mercredi, mai 27, 2009

Indian Feast and Mughlai Chicken Biryani


Those who have been following my blog know that I spend my time eating or thinking about what I would next eat. Then I would spend the time in between lamenting about how fat I am and how it is so unfair that all around me women are losing kilos for the coming Summer. Well, c'est la vie, don't we all need something to look forward to and something to complain about?

This morning, I went to the driving range to hit a few balls (dressed in a linen skirt and ethnic cotton top that billowed in the breeze - must say I looked quite out of place), zoomed off to Spezzano to buy a few cakes and then picked up P and made our way to Sh's place for a cooking demonstration followed by lunch. I am so behind in my preparations for both MIL's arrival and our coming trip to Trapani (Sicily), but could find no will to resist this occasion to binge...

View from Sh's balcony

The Spread

Sh's in her element as usual. When we arrived she had already finished making a Dal Makhani and a Chicken Methi and was ready to start on the Mughlai Chicken Biryani. R wanted to learn how to make one and I am always ready to eat one.

Dal Makhani and Mughlai Chicken Biryani

Mughlai Chicken Biryani :

Chicken pieces
Fresh Mint leaves
Coriander leaves
Ginger-Garlic paste
Ground Cumin
Ground Coriander Seeds
Ground Turmeric
Lemon juice
Bay leaves
Cinnamon bark
Cumin seeds
Black Peppercorns
Basmati Rice
Ghee/Vegetable oil

Brown sliced onions and set half aside.

Marinate chicken with half of the browned onions, half the fresh mint and coriander leaves, yoghurt, ginger-garlic paste, ground spices, salt and lemon juice.

Wash and drain the basmati rice. In a pot heat up some oil and fry the bay leaves and whole spices till fragrant. Add to the rice. Then add in water and salt to taste. Use 2 cups water to one cup rice taking care to decrease the amount of water (in proportion) when you increase the quantity of rice to be used. Boil the rice till it is half-cooked. Cooking it entirely could make the biryani soggy.

Heat up some oil and cook the marinated chicken pieces in it.

Finally one could finish cooking the biryani either on the fire or in an oven. Sh did it on her cooker. In a pot, spoon in one layer of the fragrant rice followed by a layer of the cooked chicken. Top with another layer of rice and cover with fresh mint and coriander leaves and the remaining browned onions. Cover with a tight lid (or one could use chapati dough to line the lid to seal it better) and simmer till the rice is cooked. To serve, dig through the layers.

Chicken Methi, Jeera Rice, Naan

We had a buffet-style lunch on this day. K made some yummy Naans (that would be my next lesson) and P some Lentil Pakoras and there was also a fruit dessert. And we ate on Thalis - this part I adore. I want to buy a few Thalis too. I think it's so cool to have your food all on your plate.

Lentil Pakora


Well, Ladies, thanks once again for lunch! And hopefully the next one will be at my place.

My Own Flamenco Dancer


I have a thing for the Flamenco after that year living in Andalucia. But since I do not have a dancing bone in me, I am unlikely to materialise overnight into a hot, sexy Flamenco dancer - unless I consider undergoing hypnosis. On the bright side, I have a daughter, an Ebay account and a credit card. So voilà my very own Flamenco dancer - Olé!


Isn't she beautiful, my baby? And they say, ahem, that she looks like me...

dimanche, mai 24, 2009

Spring BBQ for French Speakers

This year they grew hay next door

Last year I did a big birthday party for Hub and would have done the same this year if not for my trip to London. So the compromise was to do a Spring BBQ with people he would like to invite and it so happened that they were all French speakers : French, Italian, Dutch, German and Francophone. All 13 of them.


I decided for once not to complicate my life by preparing a million dishes like I usually do. Just the usual fresh salad, nasi goreng, taboulé, tomato-mozzarella, bruschetta, curry puffs (they went well even with the adults), Italian antipasti, chicken wings...and the most tender Argentinian Beef Entrecote and American Picanha imported directly from the Americas - thanks to CA who owns a business doing that. Not to forget French cheese, fresh fruit, yummy desserts courtesy of RP, a few bottles of good red wine and lots of cool Bavarian beer (thanks to Hub's new recruit's German partner) - Hub is always delighted to have a few people to drink with.

Chicken wings, peppers and chillis

The chicken wings turned out really well especially when the Hub didn't carbonate them as usual. I marinated them the day before with tomato paste, paprika, worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, sugar, honey and BBQ sauce.

Argentinian Beef and American Picanha

The beef was worth every cent I've paid for it, it was juicy, tender and so very delicious. We all had seconds and thirds and LB was right the other day when she advised me not to bother with other stuff like sausages or gambas as nobody would want anything else once they've tried the beef. And it helped that French-speaking people usually eat rare beef - making it a pleasure cooking it.

The company was great. With DC we had a good laugh as usual and while he told us stories about encounters with the werewolf and sightings of the Virgin Mary in his part of old Italy, I shared a few of my favourite ghost stories from Singapore.

The 1st watermelons were not as good as the 1st cherries or strawberries

RP made us the most amazing Chocolate Muffins and Lemon Tart. Hub couldn't stop raving about them, he was fortunate I'm not the jealous sort. Well, I was the one who suggested that she do the desserts since I know she's great at them.

RP's Chocolate Muffins

and Lemon Tart

I am so tired. We have more travelling and more parties ahead of us - though I'm pleased to say that we've been invited to most of them for once. In the meantime, I must really start to tidy up the house - MIL arrives in less than 4 days!

Kids playing

Grade 1 Walk and Coffee

Nature Walk

As Class Mother of Grade 1 I have to organise events allowing the mothers in the class to meet up and interact. If you know me by now, I like to complicate my life. Instead of doing the usual lunches or coffee mornings like most other Reps, I try to do organise something different each time - more to keep me from boring myself than anything else.

Last Friday, I decided to do a Walk and Coffee Morning. Spring mornings are great for a spot of brisk walking, as it is warm and yet not too hot. A few mothers kindly baked or bought a few sweet and savoury items for coffee and to make us feel less guilty about consuming them, we started out with a nature walk in Montale (Pavarotti's village where the school is).


We had a good walk. The sun stayed away on the first part of our walk and we were able to socialise in small groups. Then we had coffee in LP's garden next to her pool with its tempting clear blue water (no, we didn't dive in). PB made us a yummy apple crumble, CA brought us a strudel straight from the mountains and MB baked us a really rich and moist chocolate cake. And the new mom BL made us some steamed meat buns - which reminds me that I should go learn how to make mantous from her when I could find a minute. I'm only a housewife but boy, is my agenda packed.

Apple crumble

Such a lovely day. I must say (again) that I've a really nice bunch of moms in my girl's class.

jeudi, mai 21, 2009

Singapore Chicken Curry (and Spring Lunch)

Singapore Chicken Curry

Have promised Mu that I would make her some Imperial Nems à l'occasion, have wanted to invite L over for a meal for a few months now...Thought it would be good to do a simple lunch and invite a few friends over now that it is sunny and nice and mint leaves are growing in the pot.

Viet Imperial Nems

Lovely Ladies at Lunch

So on Tuesday I fried a few Imperial Nems and rolled a few Vietnamese Summer Rolls, cooked a Singapore Chicken Curry, heated up some Tofu and made an Almond Jelly with Longans and Cherries. Hope my guests enjoyed the lunch.

What's left of the Singapore Chicken Curry

Singapore Chicken Curry :

chicken boneless thigh meat marinated in
ground spices
(turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, chilli, pepper),
potatoes (boiled and cubed)
ginger-garlic paste
0nion (diced)
lemongrass (slice into 3, bashed)
star anise
cinnamon bark
whole cloves
cumin seeds
green cardamom seeds
mustard seeds
ground chilli
warm water/chicken stock
coconut milk
curry leaves (optional)
coriander leaves

Pan-fry the marinated chicken pieces and set aside.

Brown the onions, garlic-ginger paste, add in the whole spices and curry leaves and fry till fragrant. If necessary adjust colour by adding in more ground spices.

Return the meat to the pan, stir-fry for a minute, add in warm stock, stir in 3/4 of the coconut milk, salt to taste and simmer for 20-30 minutes. 10 minutes before serving, add in the boiled potatoes and fresh coriander leaves. Decorate with the remaining coconut milk. This curry is fine served on boiled jasmine rice.

Almond Jelly with Longans and Cherries

My almond jelly didn't turn out too well this time, probably failed to dissolve the jelly crystals properly.

Boy in Pool

Meanwhile, Baby Boy who got to stay at home that day due to his irregular sleeping patterns got to enjoy the newly-set-up small pool on his own. Since we would be away most of summer, I've decided not to bother setting up the bigger pool. Plus we are now all members of the Golf Club and could just use the pool there.

mercredi, mai 20, 2009

Why am I not a Chinese Beauty in Cheongsam?

Painting of a Girl in Cheongsam

I had images of a pretty Chinese lady in Cheongsam and I remember now that I saw them when I was a little girl. She posed in framed photos hanging on a little wall in a tiny room in a dark and dirty house in Chinatown shared by dozens.

That was Singapore in the 1970s. And the pretty Chinese lady was one of my grandaunts. She arrived in Singapore young and single at the beginning of the last century, worked very hard all her life and never married nor had children. In her old age, she returned to China to retire and live out her final years.

I visited her occasionally with my parents (after which we would eat almond and black sesame desserts at the roadside stalls nearby) and I can still see the tiny room (the size of my current storeroom) she slept in, containing a bed, a table and a few frugal personal items. And of course those photos of her in her younger days. I remember thinking then how pretty she was in her youth and how ugly and wrinkled she had become in her old age. And if you could see the dark and dirty kitchen she shared with countless families and other old people, you would have cringed like I had even then.

Vaguely I believe that she had been much prettier than me. I would love to look like her in those cheongsams. Maybe that is why I rarely have myself photographed - because I will never look like that. Hard to believe how she could become so ugly and wrinkled in her old age.

But would I have liked her life? Had she loved and lost? Had she ever regretted not being able to lead a "normal" life, get married and have children? Did she have regrets each time she looked at herself in those photos? Those years were tough years, women who moved to Singapore either did so to marry Chinese men who had arrived earlier or were there to labour for their survival. I am no Chinese Beauty in Cheongsam, but I could hit the ball to 60m (after 4 lessons) at the driving range and spend my day at 3 supermarkets looking for fresh coriander leaves.

And hopefully I wouldn't be ugly and wrinkled in my old age. Just fat. Should I nonetheless still try to fit into a Cheongsam? In any case, I wonder how I may get my hands on those photos. She must have brought them back with her to China and she must have been dead nearly 2 decades now...


Spring is here, the lawn has been mowed, the children came out to play - football.

vendredi, mai 15, 2009

Thursday, Friday...


Since I've paid for my Golf membership, I thought I had better return to the club. After 6 weeks' absence. It had been pretty demoralising the first few days as I couldn't seem to hit the ball no matter what I did. But yesterday, after my 4th lesson, I finally started to hit a few decent balls with the N°7 club. You need to have a budget for wasting balls in this sport, man. I am always so tempted to go into the field to pick up some of my wasted balls. Will need to hit thousands of balls to get the right reflex and swing etc. Will also need to live a pretty long life to get some return on investment.

Anyway, I don't like to quit something I've started, especially not just after 2 months. So I ordered a book on (simplified) golf rules on Amazon. Plus a few historical romances by Catherine Coulter and Amanda Quick (this time of the year, I like reading books with hot sex scenes), flute, piano and guitar sheet music, Ghibli Studio DVDs, music CDs and a few other things. It's like going to the supermarket for 3 items and coming out with 30 haha.

While I was in my shopping mood, also bought 8 new fancy dresses for the Babies on Ebay. Everyday is Carnevale in this family as we know. Feeding their Hollywood scriptwriting potential as I tried to justify the expense to the "stingy" Hub. Still waiting for a good moment to mention the 2 tiny diamonds I've ordered on impulse.

I haven't been to the gym for a few months now. And a number of the ladies told me that they couldn't seem to manage it after Easter too. I guess that when the weather is warmer, going to the gym can be depressing. I am quite happy just hanging around the house or garden pottering. I am starting to have roses and chillies, by the way. And while I only had one lily last year, this year I may have at least 5!

Last evening, we went out for dinner - without the kids. Nothing romantic, social dinner with his former English colleague who came over from the UK with 2 important clients (2 Heads from Llyods Banking) to visit Ferrari. I was running late as usual as had to cook dinner for the kids AND for this afternoon's PYP Schools in Italy lunch and probably arrived at the restaurant smelling of chicken tikka masala.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Restaurant in question was MOFO - always a sure value if you wanted somewhere intimate, expensive and creative. I was pretty pleased to have an occasion to dress up for, turned out in Hugo Boss (silk dress and wooden sandals) only to have my mood turn sour when the Hub said that I looked like a sack of potatoes and why didn't I wear that Burberry dress like he asked me to? I've always known that we do not share the same taste in fashion, he always does have that thing for grandmothers. Because I didn't feel like wearing Burberry to meet the English, besides the sleeves were too tight.

Lovely evening we had otherwise - company was great as was the food. I had Squid Ink Gnocco with Scallops to start followed by Fish and Pan-fried Goose Liver. The desserts sounded good too but nobody could eat anything anymore. Had to drive back - barefooted - as the Hub had drunk too much.

The Savoury Buffet (unfortunately most pics didn't turn out)

Finally, thank God I prepared the curry the night before as I was running late as usual this morning trying to bake 24 Mini-Quiches for the buffet lunch. The meal went well, I think, with lovely dishes prepared by the other moms not to forget an appreciative clientele (they were 32!). Even the teachers got to eat some of the food, makes you feel good when you knew that you've made them get over eating the fish in the canteen.

Sweet Buffet

Next week will be horribly busy. Plus I must start to clear out the guestroom, in less than 10 days the MIL will arrive!

mercredi, mai 13, 2009

That Zara Dress

Me in the Dress

It's not quite my thing doing the Karen Cheng. Not that I'm timid or anything, in those days when I was wearing a French size 36 I would strip at the drop of a hat. But 3 sizes up and 6 years later, I wouldn't want anybody to lose their appetite at the sight of me.

Dress w/o me in it

Still, I risk pissing off a few friends if I didn't show them my new dress from Zara. So after some consideration I decided to go ahead with it, and can only hope that you have not visited the blog just before or after a meal.


And pardon me for not tidying up the room before the shoot. It's too much of a hassle and I've got other more important things to deal with - like filing my taxes.

Meanwhile I had some fun playing with the contrast thingy, thought one of the photos made me look like I belonged to another époque. Now if I could turn back the bathroom scale reading to 6 years ago...

mardi, mai 12, 2009

Summer Pests

If those anti-mosquito plugs are cancerous and bad for our health, we're in for it. At 2:45 this morning the first mosquitoes woke us up with their insistent humming and I had to go round the rooms putting in the plugs and so there began at least 5 future months of nightly plugs to keep those blood suckers away from our skin. I hate Summer (too).

I do not understand why Modena has to be such a swamp. Mosquitoes, flies, wasps, ants, crickets, spiders, scorpions, lizards, moths...I get them all. You must imagine that warm weather is synonymous with eating out, but that's where you're wrong. Not here. You'll have to spend time battling the flies, wasps and mosquitoes, and before that you'll have to clean up your full-of-pigeon-shit garden furniture. Now you know why most Italians prefer to eat in air-conditioned dining halls in restaurants.

Before the mosquitoes woke me up actually, I had to squish a spider walking across my face. I've been bitten by something, scratching and bleeding everywhere for the past week. Doesn't help when you have sweet fat-filled blood like me.

The next few weeks will be busy ones, with class coffee mornings or lunches to attend or organise, meals to prepare and kids' excursions to think about. We've also been invited and/or are inviting, in other words I'll be doing quite a bit of cooking starting tomorrow. Then MIL will arrive and we'll be off to Sicily at the end of the month. In the meantime, I'll now go get a few more refills for my mosquito plugs. The battle has begun.

lundi, mai 11, 2009

Pig's Blood and Intestines in Ginger and Leek

Had to go shopping again last Friday. Baby Girl wanted this white linen dress from Armani but I told her that I couldn't (and wouldn't) pay for it since the price was cut-throat and I've busted my Bancomat limit for the week. But I promised to find a cheaper substitute and I always try to keep my promises.

Would have to find a shop where I could buy/afford something using cash. Besides I needed something for myself too for the Golf Club dinner, my being so fat meaning that I couldn't fit into anything I own anymore. All around me many mothers are losing weight like butter melting in the sun, but I just keep piling them on. This is so frustrating.

Anyway, Zara and Pull & Bear came to mind, so I set out for Reggio Emilia. Thought with the crisis going on shops would be having Sales more often but not Zara, of course.

Found a colourful dress for myself and 2 cute ones for Baby Girl. Plus another pair of golden shoes for her. This must be the 5th pair of golden shoes that I've bought for the girl, she does so love them (and outgrows them so quickly too). Everything for the same price as that Armani dress. Smart Lotus.

The shopping done, made my way to the Chinese restaurant for lunch. I'm not a fan of Wenzhou cuisine, but they often do this Big Intestine Vermicelli Soup that I love and with a bit of luck they would have Pig's Blood too.

Since I've tanned quite a bit in the face, I look like a Malay or Thai nowadays. They were a little surprised to hear me speak Chinese and once I started to order my Soup and Pig's Blood they started to remember me from past meals. As it was, I was in luck. They had the soup and the Pig's Blood and Intestines in Ginger and Leek that I wanted. Yippee.

Actually with the on-going swine flu some people would tell me to avoid eating pork. But the virus is transmitted from human to human and has nothing to do with freshly-cooked pork or its parts. The senseless slaughter of the pigs in Egypt makes my blood boil. It's bad enough that we have to rear animals, kill and eat them; To kill them out of misinformation or misplaced fear is an added sin because of the waste. Probably for that reason I felt like eating pig.

Bought some fresh tofu, Yeo's Soy Bean milk and Wang Wang rice crackers from the Chinese shop. The area around the train station in Reggio was filled with Chinese, Arabs and Africans. Pity they couldn't come up with vibrant Chinatowns like in Melbourne, NYC, London, Toronto or even Paris. I would so love to have some tim sum, Cantonese roast duck or Shrimp Dumpling Noodles...

dimanche, mai 10, 2009

Palazzo Arzaga Hotel Spa and Golf Resort (and Gardaland again)

Palazzo Arzaga Golf

Hub was invited to his annual Saleri Golf competition at Lake Garda this weekend. This year, it was held at the 5* Palazzo Arzaga Hotel Spa and Golf Resort in Brescia. Like last year, we set out early for the golf club, he went off to play golf and I brought the kids to Gardaland. Would have preferred to spend the day at its leading Clarins Spa - but then it'd be difficult to ignore those 3 monsters that I've for some reason chosen to bring into the world.

The hotel and its surrounding golf course were beautiful. Apparently a popular choice of rich Germans and Austrians. It would have been nice to spend the night there like Hub's other colleague and his wife, but well, they have 2 high incomes and no kids to pay for. These kids are depriving me of many luxuries and to boot, you actually feel happy when you slave for them.

View of pool from the terrace

The journey to Gardaland should have lasted 30 minutes but of course there had to be a huge traffic jam about 8km from the amusement park. But I know the park by hard after more than 4 visits since last year - so we could be a minimum efficient with the rides, lunch, shows etc. Truth be told I marched the kids like a field marshall during parade. And screamed like one most of the time.

The Babies were really excited. Though within 10 minutes in the park I've lost Baby Girl. Sent Eldest Son to look for her while I queued up for the next ride - and ended up losing him too. Luckily he had my mobile phone so I was able to go to security and call him from there. And this misadventure served as a waking up call for all of them so the rest of the day went quite smoothly from there.

On average we queued up for between 10 and 30 minutes for each ride. And it was supposed to be low season. We caught only one of the shows - the ice skating performance with a new programme for the 2009 season. And as usual it was worth it, the performers and costumes were good.

Baby Girl wanted to do the Mammut roller-coaster ride again and was really happy about it. Eldest Son refused to do most of the tougher rides claiming that he would vomit (like my sis) - while the Babies were disappointed each time they couldn't do anything big and dangerous because of their height (or lack of). This year Baby Boy finally qualified for the Jungle Rapids ride and was really excited about it. But because of the crowds it wasn't possible to do anything more than once.

We left Gardaland when it closed at 6pm and headed out immediately for the Golf Resort. One had to be really efficient about this as in no time the whole region would be jammed with cars all leaving at the same time. There could be no room for mistakes (e.g. which lane/direction to take) as making U-turns would be very very painful.

Terrace and view from terrace

We arrived at the hotel just in time to change (I stripped in the carpark) and grab a glass of Prosecco before dinner. This year we had a sit-down dinner instead of a buffet like last year :

Rotolino di crepés con ricotta, spinaci e mozzarella di Bufala

Filetto di manzo alle erbe forti

Semifreddo al caffè

Very good food in a lovely frescoed dining room. Since I couldn't dress up from head to toe in Gucci like some of the other ladies, I opted for the colourful exotic look from my beaded Island Shop Chinese wrap to my new halter-neck 70's dress from Zara (that I just bought on Friday) and golden sequined Morocccan leather slippers from La Redoute - all for under 200 euros. I was actually wondering if I needed to change after all (i.e. from my old Armani t-shirt and super-cool British India pyjama pants), but aside from the fact that they were spotted with ketchup and cotton candy, Hub warned me when he met me at the carpark that there were diamonds and Gucci everywhere in the dining room and that I had better get myself changed. So I did. Thought I looked pretty cool too. Gucci is easy to figure out compared to a colourful dress from the teenage section chez Zara.

It was a tough and tiring late drive back home and I tend to drink too much when the wine is free and free-flow. So Hub had to drive though he was very tired (apparently the course was tough and endless) and had drunk even more than me and then he was pissed off with me for not volunteering to drive etc. Hello this is not the Red Cross, if he wanted me to drive he should beg or at least ask very nicely, don't you agree?

And as usual, he couldn't follow the GPS (he always drives so fast the GPS never has the time to tell him anything and in any case he's lousy at listening to women talk) and he would put the blame on me. Then he would get angrier when I send him to fly his kite somewhere else and he would drive like he's in a Ferrari on the Autobahn just to scare me. I mean I'm the only person in the family who's not ticklish, do you think I could be intimidated so easily? I reminded him that if he ever should get stopped by the Police he would lose his license not just for speeding but also for drinking - and he would look like an idiot without a driver's license at work. Otherwise if he gets us all killed it wouldn't matter since when you're dead you wouldn't feel anything anyway.

It worked and I noticed that he went down from 170km/hr to 140 and when I made small talk later on he answered nicely. Ah men.

25080 Carzago di Calvagese della Riviera, Brescia, Italy
Tel : +39 030 680 600