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Oh, All That Glitters! On Her First

I didn’t know what to gift Faith with on her first birthday. She is a very blessed child who has plenty to eat, wear and play with, thanks to family and friends who love her so. It didn’t make sense for me to get her more toys, clothes and what-not, and so I decided to create some memories for her instead, starting with the below.

We hosted a lunch to thank family and friends who have been so generous, kind, helpful and loving to us. We couldn’t have survived the first year without them (you know who you are!) and we are deeply thankful to have them in our lives.

Faith wouldn’t remember any of how we went through the first year and we wanted her to grow up, looking at the photos and listening to our first-hand accounts of how our family and friends helped us. That is why M and I splurged on a photographer, J (the talent behind Freeze The Moments); we hoped for someone to capture precious moments and relationships that would otherwise be lost on the unobservant eye. I don’t think I can do J’s work justice with words alone; I reckon I should leave it to you to have a look at the photos and all I can say is, we are absolutely pleased with what he has done for us and we highly recommend him.

I was dying to dive back into some creative work as well, and was delighted to be able to put a dessert table together for Faith. It was wonderful to finally sketch my ideas and breathe life into them. I’d dare say this was a pretty good attempt, seeing as to how it is my second dessert table *annoyinglysmugface*. It was tough though, to DIY and take care of Faith full-time; I took quite a while to design and craft the different elements, often working into the wee hours after Faith had gone to sleep. I don’t know how stylists do this for a living and I have nothing but respect for them! I had help of course, from the vendors who supplied the two-tier lemon buttercake with vanilla buttercream, chocolate pecan cookies, strawberry tarts, cheesecake, cream puffs, iced gems, and rose and mint macarons. I did entertain the crazy idea of making the desserts and pastries on my own like I did with my first dessert table, but I knew I would crumble under all that pressure. I always wanted to make Faith her first cake though, and settled on baking her a 4-inch smash cake (a refined-sugar-free buttercake with cream cheese frosting topped with her favourite blueberries) instead. Faith was also very blessed to have received two tissue pom-poms (one cream and one pastel pink, both attached to the chalkboard easel in some of the photos below) that I have chosen from Most Wonderfully Made, an online store that stocks the prettiest party supplies! The sponsored pom-poms were so well-made, as compared to the ones I DIY-ed (those on the backdrop of dessert table), that I wished I had gotten all of them (which are very affordable, by the way) from the store; I would have spared myself from all the agony of tidying the pleats up! I’m putting in a mental note to stock up on party supplies for the next party I plan!

Alright, I think I have yakked enough about the party. I leave you…with our memories.

P/S: Photos of our guests are not posted here as I would like to protect their privacy.

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Macarons: Just Because

201307 Macarons 1

201307 Macarons 2

I miss making macarons, watching feet form, photographing them, and kicking back with a cup of tea. But only in London…for that’s where my love affair with them first started. Nothing comes quite as close where I am right now. But the memories of the sights, smells, and tastes will do. For now.

 

Happily Ever After

Forty years of marriage, three kids and two grandchildren. Ladies and gentlemen, there IS a Happily Ever After.

What better way to celebrate than with some homemade cake?

201306 Strawberry & Lychee shortcake 1

201306 Strawberry & Lychee shortcake 2

201306 Strawberry & Lychee shortcake 3

Strawberry & Lychee Shortcake with a cake topper that I made (both of which need to be worked on for better results)

201306 Strawberry & Lychee shortcake 4

Thank you, Papa and Mama, for teaching us how to love. Happy Ruby Wedding Anniversary to you two lovebirds!

Check out what I have been baking in my kitchen.

Thou Shalt Love Pie

201305 Beef Pie 2

I am not a fantastic cook. I would say I am a decent one but I lack the intuition, guts and creativity that my husband has. That is the reason why he looks way more convincing with the chef’s hat on while I look sexier brandishing…an egg whisk.

But there are a few dishes that M would trust me to cook. One of these is the beef pie, which is a full-bodied, savoury beef stew topped with a flaky, buttery puff pastry beret in our household.

201305 Beef Pie 1

Don’t get me wrong. M breathes life into beef stews! But he now snubs frozen ready-to-roll puff pastry for the one I make ever since I fed him with homemade no-fry chicken curry puffs and beautifully flaky Portuguese egg tarts. So naturally, the task of making beef pies has fallen into my hands.

There was much to be excited about as I hadn’t made puff pastry in a looooong time (my last attempt was made in London); I was hoping to nail it in the tropical heat but of course, I had to cheat with air-conditioning. I was also particularly keen on breaking in some of our very cute Le Creuset mini cocottes. I mean, puff pastry berets on colourful mini cocottes?! Wouldn’t YOU hyperventilate at the thought of that, too?

I spent all day in the kitchen to make these pies. It was back-breaking work but I was delighted to see my husband happily tuck into the pies. You see, he always does it with dramatic flair, by hitting the puff pastry beret ever so gently with a spoon to reveals most satisfying ‘crack!’ that hints at its flakiness, before letting a wide grin of approval spread across his face and digging deep into the pot for liquid gold. It is strangely satisfying to watch. Now, your turn.


201305 Beef Pie 3

Beef stew

Makes one 8-inch and two 4-inch (diameter) pots of stew

1kg stewing beef tenderised and cut into 2cm by 2cm by 2cm cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1.5cm by 1.5cm by 1.5cm cubes
7 sticks celery stalks, leaves removed and cut into 1.5cm by 1.5cm by 1.5cm cubes
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm by 1.5cm by 1.5cm cubes
450g portobello mushrooms, sliced thickly
Few sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
600ml beef stock
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Hot water on standby to add to stew

1. Preheat oven to 170 Celsius.

2. Add olive oil to Dutch oven over medium high heat and sear beef cubes. Once golden brown, remove beef from Dutch oven and set aside.

3. Lower to medium heat and add onions and garlic to Dutch oven. Fry for 10min until onions are soft and very lightly browned.

4. Add carrots, celery, potatoes and cook for 5min. Add mushrooms and rosemary, give it a quick stir and then add the beef. Pour in the hot beef stock and add balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in plain flour to thicken gravy.

5. Place Dutch oven into preheated oven, with lid on and leave the stew in there for 1.5 hours. Give it a stir every half hour and top up with some hot water if gravy dries up too much. Always add the water such that the liquid barely covers the ingredients in the stew. Cook for a further 1.5 hours or until beef is tender and bring Dutch oven out onto the stove to further simmer (with lid off) if you would like a thicker gravy. For pies, I would suggest a very thick gravy so that the pies don’t turn out too wet.

6. Spoon out some stew into ovenproof pots or baking dish, and cover the top with the uncooked puff pastry. Make sure that puff pastry isn’t directly in contact with the stew as the pastry will be wet and soggy. Bake at 210 Celsius for 20-25 minutes till pastry is puffed up and golden. Serve with salad or your favourite sides.

Puff pastry

Makes one 8-inch and two 4-inch (diameter) pie berets

250g unsalted butter, very cold, sliced to 2cm by 2cm by 2cm cubes
250g strong white bread flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
125ml ice-cold water
1 egg, beaten for egg wash

1. Freeze butter cubes for half an hour.

2. Pulse butter, flour and salt in food processor for one second. Mix things up in the processor and pulse again. Do this for a few times till mixture is combined and resembles rough cornmeal.

3. Add water and pulse briefly till water is just incorporated. This will not form a ball of dough just yet and will still resemble rough cornmeal.

4. Turn out mixture onto lightly floured work surface, bring mixture together with lightly-floured hands to form a cylinder.

5. Roll cylinder out to form a rectangle with the shorter end facing you. It should look like a letter to you. Fold the dough as you would a business letter (into thirds). Rotate 90 degrees anti-clockwise such that the shorter end is facing you again and flip the dough such that the folded seams are facing downwards. Roll dough out again to a rectangle. Freeze between layers of baking parchment for 15-30min. Repeat such that you roll and fold for a total of four times each. Only very lightly dust work surface and rolling pin when the dough is sticky, although I would avoid this as much as possible.

6. The final rolled-out dough should be fairly elastic, smooth and about 4mm thick. Cut out desired shapes, apply a light layer of egg wash with a pastry brush, place pastry on top of cocottes/baking dish that are already filled with cooked stew and bake at 210 degree Celsius for 20-25 minutes till pastry berets are puffed up and golden brown.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

Almond, Cranberry & Flax Seed Granola Clusters

201304 Granola clusters

The beauty of making homemade granola is you can mix things up quite a bit without following a recipe to a T. I made this batch after polishing off the previous, with ingredients that are stocked in my pantry. I didn’t have enough honey and there wasn’t any maple syrup or apples at home, so I added more dark brown sugar. It may not be as healthy, but it’s a simple enough substitute to stave off that granola craving. Chuck out almonds if you hate them, and add your favourite nuts. Make it less sweet. Turn the sweetness up a notch. Switch out cranberries for raisins, dates or even figs. Add a little more salt for that savoury hit. Mix in a superfood such as flax seeds, like what I did. The possibilities are endless!

As we speak, this batch is fast disappearing from the granola pot, and my husband is already asking me to make more bars for work as he doesn’t have time to go for or even heat up packed meals during his crazy calls. I can’t think of a more delicious and versatile source of quick energy boost.

Hang on to your granola clusters, everyone, these will have people reaching into your stash more often than you wish for!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Almond, Cranberry & Flax Seed Granola Clusters

500g rolled oats
200g golden flax seeds
100g sesame seeds
250g whole unsalted almonds
2 tsp salt
300g dark brown sugar
50g honey
5 tbsp olive oil plus extra for greasing pan
250g dried cranberries

1. Preheat fan-assisted oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

2. Combine oats, flax seeds, sesame seeds, almonds and salt in a large bowl.

3. Warm brown sugar, honey, oil, stirring constantly to combine over medium heat in a non-stick saucepan and slowly drizzle over dry mix whilst stirring the mix constantly to make sure all of the granola is coated.

4. Line jelly roll pan with baking parchment and generously grease the parchment with more olive oil. Be sure to grease things up properly because you wouldn’t want the granola to stick to the parchment. Add granola mix to the pan, spreading to form a layer.

5. Bake for 45 min, stirring every 10 min. Add cranberries at the 40-minute mark.

6. Once baked, let granola cool completely. Break into clusters or cut into bars before storing granola in a clean, airtight container for a month.

It’s Not So Bad If It’s Granola

201304 Granola 3

I rarely have time to eat proper meals. Every morning, I wake up to a new day of same-old-non-stop action that comes with being Mama to Faith. Nurse, bathe, prepare and feed her breakfast, play, put her down for first nap, story time, give her a snack, play, nurse, second nap, prepare and feed her lunch, more play, nurse, third nap, play, give her another snack, play, prepare and feed her dinner, wipe her down, nurse and finally put her to bed. And then, there are the night feeds. I am bushed, even from reciting our daily routine but the point is there isn’t any time for a good meal until Faith is off to bed. Notice I don’t even need to worry about doing household chores and cooking my own meals…!

201304 Granola 2

I have taken to shoving down food as quickly as I can and this isn’t exactly how I would like to chill. I end up feeling wound up from all that action, and munch on one too many chocolates to take the edge off. Besides, it’s an unbelievably efficient way to fill myself up. Just hold the baby in one arm and nom on chocolate with the other hand. This clearly isn’t healthy, and I would like to wean myself off the sugar, even if I don’t get enough time for a meal that lasts longer than three minutes!

201304 Granola 1

What better way to do this, than to make myself a truckload of granola? Fortified with golden flax seeds, this granola is a superb source of vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. I have also very lightly sweetened it with honey, brown sugar and apple purée, and added some whole almonds and sesame seeds for that nutty kick, as well as dried cranberries for a tart lift in all that sweet-saltiness. I picked clusters right off the baking sheets, sprinkled them on yogurt with a healthy serving of berries, and even added tiny shards of dark chocolate whenever I craved for cocoa. Homemade granola is so very addictive and much healthier than the sugar-y treats I was constantly snacking on. I feel ‘cleaner’ already! Granola is also a quick and easy bite, perfect for busy folks who haven’t got the time to eat!

Now, my husband and I have hoovered the last of this batch. I am looking to tweak my recipe below to bake up granola bars next, which are perfect for when you don’t have any cutlery or serveware! Can’t wait!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Homemade Granola

450g rolled oats (I bought the wrong type so what you see in the pictures aren’t rolled oats, but either type will work! I just prefer the texture of rolled oats, that’s all.)
200g golden flax seeds
100g sesame seeds
250g whole unsalted almonds
2 tsp salt
120g dark brown sugar
200g honey
2 tbsp sunflower oil
100g apple purée (just blitz apples in a food processor)
250g dried cranberries

1. Preheat fan-assisted oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

2. Combine oats, flax seeds, sesame seeds, almonds and salt in a large bowl.

3. Warm brown sugar, honey, oil and purée, stirring constantly to combine over medium heat in a non-stick saucepan and slowly drizzle over dry mix whilst stirring the mix constantly to make sure all of the granola is coated.

4. Line jelly roll pan with baking parchment and lightly grease the parchment with oil. Add granola to the pan, spreading to form a layer.

5. Bake for 45 min, stirring every 10 min. Add cranberries at the 40-minute mark.

6. Once baked, let granola cool completely and store in a clean, airtight container for a month. The granola probably wouldn’t last that long.

What The Man Wants, The Man Gets

201304 M's Red Velvet Cake 1

201304 M's Red Velvet Cake 2

201304 M's Red Velvet Cake 3

201304 M's Red Velvet Cake 4

‘Red Velvet, please. And I want it tall.’

My husband, M, certainly wasn’t standing on ceremony when I asked him what cake he would like for his birthday.

Well, I love him very much, so much so that I attempted to bake my very first four-layer cake which weighed at least five kilograms when it was finally dressed in a decadent, slightly tart cream cheese frosting.

It took two days of back-breaking work to create this, the most professionally-finished cake that I’ve ever made, even if it didn’t look like it hit the gold standards of established bakeries out there. What mattered most was M loved it. He declared it my best act, and that was well-worth the effort.

Happy Birthday, love!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

{The Pleasure Monger x Linsiwolsie} Cherry & Almond Granola Bars

201303 TPMxLinsiwolsie Granola Bars

 

Keen on preparing tasty and nutritious food for toddlers to munch on during long and short travels, my friend, Pooja of Linsiwolsie - mother to a beautiful girl and seasoned traveller – invites me over to her home to join in the fun. I am reminded of how wonderful it is to return to the kitchen after a long hiatus, and to be back styling and shooting to my heart’s content. I can’t wait to share these treats with my daughter, as she moves on to the wonderful world of chow!

Come on over and have a look at the second in this series of toddler-friendly recipes – one of my favourite power snacks to nibble on, cherry & almond granola bars.

Read on for my new journey as a mother and check out what I’ve been cooking and baking in my kitchen.

A Sweet Farewell to London…and Some News

I’ve procrastinated long enough on this teeny announcement. Or two teeny announcements, if you will. Some of you, whom I know personally, are already in the loop but I thought eight months is a long time to go on the blog without actually talking about it even in the most cryptic manner, so it is time to spill the beans. I had wanted to protect my privacy and keep the news all to my selfish self. The last I heard though, some naysayers have already caught wind of this anyway and I’ve been told by my loved ones that I should share the news because readers (who are still sticking around…I’m very happy to know you are, given that I barely wrote anything in the first three-quarter of 2012) would want to know, so here goes…

…I’ve moved back from London to Singapore for good, since eight months ago…and…I’m pregnant!

After five long years in London, I’m finally back home. Suffice to say that everything and yet nothing has changed since 2007. Suffice to say that I’ve done a whole lot of growing up in the UK, seen countless beautiful sceneries whilst travelling, made the most wonderful friends in the five years, tasted a decent portion of good food, started a blog that I thought no one would want to read, cooked/baked/photographed/styled my way from complete noob to amateur-amateur, interacted with the most amazing chefs, built a home from scratch (literally) and learnt a hell lot on ‘How to Live Life to the Fullest, Responsibly So 101′. I also found time to fall deeper in love with my best friend, get married, graduate with a doctorate and have a baby.

London is a big part of my life.

When it came down to the last second, to leave my home of five bittersweet years, I was devastated. The exit from London was pretty hasty. I quit my job, found out I was expecting (and hence decided that I should return to Singapore prematurely to prepare for delivery, I was supposed to leave London only in the summer of 2012), moved to Boston for six weeks as M was posted to Harvard, flew back to London for a night, switched my bags out for summer clothing and everything that I might need back home before speeding back to Singapore the next day. I didn’t really have time to say goodbye. To-date, I still keep the bucket list I had drafted for London and I hope that I will be able to return to the city one day to check the items off the list. I couldn’t even attend the Olympics events that I had bought tickets for.

The next months went by in a blur. There was so much to do with my relocation. I had to get my accounts, documents and life in order. I missed M terribly when he returned to London to finish up his studies. I went through pregnancy alone, save for support from my family and in-laws. None of the relocation bit, physical or emotional, was easy. The days started looking brighter when M came back, triumphant as a fully-qualified doctor after five gruelling years in med school. He packed up our flat in London as hastily as I had left UK, attended his graduation ceremony with his parents but without a very pregnant me, flew back to my arms in Singapore, sorted out whatever I couldn’t handle and supported me through the last trimester.

We had a heart-to-heart talk yesterday night before we fell asleep at 3.30am. It’s been a while since we chatted this much, for four hours in fact. And we both realised how different life is in Singapore. London was a dream. We lived life to the fullest, laughed and cried the hardest, seen the best and went through the worst. It was a city where we grew up the most as individuals and as a couple. It was our first real home together. Coming back to Singapore makes for an almost surreal dive back into reality, where we are suddenly challenged with obligations and responsibilities to others other than two of us, issues to do with fitting into the local culture and soon-to-be parenthood. Even though Singapore is our home, we haven’t got the slightest inkling as to what lies ahead and we will need to do to rise up to the challenges. One thing’s for sure; we are back now and we will make our lives here work. We will carve out new memories, strive towards new goals and conjure new dreams.

To celebrate the chapter that was London, and welcome the new that is Singapore, I prepared my very first dessert table before I left UK. I was challenged in every way, as I have been during my life in London. Different pastries and desserts to make on limited resources, thinking about what really mattered to me that would fit in with the theme, and putting it all together so it makes sense and gives heart. So there you have it, a blue-white-red presentation of a Victoria sponge, Marmite cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and macarons with rose buttercream, a true culmination of something that is quintessentially English, a little bit of what I have learnt to love and another that is a little cosmopolitan owing to the time I spent in Europe. I’ve also scattered the cards, letters, notes and gifts from family and friends around the entire dessert table just for…the two of us to enjoy. Shame I couldn’t offer the sweets to anyone else. Oh well, maybe next time.

Happy homecoming to us, and may we meet again, my fair London.

*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Read on for my new journey as a mother.

Like my bakes? Then check out my other sweet adventures in the kitchen!


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Read about my food-gasmic adventures in San Sebastian here! Also please come by and check out the prettiest cake I've made over here!
Macarons: Be Inspired
Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies
Rose & Lychee Chiffon Cake
Pan-seared scallops, jamon iberico chip, pomme puree, jamon iberico foam and chestnut
Red Velvet Cake
An English-themed Dessert Table
Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Caramel Cake
Gula Melaka Salted Caramel Buttercream Macarons
The Ispahan Cake
The Ispahan
Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache
Lemon Cupcakes with Lime & Ginger Whipped Cream
Portuguese Egg Tarts
Ba Zhang - Glutinous Rice Dumplings with Braised Pork Belly
The Fat Duck
Strawberry and Cream Pancakes
Pandan Souffle Roll with Toasted Coconut Whipped Cream
Red Velvet Cake
Lychee and Emperor's Seven Treasures tea-infused macarons
M's Spanish Paella
M's birthday cake - Japanese Cheesecake with Rose Whipped Cream
Lor Bak Gou - Fried Radish Cake
Pandan Chiffon Cake
Homemade Scones
Marmite & Coffee Pork Chops
Quick and Easy fried rice recipe!
Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons
Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirls
Matcha, Milo and Plain Polvorons
Kampar Chicken Biscuits - A popular Malaysian snack
White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies
Hustling the Xiao Long Bao in my kitchen
Bailey's & Coffee Macarons

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