Cooking with Love.

Since the 11th of Feb, when my world suddenly seemed bleak for a moment, I feel a world away to how things felt to be only a month back. Funny how a single month can change so many things. Right now, I feel like I’ve found my centre. That’s not to say I wasn’t happy before. I was. And I still am. Only perhaps, in some way, I can now say that I’m really starting to love myself in the true sense of the word. Not just from outside in, but from the inside out.

In the last month, I’ve started some TCM treatment to help with fertility. In doing so, I’ve made friends with the young partners of the clinic. It’s located right across the alley (not road. Seriously it’s just a back alley), from my back gate so it literally takes a minute or less to hop over. Through tonics and acupuncture, my sleep has been a lot deeper, I feel so much more energised, and way more alert that I ever thought possible. To be honest, I used to think that my sluggishness was normal. Now, I realise what feeling real energy is like and it’s amazing. I’ve also started to perspire like a real person. Flo used to be amazed at how I could walk out under the sun and not break into sweat – apparently it’s not very healthy at all. Well, now I find sweat pooling between my boobs when it’s hot out.

Every morning, I’m up together with Florian and I no longer need to sleep in some more after he goes off to work. I fix him breakfast, then I get ready to taken Kawaii out for his 40min morning walk at around 8.30am before it gets too hot. When we get back, I get ready for yoga just 2 minutes away and I’ve been going 4-5 times a week. I love the stretch, but I love going into Shivasa (dead corpse pose) the most at the end of each class. That’s the one where you like down on your back and let go of all your muscles and relax. I enjoy Hatha, and Vinyasa, with and without infra, and omg! Aerial yoga I love! I also went for a restorative class this week and enjoyed that too, just to get my muscles relaxed after the more intense classes. I’m keen to try kinetic next week if time permits but all in all, I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt since before ED, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

Perhaps it is practising yoga together with TCM, and having Kawaii around (totally falling in love with him by the way!), that has helped me so much. I feel so much more positive in general, and I’m simply happier than I have been for the longest time. I’m also finding so much joy in being amongst friends, and thriving on their energy. There are still uncertainties that lie ahead of us (Flo and I) especially this month but I want to stay relaxed and keep calm; knowing that whatever happens, will happen, and we will sail through it together.

With all the energy I’ve been experiencing lately, I told Florian that I wanted to cook for our friends one of the weekends recently. The group of us totalled seven and Florian worried a little that I wouldn’t be able to cook enough for everyone, or that I would end up over-stretching myself. Of course, we asked Les and Zen to settle the cheeses and crackers, Pascal came with salami and olives, and Piwen and Gab brought wine. Zen also bought an assortment of four cakes from Rive Gauche for sweets.

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I’d bought all the ingredients needed Friday, and Saturday, while Flo gave Kawaii a good shower, I swept and mopped our home before prepping for dinner. Then at 4pm, I started on our lightened-up Cottage Pie, decided to make a Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Mash in case the sliced potatoes atop the minced beef mix didn’t provide enough ‘carb-fill’, and Roasted Balsamic Vegetables.

It was actually really quick and easy.

  1. Make Cottage Pie filling. 
  2. Slice washed potatoes using mandolin. Boil remaining potatoes for mash. 
  3. Wash and cut eggplant, pumpkin, red and yellow peppers and onion into chunks. Throw in some fresh corn kernels since we had an ear to use up. Olive oil, balsamic, sea salt, pepper. Toss. Throw into oven for 45min. 
  4. Throw in garlic bulb with olive oil, wrapped in aluminium foil as well for 20min. 
  5. Put cooked filling into casserole dish. Top with sliced potatoes. Brush with butter. Salt, pepper. Throw into oven for 45min or until potatoes brown. 
  6. Mash potatoes with roast garlic, rosemary, a dash of milk, a dash of cream, a pat of butter, sea salt and pepper. 
  7. Keep everything in warm oven until guests arrive. 

I enjoyed it. And Kawaii was good as gold sitting on favourite (and only) blanket, at his favourite corner, enjoying belly rubs whenever our friends popped by his space to give him some love.

After our mains, we whipped out the assortment of lovely cheeses Zen had selected, along with delicious honey and wafer crackers. Together, we had gherkins, olives and salami. It was like having German dinner, after dinner. Oh, I forgot to mention, I also baked bread. The Swedish kind with lots of different seeds. Like pumpernickel. But I cheated and got the box from Ikea to try so it was a simple case of adding warm water into the box, shaking it like a polaroid picture, and dumping it into a baking tin to proof before baking.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being able to cook for friends I love, and watching all the food I’d prepared before polished off. Either it was really good or they were really hungry and I didn’t prepare enough. Haha. Whatever the case, I really enjoyed dinner, and even more so their company – catching up, learning more about each other, sharing stories, laughing together. Old friends, new friends, they all make my heart full. As we get older, it’s not as easy forging new friendships so the ones we have become more valuable and the new bonds we form, are ones we try to nurture as well. 

The high from cooking led me to another simple cooking path in part because I was adamant about choosing the healthier, though slightly more troublesome, option. I’ve never cooked stock from scratch before and last Tuesday, Flo suggested I make a seafood stew so we could use up the rest of the bread we had left. Since I’d bought fresh prawns for the stew, I decided to try my hand at using the shells to make the stock.

I chose to go a little healthier, discarding the heads (yes I know I know, where all the flavour and mojo is, I’m sorry!), and frying the shells along with onions, garlic and some peppercorns. Then I added in hot water, let everything come to a boil before simmering for half an hour.

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I really wanted to do a step-by-step pictorial on how I made the stew but after this first one below, I kinda forgot… Anyway, I didn’t have fresh tomatoes with me so I sautéed onions, garlic, sliced bird’s eye chilli, and some yellow pepper, along with some thyme, rosemary and threw in a bay leaf as well. I made about 250ml worth of stock.

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Then, I added in the prawn stock with a dash apple cider vinegar (instead of white wine), 1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste and let everything simmer. Then I realised that more tomatoes would be heartier so I added about half a cup of diced tinned tomatoes and let everything cook down a bit before adding chunks of sea bass and the de-shelled, de-veined prawns. Was tempted to buy scallops or add in some mussels but what we had in the pot was already more than enough. I could have reduced it a bit more to make it thicker so that it’d cling more to the bread but it was dang tasty!

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So I could have toned down on the chilli or perhaps use chilli flakes next time instead. I think it was on the spicier side for Flo. I was really proud of myself and seeing that stock isn’t that difficult to make, I might start making chicken broth at home from now on too. At least I can be assured that only natural ingredients have gone into it. In fact, with this seafood stew, I didn’t have to add any salt at all. I added half a teaspoon of coconut sugar to tamper the tang, and black pepper to season. That was it. Best kind of dinner for cold-ish evenings! Also, cooking with love makes everything taste even better!

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Cook-ins and Eat-outs.

Blogging has taken a bit of a back-seat owing to recent set-backs. I’d love to share a bit more but now isn’t the time. Perhaps in a few months’.

There’s been a lot of things going on since the New Year for Flo and I. Most recently, I came back from a short 5-day trip to Hong Kong with Mum which was planned months ago to celebrate her birthday. Also, I’ve been very happy regularly going for yoga to build my strength up. I’m pretty flexible to begin with so sliding back into it has been enjoyable and not overtly tiring although I think I overdid it yesterday with two infra yoga classes, then over hydrated myself so ended up feeling crazy sick with a bad bout of headache and vomiting. Luckily, it was nothing a cold compress, panadol, and a good night’s sleep couldn’t do to make the discomfort go away.

Also, Flo and I have been discussing about getting a dog. We don’t want to rush into it though since we still have quite a few holidays lined up so we’ve decided to try fostering instead. This way, we’ll be able to figure out whether we can truly commit to taking care of a dog. We’re currently going through the protocol in order to foster Kawaii, a black mongrel from the shelter. Flo met him while I was away and I’ll meet him this coming weekend. I’m so excited!

Back-tracking to a earlier in January, we had Les and Zen over for a spot of home cooking together. Flo and I were gifted with a pasta machine for our wedding from his grandparents and we were keen to try it out. So we made the dough from scratch using semolina, flour and eggs.

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And while we were busy with the pasta, Zen was in charge of making his foie-gras poached pear and walnut salad, while Lesley made the seafood sauce.

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Oh and for Christmas, Oma Rennekamp gave Flo this wooden stand for drying pasta. So practical and so thoughtful!

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We made more like a tagliatelle but it was quite thin. It was really tasty though with the wonderful seafood sauce Les whipped up.

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Not quite a fan of foie-gras but the poached pears were en-pointe! Flo actually enjoyed the foie-gras with the salad.

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And of course, some cheese with honey and extra poached pears on the side.

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Nothing like sitting back after working together in the kitchen, and spending time with friends over a delicious meal.

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I’m really thankful for friends like Les and Zen who love food as much as Flo and I do. More than that, I love the positive energy I get from both of them and with the struggles of the last month, they, together with Flo, my parents, and Pearl have helped lift my spirits, even without realising.

Flo and I, together with Mum and Dad, also discovered an eatery walking distance from home that serves pretty dope Shanghainese cuisine. It’s called Tall Girl Chinese Restaurant and the family who run it are really tall!

We tried the Shredded Beancurd Salad appetiser which is so addictive! The next two times Flo and I went, we had to order it as well.

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It’s refreshing, and has nice bite and texture. It’s spiked with lots of garlic which I constantly forget about whenever I’m happily indulging in mouthfuls of this salad, and only until after the meal, when the taste of garlic refuses to leave, do I feel a tinge of regret.

Stir-fried Dou Miao (Pea Shoots) with Garlic is very competently done.

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We weren’t too crazy about their Xiao Long Baos seeing how we’ve been spoiled by Din Tai Fung’s delicately thin dumpling skins. The ones here are more rustic, so a little on the thicker side and the filling has a stronger porky taste.

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Their Minced Pork Lamian was tasty and the noodles had a nice bite. Loved the abundance of fresh, shredded cucumber that not only provided crunch, but also lifted the otherwise heaviness of the dish with all the meat.

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Now these babies, were the highlight of our meal. These Pan-fried Potstickers were delightfully crisp at the bottom, and had a juicy filling that highlighted the sweetness of the pork.

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The meal for four of us cost less than $40 if I remember correctly. Dad almost couldn’t believe it but obviously, he wasn’t complaining. In fact, it made him quite excited at the prospect of a return trip.

Another little gem we found in the basement of Katong Shopping Centre is this gelateria called The Humble Scoop. Now, everyone who visits this area knows of Birds of Paradise which has a big following with their botanical flavours, Instagrammable wall, and homemade thyme cones.

BoP sits right outside our home so if we’re there at the right time, there’s no queue but more often than not, there’s a huge line and to be honest, I don’t like the service at BoP. The youngsters serving often seem happier talking and joking amongst themselves and I wonder if that’s the point – extend the serving time and the line forms. And as we all know, Singaporeans love to queue up because a queue must mean something good. Of course, I won’t deny that BoP does serve pretty good gelato but hop over a couple hundred metres and you have this little gelateria serving deliciously creamy ice-cream, also made from scratch.

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I won’t say that The Humble Scoop is a competitor to BoP since the flavours here make a spin on local, familiar flavours – think Salted Coconut Gula Melaka, Milo Dinosaur, In-kueh-dible… But rather than joining the masses willing to wait in line for a scoop, I’m more than happy to visit this shop for my sugar fix.

Cashew Chicken.

Before Flo flew off to the land down under, and after the two thumbs up given to the ugly delicious sweet and sour chicken I made for him one evening, I decided to crack down and practice some more Asian cooking. This time, I zeroed in on Cashew Chicken.

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I always thought of Cashew Chicken as more of a Thai dish since that’s where I had my first taste of it as far as I can remember. However, I realise that based on some research, the seasonings used can steered towards being more Chinese as well.

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Use fish sauce, bird’s eye chilli and some lime juice and you step foot into Thailand. Stick to soy and hoisin and you’re in well, not exactly China but somewhere Chinese-ish.

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My rendition is a mix of both Thai and Chinese, but skewed a little more to the latter. It’s extremely simple to make and while it doesn’t push my Sweet and Sour Chicken off top spot, Flo says this definitely makes his list of top 5 favourite dishes by me.

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Cashew Chicken (Serves 1 as a main or 2-3 if you have other side dishes)

1 pc Chicken Breast, cut into 1.5″ pieces
1 tsp Fish Sauce
1/2 tsp Ground White Pepper

1/2 white onion, chopped
2 stalks Scallions, white and green parts separated. Cut into 1″ pieces

1/2 Red Pepper, diced
1 Red Chilli, sliced thinly and deseeded
2 cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1 Tbs Hoisin Sauce
1/4 Tbs Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Water

Sesame Oil
1/4 cup Toasted Cashews

  1. Marinate chicken with fish sauce and ground white pepper for about 15min.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and water. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil on high in a saucepan or wok. Once smoking hot, add chicken in just to brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Turn heat down and add in onions, white scallions, red pepper, chilli and garlic. Cook until fragrant and peppers have softened slightly.
  5. Add in rice vinegar mixture and mix through. Cook for about a minute for the sauce to thicken slightly before turning off the heat.
  6. Stir in a drizzle of sesame oil, toasted cashews and the scallion greens.
  7. Serve it brown basmati rice, or whatever rice you fancy.

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The portion turned out to be quite generous so it totally filled Flo up nicely with some brown basmati rice. Of course, plain Jasmine white rice will be perfect as well and if you’re feeding more than two people, whip up a few more sides like a simple omelette or vegetable stir-fry. With the vegetables in there, it does make a balanced, healthful dish on its own especially since you can also control the amount of oil and salt that goes into it. Also, be sure the toast them nuts (I just baked mine in the oven for about 10-15min stirring the nuts halfway so they brown nicely) because they really level up the flavours!

Miso Chicken.

Just before our move, a new cafe reached out to me to supply them with some cakes. I had to think up a menu for their Japanese-Local fusion theme and present them with some samples to try.

I enjoy the experimentation aspect when opportunities like these arise and it allows me to explore more new flavour combinations and see how they work together.

One of the flavours they really enjoyed was this Pandan Coconut Cheesecake with Gula Melaka Drizzle.

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I tried to weave the Asian flavours of comforting pandan together with the very Western comfort dessert, the cheesecake. Thankfully the partnership was a successful one that impressed those who tasted it.

Another interesting one that I really liked was the Date and Walnut Cake with Miso Caramel Buttercream.

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Texturally, the cake was dense and more akin to Carrot Cake. I used Shiro Miso in the caramel for the salty element and blended it into my Italian Buttercream recipe. This was a harmonious marriage between East and West but while the flavours complemented each other well, we were unsure as to how customers would take to miso in their dessert. Yes, the local palates are opening up but perhaps not quite so quickly.

Another cake that’s much more Japanese-skewed was the Matcha Sponge with Cranberries and a light Lemon Chantilly.

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This was delicate and light, better with tea than with coffee in my opinion, but also very much toeing the safer side of things whether tastebuds are concerned.

I also had a Chocolate Cake and Earl Grey Lavender Cake at the tasting where they were quite enamoured by the latter. It felt really nice garnering lots of positive feedback from them especially since they shared with me that they’d gone through quite a few bakers but none had particularly impressed them both with attitude and with their cakes. That certainly put me on a high.

Anyway, we were busy right after with moving as I’ve mentioned a few times in my last two posts (sorry about my repetitiveness). It was a hectic day but Flo really did most of everything having taken the day off. We had the movers come, then Flo oversaw their moving the boxes into our new home, then I had to go to the dentist which meant that Flo had to then see to the professional cleaners we were required to hire to get our old place scrubbed squeaky clean.

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I was quite sad saying goodbye to #13-05 because it was the first home I had out of my parents’ home. I managed to keep it neat and tidy the whole year which I’m quite proud of seeing that I began last year struggling to iron and using softener to wash our clothes in the washing machine instead of washing detergent.

But. Out with the old and in with the new they say. So now we’re all settled into our new home and we have pretty nice neighbours. Flo was adamant that we take part in the good ol’ tradition of saying Hi to our neighbours along with home-baked cake so that we did over the weekend.

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I made some Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Bread that we presented to our immediate neighbours. To our right we have a nice young family with two little ones and on our left is a young lady with an Aussie accent and a cute French Bulldog.

As much as possible, I tried to keep to our usual schedules and routines even with the move and unpacking taking place. I was quite proud that Flo and I managed to unpack just about everything within the first week. Our area is filled with eateries so we’re not short of dining options. Still, I wanted to cook anyway to provide Flo with nice, warm meals after all the stress from the move and coming home from a tiring work day.

I’ve also been busy diving straight back into work the day after moving and trying to understand our new old oven as well. It seems to be working well and while it took a few tries to figure out my ideal working temperature for it, I think we’ve more or less found it.

Anyone, with work filling up my day, cooking for Flo has to be quick but still nutritious. So the other evening, I decided to roast some Chicken Thighs using a super easy miso marinade. Then I sautéed some sliced baby tomatoes and seasoned them with some sea salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. For greens, a simply blanching of haricot verts worked well, then a quick toss in some sea salt and pepper.

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Miso Chicken for 2

1 Tbsp Butter, softened
1 Tbsp Shiro Miso
1/2 Tbsp Honey
1/4 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
Black Pepper

2 pcs Skin on, bone-in Chicken Thighs

  1. Preheat oven to 220 deg C.
  2. Mix butter, miso, honey, rice vinegar and black pepper in a bowl to form a smooth paste.
  3. Rub paste oven chicken thighs and place onto lined tray.
  4. Roast for 30-40min until golden brown and juices run clear. Turn chicken over once or twice during the roasting period.
  5. Serve hot.

Miso apparently does wonders in tenderising meat so this marinade can also be used for pork and fish.

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This recipe yielded an insanely juicy, tender piece of chicken that was bursting with flavour. It was super simple to make and a whizz to mix the marinade together and slap them onto the chicken. And yes, it garnered two-thumbs up from Flo. If Nat can cook it, so can you. Although really, it was the oven that did most of the work.

Tom Yum Beef Goulash

A few months ago, I whipped up a batch of Beef Goulash with Focaccia. There’s nothing like a good ol’ pot of stew lovingly cooked over hours and hours resulting in tender, melt-in-the-mouth, flavourful pieces of meat. Because patience is of the essence, it usually means making sure that I have the afternoon free since I don’t have a slow cooker. I’m also unsure of whether my pot is oven-friendly so I keep it at a low simmer on the stove while I check on it from time to time while giving everything a good stir.

I was itching to make another hearty pot of goulash the other day but at the same time, really wanted to use up some Thai herbs sitting in the fridge before our move. Luck was also on my side since chuck beef was on special at the supermarket and with the Thai infusions, this recipe had a subtle Asian twist to it.

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So first up, the ingredients –

Tom Yum Beef Goulash (Serves 4)

460g Chuck Beef, cut into 1″ cubes
1 Tbsp Plain Flour

Olive Oil
2 sticks of Celery, Sliced
2 Carrots, Chopped
1 large Onion, Chopped
10 pcs dried Lime Leaves
2 Knobs Galangal, sliced thickly
2 Red Chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 Green Chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced
3 Stalks Lemongrass, just the white base, Sliced into 1.5″ pieces

500ml Beef Broth
400g Tinned Diced Plum Tomatoes
1/2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
Black Pepper

  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Once hot, add chopped celery, carrots, onions, lime leaves, chillies, sliced galangal and lemongrass. Fry for about 8 minutes until vegetables have softened. 
  2. Add in beef cubes and a tablespoon of flour. Give everything a good stir for 10 seconds.
  3. Add in beef broth and tomatoes. 
  4. Season with fish sauce and black pepper. Bring to the boil before lowering heat to simmer for 3 hours or until meat falls apart easily.
    Alternatively you can place your pot into a preheated 180 deg C oven to cook. Make sure to remove the lid for the last half hour of cooking to reduce the stew to a thicker consistency. 
  5. Remove lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass. – I counted the number of lime leaves I put in so that I made sure to remove all of them after. Tweak seasoning and serve, or allow the flavours to infuse overnight and serve the following day which was what I did. 

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Bubble bubble.

I allowed the stew to cool before covering and refrigerating it overnight. I gave half the batch to Mum and Dad while Flo and I polished off the rest for dinner with some potatoes. I followed Flo’s suggestion from before which was to boil the potatoes separately so that they wouldn’t overcook in the stew. That I did resulting in perfectly fluffy baby potatoes with some bite. I also threw in some sliced shiitake mushrooms when I was reheating the stew since they needed to go too.

I actually really enjoyed the inflections of Asian flavours in the beef stew – they were warm and familiar amidst the comforts of this hearty bowl of goulash. The citrus flavours from the lime leaves and lemongrass cut the richness of the beef, but it filled our stomachs all the same. Definitely worth a place on your dinner table especially when it’s cold out and all you want is something that wraps you in a warm tight hug! Bonus is that you only need one hand to hold the spoon to eat with while the rest of you can stay snug underneath your blanket.

Spiced Grilled Chicken Breast with Avocado Salsa.

One of the best things in life is being able to cook for the people you love.

One of the most difficult things to do however, is cook for two people. I don’t usually like to have leftovers so I try to cook what’s just right for two people and on occasion, if I know I’ll be seeing my parents the next day, I’ll cook for four. That’s the tricky thing about living in Singapore – you can buy a meal at the hawker centre for about SGD3-5 and that’ll be that, but I still feel that there’s nothing as wholesome and love-filled as a home-cooked meal.

There are days where I feel like it’ll be cool to cook up a big pot of chilli but we’ll definitely struggle to finish it and freezing is fine only I tend to forget about frozen foods a lot of the time and will more than likely whip up a new batch before realising that I still have some in the freezer. Last night, Flo suggested that I make lasagne but again, it’s not something I’d make for just two of us so since we’re moving to our new place next week, I suggested that I make some for our housewarming.

My go-tos are usually pasta since they’re a snap to make.

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I prefer making my sauce from scratch simply because it’s so easy to do. I made this arrabbiata sauce with a tin of diced tomatoes, dried chilli flakes, onions, garlic, random dried herbs, salt and pepper, then I finished it with some fresh basil and pan-seared prawns.

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Topped it with cheese and avocados (I was a little lazy to grate the cheese), and that’s dinner for two! I know I know, it’s definitely not the traditional Arrabbiata of Lazio where the fiery sauce is said to have originated from, but life’s about change is it not?

I already have a recipe of one of my renditions of arrabbiata sauce in an earlier blog post so today, I’ve decided to share with you something just as simple and incredibly satisfying to the taste buds and the belly.

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Spiced Grilled Chicken Breasts with Avocado Tomato Salsa (Serves 2)

2 pcs Chicken Breasts, pounded to about 1cm thickness

1 tbsp Garlic Puree
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Tumeric
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

  1. Mix spices together and rub onto chicken breasts. 
  2. Heat pan on medium heat with oil to coat. Cook chicken breasts for about 3 minutes on both sides until cooked through.

Tomatoes and Avocado Salsa:
1/2 ripe Avocado, diced
1/2 White Onion, diced
8 Cherry Tomatoes, diced (or 1 whole tomato)
1 Bird’s Eye Chilli, deseeded and sliced thinly
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
1 tsp Lime Zest

Coriander, optional

  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix. Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

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I topped the chicken with salsa, and served them with some broccoli and roasted pumpkin wedge. It took all of 15 minutes to put dinner together – the pumpkin I threw into the oven for about an hour so no fuss there really. It was a perfectly well-rounded meal with lots of flavour, made in no time at all so it’s ideal for busy weekdays when you’re rushed for time.

Confession: I spend a lot of my mornings scratching my head thinking about what to cook for dinner. I usually trawl through Foodgawker only to open the link to an enticing looking meal and then quickly close it when I see how many ingredients I need to make it. I prefer to stick to minimal ingredients, and ones that I have existing at home. So yes, I’m a bit of a lazy cook but if my food consistently tasted as good as this Chicken and Salsa dish every time, then why not? Oh! And the chicken got Flo’s two thumbs up of approval! 🙂

Family, Friends and Feasts!

This may have come a teensy bit late but we have 12 days of Christmas right? And since we did it German style this year,

Fröhliche Weinachten und ein frohes Neues Jahr!

We had our Christmas dinner on the 24th and spent it with family and close friends. Past years have seen my parents hosting and having the whole Tan family invited as well as some friends. This year, Flo and I hosted to give Mum a break from always being the one to prepare all the food as well as having to be the main person to clear up after guests have left.

There was about 15 of us and I made sure to call dibs on our condo function room. We’re only allowed to book 2 months in advance so on October 24, at 9.30am, I called the management office to quickly place a booking. Mum roasted the Turkey, Dad got his carving skills to work, they also generously brought sliced Ham for dinner. I made a big tray of Grilled Vegetables, a simple Caprese Salad, and of course, the dessert of Banana Walnut Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and a Chocolate Ganache Drippy Glaze that was polished off after dinner.

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And Flo’s boss made us an incredible Stuffed Chicken. I believe it was Capon Chicken according to his wife. Initially I thought it was a reference to the method of cooking the bird but apparently, it refers to a male chicken that has been castrated and fed on a rich diet of milk or porridge. As such, they tend to be larger in size compared to a normal chicken, but still smaller than a turkey. They are also more flavourful, juicier and more tender, hence, the perfect candidate for roasting.

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And so we have our deboned chicken, stuffed with a blend of pork, chicken, bacon, onions and chestnuts. There was also a gravy on the side that had whole chestnuts swimming in them. The chestnuts were awesome. Yeah I have a thing for chestnuts…

Flo did a great job slicing up the chicken so that the rest of us didn’t have to get our hands dirty.

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Ludwig actually made the bird for us specially to collect for our Christmas dinner as they had their celebration the day before. In exchange for the chicken, I baked his family my cake-of-the-season, the Gingerbread Cake with Vanilla Buttercream and Salted Caramel Glaze.

And this little one here, though small, was just enough to go around for our Christmas do.

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The yellow thing on top was a little random. I had some cake orders to do for around Christmas and happened to cut up some extra fondant star. So I ended up stacking them into a yellow star tree-cum-flower and used it as a cake topper.

And I made sure that we had some photos taken because I usually forget to take proper photos of the family. This one below has Flo, Dad, and Enrico, who is a tenant at Dua Gou’s home and wasn’t going back to Indonesia to be with his family for the holidays. It was nice to have him join us and for us to find out more about the island he’s from and what he’s doing here in Singapore. I took this photo just because all three men had their legs crossed in exactly the same position and I thought it looked rather cute!

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Enrico was obliging in helping us take a group photo. This one is of my family, oldest aunt with her grandson Joseph (i.e. my nephew), my cousin, TY, and her parents Mama and Si Chek, Amanda and Alex, and my oldest BFF Pearl and her husband, YJ. The only missing person was Dai, TY’s husband who’d played 6 hours worth of tennis earlier and was totally smashed. So he found a chair by the pool, got comfy and promptly fell asleep.

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And there! Another group shot of us doing… something. When I saw this picture with my Dad doing the peace aka victory aka twist sign, I couldn’t help but laugh. Then I realised Mum was doing it too! It was great seeing my parents looking so happy and relaxed that evening and looking once again at this photo just makes my heart overflow with joy.

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After my aunts and uncles left, TY, Dai, Amanda, Alex, Pearl and YJ came up to ours where we had drinks, talked and laughed. Then we proceeded on to play this game that Amanda introduced to us called ‘Air Console‘. Basically anyone who has a smart phone can play it and it was actually a really cool game to play in a group. They stayed past midnight before we wished each other Merry Christmas and good night!

Christmas day itself was less eventful but still a great one nonetheless.

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Flo and I met Amanda and Alex (AGAIN!! That’s how much we love them!) to watch Jumanji. We all agreed that the cast was awesome and the trio – Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black were super in their roles. It was entertaining, suspenseful, action-packed and witty all at the same time. A must-watch for sure!

Another must-watch is Wonder. I watched it last week actually but from the beginning to the very end, all I did was cry. I actually read the book many years ago. It wasn’t a sad show but it was incredibly touching. It reminded me of how people like Auggie, young and old, can have a heart of a lion. Sometimes, circumstances are unavoidable and yet, they find the strength to overcome them and come out trumps. And Auggie notwithstanding, his sister too had her own battles to fight and so did his parents in choosing how to raise him. Awesome. Just awesome!

Anyway, after Jumanji, we hemmed and hawed about where to go for dinner. We finally thought to go back to our favourite Long Phung only to find it closed for Christmas. Boo! So we decided to hack it and try the other Vietnamese restaurant next door, Lâp Vietnamese and boy, were we pleasantly surprised.

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Amanda fancied some of their fresh Pork and Prawn Spring Rolls. These were made fresh and well stuffed. I preferred these to the ones we had previously at Long Phung simply because they tasted fresher and they used leaner cuts of pork within.

A portion of Rare Beef was also called for. Lâp’s rendition uses julienned red onions instead of white ones so there was no heavy remnant of onion-y flavour left on the tongue.

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They also had a mellow smokiness from the wok, greater onion to beef ratio, smaller cuts of beef and had the meat just about cooked through whereas Long Phung’s has theirs more pink and with a sharper hit of lemon juice squeezed over. It’s a matter of preference really and we were in agreement that neither was better than the other. They were simply different.

Amanda and Alex had a bowl each of Beef Stew Noodle Soup which they both enjoyed, Flo had the Pho Bo Tai which had a hearty, flavourful stock with a stronger hint of 5-spice compared to Long Phung.

I wanted to try what they called their Vietnamese seafood gumbo but it was either off the menu or sold out, so I had their Sour Prawn Soup.

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It came with 5 huge prawns that were extremely fresh I might add, as well as okra, tomatoes and sliced pineapples that added a touch of sweet. I loved the addition of fresh herbs and fried garlic on top. So good!

With that, it was yet another Christmas come and gone.

Our goodbye to 2017 was a simple affair. We met our BCFF (Best Couple Friends Forevahhhh) Amanda and Alex and went for an Indian Vegetarian dinner at Udipi Ganesh Vilas at Ceylon Road.

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Chapati for me, Garlic Naans and Butter Naans for the Naan fans, eaten along with Palak Paneer (my favourite!), Aloo Gobi (Flo’s favourite), Cucumber Raita and Mixed Vegetables Curry. Later we ordered another serving of Aloo Gobi and Paneer Kofta (A fried ball of paneer doused in curry masala) which I’ve never tried before and was really nice too. I know, Indian food generally never looks very photogenic but they make up for it in flavour and richness.

Four of us took a walk home after dinner where we settled ourselves down to play Diablo III.

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Then at 11pm, out came the cheeses and cold cuts.

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We popped a bottle of champagne at midnight and I had a sip of Flo’s but still no. I still don’t like the taste of alcohol. Of any variety.

We took our first #wefie of 2018 too! Amanda made a good point – four of us hang out together regularly but never really take many pictures together. Something we’ll have to change this year.

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And that’s the holiday season over. At least until February when Lunar New Year comes around. The shopping malls have already taken down all the Christmas decorations and put up the Chinese New Year ones already. But all that aside, after my recent travel posts and festive posts, I’ll be back next with more new recipes I promise!

From me to you, I wish you a blessed 2018 full of laughter, good cheer, great health, lots of love, and an endless supply of new memories to make! XX