lundi, janvier 28, 2008

Modena Golf and Country Club

Risotto with Saffran Threads (excellent)

When I was a kid in Singapore, Clubs like the Tanglin Club seemed very out of reach, only for the rich and the priviledged as we all know. Then my aunt became a member of the Civil Service Club where she would bring me to occasionally for a swim, dinner and then Tombola. And after I've left Singapore, my brother would go for a swim or a massage at the SAFRA Club and the last I heard many more accessible clubs have since sprout all over the island.

Over here in Modena, the Hub has recently taken up membership at the local Modena Golf and Country Club (really just opposite the house) so that he could spend his hard-earned money on expensive golf lessons and practice. I see no charm in the game and have no desire to spend hours in the fog hitting balls, so I've declined to be a member too, saving us a few thousand euros as a result. Though that didn't seem to bar me from joining the Hub at the Club for lunch almost every Sunday. And come Summer, I hope that this hospitality would extend to access to the Club's pool for the kids.

The Club's restaurant is a pleasant and bright room with a view of the lolling green and the service is good and efficient. The menu changes often enough and has a small but good selection of pasta, meat and sometimes fish dishes. Though if you wish to avoid overcooked meat, you'll really have to insist on the "rare" bit and still cross your fingers that it'll be as you like it.

Lamb Chops with Spinach (too cooked)

Other than that there doesn't seem to be much else to the Club. No Spa, no Pilates, no Tombola, no Singapore Delights buffet...This is still not the Club of my dreams, but I guess it's not too bad for a first one.

Spreader of Love Blog Award

I have not been forgotten in the New Year. Singairishgirl sent me a blog award that I've had no time to claim till now.

And I was on my way to make my Grammy Award acceptance speech when I remember that one of my NY resolutions was to be more economical in 2008 - in as many senses of the word as I could manage.

Not that I've always been good at sticking to my resolutions.

Anyhow, thank you D, for sharing your love with me through your blog postings, your comments...It is always wonderful making new friends in the blogging world seeing that we often have so much to learn from and to share with one another.

In my turn I would like to dedicate the same award to the following bloggers and friends :

The Dutchess
Frau Loke
La Bella Tigre
Bibou's Mom

Thank you for making my life a little sweeter every day in different and many ways. Lots of kisses and talk to you gals soon.

dimanche, janvier 20, 2008

Studio Shots

3 Santas

Let's face it - I am lousy at taking pictures. I have tried occasionally to snap a few of my kids but somehow never managed to get any nice shots out of those attempts. And I know when to accept failure when it's staring at me in the face.

But it doesn't mean no more pics of my beautiful babies, of course. Wouldn't let them use it as an excuse to dump me in a nursing home in my old age.

Queen of Holly

I have found a decent photo studio on my visit to Singapore 2 years ago and am more than happy to leave the job to them. They specialise in children and pregnancy shots and do just black, white or brown backgrounds - simple but efficient.

Gecko Kids

You get to bring up to 3 sets of your own clothes and they provide the props. Each session lasts an hour and they work 6 days a week. Nothing pretentious but the results speak for themselves. In any case I'm pretty happy with the outcome.

In addition the kids had a good laugh while they had their photos taken. Crazy crazy kids...

Lunch at Iggy's Singapore

Squid ink risotto with charcoal-grilled baby octopus

It was with much pride that I told the Hub about Iggy's, fancy Singapore boasting a restaurant that is classed 60th best in the world! We were therefore much obliged to try it out and made a reservation a month in advance for lunch when we were in Singapore last month.

It was however quite a pain getting there as it had to be situated in a ulu hotel like The Regent, quite inaccessible via public transportation as it is at the wrong end of Orchard Road.

The decoration is simple and sober and it is a small/intimate restaurant with a few tables in a side room. Most clients apparently prefer to eat at the L-shaped counter where they could see the kitchen (like at Robuchon's L'Atelier). We reserved 2 seats at the counter, but arrived late and ended up sitting at a table.

Cold Tomato Soup (Amuse-bouche)

Hub and I both took the 4-course lunch menu at S$75++ pax exclusive of wine and water. I started with a Risotto followed by Cappellini and Iggy's Burger and ended with a Moelleux that was good but if I may say so, I have made better ones myself. Hub started with grilled Bonito followed by a Quail & Foie Gras terrine, the same Burger and then the Custard Apple dessert.

Sakura ebi cappellini with konbu and home-made scampi oil

My Squid Ink Risotto was really exquisite, the best I've tasted so far. The rice was flavourful and al dente, the octopus grilled yet juicy and tender. But the rest of the dishes, while good, was nothing exceptional. For such a good restaurant, we felt that they lacked the frills that one would normally find (and maybe come to expect) in any good restaurant in France, from imaginative amuse-bouches to mignardises with your tea or coffee. 12 bucks++ for a bottle of sparkling water was also pushing things a little, though the wine wasn't bad at all.

Home-made Wagyu beef burger with white truffle sabayon

We also felt that the service was a little too rapid for a restaurant of standing. Eating in a good restaurant is also about enjoying your meal at a good pace. They were just nice and efficient and seemed to have missed the real picture.

Baked Chocolate Molten cake with Java vanilla ice-cream

Still it is worth at least a visit and we have enjoyed our meal very much. I will have to work on my own squid ink risotto and hope to come up with a comparable version one of these days.

The Regent Singapore
1 Cuscaden Road
Singapore 249715
Tel : +65 6732 2234

Morbid Thoughts and a New iMac

As some may know, we've been dealt a few blows recently having to face leaking pipes in both our French and Italian homes. If water does symbolise wealth like we Chinese believe, then money certainly has grown legs in this household.

You know what they say about it being difficult to stem the water when the floodgates are open and we certainly do find ourselves incapable of controlling our spending lately. Just take yesterday as an example. I have too many cookbooks and the Hub too many Ferrari table books so we decided that we needed a new bookshelf. We walked into Ricci Casa and left with 6 wooden chairs, 2 bedside tables, a teakwood buffet and bookshelf all from their "ethnic" collection, thank you very much buy-now-pay-in-a-month credit card!

Then we drove to the shopping mall near the furniture shop and left with an 24-inch Apple iMac. Hub isn't one of those men who spend their time playing games or salivating over big boobs on the computer so when asked what he wanted a new computer for, he claimed that it was for me to blog on (???)...Why do I get a computer I didn't ask for and not the emerald ring that I've dropped bomb-sized hints about?

So in just a few hours we are now a few thousand euros poorer and that after a lot more spent in the last month during our trip to Singapore. Of course what comes in must go out, money's made to be spent, we'll earn it back in the future etc...

But having spent the past 2 days stuck between the pages of the latest Harry Potter, I am currently thrusted into metaphysical agonies, needing to interrogate myself over how I feel about and envisage death. I do not know if I fear death, but I certainly do fear dying before and without having achieved much in my life.

There being no age for dying I could jolly well kick the bucket tomorrow leaving behind my 3 beautiful babies and a Hub who doesn't know where their clothes are kept.

I also agonised over the scenario where Hub and I leave the kids alone at home "for a short while" and then somehow get ourselves killed outside, leaving the kids alone ignorant of our disappearance. With that I also remember that we have no will, no life insurance, almost no assets, and that our families (separated by a few continents) will surely not know what to do with my body (should I go home and be with my ancestors?), the children (would they be better off with my younger family?) etc. I mentioned that to the Hub and he told me to stop being morbid...

I sometimes wish that the Hub could just be a little Kiasu (KS aka afraid of losing out). Without carrying the "quality" to its extreme, a little dose of KSness couldn't be bad in life. It keeps you on your toes, on the lookout, you do not usually take anything for granted and you are as a result often anticipative, proactive and reactive/ready.

To continue with the flood, the cleaning lady finally came and she wasn't joking when she said that she wanted to work a minimum of 4 hours in my house. She cleaned and ironed for 10 in total. I tried to stop myself from wincing when I emptied my wallet with her day's earnings. She told me about how stingy and macho her live-in Italian partner is. I offered her tea with cookies as she worked and gave her an artisanal panettone as our meeting gift. I wonder how many hours she'll want to work in my house next week. Problem is that while she's here, I can't go out and shop. I want to cover many many sales in my life before I kick the bucket.

Steamed Cabbage and Salmon Parcels

Steamed Cabbage and Salmon Parcels

With the Pot au Feu I had of course bought a nice head of my favourite green veined cabbage. But I still had quite a bit of the vegetable left over when the soup had been consumed and must find new purpose for its existence.

While flipping through Ken Hom's cookbook, I came across a salmon recipe using Chinese or Napa cabbage and served with a fusion butter sauce. I've cooked cabbage-wrapped white fish with a traditional soy-and-fish broth sauce before and found the idea of using butter quite interesting, so I've decided to adapt the recipe to suit myself.

It was quick, simple and delicious and both the Hub and Eldest Son loved it. I've also prepared half of the salmon steaks I had using my usual Pan-Grilled method with Teriyaki sauce and was happy that the skin was so nicely done that it was crispy and tasty while the flesh was still pink and juicy. Unfortunately I was distracted when steaming the Cabbage-wrapped Salmon Parcels and the fish turned out a tad over-cooked.

For 7-8 Parcels :

Green Veined Cabbage
leaves (Chou vert frisé - my favourite)
reasonably thick Salmon Steaks (cleaned, deboned, skinned)
fresh Coriander Leaves
Salt and Pepper
small bowl of Fish Broth (if you do not have it fresh, use a msg-free Knorr Ikan Bilis cube)
40g Butter
half a Lemon or Lime

Cut away the hard white vein at the bottom of each cabbage leaf. Wash them and then blanche them quickly in boiling water (just so that they are soft enough to be folded). Remove and set aside.

Scoop out some of the cabbage water into a rice bowl and dissolve half an ikan bilis cube in it. Do not waste the rest of the water, use it to steam your salmon parcels with.

Add salt and pepper to the salmon steaks and just place a slice on a cabbage leaf (if not big enough use 2 leaves) with a bit of fresh coriander leaves. Wrap up the salmon tucking in the sides of the leaf as you go along. Place the parcels on a steaming dish and steam for 6-8 minutes over gently boiling water.

Recover the juice from the steamed salmon parcels and add it to the fish stock. Heat up the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the fish broth. Squeeze in the lime juice. Add salt and pepper and pour over the Cabbage and Salmon Parcels before serving them.

vendredi, janvier 18, 2008

More Cook Books

Thought I'd take a break from my Singapore Chronicles to mention that I've finally received my huge book order from Among them, 2 books from P.G. Wodehouse, the last Harry Potter and notably 3 cookbooks - Reinventing French Cuisine by Pierre Gagnaire, Recipes from a 3 Star Chef by Gordon Ramsay and Wok & Co : the very best of Ken Hom.

Unfortunately the book by Alain Ducasse was out of stock AFTER I've ordered it and I'll have to find it somewhere else now.

I'm not one to follow any recipe religiously, but like Eldest Son I like to look at books with pictures and hopefully find inspiration from them. So what should I cook for dinner tonight?

My Brother's Wedding

Parents' Old Wedding Tea Set being used for the Tea Ceremony

The official reason for this trip to Singapore being my only and youngest brother's wedding dinner, I thought I'd better blog about it.

I didn't have a Chinese Wedding myself as I married an Ang Moh who didn't want one and I've missed out on almost everybody else's in the past decade so I've dim memories of what such weddings entail.

Family Photo after Tea Ceremony (wah, so fertile, said the photographer)

It was therefore with much enthusiasm that I returned home for the occasion especially since I'd get to sit at the VIP/Red table and get to be served tea (missed out on my younger sis' a few years ago) by my Bro and SIL. If I had known that serving tea to all those uncles and aunties could be financially profitable (especially at current gold prices) I would have coaxed the Hub into doing it during our time. But without the sabotage that usually comes with fetching the bride, "sisters" nowadays ask for a lot leh.

Our Tua Pek Kong

Eldest Son was given the job of lying on the bridal bed and peeing in the chamberpot in the hope of giving many sons to the bridal couple. He also got to open the wedding car's door.

It was fortunate that the dinner took place 3 days after our arrival as I was already starting to expand horizontally (huge tim sum meal at Victor's Kitchen followed by wonderful brunch at Club Chinois etc) and could barely squeeze into the dresses that I've brought over. Younger sis and I were in charge of taking the relatives' attendance at the reception desk and witnessed a funny episode :

One relative arrived and checked in with us. Then she looked around and saw this girl. "What are you doing here?" she asked the girl. So it happened that the girl's her eldest daughter and was attending the dinner as the bride's colleague. Small world, n'est-ce pas?

Hub was quite impressed with the wedding. Wah, so grand and co-ordinated, so many dishes. I had the satisfaction of informing him that he was being a mountain tortoise as most expensive weddings in Singapore are like that. Haha.

SIL's a teacher so 2 of her kids MCeed during the dinner. So we learnt that the couple met at my sister's wedding (SIL and sis are friends) and that my usually stoic brother could be quite romantic when he sets his mind to it (at least when it came to the way he proposed).

The Cold Dish 1st Dish

The VIP table's no fun at all. You get served tiny individual portions which meant that I had to walk around the other tables (the emptier ones, of course) to help them finish up their leftovers. At the same time I got to keep track on who is who and what they have been up to. Got most of the relatives mixed up, and got the shock of my life to see babies as I remembered them all taller than me now. Ouch.

I saw my Malay Nanny. "My Baby!" she said when she saw me, which brought tears to my eyes immediately. 7 years I've lived with her, she is like my mother. Now she is so old, thin and frail. When you think that she used to stuff my mouth with onion, garlic and chilli when I was very naughty.

Towards the end of the dinner, I turned around and took a look at the table behind mine said to contain the brother's bosses and colleagues. This girl and I stared at each other and then I cried out "Mavis!" and she cried out my name too. Goodness, can you believe that my former University mate is now my brother's boss?

Anyway I'm glad that I didn't have a Chinese Wedding. No chance to eat during your own wedding, where's the fun? And some idiot who gave an empty red packet. Welcome to the 40-table dinner, man. Maybe they should send stickers with names together with the wedding invitations so that guests could stick them on their red packets or presents :-).

Wild Wild Wet and other Places with Water

Wild Wild Wet, Singapore

You can't leave winter behind in Europe and not want to eat up some sun and water and endeavour to make friends moan with jealousy upon your return. Though I had initially thought the job more difficult than it was December being monsoon season in S.E. Asia plus I've had it before I left Italy that it had been raining every day in Singapore, that Malaysia's flooded etc.

So I didn't bother to bring along any sun block. And it was puzzling to discover clear skies and hot sun for almost the entire duration of our stay in Singapore! And of course every single one of us was roasted by the sun though only some turned red and had skin to lose.

The first place with water and good time guaranteed we turned up at was Wild Wild Wet - a fun water theme park in Singapore. The kids just loved the water slides, pool etc etc and could spend hours there.

Next door there was the Escape Theme Park with water rides too though I couldn't blog about it the Hub having brought the kids there the day I had my eyes lasiked.

Vivo City, Singapore

We also brought the kids to Vivo City at Harbour Front - where they had free water facilities for children (2nd and 3rd story). If you have a maid or an indulgent grandma, bring her along, ask her to watch the kids for you as they play with water and then slip away to do an hour or 2 of shopping. Only expense : fries, burgers and drinks at Burger King which is just in front of the playground (2nd story).

Pulai Desaru Resort, Malaysia
Eldest Son digging a hole with his bare hands
Then we went to Desaru where we welcomed the New Year at the Pulai Desaru Resort. There was a stretch of private beach at the hotel but the waves were so high there was no way anyone could swim in the water. The kids had a great time in the lovely pool though. And the Hub and I had a body massage in its spa. But your only F&B option a few miles round was only your hotel which meant that by the time we left Desaru we almost vomitted at the sight of (their) food. Not cheap somemore.

Hotel Pool

Last but not least, I brought the kids to the public pool at Hougang before our departure. I still cannot believe that it only costs S$1 per entry for adults and 50 cents for children and senior citizens. For a swimming complex with 3 big pools (competition, training and children's)! Over here in Modena, our local pool costs 7 euros for adults and nearly 5 for kids, what a total rip-off.

Pool opposite Hougang Mall, Singapore

I wish that I hadn't taken year-round sun and hot weather for granted when I was growing up in Singapore.

jeudi, janvier 17, 2008

Happy 2008

I am back. Well, sort of. Jet lag has gotten me this time around, especially via the babies with their waking up at 3 in the morning ever since we're back.

I have loads to unpack, the house is in an absolute mess, and there was a leak in the bathroom upstairs (of course it had to take place when we were away) which affected the plasma TV, sofas etc in the living room downstairs. We also came home to loads of gift boxes most of them containing food : Whole leg of Parma Ham, bottles of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pasta of all sorts, champagne, wine, preserved fruits... It's crazy, where in the world am I going to find storage space for all the stuff?

It had been difficult as usual leaving Singapore and bidding farewell to my family and friends. Eldest Son wept in the plane and later again at home. I have put on a good 7 kgs in just 3 weeks and am now hard pressed to try to lose them all a.s.a.p. - before they decide to stay on for good.

The flight back had been tiring with Baby Boy patting me on the arm every 2 minutes asking me to explain this or that to him - for like 3-4 hours before he fell asleep. Then it was Baby Girl's turn. And my prediction of long queues at Immigration (in Paris) of course was very true and we ended up missing our connecting flight to Bologna. Why the hell couldn't they deploy more Immigration officers at such an important airport, you wonder. And the stamp that I got in my passport didn't have enough ink, the entry date was invisible. Aargh. After Changi Airport, everywhere else pales in comparison.

Then it was back to school for the kids and visits to the supermarket to be made. I have had a great time looking through the shelves in Cold Storage and FairPrice in Singapore recently and while the supermarkets here in Italy are bigger, they certainly lack variety and shopping for food therefore seems even more boring then it already is. Yes, I'm having Singapore-withdrawal symptoms. Boo hoo hoo.

On the bright side, I have almost forgotten how big my house in Italy is and how quiet. The 3 weeks spent in my parents' HDB flat saw us being woken up by drilling noises everyday at 8:30am sharp (they were renovating all the void decks in the neighbourshood), I could hear babies crying, different types of alarm clocks going off starting from 5:30 am, men singing in their shower...and in the flat, I was forever tripping over my brother's 2 dogs.

I have eaten lots (too much). I was roasted in Wild Wild Wet. I saw my brother getting married. I had my eyes lasiked. I finally saw what Desaru's like. I met up with old friends and new ones (i.e. blog friends Daily Affairs and East Meets West Kitchen). I watched the Coffee Prince Korean TV series. I started going through the stuff I've left behind more than 12 years ago and decided to leave them where they are for another infinite number of years.

Leaving is hard. But it is good to find the Hub (he came back 9 days before us) and have someone to nag at again. I do not seem to have lost my cooking skills, on my detox programme : rice porridge, Spaghetti all' arrabbiata and a Pot au Feu for the next 2 days.

But most important of all, Happy 2008 and to More Good Blogs, everyone!