mercredi, novembre 28, 2007

Red Lentils and Potato Coriander Curry

Red Lentils and Potato Coriander Curry with Paratha and Pappadum

I had a craving for dhal, very hot dhal with lots of fresh coriander. So I made one and it was so hot nobody else could eat it. But it was just great. I'm going to make a prawn version the next day.

Red Lentils and Potato Coriander Curry :

200g Spilt Red Lentils
2 Potatoes
50g Green Peas
A few Brown Mushrooms (optional)
1 big Onion
3 Garlic cloves
1 piece Ginger
3 Red Chillis
A bunch of fresh Coriander leaves
1 Tbsp Sri Lankan Curry Powder (chilli, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, fennel, turmeric, pepper, clove, cassia, curry leaves)
1-2 Tbsp Concentrated Tomato Paste
Lime juice (half a big lime)
Water (more water more gravy)
1 Tsp Sugar
Hard-boiled Eggs

Boil potatoes (in cubes) and lentils till they are soft. Set aside.

In a blender, grind the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and fresh coriander leaves into a rough paste.

Heat up some oil in a frying pan. Brown the paste. Add in the curry powder and fry till fragrant.

Add in the mushrooms (halved or quartered) and the green peas. Followed by the tomato paste, sugar and lime juice. Stir a little, add in the boiled lentils and potatoes and then pour in some water. Cover and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add in salt to taste and serve hot with basmati rice, paratha or bread.

Today, the school had a "Wear your own clothes" Day. In return for that, we had the option of making another gift donation to the X'mas Fair e.g. bottle of wine, box of chocolates etc. The children loved it (dressing up for school) and the parents just needed another excuse to make a donation to the school :-).

Baby Boy all dressed up

Spent the whole morning in a meeting with the PTA to finalise a few things for the fair and it was held in the school library. My first time in it and I was really happy to find a Wodehouse book (The Heart of a Goof) waiting for me on the table and best of all, parents could also borrow books from the library! I would certainly be visiting the school more often during school hours, in fact maybe I'd volunteer to do some library duty next year...

mardi, novembre 27, 2007

Another (Lousy) Presentation

The Penguins-drink-urine Presentation

I am but hyper super busy this week. The Christmas Fair is in a few days and I am in charge of the International Buffet as some may know. Yes, I've complained about the perpetual fun-raising in the school, but then I've also learnt to look at things in another light.

Fundraising is actually a social thingy too. I've never been integrated in a school at such speed. I know almost everybody in this school, from staff to kids to their families. And all that in less than 3 months. And that thanks to our fundraising, PTA and other school activities. The teachers are quite involved in the activities too and I've never had so much access to my kids' teachers before. I actually have their teachers' email and they will always reply within the hour.

I've also learnt to look at education (for my children) in a different light. I have complained and will still be complaining about the lack of rigour and content in the International School curriculum. This is inevitable when you come from a rat race society like Singapore where many actually thrive on the pressure. I've had an excellent education in my home country and I am proud to be a product of the system no matter what criticism you may throw at it. It has stood me in good stead in my life and it is one of my regrets that my children will not be a part of it.

Having said that, once you're out of the pressure cooker, you're a different dish altogether. Out here a rigid school system doesn't become kids like mine because it's neither here nor there. You can't normally be too strict with your kids, when it's winter it turns dark at 5pm and it's depressingly cold, you're expected to shine in extra-curricular activities, during Summer you have 2-3 months of holidays and almost never any homework...the conditions are not there to support an intensive result-oriented system like the one we have back home.

So when you follow the IB (International Baccalaureat) school system where you work around topics, are not exam-oriented and work alot on individual development, it could prepare you for life in a different way.

Children in International schools usually move around alot. They are exposed to different countries, people, cultures, food etc. They have a different life experience from those who just stay put. They usually have parents who are mobile and who have important careers. People who succeed because they usually think out of the box, are flexible, respond well to challenges and are open-minded.

So, if these children could not count to 1500 when they are 6 nor could they do divisions by the time they are 8, they could perhaps manage a few presentations, play with their peers, relate to their teachers, talk about other countries and cultures, just be children but happy and confident ones. Or so I hope.

Talking about presentations, parents were invited to the class this morning to watch our children make theirs. I think that most of us were probably as nervous as our kids. I appreciate occasions like this as we learn alot by observing how the other children do in the same situation.

C's Poster

The first presentation was made by C, the Baudelin's eldest. She prepared her presentation all by herself and must have practised lots of times before the mirror, never looking at any notes during her presentation. Even though she's not a native English speaker, she made herself easily understood and was logical and concise. Needless to say, she had a very good chart with nice pictures etc. She even prepared a quiz for the class at the end of it.

J was next, a pretty Swedish girl. Her parents both came to support her and one could see that they had also involved themselves quite a bit in her work. She was really nervous and almost cried, but once she got over it, she did fine. Lots of very pretty posters and information.

Followed by S and being English probably helped, she did a smooth presentation.

M's Presentation with Food Treat

M (R's eldest) did one on bears and R prepared a snack (on what bears eat) for everyone e.g. berries, honey...

Eldest Son was last to present (other half of the class will do so tomorrow). He forgot his opening line, he ate his words, he didn't say half of what he was supposed to say, he kept swinging from side to side, and he misinformed the class - to my absolute horror. At one point, he mentioned that penguins can drink salt water (because they have special glands to help filter out the salt - but of course he didn't really know how to say this) and then he added that when they have no salt water, they will drink their own urine!!!!!

I nearly killed myself for that as I've told him when we came across this salt water point the night before that penguins may be able to drink salt water but not us humans. And that when humans get stranded in the sea and have no clean water, they either try to drink rain water or they'll have to drink their own urine in order to survive. And that idiot misused the info and even told the class that he had come cross it while doing his research! I should have drowned him at birth.

I gave him hell for that of course. R said that I should have told him that he did a great job no matter what in order to encourage him. She is no longer Indian that woman, too much time spent in Europe. How could you tell someone that he is marvelous when he is definitely not? Reverse psychology? They can really delude themselves. When these kids grow up and join the workforce, do you think their bosses are going to praise them when they f*ck up? But I admit that I can certainly be less hard on him, of course. Only that that is the fault of my bad temper and I can't do much about it. Thank God they have all these nice teachers being paid to carry out the IB philosophy to do that kind of thing.

F1 Medical Check-Up for Juniors

Back in France, the French Social Security would offer free check-ups for adults every 5 years and for children they will have theirs at the age of 18 months and 3 years, for example. I always look forward to them as they were complete check-ups where for an hour or 2 they will fuss over you checking your blood, urine, heart, sight, hearing etc etc. For the kids, a Psychologist will even be around to observe your child.

It was therefore a disappointment to leave France and find myself in countries where they are trying to save deficits in their health systems by cutting down on almost everything. Italy is probably in deficit of organisation full stop, so nobody is expecting anything.

However, rich companies like Ferrari offer a few services to their employees and one of them is an annual free medical check-up for children between the ages of 5 and 14. Sadly spouses are not included. I could do with a cholesterol test.

The check-up took place at their Fiorano racing track, so on your way in you could sometimes hear and see Ferraris zooming around. It was held in some sort of a warehouse marked "Logistica" out front and I am beginning to wonder actually if it's a permanent thing or only set up when the F1 season's over and they didn't want to waste the extra space.

Anyway, it lasted more than 2 hours and you have to go from one (makeshift) door to another for each check-up e.g. eye, heart, feet, teeth...And since it was in random order, it's also a question of getting to the right door at the right time or you could end up waiting forever.

List of check-ups

Found out that Baby Girl is a little flat-footed on the right foot (her dad's flat-footed) and that when it came to weight, she's at the top 90% of the population for her age. Her appetite's too good, you see. Eldest Son may need braces for his teeth. Also obtained confirmation that his reaction is slow. He was supposed to run the minute he hears a beep and of course he somehow never did shoot off in good time. Fanying chidun.

On the way out, all the kids wanted to pee. Had to get them to do it near the racing tracks. Hope there weren't any cameras around to catch them in the act.

samedi, novembre 24, 2007

Baked Sea Bass and Vegetables

Baked Sea Bass and Vegetables

We were forced to do a spot of grocery shopping (on a Saturday) because Monsieur decided that he wanted to eat fish for dinner this evening. It's healthier, you know.

This meant squeezing with at least half of Formigine from the road leading to the supermarket to the carpark to the supermarket itself. And à l'italienne, probably half the town's teenagers also turned up because they've decided that this was a good day for solliciting food donations for the needy from the Saturday shoppers, only why they had to turn out in such numbers I have no idea. I'm very Singaporean in this, when I see more than 3 people hanging around together, I get suspicious. And they did block whatever little space we had from the lift to the entrance of the supermarket.

And when we arrived at the little mall, Monsieur disappeared to have his hair cut and Madame spent the hour trying to shop (for us and for the needy) and not lose the kids at the same time. I hate shopping on Saturdays. Especially with the rest of the world. Just for that I wouldn't return to the workforce. Having my bag of groceries for the needy snatched from my hand by one of those teenagers the minute I've paid for them at the cashier didn't help improve my mood. I had images of myself graciously depositing my offering at the main collection counter (where a rather cute man was), you see.

When I was a kid we would go grocery shopping every Sunday evening after dinner. Dad and Mom would be on our backs, making sure that we do not get lost, kidnapped etc. And handy having them around so that when you wanted to buy something you can just get a yes or a no quickly enough and move on. And I don't recall grocery shopping a pain then, but then even NTUC Income had more to offer than your neighbourhood COOP.

We bought 2 Sea Bass and had them baked in the oven. The usual olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, herbs (rosemary, basilic, dill...) marinade only strange inclusion being fresh mint that I stuffed my fish with. Hub never failed to frown when he saw me doing that but I personally find it a nice touch, the mint bringing out the natural sweetness of the fish.

Before being baked

We baked the fish with some vegetables e.g. zucchini, red peppers, potatoes, carrots, brown mushrooms...and prepared a lime juice, crushed garlic and olive oil mixture to drip all over them.

It turned out great as usual, and I would have done it more often if not for the fact that I hate having fish scales all over me and the kitchen where I scaled them.

PS : A note for the grandparents, Eldest Son came in 2nd in his school's Badminton Tournament and on that same day (last Tuesday) he also won all of his matches during Tennis training. It's rare having him win anything so that was certainly one day to remember.

Fat-free Orange Cake

Fat-free Orange Cake

Last night I did a tour of Precious Moment's wonderful blog and discovered her Fat-free Orange Cake recipe. The word "orange" and "kueh-like" caught my eye and the fact that it was fat-free came as a bonus. So I've decided to bake it this morning while waiting for the Hub to finish gossiping on the Net with his mother and old school friend.

What I loved about this cake was the wonderful orange smell that filled the kitchen first when I was boiling the oranges and then later on when I was baking it. And it is a really simple recipe, though while the cake turned out quite delicious, I must admit that it took some getting used to at first - I do so love butter, ahem.

In fact, I think that I'm going to bake it again for the X'mas Fair on Saturday (still have oranges left) and I'll substitute the ground almond with butter. In fact, I'll probably make an orange pound cake.

What I used :

3 Oranges (one was a blood orange)
1/2 Lime (I had this hanging around and had to use it)
270g Caster Sugar (I've increased the amount from 230g)
5 Eggs (I've removed one egg as it seemed to be too much protein)
140g Flour
11/2Tsp Baking Powder
100g ground Almond

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Wash the oranges and boil them for 20 minutes. Drain.

Purée them well in a blender.

Beat the eggs and sugar till they become smooth and fluffy.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the egg mixture. Add in the ground almonds and then mix in the orange purée.

Bake for 40-60 minutes.

Sprinkle icing sugar over the cake before serving.

vendredi, novembre 23, 2007

Lamb Carré & Vegetable Samossas

Lamb Carré, Vegetable Samossas & Grilled Red Peppers

I was at Esselunga the other day and (for once) saw a pretty decent rack of lamb carré. The Hub would complain that I'm not cooking healthy (ever since he has become health conscious) lately, but you know, I go with my taste buds, not always my cholesterol.

And my friend Priscilla and her recent curry puff experiment gave me quite a bit of desire to eat one too, especially when I've just spent all morning hunting for (good) Indian restaurants and grocery stores in the whole of Emilia Romagna on the Net - and not meeting with much success.

Filling for the Samossas

So I've decided to do a spot of fusion cooking and serve my Lamb Carré with some Samossas (curried potatoes, carrots, peas, onion, garlic, whole seeds like cumin, fennel etc, coconut milk, hard-boiled egg, coriander leaves...) and grilled Red Peppers.

Meanwhile, after the Ladies' Night last evening I've been back to questioning myself about what I would like to do in the next few years. It has been quite a number of years since I've had my 2 Post-Grad degrees in International Relations, and I am pretty sure now that I wouldn't want to finish my PhD (though only just 3 years more to go, quite a pity). I am not made for acadaemia, not organised and disciplined enough though I've always done well at school.

However, when I studied Political Science those many years ago, I did have a few objectives namely to give myself the possibility of living and travelling all over the world, learning new languages, meeting lots of men of different nationalities (ahem), tasting different cuisines and working in an International Organisation or why not an NGO ?

I didn't get to exercise my métier since I got married pretty quickly after I've had my degrees, but funny enough I did get to fulfill quite a number of those objectives: I've travelled quite a bit, lived in different countries, I speak French, Spanish, German, Chinese, of course English and am now learning Italian. I've to give up the part about the men (sigh), and I am now left with the question, "Will I get to work (e.g. in an International Organisation)?"

Hmm, I prepared for a driver's license even though I wouldn't normally get to drive if I had remained in Singapore. Yes, I think I'm quite prévoyante. I have a little tendre for the just-in-case.

As such, I'm wondering if I shouldn't go ahead and do another Post-Grad, in something coherent with what I've already done and yet is very much different? Like an MSc in Development Management (if anyone knows about this course and has any advice to share, do shoot). Maybe next year once I'm done with learning Italian and have managed to delegate the housework to some other soul.

Of course I would also like to learn how to play the flute, make La Durée-style pâtisseries, train my son and make him 1st in class, teach the kids Chinese so that they wouldn't miss the China-era, lose weight and tone the bod, become a sex goddess...

While waiting for all that to happen, I'm going to wash the clothes and the dishes and iron the mountain of shirts as unfortunately they do not look like they could wait another year.

Ladies Night and Foggy Morning

The school's PTA organises a Ladies' Night once a month and the last one was held last night in a wine-dinner club La Cantinetta in Formigine.

I didn't attend the 1st one in September as the Hub couldn't be home that evening and for the last one, he started telling me that he wouldn't be back early but a look at my face stopped him in his tracks and he promptly rescheduled his meeting or whatever to another day.

These men spend their lives in power meetings, power lunches, power dinners, power team-buildings and other power what-nots, leaving their womenfolk to mundane but necessary chores like ferry the kids to and from school, doctors, Bday parties, ECAs...the housework and ironing, shopping for food, cooking, organising vacations - to name but a few. Then on weekends they come home and expect to do their own stuff for their own pleasure ("because I've worked sooo hard all week...") while we end up doing the same things (and more) we do in the week. Don't we deserve to have a break from our routine too?

In any case, going out in the evening is never a real break from routine. When Mister has a dinner, he just goes for it. When Madam has one, she still has to get dinner etc ready for everyone before that. So last evening, I prepared a Beef Carpaccio for Eldest Son (who incidentally is sick and is staying at home with me), a Seafood Salad for the Hub and Grilled Chicken with Chilli and Coriander for the Babies before I left for my Ladies' Night.

Seafood Salad

And I almost didn't leave as the Babies started to cry the minute they saw me getting ready to leave without them and it was a whole big drama at the door. Baby Boy had his boots on and was jumping up and down screaming and crying at the same time. Quite a heartbreaking scene (for the mother).

I left anyway and drove to Formigine. Was the first to arrive and nearly fainted when the barman mistakenly told me that the reservation was for 10pm (instead of 8)!!! But then Hjalmar's mom N arrived and it was with great relief that we settled down at our table. The first thing she asked me was whether I cook what I cook every day. Apparently she ate at G's house last Sunday and got to taste the Thai Green Curry and Viet Rolls that I prepared with G on Friday. She loved it and wanted to know if I could teach her how to cook Asian too. Hmm, so that looks like Cooking Partner Nº 2.

The other mothers started arriving at 20 past 8 and by around 9 we were actually nearly 20! Quite a good turnout if you consider that we are only about 60 families in the whole school.

La Cantinetta is actually some sort of a cellar/basement with arches and stone walls. And the only image they played on their big plasma on the wall was that of a fireplace burning away. Gave one the illusion of warmth and must say that it probably worked quite well.

I had 2 glasses of Moscato d'Asti as I needed to drive back and in any case I'm not an alcohol person. In Singapore or with most other Asians, a Ladies' Night would be an eating night, but well, not in Europe apparently. It was nice getting to know the other mothers, but with so many people talking at the same time, it was noisy and I had difficulty concentrating. I'm a tête-à-tête sort of girl so big crowds are not my scene. But luckily in Italy now you can't smoke in restaurants and bars so at least we didn't have to live with any smoke.

I learnt that many mothers used to have good careers but had to give them up to follow their Hubs around. That they are pretty sick of being housewives, especially in an ulu place like Modena. So I'm not alone.

With G we were the 1st to leave. And it was 11pm. I was falling asleep where I was and knew that I had a short night and long day ahead. Reached home to find the Babies in bed with the Hub. Very short night.

This morning, woke up to see nothing in front of the window. Could I be suffering from a hangover after just 2 glasses of moscato?

But no, the famous Modena fog had finally settled in. Sh*t, how do I turn on the anti-fog lights in the car?

jeudi, novembre 22, 2007

Minced Pork and Chinese Cabbage Rice Porridge

Minced Pork Rice Porridge

Now and then I like to prepare something in a rather important quantity and then spend the next day or 2 transforming the leftovers. I actually find that quite an interesting exercise.

So the other day I bought some minced pork. Used some of it for the fried spring rolls. Then I marinated the remaining pork with some light soy sauce, sesame oil, dry sherry, sugar, garlic, grated ginger, salt, pepper, fresh chilli and chinese cabbage.

Steamed Pork with Egg

One portion I put in a metal bowl, added in some coriander leaves and 2 lightly beaten eggs and steamed it for 10-15 minutes. That made one light and tasty Steamed Pork with Egg, Hubby actually liked it very much. Mom used to make us that quite often when we were kids. It would taste even better with some tofu and salted fish, but the Hub would freak out.

The other portion I made a Minced Pork and Chinese Cabbage Rice Porridge with. Just Jasmine rice that I soaked in a little sesame oil, added water to and brought to a boil with a little salt. When I've cooked it to my desired consistency (about 2 hours, stirring constantly), I added in the marinated pork and cabbage and cooked it together for at least another 3o minutes.

This was comfort food as I do so love rice porridge (especially abalone, pig's liver...). I served the porridge with some of the Gnocco fritto and fried onions. Another portion I experimented a bit and added in some Balsamic Vinegar. Not bad at all.

Tau Suan (Mung Bean Soup)

Spilt Mung Bean Soup

I've been saying each time I ate a Gnocco fritto that it tasted quite a bit like our Youtiao (dough fritter). So when I came across a packet of spilt mung beans the other day at the local Chinese shop (but you only see Africans in it weird enough), I decided to make one of my favourite desserts - Tau Suan.

There are more than one ways of making it, one of which was to soak the beans for 2 hours, drain and then steam them for 20 minutes before adding them to a syrup made of water, rock sugar, pandan leaf and caltrop starch.

I decided to soak them for a few hours, drain, boil them in water, rinse the beans a few times by throwing away the water and boiling the beans in more water (until the water's clear). Then I made a caramel with normal white sugar so as to give the Tau Suan a golden colour, added in water and a pandan leaf and substituted the Caltrop starch with a equal mixture of corn and tapioca starch. Added in the cooked mung beans last and cooked it till I obtained the desired texture.

I fried the Gnocco fritto I bought from the supermarket, and added them to my Tau Suan. It tasted really yummy. As a matter of fact, I made a chocolate cake for the rest of the family and ate up the whole pot of Tau Suan myself.

mercredi, novembre 21, 2007

Lotus' Quick Oatmeal Soup

Quick Oatmeal Soup

Freshly inspired by G's Lebanese Oatmeal Soup, Lotus decided to make her own Oatmeal Soup for lunch today. Hot soup instead of the usual snack not because she has suddenly become health conscious, but because all the heaters are out since yesterday and Lotus is freezing to her bones. And no news yet about anybody coming over to help fix the problem.

Quick Oatmeal Soup :

Quaker Quick-cooking or Traditional Oats (quantity depends on how thick you like your soup)
Chicken Broth
Fresh Chilli
Brown Mushrooms

I've also added in some of the leftover cooking juice from yesterday's mussles. Yes, Belgian-style Moules Frites! LOL

And as you can see, I like my oatmeal soup thick, chewy and starchy.

mardi, novembre 20, 2007



When we were living in Jaén (Andalucia, Spain), I usually drive to the local "wet" market in the morning and start my day with a few Churros from the shop opposite. The lady worked with a partner in a small shop with 3-4 tables, frying her Churros on the spot and serving them with sugar or with a cup of coffee or very thick chocolate. And the Euro had just arrived at that time and a small bunch of the good stuff cost 50 euro cents. I was expecting Baby Girl then and no doubt the daily Churros contributed to the extra 20kgs I've put on for that pregnancy.

Her tools were simple then, just a wok of hot oil and a big tin funnel over it that had a handle. She turned the handle and the dough would come out of it and she would then guide the dough into the oil.

This afternoon, as I was listening to my compilation of Spanish songs from Almodovar movies while driving back from Ikea (trying to decorate the spare room for Baby Girl's Bday Party), the desire to eat Churros hit me quite suddenly and so Churros we were to have for afternoon tea!

1 cup Flour mixed with
2/3 Tsp Baking Soda
1 cup boiling Water
A pinch of Salt
Ground Cinnamon (optional)
Fleur d'Oranger essence (optional)

The principle is quite simple, just stick to the proportion of 1 cup flour to one cup (and a little bit more of) boiling water. Mix them together, add in the salt etc and then let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes.

Heat up oil for deep frying to 190ºC. Using an icing piper (with the biggest opening possible, churros are usually about 2cm in diameter), pipe out the dough into the oil in a coil. Fry for about 2 minutes.

Remove from oil and drain on absorbant paper. Use a pair of scissors and cut each coil of churros into smaller pieces. Sprinkle some icing or castor sugar (with or without ground cinnamon) onto the Churros or you could also roll them in a plate of sugar. Eat them hot. If you prefer, you can also dip your churros in a cup of coffee or thick hot chocolate.

lundi, novembre 19, 2007

Lime Tartlets/Tartelettes au Citron Vert

Lime Tartlets

I am, like everybody else, on Facebook. Only thing is that unlike everybody else, I do not really know how to use it. So I'm just there without really doing anything.

Then I suddenly remember that if everybody else is on Facebook, maybe I could find some of my long-lost friends from my long-lost youth! Of course I didn't do it right at 1st, spending hours looking through alumni lists and all when just by typing the person's name we would be able to know if he or she's on Facebook or not. I did say that I'm no good at this. And I try to avoid going there if I can.

The important thing is that I actually found a few Secondary School and Junior College mates on the site and most importantly - Roy, my best male friend from JC with whom I've stupidly lost contact more than 6 years ago...

With age, I think alot about the kids I grew up with and never saw again. I wonder about where they are now, what they have done, what they are doing now. Sometimes I would even stay awake at night thinking about them. Needless to say, sometimes they would also invade my dreams.

To take my mind off some of these thoughts (I mean, what can you do about this?), I decided to do another spot of simple baking. East Meets West Kitchen has a recent posting on Key Lime Pie and anything that has lime in it attracts me. It's a simple recipe only that I did individual portions (and using ready-made sweetcrust pastry) and used fresh limes as I couldn't find bottled lime juice.

Limes from Brazil

I do not know if the limes I used were Key limes (also known as Mexican limes but they actually originated from S.E Asia!) but they were all I could find here and they came from Brazil.

Normally, a Lime Pie doesn't turn out green due to the high egg yolk content, so don't worry of it is actually yellow in colour. And why do we use condensed milk in this recipe? Because back in Key (Florida) when they started making this pie, they didn't have Tetra Pak or refrigeration to help keep their milk fresh so they usually have it canned. Simple as that.

Tartelette au Citron Vert :

Sweetcrust pastry
4 Limes (for juice and the zest from 1 of them)
3 Egg Yolks
1 can sweetened Condensed milk
Whipped Cream or Egg Whites

Beat yolks and condensed milk and mix in the lime juice and zest. Pour into individual pie crusts and bake in preheated oven (180ºC) for 15-20 minutes. Let them cool.

You can serve it with some whipped cream (in which case whip the cream with some of the lime zests) or with a meringue topping. For the latter, it's a good way not to waste the leftover egg whites. Beat it till it turns light and fluffy, add in sugar and continue whipping, then using a pastry piper pipe the mixture onto the cooled baked tartlets and grill them in the oven till it turns golden.

I had an even easier no-waste solution, I served the tartlets with whipped cream and just fried the egg whites and ate it with a bit of pepper and dark soy sauce.

Lunch at G's

Lebanese Oatmeal Soup

G cooked us a lovely lunch this afternoon, starting with a Lebanese Oatmeal Soup, which was really tasty - salty, chewy, liquid at the same time. E, one of the French ladies, didn't have any of it though as she is currently on a one-month diet which demands her to spend the 1st 15 days eating only proteins and the next 15 alternating between proteins and vegetables but with no right to any carbo at all. I can live without meat or vegetables but I hold my rice quite dearly unfortunately. But apparently this diet works, she has already lost 3 kgs and will normally lose 11 by the end of the month.

It was followed by a Poulet à l'Estragon served with Lebanese-style white rice and a yoghurt sauce that I unfortunately didn't taste as I'm not fond of yoghurt at all. But the chicken was tasty and I had a few servings of the carbo. Bad Lotus.

Poulet à l'éstragon

The worst best was to come last - a very moist and yummy Chocolate Cake! E resisted to the very end while F and myself had more than a bit of everything. Only that F is very svelte and I am not.

Chocolate Cake

So we chatted in French about this and that, complaining or praising our men (depending on whether he belongs to the former or latter camp), basically getting to know one another a little better. R (who's married to a French) didn't turn up but she didn't inform us either that she wouldn't turn up, so there was quite a bit of food left. With December being a busy month, I doubt if we'll have another gathering then so the next one will probably have to wait till late Jan or early Feb. It'll be E's or R's turn to host it, I intend to do it last for once.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau/Croquettes de Morue

Bolinhos de Bacalhau

I did say that I will be doing Bacalhau soon and I like to keep my word. So last week I bought a nice piece of salted cod (morue in French and bacalhau in Portuguese) and promptly put it into water for more than 24 hours, taking care to change its water at least 3 times. And then last night I made Bolinhos de Bacalhau with them, and am pleased to report that Baby Girl who has decided recently that she doesn't like fish ate the most of those balls.

500g Salted Cod
Bay Leaf
2-3 Potatoes
2 Eggs
Fresh Parsley
A pinch of Nutmeg

Prepare the cod by rinsing it of its salt i.e. putting it in cold water for at least 12 hours and changing the water at least 3 times. If you can, run it under trickling tap for a few hours.

Drain the cod.

In a frying pan, dry grill the cod skin side down with the sliced onions, pepper and bay leaf. Add in 500ml of water (or enough to cover the fish entirely) and bring it to the boil. Lower heat quickly (or the fish will become tough), cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Turn off heat and let it cool.

Boil the potatoes and remove their skins. Mash them with a fork. Let it cool.

Drain the cod, remove the bones and skin and mash it with a fork. It is best mashed finely so that you wouldn't get bits to chew but I like them in pieces so I didn't mash them too much. Add the fish to the mashed potatoes and mix in the beaten eggs, chopped parsley and a pinch of nutmeg. Do not add in any salt, the fish will normally be quite salty still. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes.

Heat up the oil to 190ºC. Hold a fork or spoon in one hand and scoop some of the mixture into the other. Shape it into a ball and put it into the hot oil. Fry for 4 minutes. Serve hot, goes well as an appetiser.

dimanche, novembre 18, 2007

Fried Spring Rolls

Fried Spring Rolls

Our visit to Singapore is approaching. With it I always do experience mixed feelings. Of course I am happy and excited, but I also know that I will be very sad because once you set foot on the island, you know that your days there are numbered. And leaving is hard.

After more than 12 years away, a foreign hubby and 3 quite foreign kids later, you would expect me to have made my home away from home - for good. I probably have, except for the occasional return home in the mind, me wandering like a spirit in the parents' HDB flat, opening drawers, touching things...

For I have left quite a bit of my past life behind when I left the island more than a decade ago to do my Post-Grad in Paris. My books, letters from penpals, piano certificates, postcards, photo albums, clothes...My parents have left my things more or less the way I've left them and even me when I return home, I would rarely touch them. I can't turn back the clock and I cannot take back the bit of me that refuses to leave deciding instead to stay behind.

That is my current state of mind and it doesn't help that the weather has finally turned cold and my annual winter blues are setting in. On Saturday as such I had a sudden desire to make something from home and finding a pack of made-in-Singapore frozen spring roll skins in the Chinese shop here, decided to make some Fried Spring Rolls. The Hub started to complain that they wouldn't be good for our diet and that gave me an opportunity to snap at him, "Don't eat any of them, go chew on a leaf!"

The spring rolls from back home have a particular taste to them. I thought about it for a while and decided that it came from the soy sauces, sesame oil etc and am glad to say that I wasn't far, they did taste quite like the ones I remember eating in the Tim Sum restaurants back home. Though the next time I'll try to make them without meat and prawns and see if they'll still taste the same. The vegetables I used this time round included carrots, bean sprouts, zucchini, red bell pepper, shallots, mushrooms, green beans, chinese cabbage...whatever I could get my hands on in other words.

Meanwhile, the guy who was on a diet made his own sauce while waiting for the spring rolls to be fried and ate them up before you could say "Diet".

vendredi, novembre 16, 2007

Cooking with GA

Just when I was going to give up my idea of cooking with the mothers, G came to me asking if I could teach her how to cook Asian. So I found myself this morning at her place after sending the kids to school, preparing Chicken in Thai Green Curry and a few Vietnamese Raw Spring Rolls using Prawns, Rice Vermicelli and Salad. Simple dishes to start with.

Chicken in Thai Green Curry

It was nice cooking together as we could chat as we cook. Not quite like in my student days (and those were good ones) but close enough. Now it's adult talk, the kids etc. And we didn't have to stinch with the ingredients, nor worry about who pays for what.

We started the morning with a nice platter of sweet petits fours from this pastry shop that I've discovered yesterday in the centre of Formigine, and she cooked me a very nice lunch of Chilli and Coriander Prawns with Lebanese-style steamed Rice. Really simple and good. I went home that evening and made my own version (using olive oil and adding garlic to the chilli and coriander) for the Hub.

G's Prawns in Chilli and Coriander

On Monday G will be hosting our 2nd French-speaking Mothers' gathering and she has decided to offer us lunch! I guess my diet is not looking rosy at the moment.

And as I was loading the kids in the car after school this afternoon, K the President of the PTA sauntered up to me. How about offering to cook a meal for 4 on a Friday evening for the Christmas Fair auction?

Besides me having something better to do than delivering a meal to who-knows-where on a Friday evening, goodness, what if nobody wants to bid for it???

Fighting Kids Part II

Baby Girl spent 2 days with me and 3 nights in my bed. Meaning I've slept badly as I'm a light sleeper and hear almost everything. I woke up every hour last night, for example, as I keep hearing the electricity supply to the phone being being cut off and returned all night long. There was also the wind howling away, of course.

I didn't bring her to the doctor. No, I'm not sadistic, but I usually let my children recover as much as they could on their own if the illness permits. I keep a tight watch on their symptoms, of course, and just treat them (e.g. panadol for fever or pain, cough mixture for cough etc). I try to distinguish between a viral or bacterial infection. If by the 2nd or 3rd day there is no improvement, I'll send them to the doctor - but not before. I like to think that that's why they are rarely sick (touch wood) and that that contributed to their being very good sick patients in general.

I thank those of you who have expressed concern over Baby Girl's health and want you to know that I appreciate this very much. One great thing about blogging is that though we may often not have met each other (yet), there is a certain spirit in the community that ties us together, not to forget reasons for blogging e.g. food, children or travel.

Meanwhile, I have been approached by Baby Boy's teacher yesterday. H's mom had gone to her. Now the teacher tells me that the boy has stopped hitting my children for a few weeks now but that whenever somebody does something wrong, they will tend to blame it on the boy! Now you understand why it's difficult for criminals to start anew...ok, it's not to be joked about (guilty look).

I've brought those two monkeys aside and told them that it is wrong to put the blame on people for things they didn't do (wrong). If the teacher would talk to the mothers of the other children doing this maybe H will have a better time in class and not be tempted to be aggressive with the others etc. Vicious cycle & Co....

I've written an email to his mother to inform her that I've talked to my children about this and to apologise.

mercredi, novembre 14, 2007

Men to Golf Cleaning Up's for Women

The Golf clubs arrived this morning. Hub's Wilson Ultra TXF Starter Set (13 clubs in total) and Eldest Son's Wilson Prostaff Junior Set (with 6). And their respective trolleys. Men's (expensive) toys, lady to hang around at home to accept delivery.

Though I wouldn't be able to run around today, with Baby Girl all sick and whinny. If I could predict winning lottery numbers like I could when she would vomit, I would be very rich by now. So at midnight last night I was changing pyjamas and bedsheets, giving her a bath and cursing away (as she moved when I told her not to and I had vomit all over the floor as well and she had eaten loads of chicken curry for dinner!). And nobody else woke up in all this excitment, nobody. The Hub slept through it all.

Back to the golf clubs, the old man delivering them told me as he was waiting for me to sign the delivery receipt, that he used to live in the house 45 years ago. Now that really got my attention.

He lived here with 7 other farmhands for 5 years. They used to grow wheat in the fields around. The empty part of the house now used to be the stalls in the old days. And he has not been back for 35 years now. Amazing, isn't it? I wish I could speak better Italian as I would have liked to know much more about the history of this house and all its ghosts.

For lunch we joined a few Kindergarten and Transition Year mothers at the restaurant Il Contea di Montale (between the school and my house) for Tigelle, Gnocco Fritto, Pasta, Risotto and Pizza. Many started to complain about the (low) standards of the school, the incessant fundraising etc though we must admit that the children seem to be happy in it. Next to me Baby Girl was stuffing herself with the cured ham and pizza that she, as I've suspected even then, would promptly throw out once we reach home.

At one point I decided to tell little Hjalmar's mom (sitting opposite me at the dining table) that the Babies have been returning home for the past 3 months complaining that her son has been hitting them at school. I subscribe to the belief that children do fight and should fight things out among themselves, and that as long as nobody risks getting hurt, parents shouldn't interfere. However, it is important for us to know what's going on and why.

She took that badly and said that the teacher has mentioned nothing to her and that if there is any fighting, her son wouldn't be at fault alone. And she thinks that I shouldn't have talked to her like that in front of everybody (not that anybody was listening to us honestly).

Why do some parents take what their kids do or not do like a personal affront to themselves? Just one week after school started, Cesare Wang's nanny came up to me to tell me that Baby Girl had been beating up her charge. I promptly pulled the girl over and interrogated her in front of her accuser. She didn't deny it so I asked her to apologise to the boy and promise not to touch him again. I didn't hear any more complaints about it again and if I did, I would certainly want to know why she would want to beat that very shy and quiet boy. What goes on between kids can be quite intriguing at times. In Stuttgart, she kept being bullied by a pair of brothers and I found out after some investigation that that was because they were in love with her! Hahahaha...

In Hjalmar's case, what happened must be true as I actually had other kids in the class coming up to tell me that he had been beating up my kids. And love couldn't be the motive as he likes to beat up Baby Boy too. Only explanation (given by the teacher who didn't mention anything to the mother) was that he doesn't speak English yet and may be feeling frustrated about it. If I'm the mom, I would be feeling grateful if I could find out important things like that about my children. So anyway, things seem a little tense between us now, though after all these years living in Europe I've become quite thick-skinned and will face any uncomfortable situation with my little boobs perked up and a cheerful smile plastered on my face. I am letting nothing except my weight bother me.

mardi, novembre 13, 2007

R's Birthday

Happy Bday, R!

This has been a busy week so far. Monday after Italian class I attended the PTA Meeting at school where a Swedish mom actually said it outright that she had about enough of the fundraising madness. But well for this year, since we've started the ball rolling, I think we should get on with it and make sure it arrives at its destination with minimum mishap. So I have my International Buffet to run and I'll do my best by it.

Then this afternoon I attended R's Bday lunch with a few other mothers, including a Swedish lady (child used to attend the school) whose Hubby owns many Ferraris. She's really quite fun and not quite like most straight-faced Swedes around, it was really quite a nice lunch. We were 7 guests who turned up (plus a few kids), ate pasta and seafood salad and had a few glasses of white wine and R had a lovely Bday cake and told us she felt younger than ever. Well, she does look at least 10 years younger than she really is.

With such a lastminute invitation, most of us had some difficulty finding her a suitable gift. R has loads of branded stuff so if we should decide on Fashion it would mean a trip to Bologna or Milan and nobody had the time for that. So we played safe and I had the unoriginal idea of offering her a cookbook on Chinese cooking (she did say she could eat Chinese every day) and with too many people wanting to share paying for it, we had to add an Eros CD and a decoration object. Hopefully we'll do better the next time, though she did say she loved the book as she enjoys collecting cookbooks. Archiving this piece of new info.

I'm starting to get quite chummy with G, a Christian Lebanese married to a Swede and she wants me to go over to her place on Friday and teach her how to cook Thai. So I did manage to get someone interested in my cooking-together offer after all. Things are starting to look up here.

R (an American mother) had her son throwing up at the school's gate this morning. The Vice Principal had to exercise her mopping up skills in front of the whole school. Baby Girl has been showing all the other symptoms for a few days now, so I'm expecting the climax any moment now. Only with my kind of luck she'll be doing it in her bed, after dinner, in the middle of the night. With no one to admire my cleaning up skills.

dimanche, novembre 11, 2007

The Baudelins came to lunch

Raspberry Mascapone Millefeuille

I did say that we would be inviting all the French families we know in Modena to lunch at our place. And I like to keep my word. Even if at the moment I do not really feel like entertaining, me not having cleaned house in a while, have not yet decided what to do for Baby Girl's coming Birthday, the X'mas Fair's round the corner, Eldest Son has another presentation coming up and I've yet to pack and buy gifts for my trip home to Singapore...And not being a multi-task person, I have no idea where to start.

But when you keep bumping into people at school and you hear your own words telling them that you would be inviting them soon ringing in your own ears, you know that for your own sanity you had to get on with it.

The Baudelins turned up at noon for lunch. With 3 girls in tow. Their eldest is in the same class as my eldest, though they are like day and night, their girl being the sort who does all her homework in time and on her very own. Yin and Yang, you understand.

I didn't cook anything new as I didn't want to spend my time thinking about what and how to prepare anything. Besides the Hub overslept and didn't help out as he said he would, so just as well that I just did a few classic stuff :

  • Mini Prawn Quiches

I used foie gras de canard mi-cuit and a sweet Italian Passito wine this time around
  • White Wine & Herb Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Garlic Green Beans
In memory of the Bs' few years spent living in Morocco
  • French Cheeses
  • Chocolate Whipped Cream and Mascarpone Millefeuille with Raspberries
Hub remarked that those French girls were pretty well-behaved and quite a change from most other kids who would have razed half our toys in no time. And I am quite fond of F, one of those rare straight-talking mothers from the school who do not wear their money at the front of their T-shirts. But then that's also something quite French, being obvious about having money is usually considered vulgar so they usually try to be subtil about it.

The coming week promises to be another busy one. PTA Meeting on Monday, R's Birthday lunch on Tuesday, Mothers' Lunch on Wednesday...And I should really get to clearing out the spare room upstairs as that may just be a good place to do Baby Girl's Bday Party in...

Agriturismo Grimandi Tonino

Babies on the Tractor

Our gardener Gaetano came and planted a few plants around the house the other day and the Babies had a great time following his tractor around and even getting a ride on it. Hub asked if I could make a few mini quiches to go with the wine he wanted to serve G once he had finished his job.

As G enjoyed his wine and snack out in the autumn sun, he told us that he knew of this "best" agriturismo Grimandi Tonino in Piumazzo that does an excellent regional cuisine and that will be offering a special dinner for St Martin's the coming Saturday. We've always wanted to eat at one of these famous farm restaurants and so asked him to reserve a table for the 5 of us.

It was about 30 minutes away from our house (when you think that we live right next to one - but apparently it's not as good as Tonino) and we were a little lost on our way there the GPS somehow not having the address in its system.

When we arrived, we were greeted by G and his family (they were dining there too except for the son who actually works as a waiter there on weekends) and a glass of sweet sparkling red lambrusco wine. Plus fresh walnuts and best of all - grilled chestnuts! I was really excited about it and started stuffing my face with them as I do so adore warm grilled chestnuts.

Where they grilled the chestnuts

We proceeded to the rustic high-ceiling dining hall for our meal and were greeted by the owner himself who seemed proud to have someone from Ferrari dining at his place. In fact, over the next few hours, there would be a few other guests turning up to seek confirmation with the Hub that he indeed worked for Ferrari...

Cheeses, sundried tomatoes, mini-peaches, sweet onions...

Cured Meats from the region

Fried Bacalao Fritters

Mariola con purè (tasted like Taiwan sausage without sugar)

Costolette impanate
(tasted like lamb version of KFC)

We ate and we ate and we ate. The food was fresh, simple but so very good. Prepared lovingly by the owner's wife, we were told. We had loads of antipasti (salami, cured ham, cheeses, sweet grilled onions, tarts etc etc), a funghi porcini pasta starter and 2 main courses (pork sausage and fried breaded lamb chops), wine, water and coffee were included and by the time dessert arrived I was almost dead. G started taking out bottles and bottles of digestive wines many of which were made in the farm. I crossed my fingers that we wouldn't be stopped by the police for an alcohol test because Hub had really drunk quite a bit that evening.

The famous Modenese Gnocco Fritto that is like youtiao and that they eat like bread

G explained that Italians usually drink wine like water at the table which is why they don't usually drink good wines like the French

The desserts

And we paid a reasonable price for this yummy evening (31 euros per head) and agreed that we would definitely return for another meal soon. They only serve the public on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sunday noon and apparently the Sunday lunches are normally even bigger events with even more dishes. Needless to say, in a few hours all the weight I have lost last week and all the weight I may lose this week had all been regained with a vengeance. Can never win.

Azienda Agrituristica Grimandi Tonino
Via Bastarda 9
Piumazzo (MO)
Tel : 00 39 059 934247