Friday, November 23, 2007

Reunion with Dad

Last Monday signalled the arrival of Dad in Perth and what better way to reunite with him than to whip up a simple yet delicious home-cooked meal in the comfort of a cool room amidst the sweltering heat of the nasty summer.

My pesto spiral salad. Well-drained fusilli tossed with dollops of basil pesto, cherry and sundried tomatoes, peas and corn kernels, then drizzled with the simplest of olive oils. This is a real summer delight, sophisticated-looking but yet, so quick and easy to prepare. Eaten cold or warm, the pesto itself is the centre of attention. Pasta salads are equally flexible, so if you don't fancy peas or corn, feel free to substitute it with any garden vegetables that you like or maybe even capers or anchovies. For my salad, I love to use sundried tomatoes as the subtly scented infused oil tends to give the flavour an added boost.

Lemon honey chicken. I have to admit this fell short of my expectations. Using a mixture of lemon juice, golden syrup and rosemary to marinade the chicken, I should have used less lemon juice, while increasing the amount of honey to sweeten the meat. Well, one has to fail in order to succeed doesn't it? Nevertheless, despite the less than exciting flavour, the chicken was cooked perfectly with no pinkness in sight.

Overall, it was a good meal with Dad's safe and blessed arrival. Good food, great company, what more can i ask for?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grilled Vegetables

It was on impulse that we stumbled on Corduroy Cafe. Although both of us have individually heard of the Cafe when it first opened at Bukit Timah, we have never had the chance to try its delicious offerings. Last Tuesday happened to be the golden opportunity when my girlfriend and I wanted to try something different and yet not too expensive. Browsing through the VivoCity's listing of food and beverages, we chanced on the cafe.

You order at the cashier once you have decided on the decidedly large array of offerings. Everything except mains are presented in a long glass counter. Its strongest offerings are alads, appetizers, side dishes, soups, and, desserts - done in more of mediterranean style.

My side order of four types of grilled vegetables was definitely something that I could easily get hooked. Costing only $4.50, it was delicious, healthy and yet filling.

The Cafe pays attention to details. Even the milk for the coffee came warmed and not cold (as in most other restaurants).

Hmm, this is one place I must introduce my girls when they come back to Singapore in December. I can almost picture my two girls lounging so comfortably on the different types of sofas sipping Earl Grey with macarons!

After the "grand" lunch, I chanced upon a bag that I could not resist buying. Shiny in patent and gilded in gold at correct places, coupled with the unusual shape, it surely capped a most fulfilling day!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pumpkin and Ham Risotto

One of my favourite quotes on food belong to Miguel de Cervantes when he stated that ''All sorrows are less with bread''.

As sceptical as that might sound, I do believe it's true. No matter how quickly the world is going by, regardless of morning, day or night, there comes a standstill when time is simply just devoted to the pure, essential need to eat. People stuff themselves silly with chocolate when life does a 180 flip. Others go for junk food, sweets, weird cravings or anything which just about forms the theory of food.

Recently things haven't been going well with my life. Maybe it's a wake-up call from God, maybe I haven't been cooking very frequently, or maybe I neglected this blog for awhile. Whatever the case, life goes on. Speaking about sorrows, I decided to pull my remaining energy to make a comforting meal - Risotto. A meal much loved by Italians for a fact. I've always longed to make risotto centuries ago, but never got to fulfill this plan of mine. But no, I wasn't deterred by the thought of having to stay by the stove and keep stirring the rice for eons. Hell, I could stay by the stove for over 2 hours if the stove will have me.

Pumpkin and ham risotto wasn't so much a combination I was inclined upon. The grocery pretty much only had pumpkin (when I wanted asparagus) and ham was a nice addition for a nice meaty bite. For a first-timer, my risotto was surprisingly not bad. The flavours of the ham and pumpkin came together nicely, like they were meant for each other. The only regret was it should have been a little wet and runny in texture but got a little tad dry towards the cooking process. Just a warning, the ham can be quite salty so you might want to use a salt-reduced stock or make your own stock so that it doesn't become overly salty.

Pumpkin and Ham Risotto (serves 2)

200-250ml arborio rice
1 small yellow onion
600-700ml chicken/veg stock (salt-reduced)
3 slices of ham
1/4-1/2 small pumpkin
olive oil
parmesan (or any good hard cheese)
unsalted butter
salt & pepper to taste

Pour the stock into a pot, heating it, while letting it simmer.
With a knife and a chopping board, finely dice the onion. Set it aside.
Slice the pumpkin into fairly medium blocks/cubes. Set it aside.
Chop up the ham into squares. Set aside.
Heat up a good large pot, pour a good glug of olive oil in and when it gets medium to medium-high hot, add the diced onions. Fry the onions for a good 1-2 minutes or so or until the onions turn fairly soft. Don't let the onions burn though.
Pour in the arborio rice and toast the grains, letting each one of them get coated with the oil and onions for about 2-3 minutes. At this point, you can add a glass of white wine if you want.
With the simmering stock, add a ladleful to the rice and stir, letting it get absorbed before adding another. Mix in the pumpkin. You'd want to keep stirring and adding ladlefuls of stock until the rice is fully cooked through (roughly about 15-20 minutes). About 5-6 minutes towards the end, add the squares of ham.
When the risotto is just about right, add a few cubes of unsalted butter and about a 100g of grated parmesan. Turn off the heat and mix the butter and cheese in until it gets rich and creamy.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Lesson on Food Photography

After 2 weeks of attending an Executive Management Programme at NUS, the course ended on a high note with a buffet dinner at the Hyatt. The highlight of the nite is the free flow of wine and beer.

What captured my attention though was the dessert spread. With an extreme weakness for cakes - especially the condensed hard versions (mousse-types are out!) - I was delighted to see two gleaming plates of brownies and strawberry cheesecakes beckoning to me.

While the rest of my 50 over course mates and professors queued for the entrees, I made a definite beeline for the dessert corner.

Yummy and delicious! The brownies are nutty with just the right amount. The strawberries were large, sweet and the cheese were not overpowering. Together with red wine and coffee, I savoured two large pieces each!

What topped the nite though came unexpectedly. While I was trying to take the shots on the dessert spread, I was approached by the professional photographer hired by NUS. He kindly gave me advice on the best angles for the shots and also the lighting level to be used. You see the results of his advice on this page.

Do give me a holler on what you think of the final shots!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Good Old-fashioned Comfort Food

Have any of you renewed your passports recently? What was your experience at the Immigration Department? From 1 to 10, I reckoned many would have given it a 1!

Fortunately, to the rescue came the excellent mee pok noodles at Crawford Lane. My daughter Sam is definitely one of its fervent fans and I am in definite agreement with her.

Last Monday, it provided a soothing balm to the ruffled feathers of my me and my hubby. From the lack of notification to collect the passport to the under-catered carpark lots, from the long queues at the application counter to the longer queues at the collection point, I really wonder how the Immigration people are turning a blind eye to the daily boiling pot within their very premises. But that is another story!

Coming back to the mee pok, the family-run unit moved from Marina Square quite a few years back due to the Marina upgrading. With the move, the amount of noodles have increased with no damage to the purse-strings. The quality of the noodle also did not suffer. I love vinegar and I could really taste its flavour amidst the noodles. The pig's liver, pork slices and minced port are generous to a small eater like me.

Good old fashioned comfort food!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


As my hubby needed to go to M1 to change his phone, we decided to have an early Saturday dinner to avoid the crowds along Orchard Road. Having heard so much about Waraku from colleagues and seen the many new branches in Central and Marina Square, we headed to the one at Starhub Centre. We were early and so had the privilege to choose a more obscure corner.

The menu items were extensive. Even the drinks and desserts have their own menu cards! We decided to go a la carte so that we could try the many dishes. From the waitress' recommendations, we finally made our choices.

First was the Sanma Sashimi. “Sanma” or Mackerel Pike is a fish with red meat rich with proteins. It is mainly caught off the north eastern shores of Japan as the fish swim down from Hokkaido. The flesh is fatty and sweet and the sashimi is served with grated fresh ginger and purple leeks. The taste was divine and delightful to the palate. Definitely a dish not to be missed!

Next, was the miso ramen with minced pork. It was served with freshly grated garlic. The soup was sweet but on the oily side. The ramen was cooked with the right consistency and the pork slices were generously large. Our verdict was a dish that is value for money.

The third dish was also recommended by the helpful waitress. It is some kind of cheese, potato and diced salmon mixture that was baked on an iron plate. Worth a try but not something to shout about!

The scallop skewers that followed were grilled to perfection. I enjoyed chewing on the succulent pieces that were soaked in its own savoury-sweet juices.

The perennial favourite of ours: chawan mushi was a tad disappointing. Although the pix showed pieces of eel, fish cakes, ginko nuts, etc, the real dish was a micro version of the pix. In fact, I couldnt even locate the eel and did not waste time to reveal my disappointment to the waitress, Serene. The porcelain bowl was however a feast to the eyes!

Overall, our Waraku experience is only average. There are definitely better Japanese restaurants elsewhere in Singapore!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Alfresco Dining@Mango Lingo

My broker raved about the fresh mango pieces. Another gym goer is particularly partial about the coconut combination. The children are keen on its ice concoctions. What am I talking about?

Why? It is the Mango Lingo and its array of ice-cold fruits and ice-cream offerings, of course!

Never one to turn a blind eye to desserts, my palate was tickled when my broker and gym friend spoke in no uncertain terms about their experience at Mango Lingo. After a particualr strenuous yoga workout, they have stumbled upon the brightly-lit unit on level 2 of Square 2 recently and lived to tell their tale. Amidst their enjoyment of the fruity sensations, they were joined by artistes from MediaCorp! Certainly, what better testimony for Mango Lingo than these self-professed authority on anything food!

That particularly day, my hubby and I shared the Lovers' Paradise: a mountain of diced strawberries, gooseberries or kiwi fruits and mango topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Very high antioxidants to scare away the harmful free radicles in your body. This means you get to eat delectable desserts and yet protect your health!

Another plus for the place at Square 2 is the open-air cul-de-sac that adjoins the unit. With a water wall providing a soothing and zen-like background, surrounding greenery and the wooden planks making up the flooring, this is one place to head for for a stress-relieving experience.