Wanderlust – Singapore!

*Still travelling – and sending this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #22, hoping the messenger rooster (which lives next to my hotel in Yangon) will get to Angie – he looks pretty determined!*

This, hopefully, will be the first of 2-3 posts catching up on photos from previous trips in Singapore and regional NSW. Travel themed posts while I’m travelling. 🙂

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Singapore is said to have two national pastimes, eating and shopping. I’m not someone who goes ga-ga over luxury brands, anyway most of them have shops in Sydney too, so that leaves eating. So. Much. Eating.

I go crazy for the hawker food. Oh the hawker food – popiah, rojak, oyster omelette, laksa, congee, flaky roti, Hainan chicken, endless variations on rice and noodles, all those coconut or sago-laced sweets, durian cake, kaya toast, coffee or tea with condensed milk, masala chai, mountains of durian, and much, much, much more…

Can you believe I was so caught up in eating that I didn’t take photos? I really should practise taking photos of food I have in other countries.

Onto the photos I did remember to take. Here are the non-food bits of the trip.

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This time, I went back to Chinatown and visited the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple. I was lucky to be there during a ceremony led by a visiting monk from India. The smell of incense, otherworldly sing-song chanting (so unlike the western chromatic scale), punctuated by alien instruments and ceremonies. Despite the sound and color and motion, this was an hour of meditative stillness.

(As i’m learning in Myanmar, there are many variations of Buddhist temples. This one, like many in Malaysia, are in the Chinese style with lots of red, lanterns, incense, and bits of paper fortunes in mysterious shadowy corners. The ones in Myanmar are very different, dazzling in white and gold. As someone said to me yesterday, it’s like different types of sugar, but they all taste sweet – cute metaphor, non?)

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A complete contrast was Marina Bay Sands. The famous (and famously expensive) hotel that looks like a submarine.

I went there not sure what to expect. After all, it didn’t sound like my kind of place. Yet I was pleasantly surprised. Sure it was all about consumerism, but the building has some beautiful architectural moments. Inside, it was full of geometric patterns, tall, mysterious angles, silhouettes of figures, and details that remind you that – although this building is cool and shaded – you are in tropical Singapore…

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One egg, two recipes: lemon curd and fabulous macaroons

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*When this post hits the blogosphere, and Fiesta Friday 21, I’ll be travelling. Since internet will be sporadic, I may not see your comments (or visit your blogs) for a while, but look forward to catching up when I’m back!*

Of eggs and introductions

How does one introduce a recipe? I’ve been wondering about this while scribbling up this post. And to double the trouble, how does one introduce two recipes that together use the whole egg? Chronologically? Alphabetically? Punningly?

I’ll go from the outside, starting at the eggwhite, finishing with the egg yolk.

The eggwhite

I’ve posted about the macaroons before, under the moniker ‘multi-tasking macaroons’. But these macaroons weren’t exactly the same. These, made with coconut chips rather than desiccated/shredded coconuts, were so pretty. This time, the coconut flakes looked like brown-tipped wings. The texture was different somehow, chewy in the middle, crispy on the outside, not too sweet, each coconut flake standing to attention. These, dear reader, were what Alice Medrich intended in her recipe.

But I took a shortcut. I mixed the coconut and egg whites, without half-cooking them as Ms Medrich instructs. These were a tad stickier, and maybe took a tad longer to cook, but they worked well with a fraction of the effort.

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And then, I dolloped rum-spiked dark chocolate ganache. And finished by sprinkling over flaky sea salt…

These macaroons were ready in about an hour, but they could have been eaten in much, much less time. Especially when I piled a few together and let the chocolate ganache pour over them. That was…well, fun, and decadent.

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A writing process blog frolic, and a favourites list

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Every once in a while, a writing challenge comes along and makes my ears prick up. WP’s “Writing 101” series is one of them – I’ve been doodling along in private, occasionally scrunching up my nose at what comes out of the keyboard (would a quill and parchment make me write more thoughtfully? Or a typewriter?).

Another is the writing process blog tour that’s sprung up around the blogosphere. The lovely Petra @ Food Eat Love nominated me to be part of the blog tour. Have you visited her blog? Go on, I’ll be waiting here when you come back. It’s filled with delicious recipes and gorgeous photos. Most of all, a love of food and cooking really shines through, and isn’t that kind of energy and passion what blogging is about?

So here I am, doing the Tour with a little twist at the end (you didn’t expect a “straight” blog tour, did you?)… The rules are basically to acknowledge the person who nominated you, answer four questions about my blog writing style and process, and then nominate others to continue the Tour de Blogs – read on for my take on these rules – which has a list! Possibly the first list on this blog!

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Also, here be unrelated photos of mushrooms – I found the bailin mushroom! Their firm, meaty texture have led people to use it as a vegetarian alternative to abalone. I think these are sold canned in some S-E Asian countries, but fresh ones are harder to find. A quick turn in rich chicken broth, a bed of garlic chives (barely wilted with a teensy bit of oil), bonito flakes and white sesame. And we had an impromptu star atop our daily rice.

Onto the Tour de Blog Writing Process:

 

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What am I working on?

Right at this moment, the Tour de Blog post! And this week, posts that can be scheduled to publish while I’m on holidays. Expect catch up travel photos, and a couple of easy peasy recipes.

Over time, the things I “work on” change according to the seasons and cookbooks and the bloggy universe. Sometimes, it is all about taming the Yeast Beast; or, it is about baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar vs granulated vs raw sugar. Summer is about that magical salad. During winter, it’s braises, anything with chilli, and that elusive perfect char siu.

What is constant is the idea that food is fun, unexpected, pretty, lumpen-ugly, frustrating, intriguing, but most of all fun. Cooking, baking, jam-making requires method, albeit leavened with a dose of madness. Madness? Call it madness or creativity or inspiration, or “je ne sais quoi”, it makes me want to pick up the camera and say “hey guys, look, I made stuff – !”

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Another journey, and simple pleasures (aka yum yum squares)

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I’m planning another trip!!! (I know, it feels like I’ve just got back from the last work trip, but this one is a real holiday)

I’m giddy with excitement.

Because, because, because, guy, I’m going to Myanmar!! Think thousands upon thousands of Buddhist temples, giant Buddha statues, rows of novice monks and nuns walking by with alms bowls, slow boats, languid horse and carts, and slower train trips on colonial railways. (See here, this, those and that, and much more. Click on the photos below to go to the original page where I took the images from.)

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This trip will be memorable in other ways, too. Apparently, internet is slow or nonexistent, and there are no internationally connected ATMs outside the two largest cities. And, it’s monsoon season. Friends are expecting lots of selfies standing in puddles, with crazy hair from the high temperatures and 80%+ humidity, and down to my last pennies after failing to find an ATM.

Why Myanmar, you ask?

Reading Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor (also mentioned here and here) first piqued my interest in the country. While it is a book about food, Ms Duguid also talks about the people, culture, customs, the many different tribes. Most of all, she made me want to go there, taste the mohinga, shan noodles, thoke, tea leaf salad, curries, eat pomelos, mangoes and other tropical fruits, and have a real Burmese meal with all the side dishes.

I wish I was going with Ms Duguid, not the least because, um, I don’t speak Burmese. Instead, I’m hoping sign language will go a long way. Ones like, I’d really like some food, preferably an awesome bowl of mohinga? Or, could you drive me to the massive Buddhas that you can climb into? Or, is this a scheduled stop or are we just sitting here for a wee bit while the overnight bus gets fixed?

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I decided on this trip barely a week ago and paid for the flights on Friday. In between international flights, hotels (thank you Tripadvisor!), visa (fingers crossed….), bus schedules, train fares, calculating how much money I’ll need, and finding the perfect Colonial era hotel for the last night in Yangon, it feels like I’ve barely had time to breathe.

What does a girl do at a time like this? Make something simple, comforting yet utterly indulgent, of course. May I present to you Yum Yum Squares?

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Not quite World Cup: cashew & nutella candies

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There’s Brazil and World Cup fever in the air. Friends are flying over to Brazil to watch the matches, Brazil travel documentaries are all over the TV, and suddenly it’s all about those soups and snacks sold on Brazilian beaches.

Paçoca or pacoquinha is a peanut candy that is as Brazilian as you get. And no wonder, as it is supposed to taste a little like a Reese’s peanut cup! The peanut version of the candy was created during colonial Brazil, and the internet also tells me that there is a tradition of eating paçoca during lent or on Good Friday. As a bonus, because the candies are made using cassava / tapioca / manioc flour, these are also gluten free.

The basic ingredients are roasted peanuts, sugar, dulce de leche or condensed milk, and cassava or tapioca flour (though I’ve also seen recipes calling for biscuit crumbs or bread crumbs, which obviously may not be GF).

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I have wanted to make Brazilian peanut candies for a while. But, we never seem to have peanuts in the house, instead we are always overrun by cashews, almonds or walnuts. So, this candy had a makeover in the kitchen and emerged as not-quite-Brazilian cashew candies.

Roasted cashews replaced peanuts, nutella plus a spoonful of honey replaced dulce de leche, and we were ready to whiz and roll.

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Badass smoky chilli cheese beer bread

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Badass: seriously scary or seriously impressive. Words related to badass: epic, beast, Chuck Norris.

This bread doesn’t make me think of Chuck Norris. Though Chuck may like eating this bread* – a hefty, moist wholemeal affair, laced with parmesan and slathered in a spicy-smoky-sweet-salty sauce. There are browned crusty bits from the parmesan, and caramelised savoury bits from the smoky-chilli sauce. It’s not your average bread roll, this is chilli, smoky, cheesy, surprising goodness. And, you know, beer bread!

* Actually, I don’t know, what does Chuck Norris like to eat?

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After an eventful two weeks, this bread celebrated being back in the kitchen with time to play with food. It started with mild food poisoning, a few work dinners (ironically…), then a short trip to Singapore, baking cakes for friends who are moving away, and maybe taking on a new job at work (eeeeeep).

Crazy times, calls for crazy bread. Oui?

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The sauce features Korean red pepper paste, gochujang, which looks like a brilliant red version of miso. Sure, it’s spicy, but gochujang also has gorgeous sweet, salty, sour, umami flavours. Traditionally made by fermentation in large earthenware jars, the lingering, complex flavours develop as as hot chlli / pepper powder is fermented with glutinous rice, soy beans, salt and maybe some sweetener (honey, rice syrup).

While gochujang is traditionally used for soups, stews and rice cake dishes, it’s also used in ketchup and aioli, and jazzing up grilled cheese, tacos and quesadillas. So, I thought, why not use it in bread?

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Musings, and road trip #1

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As our northern hemisphere friends forage for spring-related things, we antipodeans are (reluctantly? raucously? slumberingly?) settling into nesting mode. Time to ditch the strappy dresses and sandals, hello to soft, faded jeans, softer wool jumpers and snuggly boots. Although we still get days of sunshine, there is a hint of chill in the air to remind us that, Toto, we’re not in summer anymore.

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With this season of change comes ideas, potentials and impossibilities. Work has been throwing up complicated, fascinating questions: we have long talks about could, should, would; bits of how-do-we and bobs of what-if. I distracted myself with thoughts about different jobs, new pastures, talking to people about what is ‘out there’. (The answer? Things, stuff, stories, bluff. Some luck, a dose of passion and a pinch of swagger.)

In between such seriousness, friends and I have laksa runs, ramen-in-a-cup, strange salads and trashy pies. We have wild talks about the meaning of life, gawk at literary meals, and joke about travelling with a llama (my second favourite quadruped) to some faraway corner where – Wallace and Gromit-esque – we eat cheese til the cows (or llamas) come home.

Then there’s baking and cooking. Quince, figs, persimmons. A strangely addictive bird seed bread, and Liz’s tofu marinara.

bird-seed-bread-2-05-tileAnd. And. There’s our Easter road trip. Here is the first batch of photos, all about the crisp mornings, brilliant sunshine, brooding sunsets, plus one rather gorgeous peacock. More coming soon.

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