C is for Cookie

Thursday, November 30, 2006

This year, I've decided that everyone will be getting hampers of baked goodies from me. Firstly, I'm tired of trudging around in cold, winter conditions, going from store to store, searching for the perfect gift. The family on my in-law side is pretty big so that's a lot of stores to cover. Just buying gifts for the kids alone will kill you. Also, I do not do well in crowds. They make me grumpy and I lose all charity and generosity. By then, I Just Want To Go Home. Not good when going Christmas shopping.

The other reason for this is to enable me to scratch my baking itch. My two men at home do not really enjoy cakes and cookies, well, only a very select few. So this festive season is the perfect opportunity to bake myself silly.

I've been compiling a list of new cookie recipes to try out. Today I tried a basic butter cookie one from Allrecipes. Click here for full recipe.

The cookies turned out better than expected. It had just the right balance of butter and sugar. Texture wise, it was light and slightly crispy. I think this makes a good base for frosting and decorating. I didn't do any today because this was strictly a taste test. I can't wait to try out the different ideas I have for decorating though.

One down, a couple more to go.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:05 pm

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Prawn Noodle Soup

Earlier this week, I made Prawn Noodle Soup, or Hae Mee as it is more popularly known. Go into any food court or hawker centre in Singapore, and chances are, there will be a stall selling it.

Out of desperation, I taught myself how to make it last year. Cravings can make one do strange things. It's not as difficult as one might think. The most important thing is to get the freshest prawns available because only then, the soup stock will be sweet. Now, over here, I have a better chance of turning green with fuschia polka dots than find raw prawns with their shells intact. All the prawns sold in supermarkets have been blanched, peeled and deveined. Even if the shells and heads are still intact, they are useless to me as it's already been cooked. Bah!

However, salvation comes in the form of the asian store. They have raw tiger prawns in their frozen section. Well, frozen is better than nothing and they're frozen fresh anyway.

The basis of good Hae Mee is the stock. To make the stock, I first fry the removed heads and shells of the prawns to seal in the juices. Same goes with the pork ribs. After which I dump everything, including a bit of lean pork into a pot of boiling water. Add in the neccessary seasonings and then go away and leave it to work itself out. Okay, I know I make it sound easier than it actually is. In reality, there are alot more steps required but if you have the patience, this popular hawker fare can easily be whipped up in the comfort of your own kitchen. Just be prepared for a strong lingering smell for the next day or so. It really does stink up the kitchen.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:44 pm

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We Love Spongebob In Cookalot

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Take one of this:

Add some of these:

You get:


I will go away now until the silliness passes over.

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The Tooth Fairy Cometh

Monday, November 27, 2006

As with most Sunday mornings, I was sorting out the week's washed laundry when my son comes in and announces, "Mummy, my tooth fell out!" and presents me with a teeny, tiny bloody mess of a tooth.

"Ooooh wow!" I say, taking him to the bathroom to rinse out his mouth and clean the fallen tooth.

I rummaged around my bedroom drawers for a suitable box and found one in a form of a jewellery gift box. Out went my husband's silver cufflinks (it was in a protective pouch anyway *evil grin*) and in went the tooth lined with tissue. I couldn't help noticing the box was robin's egg blue in colour - how befitting. So I show it to my son who was still overwhelmed and took some photos to mark the event. Mothers...... *rolling eyes* Hugs, kisses and high fives were also exchanged.

His tooth has been loose for a month now and from time to time, he would worry it with his finger, jiggling it here and there. His constant fear was it should fall out during his swimming lessons - "What if I swallow it?" "No, you won't," I reassure him hoping that he really wouldn't.

During our 10 minute ritual chat before bedtime in his room that night, the topic focused on the tooth fairy. He had so many questions but here are the choice ones with my 'butter-won't-melt-in-her-mouth' answers. I believe in Hokkien it's called 'pian gee-na' (bluffing kids).

Son: But how will the tooth fairy find me? Does she have a special map?
Me: Oh, she's got a TomTom (GPS navigational thingy), she knows where you live.
Son: But the TomTom is too big!
Me: They've got them in special fairy sizes.

Son: Will she take my tooth away?
Me: Of course she will, she can't give you money if you don't give her your tooth.
Son: But I want to keep it.
Me: Well, maybe we can send her a note....
Son: Does the tooth fairy have a computer? Can we email her?
Me: ???!!! *trying very hard not to laugh* I'll just let her know you want to keep the tooth okay? Maybe she might let you. We'll find out tommorrow morning.

And it goes on like that until I finally tuck him in and go down to the living room. I'd only been there for a few minutes, when the door bursts open with my son looking worried.

Me: What is it now? You have to go to sleep, it's a school night.
Son: This is the last question, promise.
Me: What is it?
Son: How will the tooth fairy get into our house?
Me: *without missing a beat* She flies through the mail slot, that's how. She can't go through the chimney because it's too big.
Son: But the slot is too heavy.
Me: She's very strong, she can push through. Okay, that's enough, you have to go to sleep now, it's too late!

My son finally falls asleep and this morning, finds both 5 euros and his tooth in the little box. He gave an excited gasp, his little face lighting up like a Christmas tree and asked, yet again: "How is the tooth fairy doing that???!!!"


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:02 pm

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Breaking The Camel's Back

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanks to a slipped disc 7 years ago, I suffer from chronic backache down the lower bits of my spine. You only have to look at it the wrong way and it flares up. Then, it's bed rest or at least being seated as much as possible until the pain passes which can take anything from 2 days to a week. How I miss my chiropractor in Singapore. She had magic fingers. Yes, I understand there are chiropractors here too but I do not want to go into the Dutch healthcare system, my 'pet' topic. *evil grin*


This time, the proverbial straw that broke this camel's back was lugging her booty back from the Asian store earlier on in the week. Pounding away to make mee siam rempah didn't help either.

Apart from the pain, I'm disappointed because I have to shelf my baguette making plans. There's no way I can be on my feet and knead in this condition. Thank goodness dinner's taken care of tonight. My son and I are having last night's leftovers of Sar Po Fan, Cantonese Claypot Rice.

This is an easy one-dish meal comprising of chicken, lap cheong (chinese sausage), mushroom, vegetable and salted fish. Everything turned out the way it should be, right now to the charred bottom. My favourite part is lifting the lid just after cooking and being hit in the nostrils by a blast of aromatic hot steam. Hoo! And one mustn't forget the charred rice at the bottom too. That has got to be the best part.

As a firm believer of the glass is always half full as to half empty, I take being off my feet as a cross-stitching weekend for me. When you think about it, it's not bad. Not bad at all.

Have a pain free weekend, everyone.

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If The Shoe Fits.....

Friday, November 24, 2006

.... eat it.

Don't like shoes? Howsabout bags?

Thanks Karen, for the tip and for adding to my already overflowing want list. Karen's great, she buys these food magazines see, and from time to time, highlights all these wonderful gadgets, tips and recipes to me, her foodie in crime.

And don't forget:
A good friend will always buy you chocolate in times of crisis.

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Friday's Feast #119

Have you ever changed a flat tire by yourself?

Are you kidding me?! That's what mechanics and husbands are for.

Do you have an "innie" or an "outie" belly button?

I'm an "innie". *blush*

Name a new paint color and describe it.

Vampilicious - a deep, blood red.

Main Course
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Decorating the house, buying and wrapping the presents.

If you were a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be, and why?
I would be a ginger cookie because I'm sugar and spice and all things nice.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:28 am

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Mee Siam

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I spent a good part of yesterday making Mee Siam, or rather, pounding the ingredients for the rempah. My arm threatened to fall out of its socket, my shoulder blade protesting away. I tried not to think of the food processor beckoning in the cellar - 'come on, go get it, you know you want to....' I didn't give in though, I was determined to go old school.

After the pounding which both ingredients and arm took, there was the matter of frying the rempah. It must be done carefully with just the right amount of oil seeping through. Mess that up and your final product won't make the grade.

Why can't I just be happy with a sandwich?

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:16 am

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Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America. While we don't 'do' that in Europe, I still like the idea of taking stock of what we have and being grateful.

Here's my list of 'thank-yous':
  1. For my husband who loves, trusts and respects me unconditionally. Who also supports me in all areas; be it issues concerning home and hearth, my hobbies, ideas (both crazy and sane) or an arm to cling on to for dear life when walking on ice covered pavements.
  2. My son, without whom I would never have realised I could scream that loudly or be that angry till I see all colours of the rainbow (with a few fireworks thrown in for good measure). And also without whom I would never have realised how sweet, tender and funny children can really be.
  3. For my parents who did a fantastic job of raising two girls. We both turned out rather well, I think.*ahem*
  4. For my inner circle of confidantes and friends, whom I can count with just one hand and who are just a phone call or email away.
  5. For being able to travel and live in different countries. It's been a childhood dream and I'm currently living it. There are some aspects of living overseas which borderline on nightmare but you can't have everything. Besides, it's all in the mind.
  6. For being able to be a full time stay at home mum and housewife. In this day and age of the double income family, it really is a luxury and I'm extremely grateful for it.
  7. For my hobbies which keep me sane and the credit card busy.
  8. For broadband and cable TV. And online stores. Just where would we be without these modern conveniences?
  9. For my mother-in-law. No, you read that correctly. *laughs* You hear all these horror stories but not so in my case. She treats me as an equal even though I'm younger than her youngest son. I have a mind of my own but she stays out of my business, whether she likes the way I do things or not. How's that?
  10. Lastly, I'm thankful for my health, my sense of humour even in the most trying of times and for the last 2 years of unbroken sleep at night.

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Kueh Lapis Beras

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

To kick off my personal asian food fest, I made Kueh Lapis Beras (Rainbow Layer Cake) yesterday. It was rather time consuming as each layer (9 in all, without counting the white base) had to be steamed till cooked before the next layer is poured over it and so on. I didn't mind though as it turned out delicious. One bite brought back childhood memories of my Dad going down to a coffeeshop in Katong to buy these treats for the family. I would always make a beeline for Kueh Lapis because I enjoyed peeling back the layers. I still do. *blush*

If there's one thing I've learnt about Nyonya cooking, it's this: It's never straightforward. Ever.

There is always something to pound to make rempah(spice paste), or something to squeeze to extract milk or juice. Taking that into account, I'm almost certain Nyonya cooks have formidable strong arms and hands. I'm proud of my Peranakan heritage and have been honouring it by learning her cuisine. Sometimes I go completely old school, pounding away at my batu lesung (mortar and pestle). Sometimes I cheat by throwing everything into the food processor. Shhhhh....

Another thing I've noticed as well is this: If the preparation is 'able-to-do-it-with-one-eye-closed' easy, then the actual cooking time or procedure is time consuming or complicated. Likewise, if the preparation has more steps than putting a rocket together, the cooking bit will be easy peasy. You just have to work, there's no short cut and it's precisely what I love about it. You can't go round it without compromising on taste. I always have a deep sense of achivement when I ace a Peranakan dish because of all the hard work that goes behind it.

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Come On In!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My husband's away for yet another business trip. In this instance, it's for 2 weeks. Meantime, I've opened up my secret asian kitchen. Today I went to the asian store in the town center to stock up. I came away with kang kong, chye sim, gu chai and pandan leaves and a whole bunch of other stuff which filled up 2 baskets. The owner was only too pleased of course and told me to take my time. The purchase of the day has to be both the preserved and salted duck's eggs. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw them and grabbed half a dozen each. Whoo hoo!

So, for the next 2 weeks, it's going to be mee siam, claypot rice, prawn noodle soup, rojak, wanton noodles, hor fun, the likes. Not to mention kuehs and snacks too.


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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 4:02 pm

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Retail Therapy

Over the weekend, I got myself a brand new set of oven mittens, pot holders and an apron. I'm one happy cookie.


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Here Comes The Bride

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mr & Mrs W

My younger sister gets married today!


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:52 am

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And In Other News....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Humpty Dumpty Fatally Injured In Freak Egg-cident
by: The Dutchess, ChannelNews Cookalot

KINGDOM OF COOKALOT: Humpty Dumpty fell off the kitchen counter and onto the floor this morning.

Humpty was last seen sitting in a carton with five other eggs when the accident occurred. Eyewitnesses said that Humpty was 'fooling around, showing off'.

"He was standing on the edge of the carton, pretending to be a tightrope artist. We begged him to get down but he wouldn't listen." said Mr Egg Bennedict, who was among those in the carton box.

Mrs Hard-Boiled agreed. "Humpty brushed us off. He said he's fallen many times and each time, all the King's horses and the King's men put him back together again. I guess he wasn't so lucky this time."

According to those who knew him, Humpty Dumpty was friendly and well-liked. "We'll all miss him - he was a good egg." said Ms Sunny Side Up.

Police do not suspect fowl play and have classified this as an misadventure.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:16 am

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We Are Not So Different After All

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Last week, during one of my usual grocery rounds, I came across this at the chilled fresh foods section of the supermarket.


I had to do a double-take because I thought they were wantons (Chinese dumplings). Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were Perline, a type of Italian stuffed pasta. It's similar to ravioli or tortelleni and this one is stuffed with cheese.

Last night, I decided to make Bolognaise Sauce to go with it. It's probably not the 'right' way of doing things and 100% born and bred Italians are possibly laughing their canoli off at my combination but hey, it doesn't matter does it? It was palatable enough and no one spit it out last night. Or dared to.

However, I think I'll do some research to find out how Perline should be served. Meanwhile, I've got enough meat sauce leftover to make a small lasagna.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:24 am

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Team Dutchess

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just for fun, and because I still can before His Royal Highness decides to be his own fashion consultant, the 2 of us are colour-co-ordinated today. I mean, really co-ordinated. I've got on a white dress shirt under a v-neck baby blue sweater and a chocolate brown tailored skirt while my son has a white tee under a v-neck baby blue sweater and chocolate brown corduroy pants.

Go Team Go!


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:28 pm

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What Kind of Pie Are You?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Are Lemon Meringue Pie

You're the perfect combo of sassy and sweet
Those who like you have well refined tastes


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

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Marriage Proposal

Just the other day, my 6 year old came up to me and declared: " I want to marry you, mummy! Because I like you!"

Looking very pleased, I said, "That's very sweet of you but it's not possible, I'm already married to Daddy."

Not to be deterred, he replies, "I know what to do! I will take Daddy's ring and put it on my finger and then we are married!"

If only life was that simple.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:49 am

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C'mon Everyone - Do The Sushi Roll!

Monday, November 13, 2006

When the cat (aka my husband) is away, the mouse (aka moi) comes out and have a sushi party. Still feeling off from Saturday's feast of Mexican spare ribs, I decided to go light again this evening. That's also why I only made 2 kinds of sushi:

Sushi with egg roe topping....

....and futomaki, of sorts. I managed to gather all the ingredients together - doumo arigatou gozaimashita, Karen-san, for the pink fish floss!- and made my own tomago (egg omelette). All except for the shitake mushrooms and unagi,(eel). Oh well, beggars can't be choosers. Especially when this beggar is not within a 10km radius of a Japanese restaurant. Don't laugh, but the last time I was in an authentic Japanese restaurant (complete with teppanyaki grill and Japanese staff) was earlier this year on holiday. In the Gran Canaria. How surreal is that? Needless to say, I stuffed myself silly with sashimi, chawanmushi and assorted sushi. This greedy mum even attacked her son's udon(thick rice noodles). *guilty blush*

I managed to yield 16 pieces of futomaki tonight and decided to stop at that. Initially, I had a packet of inari (bean curd) pockets which I wanted to stuff with rice to make inarizushi but decided against it as it's just me who's eating. His Royal Highness only wanted plain rice balls followed by his beloved peanut butter sandwiches. I have 9 pieces left so I guess that takes care of tommorrow's dinner as well. More time for stitching - yay!

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Cranberry Scones

I love scones, light buttery ones, eaten with more butter or jam, especially marmalade. I first came across them when I was a child reading Enid Blyton's books. Somehow, there were always either scones or macaroons for tea in her stories. As a 7 year old, I hadn't an inkling what they tasted like but I only imagined they were something magical. Food fit for pixies or fairies and kids living in a far-off country called England.

Anyway, I realised I haven't done a photo tutorial in a while so this is a good topic as any for one. Scones are easy to do although they look like you've slaved in the kitchen for hours. It's really quite chic when offered to your guests with a cup of tea or coffee. Arranged nicely over a pretty plate and *snaps finger* instant Delia Smith, just like that.

This recipe is taken from allrecipes. I've adjusted it by adding a little more butter and sugar. Butter to give it a fuller taste and sugar to offset the tartness of the cranberries (the original recipe used currants). I also replaced whole milk with skim milk and paraphrased most of the instructions so that it seems you're in the kitchen with me.

Cranberry Scones

Here's what you need:

1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
100 g butter (prefably unsalted)
100 g white sugar
2/3 cups skim milk
1/2 cup cranberries
1 egg yolk, beaten

Before starting, make sure you've:

1. Preheated the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2. Line your baking tray with greaseproof or baking paper.

And moving right along.....

1. Sift flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.

2. Rub butter and sugar into the flour mixture to form a fine crumble. This is a very tactile experience, enjoy it. Feel the ingredients going through your fingers. Lovely!

3. Now with that done, make a well in the center. Add in milk and cranberries. In this instance, I've thrown in some blueberries and cherries too. You may of course add whatever rocks your boat.

4. Mix together using a wooden spoon, taking care not to over do it. As soon as it forms a dough, you're good. The original recipe says to use your hands to knead but I don't as the dough is super sticky. Don't worry about the stickiness though, you haven't done anything wrong, it's supposed to be like that. If you have the urge to add more flour for easier handling - kill it.

5. Whatever inclinations you might have had for wanting to add extra flour in step 4, do it now on the surface and rolling pin. Be very generous. Then, roll dough out to thickness of 3/4". Using a 2.5" round cookie cutter, stamp out rounds and transfer to lined tray. I'm using a heart shaped one today, just for fun.

6. Gently brush tops with beaten egg yolk. Now go away and make yourself a drink while you let it stand for 15 minutes.

7. Pop it into the oven and bake till they've risen and turned a beautiful golden brown. This should take 12-15 minutes. Any longer, you may have cremated them. Remove and cool on racks.

8. Enjoy whilst warm with butter or jam. Or both. Alternatively, you can do what my friend Karen does: slather it with double whipped cream.



The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 5:25 pm

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Light Meal

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Last night, we went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant where we stuffed ourselves silly with deep fried cheesy tortillas, onion rings, BBQ chicken wings and rack upon rack of spare ribs. I swear I can't see meat for the next 2 weeks!

So, to give our digestive tract a breather, I made a light dinner tonight consisting of hotdogs and mushroom cream soup. It was satisfying without giving one heartburn:

Sausage on a bed of sauerkraut topped with mayonnaise, dijon mustard and fried onions, lovingly held together with a toasted baguette with a bowl of mushroom soup on the side.

Useless trivia: Sauerkraut is German for sour cabbage. In Dutch it's called zuurkool and it tastes exactly like Chinese kiam chye, also known as pickled mustard greens in English.

I told you it was useless. *ha*

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Mushroom Cream Soup

Fresh wild mushrooms from the supermarket, not my backyard (I wish!)

Eversince I came upon this recipe for Mushroom Cream Soup, I don't buy the canned ones anymore. The secret of elevating this already 'oh my, how tasty' recipe to 'oh my goodness, it's delicious!' is in the mushrooms. In this case, only the freshest, wild varieties will do. Of course if it's unavailable, regular brown or white button mushrooms would do too. I will be honest and tell you that the taste while still good, will not send you to orgasmic stratosphere.


Please note that this recipe is not mine to give publicly but if you send me an email, I'll gladly pass it along.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 8:16 pm

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Self Portrait

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Dutchess

Sketched this a while back when I needed an avatar and couldn't find something I would like to represent me. It took all of 3 minutes to whip it up. And another hour to get it scanned, resized and posted up. I'm handy with markers but terribly challenged when it comes to technology.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 12:07 pm

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Snack Attack

Friday, November 10, 2006

Raided the fridge for a mid afternoon snack and put this together:

Some table crackers, a pat of Philly cream cheese, dollop of caviar (not Buluga - we've run out of ink catridges for our Epson printer) and leftover fresh water lobster meat.

Because I was really hungry.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 3:30 pm

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Brain Food

My order arrived today. I'm so pleased! I now have to something to read again before I sleep. As you can tell from the two books, I'm a bit of a history buff.

I'm going to start on the 'Band of Brothers' first. Last weekend, I rented the entire DVD set and over the span of 2.5 days, watched all 10 episodes. It was so good I now want to buy a set for myself. I have nothing but the deepest of respect for the men of Easy Company. They are the real deal. The true heroes. And most of them were not even twenty when they arrived in Europe.

My other purchase, 'Marie Antoinette' was something I've been eyeing at but never got round to buying. Coincidentally, Sophia Coppola has a new movie out now based on the same book with Kirsten Dunst in the lead role. I hope to watch it when it's released here. I've always been fascinated by Marie Antoinette and was thrilled to bits when my husband took me to Versailles for our 5th wedding anniversary. To be in the actual palace, walking the same marble floors, admiring the same scenery as she would've centuries ago was overwhelming. The visit to Versailles was our second stop of our anniversary trip. The main one was The Louvre where we conducted our own The Da Vinci Code tour. My husband and I had read the book (then all the rage or outrage, depending on which side of the fence you were on) and thought it would be fun to track down the places mentioned in Paris itself.

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Christmas Fruitcake - Part II

Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd put out some photos of my fruitcake making experience.

1. Cake batter made up and poured into a 10" square pan. It was rather time consuming because one had to be careful the 6 eggs didn't curdle in the butter and sugar mixture when mixing. Speaking of which, I found it very therapeutic watching the whisks of the mixer going round and round when incorporating the eggs. Sort of like cavemen watching an open fire.

2. Once it's baked (which took almost 4 hours!) and completely cooled, I brushed some rum over it. The recipe called for 5 tbsp. However, with the onion soup episode still fresh in my mind, I scaled it down to 3 tbsp. I'm not going for an encore performance.

3. Time to wrap it up with some baking paper.....

4. ......followed by aluminium foil. Rest now, my dear cake, see you at Christmas!

5. Just in case the hubby decides to do some spring-cleaning in the cellar! Heads will roll I assure you, if it gets accidentally dumped into the trash.

The cake felt dense and heavy. Out of curiosity, I weighed it clocked in at 2.7 kg. Whoa!


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:18 pm

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Christmas Fruitcake

Thursday, November 09, 2006

This year, I thought I'd give a home-made fruitcake a try. I know I can buy one off the shelf but out of vanity and curiosity, I've decided to make one of my own. My assorted dried fruit has been sitting in the cellar for the last 2 weeks soaking up a good amount of premium rum. I used Bacardi Black, again, pilfered from the husband's stash.

So, after typing this, I'm going to get down to it. The recipe also calls for the cake to be aged for a month, basting regularly with rum or brandy. I hope it turns out fine. If not, I'm counting on the alcohol to mask any culinary mistakes. Yes, I'm going to stun them with the rum.


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

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's my husband's birthday today.

Except that as I'm typing this, he's a couple of thousand miles away on a British Airways flight. On business.

This is the first time he's not home for his birthday. Usually he'll take the day off but this particular trip was not something he could reschedule.

Ah well.

No matter, because we had a small impromptu celerbration of sorts the previous night. I had a birthday present ready and dinner would be his favourite white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. Asparagus is waaaay out of season now but I managed to scrounge a pack.

This is what I got for the hubby:

A Spiderman lunch tin.

If you've known me long enough, you'd know I have a humourous streak in me. I couldn't decide on any one thing to buy for my husband so I made a collection of his favourite things. I didn't want to use the usual wrapping paper, hence the lunch tin. It contained the following booty: a robin red cashmere scarf, a neck-tie from Kenzo, a big, fat "Churchill" cigar from Davidoff and a box of gourmet chocolates from a chocolatier in Maastricht.

Speaking of chocolates, I was floored by the vast selection found in the chocolate boutique. I couldn't for the life of me decide which ones to pick. In the end, I pointed to an empty gift box and told the assistant to please take one each of all the milks and whites, no darks and fill 'er up. There, problem solved!

My husband couldn't stop laughing at the lunch tin. He thought it was hilarious. When he opened it up, it was such fun to see the joy on his face.

He's taken the scarf and tie with him on this trip. There's still half a box of uneaten chocolates in the fridge with strict instructions for me to "finish it when I'm away" (Sir! Yes, SIR! With pleasure, sir! *snigger*)

As for the cigar, it's being saved till month end or the beginning of December when my husband is home and we can all go to a swanky place for dinner. You know, the type of place where there's enough cutlery for 3 people in each individual place setting and more glasses than you know what to do with.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 5:07 pm

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French *hic* Onion Soup *hic hic*

Monday, November 06, 2006

I have such a nasty hangover right now so forgive me if I sound incoherent here. I shall do my best to make sense.

Today I had the notion of making French Onion Soup for dinner. It's a perfect stomach warmer for the winter. I have this never-before-tested French recipe which I've been sitting on, waiting for the colder months to set in.

Anyway, I gathered my ingredients together, followed the recipe to the T and voila, incredible smelling soup. I scooped myself a big bowl, topped with croutons and melted Gruyere cheese and tucked in greedily. Within minutes of consumption, I felt myself getting dizzy, my eyes slightly dilated and neck feeling flushed. I was high from the alcohol in the soup! The recipe had called for 275cl of dry white wine and I thought the 2 hour cooking time was enough to kill all traces of alcohol. Obviously it was not. *hic*

So here I am typing this, with a nasty headache. My husband just called home minutes ago and I related the incident to him. He found it so hilarious and couldn't stop laughing. I'm sure I'll find it funny tommorrow. *hic* Just not now. Thought to self: I do wish the room will stop spinning.

As if it wasn't bad enough, who should ring the door bell (just before my husband's phone call) but my son's classmate and her mother. They were here to deliver a birthday party invite. I tried my best to appear normal hoping they didn't notice I was sloshed to the gills.

You see, I'm a teetotaller of sorts. I don't consume alcoholic beverages if I can help it. It wasn't always like that. Before I got pregnant and quit alcohol, I could drink like a fish and still be relatively sober. Ironically, during the entire pregnancy, the mere whiff of it would make me nauseous. I attempted my first glass of red after things got back to normal but it made me so sick I was off it for good. I'm very sensitive to alcohol now, even if it's just a dash in cooking, I'll feel the wrath of it.

No photos of the soup tonight. I promise one the next time I make it again. And I will make it again as it's one of my husband's favourites. In the meantime, I must go tend to my splitting head. *HIC!*

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:46 pm

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Candied Citrus Peel

Friday, November 03, 2006

Two weekends ago, I experimented with this recipe from a Mediterranean cookbook I bought at the Gran Canaria airport. It's called Candied Citrus Peel and is quite addictive.

Initially, I made a modest amount just to test the recipe out. When it passed the taste test, I went all out, tripling the recipe. Well, the process is a bit arduous, so one might as well go the whole hog.

Here's what I had to do (albeit with slight adjustments):

1. Remove flesh and pith from oranges and lemons. Slice thinly, blanch and then simmer in a sugar solution for about one hour. Let cool overnight.

2. Remove citrus peels and arrange on wire rack to dry. Once crystallized, dip individual strips into melted premium dark chocolate. Arrange on baking sheet and let chocolate dry.

3. Enjoy your hard work!

It takes something like 2-3 days for the peels to completely crystallize here where the air is dry. In tropical climes, I reckon it might take longer. My husband was very patient all week as the study was taken over by trays of curing peels. Well, at least they smelt good. Speaking of smells, the tangy aroma lasted for hours after the simmering process. My kitchen smelt so fresh!

On top of it being a fancy nibble served with after-dinner coffee or tea, I can see possiblities for it as a garnish for desserts like cake and ice-cream. At the moment, my husband and I are not giving them the proper respect they deserve, greedily snacking on them as and when. They are that good!

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 6:01 pm

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Vossenjacht Update

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The weather held up on Friday night and the vossenjacht went on as planned.

We were all so excited.

Our mummy was supposed to arrive at 6.45pm but towards 7pm, there still wasn't a single shred of her. We were all beginning to wonder when the doorbell rang.


And oh, what a shock I got!

It was pitch black outside and looming up on our walkway was this white apparition. Freaky! If it wasn't for the parent volunteer who was escorting the mummy and for the fact I was expecting her, I would've screamed myself silly. To put it mildly, she was quite startling.

They apologised for being late. Apparently, they got the wrong address and rang the wrong doorbell. You can imagine the rest. The poor people who answered the door got such a terrible fright.....

Anyway, the mummy in question is a teacher in my son's school. Say hi to Juffrow Linda (Miss Linda) of Group 6:

"Who's your mummy?"

There were 2 batch of kids (accompanied by parents): lower primary (4-7 year olds) and upper primary (8-11 year olds). The litte ones arrived first. The mummy sat there with her coffin and waved once in a while. Sort of spooky but in an unthreatening manner. The really scary stuff came later, for the older kids. What the mummy did was lie in wait at the foot of our garage. She would then run up and scare the pants off the kids, chasing them about and they would scream and laugh. Some of the kids meant business though, coming armed with search lights and what not. By the time the last group of kids came past, it was already 9pm. It was quite an experience for my son, who ended up helping scare the kids.

Times have really changed. I was schooled in a convent and can't imagine any of the nuns or teachers getting dressed and doing something like that. Although some wouldn't have to be in costume - they were already witches.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 4:24 pm

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Sweet Potato Soup

With the weather getting colder, I'm always hungry upon returning home from being outdoors. I have this need to stuff my face with whatever that's close at hand. This is of course a dangerous practice. You know what they say - a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.

So bearing this in mind, I've stocked up on fruit, low fat crackers and biscuits ( just like squirrels do before the Big Winter Hibernation) I also have the odd bag of chips and sweets. The key word here is control, not deprivation.

I've also started to make more comfort food in the form of soupy desserts and snacks. Like this for instance, Sweet Potato Soup. I've added some longans and extra ginger for that extra bite. So lekker to tuck into a steaming hot bowl after spending time out in the biting wind.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 1:20 pm

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Take A Wok On The Wild Side

We dined out yesterday evening. This was highly unusual since it was a school night. However, we figured if we were home by 8pm, His Royal Highness will be none the worse for it, since the Royal Bedtime is at 9pm. Tops.

It was possible for us to go out since my husband was home nursing a throat infection courtesy of moi from last week. Well, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, germs and all.

Anyway, with claims of feeling much better, we all drove down to our favourite Chinese restaurant, just a couple of minutes away.

The recent trend for most Chinese restaurants here, on top of the ala carte menu is Wokking. What happens is you select your fresh vegetables, meats, fish and what-not laid out buffet style, bring them to the wok station where chefs are waiting to stir-fry your meal with the sauce of your choice. Or if you feel like living dangerously, there's a teppan-yaki grill option as well. Of course this is nothing new in Asia but for the Dutch, it's quite a novelty.

After your food is cooked, you go back to the buffet spread; to the warm section this time to load up on the side dishes like noodles, bee hoon (rice vermicelli) rice and a whole host of deep fried goodies. In last night's case, it was spring rolls, seafood balls, egg fu-yong etc. And just to Europeanize (or bastardize) things up a bit, the other staples were french fries, potato croquettes and frikendel (Dutch sausages). I had to keep correcting my son that frikendel is not Chinese food.

Just an observation: In the 4 years we've lived here, I've yet to see another Asian person besides myself, in a Chinese restaurant. As a customer, I mean. You see, once, while waiting for my turn at the buffet table, a Dutch lady actually asked me for some cutlery to which I coldly replied I didn't work here. She was suitably embarrassed of course. It must've been The Look I shot her.

So whenever we walk into a Chinese restaurant, we, or rather I get stared at quite a bit. I've since gotten used to it unless it's done very blatantly, to which I proceed to stare just as rudely back. Last night was no different. Since we're regulars, the waitress knew I'd ask for chilli sauce and a pair of chopsticks. Phoawrrr! It was rather unnerving the way the other patrons were gawking away while I was using them instead of my knife and fork. Will she drop the noodles? Is the piece of duck going to fall off? Oh my, she's dipping the shrimp in chilli sauce before putting it into her mouth. All this with 2 wooden sticks!!! I felt like a zoo exhibit.

The other funny thing that happens or did initially is the language. The Chinese waitresses and chefs would first speak to me in Dutch and when I reply in Mandarin (albeit on the wonky side since it's not my forte), they do a double take and are surprised I speak the language. And just by that one action, the veil is lifted and one can almost hear them think: "Ah, my fellow countryman!" Well, give and take a few Asian countries since I'm Singaporean and they are Mainland Chinese. This feeling of kinship has gotten my husband and me that extra piece of duck or char siew (so expensive in these parts) when it was not available on the particular day's menu.

Oh, and thanks to living and working in Asia for 5 years, with half the time spent in China, my husband knows the odd phrase or two as well. When he says things like "Ni Hao"(hello), "Zai Jian" (goodbye), "Xie Xie" (thank you), it earns him amused giggles from the staff. *heh*

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:15 am

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