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A Life in Food

I live to eat! I read about it, cook all the time and have even taken the leap to go into it professionally, abandoning a quite lucrative former career. Yes, I love food that much!

Updated: 2015-09-17T02:07:56.753+08:00


New website!


Hello folks, in case you stumble across this website by accident, I am now over at:
Hope to see you there!

And the winner is...



Okay, I normally don't toot my own horn, but as this isn't exactly my horn to toot, I am going for it. What am I going on about you ask? Well, a while back I worked on a cookbook by Anne Willan called The Country Cooking of France. That book was published end of last year and has now been nominated for 3 awards, I'm so excited ;-) !!!

The awards are:

“Deemed “the Oscars of the food world,” by Time magazine, The James Beard Foundation Awards are the USA’s most coveted honour for chefs; food and beverage professionals; broadcast media, journalists, and authors working on food; and restaurant architects and designers. “ The awards ceremony will be in NYC in June.

IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) awards for BEST INTERNATIONAL COOKBOOK. The winner will be announced at the 2008 IACP Awards Ceremony in New Orleans in April.

I did research, editing and recipe testing for the book and if you pull out your magnifying glass, you can find my name somewhere on the acknowledgement page. I'm teeny tiny, but there!

Yes, I did work on it for over a year and yes, it is near and dear to my heart, but it's a great cookbook nevertheless. Great recipes (which I know work as they have all been tested countless times!) and beautiful photography/design. I think it is set to become THE resource for regional French cuisine so check it out for yourself...

Happy Bunny Day!


Ah, springtime is nigh (for those of you who live in places with seasons that is) and the Easter Bunny has come bearing goodies. As we ended up not going away as originally planned, we decided to have an Easter lunch for a few friends. Which then turned into about 20 friends, not including kiddies! Ah well, what's a few more mouths to feed eh?

I decided to make my own ham (okay I must confess I didn't brine it myself, but I did cook it from raw), a leg of lamb and other suitable accompanying comestibles. The menu as follows:

- White trash ham (in case the party turned out to be too highbrow, this would bring it down a few notches) with cranberry relish
- Roast leg of lamb with Salsa Verde
- Gratin dauphinois
- Orzo salad with basil, feta and cherry tomatoes
- Buttered peas (a token gesture for those worried about getting their quota of greens)
- Tart au citron
- Gâteau CocoFramboise
- Cheese platter (chèvre, St Nectaire, Gorgonzola, triple cream Brie)
- Homemade hot cross buns

Chubby Hubby and his missus, S, were gracious enough to accept our invitation and they wanted to do a post on the luncheon. As they are infinitely better equipped to do this, I have the honour of gracing their fab blog in all my glorious, post-cooking marathon gorgeousness (NOT!).

Lessons learned from this party:
- 500g of orzo is plenty for 20 people if there is other food. As "never knowingly under-cater" is my motto, 1kg of orzo went in the pot and I think we shall be eating it till summer, ahem.
- Yeast dough takes twice as long to rise here contrary to what I thought. The humidity must win out over the heat and delay everything as I found out at 2am the night before, ugh.
- Putting the gratin dauphinois under the grill and then going out to greet guests/have a drink is not recommended (see photo on CH's site, a tad beyond golden brown)
- Don't pull faces at the camera, you never know where it might appear!

Lots of eating and drinking happened regardless of course and we got some lovely Easter chocolates to boot (look at the hand decorated chocolate egg above that was hand carried by a friend in from London that morning!). It's worth all the work in the end, just going to put my feet up now, zzzzz....

I'm baaaack... and beefy!


It's been so long since I posted that I feel like a born again virgi.. I mean blogger. But I have a REALLY good excuse this time. Not only did I move to Singapore, I had baby! I've been having a great time with her, but she's been keeping me extremely busy. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it ;-). I've still been eating and cooking lots though. I've had some great experiences in the past year or so and I'll do some posts on them later. But for some immediate gratification, I'll share a recent Wagyu indulgence. I'm sure most of you know about this most luscious food stuff, but for those who have been in a coma, here's a brief blurb.Wagyu literally means "Japanese (Wa) cow (Gyu)". Also called Kobe beef, this type of meat refers to certain breeds of cattle that are predisposed to having highly marbled flesh (their diet and reputed frequent massages are also helpful to this end). Yup, they're extremely fatty. And we all know that fat = flavour. However, we also know that not all fat is bad (think avocados, olive oil). Wagyu beef has a higher percentage of unsaturated fat than any other breed of cattle known in the world so eating this God's gift to carnivores need not be guilt-stricken. I'm not going to get any more technical than that, there are other sites more knowledgeable than mine by a long shot. Instead, I'll just show you my goodies...No Pulitzer winning photo here, but you get the idea. This folly happened when, in preparation for my Easter feast, I picked up some meat from Huber's Butchery at the NTUC Fairprice Finest, Bukit Timah Plaza. They were having a promo on Wagyu and as I am one bargain-loving gal, I let them twist my rubber arm. I've had Wagyu before in restaurants, but this is my first home effort and I can recommend it highly. Like when cooking any good piece of meat, the rule of thumb is “less is more”. In this case, all I did was rub the steaks with a bit of vegetable oil, season them with salt and pepper, heated my pan till smoking and threw the meat in. I wanted a nice seared, crusty exterior quickly as these weren’t very thick steaks (all my budget would allow) and I didn’t want all that lovely fat to melt away. A few minutes on each side did the trick, I removed them to a plate, left them to rest a bit, and served up with some fleur de sel and a wedge of lemon. I did try it first as is, but I think the the salt crystals boosted the whole umaminess of it all and the lemon added a nice twang and helped to cut through the fat a bit, not that I minded it. The meat did all but melt in the mouth and not one scrap went to waste, yes I actually ate every last bit of fat. In fact, I had to slow myself down and was so greedy, I didn’t remember to take a picture of the finished product until I had already had a few satiating bites. Sorry! How did it taste? Think of a cross between meat and butter, a beefy savoury butter, yum.While this is not an everyday indulgence, I do think we will do it on a semi-regular basis. Yes it is significantly more expensive than a regular steak at home, but not that much more than if you have a mediocre steak in a restaurant. I think it’s worth it and it’s hardly difficult. Try it and I think you’ll agree…[...]

Meet Thelma


Finally! After almost 5 months of squatting in (very generous and tolerant) friends' places, serviced apartments, etc., S. and I have found a home. And what a place it is! For someone who loves to eat and cook as much as I do, the kitchen is truly a manna from heaven. Not huge, but very well equipped. You can tell the owner is a chef...

The star of the show though is Thelma, the Viking Pro range that rules this roost. She is powerful, sleek and positively humming with BTUs. Though not as eloquent as David Leite's ode to his Viking, I feel just as strongly, be still my beating heart. I have been getting used to her power; a few burnt dishes are justifiable sacrifices to the shrine of Thelma. Success stories? Beautiful evenly cooked cakes, slow braised lamb shank, wok-fried anything, the list goes on.

Here's to the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

"Healthy" eats


(image) (image) (image)

Okay, okay. I know what you all must be thinking after my last few sporadic posts. All I've been talking about it pig, pig, pig and then some. And I've never been shy of my use of fats, animal or otherwise. Here's the thing though, working on Anne Willan's new cookbook in Burgundy has quietly and subtly been expanding my waistline and backside more than I realised. And in the few months since I moved to Singapore, I found that I can no longer hide all the flab under jumpers and such as I could in the UK. Major problem. Plus, I've forgotten how hot and sweaty this place is on a daily basis. And fat people must sweat more right? (I may not be exactly fat, but I sure rank high on the sweat-o-meter!). So I have been on something of a health kick.

Hard-to-believe, but I joined a gym and have been going pretty faithfully 5-6 times a week. I even got a personal trainer for chrissakes! The hardest thing has been eating though. When I knew I was going to move to Singapore, I dreamt of all the delicious delights I would soon be savouring; Hainanese chicken rice, char kway teow, Hokkien prawn mee, the list went on. But when my trainer handed me a list of things to avoid in my diet, these dishes I had been looking forward to were all banned. That's right, all on the Top Ten List of Do Not Eats. Eating out in Singapore is cheap and tasty, when you are NOT on a diet. But in my situation, I resort on a regular basis to Yong Tau Fu and Fish soup. When I'm splurging I may go for sushi, but that's it.

Let me get one thing clear however. I actually like those "healthy" foods. Even in my quest for a fitter bod, I refuse to sacrifice flavour. Happily, it seems to be working, the flab is diminishing bit by bit. Though you won't be seeing a bikini shot here anytime soon, I can fit into my trousers again hoorah. Long may the effort continue!

Asia-Pacific Best Restaurants 2006


Okay, I know. This is late, but that is sort of my trademark, no? And I have a couple of good excuses, really I do. The main one being that I had not yet eaten at Iggy's and didn't feel like I could fairly participate without having done so as I am now a resident of Singapore...Anyway, what am I going on about? Well, after many debates about Restaurant magazine's somewhat contentious list for "Best Restaurants in the World" , Chubby Hubby came up with an Asia-centric survey to see what other goodies would turn up. Well here is my Asia Pacific Best Restaurants List, read 'em and weep!2 best restaurants in SingaporeIGGY'SSurprise, surprise... it was worth the wait. I took hubby there for his birthday and he was damned please. Then again, so was I. I'll try and post a more specific review of it later, but just a few words here to say that the food was creative without being too fussy, innovative without being over the top and most importantly, just pretty damn delicious. After an apéritif of Jacquesson champagne, we went for (of course) the full tasting menu. I pretty much licked every plate and wished I had some more. Service was impeccable (something I have such a problem with in so many restaurants and especially in Singapore), the restaurant itself was charming. I preferred this version of "counter service" much more than at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. There, the stools weren't that comfortable and a VERY open kitchen meant that the girl prepping the cold plates was making me nervous with her constant head scratching and pushing up of the eyeglasses, yuk. I digress, anyway, 2 enthusiastic thumbs up!HU CUIWhile CH put this down as his favourite restaurant, I'm putting it in for my second best. Hu Cui is the restaurant I would go back to time and time again. Their xiaolongbao easily betters those from Din Tai Fung and I just love all the other dishes there as well. The setting and service aren't too shabby either making for an all around winner.Favourite restaurant in SingaporeCRYSTAL JADEYou gotta give it to those guys at Crystal Jade, they know how to open restaurants that offer good quality and good value meals. That's why my favourite is divided between either the Crystal Jade Golden Palace in the Paragon or the Crystal Jade Palace at Takashimaya. I have dimsum at either one or the other almost every Sunday and pretty much always come away happy. Their main menus are also very well executed and the dining rooms are really lovely. 3 best in Asia-Pacific (excluding Singapore)KAZAHANA, Tokyo, JapanI like Japanese, in all it's guises, heck, I'll even go to a Sushi Tei from time to time. But Kazahana really shows you where it's at; this is Japanese cuisine at its finest. From the earthy maitake to velvety Wagyu, you get the finest ingredients and the most beautiful techniques. Located at the Conrad Hotel in the Ginza, this is a really elegant and dare I say, glamorous combination of the traditional and the modern (so very Tokyo in fact). Go for the chef's kaiseki dinner. While pricey, is the only way to go if food nirvana is what you're looking for. And we are talking about some serious food here... TETSUYA'S, Sydney, AustraliaThis Franco-Nippo-Ozzie master has made it into the legion of the single-name wonders: Madonna, Cher, Tetsuya! There is no mistaking him, or his food, for anyone else's. His food is clean, with ingredients the star of the show. The confit of of ocean trout is a must-have and all the food is as good as it looks. In fact, Tetsuya has reached such an outstanding balance with his fish and crustacean dishes, truly genius. And the restaurant itself, a Japanese-style oasis in the middle of the city with traditional gardens to boot are a very nice bonus to the whole package. (P.S. Met him here with Justin Quek, and despite being severely jetlagged, came and had a drink with us, what a trooper!)WHAMPOA CLUB, Shanghai, China Jereme Leung was rece[...]

A long overdue pig...



You may notice a theme starting to develop about pigs. Whilst not specifically planned, it is not surprising given my love for all products porcine.

To say a proper farewell to London, we booked a big meal at St. John, one of my favourite restaurants there. For those St. John's virgins out there, it is situated fittingly next to the Smithfield meat market. St. John's is also high on Anthony Bourdain's favourite list, so much so, he wrote the intro to Chef Fergus Henderson's book, Nose to Tail Eating and is rumored to have kowtowed to the man himself upon eating there for the first time. I always thought Bourdain was my kind of chef!


The 18 of us had a grand time, dining extravagantly on roasted marrow bones with sel gris and parsley salad, skate with endive and anchovy, rhubarb trifle and apple crumble with Jersey cream. But the main event was the whole roast suckling pig that we had pre-ordered.

As you can see, I decided that no part of the pig should go to waste and started in on the head, something my squeamish friend would have preferred to not witness.

Personally, I actually think the Chinese do the best suckling pig, with skin so crisp it almost shatters as you bite into it, but then again you'd probably say I'm biased. Still, this was one of the best meals I'd ever had in London, largely due to the whole package of food, wine, great service and of course, the excellent company. So long, 'ol Blighty and Singapore here I come.

(For those anywhere near London, please do me a favour and try this restaurant out, you won't regret it!)
St. JOHN Bar & Restaurant
26 St John Street
Reservations: 020 7251 0848

I am not a vegetarian...


(image) ...nor did I marry one, need I say more?

(image) Well actually I do. This gorgeous hunk of beef is from the Ginger Pig, my favourite butcher in London. In fact, it is one of the things I will miss most about London when we leave. Without a doubt, the Ginger Pig's porky products are excellent (please please please try their Gloucester Old Spot bacon before you die. Oh and their sausage roll is a thing of beauty, too), with their products coming from their own farms up North. However, all the other meat is pretty top notch, too. This rib of beef is one example and all my guests were well pleased with the goose I bought for Christmas supper (which left me with a litre jar of goose fat, hurrah!). Poulet Anglais, my favourite chicken breed, is sold there as well.

If I ever have the money to build a house, I will copy their cold room and have animal carcasses hanging there, ready and waiting. Beautiful!

Run, don't walk, to have a look for yourself.

(image) Ginger Pig
8-10 Moxon Street
London W1U 4EW

TEL: 020.7935.7788

A New Year's Tradition


It is 4704, the Year of the Dog and the New Year arrived a week ago. As usual I am late, but I will use my excuse of throwing a party for 45 (for which I did all the cooking) plus cleaning up our flat and dealing with our move (shared efforts with darling S.). I was so busy at our party that I didn't get a chance to take pictures before the hungry hoards descended on the food and devoured everything (and I do mean pretty much everything). I still wanted to share some of my CNY traditions so I made a big plate of dumplings, or Jiaozi, the next day. These survived the party purely because my husband, who’s only cooking duty for the party was to boil the dumplings, got a bit tipsy and forgot that there was a second bag in the freezer. His oversight was our gain the next night when I was too pooped to cook.Symbolic foods are a large part of Chinese New Year. Fish is eaten, because the Chinese word for fish “yu” sounds the same word as abundance. Jiaozi, a boiled dumpling, are eaten for the New Year because their shape harks back to ancient Chinese money, gold and silver ingots to be exact. Another reason is that the words Jiaozi literally means to sleep together and have sons, a much desired fate amongst Chinese. Prawns represent laughter because of the shape whereas Nian Gao, a sticky rice cake, will bring you both “Year High” or a good year and good fortune as its stickiness ensures that good things will “stick” to you. As my dad hails from the Shandong province in Northern China, I am particularly fond of dumplings, a staple of this region. So here I share my recipe for this New Year’s treat.JiaoziFor dough1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose flour3/4 cup cold waterFor filling1 lb ground pork (not too lean)1/2 to 1cup water2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons Shaoshing wine (or dry sherry)1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger1/2 cup minced green onion 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro 2 cups grated zucchini (2-3 whole ones)Salt, if neededFor dipping sauce: 1/2 cup soy sauce 2 tbsp. Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar1 tsp. sesame oil3 tablespoons green onion 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro 1 teaspoon of chili paste or oil (optional)Special equipment: a 6-inch (3/4-inch-diameter) rolling pin or dowel A large pot in which to cook the dumplingsMake dough:Put 1 3/4 cups flour in a large bowl, then add water, stirring with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out dough (including any loose flour) onto a work surface and knead, incorporating some of remaining 1/4 cup flour if dough is sticky, until smooth, about 5 minutes.Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes.Make filling while dough stands:Put the ground pork in a bowl, and start mixing a bit of water in, stirring in one direction only. Chopsticks are ideal stirring implements. Continue adding water, the soy sauce and the wine and stirring all the while until the mixture looks a bit sticky. You may not need all the water. At this point, mix in the sesame oil, ginger, green onions, cilantro and zucchini and salt if needed. Fry off a little patty to check seasoning; it should be highly seasoned as wrappers have none.After the dough has rested, continue kneading 5 more minutes on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be elastic, smooth and not sticky. Roll the dough into an even rope about 15 inches long. Cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces to form about 30 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Flatten each ball with a rolling pin that has been lightly dusted with flour into 3-inch rounds, rolling from the center to the edges, making the center slightly thicker and the edges thinner. Cover all unused dough with a slightly damp cloth.Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper or dust with flour. Work on 1 dumpling at a time[...]

My best Christmas pressie!


I have long been a supporter of the "do it by hand until you can do it eyes closed" philosophy of cooking. No mechanical tools should enter into the equation until I can chop like a machine, whip egg whites like a she-devil and knead dough with the other beefy-forearmed bakers out there. I was stubbornly proud of the fact that I could make a Chinese New Year meal for 50 without any mechanical aid. But the more I cooked, the more I realised that I was a bit of a wimp, and my knife skills, while they didn't suck, were nowhere near my dad's food processor-like chopping action.

Then I started to research. And then I started to pine. And then it happened, I fell in love with Babe. Oh, she's fiery all gowned in red and she can dance with the best of them, but in the UK she is also an extrememly expensive date (sort of like me in my younger, singler days, sigh). She is also not the daintiest of creatures and my flat lacks a certain amount space to house something as lovely as she in comfort. So the pragmatic side of me said "No way honey, it just isn't meant to be." But every so often, I'd look her up and pine some more. Then Christmas 2005 happened.

When it comes to giving (and especially receiving) presents, I truly believe in the "It's the thought that counts" camp. The fact that someone has taken the time to go and buy me something, take it home, wrap it up and possibly label it with one of those cute gift tags, well that alone is a pretty big thrill (although I am still perplexed by certain gifts I have received over the years, I nonetheless appreciate the gestures enormously, whether or not the presents finds themselves into my day-to-day living situation).

My darling husband, S., kept asking me what I wanted. I tried to be reasonable and asked for a couple more cookbooks, small stuff in light of our impending move (more on that later). He then went all quiet, so I figured he had found something. Christmas arrived, we went down to my in-laws and had a big present opening all around. And I had a BIG present opening indeed. I thought I would share my latest acquisition with you. Kitchen Aid virgins, turn away now, you may not be able to handle the sheer glory of the stand mixer. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Babe.

(image) Yes, Christmas has long come and gone, but what with 3 weeks of travelling, plus the current upheaval of moving to another country (yup you heard it here first folks, soon I will not be a UK-based blog, but a Singapore-based one. J., CH and company, here I come!), my posting has been non-existant. I know, what else is new right?

Nevertheless, isn't she gorgeous? I have already whipped up a soufflé cake and a big batch of dumpling filling for the New Year and it took me no time at all. Just think what concoctions I'll be able to cook up next. Stayed tuned...

EBBP...aka goodies time!


(image) What a lovely surprise I had yesterday when my EBBP package from Jeanne at Cook Sister! arrived. Yipee! For those of you who don't know, our dear Cook Sister! is from the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa to be exact and given the "Comfort" theme, her treats were representative of home.

From the photo (starting from bottom left going counter clockwise) you can see that lucky 'ol me got some Koeksusters (where her blog name is derived from, clever gal!), a sort of syrup soaked fritter. I don't have a sweet tooth, plus I am trying to atone for my gluttonous ways of the past 3 weeks, but I just had to try some. And I can see why they would be so addictive, chewy, yeasty, syrupy and fatty at the same time, what's not to like? Move over Krispy Kreme...

I also had some Biltong, the air-dried beef snack. Like jerky, but so much better. I've had Biltong before, but never of this quality and this item is even, dare I say it, diet-friendly ;-)

Lunch Bars, Jeanne's favourite choccie bar from back home. I am still saving this but they are in the fridge for next week (if my willpower holds out).

Bobotie is a dish that I have heard about but never tried. Then the Hairy Bikers (a BBC Television food series) just happened to make it on their show last night, how about that for a coincidence? Now I have the spice pack to give it a go myself, I can't wait and will do so after this weekend (Chinese New Year and all that).

Rooibos tea was next on the list, a tea I already like so was thrilled to receive another package of it, plus it's the honey version. It's gotta be better right?

Finally, a not-so-South African ingredient, but one that Jeanne rates high on her comfort food list, lentils. I really like them, too, having whipped up a sausage and lentil stew for my cousin's bar staff last week. But Black Beluga lentils are one variety I have yet to try and with Jeanne's suggestion of boiling them, tossing through some sauteed onion, garlic, mushroom and topping with feta or halloumi, well, my mouth is watering as I type.

So thanks, Jeanne! I love my little bit of South Africa and hope you had as wonderful a parcel as I did. And thanks also to Johanna for organising, despite the crazy holiday season. Long live EBBP!

TMI Meme


Hello all,
I have just returned from 3 weeks in the States, 3 kilos heavier, I shit you not. More on those adventures later. Obachan tagged me for the Too Much Information Meme. This is the first time I have participated in this event, possibly, because I have a sorry ass excuse for a blog, but whatever. I guess I’m supposed to post 10 random and interesting (questionable) facts about myself and tag 5 people. So here goes, read 'em and weep.

10. I have a brown belt in Shitoryu Karate, though you could say that I am an inactive practitioner (hence the expanding waistline and backside)

9. I am a fully qualified reflexologist. My husband's buddies always claim jealously, "Man, she cooks for you and rubs your feet? What is that?!"

8. I used to be the lead singer in a band. Okay, we did soppy covers, but the party goers seemed to enjoy us. Blondie was one of our faves.

7. I grew up in a Chinese restaurant family, a factor that may have contributed to my ever-growing obsession with food.

6. After escaping the Midwest of the United States, I have lived in Paris, Tokyo, Singapore and London, all of which have definitely contributed to my love for grub.

5. I quit a highly paid and highly stressful job to work in the food industry. I am much poorer, but much happier.

4. I am a web surfaholic, my husband has to pry the mouse from my fingers to get me to go to bed at times, eek. Such a geek.

3. I would rather spend 100 dollars on a rib roast then the same on shoes. Yes I have got my priorities straight.

2. I have Hobbit-like eating habits when given half a chance. In NYC recently, I started my day off with a hot dog, had some Dominican tripe soup, headed over to Chinatown for some Foo Chow stir-fried dishes then some Cantonese rice noodles with salted fish and greens. All this before 6PM, sigh.

1. Some of my favorite foods have to do with texture. I love beef tendons, sea cucumber, pigs trotters, very al dente pasta, jellyfish, etc. Good thing I'm Chinese!

So that's me in a nutshell, I am tagging:
- J. at Kuidaore
- Santos at The Scent of Green Bananas
- Johanna at The Passionate Cook
- Jeanne at Cooksister!
- A. at Chubby Hubby

Over to you guys...

An ode to the yuzu


I have long admired J.'s blog, she of the gastroporn site, Kuidaore. One of her recent posts particularly stuck out, the cookie swap one. I am convinced this woman should produce food this beautiful (and surely as delicious as it looks) for a living, but in the meantime, I will try to learn, humbly, from her site.

I was in Lafayette Gourmet in Paris ten days ago and happened across some fresh yuzu. An ingredient I was vaguely familiar with in Japanese cuisine, I had never handled it myself. So I bought a few and brought them home. There they sat, knobbly and green in my fridge.

(image) I tried to decide what to do with them until I remembered J.'s post. Et voilà! My slightly more rustic version of the beautiful sablés seen on Kuidaore. Still taste good though. Now I have to experiment further with this intriguing citrus fruit, any ideas anyone?...

Hooray for BBM3!


Better late than never is a motto that I apply to my life, daily I might add. so When my BBM3 package arrived from Gabs, I was thrilled as I thought it had gone missing. The lovely goodies I received were:
A yummy jar of Fig & Ginger Jam
A funky box of Green Tea Mints
A box of the classic See's Candies (a California institution it seems)
A Williams-Sonoma catalog
A Sur la Table catalog
Food sections from the NYT and the SF Chronicle
Flyers from Mollie's
2 of her family recipes handwritten on festive cards
And a really nice note!

So thank you thank you, Gabs. Plus, another bonus is that my BBM3 recipient so very kindly sent me a thank you package, how about that? (okay I did go a bit overboard with the goodies, but I was having fun). Carol from Celadon Cupcake included a bag of Mint M&Ms which only appear at Christmas, a lovely handmade card and note, a recipe for Peppermint Bark (which I've been looking for!) and a pompom to wrap it all up.
It's true what they say, give and ye shall receive (gosh I'm full of clichés today). Anyway, let's hear it for BBM and Cathy for organizing. It's been great fun.

Once upon a Yule log...



Check it out, my first ever Bûche de Noël! This all came about because I am spending Christmas with my in-laws this year. This means foregoing a huge 36-hour feast with my gluttonous family to hang out with much more reasonable and quieter folk. Don't get me wrong, I love my in-laws and I don't think a girl could have gotten much luckier in that department. I am just used to a much more Asian-tinged affair for the day that Jesus was born.

Anyhoo, wanting to help and be a part of the festivities, I asked if I could contribute to the Christmas meal. A Yule log was asked for, a log they got. I adapted a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible, topped with my own cream cheese frosting. To my surprise it turned out really quite well and the tasters' verdicts were, "Seconds please!" Can't knock that...

Going, going gone!


Hi peeps,

'Tis the season of goodwill (and giving). Just a quick reminder that there is just ONE DAY left of the Menu for Hope campaign (organized by the ever fabulous Pim) where food bloggers have come together to raise money for earthquake relief in Kashmir. Every cent you donate goes straight to UNICEF to help affected children.

Don't miss out on your chance to buy a raffle ticket for a most fantastic selection of foodie treats! Each 5$ you donate gets you one chance at your choice of these treats. The campaign runs until 12am PST on December 24th, after which the prizes will be drawn and announced January 1st 2006; so don't lose your chance...

Thanks in advance!

A Menu for Hope II



Being the slacker blogger that I am, I only happened across this worthy cause late tonight. And though the eyelids are drooping, I decided I just had to try and do something. It is Pim who has bravely organized this charitable event. This raffle is to help raise funds to support the victims of the devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan. What better reason to update my blog, right?

I will personally be chipping in money towards the cause. But I wanted to contribute more than just a few bucks, so here is what I am offering:

- The chance to shadow Michelin-star chef Stéphane Molé of Les Ormes for the day if you happen to be anywhere near Paris
- A Salter electronic scale. This is a great little gadget and as it's square, can be easily stored on its side. I love mine and use it loads.

Hope these items tickle someone's fancy and keeps the donations coming!


(Photo credit for Menu for Hope logo: Heidi Swanson)

Going solo in Milan


Armoires of wine all along the back wall. Good sign. A brick oven in the back with a man flipping pizza dough, another good sign. Glasses clink and conversation buzzes around the room. Mixed tables of people, a few solo (like me!). Otherwise couples and groups of friends catching up. Wait, I hear a Froggie, finally a language I understand. They would stick out in London by their dress sense, but not here.It all made for an auspicious beginning to my first night out alone in Milan.I’ve been seated right behind the Froggies and I can’t help but eavesdrop… This reminds me of the time when I used to travel a lot in Asia. You either get used to eating out alone or you get very familiar with the room service menu.I use to always take a book with me, but found that I might as well have been in my hotel room. The whole point of eating out is to soak in the atmosphere, which you won’t even notice with your nose buried in a book. Then I discovered writing. Bringing a discreet little notebook out is not the same at all. To write, you are obliged to look around and take notice, observe, write about anything, invent stories about the people around you. It’s great fodder for the imagination.I’ve ordered an insalata di piovra alla ligura (octopus and potato salad to you and me). It’s warm (caldi) and a bit chewier than I expected, but what a lovely flavour!I scribble all this down, when my primi arrives, it is spaghetti alla vongole con bottarga (with clams and dried grey mullet roe). My waiter, Giorgio, has told me to stop writing and eat before it gets cold, in the nicest possible way of course.The Froggies keep talking about Americans and “this war is no longer about politics, it’s about economics.” I’d love to come back with a smart aleck remark in French, but can’t think of one, mainly because I don’t have a clear stance on this subject. To be honest, I’m very mixed about the war. On with my dinner…I have almost choked on a vongole; a stunning man has just walked in. Okay, I may be a very happily married woman, but I did still have a pulse last time I checked, so there. Ah, he’s been seated behind me. Just as well, probably would have made him uncomfortable with my staring.Back to more important things, the bottarga is grated all over the very al dente pasta, like a smokier, more pungent Parmeggiano. It’s fabulous! As a big fan of salty, strong tasting food, this hits the spot. And the al denteness is just how I like it, slippery and almost chewy. Very liberal with the olive oil, but it is supposed to be good for you. Plus it just tastes so good. Would it be rude if I sucked on the clamshells? There’s so much bottarga sprinkled on, I would hate to waste it.That course demolished, I sit there grinning like a Cheshire cat. Much to Giorgio’s dismay, I can’t face the dessert menu so I decide on un ristretto (my third coffee of the day!) and along comes a plate of biscotti. The drink is perfect, concentrated, dark, strong but smooth. Why can’t I get coffee like this in London? And the biscotti are a perfect accompaniment, crunchy, sweet and nutty.Perfect, a guy has pulled up outside on a red Vespa. I know it’s a stereotype, but it puts a smile on my face nevertheless.I’ve turned around for a look and I can see the back of a girl’s head. Think Cyndi Lauper on a bad hair day… Maybe she’s a rock star wannabe and she’s having dinner with her manager. See what I mean about making things up?The whole point is, dining alone can be fun. A few tips to ensure a good time:When you first enter the restaurant and[...]

What a catch!



All right, I confess, I didn't whip this up for supper last night. My camera has gone AWOL and I am dipping into my reserves. I cooked this big fella (an 8kg salmon, thank you very much) and his twin brother for a party of 35. We started the meal off with gazpacho, then moved onto this poached salmon with a big aioli. We finished off with polenta cakes with strawberries and crème fraîche and everybody seemed pretty pleased.

(image) It's amazing how resourceful you can be when necessity strikes. I mean these suckers (the salmon, not the guests) just would not fit in any poacher or pot that I could find. I end up triple lining the biggest roasting pan I could find with foil and sealing the top to trap the steam. And maneuvering it afterwards onto the platter? Yikes! Yet somehow it all worked, right down to the cucumber scales...

Smokey the Duck (Paper Chef # 11 - Favourite Fall Foods)


Well gosh, I am a Paper Chef virgin and I have to say I'm quite excited! I saw the ingredients list and thought hmmm, what to do? Then I realised I actually had all the ingredients (duck breasts in my freezer, hazelnut butter on the shelf, ginger in the fridge and pears in the fruit basket). So I set myself the further challenge of not buying anything else for this experiment. Just a few words about the ingredients; I LOVE duck (sorry Daffy!), more meaty and flavourful than chicken, but not quite as heavy as a beef or mutton. In fact I often do a braised duck dish about now with daikon or a little bit later on in the year with chestnuts. Ginger is warming which is good to remove some of the chill we are starting to get. And it's a great time for pears, the markets are full of them at the moment. How to put all that together (and nut butter too)?After mulling about it for a little while, a dish started to take shape. Okay it's fall, but in London it is neither here nor there in terms of weather. I saw people in the park today in T-shirts, yet as soon as the sun went behind a cloud, I was very happy for my jacket, it all turned chilly quick. So I needed some in-between kind of food which led me to a warm salad, those are always good right? Then I thought, let's make it a bit more interesting by smoking the duck breast after marinating in spices. The hazelnut butter sauce was inspired by a sesame sauce that I do for chicken and I added the ginger for a bit of zing. Pears are good in a salad as long as they're not overripe and I added the daikon for pepperiness and crunch and the red pepper for colour, sweetness and crunch also.Anyway, the recipe is a bit long-winded but it turned out just fine. My husband sure seemed to like it and had a second helping! Good thing I always cook too much ;-) The dish had a great combination of flavours and textures, just the thing after a long afternoon walk in the park. (NOTE: The quantities are all approximate as they are from memory, I didn't take notes as I went along, tsk, tsk!)Tea Smoked Duck Breasts and a Ginger Hazelnut Butter Sauce with a Pear, Daikon and Red Pepper SaladSpice rub/marinade:2 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns2 tbsp. coriander seeds1 tbsp. cardamom pods1 tbsp. 5 spice powder2 tbsp. brown sugar1 tbsp. Maldon sea salt2 duck breasts (preferably Barbary)Smoking agents:½ cup black tea½ cup white rice½ cup sugarSauce:1 tsp. fresh ginger Microplaned (fine)1 tbsp. hazelnut butter (or nut butter of your choice)1 tsp. rice vinegar1 tsp. soy sauce1 tsp. sugarSalt & pepperSalad:1 pear, sliced1 red pepper, julienned2 inch piece of daikon, juliennedMixed salad greens (lollo rosso, watercress, beet greens, batavia)Oil & vinegarSalt & pepperIn a dry pan, toast the first 3 spices until fragrant and grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Put ground spices plus 5 spice, sugar and salt in a container that will hold the 2 duck breasts. Score the duck breast skin lightly then coat in the spices and leave to marinate overnight.The next day, rinse off the spice mixture and pat dry. Line a heavy bottomed pan with two layers of foil then add the smoking agents and heat. When it starts to smoke, put the duck breasts on a rack in the pan and cover. Smoke the duck for 10 minutes on each side. Remove and cool.When ready to eat, put the duck breasts skin side down in a hot, dry pan for 2-3 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden brown, then turn over and cook for a minute on the other side. Remove and let rest, covered with foil.Dress the salad, daikon,[...]

Another way to incorporate kimchi into a meal...


Okay so I lied, I've still been a lazy blogger... I did work a LOT in France in September and all my pictures were home in London so that's sort of an excuse. But basically I was just lame. Anyhoo, I never was very good at keeping daily journals, so you'll have to put up with my sporadic appearances.

That said, one thing I do actually do daily is eat (and in true Hobbit fashion, more than 3 meals a day if I can help it!). When I am not too greedy and I remember, I try to record some of the more interesting things I put in my mouth, ahem. I've been experimenting more with Asian food lately, having had such an overload of French (as good as it was). Below is my version of that Korean classic, Bibim Naeng Myun.

I don't have an exact recipe, but here's what I do:

First I make Braised Beef (I buy beef shank for some yummy texture) by scalding the beef with boiling water to remove impurities then putting it in a big pot with water, soy sauce, Shaoshing wine, ginger slices, whole spring onions, brown sugar, and a spice bag with cinnamon, star anise, fennel and clove. Bring it to a boil then cover and simmer for a couple of hours.

Then you have to make the chilli sauce. Take some kochu jang, add some soy, sesame oil, sugar, 7-Up (yes, seriously), and vinegar. Mix it up to taste.

Prepare a thin omelette with a couple of eggs, a pinch of salt, some water and a splash of Shaoshing wine, then cook up a very thin omelette (in 2 batches if you have a small frying pan) which you will slice up once cool. Julienne some cucumber, kimchi, Asian pear if you can get some. Cook up some Korean myun (noodles), rinse under cold water and toss with the chilli sauce you made earlier. Transfer to a large metal bowl, top with finely shredded beef, cucumber, omelette, pear and kimchi. It tastes delicious and I think it looks pretty too, don't you? Try it, you'll like it!


I'm back! (sort of...)


Hello folks,

Can't believe I haven't posted in so long. Basically my computer had a meltdown and I lost ALL my photos (yes, even those yummy ones). Then once I got the computer up and running again, my internet connection died. Intersperse this with several weeks in France in between and presto, the invisible blog!

Just to let you know I am still here and will start posting a bit more regularly soon (though still going to France quite often).

Here are a few more pictures from Madrid that were still on my camera, thank goodness. It seems ages ago that I went, sigh.

More later...


A step back in time...


Madrid is a bustling, on the go city where people, literally, do not stop. But if you ever want a break, be sure take it at Casa Lhardy on C/ San Jeronimo near Puerta de Sol. There is something so utterly charming about this shop, from the dark wood, to the silver samovars (serving consommé!), from the uniforms to the friendly chatter (and free samples of goodies!). I thought I died and went to heaven. In 4 days I went back 3 times, I loved it that much. While everything I had there was delicious, they had the most kick ass croquetas in town (and I get them everywhere as a test of the kitchen's prowess). They are my new gold standard. In fact, no photos of them cause I scarfed them down faster than you can say croquetas!

The shop that time forgot...

Hojaldritos @ Casa Lhardy

Hojaldritos up close and sooo flaky!

I do not have a sweet tooth, I love these, need I say more?

Palmares, plain or choco?

La Vida Loca


FINALLY! I am back after a week of computer problems, almost chucked the thing out the window several times....

And so much to share! My husband, Sean, and I spent a fantastic long weekend in Madrid and whilst we did several fantastic cultural things, these were of course all scheduled around food.

What I love about the Madrileños is their respect for an animal, thereby eating all of an animal rather than just the bland breast for example. And their willingness, in fact, sheer enthusiasm for bits of an animal that might make weaker mortals blanch made me feel right at home. One of my favourite tapas bars was called La Oreja de Oro (or Golden Ear), c/Victoria 9. I'll let you guess what the house specialty is...

Golden ears, yum! (image)

Aren't they beautiful? A glistening combination of crunch and chewiness, accompanied by a hint of smokey paprika, oh my.

So many others to report, more later...