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All Stirred Up


Friday, September 29, 2006



I wasn't feeling up to scratch this morning. Breakfast consisted of a banana and 2 panadols to help ease off the sensation of elephants wearing lead boots doing a lively polka in my head.

So my husband kindly offered to order in from the local snack point tonight. Bless him. My son was only too happy at the prospect of frikendel and frites.

Well, off or not, there was no way I was eating deep fried sausages and fries. So I poked around the refrigerator and did a quick stir fry of vegetables, tofu, mushrooms and shrimps in soya and teriyaki sauce. Added a generous splash of mirin wine and voila, done.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:28 pm

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Big Cook, Little Cook


Thursday, September 28, 2006



My son absolutely loves this series. As with most children's programmes, it starts to grate on the adult nerves after awhile. The snappy theme song, the impossibly perky characters (many a time I've wanted to whack Little Cook Small and Big Cook Ben with a spatula) and corny catch phrases which includes Big Cook's: "Now remember, the oven is hot, hot, hot!" bouncing up and down as he goes. How I long to kick him into the oven when he says it.

The saving grace of this show is that it got my son (then 4 years old) into cooking and baking. We've done a few simple things like cookies, tarts, ice popsicles, finger foods basically. Last Christmas, he even made his own pepernoten - traditional Dutch spiced cookies - and did a good job out of it too.

We get Big Cook, Little Cook daily (with repeats *horror*) on the CeeBeebies channel via cable. I put that on alot to keep up with the English at home. He also gets to visit the website where he can play games, listen to stories and print out activities we both work on. There's also a Big Cook Big Recipe book on the website and it contains all the recipes featured on each episode. Some of them are rather good and it's a great way to spend quality time with your child.

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Baklava


Wednesday, September 27, 2006



Earlier on, I was at the Turkish greengrocer to pick up some fruit and vegetables. I also bought 6 pieces of baklava from their delicatessen section. I love these sweetmeats. They are no more than 1.5" square in size and there's a reason why it's so. They are incredibly, stun-your-tooth-enamel sweet. Only for the bona fide sugar addict. However, it's not all sugar, there's also a hint of butter, nuts and spices. It's usually eaten with strong tea to off-set the sweetness. I just had a piece with a cup of freshly brewed China gunpowder tea.

I'm still buzzing from all that sugar.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:08 pm

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Kitchen's Closed




Except for making the odd sandwich or two, the Dutchess' kitchen is closed for the day. Everyone's getting leftover lasagna tonight.

Stitching, here I come!

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:32 am

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I Can Still Make Lasagna


Tuesday, September 26, 2006


It was with slight trepidation today when I went about making lasagna. I was afraid I was going to end up with some goobly glob again like the last time. But nope, everything turned out fine. I got my mojo back again! *Happy Dance*

All assembled up and ready for the oven.

40 minutes later, out pops a thick, rich lasagna with lots of gooey cheese.

Bon Appetitio!

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:14 pm

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Singapore In A Nutshell


Monday, September 25, 2006




I saw this a while ago but never got round to sharing it until today.

It's all about Singapore according to Hossan Leong in his inimitable style. He is just as funny on stage as he is off. There are loads of insider jokes or rather jibes that every Singaporean worth his/her weight in char kway teow will understand.

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Mussels in Chilli Tomato Sauce





As promised, this is Mussels in Chilli Tomato Sauce. As an added bonus, I've also included the recipe. This was given to me by my dear friend Karen Lum and she's graciously allowed me to reproduce it here. I believe she got it from a local magazine whilst on holiday in Perth.


Karen and I met around 3 years ago (I think) through an online parenting forum we're both members of. It was our mutual love for cross-stitching that started it all. She asked a stitching question, I replied. She asked me another, I replied, this time with a bit of chit chat and before we knew it, our keyboards were on fire. As time passed, we realised we love our food too and everything just took off from there. We email each other on an almost (week)daily basis. I've only met her once on a trip to Singapore but I feel I know so much about her an vice versa. She's become such a close friend and I'm blessed to have her as my confidante. I only hope she feels the same way, too.

Anyway, here is Karen's recipe:


Mussels In Chilli Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small red chilli peppers, deseeded, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 kg tomatoes, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced, rind finely grated
2 tsp castor sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1.5kg mussels, cleaned and washed
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped


How to:

  1. Heat oil in large, deep saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chilli. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes or until onion is soft. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add tomato, lemon juice and grated rind, sugar and wine to pan. Stir until well combined. Increase heat to high. Bring sauce to the boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes or until thick. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add mussels to sauce. Cover and cook, shaking pan occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes or until mussel shells open. Discard unopened shells. Ladle sauce and mussels into bowls. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with bread.

Note: I've made some adjustments to this recipe to suit my tastebuds. For instance, I add around 3 tbsp of tomato puree, a squeeze of lemon juice sans zest and omit the sugar. If you can't get mussels, white clams are a good substitute. This is also excellent with a side of spaghetti. Lekker eten!

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:48 pm

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Mussolini, Musselini


Saturday, September 23, 2006


Mussel season is here again. Yay!

And that was what we had for dinner this evening. This came after a ban from my husband some 2 weeks ago. Whilst in Paris during a business trip, he had mussels cooked in a thick creamy sauce swimming with chunks of bacon. "How could you eat that? It's so rich." I asked incredulously. My stomach would have rebelled and hurled everything out.

"I know," he says. "I don't want to see or hear about mussels for the next few weeks."

So today I tested the waters, asking if he was game for the shellfish tonight. He said it would nice.

This is the way I cook my mussels: Place washed mussels and chopped vegetables into a huge saucepan. Sprinkle some sea salt and white pepper. Fill up the pot with just enough water so that it's about the same level as the mussels and vegetables. Cover and cook on high heat, letting the steam work its magic. Once the shells have opened up, it's done. Serve hot with bread and sauces.

The reason I choose to use only salt and pepper and nothing else is to enable the taste of mussels and vegetables to come through. As a result, the soup is incredibly yummy in a 'clean' way. Because of this, it's imperative that only the freshest mussels are used.

There are no photos today because my battery died just as I was going to shoot one. Bah! However, I will promise you pics of another mussel dish I plan to make on Monday - Chilli Mussels, Australian style.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:55 pm

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Shut Down




This morning, I was in such a sour disposition. Milk could curdle and bean curd would ferment with just a glance from me.

I was already cranky on Friday. It wasn't any particular incident that set me off - more like a culmination of things. In a nutshell, I was burnt out, physically and mentally. I get like that every couple of months. This time, it didn't help that His Royal Highness (son, not the husband) has been getting too mouthy and sassy with me all week, earning him regular visits to the 'Naughty Corner' and even taking away his PSP game priviledges.

Anyway, after arriving home and unpacking the groceries, my husband gave me marching orders to take a nap. His exact words were:"Go straight up to bed now, young lady. You need it." I protested, citing things to be done. He would have none of it so into bed I went. And I was out in a flash.

Halfway though, I was roused by the sounds of laughter, shouts and a 6 year old peddling his go-kart in a most noisy manner. The two men were goofing about in the patio. The noise floated through the bedroom windows which over look the area, making it impossible for me to sleep.

So I did a terribly unladylike thing.

"OYYYYY!!!!"

Silence followed by stifled giggles and much shushing from the two partners in crime.

That was the last thing I heard before falling back into my beauty sleep and didn't wake up until some 3 hours later.

My husband was right, of course. The nap did wonders and the world looks wonderful again.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:04 pm

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Asparagus - The Dutchess' Way


Thursday, September 21, 2006



Although the asparagus season is long over, I managed to lay my hands on a pack yesterday. For a small price, of course.

The popular way of eating asparagus here is with fried bacon bits, chopped boiled eggs and a good dollop of butter sauce. Can you already feel your arteries clogging?

Here's my healthier and glammed up version: Asparagus layered with smoked salmon, hollandaise sauce and boiled eggs. Notice I said healthier, not healthy, on account of the hollandaise sauce. The salmon and sauce makes all the difference. Here, I've used gourmet salmon smoked in apple and beukenhout (sorry, I don't have the English translation for it.) Served with bread, it makes a light but satisfying one-disher.

Cooking asparagus, for me at least, is tricky business. If you over boil them, they become this limpid mess. Under done, you have to chew on them till kingdom come. Prepping them up for boiling takes some practice too. You just want to remove the right amount of skin so that it is soft and not too fibrous when cooked. All in all, a tasty vegetable if you have the patience.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:37 am

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Morning Entertainment


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Halfway through our 15 minute walk to school, my son stops dead in his tracks.

"Come on, let's go," I urged.

"But mummy!" he protested.

"What is it?" I asked, getting a tad impatient. I have this thing about being on time for school.

"But mummy!" he protested again. "The people in my shoes are SLEEPING!"

Deep breaths. Me, not him.

"Well, wake them up so we can move. We don't want to be late for school." I said at last.

Shaking his right foot very vigorously, he shouts," WAKE UP PEOPLE!" and repeats it with his other foot.

Life is never boring when your 6 year old has an over-active imagination.

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Char Siew Bug


Monday, September 18, 2006


Char Siew (Chinese roast pork) is a most versatile meat. One can make so many things with it : fried rice, fried noodle, wan ton noodles, pastries, buns or just to accompany plain white rice.

While available in chinese restaurants here, I don't buy char siew as it's so expensive and somehow, doesn't taste quite the same. Or am I just being biased?

This of course presented a problem since a good deal of my favourite dishes contain some level of char siew. And so, began the Make Your Own Char Siew journey.

After several attempts, I've got it down pat. The key ingredients are hoisin sauce, chinese wine, sesame oil, sugar, pepper to taste and red food colouring. As for the measurments, I can't tell you off-hand because I do this by 'guess-timation' and feel. What you need to do is, mix the above ingredients, marinate the pork loins (cut into strips) with it, leave in the refrigerator over night and grill in the oven, using the marinade as basting liquid. With regards to the colouring, some choose to omit it because of health reasons (artificial additives and what not) but I'm old school. I grew up with flaming red char siew so in went the red powder.

This was what I made last week, a whole kilo's worth of char siew:


I normally make a sizeable batch and freeze the lot for future use. This time, I used most of it at once because I wanted to make char siew buns (roast pork buns).


This batch yielded around 18-20 buns. I'm not sure because, ahem, I might have scoffed down one or two when they came out of the steamer. One has to do a taste test, don't you know. Again, I store it in the freezer until needed.

Anyways, I had leftover filling and didn't have the heart to throw it away. Well you wouldn't either if on top of grilling the meat, you also had to stir fry the filling. So while those babies were on the cooling rack, I poked around the cellar for ingredients to whip this up:


Char Siew Pastry.

And that, was how I spent my Friday afternoon. Not too bad considering I was feeling under the weather and my son had a classmate over for a 3.5hr play date.

Speaking of play date, this boy R, share the same quiet and relaxed temperament as my son. As a result, they play very well together. However, many times I had to look out the front and back yard to see what they were up to because they were that quiet. As every mother will tell you, quiet is not normal. They must be Up To Something. But no, these two boys were angels that afternoon. Well, except for the one incident when R scaled up to the top (yes, top) of the street light on the pavement along our front yard. Agile like a monkey doesn't even begin to describe it - he made it look like second nature. I almost had a minor heart attack while my son found a new hero.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:03 am

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Beef and Vegetable Soup


Tuesday, September 12, 2006



This is our family's all-time favourite soup.

It's a self-conconction of beef boullion, chunks of beef, meatballs, bay leaves, parsley, onions and assorted vegetables.

The secret is in the boullion or stock. I buy the concentrated liquid ones because the cubed variety are rubbish (for this recipe anyways). I let the soup simmer away for around 2 hours and add in the vegetables only in the last 10 minutes. This results in chunky melt-in-your-mouth beef while the vegetables remain crisp and retains their colour. If there's anything I hate, it's pallid, soggy vegetables. I find this very common in western soups or cooking. No wonder kids here hate their veggies! I would too, if I had to eat the lumpy mess.

The other secret is the bay leaf or laurier blad as it is called in Dutch. The leaves are used in the French herb mixture 'bouquet garni' and it is often used to flavour soups and stews.

My son's favourite combination is soup with cravattine (bowtie) pasta as pictured above. It makes a filling one dish meal. My husband likes his plain with a crusty kaiser roll. Me, I swing either way as long as I have loads of vegetables in my portion.

K, if you are reading this, I saved you a bowl, to calm the nasty hormones:

Hang in there, only 4 more months to go! *wink*

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:17 pm

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Old MacDonald Had a Farm...


Sunday, September 10, 2006


Today was so warm and sunny; lovely after a long spell of relentless, chilly rain; we just had to spend it outdoors. It would be such a shame not to. So we pulled out our bikes and went for a ride around the countryside. Our destination: lunch at a converted farmhouse serving local cuisine.

It was a 45 minute ride one way and I'll let the photos do the talking:

As you know, cycling is the national pastime in this country. There are bike paths on the main roads as well as scenic biking routes in/along the farm land or countryside making it a pleasant way to spend the day.

By the time we reached the farmhouse, we were more than ready to eat. I was so hungry, I wanted everything on the menu.

Top left: Mine - Baguette with baked ham, pineapple and melted cheese.

Top right: My son's - Pancake with ice cream and whipped cream.

Bottom left: My husband's - Bacon and egg omelette served with bread and apple syrup.

Lekker!

There are no photos of the cafe itself because it was packed and I didn't think the other patrons would appreciate their photos being taken, even by accident. As it was, I already felt like such a tourist snapping away at our food. "No one touches their plate until I've taken a photo!!!" I yelped the minute the waiter left our table. My husband, ever so sporting, turns his plate around for a better shot while my son goes,"Mummy, can I take one of you eating?"

I love my 2 men.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:06 pm

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Bouncing Back


Thursday, September 07, 2006


After the horrifying lasagna, I came back with this:



  • Grilled shrimp in parsley, garlic, ground pepper and sea salt
  • Tagliatele nero with parmigiano sauce
  • Dipping sauce of wasabi and mayonaise

I think I've redeemed myself.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:28 am

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Stupid Donut!


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


That's what my son says when things don't go his way. "Stupid Donut!" he would cuss. I let him because it's much better than the other grown-up options.

Anyway, it was my turn last night.

For years, I've been making lasagna following this very tried and true recipe. I've even put this out for parties where my guests want to know how I do it. So imagine my consternation when my lasagna emerged from the oven. Instead of a golden, gooey mozzerella cheese topping, I got a watery mess. For some inexplicable reason, liquid had risen to the surface covering the dish like some bloody soup. Bah!

STUPID DONUT!!!!!

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:03 am

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