Sunday, September 6, 2009


The first time I ate a macaroon, I was sitting in a tiny bed in a tiny room in the Le Grand Hotel Des Gobelins in Paris, watching French TV. I had bought 6 for myself that day - at LaDuree, Champs-Elysee. I planned to eat one only but polished off all 6 in that one sitting. Once I took my first ever bite, I was hooked - and in less than 15 minutes (a very enjoyable 15 minutes) I ate everything. Yes, 6. All 6 perfect discs, in perfect colours. By me in my tiny room with floral bedsheets, and French men yabbling away on TV. I might have missed my husband a little more during that 15 minutes, and I might have wished very much more that he was with me enjoying the macaroons, in that room - but I never regretted the calories, and oh how I enjoyed the awesomeness of the crunch of the shell, giving way to chewiness, and the filling in the different flavors.

So I guess it's really a no-brainer that one day, I'd try making some macaroons myself. And I did - about a year back, with results that were extremely laughable. And so, I gave up with just that one failure and vowed never to try again. Until I realised how much my husband loves macaroons (We stayed in Ritz-Carlton Osaka and Tokyo earlier this year, and he together with AWong ate up all the macaroons on the Club Floors. Eating our money's worth,they said. Luckily for us, the Japanese are polite and discreet - and I was never made to feel like I married a glutton)

So, with one failure in the pocket, I decided to go for a macaroon class held this morning - and check out my macaroons! I am so terribly pleased with them. i had all but given up hope when I failed the first time around, and you have no idea how much this makes me happy. :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Slow-cooked Portuguese Chicken or the weekend passed by too fast!

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I agree.  Provided that the absence is not extended of course.  I very much looked forward to coming back home to the husband after 3 days of Hanoi.  So yay to the husband who surprised me at the airport!

And yay to coming back on the cusp on weekend!

And it has been a great weekend although we didn't do very much really.  Friday night - I spent doing my "homework" for cake decorating class the next day, Saturday morning at class, lunch at Spruce, and then home for a long afternoon nap before we went off for dinner with the Sihoes at Pu Tien, where we stuffed ourselves silly with yummilicious Chinese food in the heart of little India.  We went for a walk at Mustafa Centre after dinner.  I marvelled at how Mr Mustafa built himself an empire.  Gosh - the place is quite huge!  That was our second time there - the first being Xmas eve 2 years back when the husband (then-boyfriend) and I had to scramble to do some last minute shopping.  Those were the days when both of us were still in law firms - busy times those were.  

And then we are at Sunday - I made dinner for both of us.  Slow-cooked portuguese chicken (Women's Weekly).   It smelt really good, and I kinda like how it turned out in the end although note to self - in the future, I will make some salsa-ish sauce to accompany the chicken.

Tis going to be a busy week ahead! I can't wait for the next weekend - my first ever visit into Bintan! 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Papardelle Bolognese

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach - that's why I want to learn to make kick-ass bolognese.  The husband is Mr Pasta himself - he said to me once before we were married, that I will need to learn to make good pasta dishes.  It may even have been a condition of our marriage.  But who knows - i generally have the memory of a goldfish, and in the 1 year and 8 months that we have been married, he hasn't bugged me once about making pasta - although I suddenly recall that in our first month of marriage, we had lots and lots of pasta.  All because we had much leftover xmas ham which we needed to eat up and pasta was just so easy.

When it comes to pasta, I really believe that sauces out of jars are good stuff -  you can never go wrong with them.  I swear by them, and generally have at least one bottle sitting around somewhere.  Having said that, I know there are supposed health benefits of eating homemade stuff and frankly nothing really beats the satisfaction of having a made-from-scratch pot of meat sauce simmering away on the counter (when that happened yesterday, I felt almost Italian what with my Mario Batali wooden spoon in hand.)

The great thing about this pasta sauce is that it's not just tomato and meat.  It is full of veggie goodness.  Stuff that the husband would not eat otherwise (like celery).  I think I have found a way to make him eat more vegetables! Just puree and add it into a meaty sauce.

I really wanted this recipe from Women's Weekly to be a kick-ass sauce but I think it still lacks a certain oomph.  I can't tell what yet - so I will keep experimenting with other recipes.  

But meanwhile, until I find that perfect kick-ass sauce, this will be my go-to recipe for days when I want a winner.

(Oh, how I wish the weekend could go on forever)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brown Butter Cake or Happy National Day

So, was the cake any good? We will never know, seeing how the psychedelic colors are, while pretty, a bit scary and hardly tempting. It has been sitting in the fridge for a few days - and will continue to sit for another few days, untouched - until my part-time helper comes in on Sunday and helps me throw it away.

By the way, can I also say for the record that I am a bit upset that I now have to use American English instead of the Queen's English in my new job, and that a word like color without the U irks me to no end? Not that I use the word color very much in my line of work - there is something else that I have been typing with a U and then deleting for fear that (god forbid) some American will think this Singaporean girl can't spell for nuts, but I can't remember it now, and I just know that I'll spend a good part of what's remained of tonight thinking and thinking about it.

Anyway, last week I turned my kitchen into an icing sugar wonderland. Given the amount of icing sugar flying around and creeping into cracks and crevices around the house, I was surprised that the husband and I haven't yet been carried away by an army of ants. Why sugar wonderland, you ask? Because I, true to the auntieness that I am blossoming into, signed up for a cake decorating class. Yes, you heard me right - a cake decorating class, where we sit around and try to pipe stars and hearts and roses in cartoon colors. Oh, but that's not to say I don't enjoy it - in fact, I relish being giving the opportunity to be forced to do something so homely (they give us homework in these classes). So last week, I found myself having to make not one, not two but three batches of icing. That means 3 bags of icing sugar and 3 cups of shortening. Man, stuff that will make my weighing machine go bonkers. And I swear all you need to do is to look at them and then you can sit back and watch your waistline grow.

But anyway, back to the whole story of how this cake came abt - it was a practice cake. Something that we had to make for class, so that we can pipe rainbows and stars and letters on. I made a brown butter cake - since I wanted something simple, and I've always wondered what brown butter taste like (I still don't know how it tastes like but one thing for sure, I love the smell.) The cake in my book says something like "Shawn 5" but obviously I don't know any 5 year old Shawn so in celebration of the National Day, I made a National Day cake without a national flag on it (but that's easy bananas - a rainbow with 5 different colors is so much harder). :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chicken Pappardelle and Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Man oh man oh man - my pregnant friend just announced her weight on Facebook.

And I am, erm, not too far away from being the same weight as a woman carrying a 5 month old baby. That doesn't make me feel good at all. In fact, that makes me feel bad. And sad. And fat. (Hey, that rhymes)

Oh, and about that box of heart cookies I wrote about yesterday? We finished them. With the help of the husband, I demolished them after dinner. That was some serious sugar. Please don't judge us.

I don't see an end to this. I am making a sweet and salty chocolate cake this weekend.

Oh, and yes - back to why I logged on. My cooking attempt. Not too bad. Can't be good for the weighing machine considering the amount of cream that went it. But I like the crunch of the walnuts and the chicken was quite juicy!

Pappardelle chicken and creamy mushroom sauce

Adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly The Complete Book of Modern Classics

Preparation time 15 minutes

Cooking time 15 minutes

Serves 2

1 tbp olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 small red onion (80g), chopped finely

125g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced thinly

1/2 cup cream

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

10g butter

250g fettucine

1 1/2 cup coarsely shredded cooked chicken

1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

1/8 cup coarsely chopped fresh italian parsley

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan

Heat oil in large frying pan and cook garlic and onion, until onion softens. Add mushroom and cook until just tender. Add cream and rosemary to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until sauce thickens slightly. Add butter and stir until butter melts.

Cook pasta until tender and drain.

Add hot cream sauce, chicken, nuts, parsley and half of the cheese to the hot pasta. Toss gently and serve, sprinkled with remaining cheese

Heart Cookies

Art has never been my forte. I bought a book to try to make better looking cakes and cookies. I flipped through it and got awfully inspired. I wanted to do so many things. I decided to start small. Don't be so ambitious, I thought. You need to start simple and build up from them. I read from my book that cookies are a great way to get started in pasty decoration. So I decided to start with Heart Cookies. I gathered my supplies. I waited for the right moment. But the right moment never came. I lost steam. My interest moved elsewhere.

And then I had butter cookies at Mad's place. It was delicious. I was inspired. Two days later, I made butter cookies too. And then remembered my plan to make Heart Cookies.

And one afternoon and a whole lot of mess later, I had my Heart Cookies. They were not gorgeous - but I think they are much better-looking than the things I generally make.

I won't do it again though (I think) - the thought of making royal icing, dyeing them, outlining and flooding the cookies and then decorating with sanding sugar is giving me the shudders.

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

11 oz AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
6 oz butter unsalted
4 oz granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside.  Combine butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add flour mixture in 2 batches, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Beat until dough comes together - do not overmix.  Form dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Place better two pcs of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut cookies into desired shapes and transfer to freezer and chill at least 15 minutes.  Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken Baked with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I'm sorry for the really long absence but between the old job, the trips to Hong Kong, Macau and Perth and the new job - I haven't felt in the mood at all. I still been trying the recipes in my cookbooks though - although I haven't really been good with taking photographs. I simply did not want to overwhelm myself with editing so many photographs! I guess that's a (wee) bit of a perfectionist streak in me (just a little bit - I am suddenly reminded of how I regaled friends with stories of how I became an underachiever - and oddly enough, very proudly at that). With my wee bit of perfectionist though - I take way too long with tasks and assignments without deadlines because I just need to get the tasks/assignments perfect - and every little tweak (seem to) count.

My new job has been pretty good - decent hours and lovely colleagues. I am now working around the conservation shophouses in the Tanjong Pagar area so the change of environment has been really refreshing. I love walking out to lunch amongst buildings that have got more than 20 years in them, and to coffee shops helmed by uncles who look like they don't belong anywhere else but there. I'm still a bit apprehensive about the work I am doing - I know I can do a good job of it, but I am impatient and can't wait to learn the ropes well enough - to stop being a newbie and someone who is able to speak with authority and confidence. That will take a while - probably 3 to 6 months and while I know I'd get there - I just feel stuck in the present.

Meanwhile, it has been really great without a blackberry in tow. Gone are the days where I bring work out of the office into the home - where the blackberry would sit and vibrate on our dining table and I'd run and check to see if there are work that came in - even in the wee hours of the morning. Blackberries are seriously the ball and chain of work - it is truly liberating to walk around town or go for dinner or even just be at home, and know that I have really left my work where it should be - at work.

OK - back to documenting my experiments. I think this chicken is not too bad (considering that I left out the salt - which would have made the dish much better) but Kevin doesn't like chicken cooked like this so I guess we are not trying it again! And because I couldn't bear to cook with any of the white wine in my collection - I made a substitution and dumped the yellowtail in (because no one will drink it otherwise!) Yes, I know what they say about cooking with wine that you will drink but hey, I refuse to pass on the bottle to an unsuspecting host.

Guinea Fowl baked with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Adapted form Delia Smith How to Cook

Serves 4

1 chicken
30 cloves garlic, unpeeled
10g butter
2 tsp olive oil
6 small sprigs rosemary leaves
1 1/2 tbps rosemary leaves, bruised and chopped
1 1/4 cups white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the chicken.

Melt the butter and oil in the pot and brown the chicken carefully on all sides.

Remove chicken from the pot and toss the garlic and rosemary sprigs into the pot. Replace the chicken and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Pour wine all around the chicken and let it gently come to a simmering point.

At this point, either seal with pot with huff paste*** and cover with lid or place a double sheet of foil over the pot before putting the lid on.

Place the pot in the oven and cook for 1 hour exactly.

Remove the lid and let the chicken continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with the cooking juices and garlic cloves.

***Add 150 ml cold water to 2 cups of flour to make a dough. Place all around the rim of the pot.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Eggs Benedict

Saturdays are made for brunches. Last night I promised the husband he will get eggs benedict for brunch. What I didn't expect was that today may just be the first and last time I am making these.

Immediately after plating them, I sighed in exhaustion and declared aloud to all and sundry (i.e. the husband) that I am never ever EVER making eggs benedict anymore.

Well, at least not after I learn what Jan's secret was. A couple of months back, she held a brunch at her place. Menu - eggs benedict. Verdict - yummilicious. She made it look so effortless that I was drawn into complacency when attempting these for the first time today. I thought I'd have culinary success with this simple breakfast fare but I think the sad truth was that I was on the verge of throwing things at the floor in despair a few times.

So how does she do it? I don't know but I told the husband I will need to learn a thing or two from her.

One of the first being, how not to use 8 eggs to cook 4 poached eggs.