes of Rock Sugar
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
Salt to taste

Bean Sprouts
Mint Leaves
Coriander Leaves
Thai Basilic Leaves
Lime Juice
Chilli Padi

Heat up a pan and dry roast the cinnamon, coriander seeds, star anises and peppercorns till fragrant. Put them into a tea filter bag and tie it up with some kitchen string.

I had the smart idea this time around to use my pasta pot to cook the soup, allowing me to have a clean soup easily at the end of the day. Remember that I had the chicken the Hainanese Chicken Rice way. So that means that I brought a pot of water to boil, put in the chicken (just one) breast down, allow the water to boil again, cover the pot, lower the heat and let the chicken simmer for 20-25 minutes. Fished it out (easy when using the pasta pot), immersed it in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. In the meantime, repeated operation with the other chicken. You'll see that the cold water will become pretty oily.

Pat cooled chicken dry lightly and then remove the breast meat, wings and drumsticks and brush a mixture of light soy sauce and sesame oil over them. Set aside.

When I had the 2 carcasses, I returned them to the stock (if there is froth and oil on the surface of the stock remove with a ladle first) and added the fennel bulb, carrots, studded onions and the spice tea bag. Boil the soup over medium-low heat for a few hours. Half an hour before the end, add in the sugar, fish sauce and salt.

I just lifted the sieve part of the pasta pot (where all the chicken carcasses etc were) and found a clean and pretty clear soup in the pot. Serve the soup with some rice noodles, bean sprouts, Thai basilic, coriander and mint leaves, some of the chicken meat, lime juice, chilli padi and if you wish, fried shallots. Absolutely good for the soul.