A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
I had a wonderful week meeting up with the Food Bloggers at Food Bloggers Connect 2010. But the highlight of the week started with this hilarious conversation I had with the British officers at the border - me and my Singaporean accent (yes we chatted for quite a while, who cares about the other travellers waiting for their turn, right?):
Officer: So you are staying in London for a week. What will you be doing there?
Me (all excited): Oh, I'm going there to attend FBC. There will be lots of FOOD bloggers at that event.
Officer: I see, FOOT Bloggers you say. So what is this meeting all about?
Me (babbling on): Oh we exchange notes, experience, recipes, take pictures of FOOD, share photography taking techniques, getting to know each other and exchange our blogs etc. I also have my own FOOD blog. (I said rather proudly)
Officer: Oh! So what do you blog about?
Me: Oh about FOOD, a bit of restaurant review but not much. Mainly FOOD, what I cook with, how it tastes, the result of my experience with the recipe, etc.
Officer: FOOT, yeah ??
Me: Yes, you know FOOD like : I show him the hand sign of eating.
Officer: Oh you mean FOOD. I thought you were talking about FEET. I was starting to wonder - recipes, photos and all with FOOT.
Me: Oh, no, not FOOT... Now that would be a bit of too fetish, isn't it?
Officer: Oh, don't worry. We are used to all sorts of things here working in this line. Talking about food, my wife baked 3 cakes last night and it's all for her office.
Me: Oh lucky her. A food blogger's dream - to be able to bake and give it away to others to eat.
Officer: You can say that again. Look at me, I got it all here (pointing to his waist and tummy).
Me: Oh, my husband complaints the same but he can't stop eating what I make. So your wife loves to cook. Do you like Indian food, Asian Food or French Food?
Officer: Oh yes, I love it.
Me: Here's my name card. You can find delicious Indian, Asian & French recipes in there. (So I gave the 2 officers my name card - what a start of a great day!)
Off I went with a big smile on my face to meet Sarka of Cooking Your Dream, Tiina of Sparkling Ink & Giulia of Jul's Kitchen (my bedmate for the weekend) at FBC 10. Sarka was so generous to offer her home for us to stay. We got to know each other better, had brainstorming sessions, exchange camera techniques etc. till late at night. Each night we slept only like 5 or 6 hours. We had a real blast together!
For me, the highlight of the FBC 10 was Friday evening & the Sunday session. Jaden of Steamy Kitchen talks on 'monetizing your blog' was very inspiring with her boundless enthusiasm on how she got started with nothing, worked to cookbook, TV shows after only 6 months into blogging and how she could earn enough by then to pay her household bills. It was truly awesome - every food bloggers dream come true. So much was learnt from Kerrin Rousset of My Kugelhopf & Julia Parsons of A Slice of Cherry Pie on 'how to get published & get feature work'. Thank you for sharing with us your tips and secrets of trade. Kerrin's boundless energy is infectious: she's like an Energizer rabbit - never stop moving. I'm so impressed by Julia's personality: so down-to-earth, open, very friendly and very approachable. Lastly, Niall Harbison's (lively personality with great sense of humour) talk on social media left all of us hungering for more information. I was kinda of disappointed that there wasn't any hands-on photography workshop as I was so looking forward to having one. Instead I found tables of fruits/cakes set up on the table for us to play with our camera mode by ourselves. Other than that, I got to finally meet several bloggers that I have known online for some time and lots of new bloggers!
Sarka's partner, Pavel, came home from his European conference trip and showed me one evening the difference of the aperture and shutters speed hands on with his camera and explained it in details. I greatly appreciated him taking the time to teach me. Now I know the difference. It's one thing listening to talks and reading from the manual, it's totally different when someone actually show it to you. On my last day in London, I cooked dinner for Sarka & Pavel and letting them taste my home (Singapore) & French food - Assam Fish (Singapore Nyonya), Curry Coconut Prawns (Indian - recipe below) & Moules Marinière (French) and last minute whip up dessert like this rich & delicious Lava Coffee Chocolate Cake that only took 10 minutes to make & 8 minutes to bake. Thank you Sarka & Pavel for hosting me for a week.
This truly is a great Indian dish, very aromatic and exotic. Unlike some other Indian recipes, this one is really simple and fast to put together, and yet it really taste authentic. The coconut milk doesn't overpower the flavour of the spices.
If you don't want it with too creamy coconut, add half coconut milk and half milk. Add the chilli powder according to how spicy you want it to be. It's always better to start with little bit of chili and add more if needed as we cannot reverse the spicy taste the other around.
To make garlic-ginger paste, just process the same amount of ginger & garlic together in the food process. Keep this paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chosed to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
For this challenge, we must make our own chicken stock and the risotto base. I was not worried about making my own chicken stock but more about making risotto. You see, I had only eaten risotto once in my life when my sis-in-law made it last summer. All I can remember was it tasted super delicious! Since then, I have been wanting to make risotto but was too scared to even start. I even bought ready packaged risotto (like those ready packaged rice) to start out but each time my courage left me. I sound very silly, don't I (even Pierre looked at me weirdly when he found that out). Those packets of risotto are still sitting in my garage. LOL! Now that the Daring Cooks had issued this challenge, I had to stop running and making excuses... however I did procrastinate on it until the last minute!
I had an idea of what kind of risotto I was going to make - Prawns & Mushrooms. Even watched a video on how to make basic risotto just to make sure I would not screw up on expensive prawns (I'm not even talking about fresh ones - the cheap frozen ones already costs about 12 €/kg). I had everything bought and ready to go, and then my laptop went belly up that very day (right after I got back from my grocery shopping). Arrggh! All my data, recipes, food pictures were in there! How can I cook when I don't have the basic risotto recipe to follow? How can I post on my blog? Yep! You got it right. FRUSTRATION is the word that described my state of being for the following days. As if it wasn't bad enough, someone up there decided to put the proverbial icing on the cake and the whole family got seriously sick with flu by late afternoon. Peachy or not, risotto was on tonight's menu. So I spat on my hands and rubbed them well for good luck like a baseball batter (Gotcha! Just kidding!), I went ahead and cooked it sans recipe, with just memories of how the guy in the video did it, crossing my fingers and hoping it would turn out good.
What do you think? Did it turn out good or bad? Did my ninja's training saved the day? Read further to find out!
Strike! I got it right - the risotto was done just right, the rice was thick and moist but not mushy, the prawns were cooked just enough to remain crunchy and flavorful, and go well with the mushroom. I can still see a possible improvement by using more refined mushrooms - morilles (morchella) or cèpes for example would probably make the dish a total bliss.
Don't be afraid to cook risotto like me. It's actually very easy - like cooking rice except one adds broth to the rice little by little until it is cooked. It's that simple. The great thing about risotto is that once you know how to make the basic risotto, you can make risotto with anything you have in mind or in your fridge.
To avoid having a very starchy or lumpy looking risotto, don't stir the rice constantly while it's cooking .
For the above recipe, I used my leftover frozen chicken stock from Poulet à la crème (Creamy Chicken). It's a very basic stock of water & chicken carcass without any extra ingredient. However you can also try making DC's Challenge Chicken stock if you wish.
We are back in Singapore. Woohoo! With the pandemic N1H1 flu, we did consider skipping Singapore this year if it got real bad... then again, it is a pandemic, so even if we stayed in France, we would still get it at some point. So we decided to just go ahead and not bother.
Flying back to Singapore via Singapore Airlines big jumbo plane - the A380 got hubby all excited like a little boy. To me, no big deal - just a bigger plane that can load more cattle in it, that's all. But I have to admit that the plane is indeed awesome to look at - big and beautiful. We chose the upper deck and hoped to get some empty seats around ours, hélas no such luck, it was fully seated. To top it off, passengers were coughing, blowing their nose left, right, front and back of us. My goodness, one would think in view of the pandemic flu, those who aren't feeling pink in health would either postpone their trip or wear a mask before coming on board. Sharing your germs is NOT the true spirit of sharing. Other than that, the flight went well, the Singapore Airlines service was excellent as usual and we got more leg room in this new plane. I liked their kids meal - Little One even got to keep her little red lunch box that came with it.
We landed on time and were greeted by my sister. My parents were waiting patiently for us at home and our dogs barked excitedly upon our arrival and Little One, for a moment, got all distracted by the dogs... but when she saw her 'ma ma' (or Ah Ma - "grandma" in dialect), she shouted out loud, jumped with joy and ran up excitedly to my mom with her arms wide open to hug her. The weather was very hot when we arrived but luckily for us, there were some rain to cool the hot weather off a little. Everything was going well till my family got a call from the Ministry of Health on Monday night informing us that I was quarantined due to a person sitting behind our row that had N1H1. So a nurse and a security guard, all masked up, came to my home, gave me some papers to sign, gave me instructions to isolate myself from my family members to avoid risk of contamination and take my temperature 3x a day. If everything goes well, I'm officially off quarantine as of Saturday 8 am. One more day to go... Hubby is dying to dine at his favourite Indian restaurant on Saturday as soon as my quarantine is over.
In the meantime, I got to indulge myself with my mom's delicious cuisine. Besides being treated with the freshly made lemon juice and other fruit juices every day, I also get to eat her yummy deep-fried chicken wings, curry fish, seafood curry, stir-fried sambal long beans (snake beans) and today's featured recipe: Stir-Fried Prawns with Salted Soy Bean. Boy, am I pampered.
You know I mostly blog about successful recipes, so yes, this one is delicious. Taste wise, it's quite similar to my mom's chili prawns however the taste and fragrance of the salted soya bean is more prominent.
The nice part about this dish is that even if you don't add curry leaves or chili or oyster sauce, it will still taste wonderful.
We got back to France 12 days ago and I find myself still adjusting to our daily routine and the weather. *sigh* Pierre and Little One don't seems to have any problem at all. Lucky them.
One of my goals when I came home for CNY (besides pigging out big time on local food, catching up with friends etc) is to watch my mom cooks all those delicious food and note them down so that I could redo them in France. Unfortunately my mom whipped up dishes faster than I could catch her doing it: one minute, the ingredients were all layed out on the kitchen counter, the next, they were all in the wok cooking ... or worst ... sometimes I didn't realised she had started cooking ... until the delicious aroma floated to my nose ... I rushed to the kitchen only to see the dishes all whipped up and laid on the table ready to be 'makan' (eaten). Maybe I should install a camera in the kitchen to spy on her cooking Anyway I was lucky to catch my supermom in action cooking up this delicious yet simple dish of hers.
Pineapple is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and a good source of B1 & B6. Apparently the juice can also be used as a marinade and tenderizer for meat. Pineapple is actually composed of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core and each fruitlet is identified as an 'eye'.
How to choose a pineapple?
Choose one that is firm, gold to brown skin, heavy for their size and has a fragrant sweet smell at the base. If the spiky leave gives way with a light tuck, it means it's nicely ripen. Avoid those with soft spots or bruised and darkened eyes - this means that the pineapple is past its prime. Avoid also pineapple that smells musty, sour or fermented.
We know sweet and shrimp go well together and this dish proves it once again (and is an quick and tasty way to add some fruits to your diet). My mom tends to not salt the dish enough for western taste-buds, but it's easily fixed.
Instead of prawns, try it with squids. It tastes equally good.
HAPPY NEW YEAR !
GONG XI FA CAI !
Today is Chinese New Year. On the eve, every Chinese family come together to have a reunion dinner and this year we are home for our very first reunion dinner with my family and we are having steamboat as usual. At the stroke of midnight, there's the usual small blast of firecrackers in the streets: although they are illegal in Singapore (like so many other things!), some still managed to obtain some and set them off to welcome the new year. Firecrackers are supposed to scare off evil spirits and attract the god of wealth to people's doorsteps.
Today before we set off for our "new year visits" (visiting relatives and friends), we will first wish our parents a good new year with prosperity and good health with a pair of mandarin oranges, and we will get a red packet from them as usual. Since I'm no longer single, we will also be giving my parents a red packet this year. Little One will get her very first red packet from all my relatives. She won't know the significant of it yet but she will get it in 2 years' time. For now, she would be more interested in checking all the goodies offered during this festive period and giving away her red packets.
Festivities are not over. The 7th day of Chinese New Year is known as 'Renri' (common man's birthday - everyone's birthday) - it is usually celebrated by tossing Yusheng' and make wishes for wealth and prosperity all year round. The 15th day - the last day of Chinese New Year - is celebrated by having a family reunion dinner again.
So I'm leaving my readers yet another simple dish to sample. Hope this will wet your appetite till I blog again.
I'm always surprised by how good this dish tastes - the nice aroma and crunchiness of the shallots mixed with the freshness of the prawns. The soya sauce and a dash of sugar heightens the taste and fragrance. This is succulent.
The marvelous thing about living in the house of a great cook is you get delicious meals 365 days (obviously). However the danger is that you risk being spoiled for life regarding food - Asian food in my case - with the permanent tendency of comparing the dishes you eat outside to those at home. Now, who's this great chef I'm talking about? No, no, it's not Pierre - well he is a great chef in certain domain... which I won't tell you. Yes, the great chef of wok: my dear old mom. My friends are so used to hearing me complaining about the plate of chicken curry or chili prawns that I'm eating at the hawker center (aka Singaporean food court) being not as good as my mom's. They would their shake their head and smile... until I invited them over for lunch or dinner for some chili crabs or pineapple prawns. Even till today, whenever we talk about food, they will reminisce about my mom's cooking and will always ask me when am I going to invite them over for lunch again Some of them even offer to buy and pay for the groceries and food if my mom can whip up those delicious prawns and crabs for them again.
I have to admit that I have taken my mom' cooking for granted while I was living with her. To me, from a child's point of view, my mom will live forever (silly thinking isn't it) and she's never old. It's only in my late 20s that I looked at my mom closely one day and realized suddenly that she isn't getting any younger, and if I don't spend quality time with her, one day she might not be there anymore and I'll regret it for the rest of my life. It was then that I got to really appreciate every little things she does for me. My sis and I tried to learn cooking from her and to relieve her of that job so that she can relax and enjoy her old age... but my mom is stubborn: it's her kitchen and she kicks us out of it whenever we try to help her. She always says that we are giving her more work to do (messing up her kitchen) than helping and it would take her twice as long to cook than usual with us around.
But now that I'm living abroad with my own family, I have a chance to try out her recipe in my own kitchen Trying to cook my mom's recipes is not that easy because she's from the "old school" and takes no measurement at all. And being two continents apart doesn't help either, as 'about the size of the small bowl we have in the kitchen' isn't a very helpful information. Over time I still got my way around some recipes, such as the following which I did for my Peruvian and French friends this week.
Mmm...yummy... almost as good as my mom's (that's my own opinion) Pierre loves it so did my friends ... they were quite amazed by the flavour of it, slightly bitter, sweet and spicy at the same time.
Candlenut can be found in Southeast-Asian markets. You can substitute it with macadamia nuts or Brazil nuts (these are three times as large as candlenuts, so use fewer) or raw cashews (two cashews for every candlenut) or blanched almonds (two almonds for every candlenut).
If you don't have fish curry powder, you can just simply add chili powder (in lesser quantity of course) or grind dried chilis (deseed) together with the paste, it still taste delicious. Or you can add any curry powder you have in your pantry and add in some paprika for the red colour.
Char Kway Teow (translated literally as "fried flat noodles" ), is a popular noodle dish in Singapore and Malaysia. The original version is stir-fried with pork fats and crisp croûtons of pork lard which gives its characteristic taste together with ingredients like cockles, egg, bean sprouts, slices of Chinese sausage and fish cake. Because of its high animal fat content, Char Kway Teow has a reputation of being an unhealthy dish. It began as a poor man's meal, but over time many more ingredients were added, making it one of the most loved dishes in Singapore.
This is my entry for Ruth's Presto Pasta Night. My recipe does away with the pork fat and is easier on the arteries.
This is the 2nd time I'm cooking this dish. The results this time around is better because I didn't overcooked my noodles. I just realized yesterday night that this dish is so simple and quick to fix. (why? once done, I only had two dishes to wash in the kitchen )
We usually eat this as main course by itself. On the taste side, it is a sweet and salty dish at the same time, and is very typical of the colorful south-east Asian cuisine that is prevalent around Singapore.
The above quantities serve about 10 people.
If you find that your noodles are a bit under-cooked at the end, add a bit of water and stir the mixture. Let it cook for a minute or two and check the noodles again. If it is still not cooked to your liking, add a bit more water to it and stir it. However do not overcook the noodle or else it will break into small pieces when you stir it.
In preparation of this dish, I omitted the Chinese sausages and squid but added some pork slices and more prawns. You can add beef slices in place of pork if you wish. Or totally leave out the seafood if you are allergic to seafood. And if you find it troublesome or difficult to do the egg part, you can skip it too. The dish will still hold the wonderful flavour.
In some other recipe, fish sauce is replaced by oyster sauce and light soya sauce.
Pierre (who likes cooking too, but not all day) bought this new Indian cookbook because it's 1) simple with short cooking instructions 2) easily obtainable ingredients 3) and requires a limited number of them. This is in contrast to our other main Indian cookbook which has authentic but complicated recipe with authentic - and as such hard to find - ingredients. However as simple the recipes were, the new book ended up like many of those books, sitting on the shelf neglected. But as I was browsing through my little library the other day, it practically jumped out in front of me shouting 'Me! Me! Me!' (the poor little thing ).
(taken from Bôllyfood by Marie-Laure Tombini)
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
This dish is actually flavourful and tasty. I was pretty much taken by surprised, as I tend to be doubtful of "simplified" cooking. The prawns and the coconut milk give it a tint of sweetness. It's also a nice surprising change from spicy ones we usually have, and as such it's a good recipe for those who can't take spicy food or have young children.
A few years back, I couldn't understand why my mom (who has been cooking for the family for over 40 years) lamented how she was cooking the same old thing every day. She felt as if she had exhausted all the recipes she inherited from my grandmother or had came up by herself. And just when we were expecting her to give in to 'da bao' (take out), she would surprise us with some of her delicious dishes.
Now that I have started cooking for my own little family, I finally understand what my mom was going through. There are days when I'm full of cooking ideas and there are days when my brain just draw a blank and I feel doomed to redo the same stuff over and over. This was one of those days. But here came my prince charming to the rescue once again. Pierre picked up one of our Indian cook book and found this lovely dish.
(taken from Indian - Shehzad Husain & Rafi Fernandez)
I was rather skeptical at first about how this dish would turn out (we didn't have a broiler or a grill) and it didn't look exactly like the picture in the book. Boy, was I very pleasantly surprised by how good it turned out: very aromatic with just the right sourish tint and a slight biting taste lingering in your mouth after each bite. It was neither too spicy nor too sourish. All the spices blended in well with the prawns. Rice and prawns were gone by end of dinner
I've substituted cooked prawns with raw ones, used my frozen green chili and sunflower oil instead of corn. I have poured the whole prawn mixture into the pan as the recipe wasn't clear if I'm supposed to place only the marinated prawns onto the pan or the whole thing including the marinated sauce. In the end, I had to scoop out some of the sauce as it was way too watery.
Don't know what to do with the extra chili or lemon grass you have in hand? Freeze them and just take out whatever quantity you need later. This was the advise from the owner of my local Asian shop.
When you think of France, you think of Paris and old cobblestone streets. Well, France is also many small territories spread out all over the world, from the cold shores of Canada (Saint-Pierre & Miquelon) to the sunny beaches of the pacific ocean (French Polynesia) or the jungle of the Amazonian forest (French Guiana). Two of those most well known territories are the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which, besides tourism, also happen to produce such delicacies as rum or bananas. Why this crash-course in geography? Because I happened to stumble by accident on a governmental web site promoting the local banana production with (guess what?) banana recipes. The one I tried is crevettes à l'antillaises (shrimps).
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes
When I first saw the list of ingredients, I found this recipe rather interesting and thought it would taste good (shrimp go well with sweet fruits). Well it certainly didn't disappoint us: it's really delicious, creamy and sweet. The rum certainly gets noticed although it doesn't steal the show from the banana. Best of all, the recipe is simple and quick to prepare and doesn't require a bazillion of different ingredients and spices.