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Vegging Out.

Not too long ago, I shared about Flo’s and my trip to Borough Market while we were in London. There, I found myself digging into Big V’s Spicy Chickpea Burger Pattyig V’s Spicy Chickpea Burger Patty as it sat gloriously amidst a bed of greens.

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As I stuffed my face with the said patty, I vowed that I was going to make some of my own once we returned to Singapore. I have made veggie patties before, years ago in fact. Then I just… didn’t. I guess a part of me sometimes wonders why, if we are having it between two buns, do we need to fill the patty using more carbs? Rice, oatmeal, flour, potatoes… These are often used in vegetable patties and it didn’t make much sense to me. So in that respect, I decided that I’d rather fill my burgers with lean chicken breasts, grilled prawns, smoked salmon, or 100% lean minced beef.

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SO obviously I don’t know what Big V puts into their burgers but I loved the chunks of sweet potato that I could not only taste, but could also bite into. I enjoyed the Middle Eastern spices as well as the nutty, earthiness of the chickpeas. I decided to have it because I felt like putting something a little cleaner into my belly and if I was going to have the Chickpea burger on a bed of greens, then carbs in my patty is a-OK!

Anyway, over the week that Flo was away, I had some time on my hands one afternoon and decided to whip up some veggie burger patties. I had kidney beans, chickpeas, cauliflower and some extra sweet potatoes I’d cooked for lunch. I decided to make two kinds of patties with what I had so that I wouldn’t have to go through eating so many of one flavour.

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The good thing about these patties is that you can freeze them. Just make sure you have them kept separated with a small sheet of baking paper or they will stick. Whenever you hanker after them, take one or two out and pop them straight into the oven for about 15-20 minutes. I like them in longer because it creates a little crispiness round the edges.

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I also tried to remake the salad from Big V for my Cauliflower and Chickpea Burger as you can see in the picture above. I didn’t have a brown paper box unfortunately, so a white porcelain bowl sufficed. It was a simple Spinach and Broccoli Salad with some Cherry Tomatoes and a side of Sriracha Cottage Cheese.

Myeah… It was a less elaborate version because Big V had some Ume Dressing, Beetroot Hummus and Tahini Yoghurt Dressing – all three I couldn’t really be arsed to make, let alone gather the ingredients required to make them. Still yummy though!!

Cauliflower and Chickpea Burger (Yields 4-5 patties)

240g cooked chickpeas
100g grated cauliflower
50g finely diced red peppers
3 Tbs almond flour
2 Tbs water
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Blend all the ingredients together until they come together.
    I like my patties a bit chunky so if that’s your preference, try not to over blend the mixture.
  2. Make 4-5 balls (each approx 105-130g) and flatten.
  3. Place onto lined baking tray and bake at 180deg C for 30 min, flipping over half way through.

These patties were a little more delicate so if you find the mixture too wet, just add a little more almond flour, perhaps a tablespoon at a time until the patties bind together nicely.

As for my other batch of veggie patties, I made with Sweet Potato and Kidney Beans. I loooove kidney beans! As I used the Japanese yellow flesh, purple skinned sweet potato, there’s a very light sweetness akin to chestnuts that balances out the spices. That being said, this variant of sweet potato tends to be a little less moist compared to the orange fleshed ones but go with what you prefer.

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Sweet Potato Kidney Bean Burger (Yields 4-5 Patties)

200g cooked sweet potatoes (I used Japanese sweet potatoes but feel free to use the orange ones which should make for moister patties)
240g cooked kidney beans (1 tin, drained)
2 Tbs cornmeal
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs chopped basil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mash all the ingredients together until they come together.
    Again, I like my patties a bit chunky so if that’s your preference, try not to over process the mixture.
  2. Make 4-5 balls (each approx 105-130g) and flatten.
  3. Place onto lined baking tray and bake at 180deg C for 30 min, flipping over half way through.

I’ve almost finished my stash of both types of patties so I might make more using different combinations of herbs and spices, and different beans and veggies. I always say that cooking is more an art, so play around with whatever you have in your pantry because sometimes, magic happens when you least expect it to.

I realise that recently, trying to make cleaner food choices is making me feel better about myself and my body. I don’t think I can ever be vegetarian what with my love for seafood but I definitely love my greens too so making my patties and eating them makes even my toes wiggle with joy.

Once in a while though, it’s also nice to meet up with friends and be a little naughty with food choices. Last weekend, I met up with my cousin TY, and her top friend Marc who recommended that we visit Nosh at Rochester Park.

It was a terrible day for brunch because of all days, the heavens chose Sunday to rain cats and dogs and horses. But nope, that didn’t stop us from marching over, umbrellas and all, from Star Vista where I’d parked the car.

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It didn’t take me long to decide that I was going to have the Shakshuka. I love Shakshuka and have made it quite a few times already this year. I still enjoy going to try the ones from other cafes and restaurants just to see how mine compares.

Nosh served up a hearty dish of spiced, aromatic, wonderfully simmered-down tomato-based sauce, topped with two eggs that still had their yolks runny, and goat’s cheese. A lovely, crusty, half roll of ciabatta was served alongside. The shakshuka was supposed to have eggplant fritters as well but I requested against having it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the creamy goat’s cheese mixed into the hearty sauce. I broke and stirred one egg yolk into the mix, and kept the other until the end just so that I could greedily shovel it whole into my mouth, let it break and savour all the molten, golden goodness.

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Washed it all down with a cup of Piccolo Latte.

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It was awesome to finally meet Marc whom TY had been wanting to introduce to me for ages because we both have a passion for food. He, like Flo, has a passion for eating, while I just have a passion for baking. Still, I appreciate good food for sure and all the more so when surrounded by great company.

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Over the last week or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about life and family. I have been heartened to see how some of my family (extended) members have such immense love and compassion within them, but I am also saddened to realise that there are ones who don’t walk the talk, nor bother to even try to show they care. I tell myself that as long as I do what’s right, that’s what matters, but it’s tough pretending not to bother when I do.

It also grieves me to see that illness of any kind affects not just the individual, but also everyone around him/her. I mean, this is something I kind of already knew with regards to my ED and how the people dearest to me suffer when I suffer, and rejoice when I rejoice. It’s just that I saw with my own eyes today, the love of a father towards his adult daughter suffering from an illness that seems hopeless to cure, that the doctors are unable to even diagnose, an illness that is crippling her not just physically, but psychologically as well.

Still, this father will go to the ends of the earth for her, hold her up when she needs support, and continue to relentless search for answers to the whys. It grieves me then, that he has to stand helplessly when she seizes up, powerless to do anything but wait for the moment to be over, so that he can help her back up again. I pray she gets better, that she will be well.

It made me cry. And when I video-called with Mum and Dad, I thanked them for their unwavering love and support for me throughout my years. It is the love of a parent that I can never fathom. At least not now. Perhaps one day.

Banana Bread is something I bake on a weekly basis. I love how versatile bananas are and how you don’t need any artificial flavours to enhance their flavour. More than that, you don’t need much sugar especially when you use really ripe, or overripe, ones. I’ve even baked banana cakes without any added sugar for those who are on special diets or want to have cakes that are toddler-friendly.

Since I was experimenting with Coconut Flour, I figured that it would be nice to try and incorporate it into a loaf of Banana Bread. After all, they’re both tropical fruit so I was quite certain that they would pair well together.

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This recipe was initially meant to be gluten-free but I ran out of coconut flour and decided to go for Dark Rye Flour to top up on the quantity of dry ingredients – hence the darker, almost chocolatey colour of the loaf. I’m quite sure that if you have enough coconut flour, you can use 90g of it and omit the rye.

Rye Coconut Flour Banana Bread (9×4″ loaf)

3 ripe bananas
30g coconut sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbs cinnamon powder
55g coconut flour
35g dark rye flour

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line loaf tin.
  2. Mash bananas and whisk together with sugar and eggs.
  3. Add flours, cinnamon powder and baking soda and stir until just mixed.
  4. Bake 45min or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. 
  5. Allow to cool before removing from tin.

The Rye Coconut Flour Banana Bread turned out to be not too sweet, which I found a lot of the older folk enjoying, and the hint of cinnamon with the mix of earthy rye, nutty coconut flour and sweet bananas made for good eating. As usual, I love this sliced and lightly toasted just to have that bit of crust round the edges. If you like yours a touch more sweet, a drizzle of honey will go perfectly with it.

So what happened was that I was putting together the ingredients to whip up basic Coconut Flour Blondies when I peered into my pantry and found that I still had some Matcha Powder that was waiting to be used up.

I wasn’t quite sure how Matcha and Coconut would dance together but tango they did once these blondies had cooled down enough for me to pop one into my mouth. It had the lovely bitter intensity from the matcha, that was sweetly balanced by the coconut and honey.

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The addition of Greek Yoghurt helped keep the blondies moist, hence, fewer eggs were used. That being said, the absence of more eggs means that these blondies are less on the fudgy side. What I enjoyed about them the most aside from their  flavour, was their dense texture. However, if your preference is for a more cakey blondie, definitely try my Basil and Walnut Coconut Flour Blondies. While these blondies may appear crumbly, they actually held very well together.

I’d say that if Shortbread and Cake had a love child, these Matcha Coconut Flour Blondies would be it! I know, it’s probably a hybrid that’s not easy to imagine but I actually found myself enjoying them more and more with every piece I scoffed down. So I suggest you give this recipe a go because I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t like these blondies myself!

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Coconut Matcha Blondies (1 6×6″ Square)
75g coconut flour
10g matcha powder
25g coconut oil
3 eggs
vanilla
110g honey
100g greek yoghurt

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line a 6×6″ baking tin.
  2. Whisk oil, eggs and vanilla together. 
  3. Add honey and greek yoghurt. Mix well.
  4. Add coconut flour and matcha powder. Stir until just incorporated. 
  5. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 18-20min.

So my love for baking brownies and blondies should be quite obvious now. I baked some Coconut Flour Brownies earlier on and this time, I decided to try and put them into making a blondie.

I had some fresh basil at hand, so usually, when I have more herbs than I can finish quickly, I think about how I might be able to incorporate them into one of my bakes. In my recipe below, I stated to have the basil chopped finely, but what I did was I whizzed it up quickly in the blender which worked just as well apart from the extra washing up. You can choose to omit the basil or use a different herb, perhaps Rosemary and Lemon might be a nice combination, or Bay Leaves with Almonds, or Chocolate Chips and Banana.

I enjoyed how refreshing a flavour the Basil brought to these blondies. And the crunch of walnuts was very welcome as well. These are certainly not your fudgy blondies. They’re more on the cakey side with a slightly rough texture due to the structure of the Coconut Flour when mixed in. I brought some of these to my family gathering and one of my Uncles took one bite and quickly tried to snag the rest home. So trust me, you might want to share these with friends and family, but be sure to hide some away for yourself because there won’t even be any crumbs left otherwise! 🙂

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Coconut Flour Blondies (8×8″ Square)

56g melted butter (or coconut/sunflower/olive oil)
50g honey
2 eggs
60g coconut milk
60g coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Bunch of Basil, Finely chopped (optional)
50g Walnuts, chopped (optional but recommended)

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8×8″ square tin.
  2. Whisk melted butter/oil, honey, eggs and milk together.
  3. Add flour, baking soda and salt, and stir until just mixed.
  4. Fold in optional ingredients if using.
  5. Bake 20-22min.

I was interested in using Coconut Flour to make bread. I’ve made a Coconut Milk Oatmeal Sandwich Loaf before and quite liked the subtle flavour of the coconut milk in it. I find however, that coconut flour carries a strong coconut aroma and taste.

I’m not going to lie though, Coconut Flour Bread should in no way be compared to normal bread because it’s gluten-free to begin with. That means that the chew factor will definitely be absent. That being said, it is perfect for those who are on a paleo diet, or have celiac, or are looking for something that is high in fibre and protein, but low in carbs.

This bread is a breeze to make because there’s no need for proving. Just mix everything together, throw the batter into the oven (inside a loaf tin please!), and you get a beautiful loaf that’s a perfect canvas for just about anything you choose to eat it with.

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Savoury Coconut Flour Bread (7×3″ loaf):

6 eggs
15g honey (optional but I like that slight hint of sweetness which also makes the bread more aromatic)
110g coconut oil or melted butter
90g coconut flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line a baking tin.
  2. Whisk eggs, honey and oil together.
  3. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt until just mixed.
  4. Let mixture stand 5min.
  5. Bake 35-40min. If top gets too brown, cover with foil until cooked through.
  6. Allow to cool before removing from tin.

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The loaf may be on the smaller side but trust me, with so much fibre in each slice, a little goes a long way. It’s the kind of bread you can eat plain simply because it’s flavourful on its own. I use it more for open-faced sandwiches because they don’t quite hold as well as bread does, but that just means double the filling! Well, the filling will really become the sandwich topping in this case but you already knew that!

Also, these can be sliced up and kept frozen up to a month if you happen not to be able to finish it within 3 days. Likelihood though, is that it’ll be gone before then – even the crumbs. 🙂

 

Loco Over Coco(nuts).

I’ve been dabbling in quite a bit of healthier baking recently aside from my usual cake orders that I’ve been getting on top of since returning from my Lonburg holiday. I prefer to use the term healthier as opposed to healthy because everything sits in a relative continuum don’t they? So while I might consider these bakes healthy, someone who bakes raw and vegan might consider this unhealthy. Or unethical. Haha.

Technicalities aside…

I had a few fail attempts while playing with coconut flour resulting in frustration and binned goods. I tend to feel so annoyed whenever I bake something new but it fails to come out as I hope. And unless I can have a do-over straight away, I usually end up spending the night tossing and turning, thinking about how I could have baked them better.

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So here I am, sharing with you 5 of my favourite bakes using Coconut Flour. None of these contain refined sugar either – I used Coconut Sugar, and if not, then I’ve used Honey.

I initially thought of sharing all 5 recipes here in one blog post but I figured that it might be a little too overwhelming. So one at a time it is. That will also create some suspense!

One thing I learned about Coconut Flour during my trial and error phase was just how very absorbent it is compared to say, Spelt Flour, or Wholewheat, or simple Plain, All-Purpose Flour. Hence, don’t be surprised at the wet to dry ingredients ratio being quite skewed towards the more liquid side.

Also, don’t worry over the number of eggs in the recipes because the are key in creating moistness and they also bind the ingredients together. Recent studies have also shown that cholesterol in food doesn’t have quite the big impact on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol as previous thought. Just remember – everything in moderation!

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Now, these Coconut Flour Brownies are heavenly! I kid you not. I’ve tried way too many ‘healthied-up’ brownies that have turned out dry, overly mushy or too grainy. These were ever-so-slightly on the cakey side, and exceptionally moist and chocolatey. The minute I took my first bite, I surprised myself at how well this recipe turned out. It was everything a Brownie strives to be, and had that aromatic whiff of coconut.

Coconut Flour Brownies (8×8″ Square)

75g butter, melted (or coconut oil)
50g cocoa powder, sifted
6 eggs
160 coconut sugar 
60g coconut milk
pinch of salt
60g coconut flour
Handful of Chocolate Chips.

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C.
  2. Combine butter/oil with cocoa powder and mix well.
  3. Stir in eggs, coconut sugar and milk. Mix well.
  4. Add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Sprinke chocolate chips on top.
  6. Bake for 20-25min until just set. 

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I could spend all day gushing about these babies but… I’m too busy stuffing them into my mouth! Looks like I’ll be baking up a new batch sooner than I thought!

Love-Filled.

Friday was our last full day in London. The few days we had there just whizzed by too quickly and the evening before, I was lamenting about how sad I was the be leaving Europe this time around. Usually I’m ever the eager beaver to return back to the warmth of Singapore, but I guess the weather had treated me so well that it made me fall that little bit in love with Europe – especially Hamburg. And already I can’t wait to return again to that side of the world next year, hopefully to Italy or Switzerland or another city in Germany.

Friday morning Flo and I made our way back into London but more to the CBD where we met Leena during her lunch hour. It was really sweet of her to sacrifice her precious hour off work just to see us.

We met at To A Tea near Farringdon station, which is this cute little bistro that specialises in teas and they also do healthy lunches – think full salads with lean proteins or veggie options.

I chose a Flowering Tea just because it looked so pretty in the picture. A glass of hot water came and I was like “Whuuuuut?!” before the server dropped a blob of something into it. It took about a minute to slowly unfurl and open up.


Green Tea with Lily and Osmanthus.

Definitely rather girly to look at and perfect for Instagramming. The tea carried a lovely aroma of osmanthus but towards the bottom, it got quite bitter, naturally, as the tea has steeped quite a while by then so it was a little difficult to drink.

It was great catching up with Leena and learning about how the year ahead is going to be quite an exciting one for her, and especially Brian who’s taken over his parents’ restaurant down in Southampton. Lots of things are starting to come together but at the same time, there’re lots of issues to iron out. I hope that all goes well for them!

After tea, Flo and I walked along the River Thames to get to Borough Market.

I love love love Borough Market! Yes yes, it’s full of tourists and food prices aren’t exceptionally cheap but the buzz in the air as you walk through the market is amazing. The delicious smells of food sizzling on the grill, the wide array of pastries, the sweet scent of fresh bread. It’s a feast for the senses!

First thing Flo and I had was an oyster each from this man here.

£2.50 per oyster, with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of tabasco, downed in a mere 2.5 seconds. Faster than that in fact!

There were two girls next to us who appeared never to have seen or eaten oysters before and were both keen yet hesitant to try them. After Flo and I had swallowed our delightfully fresh oysters that tasted of the sea, they asked if they were good. I said that they were and Mr. Oyster Man complained that I wasn’t loud enough for him to hear. So I sportingly exclaimed that they were AWESOME!

Paella…

Which we skipped. 

Now Flo and I enjoy good food but we’re not the types to go around and stuff our faces with every appetising thing in sight. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that we both realise that sometimes overeating not only makes you feel sick, it also taints your memory of the food and the place. Instead, we tend to zero in on something we think we’d like and savour it. If we are still hungry after, we might get a small snack or dessert. And the next time we return, we can always try something else. In this case, it might be a while but still…

I more or less zeroed in on Big V.

They specialise in vegan burgers and I opted for the Salad Box that came with two salads and a choice of burger patty. I chose the Spicy Chickpea Sweet Potato Patty. Cost me £7. And it was quite a hefty box which left me very full after.

I loved the Spinach and Broccoli Salad but the Shredded Beetroot Carrot Salad that’s hidden below was a bit too dry and rabbit-food like. Then again, I tend to prefer my veggies on the softer side so yeah… I’m like an old woman in that respect.

I had the salads drizzled with Ume Dressing and they also scooped a generous amount of Beetroot Hummus and Tahini dressing on top as well. Those last two were really yummy. I added Sriracha for the extra kick on my burger. I enjoyed the patty so much I actually returned home and made some for myself! In fact, I made two kinds of veggie burgers so stay tuned for those recipes in a few blog posts’ time!

Flo on the other hand, stayed away from the greens since I had enough for the both of us, and went for the good ol’ British Classic – Fish&Chips from Fish!.

It was ironic because Flo was always drawing flak about how England’s doesn’t have much good food to speak of, and that Fish & Chips are often drowned in oil so why would anyone want to eat them?! I only found out the day that we were at Borough Market that he’d never actually had proper fish and chips before! Tsk! Anyway, he finally decided to give it a go to see if there was some redemption in the English food scene to be found.

And it looks like Fish!, with their £9.95 Cod Fish and Chips managed to impress him after all!

The batter of the piping hot fresh, flakey fish was thin and crisp, while the chips were fat and so very lightly salted. Great with the ketchup although salt and vinegar would have been the more traditional way to go.

Flo said that he was very pleasantly surprised that the fish was fried well and not at all oily. Same with the chips. I’m glad he enjoyed this typical English pub grub especially since this is something the English have definitely got a deft hand in cooking this speciality of theirs. It’s not easy to find Fish & Chips of that same standard in Singapore so having it in London was definitely the right choice.

Happy bellies! We did take a lot of pictures of the food and the food with ourselves. Funny because I think it was in my last post that I was laughing at people taking wefies with the swans at Hyde Park. I guess we all have our little fetishes. Flo’s, and mine, just happens to be food.

So after we filled our bellies, we walked a little more around Borough Market, soaking in the gorgeous sights of beautifully made pastries and desserts.

Giant cookies, German cakes, Dessert slices…

Tarts, Sliced cakes, Chocolate fondants…

Fudge! I’m not really a fudge fan but they’re really popular in the UK.

We skipped the cheeses and breads because we knew that we’d be tempted to buy some but there wouldn’t have been much point since we were leaving the next day – me back to Singapore, and Flo to Zurich for a week at head office.

I wanted to take him over to Bermondsey Street to this place called Fuckoffee. It’s this super quirky, hipster, coffee cafe place where the youngsters go to. It’s like an ‘alternative’ cafe that’s a little rough round the edges.

We were a mere few hundred metres off when it began to pour, so Flo and I quickly found shelter at Bermondsey Street Cafe instead which looked a world away from Fuckoffee. It took quite a big space and looked upmarket-industrial. There was a group of hot mamas with their babies there and two Japanese girls who looked to be having a late brunch of delectable looking fluffy pancakes.

Flo had his Cappuccino. I had my Piccolo.

We didn’t make it to Fuckoffee in the end and I think it was kind of a good thing because the more I think about it, the more the place seems a little dank and grungy. That’s just my opinion. 

When the rain finally cleared, the temperature dropped quite a bit and the winds turned a touch icy. Just a touch.

Flo and I continued on towards the Thames…

Where we then wefied with Tower Bridge

And The Shard

Awesome huh? We took pictures with some of the most iconic, world famous buildings in the world!!!

Then we crossed Tower Bridge, which is one of the prettiest bridges ever. I used to think it was the London Bridge just because. But one day, I found out which one was the real London Bridge and felt rather disappointed that it didn’t look as impressive as it sounded. Also, I guess because there was the song about London bridge falling down, I simply assumed it had to be an amazeballs looking bridge.

Flo and I had quite a journey home because we went to Tower Hill station where we had to make a few switches before we got onto the Met line home. Thought we’d be late for family dinner but nope! We had about a good half hour before most of the family started to pile in.

Grandma cooked the perfect amount for 16 of us – there was a bit more food kept aside in the kitchen for the latecomers.

Sambal Squid with Lady’s Fingers, Roast Pork Belly, Curry Prawns, Stir-fried Asparagus with Runner Beans and Pork Ribs. She later took out some of that Spinach Curry from the night before that I love.

T’was a great final dinner in London and it was wonderful being able to catch up with Rachael especially and find out how her wedding plans are coming along. First cousin on Mum’s side to get married!! 

And seeing Suk Gong, as well as Uncle Peter and Aunty Betty. It’s been a while and sometimes, it’s only after not seeing them for a while that I realise just how much they, and my parents too, are getting on. I’m happy though, that they are all blessed with good health and are looking lively and happy.

Saturday morning, I finished packing everything. By packing I actually mean stuffing everything into my check-in bag. I was a little worried that it might burst open while transiting from London to Singapore. Thank God it didn’t.

Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma left quite early to Southampton to catch their two-week cruise around the Baltic. Flo and I managed to say goodbye to them before catching a bit more zees. At 11am, just an hour before their ship was due to depart, Uncle David got a call to say that they’d left their tickets at home! So there was a bit of a panic where Uncle David had to drive fast and furiously to get the tickets to them, while Kor had to dash Sophie to her tuition class in Harrow.

So lunch with Kor at this Japanese place we enjoy was scrapped and Flo and I made a simple lunch at home before Kor dropped us off at the airport.

Flo’s flight to Zurich was at 4.55pm so I managed to send him all the way to his gate before I somehow managed to burn the other 3 hours until my flight was due to leave.

And so, our two week Eurotrip came to a close. Eurotrip isn’t really the right term because we were really only in two places. Hamdon trip? Lonburg? It was a great one though, one that far exceeded my expectations especially spending it with Flo. In fact, I daresay it was my favourite holiday ever. So far. Especially because it was with Flo.