Monday, 17 December 2007

The best things in life are so cheap, abuse is inevitable

The things a woman would do for vanity's sake... Three weeks ago, I took a leap of faith and went for a laser operation that essentially stripped my cheeks of their skin. Yowch! I shan't go into detail about the dead skin flakes I saw floating in the air during the op or how they clung on to the laser gun and threatened to invade my nostrils and lungs each time I inhaled, or the SMELL of burnt flesh! And the searing PAIN (which I think I took like a man)! Oh, the horror! Not that that's enough to deter me from doing it again! :)

Whetted your appetite yet? ;-)

Because I knew it'd be unethical for me to be outdoors while my skin grew back (I didn't want to be held responsible for others' nightmares, haha) my company allowed me to work from home for 2 weeks. Aww.. For the first whole week, I was cooped up at home and forced to rely on the provisions at hand and had to make my cooking as low-risk and splashless as possible (ie, no frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, shallow-frying - you get the drift). The recovery of my skin was speedier than I'd feared, to such an extent that a few times I'd wondered if I'd be able to watch it heal in real time if I looked hard enough!

The hideous post-op face obviously distorted my perception of the "after" face in that I felt much more attractive than I must have been to the unknowing eye. ;-) On the first day I finally felt presentable enough to go out for groceries (without makeup at that!), to my utter delight and dismay, I saw one of my favourite actors Jean Réno in the flesh! No way! What are the odds?!?! On the one hand, I wish I had a camera on me, but at the same time, I'd caught a glimpse of my own reflection and realised that I certainly wasn't photogenic as yet, ack!!! Fortunately, I was at a bookshop and had access to ample writing material and was able to get an autograph! Wheeee!! :)

Anyhow, grocery shopping after a week of home imprisonment was so liberating it got ridiculous, and on perhaps the fourth day in a row I felt the "need" (yeah, right) to shop, all I had in my bag when checking out were chips and Cherry Coke, which I ordinarily don't even drink much of. :) Deprivation can be such a powerful thing!

Of course, I never seemed to buy everything I "needed" on each shopping trip during my convalescence, so on my first day back in the office, after lunch with my pals, I was itching to enter a different supermarket again. A colleague who had to be back at her desk on time asked me what I needed, and when I told her I needed to scarf down some crêpe dentelle, she gasped. Not only at the absurdity of the need, but the lucky coincidence - her guy's mother happens to work in a factory that manufactures them, and told me if I didn't mind broken ones, she'd have a whole bag of crumbs to give me the next day if I could wait. :) It suited me fine since I usually crush them before eating anyway, so gleefully accepted the bag of crumbs she gave me, which came up to more than a kilo:

Hardcore indulgence, if you ask me

Initially, I ate the crumbs by the cupful, but by Saturday, I was craving a more intense caramel flavour and to make nougatine with crêpe dentelle flakes instead of the usual almond bits. I didn't succeed since I've never made nougatine before and was in experimenting mode, but was pretty pleased to end up with this:

Basically, I just dumped some sugar (possibly 300g) in a saucepan and made it melt and darken into a golden brown caramel, then removed the saucepan from the stove and dumped in a generous cube of butter (50g? 75g? no idea) and sprang back in haste while it sizzled. Proceeded to stir until the butter blended evenly into the sugar and drizzled discs and grid patterns on wax paper.

The grid patterns were a joy to eat, but the discs, well.. keeping in mind my dental travails, I didn't want to risk any unnecessary chipping and new fillings, and since they were so rock solid and too big to fit into my mouth without being broken or bitten, I ultimately had to dump them back into the saucepan and add crème fraîche (an instinctive move, really) to bring them back to a molten state, taking special care not to burn the caramel. Not surprisingly, they didn't set an hour after I'd made new discs on wax paper, so ended up with these roses des sables, really just a fancy name for cornflakes coated in caramel:

Not the ideal daily way to consume cereal!

They were too darned good I already feel them creeping onto my hips! But now that they've all been downed, I realise all the stuff that went into making them hardly cost a Euro dollar! I'm not complaining but they're definitely coming back in my kitchen! Yikes

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Main hoon kaun? main hoon con...

I was lamenting last week to a friend my flagging will and inspiration with regards to blogging due to my current preoccupations, and he kindly and rightly pointed out that blogging was supposed to be fun and should not become a "chore or service to others". Without wanting it to, I did let it become a chore, losing sight of my real reason for starting a blog in the first place (err, venting! Just kidding!) and most of all, tried too hard. Idiot.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise, really. My blog is hardly a year old and I didn't want it to die in its infancy, but by dint of flaunting it left and right to everyone I knew who would take a look, I didn't want them to come by for nothing. What happened as a result were insane behind-the-scene efforts to impress that ended up in me not posting about my time-consuming disasters at all. Dummy.

A few pals aware of my fidgetiness in the professional arena right now have suggested that I made my cooking profitable, to which I often responded with my usual "if it became a chore, I'd no longer enjoy it" (there's also my inability to stick to a theme in my cooking!). Now, why didn't I see that I was doing precisely that with my blog? :)

In less than a week from now, my wedded status is slated to undergo a major change, and in a few months (weeks?), so will my location. When my location changes, that will mean I will no longer have my own kitchen to get sloppy in, and along with that, no more digital camera and a more basic computer. To make up for it, I will be so surrounded by cheap and good food in my "new" location, in all likelihood it will be ages before I cook or even buy groceries again!

The impact of all that on what I initially intended to be a food blog is that it will impair my ability to blog about stuff I made myself, and worse, will limit the possibility of me uploading pictures since a new camera will not be in my list of priorities (a trip to Bombay is!).

Bottomline - it will no longer be just about food... By the way, "con" in French isn't what it is in English (the last word of the first two paragraphs provides an idea), but both apply to my former approach to blogging. :)

This said, I recently managed to get my hands on the 1978 version of Don, and have been whiling away lots of time on the music videos.. :) maybe it's time I got myself some Banaraswala paan! :)

Sunday, 30 September 2007

CTK chronicles

Thank you everyone for checking on me throughout the past 2 unintentionally silent months (someone pinch me, did they really go by like that?)! To be perfectly honest without trying to sound like I'm feeling sorry for myself, things hadn't been easy on me on many fronts, and will not get better for another couple of months, so blogging just had to take a backseat.

(It was unfortunate that I had to be so bogged down because I definitely had lots to say, in particular with regards to Emon Chatterjee being ousted from Indian Idol!!! No way! The injustice!! The kid is GIFTED! And anyone who sounds like Sonu has an immediate place in my heart! :) So yes, if I'd already been too down to blog, this slid yet another gin tonic between my helpless fingers! Poor Emon! :( )

Of course, I could have kept you entertained with pictures of the "ugly" food I had been cooking during my absence, but none of them are quite as worthy as what I have prepared for this post! :) I cannot think of any other dish in my repertoire that surpasses this one in mindboggling simplicity (ahem, for some! ;-) ), affordability and Singaporeanness, but I can bet my bottom Singdollar that few of my Singaporean readers would have attempted making this at home and succeeded, and by that, I mean, while living in Singapore. :) Why would they when it can be procured around the clock in less than half an hour with at most, a few oily forks to wash?

It's no myth that few Singaporeans bother to learn how to cook until they become exiles like me, and I help to perpetuate that stereotype, but the things an exile would do for survival when frequent trips back aren't feasible. :)

There is nothing inherently exquisite about carrot cake aka chai tow kway but this post is dedicated to my sister (I know you're reading this!) who has attempted and failed it all of 4 times, and mean as it is to snigger, it has been one of my favourite subjects of teasing.. ;-) She lives in Japan, so maybe getting the right ingredients are tricky, or is she just not looking in the right places? ;-) I've tried to help, but my last resort - sending a bag of rice flour - sounds ridiculous, so I'll be contented with letting her savour it only on trips back to Singapore! :) heh heh...

What you need:

How to: Mix 400g rice flour with 200g tapioca starch. Add 1 grated radish (I added a grated carrot) and about 500ml of water or stock at room temperature. Add another 500ml - 800ml of boiling water or stock and stir until there are no more lumps. Pour mixture into a casserole and cook until all liquid is absorbed (it gets very thick, so the spoon will get stuck) and transfer to a steamer. Steam for about half an hour. It should have a slightly springy consistency because of the tapioca starch. Cut into small cubes when it has completely cooled.

This recipe makes enough for 8 - 10, so this plateful of cubes shows only a quarter of the final product.

Preserved salted radish (yes, again!) strips, aka chai por.

You'll also need fish sauce and crushed garlic, but my bottle of fish sauce is quite a mess, so I'd prefer to keep your appetites intact by not showing it! :)

About 3 or 4 of these guys for 2...

Not entirely necessary, but to glam up this humble dish, I sometimes add prawns.

Lastly, shallot chives for garnish.

How to: Heat about 2tbps of oil (purists would recommend lard, but I'm happy enough with sunflower oil) in a wok on high heat and throw in the cubes of carrot cake. Fry until the surfaces are slightly toasted and crisp, then splash 1 - 2 tbsp of fish sauce and add the preserved radish strips. Add garlic now if you don't like it too strong, and fry for about a minute, then add lightly-beaten eggs. When eggs are fully cooked, remove from heat, sprinkle shallot chives and serve with chilli paste.

I was too impatient to let mine brown and crisp, so it could have been darker and better. :)

Variations: This is the "white" version, which is the only version I like. The "black" version includes a dark sweet sauce which I've never learned to make and can't seem to find ready-made here, but who's asking for any? :)

Body count: About 15 prawns.

Friday, 3 August 2007

It's about time!

Never has a single word made such a difference in my life! Whew!

After what seemed like an infinite and ignominious number of hours, kilometres and euros, I have finally been given free rein to DRIVE as of Wednesday!

Few people have understood why my "ordeal" lasted as long as it did or why it even took such a toll on me, but an ordeal it was, enough to warrant the only prescriptions I've ever had in my whole life for calmants! Yeah, me, the cool-headed one who most people associate with always taking things TOO easy! Unbelievable! :)

It's not that I had a fear of driving! Far from it, I just tended to lose "it" every time I had to prove I knew how to drive!

To say my self-confidence took a beating while being instructed by some of the most condescending human specimens allowed to roam the earth barely scratches the itch my knuckles feel to meet the gums of a particularly discouraging instructor who told me about a month back, inter alia, that I wouldn't be able to get that license within the year and who wondered aloud why someone who's chalked up the number of hours I had just couldn't drive better.

Now, now, if that was some mind game intended to spur me on to pull up my socks, I definitely didn't take it that way at the time I heard it, and went on to specifically request that I attended NO MORE lessons with him. I'd have loved to attend his funeral, or even contribute to its materialisation, but paying him to insult my intelligence for an hour at the wheel is pure insanity!

So it's a relief that I can put it all behind me now, but what is this effusion doing on a food blog? Well, if you've noticed over the past few weeks, my cooking has been erratic, and it's really all driving-stress-related. :) When I'm stressed out, I just don't get very hungry and woe to those around me 'cos without warning, I'll just end up not cooking! :)

But on the topic of procrastination, I had been wanting to make these theplas since I saw them on Trupti's blog way back in January, but only managed to the night before the exam in a bout of stress! :)

I hope to be back in fine form real real soon!


Thursday, 26 July 2007

One in the oven

Thank you all for your enthusiasm in my previous post, and I hate to be discouraging, but nobody got it right. :)

However, the closest answers I got were from Kajal, who guessed that I was preparing Gujarati dhokla, and Poonam who guessed it was polenta.. :) Not bad!

This was, in fact, my third attempt, and first successful one, at making panelle al forno, which like dhokla, is made mainly of chickpea flour, and where method of preparation is concerned, is just like polenta.

Believe it or not, people do get paid to write crummy recipes in bad faith with the intention of throwing off eager learners like me, which explains my 2 earlier failed attempts. For one, chickpea flour CAN and WILL get lumpy when you toss it into boiling water, no matter how thin the "stream" of flour, and I had to learn that the hard way the first time.

On the second attempt, I learned to stir part of the required amount of water (at room temperature) into the chickpea flour and to boil the rest, but guess what? The quantity of water stated in the recipe was so excessive, it was impossible to cut out pretty shapes from the ensuing quivering glob, lumpless though it may have been!

I could easily have given up, but I do enjoy my besan and have been fascinated with its use in non-Desi, non-Middle Eastern recipes, thus the perseverence.

Nonetheless, success tends to place a cap on that perseverence, so, satisfied with the successful panelle I had in hand, I thought I'd might as well make the best of it and pair it with several different flavours!

With parmesan and dried tomatoes:

with slices of sausage:

or simply with garlic, butter and parsley -

I'm not particularly good at recommending wines for particular dishes, but ever since Arles, I have been drinking more wine than I really should, with or without my meals. For this meal, I feel the need to let you in on my latest discovery, haha:

The choice was not mine, but my husband's, not only because of the funny label, but because one of the names on the label happens to be his. I'll let you draw your own conclusions! :)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Guess who?

Hee hee, doesn't this look like a caterpillar-ravaged lunch? Any guesses what this is?

Hint: This is just the "base" for another preparation.. answers in the next post!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

South-bound and spell-bound!

Ca y est. Saturday, Bastille Day (14/7/07) marked 6 years that I have lived in France and was also the day I got back from a 2-week break to the furthest south I've ever been in France since I arrived - Arles, home to some breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage sites and beneficiary of some serious lovely weather!

Although Vincent van Gogh only lived there for a year (1888- 1889) and a long long time ago, much has been touted in his name for the tourist dollar. Oh alright, so most of his better-known paintings were inspired by the Arlesian landscape (for very good reason!) and he lost an ear there, but if you didn't know better, some of the van Gogh "attractions" and souvenirs were clear-cut rip-offs!

My irreverence was short-lived, however, the moment I patronised the local markets! Take for example the biggest, baddest cherries money can buy, the tenderest of figs and up until now, what remained the stuff of cookbook legend to me - zucchini blossoms!

The violet-tinged Ail de Garonne (a delicate garlic variety cultivated in the region around the Garonne river), though seasonally available in the North, was something I felt the need to stock up on, and eventually abuse (if you must know what garlic abuse is, it's the violent exfoliation of all mucous membranes in my oral cavity, tastebuds included) before its possible extinction. Woe woe!!

Olives were abound as far as the eye could see - preserved, in tapenades (a spread), as a motif on tablecloths and napkins... I wasn't really looking to buy any, but was fascinated by the choice!

Tomatoes were a close second in omnipresence. These freaky-looking ones are called coeur de boeuf, meaning "ox heart". One is enough for 2 persons, so I took a yellow and a red one. It's a pity my hands were too full to take pictures of some other equally spectacular dwarf varieties!

There were many other fruits and vegetables in my basket, but let me backtrack a bit and deliver a micro geography lesson. I live in Lille (50.38N, 03.03E) and Arles (43.41N, 04.40E), without traffic jams and pee breaks, is at least 10 solid hours away by car at an average speed of 90 km southward all the way. That translates to a constant upward difference of 10°C on average in the afternoons, a main factor in the difference between wan and tan! In lingua culinaria, that also meant redder, juicier tomatoes and just-plucked fruit at a steal as well as greens too fragile to make that 10-hour trip.

Different weather, different vegetation, different accent but same language, and even different species of mosquito (their stings were baldly more vicious and insidious) - I was almost sure I'd landed in a different country! Why, even the strangers were chattier and the pigeons less meek!

Sigh... in the shade of the majestic Roman-era arena - the view from the house where we'd stayed not far from here - a mustachioed serenader with a wee little violin would not have been out of place... :)

Forgive me for not cutting to the chase (ie, ready-to-eat stuff), but I'm getting there!! When I left Lille in a hurry and after a harrowing week at work, I took with me all my perishables and a few cans of preserves. With that, I'd drafted a couple of my lists to give me an idea of what to cook while in Arles, but the lists proved to be sorely inappropriate given that they were adapted for Lille's cold weather!

So here is the array of finger food I ended up improvising throughout my 2 weeks there, using local ingredients where I could:

Tartines with green olive & garlic tapenade with carpaccio of baby zucchinis and cherry halves, ribboned with stalks of chives.

Tartines with black olive & tomato tapenade, egg, parsley and cherry tomato slices.

Mini bruschettas with goat's cheese and cherry tomato slices.

Tartines with soft St Félicien cheese, Corsican cured ham and fig wedges.

Cubes of onion, herb & zucchini blossom frittata.

I prepared some of these bites when we had company one evening, and served them with glasses of rosé. I had to hint to my guests that I had nothing else lined up for dinner (these were largely enough for me), so they had to eat the rest of their dinner elsewhere, haha... :)

There are so many other lovely pictures I took and much much more to babble about, but I shall keep them for the next post...

Coming up next: a brush with Nostradamus, an enjoyable day meeting up with a terribly sweet gal I got to know through this blog, the astounding Baux de Provence valley and what happens to food when you have time on your hands!

Friday, 29 June 2007

Mere sapnon ki... maharani!

Someone who sort of owns a pressure cooker but is too paranoid about explosions plastering her walls with lentils and regaining consciousness a few weeks later in some hospital bed with molten aluminium shrapnel wedged between her eyes (it can happen, right?), thus letting said cooker gather spider carcasses in the cellar, should not be pitied and should not be allowed to whine about settling for semi-firm microwaved lentils.

See, I had one of these cravings for rajma (kidney beans) last week that I could ignore no more and proceeded to attempt replicating the excellent Maharani Dal I had at the Riverwalk Tandoor last month.

OK, "replicate" may be slightly arrogant and furthermore, with the passage of time, tastebuds tend to be assaulted with a pliable memory, so on an absolute scale, I'll be most immodest and admit I was thoroughly pleased with my version, firm dal notwithstanding. On a relative scale, well, it looks like I'll have to go back and eat there some day soon to remind me what theirs was like! And of course, overcome my fear of the pressure cooker!

How to (for 8, don't ask me why I am incapable of downsizing): Soak 1 cup each of rajma, channa dal (split chick peas) and urad dal (black gram) for a few hours or even overnight, then pressure cook them and lightly mash them.

Dice about 3 medium onions, skin and chop 4 large ripe tomatoes and chop 6 green chillis. Grate 1 to 1.5 inches of ginger and crush 6 cloves of garlic. Heat 50g of butter or ghee, and when it starts to sizzle, add 1 tsp each of cumin and mustard seeds and fry until they stop popping.

Add ginger and chilli and fry for a minute, then add onions and tomatoes and cook until soft. Mash tomatoes to get a paste. Add cooked beans with 1.5 tsp each of salt and turmeric, stir well. Add water if necessary to get a thick soupy consistency and boil for about 10 minutes. Before serving, add a splash of cream and sprinkle with some chopped fresh coriander. Best with hot naan, which I was too lazy to make! :)

Variations: Stir cream into gravy for a richer result. Sprinkle a mixture of mint and coriander. Omit kidney beans to get Amritsari dal.

Body Count: 0

I apologize for the recent dearth of posts but I have been biting off more than I can chew these past few weeks and it looks set to continue for another month 'cos believe it or not, I will be away on holiday AGAIN for 2 weeks starting this weekend! This time I'll be drifting off to the other extreme end of France - Arles. Hopefully, that means sunshine guaranteed!

To make up for my long absence, here's something I made a few weeks back but had no time to blog about - Beef Empanadas:

How to - filling: Boil and chop 4 eggs and 2 large potatoes, chop up about 20 black olives and crush several cloves of garlic. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry 500g of minced beef. Add 1 tsp each of oregano, salt, cumin and paprika. When beef is cooked through, add potatoes, eggs and olives. Remove from heat and stir in the garlic. Let it cool.

Cut out circles in a sheet of flaky pastry and put enough of the above mixture to cover a third to half of the surface of each circle. Fold over and pinch sides to create half-moons. Brush with egg (optional) and bake until pastry is golden brown.

Variations: I don't see why this can't be made into a dry pie (less work, heh heh)!

Body Count: 500g beef mince

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Jo bhi bane gobhi...

(subzi subtitle: whatever becomes of the cauliflower.)

Actually, it's "phool-gobhi" ( फूलगोभी), quite literally "cabbage (gobhi) flower (phool)" but if you keep the "phool" and mention just "gobhi" in Indian cuisine, most of the time, people will assume you're talking about cauliflower instead of cabbage.

Months back, Aloo Gobhi (potatoes & cauliflower) reared its pretty little head here, but I didn't provide a decent description or recipe then, and am back to remedy that. I'm no authority, but there are loads of ways to prepare cauliflower with potatoes and they will still be legitimately named "aloo gobhi", but I'll just concentrate on the recipe that I like best, based on this one, with a few tips and tweaks.

How to (for 4): Break up half a cauliflower into evenly-sized florets and boil for about 4 minutes. Flush cauliflower with cold water so that the florets don't oxydise and darken.

I stuck to the first ingredient list, but my spice paste varied according to what I had in the fridge, and goes like this:

several tbsp of desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1/2 cup chopped green onion
4 green chillis
1/2 tsp grated ginger
4 plump cloves of garlic
about 4 - 5 small spring onions
50ml water

The rest of the steps are just as in the recipe. Notice how they didn't mention salt? Yeah, I always get tricked in this way when making curries! With so many ingredients to juggle, who ever remembers the salt?

Variations: I see the same spice paste working well with cabbage or peas but the name will not be the same...

Body Count: 0


I've never been to Calcutta but by the grace of Google, could not remain ignorant of this intriguing fusion dish called Gobhi Manchurian... I gathered from various sources that seeking an authentic recipe for this will merely set one up for major disappointment, and that the gist of it is to marry Indian and Chinese flavours, so here's my own contribution to the mass of recipes out there:

How to (for 4): Break up half a cauliflower into evenly-sized florets and boil for about 4 minutes. Flush cauliflower with cold water so that the florets don't oxydise and darken (sounds familiar? heh heh).

Make a thick batter with wheat & rice flours (3 parts to one?), salt, turmeric, baking soda and water to get preferred consistency. Heat oil for deep-frying, dip florets in batter and deep fry. Set aside.

Sauce - Finely chop 1 onion, 2 green + 2 red chillis and 4 cloves of garlic, grate ginger to get 1/2 a tsp and snip some green onions to get half a cup. Heat 2 tbsps each of sesame oil and corn oil and fry onion, garlic and ginger until the onion softens and the raw smell of the ginger fades. Add 1/2 cup of ketchup and a few splashes of soya sauce and stir well. Add in green onions.

These cauliflower fritters mollify very quickly, so it's best to eat them fast. I did, however, bake them after deep-frying them, and they stayed crispy though only for a very brief while...

You can serve gobhi manchurian either with the sauce as a chunky dip on the side:

or mix everything together - soggy satisfaction guaranteed!

Variations: Batter - add chilli powder for more zing, cumin for more fragrance, corn flour and/or besan instead of rice flour for more bite. Sauce - fish sauce instead of soya, peanut oil instead of sesame, chopped coriander instead of green onions.

Body Count: 0

Friday, 8 June 2007

Holiday round-up - Krung Thep

..or Bangkok. Why, it could even be called "Landfill" and I'd still be equally smitten with it... sigh.

What is it with Thais? I haven't had the opportunity of getting to know many personally so far but the conclusion I drew from their driving habits is that they're extremely tolerant and trusting and just for that, I'm impressed. Thai readers, please don't try to dispel a myth if this is one! :) In my 3 fleeting days there, so many times I was sure a potential mangled wreck was craving for my attention, but without fail the driver would slow down enough to let the pedestrian or other motorist pass, without really coming to a complete halt or even honking. What's their secret to keeping so cool?!?

Those of you who have been following me from the start would be familiar with my lack of success with driving, or at least with proving that I can drive... my instructors keep telling me to "ANTICIPATE" and Thai drivers must constantly be anticipating the worst of their fellow road users to be the pros that they are at avoiding accidents! :)

But enough for now about how Thais use their roads... funny that it left such an impression on me, especially because I took the Skytrain most of the time! Shame on me, but I completely neglected the touristy things like the floating markets, museums and temples. I'd seen them on my first trip there way back in 2001 with my company at the time, but this time I was alone with my mom and it was her first trip to Thailand. Since she fully relied on me to get from point to point, we ended up doing nothing but shopping and eating - things I wanted to do. :)

Having the upper hand, I made it a point to eat mainly street food. I saw my mom go pale at some of my suggestions (haha) until we chanced upon a vendor selling something she's had before and could not resist - khanom buang:

We revisited this mister on our last night with an empty doughnut box and told him to fill it up, which is why he was practically laughing at us. :)

Thereafter my mom saw what I meant about good food and filth going hand in hand! :) Too bad I was too eager to eat some of my purchases that I forgot to take more pictures, but there are still these to go by:

A lady selling bai toey-flavoured glutinous rice with shredded fresh coconut..

it was a filling snack, but I didn't find it particularly remarkable.

Another lady with her huge array of log chub:

aren't they just so pretty to look at? Theoretically, I know how to make these things, but at the price this lady was selling them, I wonder why anyone goes to all that trouble! For the uninitiated, these little guys are made of balls of mung bean paste shaped to look like fruits, impaled on a skewer, then pricked (if necessary, for texture, e.g. to look like strawberries) and painted with food colouring to resemble said fruits, and finally dipped into agar-agar to get the glazed look. I picture myself losing my temper after painting the 10th, so I wonder how many people were involved in manufacturing all these!

I saw these khanom krok being made, but by the time I managed to find a good angle, they'd put most of them into boxes, so only have this picture of the cavities to account for it:

By the way, these are things we ate in addition to meals, so on our last night after we'd packed our bags, we realised there were lots of things that wouldn't fit into our bags and that we had to eat. That included 4 apples. Ulp. I told my mom to deal with them since it was her idea to buy them in the first place, but then felt sorry for her and knew she couldn't do it alone, so promised to eat 2 on the condition she cut them into quarters for me. :) Already I had to cram 3 jam-filled doughnuts and a can of Calpis, so by the time I tried to down the third quarter of an apple, I thought of the new knives I'd bought for fruit carving and bought time for my oesophagus by doing this:

I could not bear to eat the leaf I carved, but I eventually did.

:) The following picture was not taken in Bangkok, but is related to the above. Party at my mom's place for her birthday and I used the same knives from Bangkok to carve a watermelon and fill it up with melon balls, dragonfruit and starfruit.

It could have been better, but I console myself about this being my first attempt and that I'd got home only an hour before the guests - the Japanese extension to my rather international family - were to arrive. :)

Monday, 4 June 2007

Holiday round-up - Singapore

In my previous post, I mentioned having met 4 bloggers in Singapore, and shall proceed to IDENTIFY them, COMPROMISING PHOTOS INCLUDED!!!!! :)

Heh heh, got you there, didn't I, Keropokman? ;-) This cheerful enthusiastic guy wants neither his name nor face to be known, which is just as well because the only photo I took of him was also with him, and I don't intend to "come out" as yet, so I shall have to respect that. :) I met Keropok together with EastCoastLife, whose face we know but not the name, and ditto about the photos I took of/with her. That leaves me with a picture of what we ate - Nasi Padang:

Errr, for details on what the individual dishes are called, better to rely on Keropok's post. Like the bhel puri in my previous post, I do not know how to make any of the above dishes.

The 3rd blogger I managed to catch specifically told me not to publish his picture, and I'd be more than happy to oblige as he was terribly nice to help take lots of pictures of old buildings for this homesick nostalgic chick and record them on CDs, awww. Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the food we ate.

I almost did not get to meet No. 4 since he travels often for work, but am glad I did, exactly 12 hours before I was supposed to catch my plane back! It completely slipped my mind to send him a photo of myself beforehand and likewise, I didn't know what he looked like, so when I went to Jaan Toofan -- a small bhangra bar on Boat Quay I practically camped at during this trip, with a waiter only I seemed to think was a dead ringer for Aamir Khan -- looking for someone in a green t-shirt of a less than flattering description (his own, not mine), I did not find him (he either changed his t-shirt or his idea of green is different from mine), but he instantly recognised me, heh heh.. was it because of the kurta churidar I wore? possibly... :)

Alas, even if he didn't mind his face being shown, I have to admit to using a film camera throughout my trip and have not finished the last roll of film. It is appalling how fast film has become obsolete! When taking my pictures, a lot of people asked me where the preview was, and I had to tell them shamefacedly to look into the eyehole, haha..

Although Jaan Toofan dethroned Khazana and Khushi - favourite haunts on my previous trip home in December 2005 - I cannot forgive the band for snubbing my repeated requests for my perennial favourite song (Hum Tumko Nigahon Mein from Garv) so I am taking it out on you by putting it as the first song in my player on the right, heh heh! Sorry!

Next post - I'll backtrack to my trip to Bangkok with my mom, which took place before I met a single blogger. Of course, I did no cooking while there, but I had so much to eat, you'll see what I did in a moment of apple surfeit... later, gators!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Chicken, goat and bag

Hi everyone!! I'm back!! :)

As for the title, it is the punchline of an old Malaysian political joke I heard long ago which translates in Malay to "ayam, kambing, beg", and when said with the right accent, should sound like "I am coming back"! ;-)

To get to the point, I have been back since Sunday but have been completely incapable of lifting a finger to cook, so help me! I tried cooking when staying with my mom but you know what they say about cooks and their territory... My mom isn't as territorial as she used to be, but I lost my bearings in her kitchen and so was contented with just "directing", heh heh..

Not surprisingly, I am severely busy at work and have made several new friends I need to drop notes to (even the guy next to me on the plane swapped e-mail addresses), so if you don't see much food here for the next few weeks, please bear with me. In the meantime, I can't resist posting this shot of some bhel puri I had in Singapore. I pretty much drove my friends nuts by telling them to take me only to places that served stuff I didn't know how to make, so this was one of them! :)

Oh, I had the honour of meeting 4 bloggers, but forgot to ask if I could blog about them, so if you know who you are and want some fame, please identify yourselves! :)

I oughtta get going! *Hugs*!!

Sunday, 29 April 2007

WFF 10 - On a bittersweet note...

It's finally here, my long-awaited trip home!! I'll have a brand-new nephew to spoil rotten (and pinch), several bloggers to meet, lots of food to stuff my face with and lots of pictures to take! It goes without saying that I'm bursting with excitement, but life being as unfair as it is, something always has to mar my quest for happiness... Thus I have no choice but to start off this post with another mega-rant unrelated to food (well, there will be food at the end! :) ).

Ever since I booked my plane tickets, I had been counting down the days to the 29th - the date of my flight (but of course I only arrive in Singapore on the 30th). Last Sunday, I thought I'd check out Sistic's website (Singapore's entertainment ticketing booth) to see if any interesting concerts were in store... Hoping against hope, I typed "Sonu" (for Sonu Nigam) in the search field. My heart raced when there actually was a result!! I started shrieking when I saw the date and was gushing to myself in excitement that I'm going to rush from the airport, dump my bags, freshen up, and dart off to the concert in a yet-to-be-acquired hot pink sari. I was already looking at seating arrangements and trying to decide where I wanted to sit when I looked at the search result again and it sank in - 29th April, 7.30pm. Wait a minute, that would be 1.30pm in France, Sunday, when I'd still be languishing in the boarding area at CDG instead of touching down! I briefly failed to realise that I'd only arrive the day AFTER the concert! Aaaaarggghhh!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

My hubby was suitably puzzled when the excited shrieking segued into head-banging (and not in a classy heavy metal way), and took a look at the screen. Long uneasy silence. He promptly reminded me that I'd already seen Sonu 6 months earlier and even managed to grab his hand when I crept up to the stage. I was even seated close enough to the stage to take such pictures:

So what? Even though I can watch snatches of his concerts on Youtube, and even if he sang exactly the same songs (which I'm sure he will), something like that is frustrating enough to justify a hunger strike!! To say that I'm really and truly pissed is tantamount to saying I only "like" Sonu Nigam. Sigh. All I'm hoping for now is that he will do some sight-seeing and that I'll bump into him in the streets of Singapore, haha... (3 years ago, on another trip home, the IIFA Awards happened to be held there, and I saw Sanjay Dutt in the flesh, entering his hotel! I was lucky that the year after, it was held in Amsterdam, just 3 hours away from where I am, so got my fill of all my favourite stars!)

Other consolation - Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy will also be in S'pore in May, and their performance will be a week later. I might just make it if I can find someone to go with me to drum up the hooting decibels, heh heh. Somehow hooting at a concert when you go alone seems slightly mental to me. :)

It has been unseasonally sunny here, so I could not stay mad for long. Besides, I'd gone to the market last Sunday and found some beautiful sun-gorged fruit, so ended up doing this to them:

I've always been in awe of people with hands so deft mere fruit become masterpieces, and I suppose if I won the lottery and didn't have to work, I'd flood this blog with nothing but pictures of my attempts at carving, heh heh..

As for this week, hmmm, funny how comments from some of you on my last post dug into my conscience.. ;-) apparently, most of you assumed that I was clearing my freezer to make way for new dishes I would whip up and freeze to nourish that hubby while I'm away for a month. The original plan was for him to go out and buy microwavable meals, which I was in fact making space for, but after all the undeserved praises heaped on me about what a good wife I was perceived to be, I felt like pure scum accepting all that credit on credit, and had to do up a few can't-go-wrong favourites of his that were simple and pretty much made from other processed food, so please, don't make me go back to feeling like scum. I didn't really cook this weekend, I merely assembled various ingredients to arrive at a more elaborate end, heh heh. :)

The pies - tuna
and ham & tomato

Gnocchi - chorizo and 2-cheese & ham

What I did not make from scratch: pie crust, tomato sauce and gnocchi.
What I did do: cut ham, tomatoes and chorizo; cook gnocchi; half-fill 1 ice-cream tub with bottled tomato sauce and another with cream, blue cheese and grana padano. As for the tarts, I followed Michael Jackson's advice to "Just Beat It", haha.

There's not much "how to" for me to share with you here that doesn't sound like previous posts with tarts, but the tuna tart is one of my hubby's favourites, so apart from the crust, the rest of the ingredients are : mustard (to coat the base of the pie crust), tuna+lemon juice+plain yoghurt and/or cream+grated gruyère or emmental+eggs.

I might not blog much during my vacation, but keep writing! :) Thanks for your encouragement, everyone!