28 September 2011

try it, you'll like it, it tastes exactly like...

My brother and I have both loathed mushrooms all our lives. It wasn't a childhood picky phase, to this day we genuinely cannot abide them. And I think, on balance, that anaemic fungi which grow in dark musty places are an acceptable thing to dislike. I will never make them a priority for my daughter's palate.

But I clearly remember the day that my Mum first uttered the perennial fib: "just try the mushrooms kids, you'll like them, they taste a lot like potatoes". Even my spongy, unformed brain questioned the logic of serving something-that-tastes-a-lot-like-potatoes on the same plate as actual potatoes. And of course, they tasted nothing like potatoes. They tasted exactly like the rubbery, beige, basement-dwelling rot-eaters that they are.

The line was trotted out to disguise various new or exotic foodstuffs over the years. A most memorable example being a deep-fried alligator dish which was said to "taste just like chicken". I didn't holiday abroad till I was an adult, so where the heck in the British Isles we found ourselves eating something that purported to be alligator is anyone's guess. Ironically, it probably WAS chicken.

So what is the long-term, character-building effect of repeated exposure to "trust-me-you'll-like-it"? I have concluded that it's a lasting skepticism for anything that comes with a forceful recommendation. Tell me "seriously, you'll LOVE IT!" about just about anything and watch my cynical heckles rise while I sneer a little inside.

So when about half a dozen people recommended a novel to me, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, some of them in the most endearing way ("I thought of you as I read this, knowing how much you would enjoy it") I smiled and put it on the mental list of books I did not want to read.

I know, I can hardly believe it either. I am that contrary. And the decision was supported (in my brain) by the fact that I hadn't read the author's previous novel because it had a terrible cover. Yup, I'm also that shallow. But in my defence, sort of, Cloud Atlas really did have a rubbish cover. Now that they're making a film of it in the city where I went to university, I might have to get over myself and read it. But I'll make a brown paper cover first.

When my husband gave me a copy of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet as an anniversary present earlier this year ("from the back-cover blurb it seems exactly the kind of thing you'd like!") I smiled and put it on the actual list of actual books I would actually have to read. Secretly I stubbornly refuse to anticipate enjoying it, but acknowledge that I possibly will. The first fifty pages have been alright. At this stage my pride won't allow me any more enthusiasm than that, I'm not quite ready to be proved wrong yet.

It's Yarn Along day, so as well as books, we're talking knitting. My Stripe Study scarf is coming along well. The colours are a bit wild, but I hope they'll make more sense in the context of a relative opening a gift on a chilly British Christmas morning. About half way in the number of stitches per row has already ballooned to 200+. I think that's set to double. Very long rows aren't really my thing because, with a small child on the loose, I need to be able to stop regularly. So it's slow progress but I'm trying to use it as a lesson in enjoying the process over instant gratification.

Linking in with the lovelies at Yarn Along who will, I'm afraid, have to try and forgive me if I don't comment very often on their creations this week. I'm sorry. My beloved old mac G5 eventually gave out on me last night, after nearly seven years of flawless service. I've just about managed to create this post on a screen so small and infuriating that I'm going to shut it off and go directly to the optician. I hope normal service will resume soon. And I hope I can retrieve the last three months photos in time for the Bumbles & Light Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge for which I had been snapping away like a crazy beast. D'Oh.

25 September 2011

the soup that broke the camel's back
(and regenerated as chocolate mousse)

My husband and daughter were watching Saturday morning tv, a CBeebies cooking show that he approved of because they pulled a vegetable out of the ground. He was inspired. He and The Boss set about dowloading the recipe for lunch. I left them to it.

He muttered about the recipe not being specific enough, while simultaneously failing to read it properly. I calmly repeated the recipe and left again. He called me back to ask how much "three spring onions" was. I bit my tongue and gave him an old-fashioned look. But when, after the specified cooking time, he held a spoonful of soup out to me and asked "so is the celery cooked then?" I had had ENOUGH. I've deleted the transcript of my rant, it was simply too petulant to share.

I think I was tired. I'm certain I was hungry. But I did actually mean what I said about a grown professional man being able to make a decent fist of a pre-schooler's soup recipe without becoming such a helpless lump.

It wasn't always this way, we used to share the cooking equally, at a leisurely pace and late into the night. But as our baby became a child, we felt the conventional pressure to provide early evening family meals. Now, office hours dictate a stereotypical 1950s "man-comes-through-door-at-six-as-dinner-hits-table" scenario. So the helpless lumpen-ness, ladies and jellyspoons, is what happens when a person stops practising.

The Boss, taking control of the soup situation

Around the same time as the soup episode, my friend at Please Do Not Feed The Animals blogged about a monthly recipe challenge that she loves and I wondered if it might be our solution. If we regularly learn to cook something new together, something so random that he can't possibly assume that I know what I'm doing either, perhaps we can nip this impatient teacher/spoonfed pupil routine in the bud. Cue Dom at Belleau Kitchen and his Random Recipe Challenge.

The idea is to pick a cookbook off the shelf at random, open it to a random page, cook it, and blog about it - WITHOUT cheating and flipping through till you find something you fancy! As a slight twist this month, Dom challenged his disciples to pick a random recipe from their piles and files of notes and clippings.

This we can do. I have a bulging plastic file (written about here) that I'm in the process of rationalising. The vegetarian dishes and curries have already been winkled out, typed up and neatly filed in a shiny new folder, so they're out of the game, but 55 plastic pockets of notes, newspaper pages and scribbled scraps remain.

So how to choose randomly? Well, when playing any game, I've never been one to let fun get in the way of meticulously following the rules. So we didn't blindfold a family member, or throw a dart into the clippings pile (both of which could be considered "fun" in the conventional sense but neither are technically random... just saying). Instead I insisted we suck all the joy out of the process and select our random recipe in the most boring way humanly possible, so it was as close to being genuinely random as practicable. We used an online random number generator. Which came up with the number sixteen. It's a bottomless barrel of laughs round at ours, I tell you.

And on the sixteenth page was a hand-written recipe so full of joy and calories that my brittle, scientific soul softened a little at the memory of it: frozen chocolate mousse.

the book, the number, the page

My Mum used to make this when we were growing up, having been given the recipe by an American friend of hers. The 1980-something tatty old shred of paper with the long-forgotten stranger's red handwriting is, to this day, blue-tacked to the inside of Mum's pantry door. At the time it was the only recipe she used with American cup measures, and so was instantly baffling to us. (Do Americans only have one size of cup in the whole country? Does it not matter as long as you always use the same cup?) I must have copied it into my recipe book at some point in the dim and distant past but, other than assisting with bowl-licking duties as a kid, I've never actually made it. More importantly, I haven't eaten it for at least 20 years.

Thank you Dom, I'm loving this process already.

frozen chocolate mousse
for the crunch
  • 2oz soft butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbspn flour
  • 1 cup coarse chopped walnuts or pecans (we used pecans)
for the mousse
  • 1.5 cups whipping cream
  • 8oz good chocolate
  • 6 eggs at room temp
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 tspn vanilla essence
  1. mix all the crunch ingredients together and press into a baking tray
  2. bake for 30 minutes until dry and slightly brown (no temp given I'm afraid, we used 170C)
  3. leave aside to cool
  4. melt 1/4 cup of the cream with the chocolate (in a bain marie presumably)
  5. whip the rest of the cream (in a separate bowl)
  6. beat the egg yolks till light and then beat in the chocolate and vanilla (in yet another bowl)
  7. add this mixture to the whipped cream
  8. beat egg whites and sugar until stiff (seriously, I don't have a maid for all this washing up)
  9. fold in the chocolate and broken up nut crunch
  10. freeze

It was actually quite a tricky recipe, lots of stages and things that you have to be careful of along the way (keeping the chocolate smooth, not scrambling the egg yolks, ensuring no yolk sneaks into your whites, folding in the whites to retain maximum air etc etc). We spent a lovely relaxing evening working through this together, and doing the resulting mountain of washing up.

every mixing bowl I possess

And the end product? Two whole litres of rich, dense, chocolate ice cream with pecan crunches and a few bonus flecks of incompletely-folded marshmallowy meringue. Absolute heaven. But I repeat: two litres, so as well as addressing a few culinary equality issues, this challenge may add a good few inches to our waistlines! Maybe that'll prompt a shared interest in competitive team sports... but I bloody hope not.

Thank you once again to Dom for hosting, and Please Do Not Feed The Animals for encouraging us to take part. I thoroughly enjoy both of your blogs, commend them to others, and look forward to the next challenge!

frozen chocolate mousse


24 September 2011

kaya toast: the jury's still out

kaya /kı-yah, ˈkʌɪjɑ/ n. : A sauce, usu. green or orange in colour, made chiefly of coconut, eggs and sugar which is often eaten with bread, used as a filling in pastries, etc.

As with my previous forays into turkish delight and marshmallow, kaya is one of those things you just buy. It's barely a foodstuff, it's just stuff. Making it doesn't really cross your mind. Marmite as opposed to marmalade, if you will.

Unless you're me.

My elegant and cosmopolitan neighbour actually laughed and said gently "you're hilarious!" when I told her I was going to try and make kaya. Not that's hilarious, but specifically you're hilarious. Not quite sure how I feel about that - d'you think she refers to me as the eccentric British woman next door? I hope not. Mind you, she did have homemade turkish delight and marshmallows forced upon her. In significant quantities.

My interest in making kaya is prompted by a book I'm reading, The Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (see description here). As with most projects, the kaya-making process kicked off with shopping. But this wasn't soul-destroying supermarket shopping. No, no, buying groceries at the Tekka Centre wet market in Little India is an altogether more sensory and satisfying experience.

First stop: the fruit and veg aisle for pandan leaves. These are used in lots of local dishes, both sweet and savoury. They have a characteristic flavour and scent, and the green colouring is used to make some violently artificial-looking desserts among other things.

When we first arrived in Singapore, someone enlightened me about the oddly pungent smell in some of the grubbier taxis: drivers pile bundles of pandan leaves on the back window ledge to deter 'roaches. Cheaper than a regular valet and some baygon traps I guess. So unfortunately I always associate the smell of pandan with the sinking feeling that I'm in an infested taxi - but I was determined to plough on regardless.

bundles of pandan leaves right at the back

Next were the coconut guys. They are always so cheerful and it's such a novelty to me to be able to buy freshly grated coconut for mere pennies - I'll take any excuse to go to their stall.

So, on to the recipe. I trawled the internet for hints and tips, and decided to loosely base my kaya on Cheryl's story about making it with her grandmother (with some added details gleaned from the web to be borne in mind).

I mixed 100g of golden caster sugar into five eggs, a cup of coconut cream (squeezed and strangled from the half kilo of freshly grated coconut - amazingly therapeutic) and 10 pandan leaves tied in a bundle. Onto the wok steamer went the bowl and... hmmm... that would appear to be it.

There followed a series of disappointments.

Firstly, nothing happened for a long time. I'd read that the tricky bit is preventing the sugar from catching and burning, but there was no chance of that happening here. While Cheryl's kaya took just 45 minutes, I was eventually ready to throw in the towel and put the whole episode down to experience after and hour and a half. It hadn't gone pandan green or sugar brown (those are the two shades of kaya that I've seen in jars), it just looked like congealed egg with some leaves floating on the top.

However, having read online that it might look like wet scrambled eggs (and that many people assume failure and throw it out at this point) I was prepared for this unappetising stage. As instructed I spooned off excess water and blitzed the cooled mixture with a wand-blender before bottling and refridgerating.

The other slightly deflating aspect was that I felt I'd broken kaya's spell. This legendary local delicacy seems to be, basically, steamed egg custard. The milk may be from a coconut, and the pandan adds a subtle flavour, but at the end of the day it's still just steamed egg custard. Mass-produced kaya has a slightly granular texture which reminds me of undercooked Scottish Tablet mixture, so I was anticipating bubbling vats of mysterious potion similar to that. Not so with homemade kaya - just soft, sweet, steamed egg custard. I felt like I'd found hidden Christmas gifts; they were okay and I still wanted to have them on the big day, but part of me wished that they were still a mystery.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and all that, so how would our Saturday morning gourmet kaya toast breakfast compare with the "real" thing: a lightly boiled egg or two (the whites barely set) doused with soy sauce, a white toast sandwich of butter and kaya, and some kopi or teh (super strong with condensed milk).

a commercial kaya toast set

homemade, with our beloved old-school hawker-style coffee set and melamine plates!

Well, the Guatemalan beans roasted by Papa Palheta were as delicious as coffee beans can be (we omitted the condensed milk, preferring our coffee black). The stars of the show were definitely the eggs with artisan local soy sauce from Kwong Woh Hing - these were a true revelation. And who can argue with thick white bread and real butter now and again? My kaya was smooth, soft and pale, and definitely tasted like it ought to, but I confess to missing the graininess of the mass-produced stuff.

I concede that I may still have some way to go in perfecting the art of kaya - perhaps I made it too creamy, and maybe some caramelised sugar would improve the colour. But, on the other hand, I'm the shizzle at steamed egg custard these days.

Now, onto more important matters. Ridding my apartment of eau de minicab. Otherwise I might get a reputation as that eccentric British woman with the foosty-smelling flat.


Linking in with Sweet Saturday at the Gingerbreadblog.com

21 September 2011

keeping it simple: kaya, garter stitch
(and a bit of mandarin)

So, as I think I've mentioned about a bazillion times to anyone who'll listen, Singapore is heaven if you're hungry. REALLY hungry.

It's been a major crossroads for so many cultures for such a long time that the diversity and quality of the food has to be seen to be believed. Not that the British colonial era seems to have left much of a lasting culinary impression mind you, with the possible exception of a fondness for high tea.

When we have foreign visitors we're always troubled by the following quandary: what is the shortest socially acceptable gap between meals, 'cos we've got a LOT of good eating to show you. Our best guests (and yup, since you ask, we pretty much do have a league table based on gluttony and gastric stamina) have prodigious appetites and don't mind putting on a couple of kilos... in one weekend.

I just started a great book by a lady who would, I think, understand our predicament (A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan). She left Singapore for the USA as a young journalist who couldn't cook. But when her grandmother passed away she realised that unless she picked up some skills from her aunties, she might never learn to cook the Singaporean food she loved. This book describes how she set about it.

Trouble is that Singaporean dishes are sophisticated, often using elaborate techniques and mysterious ingredients, so cooking anything local is (for me) quite a daunting prospect. But Cheryl explains her culinary successes and failures with great deal of humour, and suddenly I'm feeling a surge of misplaced confidence.

Kaya was one of her first challenges. A kind of coconutty, eggy curd, kaya is the cornerstone of a traditional local breakfast: a lightly boiled egg or two (the whites barely set) which you can douse with soy sauce, a white toast sandwich of butter and kaya, and some kopi or teh (super strong and liberally sweetened with condensed milk). The way Cheryl tells the story of her grandmother's kaya lesson makes it irresistable to me because she makes this infamous local delicacy sound so simple (famous last words). I can't wait to give it a try (watch this space...) and I'm certain there are going to be many more recipes through the book that I'll be itching to master before we leave Singapore.

a whole tray of deliciousness with virtually no positive nutritional value. yes that is butter, a whole slab of it

Oh, and another great thing? Cheryl has a delicious blog, so you can follow her here.

Another woman who has stunned me with simplicity this week is the pattern designer Veera Valimaki. I've made two of her Different Lines scarves over the past couple of months and I'm completely in love with the pattern, it's amazing. But now I've just started the Stripe Study Shawl and it's mind-boggling. I've been in awe with every row - how did she dream up such a simple pattern that, when completed, looks so striking (take a look at some of the finished pieces on Ravelry).

Both of the designs are simply garter stitch with a few M1s and W&Ts thrown in. Stripe Study is triangular with a chevron pattern, while Different Lines has straight fanned stripes and is sail-shaped.

Different Lines in Viola merino (colours Raven and Radioactive with one fuschia stripe)

So even if the only thing you'd ever knitted was a sweaty polyacrylic Mothers' Day pot holder in Primary school, then you could make these shawls (using YouTube for those few abbreviations). They would be the most amazing patterns for beginners, because the sense of achievement would be off the scale. And guess what, the amazing Miss Veera has a super gorgeous blog as well! So you can follow her here.

Start of a Stripe Study Shawl in Rohrspatz&Wollmeise merino superwash

So I concluded over the weekend that the most inspiring kind of cleverness comes from people who know how to break things down to their component parts. People who keep it simple. People like Cheryl and Veera.

And then, out of the blue, The Boss burst into song; Five green bottles, lustily and in Mandarin (while our taxi driver chuckled at the crazy ang moh kid in the back seat). After I'd picked my jaw up off the floor I had to reconsider. Complex cleverness can be breathtaking too... and more than a little humbling.

Linking in with the lovelies at Yarn Along.

20 September 2011

off the beaten track and
into the belly of the dragon

A trip to the dragon kiln (apparently one of only two left in Singapore) this weekend made me wish that I had a clue about photography. If I knew anything about composition the possibilities would, I'm sure, have been endless. In fact, it's really prompted me to try and do something about that and get some formal tuition.

None the less, here are some of the pictures for Sweet Shot Tuesday. Everything on or around the kiln was, of course, brown. Wood, clay, bricks, pottery - so I like that all the photos have a very autumnal feel about them. You can read the clay artists' blog here.

every shade of brown next to the kiln

the surrounding hills seem to be made of rejected pots. they look like giant shells

pots pots pots, as far as the eye could see

very much in the jungle - with the mosquito bites to prove it

old chinese shutters. kinda hoping my husband will go back and get them... and a woodworm guy

classic local coffee cups, at this price I'll have 200 in case I ever open a cafe...

beautiful Peranakan ware

not for sale. probably just as well, a jungle-dwelling antique Singer probably doesn't make life easier

Sweet Shot Day

14 September 2011

absence makes the heart grow fonder
me crazy in the coconut

The received wisdom is to keep busy. Occupy your brain fully enough and you'll start to forget about it. I'm not talking about anything physical, just the grinding, boring deadweight of homesickness. It's something that I've mentioned flippantly in the past but have now come to realise is, truly, a sickness. When I woke up this morning I swear I could have even told you what it tasted like. Here I am, living a charmed life in one of THE great cities in the world - certainly not something that has ever been said about my hometown (!) - but I can't shake the gut feeling that I just shouldn't be 7000 miles away from the simple and mildly humdrum existence where I belong.

I've tried everything over the past six weeks. I've cut out booze, coffee and snacking. I'm taking vitamins, staying hydrated and going to the hairdresser more often. I've swum, run and thrashed tennis balls about. I've gone to museums, festivals and parks. I've read, knitted and crafted. I've written letters, posted photos and skyped. I've cleared my mountain of paperwork and addressed my feckless sleeping habits. I've roasted dinners, baked cakes and built fortresses from sofa cushions. I even resorted to severe retail therapy. I haven't stopped keeping busy.

The end result? 4lb lighter with neat hair and an even neater new swimsuit. Nice, but not things that I really value... those things don't really matter so much where I belong.

Why it's kicked in with such vengence after 18 months I have no idea, but it'll improve, I do know that. And I know how lucky I am to live for a time in this magical place while so many other people have REAL problems (though feeling under pressure to be grateful does, I think, make it worse).

It's pouring with rain today, so I'm planning to opt out of this afternoon altogether; Mummy's on strike. I have an old Disney film for The Boss to watch (more than once if that's what it takes), some wool to wind and a new book that everyone's recommending over and above the movie.

Because maybe the only thing I haven't tried is doing nothing.

Linking in with Yarn Along, not least because it's the friendliest and most supportive linky-thing out there ;0)

12 September 2011

cake: the origin of the species

[ev-uh-loo-shuhn] noun. change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation

I have this cake recipe, no in fact, I'd go so far as to say I have the cake recipe. I expect most home cooks have one. It symbolises the purest essence of the art form. It needs no introduction. It's not Orange Cassava Cake, or Simnel Cake, or Lemon Drizzle Cake, or Date and Walnut Cake...

It's just cake.

It was provided by my Granny as the first recipe for my first cook book. It was the recipe my Mum used to teach me the basic principles of baking. It was the cake delivered by emotional parents for my eighth birthday, a month after I started boarding school. It was every birthday cake we ever had before or since. It was the cake that turned my older brother on to baking. It was the recipe that he was looking for on the shelf when he yelled at me for daring to taking my cook book away to university with me. I suspect it's the cake he uses to teach his new wife how to bake.

It's the cake that always welcomes us home from wherever we have been. It's the cake I've made over and over with my wee brother whenever we've run out of other ideas. It's the cake I make for my husband when he just needs cake. It's the cake I've learnt to expect when any of my close family says "I made a cake!". It's the cake I teach my daughter how to bake.

I must have made it a hundred times or more. Every motion is precious and memorable for me. But it does evolve through the generations. Slowly and in the most minute ways; but that's evolution for you. For example, where the recipe instructs 6 tbsp of boiling water, I've always opted not to stop the trickle of water from the kettle between spoonfuls - the inaccurate addition of "a bit extra" water making the cake moister.

While baking this cake together today, The Boss added another intangible detail to the recipe. When I was showing her how to test whether the cake was ready with a skewer, she said "it's like the cake is sick and you're taking it's temperature to see if it's better". I'll never be able to bake this cake again without thinking of that metaphor, and I suspect (and hope) that the image will stay with her forever.

When I was growing up, I had a penchant for coffee-flavoured buttercream icing, and it had to be smoothed on with a spatula and then run over with the tines of a fork in wavy lines. But my daughter prefers to go with Granny's original chocolate icing. With one small modification: in her eyes, real cakes MUST have sprinkles.

It's evolved.

If you don't have a good basic cake recipe, one that defines the very essence of the word cake, please be my guest. It's not big and it's not clever, it's just cake.

no apologies for the imperial measures - that's part of the charm for me. If it matters, please feel free to do the conversion yourself
  • 2oz cocoa
  • 6tbsp boiling water
  • 6oz butter
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 6oz self-raising flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  1. line a 7" round cake tin with parchment
  2. preheat your oven to 325F
  3. mix the cocoa and the water together into a paste in a small bowl
  4. cream the butter and the sugar in a mixing bowl
  5. sift in the flour and baking powder
  6. add the eggs and the cocoa
  7. blend
  8. bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean
icing - beat the following together until blended
  • 1oz melted plain chocolate
  • 6oz icing sugar
  • 2oz butter
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 1tbsp cocoa 


10 September 2011

the wee lebowski

The only personal outdoor space in our rented apartment is a patio measuring about 15m by 2m. So narrow that we can hardly fit a table and chair on it, and we certainly can't hoola hoop. Lined on one side with glass windows and on the other with glass balcony panels, we're hesitant even to play bat-and-ball games. About a year ago, a dear friend pointed out that our patio's not much use for, well... anything. Except perhaps a bowling alley.

I must've mumbled something about going to a toy shop to buy some skittles and, being the good thrifty Doric quine that she is, my friend choked on her coffee and told me to wise up and use plastic bottles full of water. She's clever and imaginative and... in Scotland. My friends: I miss them.

Anyway, I'd quite forgotten all about her suggestion until I saw this post by minieco about making ink from old felt tip pens. Coincidentally The Boss had, just the same week, sheepishly coveted some grossly cheap-and-nasty plastic skittles in the supermarket. So I figured that with a bit of judicious bottled drink slurping, we could make coloured bowling pins for (almost) nothing.

Now, minieco's tutorials are always a gauzy haze of rainbow-coloured perfection (just look at those pictures; amazing) and my life is very far removed from that. But here is my haphazard version. The low effort:high fun ratio with this project makes it well worth a try (particularly if you have a hopeless, bowling-alley-shaped patio).

cut off labels and fill with water

dig out any and all scratchy or dried up felt-tip pens and drop in (de-lidded)

the motley crew

the following morning (remove pens with chopsticks!)

tape up the lids with electrical tape

find a ball

09 September 2011

(lack of) mooncake curry

It's Chinese Mid-autumn festival. In Singapore it's sometimes called Mooncake festival, or Lantern festival. It's the time of year when children play with paper lanterns and birthday candles (and yet somehow I'm always the cause of any flare up). Someone told me last year that it's a celebration of the roundest full moon of the year. I can't remember who they were or if they were to be trusted. But I'll take that as the inspiration behind the spherical lanterns, round mooncakes and abundance of pomelos.

We went to Chinese Garden to see their lantern display - I think it's one of the biggest on the island. It was classic unashamed Singaporean kitsch. If you've seen this post, you might notice a theme developing - I'm drawn to the kitsch. I wouldn't say I particularly like it, but I can't take my eyes off it. I can't resist the colours. I think it might be the complete antithesis of the essence of me.

The Boss loved the whole evening. It's pretty magical when it starts to get dark. She was, however, disappointed by the absence of mooncakes - this was a strictly lantern-only affair. I reckon the absence of mooncakes was the best bit. Have you ever tried one? Like a REAL one, with the duck egg yolk in the middle that tastes like it was laid sometime around the beginning of last year? Excuse me while I turn away and take a few deep breaths... There's a Glaswegian expression that sums it up perfectly; they gi'e me the pure boak.

There was a really lame Chinese food court set up, with terrible food. I can't stress enough how unusual that is here in Singapore. Delicious, cheap hawker food, within ten paces from wherever you happen to be standing, is a basic human right here. So once we'd got home and plugged a small person's mouth with a large banana, I decided to whip something up out of the fridge/cupboard. It was a risk, but I think I created something worth repeating. It was good at 10pm last night, though to be honest we were too hungry to even taste it. But for a leisurely, solitary, leftovers lunch today, it was droolsomely delicious. Recipe after the photos (all straight out of the camera).

(lack of) mooncake curry

Makes about 4 portions
You can add more or less spice. These quantities made a mild to medium spicy sauce.
  • 2 onions, sliced into half moons
  • salt
  • a thumb of ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 4 tsp medium curry powder
  • 3 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 potatoes, cut into similiar chunks
  • half a head of broccoli
  • tin of tomatoes
  • 500ml stock
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 tsp garam masala powder
  • small carton of coconut milk
  • coriander leaves
  • slivered almonds
  1. fry the onions & ginger in vegetable oil in a big wok 
  2. a good pinch on salt helps to stop the onions catching
  3. add the garlic once the onions are quite soft
  4. stir in the coriander powder, cumin powder and curry powder, and fry for a few minutes
  5. add your chopped vegetables, tin of tomatoes and stock (I use a cube)
  6. leave to simmer slowly for as long as it takes the carrots and tatties to be cooked (for those who need accuracy, that's precisely one preschooler bedtime. Oh, OK, about 45 minutes... ish)
  7. put some basmati rice on (if you cook it the right way my way, it'll take exactly 15 minutes)
  8. add the peas and garam masala and cook for another 5 minutes or so to cook the peas through. I read somewhere once that garam masala, being a mixture of ground toasted spices, has already been cooked so you can happily stir it through at the end without worrying about harsh flavours. every day's a school day eh?
  9. turn the heat down and stir in the coconut milk and coriander leaves
  10. let it warm through and serve on rice with almonds sprinkled on the top - or better, leave in the fridge overnight and eat the next day with warm naan...

Sorry, it has all been eaten - no pictures. But as you can imagine, it looks a lot like a plate of curry. And the best bit? NO MOONCAKE.

Sweet Shot Day

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