dimanche, septembre 29, 2013



The first chickpeas I "mashed" probably were the kacang puteh ones back in Kong Chian cinema during those days when I was a kid. A few decades later fancy me being known in close circles for my humble Hoummous and friends have even rejected watered-down versions being sold in popular bazaars by so-called hoummous experts, insisting that I provide them with my recipe so that they would know how to make it even after they (or I) have left whichever city we were friends in.

Many years ago I've blogged about a beetroot version and this should precede it, but for some reason I've never blogged about the classic version. So I'm setting things right today and this could then go into my archives for whoever would be looking for my take on the hoummous.

Hoummous : 

460g canned chickpeas
1-2 tbsp tahini (cold-pressed sesame paste)
1 tbsp dry-roasted cumin seeds
juice of 1 lemon (and adjusted according to taste)
4-6 tbsp olive oil (and extra for garnishing)
3 garlic cloves (grilled)
salt to taste

ground paprika and a few whole chickpeas for garnishing

Drain the water from the can and immerse the chickpeas in a bowl of hot salted water.

Dry roast the cumin seeds in a frying pan with the garlic (roughly chopped) and when fragrant add in some olive oil.

Remove the chickpeas from the hot water and add them plus the cumin and garlic to a blender. Add olive oil, lemon juice and tahini and blend to a roughly fine paste. Add salt to taste and if necessary a little water and/or olive oil if the paste is too dry.

Pour the paste into a pretty recipient and make a well. If not consuming immediately, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. (Actually the dish is best served chilled.)

Just before serving, pour a little olive oil into the well and add a few chickpeas for decoration. Sprinkle some ground paprika over everything and serve the hoummous with fresh vegetable sticks or corn chips.

Hong Kong with Anna (September 2012)

Anna and I at L'Atelier de Robuchon

Did I tell you I finally turned 40 last October? Just when I'm on the verge of turning 41... 

A long time ago 40 seemed like a long way away, but now even a day seemed like an hour.

Apart from the fact that I may become botak and bedridden, will need to visit the loo (even) more often and am getting closer to losing my dear parents, I have nothing much against me ageing.

The kids are growing up and it's wonderful seeing them do so. Ok, I know I will miss them as babies, but I'm trying to be brave. They have been so very cute and still are, I am blessed. 

I wasn't the only one I know turning 40 last year since I went to school every year with quite a number of kids my age over 2 decades. One of them choped me way back in anticipation of us turning 40 almost around the same time and it was decided that we would meet half way (me from Shanghai and she from Singapore) in Hong Kong to celebrate the occasion.

Anna and I went to Secondary school together. In Sec 1 we used to walk together after school she to the bus stop either to wait for the bus or for her mum to drive by and pick her up; me to my parents' flat not too far from our school. We were in the same class in upper Secondary.

At 17 she left Singapore to study in Canada and Australia and when she came home I left to do my Masters in France. But somehow we've always stayed in touch and she even attended my wedding in France many years ago. So we've come a long way.

Our 1st makan session

We met at HK airport one weekend in September last year and made our way to our very nice hotel in Causeway Bay. Once we've dumped our luggage we set out to eat and to eat where locals eat, of course. I think our first meal was at Ho Hung Kee where we had beef hor fun among other dishes. Over the next 3 days we also ate fish balls, dim sum, rice porridge, fried dough sticks, soy bean curd etc with/like the locals.

Dim sum!
Famous old-style bakery

The last time I was in HK I was a kid. Went with the parents to visit relatives (who owned a bicycle shop or 2) and eat dim sum every morning and never went back again before last September. I was therefore quite surprised to discover that HK should be so packed, filled with dripping air conditioners overhead and people literally rubbing shoulders with you as you walk.

When you think of the cost of any property within the CBD you are surprised at the state of most buildings around you. They could certainly do with a facelift. A few trees here and there wouldn't hurt either.

Having said that I liked HK. I liked being able to speak Cantonese, being able to eat Hongkongese, being able to say that Singapore is prettier after all :-). The city certainly is bustling, filled with eateries and restaurants and little shops, with a cheap and efficient public transportation system and also the most amazing boutiques.

Very good roast meats in this neighbourhood eatery

Anna and I celebrated in style. We dined at two Michelin-starred restaurants when we were there : L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and The Chairman. I've dined at the former in Paris a few years ago so I knew what to expect, except I'm surprised that the HK branch actually has 3 stars. But Anna with her tiny waist couldn't do justice to even the tiny portions served at l'Atelier and I had to finish up most of her food for her.

The Chairman served fine Chinese cuisine in a residential area and we sat at a corner table wondering at first what possessed Michelin to give it a star. We ordered the tasting menu and were served fine Cantonese dishes that sometimes came with a foreign ingredient like balsamic vinegar; or with my favourite salted fish, yum yum. The waiters were better-natured than most you would find in HK so if you have reasonably deep pockets this would be a place to dine often in.

We took a tram up to The Peak to enjoy a view of HK though the skies were heavy and we risked being caught in a downpour. It was Sunday and the CBD was full of Filipino and Indonesian maids off duty which made you realise how essential these workers must be to help hardworking HK residents enjoy a good life in such an expensive city.

It was quite amazing to see greenery as you move uphill, even more amazing to see building after building as you climb higher up towards The Peak. It must be beautiful but also quite a challenge to live up there, what if you need a loaf of bread or some eggs and the supermarket is down in the plains?

There are a number of restaurants (and Madame Trussards) up there which made for  an interesting day out watching the world below if the skies were not covered.
View from The Peak

We took a taxi one afternoon to shop at Ap Lei Chau known for its branded outlets and unknowingly we found ourselves at the bottom of my neighbour J's block of flats! What a small world...

It was nice having time together like that after all these years. Higher studies, work, family, distance all conspired to make it difficult for old friends to meet so it was a precious weekend to treasure in the years to come. The kids survived the weekend alone with their father, the kitchen was a mess when I came home but it was not destroyed. 

Butter Cake (Compact Version)

Butter Cake (compact version)

A fellow blogger recently justified her absence with the publication of a cookbook while another was MIA because she had a new baby. I, unfortunately, have been absent mainly because I couldn't figure out how to use the new blogger. Plus the VPN hadn't been cooperating much since the Chinese Government figured out how to sabotage it from time to time. 

Actually I haven't been cooking anything exciting either since we have become a family of fatties (with the exception of the Teenager who has only grown muscle, not fat). While we fantasise about eating we hadn't dared to do too much of it. Our family BMI has not diminished much, unfortunately, and I've been toying with the idea of a fat freeze which wouldn't happen since we have 3 kids to send to university and not enough funds in the bank for that.

We have however done a bit of travelling. In fact, the overweight problem probably came from that since one does tend to put on weight when travelling and trying out interesting restaurants during the trip(s).

The Chinese Golden Week starts tomorrow and I've made the good resolution to stay put and not travel so that we wouldn't put on more weight; but I made the mistake of paying an Animal Jam membership for each of the Babies which saw them hogging both computers at home all of yesterday.

Not knowing what to do (I didn't feel like reading, was sick of trying to finish up my latest mosaic project and couldn't play the piano since Hub was in a video conference), I decided to bake a Butter Cake. But a compact one and not the usual more-like-pound-cake one that I've been making since I was a teenager.

I was so lazy I didn't even want to take out my electric mixer. I just baked a cake by stirring with a wooden spoon and the result was a very compact and rich cake that the Hub, who is currently on daily aspirin to thin his blood, consumed almost entirely single handedly. Needless to say he ate and whined alternatively which made me sound like a sabotager of healthy hearts instead of a kind and loving wife.

Butter Cake (compact version) :

200g butter
150g sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp grand marnier
4 eggs
100g plain flour
a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.

Line a 19/20 cm round mould with baking paper.

Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave oven till very soft.

Stir in sugar, vanilla extract and grand marnier with a wooden spoon.

Stir in one egg at a time.

Stir in sifted flour and add the salt.

Pour into lined mould and bake for 25-27 minutes.

Remove cake from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the mould.

Know why Hub couldn't stop eating this cake? It was the grand marnier that did him in.