Friday's Feast #117

Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm being a busy bee. Here's the weekly feast:

Create a new candle scent.

The scent of freshly bathed babies.

Name one way you show affection to others.

The Hubby: give him a poke in the arm, abdomen, thigh. Not the eye though, that's declaring war.
The Son: grab him and threaten to kiss him. He's at the age where "I don't like kisses! Bleah!"

What is your favorite writing instrument?

A proper old fashioned fountain pen. I developed a taste for them when my paternal grandfather presented me with one when I was around 5 or 6 years old. He always had to do the refills for me.

Main Course
If you were given $25 to spend anywhere online, from which site would you buy?

Probably a cross-stitching related site. I need yet another pattern, kit or piece of fabric like I do a whack on the head.

Are you dressing up for Halloween? If so, what are you going to be?

Nope. However, many moons ago, my husband and I turned up as Gomez & Morticia Addams for a Halloween party.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 3:35 pm

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Vitello Tonnato

Vitello Tonnato. Sounds rather fancy, doesn't it? It's an Italian starter which can also be served as a main course. In plain English, it's veal with tuna mayonaise sauce.

I made this mid week but didn't have time to write about it. I thought I'd squeeze some time in now to do it, seeing it's Friday and all. Come the weekend proper, I can kiss any chance of being near the computer within a 3ft radius goodbye. On weekends, the computer belongs to my husband and his beloved Guild Wars. The creators (bless their entrepreneurial, capitalistic hearts) have just unleashed another version of the game - Guild Wars Nightfall. My husband's just ordered his which will arrive shortly. We are both quivering, but for different reasons, though.

Anyway. Veal. Tuna Mayonaise. I keep doing this don't I? Digressing, I mean.

First up, I have to say that I hate veal and I dislike tuna even more. Unless it's raw tuna in the form of sashimi. In that case, bring 'em on. So why do I make this rather complicated dish? Well, it's among my husband's favourite and I'm more than happy to practice my mayonaise making skills.

This is best served chilled so I roast the veal in the oven, let cool and stick it into the fridge overnight letting it soak up the natural juices and olive oil released during roasting.

Just before serving, the tuna mayonaise is made. I mix eggs, olive oil, tuna, lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend for dear life until a rather rich mayonaise sauce is achieved. This is easier said than done. Making mayonaise is hard work, having to drizzle the oil slowly while whipping it up. Of course one can cheat with the blender but it doesn't come out the same way. Also, if you're a bit fanatical like me, it just Doesn't Feel Right.

Anyway, my husband enjoyed his Vitello Tonnato and that, in itself, was worth the aching arm.

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The Good Wife's Guide

And how was your day, my dear Dutchess?

Taken from Good Housekeeping, May 1955 issue. If you're a man reading this, you'd want to know who the author was. So you can clap him on the back and buy him a beer. If you're a modern woman, you'd want to know who the author was, too. Just so you can pulverize his back in 36 different places and buy yourself a cocktail after you're done. Of course I couldn't resist adding my 2 cents' worth:

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
Check. I don't always plan ahead though, I prefer to play it by ear. Sometimes I go to bed thinking how nice it would be to have such and such a dish and wake up doing a 360, saying, nah, let's do something else instead.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
That I most definitely do but minus the ribbon. *haha* I do make it a point to touch up my make-up (yes, I wear make-up at home), brush my hair and straighten out my clothes before my husband comes home. I figure it's nice for him to come home to a well-groomed person. After all, I always looked well-put together when we first met. Why should it be any different after getting married and having a child?

Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
In today's context, if I was gay, even if it was only a little, then yes, I would definitely be most interesting to him. For some reason, men enjoy watching women make out with each other. Even better when they can join in.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
Check. I do it because I personally feel there's nothing more annoying than coming home to the remains of a hurricane/tornado/6 year old's handiwork.

Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
Check. I make our son clean up his stuff before 7pm each night. As for the dustcloth, only when it's needed or it's cleaning day. There are limits.

Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
I am sure my husband, upon returning home to find our entire house set ablaze, will have a sense of peace and tranquility. Which is most certainly going to happen if I ever attempt to light the fireplace. That's always been his job, anyway. I'll just stick to lighting up the stove, tea lights or scented candles, thank you very much.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.
Little horror is more like it. The author is obviously single and childless who's never witnessed the Terrible Twos and Threes, sometimes even Fours.

Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
In our household, we have what is known as the Welcome Party. I'm always there to greet my husband when he comes through the front door. And for most times, our son too. It gets a little crazy with the hugs and kisses and our son wanting his share of attention. So it's anything but quiet. Besides, quiet is not good in our family. It means that I'm either sick or sulking.

Be happy to see him.
Do we even need to be told this? I think if you are with the right person, it just comes naturally.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
Check. He didn't marry a bottle of vinegar. I know of some women who's confessed both they and their spouses have reached a certain level of familiarity in their marriages where they take each other for granted. To the point where basic niceties are overlooked. That is so sad.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
Check. I do that, not because my topics are any less important but I believe in timing. I let him unload first and after he's relaxed and in a more receptive mood, I start my spiel. Like why I need yet another pair of shoes and oh, I saw the most fabulous dress earlier on and damn, I put on an extra kilo, no thanks to water retention because it's That Time Of The Month. You know, that sort of thing.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
Check. My husband works late every night, coming home only after 8pm. And that's if I'm lucky. He also has business dinners and travels all the time. It's been like that from day one so I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I decided I could live with it before signing on the dotted line so there's no reason to complain, is there?

Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order, and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
Amen! I agree. When my husband compliments me along these lines, I take it as a sign of my success as a wife.

Don't greet him with complaints or problems.
Check. Again, timing is everything. I do have complaints and problems. I also have impeccable timing to get what I want. In this case, a listening and sympathetic ear.

Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.
Check. I can't tell you hom many times my husband's called home at the last minute to tell me this. After I've spent ages in the kitchen cooking. Yep. Of course I'm disappointed but I don't get mad or scream. What's the point? He's still not coming home anyway, not even if I have a meltdown. In fact, we both end up arguing which is stupid. I believe in picking my battles and this is not one of them. Besides, the uneaten food in question always becomes the next day's meal. That means I won't have to cook, which in turn means extra stitching time for me. See, there's always a silver lining if we look for it.

Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
Does sending him down to the study to cave in the form of online gaming count? The flavour of the moment is Guild Wars. How about when I throw in a tall glass of beer as well?

Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
Uh-huh... and I'm Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
When I read this, I rolled my eyes so hard that they almost threatened to pop right out of my sockets. What the......?????!!!!!!

A good wife always knows her place.
I do know my place - I'm the Empress of these four walls and the land surrounding it. *snigger* Life is good.


I suppose this chauvinistic way of thinking was acceptable in the 1950s. Almost all married women stayed home to look after house and hearth and was financially dependent on their husbands. As in any society, money means power, hence the submissive role women played if they didn't have their own money. But times have changed. Wives are out there drawing the same, if not more income as their husbands. In some households, the women are the one paying most of the bills. As such, this so-called guide is offensive and demeans women in the domestic environment.

In our case, my husband brings home the bacon while I'm the one frying it. We've discussed all this before getting married and having a child. We decided that this was the best way for us. Besides, do you think it's easy frying bacon? One doesn't just slap it on the grill you know, if you get my drift.

Although I follow most of what the guide stipulates, it doesn't mean I'm subjugated. Not. At. All. My husband will attest that I'm nobody's doormat.*heh* Rather, I ask myself, if I were a man, what kind of wife and home do I want to return to and work towards that ideal. And no, I'm not the perfect wife, I have my moments. We all do.

Although I'm now financially dependent on him, my husband has never made me feel trapped or lacking in any way. He's never used money as a point of contention. He also knows I'm quite capable of earning my keep if I had to. I do what I do out of choice, love and respect for my husband. And I get love and respect in return. Isn't this what being married is all about?

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The Parents Committee has organized a Vossenjacht (fox hunt) for the kids at my son's school. In this instance, because it's Halloween, it's like Treasure Hunt meets Haunted House. If I'm not mistaken, the kids and parents stop by designated houses (or posts) where they need to look for a fox (in this case, a scary monster or ghoul) waiting for them about the permises. It starts at 7pm and lasts for about an hour. This year, our house has the honour of hosting a mummy and his coffin. Ooooeeer! I have to remember to set out a thermos flask of coffee for him - in this weather, even mummies need a hot beverage.

Hopefully the weather holds up as rain has been predicted all of this week. I've also informed my husband so that he doesn't get startled by a mummy in the driveway when he arrives home tonight.

Edited to add: This has been pushed to Friday because it was raining all evening. The coffin is in our garage now. I've turned it the other way so I don't creep myself out.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:44 am

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Are You Game?

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's game season at the moment. No, not the games people play - those happen year round. I'm referring to the likes of rabbit, deer, duck, partridge, pheasant, wild boar. Yum!

We've been living in Europe for nearly 5 years now and in that time, I've had the pleasure of eating all of the above.

The first time I tasted wild boar was in Tuscany, Italy. We stayed at a vineyard and within the huge expanse of the compound there were a couple of farm animals including wild boars,wandering about. Now, I grew up reading Asterix & Obelix comic books and these Gauls ate wild boars all the time. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw the critters up close and personal. Of course they couldn't care less, preferring instead to direct their attention with whatever was in the foliage around them.

Later that evening, when I saw boar on the hotel's menu, I ordered it without hesitation. I was determined to eat what Asterix ate. After my first bite, I finally saw what all the fuss was about. It was really, really good! So there I was, happily tucking in until a thought occurred to me - where did the wild boar come from? Oooops.... please don't tell me I was looking at dinner face to face earlier in the afternoon! The horror! I felt really bad. However, I'm so embarrassed to say this but my guilt was assuaged by the next mouthful. The chef just did too good a job with it.

But that was 7 years ago, on our honeymoon.

Now, let me take you to last Saturday. My husband and I were at the fresh meat section of the supermarket wondering what to do for The Sunday Dinner when we noticed the deer and rabbit filets. After some contemplation, we decided on the rabbit. This was what I did with it:

Filet of Rabbit in Port Sauce with Baby Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables.

It's not so difficult to cook. First I laid out the filets on a hot grill. Then I sprinkled some ground sea salt, garlic and pepper over them. Next, I seared all the sides to seal in the flavour and moisture before lowering the flame for it to cook. It's best not to overcook rabbit lest they become dry and stringy. While the filet was cooking, I went on to prepare the vegetables and Port sauce.

This leads me to the time when I ate rabbit for the first time. We were in a restaurant in Stein (I think) and my husband was urging me to try the rabbit. I was rather hesitant, telling him no, I couldn't bear to eat those cute little animals. He tells me no, these are not the same fluffy rabbits people keep as pets, these are great big *bleep* *bleep* (censored here for strong language) that run around the forests. I relented and have not looked back since. Once you get over the mental image, they are really rather delectable morsels.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:42 pm

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Friday's Feast #116

Friday, October 20, 2006

What is your favorite beverage

Name 3 things that are on your computer desk at home or work.

Besides the usual computer equipment, I have a phone, table lamp and digital camera.

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest), how honest do you think you are?

Honestly? I would say a 9.

Main Course
If you could change the name of one city in the world, what would you rename it and why?

Nah, I'd leave things the way they were.

What stresses you out? What calms you down?

Knowing that I'm going to be late for any appointment stresses me out. So do inconsiderate and rude people.
Cross-stitching calms me down. So does talking to my husband or kicking the trash can. Retail therapy always works wonders as well.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:10 pm

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Because We're That Kind of Couple.

Whenever I'm working on something that calls for exotic Chinese ingredients, my husband, if he happens to be home, will take one look and make a jibe about me and my voodoo witchcraft.*heh*

I suppose unless one has grown up with ingredients like white/black fungus, wolf's eye berry, lohan guo, gingseng and a whole bunch of other mysterious dried herbs and fruit, one might get a culture shock when viewing it for the first time. As in the case of my husband. Most times he just goes," What the heck is that?"

Anyway, I give as good as I get. *evil glint*

Last weekend, as I was brewing something to ease my throat, a concoction of luohan guo, crysanthamun flowers and honey, who should waltz by but my dear husband. I started to wave and wiggle my fingers over the pot while chanting some gibbery goop as if casting a spell. He caught on immediately and we both laughed. All this done in good fun, with no trace of malice at all.

Because that's the kind of couple we are.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:01 pm

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Kai Xi Mein

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I had 2.5l worth of good chicken stock from yesterday's Chicken Rice and took some of it to stew mushroom sauce for Kai Xi Mein,(Cantonese for Shredded Chicken Noodles). Again, I didn't follow any recipe, relying instead on memory and some taste forensics. Over my relatively short kitchen stint, I've learnt to pinpoint the main ingredients that go into a dish. As such, I can also mentally taste how different ingredients combine together. Very handy when I feel like experimenting.

I don't know if my method is the 'right' way but the end result is of hawker centre standard. Anyway, what you need to do is soak 6-8 big Chinese mushrooms in warm water to soften. Once soft, slice them to own preference. Do not throw away the mushroom brine, in a moment you'll see why. In the meantime, heat up 2.5 cups of chicken stock. When boiling, add in 1/4 cup of light soya sauce, followed by 2-3 tbsp of dark soya sauce. Throw in sliced mushrooms and next, add salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Let it simmer for 10 minutes and do a taste test. Add more light soya sauce if needed. If at anytime you weren't shy with the seasonings and the sauce becomes too salty, dilute it with the mushroom brine saved from earlier on. *ahhh, light bulb moment* On the other hand, you can also just add spoonfuls of the brine to give it an extra mushroom kick. When you've fine tuned the taste, cover the pot and for the next hour, let the sauce simmer away slowly like a woman scorned and plotting revenge.

Unless you're using the entire contents (which serves 3-4 helpings), spoon out what you need in a separate saucepan. When it's boiling, pour in a mixture of cornflour and water (ratio 1:3 respectively) to thicken. Pour sauce over blanched egg noodles, vegetables and shredded chicken. Only thicken the sauce with conflour prior to consumption. I find that the sauce keeps better in the fridge that way. I don't know why but it does. Hey, I'm a self taught cook, not a kitchen scientist!


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Cutie Pies

From left to right: Do, Re and Bite-Me.

Introducing "The Bow-Wows", a hot new trio of musical dogs fresh out of the oven. They sing, they howl, they do a mean doggy jive. Heck, they even taste good! The almost melt-in-your-mouth exterior hides a belly full of surprise: a runny chocolatey filling. Throw in the 100% cuteness overload and I ask you, what more does one need in a cookie?

Aren't these funny? My son was running through the whole gamut of puppy dog sounds ranging from pitiful whines to all out barks while eating these. For some reason, they remind me of one of his favourite cartoon shows - 2 Stupid Dogs, pictured below:

This recipe first appeared on a Singaporean newspaper, The Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago. It was brought to my attention from some of the members of a parenting forum I'm in. At that time, most of the avid bakers were struck by Canine Fever. Everyone wanted a go at it. Even me. However, I'd been busy with other stuff and had to keep it on the back burner. Until today - I finally got round to it. I thought it'd take forever to make them up but no, I was done in an hour. Not inclusive of baking time, of course. Here's the recipe online.

Doggy Note: For the filling, I substituted chocolate chips with coarsely chopped milk chocolate which I pilfered from my husband's stash in the cellar. *evil cackle* This upped the taste ante, not to mention the sin factor. But hey, if you're going to be naughty, it might as well be with real chocolate. I also used my own chocolate rice and balls for the eyes and nose respectively. The ears were made of KoKo Crunch as per recipe.

Wuff Wuff!

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Mint Tea

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mint tea is one of my favourite tea combination ever. I'm a tea addict and just to prove it, my mint tea doesn't come out of a tea bag. I brew it with fresh mint leaves.

I've got a special recipe taught to me by a Morrocan friend which I've tweaked to suit my palatte. Here's what I do: I put in 2 teaspoons of fine Chinese gunpowder tea leaves into a tea filter bag or metal filter. Then I tear some mint leaves (to release the flavour) into smaller pieces and stick it into the teapot. Lastly, I pour boiling hot water into the pot, add in some honey and let it do its magic.

This results in a very calming tea which leaves a fresh after-taste in the mouth. I normally have my teapot on a burner and sip at it throughout the day. Just for that little bit of luxury, you know. And as an added bonus, the aroma from the tea is strong enough to permeate throughout the living room, giving it a minty scent. Lekker!

Note to self: Got to get me a tripod thingamajig. The first photo took something like 10 tries to get it right and I was quite dizzy from all the bending over.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 8:50 pm

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Hainanese Chicken Rice

I made Hainanese Chicken Rice today. I've fine-tuned my method so it's not as troublesome as some might think. It's still time consuming work but that can't be helped because the chicken and stock need to simmer for about an hour. Besides, I'm ill and need a bit of TLC, Tender Loving Cuisine.

For me, the tricky part of this dish is the rice itself. I use chicken stock as well as garlic and ginger to cook the aromatic rice. Previously, I didn't always get the texture right. Sometimes it'd be too soggy, other times a tad dry. It was like playing Chicken Rice Roulette. However, I've overcome the problem by adding a little stock each time and watching over it like a hawk. I understand some cooks use a rice cooker but since I don't own one, a pot will have to do.

Chicken rice is one of Singapore's signature dishes. It can be found in hawker centres or food courts all over the island and depending on where you're eating, it's one of the cheapest meal around. It's so common you don't think about it all. I never did until we moved. Nowadays I make it when I want comfort food. Like today, for instance.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 8:12 pm

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Zuurvlees, or Sour Beef Stew, is as the name implies. It's sour. Instead of stock, you simmer the beef in white vinegar and various spices. This dish is peculiar to Limburg, a province in the south of the Netherlands, where we live. A relative told me that it is an aqquired taste and you have to grow up eating it. I'm inclined to agree with her. I didn't have a problem with the dish and I actually enjoy it. Of course I would. I'm Chinese - we eat just about anything. Taste wise, it's rather like a eating Sweet and Sour Pork and a Specula (Dutch spiced cookie). All in one mouthful.

Anyway, my husband has a very soft spot for Zuurvlees and I was more than happy to add this to my repetoire of dishes. However, searching for the recipe was akin to searching for the Holy Grail. I couldn't find a suitable one over the internet. But I refused to give up. I finally dug one up from a site featuring recipes of Dutch immigrants in Iowa from the '30s. I know. Don't ask.

I haven't a clue how women cooked in the '30s, if this recipe is anything to go by. For one thing, the recipe comprised of 4 short sentences. Sure it did tell you the ingredients but they ommitted the measurements. I mean, what was the ratio of beef to vinegar? How much allspice is too much? How long should I let it simmer? And how much is a handful of raisins? Do I grasp a dainty portion or do I go at it as if I was grabbing gold nuggets? I mean, really!

So anyways, I love a challenge. Armed with optimism and a good dosage of common sense, I set out to work in the kitchen. It took me 3 tries. The first time, I got the vinegar measurment wrong and I think I almost pickled our throats while eating it. Okaaaaay... halve the vinegar. The second try was better but still lacked the certain 'something'. I blamed the allspice - it was too bland. So I took it out of the equation and blended my own spices instead. This time I hit the jackpot. The Quality controller aka my husband, gave it the thumbs up. I could cook like a Dutch migrant! Happiness!

And just to prove it was an unbiased thumbs up, I unleashed it during my husband's birthday party last year. He wanted a Limburg-style buffet and what hubby wants, hubby gets. I made this stew and a guest wanted to know where I bought it from. That was such a compliment. *beaming*


Here's the recipe I worked out if you're feeling adventurous.



800g beef, cut into 1.5" cubes
2 medium sized onions, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1.5 cups white vinegar

Combine 1/2 tsp each of the following ground spices:
black pepper

To taste:

2" slice of gember koek (ginger cake), chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup of dried currants

Here's how:

1. Melt butter in a deep sauce pan, add in onions and brown.
2. Add beef and vinegar. Stir and bring to a boil.
3. Pour in (A), salt and pepper. Boil for a few minutes. Lower flame and simmer for 1 hr. Add some water if vinegar dries up.
4. Add gember koek a little at a time to thicken sauce. Stir thoroughly until it is completely dissolved. You may have to add more to get a thick stew-like consistency.
5. Mix in currants. Add sugar to taste.
6. Simmer for another hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning.
7. Serve hot with bread or thick wedges of deep fried potatoes.

Here's a photo of what gember koek, ginger cake looks like: It's a very dense cake, full of spice with thick slices of conserved ginger. If I'm not mistaken, it's normally eaten for breakfast.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 5:11 pm

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Friday's Feast #115

Friday, October 13, 2006

Approximately how many hours per week do you spend reading other blogs?

Not more than 2 hours per week. My list is short and I'm a speed reader.

Your community wants everyone to give one thing to put into a time capsule. What item would you choose to include?

I would choose my favourite cross-stitched piece.

What is the most interesting tourist attraction you've ever visited?

That would be the ruins of Pompeii, Italy. It was a humbling and awe inspiring experience.

Main Course
If you could give an award to anyone for anything, who would it be and what would the award be titled?

That would be my husband, for putting up with my mood swings during That Time Of The Month. I can be a real witch. The award be titled, "Most Patient Hubby Ever".

What do you think your favorite color reveals about your personality?

My favourite colour is red. I got this off the internet which I thought rang true about me:

"If red is your favorite gemstone color, it is likely you are a person full of energy, passion and excitement. You are strong in character and love to be active and competitive. You have strength and courage and want equal justice for all."

And that was today's feast. Do join me, I hate eating alone.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:33 am

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I made these little nibbles of cake yesterday. They are called Madeleines and usually accompany that cup of tea or coffee. I just love its buttery and soft texture so it's really hard to stop at one.

There are a few variations to this tea cake. This particular recipe I used called for orange zest and orange liquer. As you can imagine, the aroma coming from the batter during mixing was something else.

I don't even know how many of these babies I made because my son and I were scoffing them down as soon as they came out of the oven. I think he had 10 pieces. That's saying something for someone who doesn't like cake. I asked him if they were good, and he replied with a mouth full of cake:" VERY good."

That's all I needed to hear.

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Festive Baking

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I've been thinking of what to bake for Christmas this year. Yes, I know it's only October but I've been playing around with the idea of a fruit cake. The recipe I have requires the cake to be aged with rum for a month before consumption. And since the recipe hasn't been tried yet, I guess I should get going by next week for a trial run to work out the potential kinks.

In addition to the cake, I will be making a Festive Bread Ring too. Here's one I did for my mother-in-law's annual Easter brunch this year:

I shall substitute the eggs with Christmas themed decorations of course. Call me a snob or purist but when it comes to bread making, I still do all the kneading by hand. I refuse to have a breadmaker at home. I think it just defeats the purpose. If I wanted machine-made bread, I would just go to the bakery and pick up a loaf. No?

I love making this ring. For one thing, the aroma emitting from the oven during baking is heavenly. On top of the freshly baked bread scent, you are hit with a blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg spices. It's best to eat this warm, when the bread is soft and fluffy and its filling of spice, brown sugar and dried fruit are just that teensy bit runny and moist. Yummy! Just don't forget that cup of strong tea or coffee!


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:06 am

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Char Siew Noodles

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I made this for myself with some of the char siew (roast pork) I grilled yesterday. A whole kilo's worth. It's alot, if you think about it but they don't stay in our freezer for long. We are char siew maniacs at home.

I could eat char siew noodles forever. Burp!


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:24 pm

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Pulut Hitam

Monday, October 09, 2006

Over the weekend, I had a craving for comfort food. Something that would remind me of my childhood. Again, I poked around the cellar to see what was available. I had a choice - I could either make chng tng or pulut hitam. I chose the latter because it was more substantial compared to the former of clear soup. More lemak if you will. So off I set about putting the neccessary ingredients to boil. The aroma from the simmering pot permeated the entire kitchen and I was in Singapore again. After an hour or so, this was on the table:


And for my in-laws who are reading this and haven't a single clue as to what I'm talking about, pulut hitam is black glutinous rice pudding. It is boiled in water as you would white rice with pandan leaves and gula melaka/jawa (palm sugar). Glutinous rice comes in 2 varieties of black and white. Its sticky texture when cooked, blends very well with sugar, thus making it more of a dessert ingredient. This is what raw black rice looks like:

Just so the next time you step into a toko winkel, you know what that packet of strange black stuff is. *heh*

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:00 pm

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Mexican Steak Wraps - Dutchess Style

Earlier I messed about the kitchen and came up with this. I call it Mexican Steak Wraps - Dutchess style, aka using whatever's in the fridge or pantry. *grin*

As with most of my inventions, this is very easy to do but yet, packs a punch in the taste department. Okay, I know that sounded a tad arrogant but I promise you, this is good stuff. Cross my heart, blah, blah, blah.

At the moment I'm too tired to type out the recipe but if you give a holler, I'll gladly give it to you. Just don't expect measurments, it's more of a guideline of ingredients.

The best thing about this is you can assemble the wrap beforehand, stick it into the fridge and pop it into the oven when ready to eat. I do believe it can even hold till the next day. I'll find out soon enough tommorrow. :P

Everything I cook on a weekday must fulfill the following requirement: that it can be reheated at a later time and the taste will not be compromised. Not too much anyway. That's because my husband only comes after 8.30pm each evening. No, he doesn't do shift work. He has this thing known as workaholism.
It's only on weekends I do the fancy, Johnny-on-the-spot stuff. The three or four course meal starting with beef caparccio and ending with profiteroles or creme brulee. That sort of thing.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:13 pm

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Down Time

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Got some unexpected me time today. My husband and son have gone for a walk in the woods with assorted members of the clan. I was lazy, er, no, I mean I didn't feel up to it today so I pleaded out. My son asked for a plastic bag to collect interesting bits and pieces for a collage we will make together later in the week. I pray I don't find anything live among the booty.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 5:02 pm

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Friday's Feast #114

Friday, October 06, 2006

Name a song you know by heart.

Strong by Robbie Williams.

What will you absolutely not do in front of another person?

Pick my nose.

How often do you use mouthwash and what kind do you like?

Hardly as they all taste like poison. I floss instead and drink lots of water.

Main Course
Finish this sentence: I am embarrassed when...

After being a mother for the last 6 years and counting, nothing embarrasses me anymore.

What was the last food you craved?

As in sell-my-first-born crave? That would be Rojak, a Singaporean salad. Luckily I found a recipe for it and our son was spared.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:45 pm

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Friday's Feast

To jazz things up abit here, I'm going to have a weekly Friday meme entry of sorts. And if you also reply via the comments box, it'll be a good way for me to find out something about you too.

The questions are taken from Friday's Feast. Check it out here.

The meme is done menu style. Hilarious!


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:35 pm

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Fig-uratively Speaking

Last month, for the very first time in 33 years, (yes, that's how old I am :P) I tasted a fresh fig.

I now know why fig trees were found in the Garden of Eden. No, it wasn't just to provide Adam and Eve with mankind's first pret-a-porter collection to hide their nakedness, but rather, the fig fruit itself tastes heavenly.

One would never imgaine of its gastronomical pleasure awaiting inside if one viewed it at face value. Slightly bigger than a golf ball, the exterior is plain, almost boring even.

I ask you, does this fruit scream,"EAT ME!!!"? At the very most, it might garner a curious glance.

Now take a look when it's been sliced open.

Behold the transformation. Here's another close-up:

The texture inside is rather thick and pulpy. While sweet, it is not overbearingly so. And because of its mild flavour, this is excellent with salads, proscuitto ham and other cold dishes. It also comes dried, usually preserved with sugar. This is eaten as a snack or used in baking cakes or breads. My favourite way is eating it fresh and plain so I get the full taste of it. Just as nature intended.

I get my figs from the Turkish greengrocer. I buy 90% of my fruit and vegetables there. Not only are they more competitive in pricing and quality than the mainstream supermarkets, their selection is wider too. I can even find stuff that are staples in Singapore but are considered exotic here. Case in point: I was standing in line to pay for my purchase of sweet potatoes and fresh red chillis. With all the furtive glances into my basket from the other Dutch customers, you'd think I had a sheep's head in there. Funny!

Another reason why I frequent the Turkish shop so much is because I like looking at ingrendients from another culture and then try and fuse it with our family's style of cooking. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but there's no harm in trying. At the very worst, we all end up with bad tummies.*LOL*. But on the other end of the spectrum, we may discover yet another home-cooked keeper.

A last thought on figs. Cliched as it might sound, every time I bite into a fresh fig, I'm reminded never to judge anything or anyone based on exterior looks alone. You never know, you might have a treasure on your hands. You just need to peel back the layers.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:43 am

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Macaroni & Cheese

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Today my son made a request for Macaroni & Cheese. I was only too happy to oblige since I had a new recipe I'd been meaning to try. What makes this stand out is not the simple execution of the recipe itself but rather, it came out of a cross-stitching magazine, namely; Cross Country Stitching.

I love it when my two hobbies meet.

As usual, I've tweaked the recipe to suit the size and taste of our family. This recipe serves 3 small eaters or 2 very hungry or greedy persons.

You need:
  • 250g elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 300g of sharp cheddar, grated
  • 150g of packaged pizza cheese, grated
  • A bit of milk
  • Paprika (optional)
You do:
  1. Lightly grease a baking dish or bowl.
  2. Alternate layers of macaroni and cheddar cheese until ingredients are used up.
  3. Spread grated pizza cheese over the last layer.
  4. Pour a bit of milk, about 1/3 cup, all over mixture, sprinkle paprika if using.
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 180C until cheese is melted and lightly golden.
Serve hot as a side dish.



The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:25 pm

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What's Your Pizza Personality?

Cheese Pizza
Traditional and comforting.You focus on living a quality life.You're not easily impressed with novelty.Yet, you easily impress others.

Whoa, who knew? And just from pizza too.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 1:27 pm

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Child's Play

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

As you can see, my son loves lining his toys up. Not just any old way. It's got to be straight as a ram rod. I'm forever amazed at his precision, it's like he's got a built-in set square.

One time (I think he was 4 years old), I woke up from a nap only to find that he'd taken each and every single toy automobile he owns (mind you, he's got ALOT) and lined them up neatly, bumper to bumper. It was so straight, it was scary. Our very own Meridian Line running the length of our entire living room. *heh*


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:09 pm

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Homemade Shaslicks

I didn't have time to post this earlier on but this was what I prepared for Monday's dinner: Grilled Lamb Shaslicks. Apologies if the photo's not too clear, it's tricky business trying to snap and cook at the same time.

I bought chunks of mutton, marinated it with fresh herbs, spices and sweet Thai chilli sauce and let it sit overnight. The next day, just before grilling, I assembled the meat and vegetables on bamboo skewers. Simply out of this world (ahem, if I do say so myself) when eaten with tzaziki or garlic sauce.

As usual, I made one too many. No worries, though. I'm frying up some Thai Pinapple Rice tonight and the leftover shaslicks will be the perfect side dish for it.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 1:55 pm

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Birds of Prey

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

We all went for a walk iin the woods on Sunday afternoon.

'We' comprising of our family, my husband's parents, his brother and son and his colleague who dropped by unexpectedly and was sporting enough to come along with us.

They chose this forest called Stammenderbos; loosely translated it means Forest of the Trunks and there's a reason why it's named so because this is what it looks like all over:

I don't know who picked the route but it ended up being more of a climb than a walk. Up and down, up and down we went. At the start of the walk, we had to climb this rather steep slope. R, (my brother-in-law) gave up pushing his son's buggy halfway and my husband took over. I was trailing behind them, thinking," Thank goodness that's not me!" Well, once upon time, that was me but I've paid my dues.*heh*

As you can see, the forest is not very picturesque at all. If anything, it was a bit creepy. I felt I should be leaving bread crumbs to mark our location ala Hansel and Gretel. But it was just as well there was nothing to see - one needed one's full attention to navigate the undulating terrain.

With that done, we did another Dutch thing - go for a drink.

Now, after living in Europe for a few years, I've finally come to the realisation that not only do all roads lead to Rome, they also lead to the nearest watering hole in the form of a cafe, bistro or pub. And since we were near Terbough (the converted farmhouse turned cafe I mentioned about 2 weeks back), it was the most natural choice.

When we arrived there, there was an bird exhibition going. Not just any bird, but birds of prey namely the owl and falcon. By luck, we managed to get front row seats in the form of a long table and bench - perfect for our group of 6 adults and 2 boys. It was fun, huddling together under huge umbrellas nursing hot tea (me) and cold beers (everyone else) in the frisky wind and slight drizzle, watching falcons do their thing.

Here is one of the trainers swinging around a dead pigeon. Think trainers throwing fish at sealions to get them do their tricks. Same concept.

After the show, one could hold the birds and take photos if one was inclined too. Of course we all wanted a go. Here's my photo op:

Here's another photo of a falcon enjoying his snack of a dead chick. A bit gruesome, I know:

Who knew a simple walk would turn out to be so interesting?

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:14 am

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Lovely Weekend

Monday, October 02, 2006

Have you ever had a jam packed weekend full of fun activities that sees you desperately trying to crawl out of bed on Monday morning due to exhaustion? We had such a weekend on Saturday and Sunday. This morning you had to almost surgically remove me from under the covers. My husband, who is off work today and tommorrow was gently (and I use this term loosely) snoring away while I reluctantly moved my butt out of our toasty warm bed at 6.45am to get myself and our son ready for school.

More about the weekend after I tidy the house. It's in its usual post weekend state. Going by the mess, you'd think we had 4 kids instead of just one.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:47 am

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