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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Week 5, 2015

Jan 26 (Mon)

Horse trainer extraordinaire A offered to hold an unmounted riding workshop for riders who took her clinic. All we needed was a venue. I haven't used the function room at my condo at all since moving in, so I thought this would be a good time to try out the kitchen. Since it was to be held at 7:30pm, I made some finger food so that nobody would pass out from hunger.

Stuffed Italian Bread

I've wanted to make this ever since I first laid eyes on the photo on Pinterest, with cheese oozing out of all the crevices. The 1/2 c of butter stated in the recipe seemed a huge amount so I cut it down by 1/3, which still seemed a lot, but after it's baked I realized I should have used all the butter called for. As one guest said, 1/2 c of butter divided by ten people is nothing! It was still very yummy, but could've been better if I didn't skimp on the butter.

Horse Treats (AKA veggie sticks) with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dip
I substituted home made yogurt for the sour cream, used buttermilk powder from iHerb, and shallots instead of red onions. It was a huge hit and I had to cut more veggie sticks to keep up.

Dark Chocolate Brownie
I usually use a brownie recipe that contains melted milk chocolate in the batter and chunks of dark chocolate stirred in, with no coco powder. It is really decadent but sometimes I feel like having a brownie with only dark chocolate. Last week I tried a recipe using only coco powder with no chocolate. The resulting brownie was good, but I thought it lacked depth. So today I made one using both chocolate and coco powder (both Valrhona), with no flour. It turned out really well. Don't you just love a brownie with a beautifully cracked top? I'm going to put this on the menu of my bakery when it comes into operation.

I'm happy to report that after our workshop the only thing left of the food was about 1 tbsp of dipping sauce, and that was only because I ran out of veggie sticks. Nothing makes me happier than to have no leftover at the end of a gathering. The week is off to a great start!

Jan 27 (Tue)

Had carbs all day long, including two pieces of brownies for breakfast and half a slice of Lady M's decadent chocolate crepe cake for tea. This was my second visit to Lady M. I had a matcha crepe cake the first time, which was nice, but this chocolate version really wowed me. Both my friend W and I were impressed, and we're not the easily impressed type. So that's saying something =oP

Dinner is carb-free! J was happy.

Salmon Cake with Greens
I really like the capers inside the salmon patties. It's low fat, high protein, super healthy, without losing taste.

Chilled Thai Squash Soup 
I used yellow squash for this, but have also made it with butternut squash when I wanted it to be a more substantial soup. The curry paste gives it a nice kick without being too overpowering. I had this for lunch the next day, and it tasted even better.

Jan 28 (Wed)

Had another private jumping lesson at 7am on the horse that refuses to move. Thank goodness I had the foresight to drink an oatmeal smoothie on the way to the club, and wore spurs. When adding oatmeal to your smoothie you can either dry blend it to pulverize before adding the wet ingredients, or you can soak it in the liquid overnight. I soaked this time.
1/4 c oatmeal
1/2c fruit juice
1/2 frozen banana
1c butterheard lettuce
5 strawberries

After walking 4 dogs from 9:30am to noon under the hot sun, dinner needed to be an substantial affair, with lots of proteins and vitamins.

Roasted Chicken Sausage with Brussels Sprouts, Fennel & Potato

Chicken sausage is a healthier alternative to the pork variety and tastes just as good. This is my idea of comfort food, without the guilt.

Crunchy Fennel Salad with Dates, Olives & Almond
So sometimes people eat your dinner ingredients in the fridge but that's ok, pomegranate seeds are just as nice as grapes. I like salads with fruits in it, so this one is a favourite, but I think some people may find it strange. Try it and find out.

Jan 29 (Thur)

One of my favourite home cooked Japanese dishes is 豚の角煮or braised pork belly. There's a similar version in Chinese cuisine, but the Japanese version is less sweet, and seems less greasy. It usually contains daikon, Japanese radish. I saw arrowroot(茨菇)at the supermarket and I know it's used in some Chinese meat dishes so I decided to try adding that. The pork belly turns out soft and tender after the long cooking process, but the radish almost tastes better than the meat, and the bonus? They have all the meat flavors but none of the fat. That's why I wanted to add the arrowroot, to have another meat-tasting non-meat ingredient in this dish. The verdict? I loved it. The texture is almost like a yam, but firmer. This dish goes really well with white rice, with the soup poured onto the rice.

Japanese Braised Pork Belly

2 x 400g          pork belly strips
700g                Japanese radish
radish leaves, if available
4 hard boiled eggs
6cm piece of ginger, sliced, with skin on
1 dried red chili
1 leek, green parts only, do not cut
100ml sake
2 tbsp sugar
100ml Japanese soy sauce such as Kikoman

  1. Peel radish and cut into 2cm thick half-moon shaped slices
  2. Cut radish leaves into 4cm long and blanch in boiling water
  3. Heat up Teflon coated frying pan over med heat.  Place pork belly strips into pan and brown on all sides, wiping off oil with paper towel once in a while.
  4. Place radish pieces into pan with pork and stir fry briefly so that radish is covered in oil.  Remove radish and set aside.
  5. Place pork, ginger, chili and green part of leek into a heavy pan.  Add 600ml of water and heat over med-high heat.  Once boiled skim off foam and cover with lid.
  6. Let simmer for 1 hour, stop the fire and let sit with lid on for another hour
  7. Remove pork and sieve stock into a clean bowl.  Measure out 300ml and return to cleaned pot, along with sake and sugar.
  8. Cut each belly strip into 4 pieces and place into pot.
  9. Heat over med-high heat until boils.  Then cover and simmer for 10 min
  10. Add soy sauce, cover with parchment paper drop-lid and then pot lid and simmer for another 50 min.  Add radish and hard boiled egg to pot for the last 30 min.
  11. Add radish leaves to pot and stir before serving.
Jan 30 (Fri)

I met C very early on in my riding venture, back when we both rode at the Saddle Club. She was hosting a dinner for trainer extraordinaire A and invited us. We were late due to J's work and heavy traffic so I was famished by the time we arrived, but the first thing I noticed was a little bowl of dark sauce in front of me. C told me it was for dipping the jambu, or rose apple. I think I've only had jambu once, when I found it in one of the hotel's welcome fruit baskets. Although juicy, it didn't really have any distinctive taste, so I never bothered with it again. This little dish of dark sauce, called Kecap, however, transformed the tasteless jambu. I finished all the jambu and wished there were more!

C shared how she makes the Kecap, which also goes well with white rice: Chop shallots, add black soy sauce (she uses an organic black bean soy sauce) and some brown sugar. Add chopped coriander and chili padi to taste.

I wanted to tweak the Reeses Peanut butter cup cake so I made it for the dinner party. Everybody loved it, so the taste is there, but I need to refine the look.

Jan 31 (Sat)
I had brunch with a friend on Thursday at Wild Honey and ordered one of my favorite all day breakfast items, the Tunisian. This time however, the eggs were under cooked and the whole dish was too watery.
The unsatisfying experience was still on my mind when I woke up this morning, and I made a mental checklist of what ingredients I have in the fridge and decided to make my own. I turned on the oven when I got up, and went to brush my teeth and wash my face. When I was done with cleaning myself up I started on the tomatoes. While it's cooking I plucked the herbs from my balcony and chopped the avocado. By the time the tomatoes are ready the oven was hot so the whole thing took less than 20 minutes.

Breakfast Skillet (serves 2)
1 can of diced tomato (400g)
herbs of your choice (I used thyme and oregano)
ham or sausage
1 avocado, sliced
4 eggs

- Preheat oven to 200C/400F
- Lightly grease a 10" cast iron pan and heat over high heat. Pour tomato into pan, add herbs and ham. (you can also use canned tomato with herbs already added in) Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
-  Turn off heat. Make four holes in the tomato mixture and crack an egg into each hole. Arrange avocado slices between the eggs
- Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until egg whites are just set and yolks are still runny.

You could skip the ham and make it vegetarian, or omit the avocado if you don't want it to be too filling. I ate it with challah bread dipped in the yolks. It was very satisfying and lasted me all day.

I stayed home all day and shot jewelry photos for a friend's upcoming charity auction. Four hours later I was completely pooped. Now I remember why I had given it up years ago. My back and wrists just can't take it. It's definitely a sign of aging =o(
For dinner we had Indian.

Chicken Tikka Masala 
I think this is as healthy as you can get with decent Indian food. I use low fat yogurt and roast my own bell pepper, so it's not packed in oil. I can never find fenugeek leaves so sometimes I use fenugeek seeds, but today I omit it completely.

Instead of rice or naan we had cauliflower rice. When J was off carbs completely I tried all kinds of carb alternatives. Zucchini noodles are definitely not my thing, but cauliflower rice tastes so like rice it's unreal.

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice

Some recipes are completely raw, but I find that cooking it a little bit makes it taste more like rice because you take the crunchiness out of the cauliflower. 

Tomorrow is a day of dressage competition. I am helping out in the morning and competing in the afternoon so there will be no cooking. Packing for the show stresses me out big time, and I have never managed to not forget something =o( Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Week 4, 2015

Jan 19 (Mon)

Mondays are the only non-riding days, so I had lunch with my riding buddies at an Italian restaurant in Duxton Hill.  The food was very very good. Calamaris were crispy but not oily, the semolina bread was warm and fragrant. The brurrata could've been creamier, but my penne with eggplant sauce was excellent. I especially liked the fried eggplant skin threads on top. Also pictured is the shrimp pesto pasta ordered by one of my friends. I was so stuffed I had no space for dessert, which is a very rare thing for me =o(

Since lunch was so heavy and satisfying, dinner was a light Ginger Scented Chicken Soup
I always think of this as THE chicken soup for the soul. The first time I made it, I kept on inhaling the heavenly gingery fragrance that filled the house as the chicken was being cooked. The resulting broth is light but very sophisticated in flavors. You can either drink it as a soup, or add noodles to it to make it a meal. I served it with stir fried green vegetables I bought from the farmer's market on Sunday.

Jan 20 (Tue)

Beer Braised Beef Brisket
I can't believe it when I saw the date of my blog post when I first wrote about this dish. 2007, when we first moved to Singapore! So much has happened since then, but I'm still making this dish, with a few modifications. I've acquired a local voltage slow cooker, so I usually cook it in that now (high for 5 hrs). I've also found frozen beef tendon at a butcher called Mmmm! so I throw in two packets of those, but the tendons need to be cooked in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes before being added to the stew, otherwise it'll take ages to get them tender. Eggs are added in the last 1.5 hours of cooking, and carrots the last hour. I still make beef noodles with the leftover on the next day for lunch.

Tofu Century Egg Salad

Since the beef has a strong flavor, I paired it with a tofu salad. This is another favorite Shanghainese dish and it is super easy to make.

1 pkt (300g) Japanese silken tofu
1-2 century egg (I use Yung Kee's because they always have a soft center)
3-4 tbsp minced Zha Cai
Light soy sauce

Assemble as shown in photo, and drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil (optional) right before serving. Use the best soy sauce you can find, and don't pour on too much, start with 1 tsp per block of tofu 

Jan 21 (Wed)
Cilantro Lime Fish Taco

Had beef noodle for lunch, so dinner is light. This is really easy to make, and I usually don't bother making my own salsa and use store bought ones. Make sure the fish is nicely charred and you have yourself a light and healthy dinner.

Jan 22 (Thur)
Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Miso Dressing

I had a big lunch with another group of riding friends at my old neighborhood Chinese restaurant whose stir-fried kailan with two sausages I often re-create. I discovered they have another dish where they throw in copious amount of duck liver sausage and traditional Chinese sausage - chicken claypot rice. Needless to say, I ate way too much again. So dinner is this light salad. I ate it with home made bread, which I shall write a post about some other time.

Jan 23 (Fri)
Steamed Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce

The link above is a video of a Taiwanese TV show where the chef demonstrates how to make this dish. They spoke Taiwanese, but luckily there's subtitle. I've written it down with my estimate of how much each ingredient he used. The toughest challenge for this dish is actually finding the right meat. It's called 肋排 in Chiniese, which translates into ribs, but you only want the parts that have soft cartilage bones. I had to settle for frozen, which affected the texture. I also ran out of light soy sauce and had to use dark, which explains why the meat turned out so dark. Taste-wise it was pretty good, and it is really easy to prepare. 

250g pork ribs
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. Black fermented beans (豆豉)
Corn starch
Light soy sauce
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tsp finely chopped red chili
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp Chinese wine
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp corn starch
½ tsp Chicken granule
Sesame oil
1 green onion, chopped

1.      Soak ribs in cold water for 5-10 minutes, rinse

2.      Add about ½ beaten egg, 2 tsp corn starch, 1 tbsp lig soy sauce to the pork and mix. Pour into a shallow dish.

3.      Wash black beans with water for a few seconds, drain.

4.      Combine ginger, chili, garlic, wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken granule and corn starch. Add to the black beans and pour on top of the ribs

5.      Sprinkle with green onion, drizzle with some sesame oil

6.      Steam for 15-20 minutes, until done

Sesame Crusted Tofu with Nuoc Cham

This dish takes a little prep work: weighing down the tofu to squeeze out the water. You also have to buy the right kind of tofu. I found a tofu labeled as for 揚げ出し豆腐 (agendashi tofu) the Japanese batter fried tofu, which is essentially what this is. The sauce makes a ton, so I only make 1/4 and there's still a lot of leftover. It's completely vegetarian, and looks very impressive, good for if you have vegetarian friends coming for dinner. 

Jan 24 (Sat)

My in-laws live in Shanghai but come to stay with us every winter for three to four months. Sometimes they read about certain foods in Singapore so when they're here they want to try. This time they are curious about Roti Prata. When we first moved here, J used to play pick-up basketball every Sunday and across the street is a 24-hr prata joint called... Mr. Prata. He used to buy take-out after his game and we'd have it for Sunday breakfast. He quit the basketball game years ago and I never had a prata since then.

Today I stepped into Mr. Prata for the first time. The prata guy is very efficient and makes it look all so easy. You can see, however, how much oil is used in the prata. I'm so glad we stopped eating this. But once every couple of years is ok.

To counter all that oil, I ate bircher muesli. I realize there are many ways to make this and you can add all kinds of stuff to it, but here's a basic recipe. I usually add some fresh fruits on top or some nuts inside.

The first time I had bircher muesli was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai. It was love at first bite. Their version also had almonds and raisins in it, and just the right balance of acidity and sweetness. I asked for the recipe and they promised to email it to me, but they never did =o( So till this day I'm still searching for that "perfect" recipe.

We went to a friend's house for BBQ and I took the opportunity to make a crepe Suzette millecrepe cake. The crepes took 2 hours to make =o( I think I need another crepe pan...

I was too greedy and made too much filling. Not wanting to waste it, I piled the fillings on, but when there's too much filling between the layers they tend to slide against each other. When I left the cake to chill in the fridge an avalanche effect happened. Luckily I was able to shove everything back in place, but the sides look a little messy. Boy I'm out of practice =o( 

Jan 25 (Sun)

I had a great riding clinic with a visiting trainer this morning. For the first time ever I felt I was communicating with Istria with my mind. I never knew this, but horses actually mirror the riders action. I mean I sort of knew this, in the way that when you're nervous, your horse gets nervous, but I didn't realize they actually do EXACTLY what you do. Anyway, without boring anyone to death, suffice it to say the "high" I got from the clinic was incredible.

Then I came home to scrambled eggs with smoked salmon made by J. I pulled some of the Limpa bread I made last week out of the freezer and had a very satisfying post-ride brunch.

J has been going to his Chef in Training classes for three weeks now, and yesterday he learned duck confit, coq au vin, grilled steak and mashed potato. Eager to practice, he offered to cook steak tonight, along with the duck confit that he brought home.

We had gotten the steaks from a wagyu appreciation class at Palate Sensations two weeks ago and kept them frozen. Last night I took them out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge, and one hour before cooking I took them out of the fridge so they can come to room temp. To speed this up I placed them (vacuum sealed) on the black surface of the induction cooker and placed a heavy metal flat bottomed pot on each of the steak (Le Creuset works well for this). Because metal and black coloured surfaces conduct heat faster, by doing this I'm essentially "drawing" out the coldness in the steak faster, allowing them to equalize in temperature with the environment in a much shorter time.

On the left is Miyazaki and on the right Darling Down. When you have good beef all you need is a generous amount of salt and pepper, and a little bit of olive oil so the beef can shine on its own. I like to serve steak on a bed of salad to cut the greasiness a little bit, especially with wagyu steak.

J also fried up the duck confit that he brought home, and he's planning to make it again soon. Can't wait =oP

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Kranji Countryside Farmer's Market

I've heard a lot of good things about this farmer's market, but have never been able to make it because it somehow always happens when I'm not in Singapore. I finally made it to this one and although we arrived at 2pm on the dot, there were already tons of people and almost no parking. I was again thankful for my Mini's small size as I squeezed into a lot that had a tree in the middle, too small for most cars. Note to self, next time, go earlier.

There were stalls set up by farmers, bakers, food sellers and jam makers. We zoned in on the raw materials. First we tried some sunflower sprouts, which were interesting but I wasn't sure if I was making salad that night so I wanted to wait before I buy, because the whole point of buying local and fresh is if you could have it fresh.

Next we came upon a mushroom stall. They were handing out samples of mushrooms stir fried with pea shoots in oyster sauce. They had your regular run of the mills shiitake and wood ears but I was drawn to the pretty golden and pink mushrooms. Being a mushroom fan, I didn't need a lot of convincing. And at $5 a huge pack, it was a steal.

Next to the mushroom was a fish monger. Their sample was steamed mussels, another favourite. They also had some really fresh looking pomfret, snapper and moulet. We settled on the pomfret ($10) because J was missing a dish he used to eat as a child in Shanghai. So the plan was to ask his mom to recreate it. We also bought two huge bags of mussels at $5 each and asked the fish monger how they made their sample dish, because it was so delicious.

At this point J was ready to call it quits because there is nothing he hates more than crowds, but I made him go to the other section of the market too. There we sampled a batter fried frog leg skewer but decided against buying the frog legs as I hate deep frying things at home, even with the separate wet kitchen. We also tried some crocodile meat, which actually tasted kind of nice. A stall selling crackling pork belly caught my eye, but there was a huge line of people waiting and J was impatient to leave.

Before calling it a day I bough a refreshing ginger basil drink, where the seller pounded fresh basil leaves in a mortar for each glass.

Once home I quickly set to work and realized that two bags of mussels turned out to be a huge amount (filled my big wok all the way to the rim), but better have more than not enough, right? Especially since these mussels are the juiciest and plumpest I've ever bought. I've had nice ones in seaside restaurants, but the ones I buy from supermarkets are never this nice. I was a little skeptical when the fish monger told me to not add any seasoning or any other liquid, but he was right, the mussels had enough briny flavors to stand on their own.

The mushrooms were also incredibly delicious. The golden oyster mushrooms are smaller than the usual ones sold in the supermarket but they had intense flavors. I couldn't stop eating it and wished I had bought more.

The pomfret turned out pretty nice too. I've never had it this way before and even J said this is not how he remembered from his childhood, but his mom made it, so either his memory is failing or his mom couldn't remember how she used to cook it =oP

Needless to say, it was a very satisfying dinner and J kept on saying he wouldn't mind eating like this everyday. There are two problems with this: 1. the market only happens every three months. 2. The selection is not huge, so even if there was one every week we would run out of things to buy. I am hopeful, however, that with time and increasing popularity the market will grow in scale and frequency. I'm just kicking myself for not getting a name card from the fish monger or the mushroom farmer because, even if there's no market, I'm sure if I showed up on their farm they wouldn't refuse to sell me some mushrooms or mussels...

Mussels with Onions and Chili

2 huge bags of mussels (enough to fill 1 big Chinese wok)
2 lg onions
a couple of small red chili pepper
Chinese wine

- wash and scrub the mussels
- chop onions and chili
- Heat wok and add about 2 tbsp of cooking oil. Add onion and chili and stir fry until golden and fragrant. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper.
- Add all the mussels and a splash of Chinese cooking wine. Cover wok and let it steam on high heat for a few minutes
- Cook until mussels are open

*Note: do not add water or any other liquid. The mussels release a briny liquid as they cook, which has all the flavors you will need

Stir Fried Oyster Mushroom and Pea Shoot in Oyster Sauce

1 packet of golden oyster mushroom (or regular), estimated to be 1 lb
1 packet of pea shoots, estimated to be 1/2 lb
oyster sauce (use vegetarian version to make this a vegetarian dish)
corn starch

- Wash pea shoots and spin dry
- Cut off bottom of mushroom and separate them. Do not wash
- Heat about 2 tbsp of oil in wok, add mushroom and stir, until coated. (mushrooms absorb a lot of oil, so the wok will dry up, do not add water)
- Add pea shoot and season with a little bit of salt (don't add too much because you'll be adding oyster sauce later)
- Stir fry until pea shoot is slightly wilted
- Add oyster sauce to taste (1-2 tbsp) and stir fry until pea shoot is completely wilted, add a little bit of water if needed.
- Dissolve 1 tsp corn starch in some water, add to the wok stir to thicken sauce.

Pan Fried Pomfret with Spring Onion

My MIL made this so I'm relaying what she told me

1 pomfret, gutted and cleaned
1 bunch of spring onion, chopped small
1 knob of ginger, chopped small
dark soy sauce
salt and pepper

- cut a few slits on each side of the fish, rub some salt and pepper into the skin and sprinkle with a little bit of soy sauce to color
- Heat oil in wok until very hot, slide fish into wok and fry until golden, flip and fry the other side until golden and fish is cooked.
- Remove fish and clean wok
- Heat some more oil until hot but not smoking. Add spring onion and stir until fragrant but still green in color
- Pour oil and spring onion on fish

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Week 3, 2015

Jan 12 (Mon)

Superfood Crunch Salad and Honey Lime Chicken Skewer

Pomegranates are everywhere! The shiny red skinned huge orbs were calling my names every time I pass by them in the supermarket so I had to buy some. There's a misconception that pomegranates are hard to peel, but with a little bit of patience and technique it's rather simple. My favorite way is to find the membranes between the sections and slice down so entire sections can come out at one go. Here's a Youtube video showing you how. Forget about using water or whacking the poor fruit with a wooden spoon. It's messy, and pom juice stains everything! Now I just need to get myself a handy little knife like that to make it even easier.

It's not a dinner that will blow your mind, but it's easy to make, tastes good, and serves its purpose as a healthy dinner on a Monday. Incidentally, I had my health screening this morning. I should've had this for dinner on Sunday instead of all that duck sausages...

Jan 13 (Tue)

Today's smoothie

1 c cantaloupe 
A couple of pieces of pineapple (leftover in fridge)
1 kale leaf stem removed
Half a frozen banana
1/2c home made yogurt
4 dates

I always feel super healthy when my smoothies are green :0P so I saved a kale leaf when making salad the night before. This smoothie turned out really yummy and kept me energized during my private riding lesson this morning

J is in HK for two days so it's my chance to eat carbs!!! Ever since he went on this low-carb diet six months ago, I could only cook things where the carb portion can be separated so he doesn't eat it. That leaves me no chance to make any pasta dishes. Even Chinese food was hard because how do you eat it without rice? At his most fervent stage it was strictly NO-carbs, so he didn't even eat soya products, fruits high in sugar, or starchy vegetables such as corn or potato. Thank goodness that stage is over, but still, with him away, it's my chance to carbo load =o)

Spaghetti with lobster  

This is a pasta dish that you won't feel guilty eating. The sauce is tomato based with no added cream or cheese so it's light, but the lobster makes it extra flavorful. I hit the jackpot today and had a lobster with roe in it too! I've also made this with crabs and prawns before, and today I used home made fettuccine instead of spaghetti

Radicchio, Pear, Gorgonzola Salad

This salad has a strong flavor due to the balsamic dressing, and the gorgonzola cheese kicks up the flavor by another knotch. It is a nice contrast to the light and delicate pasta.

Jan 14 (Wed)

My day starts at 6am on Wednesdays. I have a jumping lesson at 7am and I never know which horse I'll get until I'm at the stables. Today I was assigned Mimo. She's a great little jumper but getting her to the jumps usually takes everything out of me. Thank goodness I had this smoothie on my way to the club
1 c pineapple
1/2 c cantaloupe
1/2 a frozen banana
1/2 c home made yogurt
After riding I take a quick shower and have breakfast before heading to SOSD to walk the shelter dogs from 9:30-12:30. Needless to say, I need a lot of energy for that, so I always make an overnight oatmeal. The basic recipe is really easy: 1/2 c oatmeal and 1/2c milk, stir and soak overnight. I usually top it with whatever fruits I have on hand, and add a little honey or maple syrup to sweeten it.

From studying horse feeds I learned that oats give a lot of energy, which is why polo ponies are always fed oats before a game. In this case, what works for the horses also works for the human. This kept me going until past 1pm =o)

I've been talking to some friends about my favourite cake at PS café recently so today I went there for tea. I almost always order the chocolate doorstop cake and the sticky date pudding. They are soooo yummy but very sinful, so make sure you share!

For dinner, I'm continuing to carbo load, before J comes back tomorrow =oP

Carrot Ginger Pork Buns 

My favourite Shanghai dim sum item is Sheng Jian Man Tou (生煎馒头) and it's very hard to find an authentic one outside of Shanghai. I've tried to make it myself but the dough proves challenging. It is semi-risen, and it's very hard to control just how much rise, so most of the times the dough turns out too fluffy. The meat filling of recipe is similar to Sheng Jian Man Tou in flavour so this time I tried to rest the dough for less time and it worked somewhat. However, because I was at tea I had to rely on my helper to make the buns and she made the skin too thick and couldn't resist turning them right side up after frying =o( (authentic Sheng Jian Man Tou is always fried seam side down) Here's a recipe on CNN, which I have not tried yet, but you can see what they should look like.

Cabbage Soup
Because the pork buns are quite time consuming to make, I paired it with this super easy cabbage soup. It turned out surprisingly tasty, kind of like the Russian borscht.

Jan 15 (Thur)

Asian Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

Going healthy again after yesterday's artery clogging cakes and pan fried buns. It meets J's low carb standard too, with quinoa and chicken as the main ingredients. I also like the raisins and cashews in it.

Jan 16 (Fri)

I had breakfast with some girlfriends after riding today. We were supposed to go to the Missing Pan, but the construction noise was so loud that we promptly escaped to Choupinette a few doors down. Choupinette is probably THE oldest French bakery/cafe in Singapore way before cafes are popping up on every street corner, but it was my first time there. I ordered Eggs Florentine and I have to say the eggs were really nice. My friends who ordered the eggs Benedict said the ham was extra tasty because the edges were perfectly charred. The coffee, on the other hand, was too weak for my taste. 

One of the dishes we always order when we go for crab meals at seafood restaurants is the steamed prawns. Some restaurants have an herbal version but my favourite is the plain kind, eaten with a light soy sauce dip. Chili crabs are hard to make at home, but this one is really easy, especially if you have a steamer oven.

Steamed Prawns
1 lb of whole prawns, cleaned
3 tbsp Chinese wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
4 spring onions, each cut into 3-4 pieces
1" ginger, sliced

1. Arrange prawns in a shallow dish. (I find grey prawns work better for in this dish than tiger prawns, because the meat is sweeter.)
2. Combine wine, salt and sugar, and pour over prawns. Place spring onion piecess and ginger on top.
3. Heat steamer oven to 100% 100C, steam for 10 minutes (12 min if shrimps are large). If using conventional steamer, bring water to a full boil, then put dish inside and steam.  

Another signature Shanghai dish I always make if I have Spring bamboo shoot is the braised bamboo shoot in soy sauce. It's pretty intense in flavour and the longer you let the bamboo pieces sit in the sauce the more the flavours develop.  That's why I like to make this a couple of hours before it's time to eat, and leave it sitting, with the the occasional stir so all the pieces have a chance to soak in the sauce. Like most Shanghai dishes, this has a sweetness to it, which I love. If you're not used to having your savoury dishes slightly sweet, decrease the sugar, but I think it tastes infinitely better this way. Can you believe that when eaten together, the bamboo shoot had more umami than the prawns? I wish I didn't have to rely on friends who happen to come visit from Shanghai during the short two months or so that the bamboo shoots are in season, but I won't complain, at least I have been able to get them once a year for the past few years.

Braised Bamboo Shoots
5-6 spring bamboo shoots
2 tbsp dark Chinese soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar

1. Peel the skin and chop off tough bottom from bamboo shoots, and roughly chop into irregular pieces
2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok and stir-fry bamboo shoots for a little until well coated in oil
3. Add soy sauce and sugar, stir evenly, then add 1/2 c of water. Bring to a boil over high heat
4. Simmer for 3-5 min with lid on. Stir to evenly coat all the bamboo pieces.
5. Turn heat to high to evaporate most of the sauce except a little left on the bottom.

Jan 17 (Sat)

I followed the recipe except I didn't add blueberries into the batter, because I didn't want to deal with burst berries burned to my waffle iron =o( I really liked the flavor of this waffle batter, but find the texture a little dense. I don't know if this is due to the fact that I had to keep them warm in the oven for ages waiting for J to get up, but it's worth giving it another try on a day when he's already up when I started making breakfast...

A while ago I found a buttermilk powder on I don't know about you but I have no use for buttermilk except when baking, so when I buy a container, I can never use it up before it expires. The alternative is to add lemon juice to milk as a substitute, but this powder is really the best thing. All you need is water to reconstitute, and it's even low fat.

Today's smoothie 

Bottom layer: 1/2c mango, 1/2 frozen banana, 1/4c OJ. Top layer: 1/2 frozen banana, 6 strawberries, 1/4c homemade yogurt. A layer of homemade granola in between and some on top

Roast Chicken with Kimchi Smashed Potato

It looks like we've been having roast chicken and potato every Saturday this year, so here's another one. If you like kimchi you'll like this dish. I always use more chicken than the recipe calls for, because J loves chicken. I also used watercress instead of arugula. If you missed it last week, I posted a link on all the good things scientists have to say about watercress. This is another one dish meal that's easy to prepare on busy days.

Jan 18 (Sun)
J's New Year's resolution for 2015 is to learn how to cook, so I signed him up for a chef in training course at the school I used to teach. It's an 8-wk course taught by the executive chef of Absinthe, who's also a friend. Last week J learned how to make roast chicken, potato, seafood saffron soup and mushroom soup. Yesterday's menu was eggs Benedict, scrambled egg with smoked salmon, braised lentils and quiche Loraine. The eggs he ate at the school, the lentils and quiche he brought back. I have to say I was quite impressed. 

Since we didn't get to taste the eggs, he offered to make them for us for breakfast. I will have breakfast waiting for me when I come home from riding? Instead of scrambling to put something together without even showering first? Imagine that! 

Long story short, after burning the bread to a char (10 minutes was what he thought the timer should be set) and making the Hollandaise sauce way too early, causing it to split by the time we ate, they turned out pretty well. I especially like how he seasoned the spinach.

Spurred on by my encouragement, he said he'll make the scrambled eggs for next Sunday's breakfast. Woohoo!