mardi, novembre 30, 2010

Finali Mondiali 2010, Valencia

Finali Mondiali 2010 in Valencia, Spain

Hub called from Valencia (Spain) to say that I should have gone with him to the Finali Mondiali 2010. He had just checked into his hotel room at the Westin Valencia and was hoping that I could advise him on what he could do in the city before dinner.

Westin Valencia

I told him that he wasn't a child so I had no idea. A pity as the zoo and the aquarium there are very good.

He called just as I was trying to (1) stem my finger from bleeding me dry (paper cut from moving cardboxes of clothes), (2) cook lunch and (3) scream at the children who were fighting - all at the same time. Why wouldn't I want to go to Valencia with him? But who would look after the children? Plus I had made various appointments with friends that weekend.

He had taken my camera with him so that he could show me some of the going-ons. So here's Ferrari's Finali Mondiali 2010 in a few pictures :

Science Museum

The F1 pilots on stage

Legs, Beauties & Parapluies

Vintage Ferrari

During dinner on Saturday, he was at a table where there were a number of old and/or ugly rich men with 1.8m-tall blondes with big boobs hanging on the arm. I told him that he could find one of his own the day he becomes very very rich - and after he had shared half of his fortune with me, of course. While waiting, he is but a salaried man like most men and must make do with a girl like me. :-)

lundi, novembre 29, 2010

No-Bake Mango Cheesecake

No-Bake Mango Cheesecake

It snowed for the first time this Winter yesterday. We had been wondering about the gentle temperatures up till now - and then suddenly it started snowing. But I love it when it snows, somehow it never gets too cold when it does and in addition life becomes brighter with the white everywhere.

The weekend had been crazy. Hub was away for Ferrari's Finali Mondiali in Valencia so we were alone. First Margi came from Bologna on Saturday morning on an errand and then JB came to play with the Teenager. We were invited to our very first Thanksgiving dinner at KL's that evening - which was lovely with great food, wine and company.

Sunday we were invited to tea at CC's - my first visit to her lovely and cozy house - in the snow. Met her interesting and friendly Hub for the first time too which was a pleasure as he's a guy who loves to cook and eat - and he probably grows the only kaffir lime leaf plant in the whole of Modena. In the afternoon the Babies were invited to a birthday party and it wasn't easy trying to find the place in the snow. And of course the GPS couldn't recognise the address. Nearly drove into CT's car near the party place - but got the last laugh as he wasn't equipped for the snow and was wet bottom up.

View of the garden when we woke up this morning

Reaching home I dug in the fridge and found alphonso mango pulp left over from the mango lassi the other day. Plus a tub each of Philadelphia and mascarpone cheese. Wasn't that No-Bake Mango Cheesecake screaming out to be made?

No-Bake Mango Cheesecake :

half a packet of digestive biscuits or speculoos
50g butter
250g philadelphia cream cheese
250g mascarpone cheese
fine sugar to taste
juice of half to one lemon
grated zest from one lemon (half for filling and half for garnishing)
1 cup alphonso mango pulp

Pulse the biscuits and melt the butter. Mix together and line a paper-lined biscuit tin or mould with the crumbs. Chill in the fridge as you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, whip the 2 cream cheeses together with the sugar, lemon juice, zest and mango pulp. Taste the filling for sugar as you go along, should be about half cup depending on how sweet a tooth you have.

Fill the mould with the filling and grate the zest from the other half of the lemon over it. Chill for a few hours before serving. If you're hardworking, you could prepare a mango sauce or decorate with fresh mango slices - but I don't usually eat mango unless it cannot be seen - so that's the way I like my mango cheesecake.

jeudi, novembre 25, 2010

Spicy Coconut Shrimp Soup

Spicy Coconut Shrimp Soup

I've made this soup often enough this winter but never got round to having a photo of it taken. It's either too dark out there, or Hub gobbled it down before I could say "What ze..?" and finally I was too busy yesterday trying to carry out my cookery lesson without major incident that I hadn't thought of taking any photos.

But there are always leftovers. And they sometimes taste even better reheated.

With the move so near, I really have no time to make elaborate meals so everything has to be quick and easy. This week I've made Vegetable Couscous with Grilled Merguez Sausages, Steak and Fried Potatoes, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala (with leftover Tandoori Chicken) and Ikan Assam Pedas (needed to liquidate ginger flowers). And in between, I would make this Spicy Coconut Shrimp Soup as Hub loves it, I have frozen shrimps and it's a fast dish to prepare.

Spicy Coconut Shrimp Soup :

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion (sliced)
2 lemongrass stalks (bashed and sliced)
1 large piece galangal (sliced)
1 large garlic clove (chopped)
4-6 kaffir lime leaves (shredded)
2 tbsp red curry paste
500ml hot chicken stock
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 bird's eye chillies
salt and pepper to taste
400ml coconut milk
juice of 1 lemon
250g raw prawns
a few fresh mushrooms of some sort
a few fresh tomatoes (quartered)
a few fresh pineapple slices
fresh coriander and basil leaves for garnishing

Heat oil in a soup pot and fry the onions, lemongrass, galangal and garlic till fragrant.

Add the lime leaves and the curry paste. Fry till the oil seeps out of the paste then pour in the hot stock.

Add fish sauce and chillies, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes to let the savours infuse.

Add the coconut milk and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper.

A few minutes before serving, add the mushrooms, tomatoes and pineapple slices (if using them) followed by the prawns.

Garnish with the fresh herbs and serve hot. I sometimes add glass noodles to the soup make a more complete meal.

Piombaia Montalcino Poderi Sanguineto Abbazia di Sant'Antimo

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo

Our weekend in Tuscany was principally a wine tasting trip and 2 of the main cellars we visited were Piombaia (which was also where we stayed and dined in) in Montalcino and Poderi Sanguineto in Montepulciano. We also drove to the Abbey of Saint Antimo - where they still have beautiful daily sevices in gregorian given by Augustinian monks. There was a service going on just as we arrived and it sounded really beautiful - not that I could understand anything. There was alot of singing like in those gregorian chants CDs that were the rage a decade ago.

The abbey

We were very well-received in both wine cellars, with free tasting sessions, generous snacks and interesting stories about their wines. In Piombaia where we stayed, we learnt that its wine-maker is a 28 year-old young man who took over the business at the age of 16, who's passionate about what he's doing and who is making really good wines at affordable prices. We also ate very well there, it's a nice family-run agriturismo.

Agriturismo Piombaia Montalcino

At Poderi Sanguineto, it is basically a female-run vinery, from the weather-beaten Dora to the robust Patrizia. I do not drink alot, but I love visiting vineyards and tasting wine because you get to admire the way they work, the way they love their grapes and transmit some of their passion in wine-making to you. Somehow it gives you a more intimate relationship with the wine you're drinking, enhancing the entire tasting experience.

The "Ferrari" of wine barrels

Poderi Sanguineto

I am glad that we will be leaving Italy on these notes. Memories like these are precious and will make us remember Europe fondly as we begin our new lives in Asia. As you know, I am more fortunate than most because I straddle both continents comfortably - hence the title of my blog East meets West. I do not know if I'll be able to blog as much when we start living in China, but I certainly hope to continue being able to record some of my experiences for myself and those who know me (or who will get to know me).

Piombaia-Rossi Cantini
Montalcino (Siena)
Tel : +39 057 784 7197

Tel : 057 876 7782

mercredi, novembre 24, 2010

My Last Cookery Lesson for the Club

A sampling of what I've cooked today

All good things have to come to an end, as you may have been told. Though it doesn't mean that you are any more comforted just because you are aware of that. This morning I did my last cooking lesson with my cooking club, and while I was (am) very sad, I also know that the group is now such a happy one that it will continue happily without me - to more good recipes!

I didn't have the time to hunt for special ingredients or to organise myself for a more complicated cookery class, so I've opted to demonstrate very simple dishes to my fellow club members :

Fried Pork and Prawn Won Tons

Hainanese Chicken Rice (just the rice)

Except for the Spicy Coconut Shrimp Soup, the recipes have already been blogged about - though as I was telling Mu, I do often tend to cook the same thing differently. And I forget ingredients when I am in a rush...

Voilà une bonne chose de faite. GA, I'm joining you soon in becoming the empty chair. Just to put it on record that we've missed you very much.

mardi, novembre 23, 2010

Seafood Laksa Risotto

Seafood Laksa Risotto

Hub drove to Torino this morning and attended the first briefing for his new position. He came home really happy and motivated about his increased/new responsibilities and challenges - which makes me happy too since if your guy has to slog, you want him to do so with a happy face.

He's going to start on 1st January next year - and they were telling him that only then could they file his visa application. Big panic in our household when we heard that - since we're all set to move come January and without a visa we wouldn't be able to do so nor will the kids be able to attend school in the new country.

Hub's going to be in charge of his former company's Asian operations. It's going to be a big change for the rest of the family too - but I'm happy to be able to return to Asia for a few years, be closer to my roots etc.

And yes, some of you were right - we're moving to China. I'm going to speak Mandarin again and serves me right for not working hard enough at my Chinese when I was at school.

We can only bring 67 cubic metres over and much of it risks being taxed when it reaches Chinese customs. I'm therefore giving almost everything away. Whatever we would like to keep, we'll have to have it sent back to France.

I'm trying to empty my pantry by eating my way out of it. Found a packet of ready-made laksa paste. When I saw them selling a raw seafood platter (e.g. octopus, shrimp, squid, mussles, clams...) for risotto at the supermarket, it gave me the idea to try making a Seafood Laksa Risotto. That was lunch ready in about 15 minutes!

Seafood Laksa Risotto (serves 2) :

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion (chopped)
1 large garlic clove (minced)
50g ready-made laksa paste
300g fresh seafood (e.g. mussles, prawns, clams, squid, octopus)
1 cup arborio rice
1-2 cups hot chicken stock
200ml coconut milk
pepper to taste
dried chilli flakes
lemon or lime juice
fresh parsley or coriander for garnishing

Prepare the dish like you would a normal risotto. Meaning brown the onion in the oil followed by the garlic and when they fragrant, add the laksa paste.

Fry it till the oil starts to seep out and then add the fresh seafood followed by the rice. Coat the grains well with the spice paste.

Mix one cup of hot stock with half the coconut milk and pour into the pan. Mix well and let the grains cook in the liquid, stirring them from time to time. If necessary add in more hot stock plus coconut milk but only a little at a time.

The rice should be al dente and there should still be liquid in the pan. Add pepper to taste and garnish with chilli flakes, lemon juice and fresh coriander before serving.

Finally, they have sorted out the visa problem, so we should be able to move as planned in January.

lundi, novembre 22, 2010

Montepulciano, Tuscany

Montepulciano, Tuscany

A few years ago we spent 3 weeks in Firenze and toured Tuscany, including a few quick trips to Siena and San Gimignano. But we didn't go to Montepulciano, considering the town a bit too far out. It was therefore ironic that we should drive there last weekend - all the way from Modena. It took us 3 hours each way, past traffic jams and in bad weather - but it was well worth the effort for we had good company, nice food (e.g. pici, pecorino, wild boar, honey...), fabulous wine (e.g. Nobile di Montepulciano) and beautiful landscapes. Not to forget a Ferrari.

Interesting roofs

We were 2 French and 2 German families, with a few major car makers represented e.g. Mercedes, Fiat/Ferrari, Audi/Lamborghini. So if the men were not talking wine, they could talk shop and very often the dining table would be divided into 3 sections : men, women and children's. Very macho, as Hub would say.

Osteria del Conte and the park opposite

In Montepulciano we lunched in a nice little family-run Osteria del Conte which served very good food from the region. It was tartufo season so they offered a tartufo menu that Hub didn't hesitate to take up. This was probably the last weekend that we'd be doing together (at least in Italy) with CB and MB, so I was a little sad. It's not easy finding friends with children of around the same age, with similar tastes in food, wine, accommodation etc, friends who are also fun, interesting, easy-going and kind. But we should count ourselves lucky to have found them in the first place.


The views from Montepulciano were beautiful. It stopped raining a little when we were there and we even had a bit of sunshine. CB and her hub were there not too long ago and they had enjoyed the town so much they brought us back with them.

They seem to like kakis

There were also pretty little boutiques all over, many of them selling leather shoes and accessories. If we weren't moving, I would have been tempted to take a closer look - especially at those gorgeous red leather boots being displayed in a number of windows. But well, we could only bring 67 cubic metres with us, so I must eliminate, not acquire.

The vista

Even Hub had to stop himself from buying any wine. Besides there was no boot space in the California.

The streets

Osteria del Conte
Via di San Donato 19
Montepulciano (Siena)
Tel : 057 875 6062