Wednesday, October 1

KW's surprise birthday lunch

Sometimes I feel bad for the Mister. With marriage and parenting, his frequent catch-ups with his friends have taken a back seat (next to the toddler car seat) and his work doesn't allow him to squeeze in lunch meet-ups. On top of that, a recent business trip before his birthday put a damper on his birthday plans.

Determined to set things straight, I decided to surprise KW and arranged for a couple of his oldest friends to come over for lunch on the day that he came back from Houston.

 Cantaloupe Salsa
 (recipe here)

These days with our disturbingly warm weather, light appetisers are the way to go. A refreshing, sweet cantaloupe salsa
 from Smitten Kitchen did the trick nicely though I am sure I overdid the shallots when I eyeballed the amount.

 Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli (recipe here)

Broccoli, affectionately known as "Brocs" in our household, is a go-to vegetable side dish for me. I decided to borrow this recipe, "The Best Broccoli of Your Life" by Amateur Gourmet, who borrowed it from The Barefoot Contessa Who Lives on the Hamptons with Jeffrey and Her Gay Posse aka Ina Garten. 

Naturally, I am not someone who can adhere strictly to recipes (I think it must be a disease) so instead of pine nuts, I used cashews which, in my Hamptons-humble opinion, works better than pine nuts. 

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce (recipe here)

For our main dish, I made chicken enchiladas. I am not sure why I decided to make them. I have only had them max twice in my life and it's not like I was hankering for Mexican. But I am glad I tried them out because boy oh boy, they were goooood.

Runaway cheese trails that did not escape muh fork...

I used a rotisserie chicken, which meant half the work done, and mixed some gouda with cheddar for more depth. Enchiladas don't make pretty pictures but they make pretty awesome party food. Make them now.

On top of being just wonderful people to be around, the fellas even picked up the birthday cake, Mango Rhapsody from Patisserie Glace, KW's favoritest cake in the entire universe of our tiny red dot.

A fruity paradise consisting of sliced sweet mangoes, fluffy sponge and refreshing pear chunks perched atop an frangi-pane tart shell. A perfect end to a glorious catch-up!

We are off to Seoul tonight for our babymoon! See you later, lovelies...

Monday, September 29

Cold fish lunch

Once in a while, the colleagues and I will venture out of the norm and take the train out for lunch.  On this occasion we took the train to Orchard, and when colleague J mentioned he would like sashimi, I suggested grabbing some from the Cold Storage at Takashimaya. 

The colleague chose this tray of Japanese sea bass sashimi that was presented in a glorified manner, worthy of the fish's sacrifice. Thumbs up for its undeniable freshness. 

On top of that, the three of us shared some aburi makis and nigiris as well. All this for $40 buckaroos... What a bargain!

This nigiri line-up fueled my love for aburi We weren't expecting restaurant quality but on a regular salaryman budget, this was super satisfying. 

I loved this hugeass funky maki, which was kind of like a mega california roll but topped with either raw or aburi salmon. Sigh, this makes me miss the bastisized rolls we had in California....

This is my kind of working lunch. Whenever I have salmon sushi or sashimi, I can literally feel myself walking on air thereafter. *Omm*

Friday, September 26

Nutella Brownies by Kirbie's Cravings

There are stories or history texts of how men get called up for war and their wives make them a magnificent meal to send them off. That was kind of how I felt when I baked these Nutella brownies. Of course, I am being melodramatic here. The Mister had a late (2 freakin' AM) flight to catch for work and to stay awake (that's way past my bedtime), I decided to try out a super duper easy recipe.

Yeap, kitchen confidence isn't exactly shooting through the roof these days... 

Kirbie wasn't kidding when she said these were the "easiest 3 ingredient Nutella Brownies." However, I like my brownies on the fwudgy side so I will try baking them for 13 minutes next time. In the meantime, TGIF!

Wednesday, September 24

More from Chalk Farm, Paragon

After a more than satisfying lunch at Sushi Tei Paragon. the family retreated to Starbucks for coffee, mainly because my mum wanted to try their Kueh Salaat cake. 

Of course, we didn't just get a slice; we got two others because caring is sharing. *Yay for family*

Out of the trio, the one that got me scrapping the base of the tupperware container was the Salted Caramel Macadamia Layer Cake, a ridiculously moist yet substantial sponge cake smothered in the lovliest salted caramel buttercream. Admittedly, it isn't very different from the cupcake I loved - Macadamia & Salted Caramel Cupcake - but hey, if it ain't broken, don't mess with it.

The Kueh Salaat was another slice that I was excited about as I do have a soft spot for the Nonya delicacy. It was good but far from the delectable treat that one could pick up from the chain Bengawan Solo, whose luscious kaya topping and loosely sticky rice still remains the gold standard. 

The Dark Chocolate Olive Oil was a little humdrum in my opinion - my younger sister loved how fudgy it was though. It was rather moist but things got a little monotonous midway in. 

Monday, September 22

Vietnamese caramelised pork belly (thit kho)

Over the weekend, we resurrected our cook-out, thanks to our lovely hosts Zhu and TF. It was a smaller-than-usual gathering but the laughs and good fooding just made me feel incredibly lucky to have such good friends. 

I made Vietnamese caramelised pork belly (thit kho) based on this recipe by Luke Nguyen. The only couple of tweaks I made were replacing caramel sauce with kecap manis and fresh coconut water with CocoMax coconut water. 

It was really good! I love the heady pungence from the fish sauce and garlic. I have so much respect for chefs who are more than just TV personalities. And if you are looking for a fresh spin off the usual kong bak pau, this is a recipe you need to have and hog.

Caramelised pork belly braised in young coconut juice (thit kho) 
Adapted from Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Tour

500g pork belly, sliced thinly
1 cup coconut water
4 tablespoons finely diced red Asian shallot
4 tablespoons finely diced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons fish sauce
4 teaspoon kecap manis
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or eyeball)
1 fresh chilli, sliced (optional)

  • In a bowl, combine salt, sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, caramel sauce and half of the red shallots and half of the diced garlic. Mix well until sugar dissolves. Coat the pork belly with the sauce and marinate for one hour. When marinated, drain the pork reserving the marinade sauce.
  • In a hot saucepan or clay pot, add oil, then fry the remaining red shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add the pork belly and brown both sides, for about 1 minute per side. Now add the reserved marinade and stir well.
  • Add 1 cup of young coconut juice and bring to the boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to half.
  • Turn off heat, then add black pepper and stir.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with sliced chilli.

Have a great week ahead, folks!

Friday, September 19

La Strada, Shaw Centre

I wanted to treat KW to a very very early birthday meal (PS at our age, it helps to spread out the birthday feasting) but for one reason or another, it is not easy to find a nice place for lunch on a Saturday. Most "nice" restaurants are closed for Saturday lunch to prepare for dinner service and well, we had a whole list of criteria.
  1. By "nice," I'm referring to somewhere that sits in between fine dining and smart casual. 
  2. Somewhere that is kid-friendly but not too scruffy (yes, we could have left the Munckin at home but I copped out last minute - blame it on working mum guilt). 
  3. Better if the restaurant was within the Orchard vicinity as that would fit in with our plans in the morning, which included an ultrasound and haircut. 
  4. Japanese wasn't an option as we just had Sushi Kuu the weekend before. 
  5. It had to be somewhere NEW.
Decisions... Decisions...

By a stroke of luck, I chanced upon La Strada, which checked off our checklist effortlessly. From fine dining to trattoria, the mood was family-friendly but far from childcare-chaotic. And to top it off, the food was pretty good too.

Though I was all prepared to go ala carte, I was impressed by their set lunch menu. Most restaurants offer really insipid items such as salads, stews and pastas but La Strada seemed to take pride in giving diners the Les Amis touch.

As the focaccia is only available during dinner, we had a simple tray of baguette to start with. Warm and crusty, paired with EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Really hard to nitpick.

Starting off light, I chose the Hokkaido scallops as my starter. Half a dozen thinnish but supple scallops lay prettily on my plate, complimented by the sweet tanginess of rhubarb confit and crunchy endives.


The pork belly confit was a contender but I eventually went for the Black Angus striploin - can't say "no" when there's steak on the menu. Quite frankly, I was amused by the clumsy appearance but other than the tubby-ness, it was a comforting dish of meat, potatoes and carrots. Might sound plebeian but I relished every bite and the arugula pesto was a sprightly delight.

There weren't any alternatives for dessert but luckily I got something that was interesting enough. The orange fritters were a little dense but the whole ensemble with vanilla bean ice cream and plum marmalade was a merry dance through autumn.

While I went for the set, KW opted to go ala carte.

The portobello starter had his birth name stamped all over it. The portobello itself was fiercely battered and deep-fried, almost to the point of being burnt but to be honest, we didn't quite mind it. Plus half the battle was won with a beautifully cooked egg and crunchy bacon strips.

Saving the best for last! Creamily unctuous, I will continue to dream about the lobster risotto. Every spoonful of sweetish lobster and al dente risotto made me swoon with pleasure. It is incredibly indulgent yet utterly befitting of a celebration!

Not usually taken with Italian food (other than pizza), I could definitely see us returning to La Strada when we are feeling semi-indulgent.

Wednesday, September 17

A double from Daily Scoop, Chip Bee Gardens

A rare afternoon off took us to Chip Bee Gardens for some icy respite from the heat. Unfortunately, Sunday Folks only opens at 4pm on weekdays (ah, the life of millennials), so we headed to the ever dependable Daily Scoop.

KW was quick with his decision, Surprisingly Coconut that stood out as a light treat dotted with coconut nibblets (perhaps that was the surprise). I decided to play the field and after a few samples, a scoop of Berry Pie was picked mostly due to its yogurt-based tanginess and pleasing chunks of digestive pie crusts.

The waffle itself wasn't as crisp as I would have liked it to be, but it was a convenient vehicle for catching and mopping up melted ice cream.