Category Archives: Cooking

Cake, Candles and Balloons!

201408 Faith turns 2 15

F turned two a while ago, and we held an intimate garden party for our amazing family and friends. Truth be told, I’m no hostess with the mostess, and I’m not quite a party animal nor a social butterfly (yes, contrary to the fact that I have a blog, I really am socially awkward in person). I had written off holding a party for F’s 2nd birthday (having gone through the life-shortening madness of planning her 1st), and tried to sell the idea of us three going on a short, stress-free and fab getaway to M instead. M wasn’t keen on that, and I don’t really blame him because we have travelled quite a fair bit in the first half of this year, and his work schedule was rather (still is) punishing.

I sulked a little at not being able to travel And so, I was really quite happy to spend the day quietly with F, at the zoo or something, until M suggested that we could hire the ice-cream man (you know, the one with the old-school pushcart) and invite a couple of friends with kiddos over for a tea-time treat. I protested, of course, because…why would any parent bring their kids over, knowing that they are going to get sugar-high, hyperactive and run into epic meltdowns later in the day?! Geez, M…

He wouldn’t let the idea go, that stubborn man, and I decided we would have to plump the party up a bit and make it a little more reasonable for our guests to haul their kids over for an afternoon of fun. Any logical person with a crazy toddler on the loose would cater, you know, like PAY someone else to cook the food, bake a cake and set everything up. But I, (a) was not happy with the catering menus out there, (b) couldn’t bring myself to break the tradition of baking my family’s birthday cakes, (c) have terribly itchy fingers and (d) love to torture myself, and so I decided to…DO EVERY FREAKING THING BY MYSELF (except the curry puffs and fried chicken wings we got from OCK, because those are definite crowd-pleasers, unlike our food…).

*CUE MADNESS AND STRESS AND SLEEPLESS NIGHTS*

Of course, I recruited my minions, M and my darling sister, J, to help me with the food preparation, and begged my future brother-in-law, J, to babysit F (who probably terrorised him) while we were slogging away in the kitchen. The preps started two days before the party. Many curses, countless regrets, and one massive birthday cake mishap later (the weather was too hot even in the air-conditioned kitchen, and the four-layer cake did a BBC-news-worthy landslide on me whilst I was putting on the crumb coat, so I had to RE-DO the freaking cake), we were done.

I hope everyone enjoyed the food (though the humidity killed some of the crispness of my signature roasted pork belly and that pizza toast) and the cake (I was disappointed with the way it turned out, unlike the previous ones I made), and that the kids had fun playing with one another and chasing after bubbles. F had a most wonderful day, in spite of the glitches, did not have a single bite of the ice-cream (the irony, she wasn’t in the mood for any), and was genuinely sad and puzzled when everyone left (that’s testament to how much she enjoyed your company). Thank you, our family and friends, for your presence, love and gifts (we are allowing her open only one gift every month, and you guys have been so generous, she will be opening presents into her third birthday!).

Alright, Mama should probably stop rambling and let the pictures do the talking. I’m sorry that there are so many of them over here (there are more on my camera but I have to keep them away from the public eye to protect my family members’ and friends’ privacies), I had to take as many shots as possible because there is no way in hell I am going to DIY a party to this extent ever again.

Till the next birthday (which is hopefully a quiet getaway because I need to rest from planning this one)!
201408 Faith turns 2 8

A simple, styled table, laden with food and peachy, minty colours, perfect for a tyke!

201408 Faith turns 2 9

We made everything except the OCK curry puffs and wings, and store-bought nachos. Word to the wise, cater if you don’t want to lose your sanity.

201408 Faith turns 2 7

Putting the chalkboard easel we bought from Perth to good use again this year.201408 Faith turns 2

I’m all for reusing silk floral arrangements. I did this for F’s 1st birthday, and I didn’t have time to get fresh flowers, so this came in handy.

201408 Faith turns 2 2

Homemade spicy guacamole with store-bought nachos.
201408 Faith turns 2 4

My favourite salad to make, inspired by one of Ottolenghi’s recipes – roasted aubergine salad with pomegranate, basil, toasted pine nuts, saffron garlic yogurt dressing and roasted buttermilk chicken.201408 Faith turns 2 3

Always a crowd-pleaser – curry puffs and fried chicken wings from OCK. Thank goodness for our Airfryer, which did a fine job of crisping them up again.201408 Faith turns 2 5

Another of my favourite foods to make – roasted pork belly (also known as siu yuk) with garilc aioli dipping sauce.

201408 Faith turns 2 6My favourite snack to eat since I was a kid – Papa used to make this for us every Sunday morning. Pizza toast with cheese, fresh tomatoes and bacon, grilled to gooey, crisp goodness. Perfect for kids!
201408 Faith turns 2 17Another shot of the table, just because.
201408 Faith turns 2 10

The ice-cream man and his old-school pushcart! 201408 Faith turns 2 11

F, being absolutely delighted to be surrounded by one of her favourite things in the world, BUBBLES!201408 Faith turns 2 12

The kids looked like they were having fun!201408 Faith turns 2 13

Goodies bags we prepared for the young ones. The parents must hate me because I filled them with treats. I did try to soften the blow by putting in some balloons and self-inking rubber stamps.

201408 Faith turns 2 14

The birthday cake, which caused way too much drama during the preps. My cake-making mojo wasn’t there.

201408 Faith turns 2 16

Devil’s food cake with raspberry curd, cream cheese frosting and topped with fresh raspberries.
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I couldn’t help notice how F has grown and matured since her 1st birthday. My poor mother’s heart can’t take her growing so quickly! Happy birthday, my love. You must know that Papa and Mama love you so much that we would die planning a party for you. Just sayin’. By the way, all the practice sessions we had to sing the birthday song, make a wish, blow the candle and cut the cake? Went down the drain because F had stage fright. GAH. She did it at bedtime with her imaginary cake that night, though. I guess that counts, somewhat?

 

 

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY! Nigella Fresh Cookbook from The Groovy Giraffe + Review

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***GIVEAWAY CLOSED*** 

Thank you all for taking part in the giveaway! Congratulations to Kway Chap (we**********ap@yahoo.com.sg)! You have won a copy of the Nigella Fresh Cookbook. The Groovy Giraffe will be in touch with you shortly.

[SPONSORED POST*]These days, I’m all about cooking with ease. Any recipe that yields a healthy, delicious meal with minimal preparation is a winner in my books, as I am often running against time, and well, running after a toddler. That, or said toddler would most definitely be tugging on my clothes and koala-ing my legs when I’m cooking. Long gone are the days when I can move around the kitchen with the fluidity and grace of a skilled ballerina; tripping around a small person is more like it. Long gone are the days when I actually relish in the therapeutic benefits of whipping up a lovely meal; my aim is to get the meals out RIGHT THIS SECOND.

Years ago, moving to London had me acquainted with a slew of celebrity chefs, and a whole variety of ingredients and cooking techniques that I was not familiar with when I was living in Singapore. Till this day, two of these chefs, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, remain my favourite, simply because these two Brits make cooking look ridiculously easy and infinitely enjoyable. I’ve bought a couple of their cookbooks and I can attest to how right they are in the philosophy of cooking; it doesn’t help that their recipes are, well, recipes for success! I love Nigella, in particular, for her shortcuts that yield beautiful results. One of my favourite recipes has got to be for her Puff Pastry, which gives gorgeous, flaky, golden layers of buttery goodness using a…food processor (I used this to make the pastry for my Portuguese egg tarts)! I’ve not looked back since.

Sure, Nigella isn’t shy with ingredients that would make the health buff cringe, but her cookbooks burst with a large repertoire of healthy, wholesome dishes too! I love the recipes in Nigella Fresh; as I pored through the ingredient lists, my tastebuds were tingling with the freshness of spring and summer. All the herbs, vegetables and different cuts of meats used, sat with me very well. And then, we have the delectable desserts, what’s not to like? That woman knows her desserts pretty well!

To review the cookbook gifted to me by The Groovy Giraffe, I put two recipes to the test. I whipped this up while Faith was in preschool during a weekday morning, and voila, they were much too easy and too delicious, and healthy to boot! I’ve got to be honest though, that I didn’t follow the recipes to a T. I used to be a stickler for recipes and proportions, having been trained as a scientist for many years, but being married to a man who is a superbly easygoing cook has somewhat reduced my anal retentiveness. These days, I look up recipes, more for inspiration on flavour and textural combinations, to learn about new cooking techniques and ingredients, than to grapple with what it means to add ‘a handful of coriander leaves’. So for the purpose of this review, I took the flavour suggestions onboard (roasted eggplant and feta cheese with chilli is YUM), and improvised the recipes with whatever ingredients I could find at home. The proportions were tweaked according to my personal preferences for saltiness, etc.

201405 Nigella Fresh Review 1

Here’s what I cooked up. Saffron-scented Chicken Pilaf and Grilled Eggplant with Feta, Mint and Chilli. I replaced basmati rice in the former with quinoa, which is a staple in my pantry, and used olive oil in place of peanut oil as that’s what I have at home. I left out the cardamom pods as I didn’t have that in the kitchen, and omitted cashews and pistachios because M is mildly sensitive to them. For the grilled eggplant, I seared the slices on a stove-top griddle for the beautiful markings, and threw them in the oven till they were deliciously golden and caramelised. The proportions of feta, chill and mint used for the filling were ‘guess-timated’.

201405 Nigella Fresh Review 2

Both dishes were such a tease on the palette. The pilaf was very more-ish and the yogurt-marinated chicken cubes were very tender! The grilled eggplant (one of my fave dishes ever) is beautifully caramelised, tastes almost like (very flavourful!) meat, and went well with the salty, yet refreshing feta, mint and chilli filling. It was all very Mediterrenean and very summer-ish, which I love! Perfect for a delightful, nourishing, yet quick, lunch!

If you are responsible for feeding the family, and are time-starved, I would strongly recommend you to get hold of a copy of the Nigella Fresh cookbook. The recipes are simple and perfect for noobs and seasoned cooks alike, and the dishes are guaranteed to be bursting with flavours from the different ingredients (some pairings are more unusual than others in our part of the world, but I reckon they work, based on similar flavour combinations I have sampled in restaurants in London). The Groovy Giraffe sells this (only S$14.90!), and other cookbooks, at a fraction of the retail price, go get them before they run out! Alternatively, you could enter the giveaway (open to those in Singapore) below!

GIVEAWAY: One copy of the Nigella Fresh Cookbook from The Groovy Giraffe

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!
You can earn extra entries by repeating certain steps on another day, so don’t forget to check back to get more lots in the draw!

Terms & Conditions: The winner is to collect the prize at The Groovy Giraffe office (Everton Park) or pay S$5.00 for shipping. There will be no exchange of books or conversion to store credits. The winner will be contacted by The Groovy Giraffe.

*I was gifted one copy of Nigella Fresh cookbook for my personal use and another copy will be given to a lucky reader after the giveaway ends. No additional monetary compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/services. Sponsors have been notified that I am not obliged to write a review upon receipt of sponsored service/items, should I find the products/services unsuitable.

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It’s Not Immoral to Pimp Your Pancakes

We thought it would be weird. We went ‘EWWWWWWW’ when we caught wind of how the Americans love doing it. Well, we thought wrong, when my morning-sickness-ed-out palette couldn’t get enough of it at a diner in New York City.

And then, Nassim Hill Bakery & Bistro does a superb waffle version, which karate-chops-no-shadow-kicks my brains out so much that even though I don’t have a waffle-maker, I settled for making this instead.

201311 Pimp Your Pancakes

THIS. Warm, tender, fluffy, incredibly light buttermilk pancakes, topped with generous slivers of crispy smoked bacon, tart blueberries and a good drizzle of maple syrup.

Shame on you if you still think that pimping your pancakes is immoral.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

Burgers, Just For Me

201310 M's burger 1

I love burgers. Well, I didn’t used to give two hoots about them until I started dating M; I fell deeper in love with him when he made me a Grilled Mushroom Swiss burger. Embarrassing, and very telling of my gluttony nature, but heck, it is a true story.

201310 M's burger 2

Our relationship obviously blossomed after THAT burger (I mean, how could it not?!); then, we got married in 2009 and M whisked me off to New York City for our honeymoon. I became very well-acquainted with the juicy, succulent burgers from Shake Shack and never looked back. Unfortunately, I was pregnant when we visited NYC again in late 2011 and boy, did morning sickness (more like, all-day sickness) do me in! M had gone out to get some burgers for us to nom on but I could barely take a bite. I was absolutely gutted because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to return to the States for a Shack anytime soon.

I refused to have any burgers after that, as I was certain that none could match up. I sulked in my damn-I-want-my-Shake-Shack-burger-NOW corner when I learnt that the burger joint has opened in a branch in London (my second home) AFTER I moved back to Singapore. But the gods were kind and heard my cries because Omakase Burger showed up on the island; I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I sunk my teeth into the uber moist burgers, which are not unlike the ones from Shake Shack. They are rather expensive though, as the burgs are annoyingly small for my huge appetite.

201310 M's burger 3

A few weeks ago, M and I were vegging out in front of the telly, letting our guts hang out after a rather unpleasant dinner while we sought solace in a food documentary on (you guessed it) burgers. M kinda came out of the documentary with a spookily crazed look and declared that he was going to NAIL THAT DAMN BURGER. And I kinda did a WWF-flex-mah-muscles thing and growled YESSSSS.

That’s how this burger came about. Incredibly juicy in spite of using lean minced beef, slathered with gooey cheese, fresh tomatoes and lettuce, topped with crispy bacon, and smothered in homemade aioli. NOW, THAT’S WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT.

Sigh. I love my husband. I think you do too, huh? Excuse me, while I go bat my eyelashes at him for a burger.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

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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.

{The Pleasure Monger x Linsiwolsie} Cashew Nut Butter & Honey Sandwich

201301 Cashew Butter Honey sandwich 2

Becoming a new mother has brought new priorities to my life. A typical day sees me carting my 5-month old daughter around, giving her lots of attention and care, making sure that she feeds well and takes her naps, and helping her grow with stories, simple toys, songs and conversations.

As she outgrows infancy and steps into toddlerhood, we’re finally starting to introduce solids to her. Being foodies, M and I are very excited and eager to have our daughter join us at the dinner table. I also miss being in the kitchen, and can’t wait for when she is big enough so we can whip up simple recipes together.

201301 Cashew Butter Honey sandwich 4

Having said that, I am more adept at cooking for adults than for young palettes. There is just so much to consider – nutrition, what they can and cannot take at certain ages, consistencies, and oh yes, their likes and dislikes – when it comes to preparing meals for children.

My friend, Pooja of Linsiwolsie – mother to a beautiful one-year old, seasoned traveller and curator of all things pretty and creative – points me in the right direction. Keen on preparing tasty and healthy food for toddlers that withstands long and short journeys, Pooja invites me over to her home to join in the fun and reminds me of how wonderful it is to finally step into the kitchen, and to be back behind the lens.

Come on over and have a look at the first in this series of toddler-friendly recipes – cashew nut butter and honey on whole wheat bread.

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

Oh, The English Summer

201301 BBQ in London 1

How I miss the English summer.

The cloudless skies, the burning sun, the warm breeze sans the humidity. The way it snuck up on us, just as we threw our hands up in despair and protested, ‘You call this bleak piece of sh*t summer, dammit?!’.

201301 BBQ in London 3

I love the way we toiled through the bitter cold of winter and dragged our soaking wet boots through the black mush called s-n-o-w, just for one very cloudless, warm, snuggly day. I love the way that spring was practically non-existent and that everyone complained about it like they didn’t know better. Most of all, I love the way Londoners reacted to the rare burst of heat, the way every square feet of plump grass patches became precious commodity in Regents Park, Hyde Park…and the odd island at the traffic lights.

201301 BBQ in London 4

There is just something so magical about the English summer, a season that I took for granted as I was born and raised in the tropics. M and I used to celebrate those warm days with barbecue-offs on our shoebox of a balcony when we lived in London. There were a few things that had to go on the menu. Mozzarella, tomato and basil salad drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, accented with a good dash of capers and sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Homemade pork belly satay and satay sauce made with a killer secret recipe from my mother. Crisp romaine lettuce salad with pomodoro tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Sometimes, we would cheat and do cola ribs for that instant caramel-y hit. Other times, we would tuck into M’s favourite BBQ whole chicken. And we always had wine.

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We often had friends over to join in the fun. But really, my favourite summer days were spent with M and M alone, as the charcoal turned amber, as we toasted marshmallows in the twilight, as we wound down for the day with the last glass of wine and idle chatter.

Yes, how I miss our English summer.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.