mardi, mars 31, 2009

Home-made Soy Bean Milk

Home-made Soy Bean Milk

I couldn't find soy bean milk here. Or they do sell soy bean milk in most supermarkets, but they are not of the brand I'm used to (i.e. Yeo's) and look too healthy for my liking - so I make my own nowadays. The other day I saw tofu at Esselunga - but on reading the ingredients, it's actually tofu made partly with cow's milk which I thought sounded weird. I'm difficult with things that come in a packet in general.

Since making soy bean milk is so easy, I can't whinge about it. And with it you can also make tofu flower (a jellied soy bean curd), tofu (of course) and use the okara (what's left when you've finished squeezing out the milk) to bake bread etc (e.g. I dried roasted some and added them to the meat dumplings, Hub wondered why it tasted funny but ate them all - haha). For while the okara is tasteless, it contains most of the fibre in the soy bean so you may not want to throw all of it away. And throw away it'll have to be otherwise since I have no cow to feed it to.

I do my soy bean milk the easy way, meaning soaking the beans overnight. After which I would drain the water, microwave the beans for a few minutes, add 1.5litres of water to 500g of soy beans and then grind them in the mixer in batches.

I would then squeeze out the milk either with a cheese cloth or pass it through a metal sieve. Then boil the milk with a bit of fructose (I like my soy bean milk slightly sweet), pass it through the sieve again. Cool the milk and then pour it into plastic bottles to chill in the fridge.

Back in Singapore I love having soy bean milk first thing in the morning, followed by a warm bowl of sweetened freshly-made tofu flower. Simple luxuries that we do not have here.

Meanwhile I've been asked why I haven't been blogging much lately. Well, it has been raining alot in the past week and I get alot of wind around my house which breaks things and upsets my ADSL connection. Plus the grey weather gets me down, I'm busy with quite a number of social (mainly lunches) and other events, have to pack for our coming ski week (which is depressing as none of my 4 ski pants fit anymore) and the best one - I hurt my left arm quite badly practising golf a few days ago. Practising is a big word since it happened as I tried to hit my very first ball of the morning. Hit the ground instead and the impact sent a shock all the way up my left arm and whatever muscle I have there is now swollen.

mercredi, mars 25, 2009

Beginner's Golf

Modena Golf and Country Club

Promised the Hub that I would start learning how to play golf come Spring. So this morning I dragged myself to the Golf Club opposite the house and started hitting balls with a N°7 club. My instructor is a long-haired lecherous-looking chain-smoking Italian guy. But he could speak some French. Another occasion not to practise my Italian.

I was lucky the weather was great this afternoon. The land where the golf now is used to belong to our landlord. In the past there probably wasn't the road between the 2 parcels of land. Anyway, the old landlord got money and shares out of the sale - another example of how the Italians in these parts got really rich through their land that didn't use to be worth much. And this Golf is now one of the best in the world - or so I was told.

I managed to find a pair of decent-looking pants that sort of fitted and my old pair of Puma shoes - no way I would be allowed to turn up in my old jeans and sweater according to Hub. Golf Clubs have strict dress codes and in this particular one you'll be rubbing shoulders (or sticks) with the rich and famous in Modena. Or at least those who needn't labour at 2 in the afternoon.

I did see a lady in a pair of jeans - but it was an Armani. Otherwise almost everyone was in Polo Ralph Lauren, Burberry or Hilfiger. Which made me regret my easy access to the Polo and Hilfiger stores in Stuttgart, and the fact that I didn't buy that pair of Armani jeans during the last Sale because I was a cheapskate. Do not get me wrong, I have tonnes of clothes - only I can't fit into them any more. I have been optimistic for more than a year now that I would lose those 10 Kgs but of course I've only been piling more on.

I've bought a golf glove at Decathlon a few weeks ago but of course I couldn't find it now. Never find anything when I need it - it's classic. Thank God the Golf Club has a little shop so I bought another one there.

All set for playing, and of course I didn't have Hub's key that would allow me to rent the yellow golf balls. No problem, long-haired instructor got some rich guy practising his swing to sponsor a few balls. And the rich guy was so cool he kept reassuring us that it wasn't any problem. It's Hub's fault - he should have thought of passing me his key for now I look and feel like a freeloader.


Learning how to play golf is embarrassing. Half the time you either didn't hit the ball or if you did, it would just bounce a few metres to your left. I dread to think that in addition to getting the position, swing etc right, I still have to learn about all those clubs in the usual golf bag. Plus pass some exam. But well, since I've started it, I had better get on with it.

lundi, mars 23, 2009

Play Dates for the Young and not so Young

Taboulé, Guacamole, BBQ Meat and Prawns, Fried Vermicelli...

When the weather improves, we come out of hibernation and feel more inclined to socialise. Baby Boy had a little playdate with his good friend Fede last Thursday and we were invited to dinner at DC's on Saturday. On Sunday, we had the L's and B's over for a BBQ lunch. And we are all trying to make the most of the season before the mosquitoes, wasps and flies return in force to make eating in or out unbearable.

Watching the Simpsons (Fede's request)

Dinner at DC's (the man behind the New California)

Produce from Apulia (where his family comes from)

Grilled Fennel and Pork Sausages

BBQ Lunch with the L's and B's (we were 6 adults and 8 kids!)

mercredi, mars 18, 2009

Happy 5th Birthday, Baby Boy!

The love of my life turns 5 today.

He is still so little and soooo cute.

Hard to believe that 5 years and 9 months ago he didn't even exist.

His teachers at his former German Kinderhaus told me that he was their sunshine.

He definitely is mine.

He is a mini-Hub. Though he likes fishballs like me.

He had an ice cream cake to share with his classmates at school.

Followed by a home-made Chocolate Cake with Cream and Strawberries at home.

And we're waiting for good weather to hold his Birthday Party where he'll get to invite his whole class to celebrate with him.

Bon 5e anniversaire, Baby Boy!!!

Light Chocolate Cake

230g self-raising Flour (sieved)
3Tbsps Cocoa Powder
1/5 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda
170g Castor Sugar
3 Eggs
150ml Crème fraiche or Mascarpone
150ml Sunflower Oil

Whisk eggs till fluffy, add in cream and oil. Mix dry ingredients well and add to the wet mixture. Mix well.

Bake in hot oven at 140°C, 40 minutes. Turn off heat and sit for another 10 minutes in the oven.

I make this when I do not want to have a heavy buttery cake.

mardi, mars 17, 2009

Grade 1 Lunch - a Casa Mia

Moms smiling for the camera

I have to put it on the record that I enjoy being Class Rep of Grade One. It's the biggest class in the school but it probably also contains the biggest proportion of nice, fun moms. For that I thank my lucky stars and for that too am I glad that Baby Girl didn't make it to Grade 2 (because of her birthdate). Though of course it doesn't mean that she should slack.

This morning, I hosted lunch for half of the class in my garden. It was a last-minute decision, made just yesterday when I realised that for once - only half of the class would be turning up for my next gathering. The weather forecast predicted a sunny day - Carpe Diem.

I made a really simple lunch of Roast Free-range Farm Chickens, Stir-fried Beans, Salad and Chicken Rice. Some of the moms brought cooked vegetables, wine and Lemon Cake and we made a really nice meal out of them.

What a lovely day and such nice company. Only regret - didn't get a chance to carry LP's cute baby boy. But I did volunteer to babysit him one day and boy am I looking forward to it.

Babies playing in the garden

lundi, mars 16, 2009

Me and My Big Mouth - Again

We were at the notary's office in Paris signing the paperwork to sell our old flat and buy a new one (at the same time). The real estate agent (with his posh aristocratic name) started to give us information about our new flat.

"The main door's digicode is 4539..." Then he looked at me and added,

"You wouldn't know it, but that's the timeline for WW2 - in reverse order."

I had to say something, don't you think so?

"It may not look like it, but I did graduate from Sciences Po* and I have a DEA** in International Relations."

I probably look dumb because almost all my life I would have people come to me to tell me they were surprised I did so well at school (meaning they thought I was dumb), that nobody knew I was a 2-time Scholar and then the HOD didn't want me in Honours Year because I was too direct and "lacked class".

Now people exclaimed when they saw my house (like they expected me to live in a dump) and double exclamation when they knew who my Hub was - like how could a guy like him marry a girl like me? Sigh...

You realise then that we really place too much on appearances all the time and have little respect for substance or sincerity. And most people tend to look at things in black and white and live with too many a prioris or stereotypes.

I know that I should be less clumsy and incorrect and show at all times what a great education I've had. But school doesn't always teach you what life will and does and it doesn't dictate what your heart tells you you should do and go for. And I am and have always been comfortable with who I am - no matter what others may think of me.

For example, I may be loud - but I don't snitch on others nor do I carry tales. I may not be elegant - but I know what integrity is and I stand by what I say or believe in.

Recently I have once again (unwittingly) offended somebody. And if you care to believe me, someone out there is trying to use this occasion to make me look bad, playing on my notoriety for being incorrect.

At a recent Mothers' Lunch, a serious, respected, reliable and intelligent mother was telling us about her work at the school. I had of course got to butt in and play the fool, asking her what she thought of my dearest child whom she sees a few times a week in the course of her work. Her face fell immediately and she answered that she wasn't the person I should talk to on the subject, shouldn't I discuss this with the teacher instead?

OK, I may be bonkers but certainly I haven't lost it yet. Of course I've talked to the teacher (a real pearl) and I certainly wasn't expecting her to give me a report about my son in front of 10 other mothers over lunch. It was a social question and I was expecting a fun answer, in the vein of, "He's sooo cute..." (which he is) or "I'm not telling you..." (which would be cheeky). OK, but to be fair, almost nobody shares my twisted sense of humour.

Anyway I am sharing this with you my friends because I have it on the grapevine that this incident that I had already forgotten about is apparently causing distress and embarrassment to the person in question. I have it that because of this, she wouldn't want to attend any future coffee mornings or lunches (especially if I should be around - I imagine) in case some idiot like myself should start interrogating her about the child(ren)!!! Knowing her, she wouldn't be the person to go around telling the world this (she's very discreet - as you must have gotten it by now), but someone else who was present at that Mothers' Lunch must have been snitching on us - as usual.

OK, I hate to put such a nice person like this mother in such a position. I realised now that what I thought was just social talk (we really do have to watch what we say, don't we?) was considered incorrect and clumsy by other people. And I have to respect that whether I like it or not.

So what should I do? Apologise to her? One-to-one or in public? Personally or via email?

I'm a big girl, I can do this correctly. Right?

*Aka L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris

**Equivalent to a "Master 2" today

Egg and Mixed Dal Curry, Prawn Biryani

Egg and Mixed Dal Curry

Yesterday's lunch. Normally wouldn't fry the hardboiled eggs (too oily) but decided to do it the "right" way this time. The Mixed Dal Curry contained different types of lentils and beans - good for health. But is not entirely vegetarian since I made it with a meat stock.

Prawn Biryani

The Prawn Biryani too had its own stock - leftover from my garlic and wine vongole the night before.

We ate out in the garden for the first time this year - after we've hosed down the garden furniture that was filled with spiderwebs and pigeon shit.

Once Spring is here, it'll be time to entertain again.

Finding Lost Friends - the Downside

In the last 2-3 years, I've been a little obsessed with finding long-lost friends especially those I've attended school with. I just wanted to know how everyone is, which paths they have chosen, if they had careers, children, something to share that may continue to change the way I look at things.

Thanks to the Internet, I've found a number of my old schoolmates. Most of them look the same (even 10-20 years down the road!), would have recognised them anywhere. But most have also gone on to do things I wouldn't really imagine them doing - but all for the better.

It has been really wonderful receiving news from them. Exams and punishment from the teachers aside, the years spent at school have been among the very best in my life. Or at least for some reason I think of them fondly today.

And my friends from long ago, whether we had been close or not at all, shared a part of my life and memories with me. Which is why I really do treasure them all.

Unfortunately, not all is rosy. Discovered through another newly-found friend that Grace, from back at University, died in 2004 of a rare one-in-a-million tumour. May God rest her soul.

It set me thinking once again of one of my Professors reminding us to Carpe Diem - seize the day! - when we could. Though truth be told I've always been more a Carpe Diem Cras sort of girl. Just need to look at all the piles of everything from paper to washing around me to know.

I read Grace's blog outlining the last days leading to her death. And I am comforted by the fact that she had fought to the end, making the most of of her living moments (even wrote a book about her disease : "Pain in the Neck") and giving courage to those who knew or have read about her.

There I am lamenting all the time about not wanting or able to do anything during winter because the cold gets to me. Tomorrow I am giving lunch to the mothers in my class. OK, it helps that the sun seems to be out again. Still, Carpe Diem!

dimanche, mars 15, 2009

Samoussas (The Real Thing)


I love Samoussas. The ones we have in Singapore are usually made with spring roll pastry whereas the ones sold in Indian shops here in Europe tend to be made with dough and fried. Since I have it on the grapevine that my cooking guru P is an expert on the matter, I didn't hesitate to ask her to show me how she made hers.

Samoussa dough

The Chapati is doubtless the mother of all Indian dishes. Know how to make this and you are set to make most Indian delicacies.

The filling

As usual, I have learnt something new. P used Ajwain seeds (similar to Caraway seeds) in her dough for the samoussas. I know the seeds by taste, but for some reason never got round to using them in my cooking. Now that I've discovered it, you can be sure that I'll be using it often. I just love it, it makes me want to make Murukus. Because it made me think of Murukus.

Sh and K joined us - though hours later. An example of ladies who didn't check bus time-tables and who didn't ask the bus driver when to alight when they finally got on it. :-) But they got to visit Maranello and a bit of Serramazzoni by bus and foot - a small adventure.

Needless to say, those Samoussas were delicious. I had to bring home a few for the Hub and the kids and they loved it too. Self-sacrifice, as you can see. Could have eaten them all myself, but didn't.

Potato Parathas (the potatoes were inside)

P also made us delicious Potato Parathas for lunch. Now, what else does P know how to make? Or doesn't, for that matter. Tell me, P.

mercredi, mars 04, 2009

Combi Seafood Platter

Last evening's dinner

Saw pretty decent fresh cod, sea bass, cuttlefish and scampi at the fishmonger's yesterday and decided to prepare them for dinner. On the menu : Grilled Scampi, Baked Sea Bass, Grilled Sepia and Fried Thai Fish Cakes served with Salad Leaves dressed in Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil. Very simple but really good. The scampi were particularly sweet and tasty. Yummy...

Though started preparing dinner a little late because Ms Rb graced me with her company sipping red wine on her own. Always good company our dear le bon vivant Rb.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of the kids singing Mama Mia from my ABBA Singstar - before they damaged the disc. Boo hoo hoo...

dimanche, mars 01, 2009

Good Luck String and 7-Stone Ring

H SI 0,80 ct

E came back from Bulgaria a few weeks ago and offered me a string. If I wore it on the 1st of March, it would bring me good luck according to her.

This morning, just after I've tied it round my left ankle, Hub announced that WiFi works after all in this house. It hadn't for the past 18 months, so this was good news and Eldest Son especially is happy since he now has hope that he would be able to surf on the Net on my old computer.

I on my part am glad that I wouldn't need to bring the Alice box back to the shop and make a complaint.

Then I did a good Rogan Josh and the Hub, in a good mood, decided to offer me a new ring for last Christmas (better late than never as we all know). I've been eyeing a 2-ct eternity ring (have been seeing it on a few of the mothers at school) for a while now, but he doesn't like it at all - so we compromised on a 7-stone ring. For a fat person I have fine fingers, so it is possible that an eternity ring would look too much on me.

This new ring is very simple, and only 0,8 ct - so that I can wear it on a regular basis. He said that we'll have to wait for the recession to be over and our 2nd home purchased before I get my diamond upgrade. Fair enough, I guess.

UPDATE : OK, shouldn't have blogged so positively before midnight. Just before we went to bed, the kids played with my Singstar ABBA and DAMAGED it!!!!!!!!! And finally opened the latest letter from the Gas company - and nearly choked when I saw the thousand euro bill. March is going to be a tough month.

Rogan Josh (Kashmiri or Punjabi Lamb Curry)

Rogan Josh

Went to the Moroccan grocery a few days ago and bought a leg of lamb. Should I roast it or make a curry? The curry won out and so Rogan Josh was what we had for lunch today.

Rogan Josh basically is meat cooked in ghee. And it is a delicious curry very popular in this household. I made an Aloo Gobi, some spinach and Butter Basmati Rice to go with it. Absolutely satisfying.

Today's lunch

Rogan Josh

Leg of lamb (chopped into large pieces)
Ground Paprika
Ground Ginger
Ground Cumin
Ground Coriander
Ground Turmeric
Ground Cloves
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Chilli

Ghee or Butter
Ginger-Garlic-Onion paste (Kashmiri version may not contain onion or garlic)
Onion (diced)
Cumin seeds
Mustard Seeds
Tomato Puree
Warm Water
Garam Masala
Fresh Coriander leaves

I do not remove the bone nor the fat from the meat. The curry tastes great because of the bone and the fat.

Start by marinating the meat with the dried/ground spices.

Prepare the ginger-garlic-onion paste.

Heat some ghee or butter in a heavy bottom pot. Brown the meat. Remove and set aside.

Using the same fat (now enriched with lamb fat), brown the diced onions, whole spices and the ginger-garlic-onion paste.

When everything is fragrant, return the browned meat to the pot. Add in enough warm water to cover the meat, followed by 2 small tins of tomato puree. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for an hour. Meat should be tender and the fat should have risen to the top. Stir in some Garam Masala and a pot of plain yoghurt. Mix well. Simmer for another 30 minutes.

Before serving, add in some fresh coriander leaves. The lamb should melt in your mouth.