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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

So my last post one life before Flo was incredibly wordy so I’m making sure to put add lots of pictures into this one to make up for it! Prepare your eyes for a whole lot of Nat and Flo aka #rennetan so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Picking up where I left off, I actually met Flo when I was in a weird kind of ‘ship’. I had been hanging out with this one guy for quite a few months and somehow couldn’t put my finger on whether we were together or not. Sorry I’m the kind of girl who needs things ‘official’ and said to my face rather than to assume things. Also, I think one big problem we had was that we weren’t communicating in the way that we should have which made it difficult for me to be direct and ask him about our status. In the end, I kind of gave up on things although this later proved to be a mess because apparently, we were in some kind of relationship according to him I later found out. I did share all this with Flo from the beginning and when it was time for me to make a decision, I chose Flo – Why? You’ll find out further down. 🙂

So since I didn’t think the other guy and I were in anything exclusive, I decided to explore a few dating apps, Tinder being one of them. So yes, I swiped my way right into meeting Flo. I know that some of you might cringe at the thought of using social apps to meet new people but the truth is, when you’re working from home, it’s not easy to expand your social circle.

In a country like Singapore, friends don’t usually introduce you to potential partners, or maybe my friends just don’t have good men to introduce to me. I look at it in a practical sense that we’re in an age of technology and there’s no shame in utilising it. And as I’ve learned, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a dating app or meeting guys in real life – there are creeps, assholes and good men wherever and however you meet them. You just need to be discerning and sieve out the good from the bad.

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It was about a week after we’d ‘liked’ each other and started talking a little on chat before Flo invited me to watch a movie after work on Friday. We watched ‘Bad Moms’. We met right before the film started so we didn’t really have much time to talk and it got me thinking that this date probably wasn’t going to turn out great since I half-assumed that with nothing to go by, we might part right after the movie ended.

We didn’t.

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We found ourselves going to The Assembly Ground at Level 1 of The Cathay building and sharing about our lives with each other until the place closed. We then proceeded to walk over to Cathay Cineleisure’s Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe that closed at 2am. And there, we sat sharing even more about everything under the sun while Flo had his late late dinner, before we were told that they were preparing to close.

And so, after being kicked out of an eatery a second time, we walked some more back to where we came from, before finally booking an Uber each to return to our respective homes.

Shortly after parting, Flo texted me to say he wanted to see me again.

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So we did.

Next day, I met him in the afternoon only to end up whiling away a good 1.5-2 hours in his office lounge while he oversaw his team’s moving from one office to another, or something like that. I was smart enough to bring a book along so that helped keep me occupied. We only managed to hang around a short time after because he had a birthday party to attend soon after. But I believe that we shared our first kiss that day.

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Then things started to move a lot more quickly. Within a month, we planned to go on a short trip to Phuket together. Initially, I wondered if it was all too fast too soon – I mean, 4 days with someone you’ve just got to know could mean having a blast of a time, or turn out to be a total fail. Thank GOD it was the former. We were total bums most of the time, hauling ourselves over to the more happening Patong area only to save our stomachs from devouring themselves.

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We indulged in awesome seafood and spicy Thai tom yum soups; we lazed under the sun; we explored some of the nooks around Patong, but mostly, we took it very easy. It was while we were here that we both realised that we had developed very deep feelings for each other.

Within a couple of months, Flo met my parents and when my brother popped down for a couple weeks towards the end of 2016, we all spent a weekend together in Malacca.

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This was when Flo got stuck with my loving, but occasional dysfunctional family (I say that will all the affection in the world). He survived and decided he could put up with our little idiosyncrasies. Phew!

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Shortly after, his beautiful sister Naima came to visit and I got the meet her.

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In January of this year, I moved in to live with Flo. It was quite a big transition for me having never lived out of my family home here in Singapore, and even when I was in the UK, I was living with my grandparents. I shared about this move in one of my blog posts beginning 2017. The main reason for it was because I was craving independence and we thought it might be better for me living away from familiar surroundings in order to also cut myself off from the habits and routine of my eating disorder. Of course, it has by no means been a cure and I’m still working towards the goal of attaining and maintaining a healthy weight as well as a good relationship with food, but I’m getting there with the continual support of Flo, my family and Dr. A.

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Living together with Flo has been quite a journey. We’ve continued travelling together to neighbouring countries for short getaways from our little island. We try to meet with my parents for dinner every one to two weeks although I also see them more often during the week.

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Summer of this year, we both went to Europe. First to Hamburg for me to meet his family…

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As well as his friends…

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I was very touched by how warm they all were to me and how much they tried to speak to me in English, which has since spurred me on to get on with some basic German classes.

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It was also amazing for me to experience the gorgeous sights of Hamburg and surprisingly delicious fare, all made even better by the perfect weather!

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We then went on to London where we spent time with my maternal family, all of whom Flo finally got to meet.

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We spent time with my parents as well with short day trips out of London and came home nearly every evening to Grandma’s soul-hugging home-cooked meals.

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Our summer visits certainly brought us closer together in the sense that I managed to see more of Flo through his interactions with his nearest and dearest, and vice versa. I enjoyed it very much and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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It was quite funny because the other day, I remembered thinking that we’ve been living together for a larger proportion of the time that we’ve been a couple. Admittedly, a lot of things in our relationship happened quite quickly but we’ve been blessed that they have worked out well for us. And in the time that I’ve been living with Flo, I’ve learned so much!

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I’ve learned how to iron much better, and I try to keep our home as clean and tidy as possible. I know that I’m a far better baker than a cleaner but I try my best with the vacuuming and the mopping and the scrubbing.

I also try to cook more often during the week. Simple things and when I’m feeling brave, I try new recipes. Recent ones for Flo include Pork Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes

Steak and Wedges…

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Sliced Potatoes

Of course, our relationship, like every other, is not perfect. We suffer from the occasional blip which both of us hate going through, but I choose to see them as learning curves where we learn more about ourselves as individuals, and as a couple, so that we can continue to grow together.

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What I love about our relationship is that I feel able to communicate with Flo more often than not. I feel able to share with him my thoughts, hopes and dreams openly. In areas where I used to feel vulnerable, he has slowly enabled me to trust and not be afraid. I enjoy that we can cuddle up to each other and say nothing at all, but at the same time, we can also talk about anything at all.

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With Flo, I feel that I have become a better, stronger woman. I am becoming more confident in myself, and Flo never fails to tell me how attractive he thinks I am. I have learned to become less of a fiery little chilli padi, to be more patient, and to listen more. I have learned not to give up so easily, to work harder at our relationship, and to love with a bigger heart. It is not always easy, but with Flo, I want to make it work. So far, we have been making it work. And I pray that we will continue to grow in love for years and years to come!

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So this is our little story as of right now. It’s always easy to share about the wonderful snippets that go on within our relationship but I promise you that we go through periods where we want to tear each other’s hair out. At the end of the day, we are two different individuals, who have grown up in different environments and raised on different values and beliefs. But we have similar goals in life and for sure, we share some of the same values that point us towards a similar direction. And we have love. And so, we learn to accommodate our differences, and to give and take.

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In the time I’ve been with Flo, I’ve come to believe that aside from love, there has to be communication and trust in a relationship. 100%! If there’s no trust, or if you trust even only 99% of the time, then there is no grounds for a relationship because you have to trust your partner wholeheartedly. Communication is also a must. And it is when you feel least like communicating, that’s when you HAVE to.

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Flo is my best friend, my confidante, my travel mate, my dance partner, my plus one, my shoulder to cry on, my pillar of strength. And while I know that there is no perfect man, I believe that he is quite perfect for me. I don’t know where our story will continue, but I hope that it will continue a long long while more. Perhaps. Maybe. Even. For the rest of our lives!

 

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#throwback to last weekend.

I had my fill of poke!

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Prior to this bowl from Aloha Poke at City Link Mall, I’d only had it once before at Alter Ego. And before that I made my own although my flavours skewed more towards Japanese rather than Hawaiian. Anyway, I found myself hankering after a bowl and this certainly hit the spot.

As requested by Flo, I did go for a base of brown rice (I ED would have definitely gone for salad greens) for my Lil Swell, which they topped with lots of greens and complimentary chunks of sweet pineapple as well as finely chopped chives. I opted for jalapeños cos a girl’s gotta have some fireeeee, cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds for my superfood topping. The best part of course, was my 75g of beautifully marinated original Salmon Poke.

It was $12.90 for this so… maybe just once in a while although I have big plans to replicate this at home. This time with a more tropical theme.

With my 3rd Aunt still in town since we had the memorial Thursday before for Aunty Judy, we met up with a few other uncles and aunties for lunch at this Vegetarian restaurant called Elemen.

I’d heard rave reviews about it but I know my man needs his meat. Also, after our disappointing experience at Green Dot, we weren’t sure how Elemen would fare. But guess what? It was pretty bloody awesome!

For starters, Mum and I shared this Double-boiled Burdock Root Soup with Monk Fruit. It was delicate and light on the palate, but still so comforting. I’ve been deprived of hot, steaming herbal soups so this tasted especially good!

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We also ordered this Spicy Shiitake with Purple Rice Roll which we happily shared with the rest of our table before ordering yet another.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the crunch of fresh cucumbers and carrots, and the crispiness of tempura within the vinegar-ed purple rice which had more bite than regular sushi rice, and carried a pleasant nuttiness to it. Each piece was topped with chopped shiitake mushrooms marinated in a teriyaki-esque sauce, almost mimicking unagi. Sadly, we couldn’t taste much of the spiciness which we expected from its name. More chilli please!!! 

We also had a couple of other appetisers to share: The Mushroom Salad, and the Watermelon Feta Salad.

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Both were dainty in presentation and while I enjoyed the mushroom salad (I love mushrooms!!), Flo didn’t take to it being served cold. That was quite unexpected I have to admit but served hot or cold, they’re still mushrooms so you can see just how much my love for mushrooms extends to.

The watermelon and feta salad was refreshing and light. I especially liked the watermelon eaten with some fresh mint. The food here in general are a bit on the pricey side so a more generous sprinkle of feta would have been very much welcomed.

Dad zeroed in on the Milano Pizza which ended up being the crowd’s favourite.

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Wafer-thin, crispy base topped with monkeyhead mushroom, sliced red radish, baby cress and of course, cheeeeeese!

Flo had the Edamame Tofu with Black Truffle Wild Rice.

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I managed to try some of his tofu and rice. The rice was lovely – chewy and nutty and still moist. I shall look to make some once I get my hands on wild rice. The tofu was yielding, so smooth and silky, tasty even without the luscious savoury sauce on top. Having it together simply gave it an extra oomph.

I think the entire family enjoyed lunch at Elemen. I especially liked that they highlighted the beauty and versatility of vegetables in all their dishes, using them in various way to create a myriad of textures and flavours. None of that mock meat/konnyaku seafood jibber-jabber that I deplore.

We had a great time surrounded by family and listening to stories from way back in the day. We reminisced about Aunty Judy, and we laughed about the silly antics Ah Gong (my paternal grandpa) used to get up to while driving everybody up the wall. I’m glad Flo was there with me, getting to know my 3rd Aunt, whom I am very close to, a bit better, as well as some of my other uncles. I know that they also appreciated his company very much.

And because…

I cannot leave this post without sharing about some of my kitchen antics, this is what I whipped up for last Monday’s dinner for Flo. He requested Prawns for protein and while I seriously considered making prawn ceviche, I decided I would stick to the traditional fish ceviche and save it to make for another day.

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Instead, I baked up some uber-sweet Japanese Beni Haruka Sweet Potatoes, and made Cauliflower-Rice stuffed Red Peppers. I quickly stir-fried the ‘rice’ with some finely chopped haricot beans, king oyster mushrooms, and onions, splashed in a bit of fish sauce and soy – should have added some oyster sauce but I didn’t have any, and seasoned it with some sea salt and black pepper. I didn’t want to overcook the ‘rice’ so I roasted the red pepper halves in the oven beforehand, then filled them after.

For the prawns, I used a simple Gochujang Marinade:
1 Tbs Gochujang
3/4 Tbs Soy Sauce
1/2 Tbs Minced Garlic
1/2 Tbs Minced Ginger
1/4 Tbs Sesame Oil

  1. Mix everything together. Massage prawns gently into the mix and let sit together at least 10-15min. 
  2. Heat pan and sear away!

You can also use this versatile recipe for any other meats although you should probably marinate them for longer in the fridge, about 2 hours or more. You can even use this for vegetables!

Oh funny story before I sign off. After Sunday’s veggie-filled lunch, Mum and Dad headed off to church before coming over to have dinner with Flo and I. Mum had been having a craving for Vietnamese and wanted to go back to Long Phung. Due to the lack of animal meat in their bodies, the two men made sure to have their fill at dinner, Dad especially. Flo had a bowl of Chicken Pho and Dad, Vietnamese Beef Stew with Rice. Then they both shared a plate of Rare Beef cooked in Lemon Juice that Flo loves but haven’t been able to have for quite a while now.

So right at the end, Mum saw that Dad had left a single chunk of tender beef sitting in its bowl while he focused on eating the rare sliced beef, and asked whether he was going to finish it. Before he could answer, I quipped “Of course! He just likes it so much he’s saving it for last! Riiiiiiight?”. To which Dad smiled until his eyes turned into two horizontal lines, gleefully nodding his head in agreement. I know. Because I’m my father’s daughter and can totally read his mind. And because that’s exactly what I do too!

Are you a ‘Save the Best for Last’ kind of person or ‘Have the Best First’ kind of person? Let me know!! I used to think that EVERYONE should save the best for last but I know a few people who like to have the best first so it’d be interesting to know which train of thought you subscribe to. Don’t be shy!!! =P

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Last weekend was a nicely packed one for Flo and I in that we were busy enough, yet not so busy to tire ourselves out for the week ahead. We decided to book tickets to a local theatre production – Boeing Boeing. Flo’s never been to watch any of our local theatre productions before and I was a little worried that some jokes might get lost in translation. In addition, knowing that my man is not a big fan of musicals, I wasn’t sure whether Boeing Boeing would be full of music, dance and song galore. So I simply had to keep my fingers and toes crossed that the show would live up to its good reviews.

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We bought ourselves awesome seats along the first row of the second half of the theatre. I’ve not been to Victoria Theatre since it got renovated so I was very impressed with its modern interior that breathed of comfort and great visuals from all corners unlike before, when big pillars would block certain sections causing one to have to crane their neck left and right depending on where the actors were on stage.

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The entire performance was full of energy and not too localised which we very much appreciated. Oon Shu An was perfect as the resident ‘SQ girl’, and I thought that Judee Tan took the cake as a flight attendant from ‘China Air’ with her accent totally on point. In fact, I think the women outshone the men in Boeing Boeing although the men were vital characters to the plot.

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The cast were incredibly sporting and game to pose for all the audience to snap photos of at the end of the show. I have to admit that in recent years, Singapore’s local theatre has been producing more and more performances of substance. Some of them are catered more to locals but still, they are witty, charming, and insightful.

Flo and I walked away gushing about how well Boeing Boeing was performed, and how impressed we were by the production as a whole. No, there was no breaking into song and dance but Flo actually said that even if they did he would still have enjoyed it. So we plan to watch more local theatre and support our local actors!! I always love watching Dim Sum Dollies and Hossan, so hopefully they will put on a show later in the year which Flo and I can attend. They tend to focus more on Singapore current affairs, and are very quick to touch on the political yet so very clever in making it unapparent. That would be nice for Flo to experience especially now that he’s been in Singapore nearly two years now.

Also, this weekend saw me making a Black Double Chocolate Birthday Cake with Gold Drippings. It’s not perfect, and there’re lots of bits I could improve on, but it was a nice challenge to have had.

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I’m not one who encourages the use of lots of food colouring so I recommended that chocolate ganache be used instead of buttercream. I was worried it might not turn out well but thank God somehow everything came together. It was also my first time gold-painting over white chocolate ganache so again, I was glad that the ganache set well for me to paint over although I think it was a little thicker than I’d have liked. Next time I’ll be better set to make an even prettier cake!

We also spent Sunday evening with some of my old high school girlfriends. It went ok but it’s funny how sometimes, gaining the perspective of someone else helps you to see certain things in a new way. I guess we change over time and while we’d like to think that our friends may evolve along with us, that’s not always the case. We tend to hold on to friendships especially the ones that we’ve been part of for years and years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing unless there are elements within that friendship that may be a little toxic.

Of course, I don’t plan on cutting off ties entirely, just that I won’t be making as much of an effort anymore with them not because I don’t care, but because that care is seldom reciprocated. It took another person to help me realise that even with old friends, there should be respect in how we speak to each other, thoughtfulness in our replies, and patience in our thoughts. Perhaps it’s time to cultivate new ones. 🙂

And just a little snippet of Monday’s dinner to kick off our week…

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It does stretch my brain quite a bit when it comes to thinking about what to cook for dinner these days. I don’t always want to ply Flo with the same foods and the same flavours. I enjoy challenging myself to creating new dishes and for sure there are hits and misses.

This dinner was both a hit and a miss. I tried my hand at making Baked Zucchini-Carrot Rosti (to be healthier) but I failed to squeeze out as much water from the zucchini as I should have so the rosti didn’t crisp up properly. The Grilled Honey-Dijon Chicken Breast was yum-O though – Honey and Dijon Mustard, a dash of Olive Oil, Fresh Minced Rosemary, Salt and Pepper. That’s all there was in the marinade! I tried some of the chicken so I give it my thumbs up, but truth is, I felt like some baked tofu for my choice of protein Monday night so a sprinkle of sea salt and some cayenne pepper on top and it was enough to make me a happy girl!

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It’s been a while since I shared a savoury food recipe. Most of my days in the kitchen is spent working on recipes for sweet baked goods usually because I tend to have the ingredients at hand. As they say, baking is more of a science, and cooking, more of an art.

I don’t count myself a great cook by any means, but I’m proud to say that at the very least, I’ve not burned down our kitchen. I also happen to be quite the lazy cook. The more ingredients I see on a recipe, the more I cannot be bothered to make it. Also, if I happen to have most of the ingredients on the list, then I’m more than game to give it a go.

The other day, Flo mentioned wanting to go for Thai food for dinner. It didn’t quite register with me though as I thought the plan was still up in the air when we spoke of it a couple days earlier. So I simply assumed that we weren’t going after all and I decided to do something sweet for Flo and try my hand at cooking something Thai-inspired.

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This recipe for Thai-grilled Steak is really simple and doesn’t require a whole basket of ingredients. Just make sure you get a good cut of steak so that it’ll be nice and tender after being cooked. I didn’t think there was quite enough of a spicy kick though so I might add in an extra piece of Thai bird’s eye chilli into the marinade next time.

The nice thing about making this is you can have the steak in a salad, or stir-fried with vermicelli. You can even cook down the marinade to form a luscious, flavourful gravy that will go perfectly with rice.

I also made a simple recipe of Pickled Carrots for the bit of tart and a bit of sweetness to balance off the heat. So. GOOD!

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Thai-Styled Grilled Beef:
200g sirloin steak

20g Fresh Basil
8g Fresh Cilantro
2tsp Minced Garlic
1 Tbs Fish Sauce
1 Lime, Zested and Juiced
1 Bird’s Eye Chilli
1/2 Tbs Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Sunflower Oil

  1. Whizz everything up together (Apart from the steak of course).
  2. Pour marinade into a ziplock bag along with the beef and let sit in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove from fridge about 20min before cooking to allow the steak to reach room temperature.
  4. Heat pan on medium heat. Once ready, cook steak to your desired doneness. About 3 minutes on each side for medium rare which is how we usually prefer ours.
  5. Remove steak from pan and allow to rest before slicing.

Pickled Carrots
1 Carrot, Julienned
1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar
1/3 Tbs Sugar
1 tsp Salt

  1. Put everything together in a bowl and let sit for 30min.
  2. Drain liquid from the carrots and you’re ready to go!

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As you can see, I made it into a nice big wrap that refused to bundle up nicely so I ended up having to swaddle it in foil like a big, badass baby. Spinach and Rocket leaves, with Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted Onions, Pickled Carrots, Creamy Avocado, Fresh Basil and Cilantro, and of course, Sliced Thai-Grilled Steak. I ended up not having to use any sauce for moisture because the pickled carrots more than made up for the absence.

This was a really substantial dinner and while not authentically Thai, the essence of Thailand was clearly there. And… We did quell Flo’s cravings a few days later when we met up with a couple of his friends and dined at a nice, Thai restaurant that left the taste of garlic in our mouths and the burn of chilli on our lips!

 

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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.

 

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We managed another road trip with my parents on Thursday but this time, we weren’t as ambitious as before. It was a straightforward 40-ish minute drive to Cliveden, an estate now owned by the National Trust.

Cliveden actually means “valley among cliffs” and has been home to dukes, countesses and a Prince of Wales! Amongst others, of course. Its grounds are huge and its gardens are gorgeous. The day we went was another amazingly beautiful day, perfect for all the families who came with their little ones for a picnic and to run around.

The vastness of Cliveden made me wonder just how its past inhabitants used to get around. By horse? Carriage? Walking? And what if they needed to find each other? 

There was also an area where The Dollhouse was situated. They had these little tree stumps together with a big stump that doubled as chairs and a table. Dad got quite excited being able to sit on one of the stumps.

We continued further in to a large fountain also known as The Fountain of Love where the shell supports three females who are being seen to by Cupid. Yes, I actually try to do some kind of research on these things especially for those who are interested.

I’m sure there were a lot more to Cliveden that we missed out on simply because it was so big and we didn’t have enough time to explore every nook and cranny.

From this shell fountain, we walked up the long driveway leading to the mansion that now operates as a 5-star hotel.

We didn’t enter the hotel but we did walk round its terrace which gave us a bird’s eye view of the parterre. At 4 acres, this is possibly one of Europe’s largest formal gardens.

How cool is that?!

After reaching the parterre, we decided to try and loop back to the car as tummies were beginning to growl. We kind of overshot one of the turns but in doing so, we managed to get a nice shot of Flo and I amongst the tall trees with not a person in sight (behind us). We were all wondering actually, why the crowds had thinned out.

Mum, I think, was getting tired, so was a little annoyed that we had to walk the extra way to get onto the right path back to the car where lunch was waiting for us.

Olive Bread with Serrano Ham. 

Hopping back into the car, we continued on in search for what is allegedly the oldest freehouse in England. Mum and Dad were brought there by a good friend of theirs before and it wasn’t far off from Cliveden. Only… it’s located in a rather remote area so finding its exact location required some trial and error, before resorting to some old-fashioned help, before getting confirmation from Googlemaps which decided to come through for us only after we’d already asked for directions.

Rickety, uneven floors and a low ceiling greeted us at their entrance.

And the interior did feel quite dated with all the random paraphernalia seemingly gathered over the years, decades, centuries?

The place did look old, but whether or not its as old as the over 900 years that they claim to be, I’m not so sure.

Age aside, it still looked sturdy as a rock and while the boys had their pints in hand to cool them down in the afternoon sun, Mum and I settled for coffee.

We decided to have our drinks out in the warm sunshine even though the inside looked very cosy and intimate.

We managed to make it home much earlier this time around which was nice. Our day felt quite relaxed and it was great being able to spend more time out in the fresh air. Being home early also meant that dinner was served hot and fresh out of their pots and pans.

Grandma made my favourite Spinach Curry!! And Mum’s favourite Braised Chicken with Lily Bulbs and Shitake Mushrooms.

I know, I keep saying that Grandma made my favourite this and favourite that. That’s because they’re all my favourite and just as the flavour of Mum’s cooking is unique to herself, so is Grandma’s. Replicating the taste of her cooking would be a near impossible feat!

Also, on many previous trips, owing to my ED, I refrained from eating Grandma’s food what with the oil and salt and blah blah blah. I would buy my own food and cook them to my liking. So I think that being back this time around and allowing myself to enjoy grandma’s food also made her so much the happier. And there were times after dinner where I’d feel as though I’d overindulged but at the end of the day, it was a real treat being able to eat her familiar cooking so f*ck ED because it was worth it.

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Our first morning in London – Northwood to be exact, the town where my family resides when we’re there. It was a soggy day, quite typical of the UK, and it was a bit of a bummer because I felt like Hamburg had totally impressed me with its weather and while I was hoping that London would do the same, it felt like a lame effort on her part.

I guess London being London, it just had to keep to its ‘usual’ default, predictable self. And that, I suppose, can be quite endearing.

After a nice breakfast at home, Flo and I went for a walk around the area. I just showed him our small little high street, and Waitrose – because we love supermarkets!! And just around the corner, was my old school where I did my A level’s.

Northwood College. 

The sign’s been changed and looks rather stiff and boring now. I mean, it didn’t look that much fancier before but it used to state the headmistress’s name as well and somehow it looked prettier.

Flo and I had a rough idea how we were going to plan our days in London so since we didn’t have much time there, we decided to take the family out for lunch first thing. Grandma and Grandpa chose to go for dim sum and I have to admit, I’ve had dim sum at their ‘usual’ before and wasn’t too impressed. We went there anyway, and whaddya know? Looks like they’ve upped their game. The dim sums were more refined and the only dish that disappointed us badly was the pork and century egg congee. That was just mehhh…

I kind of over-ordered not realising that grandma was adding on quite a few noodle dishes but all of us managed to polish everything off in the end. I helped quite a bit too although I did feel quite bad after. And even then, I hankered after a bit of dessert but decided to wait till later…

Because the fam-bam decided we would go visit Windsor Castle while grandma and grandpa went shopping at the Chinese Supermarket.

We used to visit Windsor every year when my brother and I were little. And every year we’d take a photo on their wooden benches by the castle. We” as in my family, and/or just my brother and I, and/or my parents and my brother, and/or my parents and me. You get the idea.

This time, we managed to get one with all of us including Flo. This lovely lady, she sounded Welsh, who was with her young family, gamely offered to help us take a photo. And she did a great job of it too!

Then after a bit of wandering along the Windsor high street, Flo and I decided to have some ice-cream. Not just any ice-cream. A softee! 

Again, this is something from my childhood that I haven’t had in years!

And with a Flake no less!

I remember Kor and I running up to the Mr. Softee van to buy a cone each whenever we were there in summer.

This time though, there wasn’t a van. Just a quaint little shop by Windsor Castle. A quaint little shop that sold these softees for £2.50 each!! Well, 50p extra for the Flake.

That pretty much summed up our Monday. We went home in time for grandma’s dinner. Mind you, we had dinner at home every day while we were in London because grandma kept enticing me by cooking all the food that she knows are my favourites. Also, she was very flattered that Flo enjoyed her cooking and that spurred her on to make sure she cooked at her highest level each evening. That’s what Chinese families are like – we show our love through food. The more we feed you, the more we love you. 

Tuesday morning, we left home at 10am, and went all old-school with the map to go to Stratford-upon Avon.

It took us a while because we decided to go through Oxford. Bad idea. Oxford had really heavy traffic getting back onto the motorway and just before we reached Stratford, Flo and I were dying for a pee.

We stopped by this super cute little town just before Marlborough, and found a pub that generously allowed us to use their restrooms. I loved how they had their walls embellished with these words/phrases of affirmation.

Yes. “Shine bright like a diamond”. We all know that song, but how often do we remember to shine like a diamond?

Also, this town seemed very into crafts and even the little barricades(?) by the roadside were adorned with knitted ‘hats’.

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

When we finally reached Stratford, it was right about lunch time. So we quickly found a cafe where we could sit al fresco and order some hot drinks to go along with our homemade sandwiches.

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

With cream cheese and stuffed with salad greens and smoked salmon. Yummers!

Mum and Dad decided they wanted to continue with their sit-down so Flo and I took a walk around the street where Shakespeare used to trod on.

Right at the head of the street they have a statue of a Jester.

And to the side sits Shakespeare’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode.

A picture of me taking a picture of Mum and Dad.

And of course, a wefie!

We were contemplating going to the lake round the corner and were actually walking towards it when Mum informed us that if we wanted to visit Bath or Avebury, that it might be smarter to leave sooner rather than later. So we turned back towards the carpark where we set off towards Avebury since we ascertained that it’d be nicer to walk around the area than to visit a single site. Also, Flo had seen Roman baths in Italy before so we might as well go somewhere new.

And off we went.

Again, the journey took quite a while from Stratford and by the time we got there, it was already about 4pm.

We didn’t manage to spend too much time walking around the huge stones. The area actually consists of three stone circles, including the largest stone circle in Europe. They’re much like the ones set in Stonehenge only the nice thing about here is that you can still go up to the rocks and touch them.

Till today, when summer solstice arrives, so does a crowd of campers who might participate in meditation activities together or to simply enjoy the soundscape concert.

Perhaps some might be there for the sheep. Mum was a little reluctant to trod on the grass because of sheep poop pretty much everywhere. It’s not too bad as long as you watch where you’re stepping, or if you’re like Flo, you might not care at all and go chasing after the sheep.

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

We were off not long after we arrived. I think we were a bit too ambitious this time taking a road trip to two places that were not very close to each other. Stratford was a bit of a drive away and we would have probably done better spending the day there rather than try to stop over at Avebury. It felt as though we’d spent more time sitting in the car than enjoying the fresh cool air of England and as we’re all not getting younger, you can imagine a lot of backache and leg cramp action going on the longer we sat in the car.

Oh. I also tried this Vanilla Coke Zero. It ended up being the only one I had because I couldn’t find it any place else.

I thought I’d struck gold when I picked up another bottle at our Northwood Newsagents’, only for Flo to point out that it was Vanilla Coke, no Zero. Boo! This was an absolute gem of a drink. It taste incredibly creamy and luscious. ’tis a pity it’s not available as widely as it should be!

Also, at the very place I found my Vanilla Coke Zero, I picked up a packet of this popcorn.

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I wasn’t expecting much from it but it was so good! It really tasted like peanut butter even though they really just used peanut flour and ground almonds to flavour the popcorn. And a bit of sugar.

It blew my mind! On the way back I bought a packet of their Fiery Worcester Sauce & Sun-dried Tomato flavour but that was a bit of a let down. I’ll stick to the Peanut & Almond one.

Grandma cooked my favourites for dinner! I know it doesn’t look like much but Chinese home-cooking is a lot healthier and tastier than the salty, greasy stuff often found at Chinese takeaways.

Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms and Chestnuts. And Glass Noodles stir-fried with Sweet Cabbage and Dried Shrimp. Aaaaand my favourite, comforting bowl of Lotus Root Soup on the side, unpictured, brewed with lots of patience, and love!

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