Category Archives: Cooking

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!

Reliving the Smells & Tastes of Wanderlust

Pan-seared scallops, with  jamón ibérico chip, pomme purée, served with jamón ibérico foam and chestnuts.

Blimey, is it 2012 already? I can’t believe I have been away from the blog for three whole months! Thanks to all who have been dropping me tweets, messages and emails to check on how I am (and maybe to see if I’m still alive hehehe), I just want to say that everything’s good and I’m finally back with an entry that hopefully makes your mouth water, as much as it did to mine when I was browsing through my photo archives.

Black truffle spaghetti

I hate to admit it but oh gawwwwd, the backlog on my photos is truly appalling. Believe it or not, these pictures were taken a whopping ten months ago, in May 2011, after we returned from back-to-back travelling to Florence/Pisa and Murcia/Cartagena. Better late than never, eh (and yes, travelogues are coming up in future posts)? These dishes were lovingly prepared (how else would we have done it? =p) in our tiny kitchen in London, following our gastronomical trips which swaddled us in romantic (f00d) affairs.

Spaghetti with pan-fried prawns, green olives, and jamón ibérico chips

Like most of our holidays, we planned the trips according to meals and everything else was secondary to eating. This comes as no surprise as we’re after all the forever-hungry-pair-of-food-mongers. The delightful produce had us feeling like glam goddesses rolling in silk sheets that were the unspeakable pleasures; flavours of the earth and the sea couldn’t have been better represented by the black truffles we had in Florence, the fresh seafood and our favourite jamón ibérico de bellota we indulged in when travelling in Spain. We returned from our trips, completely inebriated by the tastes and smells of western Europe, and very quickly, we found ourselves working hard in the kitchen, slaving over the stoves all for the sake of reliving the experience.

The best thing that came out of this? Having to brainstorm, cook and savour a truly breathtaking meal with the one I love. There is really nothing quite like beating about the kitchen in our shabby home clothes, bantering, exchanging tips on cooking and  fussing over each other’s poor plating skills. That, and reminiscing the wonderful memories we made on our trips together. Ahhhh, the good ol’ days…

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

Saying Goodbye, For Now

The crisp winter air is getting chillier, and we are gratefully snuggled under a warm duvet on the sofa, listening to Christmas carols and watching holiday movies. Time seems to slow down as we take in the holiday cheer, and marvel at the simplest things such as the beautiful tree that is standing in our living room now and the pretty snowflakes that will soon grace the season. Even that mug of hot chocolate seems to be that much more special when tucked under your cold fingers. There is just something magical about the time that is Christmas. Everyone seems cheery despite the blistering cold. Shoppers smile as they bump into each other with their big bags in madly crowded stores. The lights are especially pretty, as if they were there to put the misery out of the shorter days and longer nights. The odd hum of a carol that pops in my head when I am  cooking. The thought of seeing my family warms my heart, this year especially as we are moving across the globe (albeit with one or two pitstops) within the next year. This winter, our fifth, our last, the finale, is no doubt the most beautiful.

Delighted as we are to return home soon, we will come to miss everything and everyone that defines London. Our dear friends who have become our family over here, the stories that we share, the good and bad times that we have been through together, even the bitter cold and annoying rain that drapes London in a depressing shade of grey. It seems befitting to celebrate the last winter with our friends. What better way to do so than with a party full of cheer, brimming with home-cooked food and copious amounts of drinks?

And so we did. We came up with a menu that took all of what we experienced and loved whilst living in London, and entertained our friends with it. Grilled Camembert with tomato and chilli chutney, served with warm crusty bread and an assortment of cold meats. This was similar to what we had and loved during our recent trip to the Three Choirs Vineyard | An Ottolenghi-style salad of roasted aubergines with shredded roast chicken, pine nuts, pomegranate, basil and garlic yoghurt, something we have come to adore during our time here | Good ol’ steak, something that M has been crazy about after our trip to Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, New York, and has mastered during his time here, served with creamy mash potatoes and homemade béarnaise sauce, a sauce that paralysed both my arms after some Olympic-worthy whisking when I first attempted it years ago, and now I’ve found a shortcut to doing them, sparing my wings from pain and agony | Moroccan leg of lamb with mint yoghurt and chickpea sauce, which I learnt to cook in my first year here when I was an amateur in the kitchen, after falling in love with Jamie Oliver’s recipes | Matcha tiramisu, a testament to how my eyes have been opened to the possibilities of reinventing traditional recipes.

After much nerves, and toiling in the kitchen, we’re glad to say that everything, including the monstrous leg of lamb, was cooked to perfection. It was the best dinner party we have ever hosted, and even we were very surprised by the success of it, because a lot of cooking had to be done in a tiny kitchen, and as we know, the tension runs high when two cooks with very different styles are working in a small space together. Our friends were duly impressed and we were even happier to know that they went home well-fed, drink-drank-and-ever-so-slightly-inebriated. Jokes were cracked, and embarrassing stories were let slip. We laughed till our bellies ached and I drank till I was hung over the next day. It was all in good fun and I’m really going to miss all the times we’ve spent together. Everyone’s going their separate ways come the heart of winter, so I guess it’s goodbye for now. Till we meet again, my dear friends, till we meet again.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

Back to Cooking

It feels soooo good to be back in the kitchen again. To feel inspired by sights, smells and flavours. To dream up things I want to eat and things I want to feed my husband. To chop, peel and grill. To present a beautiful plate of food. And most of all, to watch him tuck in happily.

You see, most of the time, M cooks for me. He is a wonderful cook, don’t get me wrong, and I’m very fortunate to have someone who tries his best to come up with something new, exciting and delicious on the menu everyday. Now it’s my turn and I’m gladly returning the favour.

I’ve been a little more cautious with what I eat lately, as I am getting older and it only makes sense to try and eat a more balanced diet in appropriate quantities. I used to have such a hearty appetite, even M was a little alarmed in the early stages of our relationship and casually mentioned that even if I don’t get fat, I might just eat till he and I are broke. After a health scare in my family this year, I’ve resolved to cut down on the quantities of food that I’m packing in, and surprisingly, it didn’t take much effort to do so – it’s the age thing I reckon, I feel full more quickly than I do before with the same quantities of food. But I have my weaknesses – the more-than-occasional chocolate,  the incredibly tasty stuff (i.e. anything tasty is usually high in carbohydrates or fats) and man, do I dislike vegetables. To make matters worse, I don’t see the point of eating fruits. My philosophy was (still is, actually), why make yourself feel bloated with fruit when you can have your rice and meats, and feel properly full instead? People say they feel cleansed after eating fruits, I say I feel stupidly bloated and uncomfortable.

Regardless, I’ve started to pay more attention to what I eat. I still have a bit of a battle with fruits, but I try to have more vegetables and less carbohydrates (rice usually makes me happy). And the only person who could make me eat more vegetables is….unfortunately not my mother or my husband. It is Yotam Ottolenghi. If everyone makes salads like he does, we would all be vegetarians, I kid you not. I first heard of Ottolenghi about 6 years ago, when I realised that M loved the chocolate cake and I asked his good friend to get a birthday cake for him on my behalf as I was living in Singapore. When I came to London for a holiday, I made it a point to drop by Ottolenghi to try the cake for myself, and it was good but I remember thinking how silly those ridiculous good-looking model-esque people were to queue for….salads. I was clearly not herbivorous then. Two years ago, my good friend D suggested for us to have lunch at Ottolenghi, boy was I skeptical but I was keen to try the cakes, so I agreed. That changed my life forever (D has a knack for changing my life, first with macarons then this). I had the roasted aubergines with saffron yoghurt salad and I was SOLD.

I took M to Ottolenghi after that, and he too agreed that the salads were wonderful. So this week, I decided to make the roasted aubergines salad for lunch. I had only two strands of saffron left in the pantry and it wasn’t enough to make the yoghurt, so I tweaked the recipe and added whatever I fancied to make it better. It was mostly aubergines, pomegranate, pine nuts, basil drizzled with a yoghurt-y sauce made from 0% fat Greek yoghurt and some seasoning. I couldn’t stay away from meat of course, so I added some roast chicken slices into the salad, and it was divine. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it is possible to have a delicious AND healthy meal, and this revelation is all thanks to Ottolenghi! Needless to say, M was happy to come home to a good lunch.

We do have sinful meals of course. Just the other night, I made one of my favourite things in the world – Chorizo Spanish Tortilla! Turned out perfect and we were happily fighting for the last piece.

So it isn’t so bad to be healthier, really. I’m back to cooking with more of a healthy focus than before, everything’s still pretty damn tasty and our bellies are happy. I’m looking forward to trying out more new recipes in the kitchen and feeding M. Looks like New Year’s resolution came very much resolved…..early!

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.

Don’t Steal, It Isn’t Cool

You might have heard of or rather seen my wrath raged and splayed across the internet – yes wrath from the usually peace-loving me. What could have made me so angry, you might ask? Did someone deny of my food? No. Did someone criticise my cooking? No. But heck, someone did STEAL my things. Yes, STEAL.

I woke up bleary-eyed yesterday morning, and something jolted me from my half-asleep stupor. I was notified by Sheryl from Buns In The Oven that my macaron photos have been snitched and put up on the Facebook page set up by Homemade from Scratch Baking, and that they have been passed off as the actual products that the bakery was selling to its customers. I tried to get on the page to verify this, but I couldn’t and my friends from US, UK, Singapore and Australia couldn’t either. It turns out that the owner had barred anyone living in these areas from viewing the page. Luckily for me, Sheryl is based in Malaysia and J from Lady J’s Musings  is living in Switzerland, so they could do some detective work for me. Here is one of the four screenshots of my photos (J sent them to me) which have been posted without permission and without credit, in a way that misleads customers.

From the other screenshots that Sheryl emailed me, it appears that many other bloggers/bakers have been ripped off for their hard work too. Their photos have been snitched and put up, again in misleading ways.

It’s NOT cool to be at the receiving end of this nonsense. Even though my photos are not for sale, and I do not earn any money from writing this blog, the photos, my original recipes, my words are the end products of my creative process. It may not be worth something to you, but it is worth something to me. Snitching any of this is violating copyright. It is all very simple. If one wants to use content that doesn’t belong to him/her, ask. Once the request has been put forward, please don’t go ahead and use it without a proper permission issued by its owner. Only post something when you have received the written permission to publish it!

All you foodies out there, get the word out, let other foodies know that their intellectual property may have been stolen. Get on the page, and see if this happened to you or your friend. If so, get proof of it and make a report to Facebook (I have done so and am having great difficulties, as there are too many photos out there for me to identify every single URL that links to each stolen photo), or ask the owner of the page to take it down (I have asked them, and they have since removed four photos which were taken by me, but the last time my friends checked, there are other photos belonging to other people which are still up there at the time of writing, which is why I’ve also lodged a complaint to Facebook). If you love the work we do, the cakes that honest bakers are churning out, please help.

Thank you so much for staying on till the end of this rant. I feel really strongly about this.

[Update] Facebook has issued this reply to me: 

With respect to the the images depicting products of other individuals, please note that, in order to process a notice of infringement, we need a report from someone authorized to act on behalf of the rights owner. Please forward this to the rights holder and ask them to review http://www.facebook.com/legal/copyright.php?howto_report.

If you know of someone whose photos have been stolen, please let them know the link, thank you!!

My 7 Links

I’ve been tagged by the lovely Lady J on the 7 Links Blog Project, which was created by someone (please enlighten me if you know who it is!) to showcase the top posts from tagged bloggers in 7 categories. The tagged blogger then extends the invitation to do this meme to another 3 bloggers, so if you google this project, you will see that many before me have already done this!

It’s a mammoth task, I would say, to identify 7 of my top posts in these categories. I mean, every post that I’ve written here is a story that I’ve lived through, whether it’s about love, family, friends, and of course, food. So, whilst not many readers may agree with this, all my posts do mean a lot to me because they are part and parcel of my life!

For those who are new to my blog, I would of course ask you to start reading my blog from the very beginning, but that might overwhelm you, so I guess the 7 posts would do! If you’re a regular reader, perhaps some of these 7 posts would resonate with you, but do let me know if you think I have other posts that might better fit the bill!

1. My Most Beautiful Post

My husband, M, brings out the best in me, and all the most beautiful posts on my blog, be it words, photos, or our stories, are inspired by our times together…all our ups and downs, as a matter of fact. Here, I write about finding love, and finding beauty in imperfection in The Truth About Love.

2. My Most Popular Post

According to my site statistics, you guys are loving The Prettiest Cake I’ve Ever Made – Ispahan. This was an entremet that I made having been inspired by my favourite pastry chef, Pierre Hermé, who invented the incredibly seductive trio of flavours that are raspberries, lychees and rose. It was also the very first entremet that I crafted and in my humble opinion, one of prettiest pastries that I’ve put together. This was indeed a mean feat for me, because I’m not the most artistic, or that adept at making beautiful cakes! To my surprise, the editors at WordPress.com loved this cake, so much so that they featured this on Freshly Pressed. The good people at  Foodgawker and Tastespotting thought my Ispahan looked delicious enough to be featured as well, so do swing by and have a look!

3. My Most Controversial Post

So…I’ve ticked some people off on this one. I wrote about how we remained unimpressed by our visits to Paris. I was really misunderstood on this one – what I meant to say was how our visits were thwarted by a series of unfortunate incidents that seemed to happen to us and not anyone else. The less-than-pleasant experience we had in Paris had nothing to do with the jewels of Paris that so many have waxed lyrical on – but my words were misconstrued as a criticism for Paris. For the record, my husband and I are planning on another visit, because we know that treasures are waiting to be found in the City of Lights, and we hope and want to find them. Here’s how I Want To Love Paris.

4. My Most Helpful Post

I mean this in the most literal sense – it’s the most help I’ve tried to organise on my blog and it’s the Fundraising for Japan when the earthquake happened earlier this year. With your help, my dear readers, we raised £1510 for the disaster victims in Japan. I hoped our efforts gave rise to some good for them, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your donations!

5. My Most Surprisingly Successful Post

I wrote this after coming back from the best holiday ever in San Sebastián. I was at my wits’ end as to how I should do the city justice with my mediocre command of the language, and I was dreading how I was going to let the city down. I decided to stop thinking and just feel my way through this post, so I let my senses take over on this one and what transpired was a purely sensual piece of writing that surprisingly, sat very well with my harshest critic (myself), and also the editors on WordPress.com who gave me a much coveted airtime on Freshly Pressed. I remember just diving into this and immersing myself completely in this post as I wrote it. I warn you, this post (pictures aren’t great, but it’s all about the words….) might make you sweat, so brace yourself…San Sebastián – The Land of Promiscuous Eating.

6. My Most Underrated Post

Regular readers would know that I’m obsessed with making macarons. Some of you think that I’m a macaron goddess, not that I am…but errrr…do you know that I once started out this way too? If I can go from a macaron noob to what I have achieved today on the macaron-making front…so can you! Without sounding rude, stop telling me that you’re afraid to make macarons!! Don’t believe it? Check out my macaron journey from the very first post to the latest and I hope you’re inspired to make your own. Now, get your whisk on and just do it!

7. Post I Am Most Proud Of

Not exactly that, but I wrote about one of the things that I am most proud of in this post – starting my blog, writing, and pursuing my hobbies on baking, cooking and food photography that solidly define The Pleasure Monger today. Here’s what I was thinking when The Pleasure Monger turned ONE!

So here they are, my 7 links! Thanks Lady J again for getting me on this one. It was a good way to review everything I’ve written and put some things into perspective! Now for the next 3 bloggers I’m tagging…

1. Sherie at Maameemoomoo.

2. Shulie at Foodwanderings.

3. Annapet at The Daily Palette.

Please feel free to take part in this project even if you’re not tagged, just link it back to this post so we can all enjoy your posts too! Happy reading, everyone!

My Curry Puff Can Sing

M really, REALLY loves his curry puffs. That was the first thing I learnt about him when we were dating. Actually, maybe it’s one of two things that I first knew about M. The other is chicken curry, but since chicken curry is inside a curry puff, I suppose I could call it The First One-Big-Thing I knew about M. Now, M loves a good curry puff so much, that sometimes, I’m not sure which or who he would save in a fire – a puff or me. I’m not offended, because I mean let’s face it – a curry puff looks good and tastes good blistered and flaky – I can’t possible pull that off.

For his birthday last year, M asked me if I could make curry puffs for him. Well, I procrastinated, for a year, but thank goodness, my in-laws bought some Mr. Ting curry puffs and asked my parents to bring them over when they visited us in London. It was a sweet surprise for M. Almost a year later, I decided it was time to honour the request of my dearest husband. M decided to take part too, as he’s personally vested in this, so he made the chicken curry (a very thick version so we can pack it into the puff, you don’t want the curry to be making the pastry soggy…) with LOTS of tender, loving care. I’ve never seen him so focussed on getting the curry perfect for puffs. As for me, I used some of the pastry that was left over from making Portuguese egg tarts, and made more fresh puff pastry to accommodate the big pot of curry.

The result? Suffice to say that we were excellent partners-in-crime. The curry puff was perfectly flaky and fragrant, and yes, I would even go as far as bonkers-land to tell you that my curry puff ‘sings’! If you don’t believe me, watch this video. Yet, no frying was needed! This is definitely one of the best kitchen collaborations between us. We wolfed down two immediately, and exercised some self-restraint by popping the rest in the freezer. These kept well for a few weeks, all you have to do is to thaw the puffs out for a few minutes, and bake them as and when your craving hits.

The recipe for the puff pastry is the same as the one for my Portuguese egg tarts, except that I scaled the proportions of the ingredients up to match 200g of strong white bread flour. This should make about 10 large curry puffs. At Step 7 of the recipe, after cutting the pastry roll into 30g portions, with the cut side facing up (the orientation is very important because you want the flakes to appear like scales of a fish on the puff), press down each portion with the heel of your palm and roll out till you a circular pastry dough that is 12-15cm in diameter. Arrange the curry (preferably with a thick potato base i.e. add lots of potatoes in while cooking the curry, then mash the curry to create a thick luscious and dry-ish gravy) on one-half of the pastry circle, leaving a space round the edges for sealing. Bring the two halves of the circle together and seal by making indentations with the tines of a fork. Bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 18 minutes. If you want to keep them, freeze them before baking and let thaw for a few minutes (not too long though because you don’t want the butter in the pastry to melt – if that happens, the pastry wouldn’t puff up nicely and that means your puffs won’t sing like mine do, no Grammies!), then bake as per instructions.

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen!

Also check out my other food adventures.