mercredi, mars 31, 2010

Grade 1 Lunch at MD's

MD's Table

Do not envy me too much. I was invited to lunch at MD's today. My first invitation to an English lunch prepared by an English mother. I was really excited if you had to know.

You have probably been told that English food is not fabulous. I, on the other hand, have always loved a good English Roast, all the mashed potatoes with gravy I could eat, and among other things, fish and chips. It's just that their cuisine has to be done properly and with fresh, good-quality produce for one to appreciate it in all of its simple, nutricious splendour.

MD's an excellent cook. And she worked a few years as one too - so you understand why. To start, she sets a pretty table that had me feeling envious because I'm just not strong in that department. Her home had a nice English country theme in both colours and furniture. I wonder that Hub hadn't complained about my lack of decorating sense. Or maybe he has given up on me. I have other talents (or do I?)...

Cauliflower Soup

We had Cauliflower Soup to start and home-made country bread to go with it. I binged on the bread (with loads of butter!), and am surprised that I could finish up the rest of what was to come...

Home-made Country Bread

Then there was a modern Chicken Pie with roasted vegetables followed by a really delicious no-bake Cheesecake made with her own lemon curd. As usual, I was interested to learn from the cook and this time I learnt that Mascarpone was chosen over Philadelphia cream cheese for the cheesecake because it doesn't have an overpowering taste of cheese like the latter. Good point as the cheesecake was simple, light and delicious.

Chicken Pie

And the company. My Brazilian father was there - we're starting to see quite a bit of him. There was an Italian, new German and French mum. I was always the last to finish eating and I suspect that that's because I talk too much or eat more than the others or both. Anyway I had a really good time and we had to be chased off the table as it was (already) time to pick up the kids!

No-bake Cheesecake

It was a great lunch and I am already trying to book myself a place for the next one :-). Trying to get MD to do something with gravy. I'm salivating just thinking of it.

mardi, mars 30, 2010

Prawn and Clam Pilaf

Prawn and Venus Clam Pilaf

I am the only one in the family who is not ticklish. So you know that I am not afraid of my husband. But I found myself waking up in the middle of the night laughing away like a mad woman. Because someone tickled me in my dream. Don't you find that ironic?

After spending the whole of yesterday playing (unpaid) travel agent, I think the beginning of July will be divided between Liguria and Ravenna so as to please the MIL and the kids with their various demands e.g. pool, beach, amusement parks, museums, hiking, breakfast in hotels...I have decided that this year will be our year to visit as much of Italy as we can, so I am sticking to the plan. With the Teenager entering his last year at the school in September (no Grade 10 in the ISM), our days in Modena (maybe Italy too) should be numbered.

I found myself with some leftover prawn stock (from my prawn noodle soup) and having bought a bag of venus clams when I was grocery shopping this morning, decided to make a Prawn and Clam Pilaf. This is a fusion rice dish and if I may say so myself, quite a success. The rice, seafood and spinach were cooked just right, and the textures in harmony with one another.

In the pan
Prawn and Clam Pilaf (serves 2) :

1 cup Basmati rice (rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes)
500g Venus Clams (soaked for 30 minutes in salted water and rinsed)
500g Prawns (heads and shells used to make a prawn broth)
2 handfuls of fresh Spinach (cleaned)
1 Lemon wedge
Chives for garnishing
Olive oil
2 Onions (sliced)
3 Garlic cloves (diced)
1 small slice fresh Ginger (diced)
2-3 Tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 - 1 Tsp Mustard seeds
1 Thai chilli (sliced)
1 Bay leaf (torn into pieces)
2 Tbsp fresh Parsley (chopped)
Seafood broth
Ground Black Pepper

This is a very easy dish but the ingredients have to be prepared in advance and the cooking co-ordinated. Prepare the prawn broth by caramelising the prawn heads and shells and then cooking them with a few spices (e.g. star anise, cinnamon, cloves...) and hot water, simmering for about an hour. Cook the prawns briefly in the broth and set them aside. Wash and soak the clams and rice (in separate containers).

Raw clams

Heat up some oil in a pan and fry half an onion (sliced) to obtain fried onions for garnishing. Set aside.

Partially-cooked clams

Heat up some olive oil now and fry the other half of one onion and 1 garlic clove. Add the clams, give them a stir and cover the pan. Just let them open up a little and stop the cooking. You want to be able to see what's inside their shells but you do not want them to open up totally. Remove the clams and keep them in another bowl. Squeeze some lemon juice over them. Filter the cooking juices through a sieve and pour them into the prawn broth.

Heat up a generous amount of olive oil in the pan and fry the onion, ginger and garlic. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, followed by the chilli, bay leaf and parsley.

Now add the drained rice and coat the grains well with the fragrant olive oil and spices.

Add the cooked prawns and give everything a quick stir. Season with black pepper. Pour in one cup of the seafood broth and mix well with the rice. Place the clams then the spinach on top of the rice and add another cup of the broth. Cover the pot and when it starts to steam, lower the heat and let the dish simmer for about 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the rice cook in its own steam for another 10 minutes. The rice should not be overcooked.

Garnish with the fried onions and chives before serving. I've never found the need to add salt to this dish because the clams and prawns provide salt naturally to the dish. But if it's not salty enough, add salt to taste.

That was my lunch before I set out to the Palafitta to catch the Middle Years' end-of-unit performance (with costume parade, play, gamelan music and wayang kulit performance). I have seen the Teenager writing scripts and sewing clothes in preparation for this day so I am looking forward to checking out the result.

dimanche, mars 28, 2010

A Leisurely Sunday

Baby Boy Golfer

Hub and the kids woke up early this morning (even with the time change) to catch the Australian F1 Grand Prix. They were really pleased that Ferrari did well again, keeping our hopes up that this Season would be better than the last one.

Baby Girl (more hesitant) Golfer

Then they went off to play golf since it's so sunny and warm today and I was told that my precious Baby Boy is really good at it even though he only had 2 lessons. Like his dad, he's good with ball games and is taking to golf like a baby Pro. He's really pleased with himself and with the wonderful bag of golf clubs that I got him from Top Flite.

Grilled Scampi Tails and Gambas

Threw together a simple lunch from a few leftovers and fresh produce : Grilled Dumplings (guotie), Prawn Noodle Soup, Grilled Gambas and Scampi Tails, fresh Charentais melons, tomato mozzarella, Spaghetti aglio olio...

Grilled Dumplings (Guotie)

I've been very busy planning holidays again as my MIL just confirmed that she would be visiting for a month starting from mid-June. I'm going to bring her and the kids around as Hub would be working. Then I would like to go away for 2-3 days just me and the Teenager. I think that like with the spouse, it's good to spend time with one kid at a time from time to time when you have 3 like me. So we'll start with the eldest and work our way down to the Babies. I've already booked our air tickets and will try to find a hotel in the next few days.

samedi, mars 27, 2010

Apple Gadget

No, not the electronic apple, the real one. The fruit and its gadget.

I almost never eat apples because I dislike having to slice them. But I found this gadget the other day that makes it easier to cut an apple up and decided to give it a try.

It is so cool, I heart it. Only problem is that your apple has to be smaller than it. Most of my fuji apples were too big.

Now I find myself wanting to eat an apple all the time.

Fried Pork and Prawn Toasts

Fried Pork and Prawn Toasts

I finally called the piano tuner recommended by Baby Girl's piano teacher. The piano was last tuned in Stuttgart 3 years ago. I've been procrastinating as usual, probably because I haven't been playing the instrument much. Anyway, I was almost ready to tell him to go fly kite after a few minutes on the phone, and only not knowing where else to find another piano tuner stopped me from doing that.

The guy obviously knew from my accent that I'm not Italian. And he kept telling me that it was tiring trying to catch what I was saying. Then you asked if you could make an appointment with him and he said that he will call me before he comes - not even a day or 2 before, but before he comes! Finally, you asked if you could have an idea how much it would cost and he said no.

Arrgh. This is Italy for you. They like to see your face (and your house and your car) before they are capable of naming you the price.

He called me last night to say that he would turn up this morning. Just as well as Hub would be here. Hub who spent his whole morning looking through his Guide Michelin to find us 5-6 good restaurants to eat in when we would be in Rome. So much for someone who said that he was dieting. Rome has many good restaurants from the look of things and we're quite excited about it. I suggested that we alternate with a few pizzerias, but Hub said that he was not worried about the budget and would prefer to make the most of our rare trip to Rome. He's right, of course. After what we'll be paying for the accommodation it makes no sense to stinge on the food which should be among the highlights of the trip. Besides, the Teenager's school trip to Rome has been cancelled due to a few families not being able to afford it - so we now have extra budget for 2 good meals.

Am glad the tuner came. He's much nicer in person and more importantly, he was professional and did a good job. He also plays the piano very well and that, I think most piano tuners do. He said that my piano is 25 years old (according to the serial number), made in Japan (which is rare today) and is in really good shape. Suggested also that I change its position in the room so as not to damage it. Finally, he charged a normal price for his service. I'm happy and would recommend him to anyone who is interested in a piano tuner in Modena.

My piano's internal organs

We had lunch at Hostaria La Frasca (yes, Spring is here and we're back lunching out on weekends). The lady owner is as weird as ever and you really have to speak Italian and understand what it's like to eat in Italy to be able to enjoy eating there. Since we're initiated, we had a good meal. Times like this, we love being in Italy. It's the joy that comes from being let into some joke or secret - at last.

The rest of the family went to play golf and I stayed home to poison the house. I've been bitten so badly there must be insects all over. I've spent the evening looking at photos of insect bites on the internet and mine look quite like spider bites. So it's going to be spray, spray and spray. Then I also read up on poisons and it's quite scary because they are actually everywhere from our teflon-coated pans to insecticides, to peach seeds, soil and bay leaves outside etc etc. You kill the insects and you may end up poisoning the kids. What a dilemma.

I've also spent the morning fantasizing about using teflon fumes to kill the pigeons. Apparently some birds die very easily when they inhale teflon fumes. But I doubt if it'll work outside the house and those pigeons are hardy devils. Will have to seriously consider setting a falcon on them.

Before being fried

Anyway, I always think of what to cook when I'm alone. And since I have leftover minced pork from the pork dumplings, I added prawns and egg to them and made Fried Pork and Prawn Toasts for my afternoon snack.

vendredi, mars 26, 2010

Garlic and Parsley Mushrooms

Garlic and Parsley Mushrooms
If you have run out of excuses not to perform your marital duties, this Garlic and Parsley Mushrooms is a good dish to have for dinner. Even better if you believe in the touted qualities of raw garlic as button mushrooms can also be eaten raw. I made them today simply because I had a really good vegetarian lunch at KB's and still thinking of her decided not to hunt this afternoon and cook something vegetarian instead.

You probably suspect that I also have a stock of mushrooms to clear and you are not wrong. It's difficult (at least I find it difficult) to buy 3 mushrooms when you need only 3, and I often end up buying at least a dozen if not more. Otherwise I may feel obliged to start some small talk and explain why I needed only 3 (or I may look like a pathetic Asian migrant unloved and living on her own after a day doing whatever people do at ceramic factories). Since I've often been surprised at how Italians could out-talk me and since they all seem to have more relatives than I do (to talk about), I have no wish to enter into that territory.


Just slice the mushrooms and place them in a salad bowl. Grind or pound a few cloves of garlic and a few springs of fresh parsley together with some salt, black pepper and olive oil (if you do not have a problem with your cholesterol - go for butter). Marinate the mushrooms with the paste and some lemon juice for a few hours.

You can eat this raw (just watch out for the breath and the burps) or you can soften the impact by heating up some butter or olive oil in a wok and when it's nice and hot, stir-fry the mushrooms very quickly just to cook the garlic (but not burn it). Accompanies meats and salads quite nicely. I also use it as a base for many pasta, risotto or stir-fry dishes. Do not forget to squeeze more lemon juice over the mushrooms.

Lunch at KB's

Vegetarian lunch at KB's

KB asked me last week if I would be able to come to lunch today and I had to reply negative since there was normally a Grade 1 lunch. Then because of today's Water Aid Fundraising Picnic at school, MD had to postpone her lunch to next week. I didn't have my kids join in the picnic as I felt that it's a bit of a waste to have paid for the canteen (even if the food sucks) and then pay again for another lunch - even if it's for charity. Told them that if at least half the school should join the picnic, they'd have more food to eat at the canteen.

Anyway, since I haven't seen her for a while (and have missed her), I decided that I should just ask if she still had a place for me at the table. Everyone knows that I'm a glutton, but really, I am capable of nobler intentions. I also want to buy more blue crabs from the Chinese store near her flat.

Turns out that a few of the people she had invited and who had said they would come cancelled at the last minute i.e. on the day itself. I can never understand how anybody can do this. So little consideration for the hostess who would have spent time and effort organising and preparing her meal.

But it was a lovely meal nonetheless. We were 3 and I met for the first time this really pretty Lithuanian lady whom I've heard about but whom I've never met. She has taught yoga to a number of mothers in the school in the past and is currently teaching it to 2 of the teachers. We had a great time, in fact I love smaller more intimate settings like this as we could share and exchange so much more. I almost forgot the time and it was a pity that I had to leave when I had to.

KB cooked us a delicious vegetarian lunch. A lentil curry, a coconut-based vegetable curry and a tofu and pea curry. With rice and....wholewheat parathas!

Wholewheat Parathas

I love parathas, but have been blocked by visions of my paratha seller in Singapore soaking his dough in ghee and twirling/flipping it into impossibly large and thin rounds. But wholewheat parathas do not require any flipping and are suddenly much more manageable...I will have to apply myself to making them soon.

Hub ordered his new Fiat 500 yesterday. Another year has passed! He's now into his 4th car in Italy. 2 Alfa Romeo 159s to start and now his 2nd Fiat 500. This time he has decided to go for a red car with chromed side mirrors, sunroof and Poltrona Frau leather seats. If anyone's interested in buying over his current white Fiat 500, it may still not be too late. Only 1 year-old and about 2000Km in it. Otherwise we'll sell it back to the company.

Le Creuset

Le Creuset Tagine

P wanted to buy a pot from Le Creuset to bring home to India and I knew of a private sale going on. Sent her the link, then I decided, out of curiosity, to take a look at it myself. I ended up spending a few hundred euros in a few minutes. I just love this brand even though I have already lost 2 of their cocottes in the last 10 years due either to misuse on our part or bad manufacturing on theirs. Anyway, as you can see, I've decided to give them another chance.

Small ceramic pot

26cm Le Creuset cast iron pot for 6 (couldn't resist the colour)

21cm Ceramic pot

31cm Crèpe pan

P, I hope that you've found what you're looking for!

As for me, I need a bigger house. Where am I going to find space for all of the above?

jeudi, mars 25, 2010

Organic Whole Wheat Farfalle with Sardines (Farfalle Bio alle Sarde Piccanti)

Farfalle Bio alle Sarde Piccanti

This pasta dish is not sexy. Doesn't smell sexy either. But I'm sure that when you read the title you either will think "Yucks!" or "Boy, I love sardines..."

I say that because a pasta dish with sardines doesn't leave me indifferent no matter how gross it looks. However I do not really like the famous Sicilian version with fresh sardines or anchovies, fennel, pine nuts and sultanas, preferring a more piquant and really basic version of my own. In my larder, you will always find either sardines canned in olive oil or sardines canned in chilli oil. Once a fortnight I would take one out and make a sandwich, baked puff or pasta with it. I would stink for a while, but since I am not hiding an Italian lover and my dear Hub after more than a decade of vie commune is no longer into tongue locking, I can get away with it.

Last week I came across organic spaghetti and farfalle that didn't look too much like they were made of recycled toilet paper. Whole durum wheat. I thought that they would go well with a few wholesome sardines and so this became my lunch this afternoon : Organic Farfalle with Piquant Sardines.

Pasta alle Sarde Piccanti (serves 1-2) :

1 tin of Sardines in Olive oil or Chilli oil
1 Shallot (sliced)
1 Garlic clove (sliced or minced)
1 Thai Chilli or 1 Tsp dried Chilli flakes
A few Parsley sprigs (chopped)
1 Tomato (chopped)
2 Tbsp White wine
Ground black pepper to taste
Lemon juiceOrganic Farfalle (cooked to al dente and drained)

Drain the oil in the tin of sardines onto a frying pan. Add a bit more olive oil if necessary and fry the shallots and garlic in it till fragrant.

Add the chilli, parsley and tomato.

Add the sardines and mash them roughly in the oil as they cook. Stir in the white wine.

Add black pepper to taste. Throw in the cooked and drained pasta and mix well. Squeeze some lemon juice over it.

The Italians usually do not add grated cheese to fish and seafood dishes so if you insist, you may add breadcrumbs to imitate the texture. But I made do without them.

Needless to say, this pasta is probably better made with fresh sardines or anchovies, but when the catch is fresh, I usually prefer it just grilled or lightly battered and fried.

Vanilla and Cinnamon Chocolate Marble Cake

Vanilla and Cinnamon Chocolate Marble Cake
He was dipping his finger into the batter as I was preparing it. Then he kept asking every 5 minutes when the cake would be ready. I chased him out of the house to play outside so that he would leave me alone. Now, where was I?

I was baking him a Vanilla and Cinnamon Chocolate Marble Cake. It's an easy and pretty cake and a crowd pleaser, so the decision had been easy.

Marble Cake :

200g Butter (softened)
200g Sugar
3 Eggs
1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract
200g Cake Flour
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 - 1 Tsp ground Cinnamon
60g Dark Chocolate
3 Tbsp Milk

Put the milk and chocolate (in small pieces) in a bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Stir to melt the chocolate in the milk and obtain a smooth chocolate mixture. Leave it aside to cool a little.

Beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat till they are well mixed into the butter mixture. Add the vanilla extract. (Alternatively, you can separate the yolks from the whites and add them into the butter mixture now. Then beat the whites in another bowl till stiff peaks form and fold in towards the end after the flour has been added.)

Sift the flour, cinnamon and baking powder together. Fold into the butter-egg mixture.

Pour slightly less than half of the batter into another bowl. Add the chocolate to that batter and mix well.

Line a cake mould with baking paper. Pour a layer of the white batter into it and then a layer of the chocolate batter on top. Alternate till you finish both batter. Using a skewer, give the batter a few twirls to create the marble effect.

Bake for 50 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180°C. Unmould and let it cool before slicing the cake.

Pork Dumpling and Quail Egg Soup

Pork Dumpling and Quail Egg Soup
My Baby Boy was jumping like a rabbit one moment and still as a rug the next. Said he had a tummy ache and felt under the weather. He actually curled up like a foetus on my bed and napped for a few hours in the evening. But came downstairs for 2 servings of his favourite Pork Dumpling Soup when it was dinner time.

One of their latest artwork

This morning he stayed home with his mummy. And asked for more of the dumplings. I added quail eggs and he had that for...breakfast. It's a beautiful sunny day today so I'm happy to have my baby for company. And I'm going to bake him a cake later so hopefully that'll help him recover faster than a rocket (he's into Star Wars now...).

Pork Dumplings (makes 30-40) :

1 packet Wonton skins
350g minced Pork
1-2 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
2 Tsp Oyster Sauce
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 Tsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Coriander leaves (optional - kids do not like it)
1 Egg (beaten)
White pepper and Salt to taste

Quick Broth :

1/2 Tsp Sesame oil
1 slice fresh Ginger (julienned)
1 Garlic clove (bashed and sliced)
1 Ikan Bilis stock cube
1 Chicken stock cube
1 litre hot Water
Finely chopped spring onions, Thai chillies and fried shallots for garnishing

Marinate the meat for an hour with all the ingredients.

Put a good Tsp of the pork filling in the middle of a wanton skin, seal the edges with water and press down, removing any trapped air. It's so easy that Baby Girl wrapped up all the dumplings on her own.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, lower the heat to medium and cook the dumplings. Too much turbulence in the water may cause the wrappings to open. They are ready when they float to the surface. Remove, drain and set aside.

In a soup pot, fry the ginger and garlic in the sesame oil till fragrant. Add the hot water and stock cubes and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Place a few dumplings in each serving bowl and ladle the soup over them. Garnish with chilli, fried shallots and/or finely chopped spring onions if desired.

I personally prefer shrimp or shrimp and pork dumplings, but the Babies do not like seafood so I had to keep it to just pork.

mercredi, mars 24, 2010

Singapore Black Pepper Flower Crab

Singapore Black Pepper Flower Crab

When I was a kid, dad used to bring us to eat seafood almost every weekend. Yes, almost every weekend. I grew up eating crabs cooked in all possible styles in Singapore. My maternal grandpa used to sell live crabs in the wet market, so it's probably in my genes.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw frozen raw blue flower crabs in the small Chinese store yesterday. I just had to get them. Thawed them in the fridge and when I came back from CT's wonderful lunch, I cooked them - even though I've already eaten and drunk too much.

Blue Flower Crab
My version of the Singapore Black Pepper Flower Crab is one as I remembered eating at the now defunct Chin Wah Heng Seafood Restaurant. It contained curry leaves and lemongrass and was called Kumhiong Hai. And only the initiated was able to ask for it since the dish was never printed on the menu.

I couldn't stop eating it once I started. The flesh of these frozen flower crabs was surprisingly sweet and firm too.

Singapore Black Pepper Flower Crab :

2 large raw Blue Flower Crabs (about 1 Kg)
2 Tbsp ground Black Pepper
1 Tbsp ground White Pepper
1/2 Tsp ground Coriander
30g Butter
A handful of Curry leaves
1 Lemongrass stalk (bashed and sliced)
1 Thai Chilli (sliced)
2 Shallots (sliced)
1 large slice fresh Ginger (julienned)
2-3 Garlic cloves (chopped or minced)
2 Tbsp toasted minced dried Shrimps
2 Tbsp good-quality Dark Soy sauce
2-3 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
2-3 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine

One good thing about frozen crabs is that they are already dead. You have no ethical question to ask of yourself. How to kill it : humanely for you (your nerves) or for the crab? You just pull open the shell, remove the organs and chop it into 2. Rinse and pat dry with a kitchen towel. If you wish, use a nut cracker or cleaver to gently crack the claws and legs.

Prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook
Dry roast the ground coriander, black and white pepper in a hot wok. Remove and set aside.

Heat up some peanut oil in the wok and when it's very hot, add the raw crabs. Fry them till they turn white from blue on the outside. But do not cook them through. Remove and set aside. If necessary, clean the wok.

Melt the butter in the hot wok and fry the shallots, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, curry leaves and dried shrimps till fragrant.

Stir in the dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and wine.

Return the crabs to the wok and coat them in the sauce.

Sprinkle the pepper all over the crabs and mix well. Or add the pepper to the sauce before returning the crabs to the wok.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and spring onions if desired. Serve hot.

PS 1 : If you want more sauce, just add some water to the sauce.

PS 2 : In Singapore, we usually make this dish with Sri Lanka crabs. I have tried using the more common stone crabs (tourteaux) that we find here in Europe and find that their shell is too hard and their flesh too salty to do justice to this method of preparing crab. So wherever possible, use the smaller blue flower crab instead.

Costillas and Maracuja Mousse

Rice, Polenta and Costillas

Remember the Brazilian father aka professional photographer and passionate cook? I've succeeded in getting myself invited to lunch at his place. No, I didn't force my way there. He's just a well-brought up guy who knows how to return an invitation. Quite unlike a number of people I've invited over the past few years to lunch, if I may say so.

Our cook host

Together with me were 5 other lucky ladies. Those who were at my last lunch and who were by default invited to CT's lunch too. On the menu were Costillas and Capirinha, but the other Brazilian father who was supposed to be making the latter couldn't come because of some A&E hold-up with his child. We had free-flow red wine in its place and it was a wonder I managed to drive back to school (with 3 other mums in my car) and home with no mishap.

You would think that it's no big deal to be eating pork ribs. Just an hour in the oven and it'd be done. Wrong. CT started marinating his ribs in a pail of water (filled with salt, parsley and garlic) 2 days ago. Then at 7:30 this morning he heated up his oven to high and cooked the ribs for 20 minutes after which he lowered the heat to the very lowest (maybe even switched it off) and let the ribs finish cooking in it for 3 hours. Then just before serving, he turned on the heat again, brushed the ribs with olive oil and grilled them for 20 minutes. The meat was literally melt-in-the mouth tender and moist, and he was able to remove the bones easily before serving it to us with some BBQ sauce.

Before the final grilling

Before serving the costillas he made us a salad. Dressed in a lime-salt-oregano-mustard-olive oil dressing. The ribs were accompanied by rice cooked in garlic and onions and also a polenta cooked in olive oil with garlic, fresh button mushrooms, dehydrated porcini mushrooms, truffle oil and milk.


For dessert, we were treated to a Brazilian Maracuja Mousse. It's a very simple and delicious dessert made with maracuja (or passionfruit) juice, sweetened condensed milk and cream. Wow.

Maracuja Mousse

It was interesting meeting him in a more intimate setting (his wife called from a business trip in Kuala Lumpur to check say hello) though I probably shocked some of my lady friends with my "brazen" questioning. It is interesting to see how different people can be in our diverse international community. And I have long ago decided to just go ahead and ask or say something because it takes too much time and effort to work out everybody's sensibilities, taboos and limits. Doesn't mean that if you're careful and diplomatic you wouldn't step on anybody's toes. There are just so many different sorts of people out there. I figured that since one can never please everybody and that if I should make the occasional effort to come out of my comfortable, happy and self-contained world, I should only do interesting things and meet like-minded people. I was told that I may offend a number of people with my attitude, which I am aware of, actually. Either that person decides to let me know so that I may apologise and take note of his/her sensibilities, or he/she decides to brood in private and avoid me. Either way it works out well for me.

So in a way we had an informal cooking lesson from CT. He's a founding member of the cooking club that I'm starting - but we haven't been able to find a suitable time to get it going. Still it's going to be interesting if today is any indication. I am looking forward to it.

Grilled Soy Sauce Salmon on Garlic Spinach

Grilled Soy Sauce Salmon on Garlic Spinach
I have parcels arriving at the house one after the other lately and the frightening thing is that 1) I couldn't remember that I've ordered most of the stuff, 2) I do not know where to hide them, 3) they are mainly for better weather and that we do not have at the moment.

I have discovered in the last decade the reason why most European homes look neater than many Asian households. The secret is storage space. And storage space with doors. Not plastic bags. Singaporeans, for example, love plastic bags and used newspapers and tend to wrap everything inside them. You don't see the rubbish but you see the plastic bags. My mum managed to lose my brother's A level cert in one of those piles of plastic bags. But Europeans dump all their rubbish behind closed doors - and on the outside everything looks in order, nothing out of place.

I don't have enough storage. I have de-programmed myself from plastic bags, but now I have baskets and boxes filled with rubbish everywhere.

The cleaning lady is here and she has lost a few kilos after her bout of gastric flu. I'm jealous and wanted to help her gain them back. I've kept some food for her to try as usual, but I don't think I ought to give her anything in case she falls sick again and I have that on my conscience. She took my advice to heart and actually drank Coca Cola when she was ill - I hope that those Parisian paediatricians haven't changed their minds about this since 2005 (the last time I went to one).

Last evening we had Grilled Soy Sauce Salmon on Garlic Spinach for dinner. Salmon and Spinach are magic healthy words, so after the Coca Cola I thought I should mention them lest you think I'm really a bad mother.

Truth is only the 3 oldest members of the family had that. The Babies feasted on chicken wings and fries. They don't like fish. And I don't like to deceive.

I must have mentioned before that garlic and spinach go well together. With Soy Sauce Salmon you get quite a complete meal.

Soy Sauce Salmon :

3 Salmon steaks
1-2 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Dry Sherry
A few drops of Sesame Oil

Spinach with Garlic :

500g Spinach (already rinsed and drained)
Olive Oil
1 small Onion (sliced)
1 big Garlic clove (sliced)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Lemon slices for garnishing

Mix the soy, sugar, sherry and sesame oil and marinate the salmon steaks with them for a few hours. I do not add salt to my marinade nowadays as it would only encourage the good juices from the meat or fish to drain out and you'll lose flavour and texture because of that. Salt later on when you are cooking the fish.

Heat up a frying pan till very hot and pour a little vegetable oil into it. Grill the salmon steaks skin-side first till it's nice and crispy and then grill the flesh. It should still be pink on the inside.

In a wok, heat up some olive oil and fry the onions then the garlic till fragrant. Add the spinach, salt and pepper and wilt the leaves. Do not overcook.

Arrange the salmon on top of the spinach on a plate and squeeze lemon juice over everything. Serve hot.

mardi, mars 23, 2010

Coca Cola Chocolate Mousse

Coca Cola Chocolate Mousse

Remember the extra one egg yolk that went into the Spaghetti alla Carbonara? Well that left me with the white. Cela tombe bien as I've decided to make Coca Cola Chocolate Mousse and it needed just an extra egg white.

The cleaning lady was sick on Monday and will only come tomorrow morning. It doesn't suit me as I've a lunch date with CT - the Brazilian father. (Keep an eye on this space.) But I've decided to have her come anyway as we all know that we can't see germs and bacteria with the naked eye and it's better if she could give the floors and bathrooms a wipe. I'm bitten very very badly all over lately - and this means that warmer weather is coming soon. Somehow I attract these insects like bees to honey.

Esselunga was having a promotion on 4x2l Coca Cola. That inspired me to make this Mousse Coca-Cola Chocolat. That after the Coca Cola Chocolate Cake. Even though we normally try not to stock soft drinks at home.

Coca Cola Chocolate Mousse
(serves 4-6) :

300g good-quality Dark Bitter Chocolate
1/3 cup Coca Cola
1 espresso-size cup strong Espresso coffee
50g Sugar
1 packet of Sucre vanillé
80g Butter
5 Eggs (minus one yolk)
A pinch of Salt

Put the Coca Cola, chocolate (broken into smaller pieces) and cubed butter into a bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes till the chocolate melts. Remove from the microwave oven and stir with a wooden spoon to mix everything together.

Add the sugar and vanilla sugar and mix well.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Add the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, stirring all the time.

Has to be stiff with peaks
In a separate dry and clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt till stiff.

Fold the egg whites gently into the chocolate-yolk mixture.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours if not overnight.

Verdict : une mousse au chocolat riche et onctueuse!

With a basic mousse au chocolat recipe one can make many interesting desserts so it's a good recipe to have in one's repertoire.

Egg Curry

Egg Curry

Still on my egg trip, I made Egg Curry last night for dinner and served it with home-made Chapatis and a Cauliflower curry. This is a hit with everyone and I try to make it once every 6-10 days especially towards the end of the week when I run out of fresh produce.

I have many ways of making an egg curry and this is but one of them. If you are very health conscious and do not use much oil in your cooking, this curry recipe is not for you.

We woke up to a foggy morning and while it's not cold (average 12°C in the day), it's depressing living in the country and facing a grey sky. Somehow it didn't bother me that much when I was living in Paris. Speaking of which there is going to be a meeting this evening among all the co-owners of our building in Paris and we wouldn't be able to attend it. Once again, in our absence, they are going to vote for a zillion repairs and renovations to be done and they will succeed because it's by majority vote. When you buy a flat in Paris you don't just pay a mortgage, every other month we receive a bill for maintenance, repairs, renovations, a new lift, new paint job, new bins, new letter box, new door, new pipes etc etc. I've been in my Italian house for nearly 3 years now and nobody ever comes here to repair or repaint anything. They should reduce my rent.

Egg Curry
(serves 5) :

8-10 Eggs (hard-boiled, peeled and sliced into 2)
3 Tbsp Ginger-Garlic paste
1 Onion (diced)
2 Bay leaves
1 fresh Green Chilli (sliced)
2 Tsp ground Turmeric
2 Tsp ground Cumin
2 Tsp ground Coriander
2 Tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp ground Cloves
1 Tsp ground Chilli
2 Tsp ground Garam Masala
1 Tsp ground Black Pepper
3 Black Cardamoms
1 small Tomato
1/2 cup hot Water
1-2 Tsp Salt
1 cup Yoghurt mixed with 1/2 cup Water
Milk (optional)

Heat up about 4-5 Tbsps of vegetable oil in a frying pan.

When it's hot, add all the ground spices.

The spices will turn darker in colour and the oil may smoke. Add the onion, ginger-garlic paste, green chilli and bay leaves.

Place the egg halves flat-surface-down in the oil.

Throw in the black cardamoms and chopped tomatoes. Add the salt

Stir in the hot water. Let the curry simmer for a few minutes.

Stir in the yoghurt mixture taking care not to leave any lumps.

Simmer till the oil separates from the spices.

If the curry is too strong, add some milk.

Serve hot with chapatis.