A Tale of Two Dinners

Thursday, August 31, 2006

On one side, we have Chinese Rojak followed by:
A tall, cool, glass of cendol. Yep, complete with green wormy thingies.

On the other side, we have Roast Leg of Ham with Young Potatoes.

No prizes for guessing who's having what for dinner.

As you can see, I run two kitchens at home - Asian and European. It's not uncommon for me to have 2 types of cuisine on the table. I do like western cuisine, Italian and French in particular, but not on a daily basis. It's just too heavy on my digestive system. Of course it's extra work but I don't mind. I suppose it's one of the perks of being a stay at home mum - I have time to pull stunts like that. Also, having to chase after only one child and not a football team helps too.

Tonight's dinner was really easy. The rojak sauce was made yesterday. When stored in the fridge, it's good for at least a week. It was just a matter of adding the sauce to the prepared vegetables, fruit, grilled tau pok and you tiao. As you tiao is not available here, I make my own and freeze them. I normally make a big batch because it's messy work.

Likewise the cendol. The gula melaka syrup was made over the weekend and stored in the fridge too. Actually it's a bad choice of beverage right now, what with the constant rain and dip in temperatures. However, my 'food-sickness' (as in home-sickness) superceded my common sense. I was shivering under the couch fleece throw while sipping the cendol but it was worth it. Anything to placate my craving. You can take a girl out of Singapore but you can't take Singapore out of the girl. Food wise, anyways. I must have my hawker food!

It didn't take rocket science to prepare the dinner of my 2 men either. I just stuck a pre-marinated leg of ham and herbed potatoes in a casserole dish, popped the whole thing in the oven and forgot about it. Well, not literally of course, but you get the idea.

Why the apparent lack of effort this evening, you might ask? Well, it's like this: I've been working on my latest cross-stitch project all afternoon and hit a most interesting part of the pattern. More time cooking = Less time cross-stitching. So.

You do the math. *evil grin*

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:39 pm

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I Beg Your Pardon?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Yesterday, while I was putting the finishing touches on dinner for my son, he bursts in demanding food.

Son: I want dinner now! FAST!!!
Me (giving him THE LOOK): Excuse me? What did you say?
Son (covering mouth with both hands): Oooops! Slow? Slowly?
And I give him a mini lecture on manners and tone of voice.

Once in a while, my son imagines himself to be the Emperor of China. I, of course, never fail to remind him that I'm the Empress Dowager.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 1:00 pm

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The bananas in the fruit bowl were over ripe and threatening to decompose. That's what you get for buying more than you can consume. *frown*

Always trying to make the best out of a bad situation, I decided to use the bananas for muffins instead of hurling the entire bunch into the trash bin.

A quick check in the fridge and cellar indicated I had all the ingredients, so away I went.

This is my #1 recipe for banana muffins at the moment. It's fluffy, tastes and smells delicious and terribly addictive. Best of all, it's dead easy to make. Here's a step-by-step photo tutorial:

Banana Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 cups ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup/4oz butter or margarine
2 eggs
6 tbsp fresh milk
2.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

How it's done:

1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add in eggs, mix until smooth and fully incorporated.

3. Stir in milk and mashed bananas. Mix well.

4. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon and salt.

5. Fold in until well combined.

6. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into muffin tray lined with paper cups. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170C for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Soft, moist and fluffy. Lekker!

Note: These muffins keep well for up to a week in the refrigerator. All you need to do is zap them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds to get the straight out of the oven taste.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 5:14 pm

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Sup Kambing ( Mutton Soup)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sup Kambing, literally translated, is Soup Mutton in Malay. It is one of my all time favourite soups. I've had this recipe which I've been sitting on forever, not because I didn't have the gumption to go through the whole long-winded process of cooking, but because I couldn't find the key ingredient ie, mutton ribs for the soup stock.

Before you roll your eyes, you must understand that the average Dutch person is not so keen on lamb in general. Not only is it scarce in supermarkets, it's also expensive. So you can imagine my childish joy when a halal butchery opened up for business last month. As the name implies, all the meats sold are halal and as mutton is one of the staple meats in muslim diet, I couldn't enter the shop fast enough. Since it's opening, I've been a bit of a regular, having bought mutton for satay and the likes.

So, this morning, after exchanging niceties ( the butcher is Turkish, I think), I ask for 1.5kg of mutton ribs. He looks abit quizzical but is too polite to question. As it is, I'm a bit of an oddity around the neighbourhood, let alone in a muslim butchery. But I don't care, I haven't had Sup Kambing in years and I'm determined by hook or by crook to down some for dinner tonight.

The original recipe calls for sheep trotters too, which the butcher had. However, being health conscious, I decide to substitute with lean mutton instead of the artery clogging trotters. The other reason was because I couldn't bring myself to ask for them - the butcher might think I want them for some voodoo ritual.

If it wasn't for my pregnancy-like craving, I wouldn't have bothered with this. It's just too much work - what with all the chopping and pounding. In the end, I cheated and used a blender instead. Hey, you would too if you had 14-16oz worth of shallots, garlic, ginger and nutmeg to pound!

Anyway, 5 hours, 2 huge bowls and 1 crusty roll later, here I am, typing this, completely satisfied. It was so, so GOOD and it gave me a warm sensation all over, akin to putting on your favourite sweater on a wintery morning.

Oh, and Dad, if you're reading this, do you remember the times when you took the family to Farrer Park for Sup Kambing? *smile*

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:23 pm

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What Kind of Cook Are You?

Friday, August 18, 2006

You Are an Excellent Cook

You're a top cook, but you weren't born that way. It's taken a lot of practice, a lot of experimenting, and a lot of learning.

It's likely that you have what it takes to be a top chef, should you have the desire...

Hmm, I don't know if I'm an excellent cook or not - I'm just happy I haven't poisoned my family or guests in the last couple of years. However, the 'you weren't born that way' reference is spot-on. I'd never cooked a meal in my life prior to meeting my husband. He had to show me the basics as the kitchen was alien and unchartered territory for me. I still remember the first meal I cooked - the kitchen looked like the oven and stove exploded all at once. I was stressed and upset and sweared, no more, never again. We'll just do take-outs or even better, dine out.

Nowadays, the kitchen is my domain and no one's allowed in it. Not even the dear husband of mine who showed me how to fry an omelette back in the early days.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:52 am

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Tea, Anyone?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I was going through my photo files and found these:

This is the teapot cake I made as a present for my parents-in-law's 72nd birthday in July this year. I made a butter cake because it would be sturdy enough to hold its spherical shape and frosting.

Speaking of frosting, it took me something like 4 hours to complete this. I was on my knees most of the time to make sure everything was even and to apply the decorations. The flowers were made of candy which I cut and shaped. The rest were peanut M&Ms and the knob for the tea pot lid is a sour ball.

I don't bake as often as I'd like to because my two men do not like cakes or cookies. So any chance I get.... I pounce. *Heh*

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:22 am

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On The Menu This Evening

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Parma ham with melon served on a bed of rucola melange


Main Course
Tagliatelle nero with lobster and shrimp in a creamy parmigiano sauce


During our year's stay in Cologne, there was this cafe/bistro that we frequented. The place, while modern looking, was rather modest. The food, however, was anything but. One of our favourite choices would be nero spaghetti. This was an as-and-when item on the menu. That's because it all depended on whether the chef could get his hands on squid ink or not as he makes his own black pasta. As I recall, one silly thing my husband and I would do was to smile at each other after taking a couple of bites. Just to laugh at the other's inky, black teeth. Yes, fresh nero pasta does that to you.

Tonight's version is of the dried variety. Somehow, the taste is not quite the same. On the bright side, it doesn't stain our teeth either. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:29 pm

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School's In

Monday, August 14, 2006

Today is the son's first day back at school.

Ahhhh..... bliss!

After 6 weeks of summer holidays, the both of us were quite glad for him to be back in school.

He's been so terribly excited for the last 2 weeks because today is when he starts Group 3. It's the equivalent of Primary One in primary school or First Grade in elementary school. In his own words,".... I have to work, Mummy, no more playing. They don't have toys in Group 3."

With that, we set off for our 15 minute walk to school. The weather couldn't be better. The air was a bit nippy (15 degrees C) but the sun was out so that wasn't too bad. The birds were chirping and everything smelled clean and fresh. What a good way to start the school year.

At school, after the kids settled in their new classrooms, the parents were allowed to mosey in and check things out. Even with the teacher's invitations, the parents were just milling about outside the door, not wanting to make the first move. I, having no patience for such nonsense, just went in.

The son's face lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw me. He was seated at the front, with his newly allocated stationery which he pointed out to me and I duly oohed and ahhed. We exchanged kisses and hugs and I wished him "Good luck, have fun!" Before leaving, I also gave him a high five and a thumbs up. We must've looked a bit weird but who cares?

I'm one proud and happy mama today.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:56 am

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Quip of the Day

Yesterday, while I was getting ingredients out of the refrigerator for a quick lunch, my knuckles and the door of the refrigerator made contact. The wrong sort of contact which resulted in an excruciating TWACK! (my knuckles) and a howl (me).

My 6 year old mechanic, who was busy with his cars and trains in the living room, calls out: " Mummy, are your fingers still there?"


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:44 am

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Madras Curry and Roti Prata

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's been raining all week and temperatures have dipped to 19-20C. What a perfect excuse to tuck into a steaming hot bowl of spicy curry.

Of all the types of curry, I love Madras curry with mutton best. Letting it simmer in the pot for a couple of hours, the flavours of spices, meat, potatoes and onions really come together into one heavenly blend. I also add a dollop of tomato puree for good measure.

Last night, we had Roti Prata to accompany the curry. With some imagination, it was like being in Tekka Market again with my parents and sister after church on Sundays. We used to troop down there for lunch so that mum and dad could pick up some fruit and groceries before heading home.

I used to make Prata from scratch because it wasn't available here. It was alot of work but don't mess with a woman with childhood food cravings. Anyway, some time last year, the asian store in the town centre started importing the frozen variety. From Singapore too, no less! I swooped down on it and filled my basket with 5 packets. Just so you know how crazed I was, each packet contains 5 pratas. I had prata the whole week! Bliss!

Another favourite way of eating prata is with vanilla ice-cream, caramalised bananas and chocolate sauce. Let's see if I can rustle it up again soon. I don't often make it because that dessert is just plain evil.

If you have time, here is a good site for the history, background and ingredients of curry. Its very extensive information makes me think this is how Gil Grissom (of CSI:Las Vegas) would give a forensic analysis of curry if he had to.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:25 am

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Butter Me Up

Friday, August 11, 2006

I made the husband's favourite butter cake today for the weekend. As a rule, he doesn't like desserts or cakes but he's quite partial to this and marble cake.

Did I also mention he has to take me for a spot of shopping in Maastricht tommorrow? With this offering, I'm hoping to i) ease the pain and ii) butter him up abit.

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Last Minute

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It was just one of those days when I had no idea what I was going to do for dinner.

I was on the phone with a friend at 4.30pm and she asked me what's for dinner that evening. I blissfully replied I didn't know, I haven't decided yet. Taking the stance of crossing-the-bridge-when-we-get-to-it and all that.

At 6.30pm, I still had no inkling but this time, I was at the aforesaid bridge - I had to cough something up.

I poked around the fridge to see what was available. This is what I came up with:

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Seafood spaghetti

Served with crostinis, danger averted.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 1:18 pm

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Flambe yes; Flaming no

Friday, August 04, 2006

You can now leave your comments under each entry. I was in two minds about it because I do not appreciate being flamed. Anyhow, I've added the feature and we'll see how it goes.

However, I do enjoy a good flambe or two. While in the Gran Canaria earlier this year, we had dinner at a restaurant which specializes in flambe. Due to some miscommunication (my Spanish is really limited), my order of scallop became escalope. Now, as you know, these two are worlds apart. Scallops are happy in the sea , minding their own business until they get scooped up, while escalope, in my case, of veal, prance around on dry land.

Imagine my dismay when the waitress serves me my order. Pointing to my plate, I ask her," Er, scallops?" And she proudly goes," Si, escalope."

Anyway, I didn't want to make a fuss so I got down to it. And I'm glad I did because that was one of the most awesome, no, make that the most awesome veal I ever had. It was so tender and succulent and was drowned in this fantastic sauce which had raisins in it. At first bite, I could tell the chef wasn't at all shy with the liquer during the flambe. 10 brownie points.

I followed the main course with flambe cherries which came with crepes and ice cream. Again, not shy with the liquer. Another 20 brownie points. Burp!

I haven't actually tried to flambe at home for fear of setting the kitchen on fire but it sure is one of my to-do list. First, I need to look for a really good recipe. That and making sure that the batteries in my fire alarm works.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:10 pm

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Quiche Me, Kate!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quiche is considered fast food at home. Our home, that is. It's right up there with salads and sandwiches. Of course, making a quiche is anything but fast, but if you can get your hands on ready-made shortcrust pastry, it does help cut down the time involved. However, the Dutchess likes to make things from scratch (out of vanity, I suppose) so shortcrust pastry is not spared either.

Another reason why we love quiche at home is that I can make it earlier on in the day and reheat it when the husband comes home late from work at night. The perennial favourite is Quiche Lorraine. I make it at least once a month and am almost on auto-pilot while doing so.

Here is my recipe and step-by-step instructions. I don't normally do photo tutorials (it's hard to hold a camera and cook at the same time - I'm not that dextrous) but a girlfriend of mine wanted me to unravel the mystery of quiche making. So what better way than through photos?

Shortcrust pastry

250g flour
125g butter
1 pinch of salt
1 egg yolk

250g bacon, cut into small strips
200g gruyere or swiss cheese, coarsely grated
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
250ml whipping cream
250ml milk
1/8tsp nutmeg

Here's how to:

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1. Make a well in flour. Place cubed butter, egg yolk and pinch of salt in it.

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2. Using fingertips, slowly combine ingredients, adding a bit of water as you go along.

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3. Knead until dough is smooth. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

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4. Lightly dust surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll out dough.

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5. Gently place rolled out dough into a pie dish. Line with fingers. Run rolling pin over the edges of dish to trim off excess dough.

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6. Cover pie dish with aluminium foil. Weigh pastry down with a plate so that it doesn't rise during baking. You may also use beans for this purpose. Bake in preheated oven at 180C for 40 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

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7. Saute bacon. Drain fat. Set aside.

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8. In a mixing bowl, add in eggs, egg yolks, whipping cream, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

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9. Mix well. Set aside.

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10. Spread sauteed bacon in baked pastry shell. Spread grated gruyere. Pour in quiche mixture, filling it to the rim.

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11. Bake in oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm.

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12. Lekker!

Note: I find the recipe good as it is. If, like the husband, you prefer your quiche firmer, you can reduce the milk to 150ml and add in an extra egg yolk. I skip the salt because the bacon is flavourful enough and also, I do not need the extra water retention around my hips.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 12:34 pm

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The All Important Introduction

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

In an age where anorexia and bulimia is the new black and slimming centres are packing 'em in, I thought it might be refreshing to celebrate food - the history, the cooking and of course, the consumption of it.

Some of us live to eat while others eat to live. I belong to the latter but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate food. I love every aspect of it. So does my husband. We eat for the sheer pleasure of it and are always on the look-out for new places and interesting cuisines to try.

At home I enjoy trying out different recipes. Most times, I'd experiment and invent something off the top of my head, hoping that it's palatable and I haven't inevitably poisoned my family.

I also love dressing up my food. Whenever we go to the finer establishments, I would make mental notes of the food presentation and replicate them at home. To me, a plate is a blank canvas and food is a medium to create a bit of art. Just to make things a bit more interesting. It's amazing what one can do with bits of leftover vegetables, fruit and herbs.

I started this blog for myself, my family and friends. While I might post recipes from time to time, the bulk of this blog is to entertain and look at food from a different point of view eg, the history, the different preparation, both the husband's and my gastronomic adventures and what not.

One note about posting recipes: I will only post recipes that are mine (ie, self-inventions ), have appeared on search engines or I've obtained permission to post them. If I don't post them, they probably originated from family and friends. Or I got it out of a book. If you would like those recipes, please email me.

Now, with that out of the way, let's get a move on, shall we?


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 3:28 pm

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