A simple meal

Work is piling up and I feel the weight of the upcoming major projects on my shoulders.  Neck, shoulders and back has been rather achy this week and I long for a deep-tissue massage.

Grateful that the helper is back from her home leave, this means healthier meals that she can specially whip up for me.

Was tired from the long day at work and was craving for a healthier option at dinner tonight.  Had the helper make me quinoa with edamame.  Colleague kept raving about her pasta tossed with olive and anchovy tapenade that I decided to go pick me up some.  Tossed the quinoa with tapenade and some tuna flakes together with edamame and cheery tomatoes.  Gosh, it was really good!

IMG_8387Home-cooked hearty meals definitely FTW! 🙂  And I’m going to experiment more with recipes that involve tapenade in time to come.

Back in the kitchen: Roasted Aubergines

Back in the kitchen and it feels pretty good!

It’s been a while since I tried out a new recipe for an intimate dinner party.  Taking advantage of the May Day public holiday, I decided to break out the Ottolenghi Recipe book that we’ve been kindly gifted by friends who were staying with us for a couple of days.

The Man picked the Oven-Roasted Pork Belly recipe to try while I settled on the Roasted Aubergine with Saffron Yogurt recipe to try as I managed to score a really nice piece of aubergine at the market earlier that morning.

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The Man was rather skeptical about this dish for aubergines have never been a favourite vegetable of his. But for good measure, he gave it a try nonetheless and proclaimed it pretty yummy.  🙂

And guess who couldn’t resist getting in on the action while I was trying to photograph the dish.  Again, it’s been a while since I indulged in any food-styling pix.  Thought it would be good to jump in on the action and get my creative juices pumping.  In order to capture the natural lighting, I had to take the shots in the garden.  Passerbys who peered into my home thought I was crazy trying to photograph a plate with my camera perched on a tripod.  @-@

IMG_7784But if I may add, this aubergine dish as a starter was really, really good!  This recipe is definitely going into my book and will be appearing on our dining tables soon enough if we start our little dinner parties.  😉

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Roasted Aubergine with Yogurt [Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi’s Roasted Aubergine with Saffron Yogurt starter]

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium aubergine cut into slices, 2cm thick
  • olive oil for brushing
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • a handful of pomegranate seeds
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • coarse sea salt and black pepper

Yogurt dressing:

  • 150g of Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Method:

  1. For the sauce, whisk yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and some salt well to get a smooth golden sauce,  Taste and adjust the salt, if necessary, then chill.  This sauce will keep well in fridge for about 3 days.  [Note: the original recipe calls for saffron which I did not have on hand.  But if you are interested, simply add a small pinch of saffron strands and infuse them into 3 tbsps of hot water in a small bowl for 5 minutes. Pour the infusion into the bowl containing the yogurt and additional ingredients and follow as mentioned above.]
  2. Pre-heat the oven to about 220 degrees Celsius.  Place the aubergine slices on a roasting tray, brush with plenty of olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for about 20 – 35 minutes, until the slices take on a beautiful light brown colour.  Let them cool down.  The aubergines will keep in the fridge for 3 days; just let them come to room temperature before serving.
  4. To serve, arrange the aubergine slices on a large plate, slightly overlapping.  Drizzle the yogurt dressing over them, sprinkle with the pine nuts, pomegranate and finally, lay basil on top.

DSC04011Simply tuck in and enjoy, you won’t be sorry!

Check out what’s cooking in my kitchen or my culinary adventures as an expat-wife in Geneva.

Sunday cook-out:: A one-dish meal

The mom-in-law.  She lives with us and does most of the cooking on weeknights.  On weekends, we either eat out or occasionally, we do like to attempt a cook-out.  One weekend, she was out of town, so the Man and I put on our creative caps and wondered what we should be cooking for our Sunday cook-out.

When we were living in Tokyo some 5 years back, I used to trawl the internet for interesting one-dish meals to whip up.  Cooking has never been my forte and one-dish meals seemed like the easiest to make.  I found this relatively simple pork chops and rice recipe.  Made it once for the Man and we loved it!  Copied the recipe down into my cook-book, hoping that one day I will be able to recreate the dish.

Imagine, 5 years on, I decided that it’s finally time to make this dish.  Ingredients seemed relatively easy to get with the exception of canned French Onion Soup which may not be so common on our supermarket shelves.

But I did manage to find canned French Onion Soup at Cold Storage.  So decided to make this dish once again with a few minor tweaks to the original recipe.

Pork Chops and Rice (recipe found online but I can’t remember where since it was 5 years ago)

Ingredients:
a) 1 (10 .5 ounce) can of French Onion Soup
b) 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
c) 4 pork chops (at least four bone-in)
d) Salt and Pepper

Method:
1) Pre-heat over to 180 degrees Celsius.
2) Put approximately 1 cup of washed but uncooked rice in the bottom of a casserole dish.
3) Cover the rice with one can of French Onion Soup. [Save empty can for later use.]

4) Season pork chops with salt and pepper.  Brown pork chops in a large skillet and set aside.  [We used 2 large cuts of pork-chops instead of 4.]

5) Fill the saved can with water and pour into the skillet that was used for browning of the pork chops.
6) Scrape the fixins from the pan with water and pour into casserole dish.
7) Stir the ingredients in the dish and spread the rice evenly.
8) Place chops in a single layer on top of rice mix.
9) Bake in oven half an hour uncovered.
10) Thereafter, cover with foil and bake for another 30 mins.
11) Serve hot and enjoy!

My mistake for this was that I didn’t follow the instructions to the tee which I should have.  I thought 2 cans of water for the rice was too much so I adjusted and added just half a can of water instead.  That was mistake for the rice turned out to be a little too dry then what I remembered it to be.

So, if you are ever making this and wondering ‘Really? 2 cans of water?’  Trust me, it really is.

But all in all, a really satisfying one dish meal that we served with a side of fresh Japanese tomatoes as a starter.  Hoping to make this again one day.  And this time, I must get it right!

Sunday cook-out:: Okonomiyaki

Finally got round to posting this from one of our Sunday stay-in dinners with the in-law.  Was really itching to bring out the electric grill that we had lugged back from Geneva out to play but there never seemed to be a perfect time.  As the weather started to cool off a little, I decided to blow off the dust from this machine and bring out to play.

And the meal to christen our new electric grill with?  Home-made okonomiyaki!  Didn’t seem too difficult and the thought of having cabbage seemed pretty healthy.  Found a relatively simple recipe thanks to Lianne from Food Made with Love.  Headed straight out to purchase the ingredients for our stay-in Sunday evening dinner.

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Okonomiyaki (adapted from food made with love)

Ingredients (serves 4):
a) The Pancake Base:
– 1 whole cabbage or approximately 4 cups of green cabbage, finely shredded
– 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
– 2 cups of plain flour
– 2 tbs of corn flour
– 1 tsp of baking powder
– 1 1/2 cup of chicken stock
– 2 eggs
– salt to season

b) The fun part – adding the ingredients to the pancake depending on your creativity.  We used these:
– 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
– Cuttlefish, thinly sliced
– Pork

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Method:

1) Combine the flour, corn flour and baking powder and mix it well. Mix the cooled stock and egg together, and combine with the flour mixture. Mix until you get a thick pancake batter.

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2) Add the cabbage, shiitake mushrooms and garlic to the batter. Season with salt. Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium fire, and add some vegetable oil. Add half of the pancake mix and flatten it with a spatula.  We placed our sliced pork on top of the pancake.  For the pancake with the cuttlefish, we mixed the sliced cuttlefish into the batter.

3) Cook the pancake for about 10-15 minutes, flipping several times, until both sides are golden brown.

4) Serve it hot, drizzle the top with japanese mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce that you can purchase in the Japanese grocery section.

P1090621This really made for a fun and simple meal that the entire family participated in.  The batter was good for almost 8 pancakes and boy were we all stuffed, but we had fun taking turns to decorate the pancakes with mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce.  Check out our respective works of pancake-art!  IMG_5189

Can you take a wild guess who did which pancake?  Hehe…

Checkin’ out: Foodbar Dada

We were gluttons over the weekend. After the massive amount of food offered at the hospitality booth over at the Singapore Open, friends went home to sleep off after the afternoon of drinking and feasting.  But not us!  We weren’t quite stuffed but yet we knew that if we were to head home, we probably would end up hungry.  So after dropping off a friend back at his home, we detoured and headed to Mohammed Sultan wanting to check out some of the places I’ve heard but never quite got a chance to try out yet.

We were rather early, about 7pm, so decided to hop into Foodbar Dada to try our luck in getting a seat.  Been hearing about this place – more misses than hits.  Yet, I was willing to still give it a try to determine for myself.

We made no reservations but luckily, we managed to snag a counter seat for 2 with the condition that we give up the seat at 8pm.  Fine by us.  The Man and I are rather fast eaters provided if the food service is quick.

Don’t expect a huge set-up.  The place was cosy and the ambiance was lively ‘cept for the food smells that may stay on the clothes and hair after you finish the meal.

Thankfully, we weren’t too hungry else we may end up ordering everything on the menu.  Although friends warned that the offerings were limted, I thought the choices available on the menu were rather decent.  We ordered about 6 small dishes to share along with 2 cocktails and it was just about right.

Of the lot, we really enjoyed the mini burgers with the strawberry sauce.  Size-wise, it was perfect for stuffing one bite into the mouth.  The tangy strawberry sauce gave the burger a nice bite to it as well.   The pan-fried squid with eggs came highly recommended by the one of their staff.  We decided to give it a  try but were not bowled over by its flavours.  The dish smelled a lot better than it looked.  The visual feast of cooking this dish was delightful but we were sorely disappointed with the taste, it was a little too salty for our taste-buds.

I actually kinda like this place but not sure whether we will make it back as there are just too many new places to go check out.

Foodbar Dada
Address: 60 Robertson Quay, The Quayside, #01-12, Singapore 238252
Telephone: +65 6735 7738
 

An evening of indulgence @ home

Weekends should be made of these.. more indulgence at home.  Lucky us got invited to a friend’s do and boy, was the host generous!

We got treated to some really fine wines on top of the amazing food that he whipped up.  🙂

And my contribution to this small dinner-do?  A spinach dip that I had just learned from another friend.

This Spinach dip is really pretty simple to do as well.  All I did was to get chopped frozen spinach, drain the excess water from the spinach and pop in 1.5 cups of low-fat sour cream.  Add about 1 teaspoon of chicken essence powder, mix well, add pepper to taste and viola – it’s done!  It really is that quick and easy.

 

The purple butterflies cake project

If you have been following my misadventures on my recent cake decorating course that I took, you would have known how stressed out I have been over my final cake project. There were only 5 lessons that we had to take in this basic cake decorating course, but it was enough to ‘stress’ me and Germsy out. In between all the cake talk, I guess we bonded even more with a glass of wine in hand. Fun times indeed!

In order to ‘graduate’ from this course, we each had to assemble a two-tier cake and decorate it with fondant. We were told to select a design by the end of lesson 2 and this was the cake that I chose – a gorgeous Anna Sui cake adorned with black fluttering butterflies.

[Image taken from http://www.hannahgracecakes.co.uk]

Looks mighty challenging huh? And it was! I was told by my teacher to bake 2 X 6-inch cakes and 2 X 8-inch cakes and have them stacked one on top of the other. I honestly thought I had a 8 inch cake pan at home but it turned out I baked 2 X 7-inch cakes instead. I only realised the error when I stacked the 2 different sized cakes together and they look abit odd. But I was simply too tired to whip up another batch of cake batter and begin the process. So I chose to live with the mistake.

A lot of prep work was needed in order to make this cake. Besides covering our 2 cakes with fondant, I had to make the fondant butterflies a couple of days before, make sure they harden and bring them into class for the final decoration.

I made a total of 20 big butterflies and 14 small ones. 10 odd or more butterflies were broken in the process. Total time taken kneading of fondant plus making of the butterflies: close to 3 hours.

After settling the fondant butterflies, the next step was to cover our chocolate cakes with the fondant of your choice. Since mine was a purple-based cake, I had to tint my fondant which took me 1 hour to tint 1kg of white fondant. This was really getting to be quite time-consuming. Thereafter, I had to transport my cakes to Germsy’s place to have my fondant rolled out and covered there. Thankfully, Germsy’s daughter was a whizz at rolling and covering the cakes with fondant. So the sweet gal helped us with all our cakes with us taking a supporting role. Total time taken to cover 6 cakes : approximately 2.5 hours. Of course it’s not all work and no play, the wonderful host poured out some drinks while we worked. 🙂

Covering the cake with fondant is truly no easy feat. You have to make sure that fondant is rolled out to the desired thickness before laying it on the cake and slowly covering the gaps without breaking the fragile sugar piece. Well, didn’t have much luck in that department for a part of my fondant cracked really badly while covering the cake. So in order to ‘rescue’ the cake, I cut out a piece of fondant and covered the cracked part. This became a joke in the class for my cake looked like it had a stamp over it. I guess that’s my signature then. 😉

Okay, now to the very last part – assembling the cake.

At our last lesson, we were taught how to stack our cakes and making sure that it had the right support without collapsing.

Next, we were given about 2.5 hours to put the finishing touches and decorate our cake.

The mother-and-daughter team doing a far better job than me in their cake decorating.

This was me, initially, working on my cake.

Towards the end, the rest of the gals chipped in and helped add the sparkles to my black fondant butterflies, simply because I added way too much cornstarch and the white specks couldn’t be removed. Yikes! But I guess it was good fun!

And just like that we’ve ‘graduated’ from cake decorating course 1! Don’t you think the pals’ cakes are also very lovely? I absolutely adore Germsy’s white cake with neon pink bows! Classy and funky all rolled into one! 😉

And here’s a shot of us gals with our teacher.

My Anna Sui Butterflies fondant cake – it ain’t pretty but I guess I’m really proud of the cake that I’ve put together.

Of course, there’s room for improvement and hopefully if I ever do get the chance to make one of these cakes again, I hope to do a much better job at it.

Till then, we will be eating loads of choc cake here at the loft! 🙂

This has certainly been one pretty ‘mammoth’ and fun project that I’m glad to have done with friends on my career break. Doing this project has also opened my eyes for I’ll never look at any fondant cake the same way again.