jeudi, octobre 30, 2008

Another Happy Birthday to Me

Not thinking about it will not make me younger so I've decided to just embrace and live with it. It was nice waking up to birthday greetings from the Hub (for once he didn't forget it and didn't need any prompting) and then spending the day receiving text, email, chat and verbal greetings from friends near and far. When you've finally gotten past your mid-thirties, it is nice to know that you have people who matter in your life and that that's all that matters really.

I can say that I've had it good with life thus far. I have a bald patch but still almost all my hair, I have receeding gums but still all of my teeth, I have more fat than I need, baby-smooth skin and new eyesight.

I have survived school though now I've got to live the nightmare through my kids, but at least I've got kids to worry about. Hub doesn't look like the hairless all bronzed Red Indian I (thought I) wanted in my lost youth, but he's the best that one could have for a Hub (pink cheeks, hairy legs and all) so I'm fortunate enough. My parents hurt my ears quarreling with each other even when they're talking to me on the phone, but at least they're still very much alive and kicking.

I didn't become the Millionaire in British Pound Sterling by the age of 30, but I can now afford a Paris-Brest everyday if I so wish (and can find it - which I can't). Besides it gives me the excuse to continue walking into the Tabac-Bar to buy myself a lottery ticket every now and then and decide if whatever pastry they have that morning is worth eating (usually not). Bakers in the neighbourhood must often wonder why I pop my head into their shops and never buy anything. Bread sucks here.

Part of today's lunch

How did I celebrate my birthday today? Well, I spent a bit of the day bringing all 3 kids to and from play dates at different homes. But best of all, I cooked and ate together with Brother C and CL - something I've not done for a long time now and that I've very much missed doing.

Hainanese Chicken Rice with its broth, Tim Sum, Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls, Chinese Sausage Omelette, Asparagus in Oyster Sauce, Brother C's Special Fried Egg...we spent hours cooking and eating all of that. And the bonus at the end of the afternoon? My first seating in an Osim Massage Chair. I know that I'm very mountain tortoise when it comes to things like this, but luxury like this is rare in Europe and I've left home a really long time ago now. I especially like the part when it downed "fists" on my back. Wouldn't imagine that the Hub would think of getting us one though. He wouldn't blink an eye on paying for good wine, but for a machine that takes up space? No way. So thank you the C's for the experience, I'm really sorry that you and your chair you'll be leaving soon!

Voilà another birthday come and gone for me. Veni vidi vinci. Sort of.

mercredi, octobre 29, 2008

Day with Margi and M

M's Fritters with Eggplant and Seafood

Picked up Margi from the train station in Modena in the rain and there begun a lovely (and fattening) day spent together. When I saw her from my car, it struck me once again how much she reminded me of Maggie Cheung (but Margi has better hair if you ask me). If we were in Paris or HK, maybe people'll think that I'm picking up the famous HK actress haha.

We headed straight to lunch at the Japanese restaurant where our fellow Singaporean and common friend M works as Head Chef. Found out recently that M's quite famous in the Asian culinary circle here. Hope that M's pleasantly surprised to see us :-). Margi's popular with the kids and had lots of patience with them. It was really nice catching up with people from home. Ate too much.

Sushi Boat that Margi and Eldest Son shared

Cooked dinner as Margi's Italian Hub A did us the honour of driving (in the rain and dark) all the way from Bologna after work. Made a simple dinner of Sweet and Sour Pork, Steamed Silken Tofu, Garlic Spinach and Grilled Duck Breast in Thai Red Curry. As an afterthought, I also made us Tarte Tartin for dessert.

We chatted till past midnight and the Babies were falling asleep in the kitchen...Eldest Son (the sneaky one) took the opportunity to play Runescape all night long.

Thanks for visiting us in Modena, Margi and hope to see you again soon!

mardi, octobre 28, 2008

Summer Baking Class at Shermay's

Shermay Lee is the author of the New Mrs Lee's Cookbooks. The owner of Shermay's Cooking School. She's also LKY's niece. Graduated with a degree for Political Science and History from Brown University, but succumbed to her love for cooking.

Me too I have a few degrees in Political Science, we share the same sirname and initials and I like to cook. Except that I do not have illustrous ancestors (unless you consider my granduncle Lim Tay Boh), nor any capital to start a cooking school. In any case I'm not a businesswoman, only good at spending money definitely not at earning it. Fortune tellers will probably credit that to my nostrils.

Having said all that I actually set out to talk about the baking class that I attended at Shermay's last Summer. But got sidetracked as usual. Bear with me, please.

The amazing Joycelyn Shu (of the beautiful blog Kuidaore) was the guest instructor at the school and I attended her Summer Treats Class at Shermay's: Layer Cakes, Cupcakes & Ice Creams.

It was not a hands-on class and that was probably the only reason why I felt dissatisfied at the end of the class. I've learnt alot though from watching Joycelyn bake. She shared her knowledge and experience with us and that was valuable. There is only so much that books can tell you - watching someone bake is another thing altogether.

But the person baking also tends to make things look easier than they are. Plus she had 2 beautiful KitchenAids to help her.

There were quite alot of people attending the class. For the price, I thought that we could form a smaller group. The cooking studio is actually quite small and half of it is taken up by the boutique - selling utensils, recipe books, appliances, butter, food colours, flavour extracts etc. Prices are not low - but they are all top quality stuff.

Most of the other learners were regulars from the look of things. Many tai-tai looking ladies who turned up in tight jeans, expensive bags and heels. So at least you know they do bake.

Joycelyn demonstrated 2 ways of making ice cream and one of them was really simple and didn't require the use of an ice cream maker. It's all a question of sugar (quantity of).

Then she showed us how tricky it was to cut a cake into layers and then to ice it.

We also learnt about cupcakes and how to ice them (e.g. make a flower). We were not allowed to take pictures during the cooking demonstration and with my non-elephant (more like mouse) memory, I cannot remember much of the session if you wish.

my Saturday afternoon spent at Shermay's Cooking School. Worth it to get to see Joycelyn in person at least once though.

Onara on ze Flute

A few of you may remember me being so in love with Dae Jang Geum when I watched the Korean Drama serial. I not only liked the story but also the characters and especially the music.

I managed to find a score for the Onara theme song then but it was too easy for the piano and therefore uninteresting.

Then last week I had sudden inspiration and tried the score out on the flute. And it was much better!

Then I showed it to my dear Flute teacher and he pointed out to me that the music's in the E-minor Pentatonic scale. But of course. Now that I think of it, much of the folk music in Asia (e.g. Japan, China, Indonesia, Korea, Mongolia etc) uses pentatonic scales both major and minor.

And with this one could figure out the other songs in the drama series rather easily.

If only I'm still young and have flexible breath and fingers...

lundi, octobre 27, 2008

Chicken Pilau with Vegetables

Chicken Pilau with Vegetables

The Indians make Pilaf, Pulao or Pilau and the Persians Polow. In fact, thoughout the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, even Latin America, rice has been fried with some kind of fat before being boiled in broth and eventually with meat and vegetables to make a one-dish rice meal. Come to think of it, the Italians have their Risotto, the Spanish their Paella and so on.

I do try to vary my one-dish rice meals. Last year I've blogged about my Lamb Pilaf and I've done briyanis, risottos, paellas, claypot rice etc. This evening, I've decided to do a Chicken Pilau with Vegetables using a simple Persian-inspired recipe. Actually, I may be quite into Middle Easten or African cuisine again. Ever since I saw the African Batik prints that Baby Boy did with his teacher, I've been thinking alot about all these exotic countries (and what they eat).

Chicken Pilau with Vegetables :

Skinless Chicken pieces marinated with
1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Garam Masala
2 cloves Garlic

For the rice :

600ml of Chicken stock or water
Salted Butter
1 Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
5 Cardamom pods
1 Potato
1 Carrot
1/2 Red Pepper
1 Green Chilli
350g Basmati Rice (washed, soaked and drained)
1 cup Yoghurt
Sliced Almonds (roasted)

Marinate the chicken pieces for a few hours. Prepare the vegetables by chopping them into small pieces.

I used my Le Creuset 24-inch pot for this dish. Am looking out to purchase a 28 or 30-inch one soon as we have too many mouths to feed in this family.

Heat up some oil in the pot and brown the chicken pieces. Once they are browned, add in the hot stock, cover and cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside, reserving the stock (should have about 600ml for 350g of rice).

Melt the butter in the same pot. Brown the onions, potatoes, carrots and garlic in the butter (about 5 minutes). Add in the red peppers, green chilli, the spices and continue cooking for another few minutes. Now add in the rice and stir well.

Stir in half the yoghurt and then pour in the chicken stock. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice and spoon the remaining yoghurt* on top of them. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Do not overcook, the grains should be cooked but intact, buttery and moist. 5 minutes before the end of the cooking, add in some fresh spinach. Serve hot with roasted almonds or cashew nuts.

*I recycled Hub's special Grilled Red Pepper and Cream Sauce by adding it to the yoghurt. Delicious.

Trattoria del Tribunale, Parma

"As a capital city it had to have a river. As a little capital it received a stream, which is often dry". - Attilio Bertolucci.

Dry stream

So it is that Parma is divided into 2 parts with the stream (dry during our visit) in between. And it's famous if you like Parma Ham and Parmesan Cheese. Though of course you may not make the connection at the beginning. Anyway I've never been there before last Sunday and though it's only an hour away from Modena, never found the courage to do so alone because of my fear of not finding parking in strange cities.

There is a Verdi Festival going on in the city when we arrived and you can hear his operas piping in the piazza Garibaldi and see his picture almost everywhere in the city. It's a lovely city (though not as beautiful as Verona) and is known for its architecture, old university and of course food.

Pzza Garibaldi

Hub reserved a table in the Trattoria del Tribunale mentioned in the Michelin Guide. We entered Winter Time on Sunday morning but of course didn't know that. So we arrived early and had to wait a little before being served. It is a simple restaurant with a simple menu though prices are not exactly low.

The rest of the family started out with a plate of Parma Ham (what else - cured for 30 months) and another one of salami. I dislike cured ham, so had potato-filled raviolis to start. Hub ordered the Tagliolini with Truffles (very strong taste) followed by Breast of Duck with (too much) crushed almonds and a Balsamic Vinegar and Honey Sauce. The Babies shared some grilled sausages and Eldest Son had a rare filet of Angus Beef to himself. We had to threaten him with NO gelato before he would share.

Grilled Sausages with Baked Potatoes

The food was good though not exceptional. Hub had a bottle of red wine almost to himself and it was a surprisingly good one at a reasonable price (12 euros).

Trattoria del Tribunale
Vicolo Politi, 5
43100 Parma
Tel : 0521 285527

Another Orange Cake

Orange Cup Cake

SIG tempted me with her Rich Orange Cake from Allrecipes not too long ago so I bought a sack of oranges to make one for myself. The owner of the recipe has the same Chinese name as myself - but in Hokkien - which still makes me shudder. The 1st and last time that I heard my Chinese name in Hokkien - was at my beloved maternal grandfather's funeral 20 years ago.

Anyway, I do not know what I have for Orange Cakes but I do love them. Like I do orange trees (especially the ones in Sevilla), orange bags, orange T-shirts, orange sweets and so on. I suspect that I probably like orange cakes for the aroma that they give out as I zest the oranges. Mmmm...

I followed the recipe as much as my concentration would allow and added in some ground spices and orange extract. Also used low-fat butter.

Orange Cup Cakes :

125g Butter
180g Sugar
A pinch of ground Cloves and Cinnamon
Zest from 2 Oranges
2 Egg Yolks
200g Self-raising Flour
Fresh Orange Juice from the 2 oranges (e.g. 160ml)
A few drops of Orange extract
2 Egg Whites
A pinch of Salt

Heat oven to 175ºC.

Beat butter, sugar, spices and zest till light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

Fold in the flour and the orange juice in alternance.

Whisk the egg whites, orange extract and salt till stiff. Fold into the butter mixture.

Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes.

Verdict : Clean cake, soft and moist. Do not know how the cupcakes would taste cooled though as we ate them up within minutes of their being taken out of the oven. Am still wondering if I shouldn't have made a frosting for them.

vendredi, octobre 24, 2008

Parent-Teacher Meetings and Class Rep Musings

As a parent, I look forward to meeting the teachers. So much so that the few days leading to the meetings saw me throwing the kids dirty *you-watch-out* looks every now and then. This was reminiscent of those days when Yours Truly was a kid herself and often ended up being punished after her dear mother (don't start getting upset, mom) had met her teachers.

Eldest Son apparently told some of his teachers that his last day on earth was round the corner. But times have changed. Teachers nowadays are incarnations of zen, goodwill and positive thinking. They do not usually tell you anything that'll want to make you punish your child(ren). Not that I want to punish my children, of course. I know that I have the reputation of being a very hard mother, but I'm also a very indulgent one. I swing both ways - like most scorpions do.

I had great interviews with all of the teachers. The meetings were well organised. Baby Boy has this sweet, feminine English Rose teacher who had only good things to say of the boy. He works well, is attentive, obedient, interested in what's going on around him, is popular with the rest of the children, has an enquiring mind and displays leadership qualities. But of course he's also a very short-tempered and impatient child and will need to work on acquiring more patience.

I have mentioned at the beginning of the year that Baby Girl's new teacher seemed nice and competent and so she is. On top of that, she's cute. In just a few weeks the girl is really progressing in her reading and is really keen to work all the time on her letters and pronunciation. She is a perfectionist and is good at listening and observing. As usual she needs to overcome her shyness and lack of confidence in order to take risks and do better - which is why I'm more or less leaving her to work with her loving doting father and not be tempted to scream at her. (Why? Because my niece who's 6 months younger can read, write and count in 2 languages for a few months already and I'm trying hard not to compare.) So, if this continues, I have hope that Baby Girl'll be able to start reading, writing etc before the school year is out.

Every time I bump into the kids' Italian teacher, she would wax lyrical about them. I told her that she mustn't have gotten the right kids, but she was very insistent about it. Was told that Eldest Son had great ideas and was making good progress in the language. I must admit that I was a little floored when I asked her why his conjugations in Italian were inexistent - and she answered that that was because he hadn't been taught them yet. And we've been accusing him of lying to us about it! Oops.

Eldest Son has been diagnosed with Dyspraxia when he was last in Singapore and his teachers have been very kind about it, trying their best to make sure that he gets help in understanding questions, instructions and directives. He needs help in order to be less easily distracted and he has difficulty organising himself - otherwise, he has no problems with learning and can do just as well if not better than most of his peers.

I've had a few issues about the type of homework that he'd been given in the last few weeks that I've aired with the teachers concerned. As usual they have been receptive and have tried to explain their working rationale. Like everyone else, I have my own philosophy and experience(s) where education is concerned, so while I may not always see eye to eye with the school they know that I do appreciate the exchange(s) and am looking forward to achieving greater understanding of their programme.

Time, as we know, flies. We've already reached half term! The kids are on a short break next week and I must say that I appreciate the school calendar giving them short breaks here and there. Eldest Son, malgré lui, has been working hard and will need to have some play time.

Myself, now that I am a Class Rep, have to give some thought to my new role. As far as I know, I am there to organise opportunities for the mothers to meet up, exchange, socialise. They may eventually have questions, concerns, opinions related or not to their children and the group will be there to help in some way, but most of all, provide a listening ear. Because individual problems are otherwise best addressed individually with the school as we all know.

Exchange and debate, agreeing to disagree contribute to a certain transparency. Expat mothers do not spend their days shopping, and while some cultures advocate sipping tea and just making polite gossip correct behaviour, others accept and even encourage dissent and debate. We are in an international setting, we have different ways of dealing with or looking at the same things, and so be it.

More importantly, whatever has been discussed will not leave my meetings if I can help it. Someone from the PTA is around to help mediate if necessary and if the group should wish to make a collective request (nothing personal though) to the school, then myself or the PTA can transmit it.

I've learnt that in a group setting (unless it's too uniform - not our case), group dynamics are made in such a way that there are always people who will agree or disagree with one another so somehow things will even out in their own way. So the freer the discussion, the fairer it would usually be. Truths and untruths will sort themselves out. Just keep an open mind and do not be aggressive. The Chinese say that criticism is a caress. I complain about the Hub (just as I would praise him) but it doesn't mean that I do not love him. And he is confident enough about himself not to worry about it.

Having said all that, my 1st group meeting was all friendly conversation and an encouraging start. I am working out what we should do and eat in our coming one. How about Japanese?

mardi, octobre 21, 2008

Why do YOU keep a Blog?

Why do I keep a blog?

It's a trend and I'm oh so trendy.

I've been keeping my blog for more than 2 years now. It's a lazy way to keep friends and family informed of what I've been up to.

I enjoy putting thoughts, recipes or events out for comment.

Blogging helps me remember. Age doesn't.

I need to write. It helps me relax. Often I just start a post not really knowing what I want to say and then it takes a life of its own.

I've been to school and they taught me writing. I don't use spellcheck. When in doubt, I use a dictionary.

I've always wanted to do an intellectual/political blog - but too often the stomach takes precedence.

A few friends started their blogs after mine. I've made friends through my blog. We often worry that bloggers in real are not like their blogs at all, but it's not easy maintaining a public persona that's very different from your private one over a sustained period of time, so we should be what we write. Or eat, for that matter.

Eat I mention, for most of the blogs I frequent are food-related blogs. And many are owned by fellow Singaporeans or Malaysians. We blog about food, our lives and sometimes also our thoughts.

Needless to say, I do fear exposing myself too much in public. Many were shocked that I publish pictures of my children, my house...There are after all lots of loony people out there.

But the need to share is probably greater than the fear, which in any case shouldn't be allowed to dictate our lives. And as long as one takes responsibility for one's musings and doesn't care about the judgement of those who do not matter...

I love learning from the other blogs. Watching the new ones take flight...

I remember the first day I met Pris in Stuttgart. As we were exchanging phone numbers and email, I asked her, "Do you have a blog?" So she did and even though we're no longer living in the same city today, we still catch up with one another through our respective blogs. She's having fun and her cooking has taken flight.

Su found me through my blog and she has her own too. So I could follow her whether she's in Stuttgart, Singapore or Bangalore.

Over here in Italy, fellow Singaporeans like E in Turin and A in Padova have their own blogs. I'm very bad with phoning people, do not have the time, preferring to communicate through writing. When friends have blogs that's how I keep up with what they're up to between calls or visits. I do not know if it's the same for you, but very often when I see a friend with a blog whom I've not seen for a long time, I do not usually feel the distance. Guess I've been following his or her life from my own home.

A few of Hub's friends have taken to following my blog so as to keep track of what we're up to as a family. Mothers in Stuttgart followed my blog and were happy to find themselves occasionally mentioned or featured. Lotus doesn't blog about everything and anybody, being mentioned is often a sign of being in her thoughts. Often in a good way, of course.

Over here in Modena, I have it that I am a subject of discussion among those who know of my blogging activity. Some fear having me around in case I should blog about some person or event (*grin*). Like I'm Pandora's Box.

This honestly doesn't bother me, on the contrary, it rather amused me.

Yet people couldn't possibly treasure privacy more than myself - after all I do have a Hub in an important position in these parts. A friend here suggested that the fear could be cultural. Or because these people are unfamiliar with blogging. Or they may simply be insecure. Or they are control freaks. Or simply because they just love to bitch. Or some imagine that should I ever mention them, it'd be in a negative light - therefore they whinge about it beforehand.

Some are angry that I mention other people in my blog. Though how not to mention others since live alone I do not, I'm still trying to figure out.

Having said that, people are entitled to their own opinions and a prioris.

OK, I digress. So I blog because bloggers form a community of some sort. There is inspiration, support, information, ideas, beauty e.g. lovely photography. There is voyeurism, voyages, videos, memes, lucky draws and even cookies exchange.

And why do you blog? (This is like a meme in free form - in case you should wonder.)

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas

I have been making Fajitas for years and was surprised to discover that I've yet to blog about it. Not that it's anything fabulous, it's really more like comfort food that goes well with everyone in the family and that is easy to prepare.

You can make your own tortilla wraps using ground corn flour (preferably Masa Harina containing corn and lime) and warm water. The method is pretty similar to that for making chapatis and the Mexicans have even created a tortilla press to press the dough into flat rounds. Otherwise, you can buy the ready-made ones (usually wheat flour tortillas) at the supermarket like I do. They are not as tasty, but they do save one a lot of trouble.

Chicken Fajitas :

Chicken boneless Thighs to be marinated with
Ground Cumin
Ground Coriander


Garnishing :

Guacamole made of
Ripe avocadoes
Ground Cumin
Ground Cayenne Pepper
Olive Oil
Lime Juice

Tortilla wraps
Grilled Red Peppers
Grilled Yellow Peppers
Grilled Onions
Raw Tomatoes
Cheddar Cheese
Crème fraîche/Sour Cream
Fresh Coriander leaves

You marinate the chicken fillets and prepare the guacamole. Slice the peppers and onions, grate the cheese and dice the tomatoes.

Then grill the chicken on one grill and the peppers and onions on another. Put everything on the table and invite your guests to wrap their own Fajitas : Tortilla, chicken, peppers, onion, tomato, salad, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, coriander leaves...Bon appetit!

dimanche, octobre 19, 2008

Who takes out the Rubbish?

HERA charges us a fortune for rubbish removal. Except that there are no containers anywhere near my house and we have to transport the smelly stuff ourselves elsewhere. I've actually emailed them a few months ago about that and was told that their system was down and could I please come down to the office with my query? Am I mad? Would I want to queue up for hours in an Italian office and risk having them play ping pong with me?

Speaking of ping pong, so the Hub and I do that with the rubbish. Whose turn is it to take it out? Who does it more often? As we've gotten into the habit of recycling our rubbish after Stuttgart, we do have a number of bins at home. Taking out the rubbish could thus be a time-consuming enterprise especially when we finally arrive at the dump. You take the pain to sort out the plastic from everything else at home and then you have to put it into the container one by one at the dump. Aarrgh.

The Hub thinks, for some (untrue) reason, that he brings out the rubbish more than I do. He's very proud of the fact that he often thinks of taking out the rubbish when he goes to the golf (they've a few containers there). For the few times when we had rubbish hanging around and he knew that I've been near the golf on the day in question, he would lecture me about the simplicity blah blah of taking the rubbish along with me when I go to the golf...

Yesterday afternoon, he prepared the rubbish on his way to the golf - and left without it. I called him on the phone,

"You've left the rubbish at home."

"So? I'm now at the golf."

"I know that you're at the golf. Did you not always tell me that we have to take the rubbish out when we go to the golf?"

"Don't bother me, I'm now at the golf." And he hung up on me.

God, was I seething. If he had said that he was sorry he had forgotten to take out the rubbish, I would have found it in me to forgive him. But don't-bother-me-I'm-now-at-the golf was not the kind of answer I could live with.

So I picked up the rubbish, loaded it in my car and drove to the golf. Found his car in the parking (filled with the most expensive cars) and left the rubbish bags next to it.

He came home a few hours later lamenting that I was so childish. I have no problems with that, like I've said I do know how to take criticism. Just don't expect me to do anything about it.

Last Thursday's Lunch Menu

I didn't have the time to think about taking pictures at last Thursday's lunch for Grade One mothers. And I know that many of those present would like to return to the Chinese restaurant in the future on their own and order some of the same dishes that we had. I've also been told that a few of the other class representatives may wish to organise their future gatherings at the same restaurant.

So for those who (somehow) have access to my blog, here goes the menu :

  1. Prawn Crackers
  2. Hot and Sour Soup
  3. Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls
  4. Grilled Pork Dumplings
  5. White Rice
  6. Cantonese Fried Rice
  7. Fried Rice Noodles with Vegetables
  8. Sweet and Sour Pork
  9. Chicken with Ginger and Garlic
  10. Salt and Pepper Prawns
  11. Chilli and Peppers Prawns
  12. Green Beans
  13. Bean Sprouts with Chinese Mushrooms
  14. Fruit
  15. Chinese Tea
  16. Mineral Water

samedi, octobre 18, 2008

Organic Chapati

Lotus' Chapati

Dear SIG asked me the other day why I didn't have photos of my cooked chapati. So when I made them again this morning, I made sure that I took a few pictures.

Found some organic wholegrain flour the other day and in accordance with my intention to go more organic from now on, made the chapatis with it. In fact, it's actually easier rolling out the chapatis with wholegrain flour, though it didn't mean that my chapatis turned out round. I thought I was pretty good at making almost square ones though.

Served them with a Red Lentil Curry and an Egg Curry.

Ristorante Churrasco-Chacarero, Modena

Ristorante Churrasco-Chacarero

We are meat eaters in this family. Back in Stuttgart we would often go to Block House for a steak when I didn't feel like making one myself and we very much miss having a steakhouse here in Modena. Then we discovered this Argentinian Beef-Mexican Tapas restaurant known as Chacarero in the centre of Modena and have not looked back since.

Last evening Eldest Son had his friend and schoolmate M for sleepover. Thought our guest would enjoy a break from the endless hours they're capable of spending in front of some video game and go for a walk in Modena instead.

Only got a pic of the Mexican Tapas after the kids got to it

This time round we started with a few portions of the Mexican Tapas, followed by grilled Churrasco, Rib of Beef, Pork Ribs and Pork Sausages. We always eat our beef rare and the restaurant is pretty good at respecting that so we're happy. The portions are generous and one of our favourite sides is buttered rice. Very nicely cooked, grains intact, rich butter taste if a little too salty.


Rib of Beef

Pork Ribs

The deco is pretty Mexican Cantina in spirit and the serving staff speak both Spanish and Italian. They are only open for dinner and do 2 seatings, so either come by 8pm for the 1st one or turn up after 10 for the next one.

Ristorante Churrasco-Chacarero
56, via S. Giacomo
Tel : 059 210424

Baked Honey BBQ Pork Puffs

Baked Char Siu Puffs

I love Char Siu. On its own , in a bun or puff, on/in rice...Had a craving the other day, so made a batch of Char Siu Puffs that was eaten up in a few minutes by Eldest Son, Baby Girl and myself.

Honey BBQ Pork Puffs :

Pork filet to be diced and marinated in
Light Soy sauce
Salt and Pepper
Dry Sherry
Plum Sauce
Sesame Oil

In a bowl, mix together
Corn starch
Oyster Sauce
Light Soy sauce


Puff Pastry

Prepare the filling by browning some diced onions and garlic in a pan. Add in the marinated pork and stir fry till almost cooked. Add in the corn starch mixture, stir well and cover the pan for a few minutes. Let the filling cool.

Preheat oven at 180ºC. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out 10-cm pastry circles. Fill each circle with a soup spoonful of filling and fold it into 2 (obtaining a crescent-shaped puff). Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

vendredi, octobre 17, 2008

The Domestic Compulsive Shopaholic

Hub said the other night that I was a compulsive consumer. I buy too much in other words.

I totally agree with him as for all my faults, I'm perfectly capable of accepting criticism.

So my latest purchases just arrived in the postbox. And they included the following two cookbooks by Nigella Lawson.

He doesn't have a Domestic Goddess (yet), but at least he has the Domestic Compulsive Shopper.

Tennis Star in the Making

Baby Boy with his borrowed racket

Baby Boy insisted that he wanted to learn tennis this year and so he has started lessons at the local Tennis Club. He's really happy and is taking to it like fish to water. Smallest fish in the water.

Of course what he probably really wanted was his own tennis racket. But that he'll have to wait, I'm waiting for the trainer to mention something about it before buying one. Those things don't come cheap doesn't matter big or small fish.

mercredi, octobre 15, 2008

12th Birthday Part 3

Birthday Boy before Stracciatella-Smarties Ice Cream Cake

I must have mentioned before that the kids usually have 3 celebrations for their birthday : one with us, one in the classroom and one with their friends. So Eldest Son had his 3rd celebration with his friends on Tuesday - McDonalds followed by Kung Fu Panda (in English) at the cinema.

He invited 10 friends and 9 of them accepted the invitation. It was funny how the girls and boys all sat, ate, get driven and watched the movie separately. They did play together though, but even then it was usually girls vs boys. And we all know of course that in just a few years the trend would be reversed and they would all be chasing after one another :-)

As they were all a little too big for the Happy Meal, I got them normal menus and we had an ice cream Birthday Cake (that we had to order from McDonalds) for dessert. E and L kindly stayed around to help me manage the party and while the kids played we took the opportunity to have a nice chat.

This year's invitation card

The cinema is about 5 minutes by car from the restaurant and we caught the 5:30 afternoon show. It's a new cineplex that screens movies in English every Tuesday. The complex is spacious and has 3 levels with a bar on the 1st floor and a mini-mart/pop corn/drinks corner on the 2nd. It was a little chaotic trying to get everyone's order for caramel/chocolate/normal popcorn, but we managed to get everyone seated on time.

This year's goodie bag : mini-Rubrik's and Carambars

The McDonalds-Movie idea seemed to be popular with the children and I'm glad that they had a good time. It's really not easy trying to come up with a suitable party idea each time - and I have 3 kids so that's 3 x the headache. So now, a little rest until December...

Lovely presents from lovely guests

lundi, octobre 13, 2008

Festa della Comunità at Castelnuovo-Rangone

Long queue for roast pork

At the time when we were fantasizing about our move to Italy, we imagined ourselves hanging out with the Italians, speaking Italian, eating Italian and doing mama mia stuff - in other words being totally immersed in our new country and fully integrated blah blah.

A year later, we shudder at the thought of eating more pasta or pizza, my Italian's still half-baked because I spend most of my time speaking English or French, we could count the Italians we know with our fingers and we don't seem to do many mama mia stuff - unless you count not stopping at zebra crossings when you see pedestrians trying to cross them. Or me having a fried Gnocco at the bar this morning while buying a lottery ticket.

In short, we are very expat. And since from the look of things we'll not be leaving Italy for a while, I thought we'd better try to do more local stuff from now on...After all we did use to attend the German festas when we were in Stuttgart.

So, when I saw that our neighbouring Castelnuovo-Rangone was having some festa over the weekend, I told the Hub that we should forget the Golf Club and join in for once. Soak in the local ambiance etc.

The programme didn't look too bad e.g. improvised Comic theatre with a group known as "Les Gramelot", Jazz Concert "Piero Odorici Quartet", Gnocco and Tigelle in the street on Saturday...But the Hub said that 22h30 was a bit late for a concert and suggested that we stayed in.

A few stalls

On Sunday, I suggested that we join in the charity assembly where thay had some dog show followed by a Big Charity Lunch offering Grilled Argentinian Pork etc for 5 euros a portion. When we arrived, there were only a few stalls selling a few items from Ghana and some Arab country - and the queue for the pork was very long. We queued up for 15 minutes and seeing that the queue really wasn't moving, decided to give up and go to McDonalds for lunch.

Public pork roasting

Pork distrbution

I guess they really need to work a bit on their street stalls. We were used to the really amazing installations back in Stuttgart where almost every weekend you'll find something going on. So back to the Golf Club for the moment until something more interesting crops up.

View of Golf course from restaurant terrace

The Eternal Chicken Curry with Okra

Chicken Curry with Okra

I've been making Meat (usually lamb or chicken) Curry with Okra (aka Lady's Finger) ever since I could find the okra occasionally in Paris Chez Tang. It must be one of my favourite vegetables when I do eat vegetables.

Here in Modena, one can usually find reasonably fresh (if a little too big) okra in the Hello Shop (sounds more like phone shop than supermarket), so I would usually make a sambal or curry out of it. Unfortunately only the Hub and I like the vegetable, somehow the kids do not like the look of it. But they would of course polish off everything else, curry being popular in this family.

As we know, practice makes perfect so with this curry yesterday I've decided to train my fingers to start feeling for chapati dough. Started kneading some dough for the good bread this evening. P was right when she said that you couldn't really measure how much water you would need, the fingers will have to feel it. And for that it's not too difficult, the difficulty lies rather in making chapatis look like chapatis. Used both organic wholegrain and normal plain wheat flour as I'm still trying in bits and pieces to stick to my resolution to go more organic.

My Chapati dough

I naturally didn't expect to make round chapatis the first time on the job. I did chant "No Australia, no India, no Singapore..." all the while and came up with other shapes (need to revise my world map). But they turned out to be quite edible and were eaten up with the curry in no time.

Marinating the chicken

Chicken Curry with Okra :

Skinless Chicken pieces to be marinated with
Ground Turmeric

Curry paste made of
Fresh Chillies
Green Cardamoms
Cumin Seeds
Ground Turmeric
Ground Coriander Seeds

Make the curry as you normally would a curry, adding in curry leaves, coriander leaves etc if you wish to use them. I used a non-stick wok and so decided not to use too much oil.

Add in some diced tomatoes, water, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the curry for a while and about 10 minutes before serving add in the okra. Squeeze some lime juice over it (optional).