vendredi, février 29, 2008

Egg Murghlai and Rice with Spinach

Egg Murghlai

If you grew up watching Popeye you'll know that spinach is very good for you and that you should eat it more often. I liked it when my mother cooked it in one of our Chinese soups and also when she stir-fried it with prawns. In Europe, I also like it served with butter, eaten raw in salads, fried or boiled with garlic and olive oil.

Occasionally I also like it Indian style though wherever possible without the cheese.

The other day, I decided to cook my Spinach with Rice and it was a good idea because Baby Girl eyed the green bits with suspicion but when she smelt the rice, exclaimed, "Mom, it smells so good!" And proceeded to gobble it up with a generous helping of Egg Murghlai.

Rice with Spinach

What makes the rice so fragrant? Just some oil, finely-chopped onions, a good tsp of garam masala, salt, chopped fresh spinach and rice.

The saffron, tomato and yoghurt-based Egg Murghlai goes well with children in general though you may need to remove the whole spices (e.g. cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon bark...) before serving if you do not want to turn them off the curry. My kids love hard-boiled eggs so I'm always looking for different ways to feed them that without boring myself.

mercredi, février 27, 2008

Activities with the School Moms

Breakfast Spread

A German mom whose Hub works for Lamborghini had the great idea of organising a weekly walk in the woods. I am no exercise freak but I do know how to walk. I'm a city girl after all. And I welcome any opportunity to burn some calories seeing that I have too many of them.

Our 1st walk yesterday saw 5 ladies turning up. It was a nice outing, us gals gossiping along the way, time passed without us even noticing it. But I accidentally found out during this walk that one of the nicest Italian mothers whom I really like has breast cancer. Dampened the spirits a little.

The next day, I gave breakfast at home for a few mothers whom I've little occasion normally to meet (e.g. not Francophone, not Asian, no children in my kids' classes...) but whose company I know I'll enjoy. They included C (the Swedish mom who introduced Irina to me) and M (German mom who was a great help at last year's Christmas Fair). And G was there for the simple pleasure of having her company, we could be doing quite a bit of stuff together in the next few months. R and Rb (the new PTA President) desisted at the last minute (their kids were ill) and L had to fly to England (last minute too) to deal with her property.

I baked a Chocolate Cake, made Crepes, Andalousian Tomato & Garlic Toasts, bought German-style salty Croissants to go with ham and cheese, made a Fruit Salad. We had a most pleasant time, I'll certainly host a few other breakfast mornings before the end of the school year. And next Wednesday - Francophone Lunch.

lundi, février 25, 2008

Parmesan Cheese Macarons

Parmesan Cheese Macarons

I wondered what it would be like if I should substitute almonds with parmesan cheese and so aussitôt pensé aussitôt essayé. The result was quite interesting, a slightly sweetish (and rather salty) Parmesan Cheese Macaron.

Nice eaten on its own as a snack or with something else sandwiched between.

With Tartare Cream Cheese with Fine Herbs

samedi, février 23, 2008

More Recent Eats and the Peace Award

Without the Singairishgirl and other equally sweet and thoughtful bloggers I would probably never see the shadow of any blog award since I'm the anti-social sort. The latest one she passed my way is this Peace Award. Not in the mood for cheem thoughts ("Peace, babe!"), suffice to say that I dig this award for its very sassy palm and baba-cool look. And peace's certainly what I need, what with full days facing screaming kids, nagging Hub, complaining teachers, itchy-fingered cleaning lady etc...

I've been cooking mostly the usual stuff, the most satisfying of the last few days being this smelly Sambal Green Bean and Okra. The kids complained that the house was very smelly though Baby Girl took her courage in her hands and tried some of it, actually liking it in spite of her nose. I ate it over 2 days just with plain white rice. So shiok...

Sambal Green Bean and Okra

Then a number of curries many of whom were the more acidic sort as I wanted to experiment with the use of white wine vinegar.

Bombay Chicken Curry

I would like to pass on the Peace Award (and the love, zen etc) to :

  1. Frau Loke
  2. Umami
  3. Bella Tigra
  4. Playing with My Food
  5. Life in Germany
  6. Pris

vendredi, février 22, 2008

Fried (Hokkien) Prawn Mee

Fried (Hokkien) Prawn Noodles

Managed to save quite a bit of prawn heads and shell so set out to make a stock for the usual Hae Mee Soup. Then I suddenly thought of Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles (remembering the time when I observed the hawker frying my portion of the noodles) and seeing that I had almost everything I needed around, proceeded to whip one out.

It is of course nothing like the Chomp Chomp version, but considering my relative lack of experience in making the dish, I thought I did pretty well.

Bean Paste (didn't use it coz I couldn't open the jar!)
Prawns, Squid, Scampi etc
Prawn and Pork Rib Stock
Yellow Noodles (or Spaghetti when overseas)
Rice Vermicelli
Kangkong/Morning Glory/Spinach
Bean Sprouts

Garnishing :
Fresh Chilli
Egg Omelette

I had a good kilo of scampi today as I went mad shopping for food. It was a nice and warm day and so I decided to discover Modena à pied. First I went to the covered market, buying bread, chicken wings, scampi, prawns...Then I walked around and discovered a Turkish restaurant, a Filipino grocery store, a Moroccan one (where I bought some Merguez sausages). After that I drove to a supermarket and bought even more food with the idea of making a Paella after the Hae Mee. The prawn and pork stock will come in more than handy (as usual).


I must say that the old part of Modena's very pretty though small. Probably have seen almost everything this morning except for the interior of museums, palaces, shops and houses.

For the Fried Hokkien Mee, basically one has to prepare the egg omelette, cucumber, chives and chillis by shredding them and setting them aside. If you want the raw veggies to curl and look pretty, put them in water for a while. If using scampi, cook them for 3-5 minutes in the prawn stock.

Then dice lots of garlic and fry them till fragrant in some oil in a hot wok. Add in the bean paste, followed by the pork slices, prawns and squid. Pour in the prawn and pork stock. When it starts to boil, add in the 2 types of noodles, the bean sprouts and the leafy veg. Stir fry quickly and then cover the wok. Do not overcook or everything will become limp and mushy.

A bit of the Hokkien Mee left in the Wok

Serve hot with the strips of egg omelette, cucumber, chilli and chives, also lime juice and if you wish, sambal. Very satisfying meal.

Big Mouth

Away from Facebook for ages, but went there today for a short while and played this birth date character thingy. It said :

You are a perfect character to be on shakespeare's play - dramatic, intense and outspoken. There is an aura about your personality. But not many people can understand you. Some are totally addicted to your charismatic personality. While others just wished that you spoke little less but you need not bother about them. Go ahead the stage is set and the world is waiting for you.

Even some ad-hoc computer-generated application has to tell me that I'm a big mouth.

mercredi, février 20, 2008

Recent Eats

Ginger & Coriander Cauliflower

Got a pack of Chana Dal on offer from one of my last visits to the Indian store and needing to make space in my pantry, decided to make some Chana Dal with Potatoes and a bit of leftover Lentils Verts du Puy.

Chana Dal, Potatoes & Lentil Verts du Puy

Then I also had to get rid of a head of cauliflower in the fridge so made some Ginger and Fresh Coriander Cauliflower.

Quick Lime & Yoghurt Cake

Last but not least, felt like grating something so made a Quick Lime and Yoghurt Cake.

A few farty days if I may say so.

Choco-Almond Meringues

Choco-Almond Meringues

I cannot claim that these are French Meringues since I didn't bake them at low heat for a long time and they are not Italian Meringues either since I didn't make them with cooked sugar/caramel. And neither are they Swiss Meringues since I didn't whip up the egg whites in a bain-marie...

My Choco-Almond Meringues were made very quickly, just 15 minutes in a 150ºC oven. Make them as you would the macarons, only you have to make sure that the egg whites are beaten till really stiff and will remain stiff even as you pipe them out. Pipe them out as you wish on baking paper and then bake them.

They are of course not as pretty as the usual French Meringues (idea of baking them for a long time over low heat is to prevent discoloration), but they were yummy and not good for the blood.

mardi, février 19, 2008

Chocolate Macarons, Matcha & Red Bean Macarons, White Chocolate & Lime Macarons

Chocolate Macarons

I did more macarons and this time with not-too-smoothly chopped almonds as base. Hmm, even less smooth than with hazelnuts and many cracked (was impatient and didn't wait for them to cool before trying to separate them from the baking paper), but the Hub loved the chocolate ones. They were sinfully good.

White Chocolate and Lime Macarons

Now I will wait for berry season to do the berry macarons and I've in mind an idea that I need to test out for making salty macarons. No idea if it'll work.

Matcha and Red Bean Paste Macarons

Going to the school to attend some workshop on their Primary Years Programme (PYP). We parents have been complaining about its lack of written curriculum etc so the school felt the need to educate us and try to win us over to their teaching philosophy etc.

lundi, février 18, 2008

Madras Beef Curry

Beef Madras

I bought some beef cut into cubes the other day and was thinking of making a Beef with Carrots. Then I had a craving for curry and made a Beef Madras instead. There is no one recipe for this Southern Indian curry dish, but generally it is quite hot and will have an acidic taste to it coming from the use of tomatoes.

Beef for braising
Vegetable Oil
Garlic paste
Ginger paste
Fresh Green Chilli
Ground Coriander
Ground Turmeric
Ground Cumin
Ground Chilli
Ground Paprika
Ground Fenugreek
Fennel Seeds
Mustard Seeds
Onion Seeds
Curry Leaves
Meat Stock
Chopped Tomatoes (1/2 can - one can I find is too much)
Garam Masala
Coriander Leaves
Salt and Pepper

This curry takes a few hours to cook if you want the beef to melt in the mouth. I started cooking it the evening before so that it would taste even better the next day. Served it with a simple not-oily Butter Spiced Rice. The Hub and the Babies ate it all up at dinner spoiling my plans to have some of it the next day for lunch.

Butter Spiced Rice

dimanche, février 17, 2008

Onglet (Hanger Steak) à l'Échalotte

Onglet à l'échalot

This is one cut of the Beef (together with the Bavette or Flap Steak) that I've missed alot since we left France. It's actually a usually cheap cut (not so nowadays since the arrival of the Euro) of the meat compared to the sirloin or the rib, but when beautifully cut and cooked, is absolutely delicious and worth more than what you would pay for it.

Each animal will usually have only one hanger steak. As it is found near the kidneys, it may even have a lingering taste of the organs. This part of the beef is best eaten rare (or it'll be too tough) and must be cooked quickly over high heat to preserve its great flavour.

Haven't found it in Stuttgart and until last month had not even seen it in Emilia Romagna. Then at just one butcher in the wet market in Modena, I came across the cut and it is known as the lombatello in Italian.

I left it to the Hub to prepare the meat. Hot grill, olive oil, salt and pepper. And a wonderful Red Wine Shallot and Butter Sauce to go with it. Heavenly!

PS : If you're interested, check out this meat chart for the different cuts.

Trattoria Cervetta

I guess our entertaining season has started. We have invited R's family (2 adults and 4 kids) to lunch this afternoon and I've issued separate invitations to 3 separate groups of ladies for (1)Moms' Breakfast, (2) Asian Mothers' Pot Luck and (3) Francophone Ladies' Lunch. All that's for weekdays (till mid-March) and on weekends, we'll have Hub's Italian colleagues, other expat families etc over for more meals. So I'll be very busy.

Saturday was thus spent shopping for food. Bio bread, cheese, meat and fruit from the wet market in Modena, rice paper from the Chinese shop and cooked prawns, free-range chickens etc from the Leclerc supermarket. I've decided to make Fried Wontons for apperitif, Vietnamese Raw Salad Spring Rolls (this time with cooked prawns) to start, with Coriander and Chilli Prawns and Hainanese Chicken Rice as mains. We had Gongonzola and Camembert for cheese and R brought a chocolate cake for dessert. Finally, for tea we had the macarons I made the other day. Needless to say, there were champagne, red wines, sweet white wine etc.

The guests seemed satisfied enough and kindly told us that they would like to invite us for a meal at their place too. Though with the F1 Season starting again soon, it'd be hard to manage. On a positive note, R is seriously thinking of bringing her 4 kids to Singapore in August which makes a local girl like me proud to know that my ambassorial efforts have come to fruition. M (R's Hub) also didn't seem to forget his promise to get my parents tickets to the F1 race in Singapore. I am quite contented, of course.

Coming out of the wet market in Modena, we decided to have lunch and not finding a table at the very popular trattoria Aldina, decided to eat at another one (more chic and more expensive) known as Cervetta.

The Duck Ragu Pasta was very good and the desserts looked more edible here than in most other places. The chocolate cake turned out to be a Torta Barozzi. The Italians in the region are very proud of this chocolate-coffee cake, but very seriously I thought it tasted just like this cake I failed a few months ago when I accidentally added too much coffee into my chocolate cake. Didn't take any pictures though, somehow not in the mood. Pasta is after all still pasta.

Trattoria Cervetta
Via Cervetta, 7
41100 Modena
Tel : 059 220500

vendredi, février 15, 2008

Macarons à la Rose (Hazelnut Base)

Macarons à la Rose

I used to go to La Durée in Paris to buy their macarons and they do tend to cost quite a bit though well worth the money. Over here, with no macarons in sight, one has to apply oneself so that's how you found me slaving over those sweet and caloric pastries recently.

Macarons are almond-based traditionally but as I often prefer hazelnuts to almonds, I've decided to make this batch with the former to see how they would turn out. Not as smooth as they would have been with almonds, but the texture was pleasant and the macaron just as tasty.

I wanted to use my stock of rose water so I've decided to flavour them à la rose.

The Macarons :

3 Egg Whites (separated from the yolks and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days)
2oog Icing Sugar
125g finely ground Hazelnuts (normally one'd use Almonds)
30g Castor Sugar
Red Food Colouring
Rose Water

The Filling :

120g White Chocolate
Rose Water
Lychee Juice

Beat egg whites till stiff, adding in the castor sugar gradually along the way. Mix in the food colouring and rose water. If it wouldn't become stiff, try adding some lemon juice (but usually no reason why it wouldn't become stiff).

In your mixer, mix the icing sugar with the finely ground nuts and sift them well into a bowl.

Mix the sugar-nut mixture into the egg mixture with a spatula. The mixture has to be smooth, bright and a little limp

Pipe out well-spaced small rounds on baking paper placed on a tray that will go into the oven. Leave it in the open overnight so that the surface of the macaron pastry rounds will dry out and harden.

Heat up the oven at 150ºC and bake the macarons for 10-13 minutes. If possible, bake them with 1-2 empty trays stacked below to ensure that the macarons will rise and yet not be over-cooked on the inside.

For the filling as for the macarons, the possibilities are endless. This time round, I made it by melting white chocolate and mixing it well with some juice and rose water and then letting the mixture stiffen before making macaron sandwiches with it.

Best to leave the macarons in the fridge for a few hours before consuming them.

Valentine's Day Dinner - Paddock

Pumpkin Mousse with Fried Shredded Vegetables, Balsamic Vinegar

When I met the Hub, he actually told me when our first Valentine's Day was approaching that his Brit ex-girlfriend and himself were NOT into the occasion etc. I could respect their mutual distaste for the commercial nature of the day in question, but on the other hand, what had that got to do with me and our newly-formed couple?

Needless to say I have quite gotten into the habit of not thinking about Valentine's Day at all and when I did, it would often bring a smirk to my face. You know what they say, you love someone all year round and not just on V Day etc. Save the roses, they do tend to cost ridiculously expensive on this day.

However on V Day this year, with the Hub and myself having gotten quite used to communicating mostly via email and sms over the past 2-3 years (because Monsieur is very busy and is often in meetings and couldn't talk), the idea came to me quite suddenly to email him and tell him that I love him. Didn't cost anything - literally.

Being very busy he must have quite forgotten that he never ever celebrates the occasion and he actually replied by proposing that we dine out with the kids that very evening! He actually reserved a table (as a surprise) and came home early to bring us out. Chickens will fly.

And not any table, mind you, but at the Paddock. Ferrari's preferred business entertainment dining venue.

Hub had been telling me about the restaurant for some time now. It is housed in a restored farmhouse not unlike ours and is owned by the guy who sent us the San Daniele leg of ham for x'mas. Apparently the meat and seafood dishes were good as was the wine and service. Not cheap of course.

Gnocci in Cream of Parmesan Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar

On V Day however they only served a V Day menu (46 euros per head excluding drinks) and it contained no fish. Maybe meat is more carnal and deserved better mention on this day. We all had to eat a 4-course dinner and I was bursting before the end. We had so much meat (grilled Fiorentino, fillet and entrecôte beef plus grilled lamb chops) I started feeling like having a salad for once.

Part of the Grilled Meats

But the food was good (but almost always the same everywhere in this country) as was the wine. And we had attentive service especially as they knew who the Hub was. The kids behaved reasonably well and they too had eaten too much meat. Getting hyper.

Irish Coffee and Pineapple and Brioche Bun (so-so, dessert's not their thing)

At the next table you see 3 couples and 3 identical long roses leaning against the wall. And they were seated 3 women together opposite the 3 men. Group Valentine celebration. And thank God the restaurant didn't give out roses to the ladies, I would have been quite embarrassed, I'm not a very cut-flower sort of girl. Would feel like an idiot actually walking around with a very long rose. Give me sweets or jewellery any time, man.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

Viale Terra delle Rosse 1
Pozza di Maranello
Tel : 053 6073307

jeudi, février 14, 2008

Tagged & Friendship Ball

It is always such a nice feeling being in the thoughts of people whom you admire (though you've never met them and vice versa). I was tagged for the following Meme by Precious Moments and was passed the Friendship Ball by both Precious Moments and Playing with My Food.

One thing I treasure about our food blogging community is the fact that we could learn so much every day from ordinary people like you and me, no need to be rich and famous, just being oneself and being sincere and making friends along the way. Thank you very much ladies!

The Meme is quite a pain though as there are no guidelines and you have to come up with 5 things about yourself out of thin air. Just made me realise that I haven't been thinking much about myself lately and is thus labouring to tell you about moi.

From my understanding, I am supposed to list down 5 facts about myself and then tag 5 other people. Then these 5 other people post 5 facts about themselves on their blog and link back to me.

5 facts about yo:

  1. I think stupidity is a crime punishable by torture. So I can be fat, ugly and poor, just don't let me be stupid, please.

  2. I am very lazy. No, I am not a sucker for short cuts, I'm too kiasi for that. But if I think that I can't do something properly immediately, I'll put it off to another day. Isn't that procrastination? But somehow it's not the same.

  3. I love my family. Be it my parents, brother and sister, or my hubby and 3 monsters. Still, sometimes I do wonder if I shouldn't also live for ME and not just for my family.

  4. I am a compulsive buyer. Should have studied Purchasing and not Political Science. I love a good bargain (but not a cheap one) and will dig if I have to for it. Any excuse to buy something is a good one.

  5. I hate housekeeping. Not that I like to live in and with dirt. But I am not a hygiene freak and will not go all out to clean up. I'd go all out to keep it clean (aka from getting dirty)though. People often ask Beau how she keeps her skin so nice. I wasn't mocking them when I answered, "Wash it a minimum."

I'm going to pass both the Meme and the Friendship Ball to the following friends :

  1. Bibou's Mom
  2. Sayadis
  3. I Quote
  4. Pris
  5. Extralicious

mercredi, février 13, 2008

Renri - My First Abalone Yu Sheng

Abalone Yu Sheng Salad

With age I reminiscise too much for my own good. So it was with much nostalgia that I thought of my childhood picking out crackers in the Yu Sheng (Lucky Raw Fish Salad) that my dad would bring us to eat during CNY. Then I read about all the loh-hei that my dear blogger friends have been up to in the past week and was filled with envy.

So while I have been a little lazy about cooking new things lately (just dishing out well-tried favourites), I wondered if I shouldn't make myself some sort of a Yu Sheng, especially after I've read Umami's 2007 posting on her own attempt at the dish. And since she has very kindly given me tips on how to make my favourite crackers, I could find no excuse not to go ahead and do it.

It was an amazingly successful 1st attempt! I am no salad fan and quite dreaded the idea of having to actually eat my Yu Sheng if nobody else wanted it. But I ended up hoarding the dish after the 1st bite and ate it up all by myself! And I will make it even after CNY because I really like it.

The sauce's the key to the dish's success and mine tasted as far as I could remember like the ones I've had in my lost youth. I skipped the candied ginger etc as I'm not fond of preserved fruit and vegetables. The vegetables should normally be shredded really fine but I was lazy and decided to just have them julienned. But they were good.

Abalone Yu Sheng :
Shredded Carrots
Shredded Cucumber
Shredded Red Bell Pepper
Shredded Turnip, Radish etc
Grapefruit or Pomelo
Chopped Peanuts, Almonds or Pistachio Nuts
Grilled Sesame Seeds
Abalone slices
Coriander leaves
Flour Crackers

The Sauce :
Plum Sauce
Kumquat Paste (didn't use it)
Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Grapefruit Juice
5 Spice Powder
Grated Ginger or Ginger Powder
Olive or Vegetable Oil

One is supposed to compose the salad in stages and mutter the appropriate lucky sayings appropriate to the ingredient(s) in question. For example, when you add in the fish you say niannian youyu, when you add in the carrots hongyun dangtou, mix in the crackers (looking like gold ingots) you say piandi huangjin etc.

With the crackers

The crackers I made them with flour, olive oil, water, salt and sugar.

Gonghei Fattchoy

Tagged, Before I was a Mom

My dear V of East meets West Kitchen thought of me recently for this Pretty Mom Tag and I could only bask happily in the afterglow of having been in her thoughts.

I am not too sure that I've understood how it works, but the rule to the tag is that once you have been hit, you have to hit 5 pretty Moms, including the one who sent it to you. The idea is that if you get hit again, you will know that you are really pretty...

Apparently you have to add your name to the tagged persons list, and without removing anybody on the list just let it grow. Hit 5 pretty moms on your list to let them know they are pretty!

Before I was a mum:

I didn't want to be one.

Before I was a mum:

I couldn't stand the sight of children. Now I have 3 and I worship the ground they walk on.

Before I was a mum:

I suspected that children were a pain and now I am sure of it.

Before I was a mum:

I almost never cook. Now I spend my time slaving at the stove.

Before I was a mum:

I said I wouldn't buy them toys. Now, that's all I ever do.

Before I was a mum,

I was a light traveller and I travel alot. Now I could barely go anywhere but when I do, I still travel light - plus a stroller.

The first chain of tag:
1. Lovelymummy
10. Sandra
14. Sasha
16. Wen
17. Jo-N

I would like to tag the following pretty moms :
  1. The Dutchess
  2. Bibou's Mom
  3. Precious Moments
  4. Xtralicious
  5. Umami

Moms' Gathering at R's


R as Grades 5/6 Representative had the great idea of organising a lunch at her place to welcome 2 new mothers. She had her Sri Lankan maid churn out a full Indian meal and we ate like pigs of course.

Conversation flowed, from criticism of the new teacher to praise for the Principal and since I'm no party animal (I'm a tête-à-tête kind of girl), I started feeling quite tired trying to follow the conversation(s) and contribute occasionally myself.

Chicken Curry

Great thing about private schools is that we have so much more access to the school and its staff, but poor teachers and Principal, having us mothers on their backs all the time.


R lives up in the mountains in Serramazzoni (where the Italians have their holiday homes) and it's beautiful up there. Though it must be a pain going up and down the way she has to on a daily basis, I was having a headache along the way...


Sigh and so much effort she had put in to receive us, with nice tableware etc. Not like chez moi where it's just Ikea and badly-washed cutlery and often chiped plates. I'm feeling pre-embarrassed as we've invited R's family over for lunch on Sunday...

mardi, février 12, 2008

Valentine Bakes : Chocolate Orange Cookies

Chocolate Orange Cookies

The kids' school's Student Council decided to raise funds with a Valentine's Day Bake Sale. As usual, mothers had to bake something and then give money to their kids to buy back the cakes and cookies. The Babies adored having their own money and paying for their cakes though. And Eldest Son had become smart for once, buying just one piece of cake and keeping the rest of the money for his piggy bank.

Since I had to bake a cake for R's Moms' Gathering (I did a Fondant au Chocolat) and was into baking Macarons too, I kept things simple and just made a batch of heart-shaped Chocolate Orange Cookies.

Only problem was that the kids liked them so much they ate them up before I could bring them to the Bake Sale. But I did still contribute as R brought my Chocolate Cake to the Sale as we had too much to eat during the gathering and didn't eat the cake.

dimanche, février 10, 2008

Pork Bone/Rib Soup (basic soup base)

This is a soup similar to what my mom used to make us when we were kids and she was still cooking. Basic but good and easy to make. I am posting this for my dear friend Pris, a blossoming cook in every sense of the word.

I am not too fond of eating boiled pork, so unless I'm making Bah Kut Teh, I do not expressly seek to use pork ribs for soup. What I normally do is buy pork for steak that comes with some bone, use the pork for making dishes like Pork with Ginger and Chives, Sweet and Sour Pork etc and then use the leftover (uncooked) bones for soup.

There are different ways of making basic stock and it all depends on what you prefer. As a rule, if you bring to a boil pork in cold water you'll get a cleaner soup and meat simply because all the impurities would come out in force and you'd be obliged more or less to rinse the meat and cook it in a new batch of water.

Or you could first bring water to a boil in a pot and then add in the meat. And once it comes to a boil again, lower the heat and let the soup simmer gently for a few hours for too much boiling will harden the meat. The impurities will still come out, but much reduced and easily skimmed off from the soup as you cook it.

Or like me for this basic soup, you could fry some ginger and garlic in a little sesame oil till fragrant, add in the pork meat/bones to seal in the juices before adding in boiling water (from a kettle for example). And then you let the soup simmer, adding in the vegetables e.g. shredded zucchini, carrots, leek, celery, spinach etc only about 15 minutes before serving. Cabbage is best blanched once or twice (for better digestion) before being added to the soup and if you intend to keep the stock and re-use it the next day, then it's best not to add the cabbage into the main stock or it'll turn sour later on. Stock is anyway best a day old and you could also clean it better the next day once the fat has hardened on the surface of the soup.

Add salt and pepper to taste, of course. Fresh coriander leaves make a nice addition too.

And with this you can make a soup with fishballs etc, use it as stock for steamboat, sauces or make rice porridge with it.

You folks out there, if you have other tricks, do share, it would be interesting to learn of better ways of making yummy soup.

vendredi, février 08, 2008

Pigging Out in Singapore - Part ?

Foie Gras and Beef on Rice (Sun with Moon)

The 7 kgs I've put on in Singapore didn't materialise out of the initial one big meal per day that I planned to have. I ended up with more than 3 daily meals many of which were buffets, of course. I've been to lots of eating places, but my favourite food item remained the humble fishball either in soup with Mee Tai Mak or dry with Mee Pok and chilli. Yes, fishball.

For the bigger meals, a few of our favourite haunts each time we return to Singapore include :
  • Nirvana (2 Owen Road, #02-01 Fortuna Hotel, Singapore 218842. Tel: 6297 0400. MRT Station : Farrer Park) - some of the best Indian food that we've eaten anywhere. Everything seems to be made from scratch, they also do caterings and home deliveries.

  • Club Chinois (1 Tanglin Road, #02-18 Orchard Parade Hotel, Singapore 247905. Tel: +65 6834 0660) - we held our wedding there a few years ago and never fail to return for their weekend brunch (S$48++ pax, 120 dishes to choose from) whenever we could. The best of East and West, I love their Braised Chef's Tofu with Nameko Mushrooms, for example, not to forget their Tim Sum, roasts etc.

  • Chin Wah Heng (1202 East Coast Parkway, #01-01, Singapore 449881. Tel: 6444 7967) - my childhood seafood joint. We always order their Golden Fragrance Crabs (gumhiong hai) that incidentally is not on the menu. When you order their Drunken Prawns, they usually show you the live prawns before cooking them. Service however is so-so.

  • Red House (1204, #01-05, East Coast Parkway. Tel: 64423112) - new for us, a more modern seafood joint.

  • Soup Restaurant - for its Samsui Chicken, of course!

  • Sun with Moon (501 Orchard Road, #03-15 Wheelock Place, Singapore 238880. Tel: 6733 6636) - Japanese fusion dining and café, went there at least 4 times ever since my dear friend One Wheel treated us to it. We especially like their Foie Gras sushi and Green Tea Tiramisu.
Tempura and Sashimi lunch set (Sun with Moon)

Not to forget good Chinese vegetarian food!!! The ones that make fake pork taste like real ones :-).

Finally, I digress. The above's the facade of my brother's new flat in Buangkok. HDB flats look quite like condos nowadays, don't you think so?

Woes of Having Help in the House

For 2 weeks now I have help with the cleaning in the house and it's a great relief. Her name's Ir, in her 40s, she's a Russian from Ukraine and she's living with an Italian guy who works for Enel (electricity company).

Ir's very friendly and cheerful and works fast. Pretty talkative too. Unfortunately, she's not as attentive as I would like her to be when it comes to the spider webs and she has this big thing for reorganising and redecorating the house - meaning that you cannot find anything once she has finished cleaning the house. Things have thus far moved from the kitchen to the dining room and from one bathroom to another. And S, a mom from school who used to hire her, told me just moments ago that Ir used to move her things from bedroom to salon, from kitchen to garage etc etc. Well, there are people who like to arrange things and people who don't (like me).

I've had cleaning ladies in France and in Germany and none has this gutso that she has when it comes to opening drawers and looking through wardrobes and cupboards. There isn't one drawer that she hasn't opened. She has even managed to find hangers that I had hidden in the Babies' wardrobe for a rainy day, taken them out and used them to hang the Hub's shirts - all without even a by-your-leave. But on the positive side, she's proactive and doesn't need to be told what to do.

The Hub adores her because he goes for the house-is-tidy thing. It doesn't matter that nobody can find anything anymore. He even wanted to know if she's cute.

As I've mentioned earlier, I was talking to S and she told me that Ir has worked for quite a number of expatriate families in Modena and almost all of them has been burglared. She was pretty sure that Ir never stole while she was cleaning the house, but it was nonetheless curious that the houses that were burglared during her absence all had clean jobs to them.

One family gave her a key and the burglar(s) apparently did their job leaving no sign of a break-in, for example.

S' house was broken into when she was away playing tennis one morning. The burglars drilled through her kitchen door and walked straight to her safe. Even the Police was amazed that they came with tools to drill out her safe (apparently not a common thing even here in burglary-rife Italy). They didn't touch anything else. They just knew where her safe was and where her little bits of everyday jewellery (in a drawer in another room) were. They really didn't touch anything else - curious, no?

K was pretty sure that "she is the link to many robberies of expat houses in the neighborhood. My advice would be to keep away from her".

But I'm so desperate for a cleaning lady. C (who introduced her to me) said the same thing and has apparently refused to tell her hubby about S' house being broken into out of fear of having to fire Ir!

In any case, I believe in being fair. There are suspicions about her being linked to burglaries but no one has ever caught her red-handed. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. And I like her, she's cheerful, kind and not cynical even though she's had a hard life before.

Besides, there's nothing to steal in my house. I've only got Ikea furniture and lots and lots of food, clothes and shoes. My jewellery I'm going to bring them everywhere with me in my panty.

The Pig in My House

The Leg of San Daniele Ham we received for Christmas

mercredi, février 06, 2008

Eve of Rat Year Reunion Dinner

Angpows for the Kids

In Paris we managed often enough to eat steamboat with our Chinese friends but over here in Modena we do not know the meaning of festive nor of Chinese New Year so we've had to make do with a simple dinner just the 5 of us in our humble kitchen. Only difficulty was actually having it together, the Hub still not arriving home at a quarter past 8 in the evening...

I emailed him. Reminded him that we had a reunion dinner in waiting and that we were to eat it together - unless he's not part of the family. A few minutes later, he rang home to say that he would be back shortly.

The poor guy. Lots of work and difficulties at the office. Not a fabulous start to my year (yes, I'm a Rat with all its qualities haha), with me down with gastric flu and Eldest Son (another Rat but only with all its vices) giving up already on his earlier resolutions to be a better and more hardworking student.

Anyway, after wrapping up the angpows (red packets) for the 3 kids, I prepared a simple dinner : Pork Rib Egg Drop Soup filled with lots of Fishballs (from Singapore), fried Tofu, Spinach, Surimi sticks, home-made fried Won Tons...Followed by Lemon Chicken, Rice with Chinese Sausage, and for dessert, a Red Bean and Matcha-Almond Galette des Rois inspired by Umami's posting on this Japanese Azuki Bean Galette that she had in Paris.

Matcha-Almond & Red Bean Galette des Rois

The Galette turned out nicely and the Hub who has a phobia of red beans eaten sweet actually liked the change from the traditional Galette. Eldest Son who normally doesn't eat cake ate 2 slices of it!

Well, that was my reunion dinner. Simple and quiet. Still, I look forward to a Happy and Prosperous New Year and wish the same for all of you. Gonghei Fattchoy Gongxi Facai!