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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

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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Flo and I mainly commuted around Hamburg by bus or on trains during our stay there. So when we had to make our way to the area where his Mum, Ute, lives, we had to catch one of those fast trains that went out of the main city area.

This picture below reminds me a lot of Paris’ Gare du Nord. It’s a hustle and bustle of people heading to or coming from somewhere.

Due to a slight miscommunication, Ute wasn’t around when we arrived. So Flo and I went to the nearby town bakery to grab a Mettbrötchen. This is probably Flo’s favourite breakfast since he often raves about it and never fails to have one whenever he goes back to Germany.

It was my first time trying raw minced pork with chopped raw onions. I found it slightly on the salty side and while I didn’t hate it, I didn’t find myself desiring to have more. That being said, it was interesting to finally try one of Flo’s favourite foods.

We met Ute not long after and she brought us to her apartment for a quick cup of coffee before we set off to Flo’s grandparents’ home an hour and a half away. It was a nice drive through the countryside, so nice that I ended up nodding off half the journey.

We arrived after his grandparents’ usual lunch time so Herr Rennekamp was rather on the hungry side. He was really cute though, asking repeatedly when lunch would be served. It wasn’t too long before the beautiful aroma of home-cooked food began to waft through the rooms.

Frau Rennekamp had cooked some of the Weißer Spargel (White Asparagus) that Ute had bought over, Spätzle and Hungarian Beef Goulash.

It was a simple meal but so wholesome and sumptuous! It was my virgin experience eating spätzle and I enjoyed it very much, especially with the comforting, tender beef with tangy sauerkraut in the goulash. Flo said the goulash wasn’t the best but I loved it and am serious about making some at home once Flo returns from Zurich. I even bought home some spätzle!

Also, I’d never eaten white asparagus before and while it was simply boiled in salt water, it was incredibly sweet and tender. No seasoning was needed. We had some ham along with it and it’s amazing how there isn’t always a need for fancy cooking for food to taste delicious. Fresh ingredients certainly speak for themselves.

Herr Rennekamp heartily dug into lunch and once we were filled up, he excitedly asked for dessert. He reminded me so much of Grandpa who we all know has quite a sweet-tooth. My grandpa, even at 85, can be quite cheeky too and is known to behave himself a couple of days before the doctor checks his blood sugar, only to return home after the test to indulge in Honey Nut Crunch drowned in tea (he says he doesn’t take sugar with his tea anymore but it looks like this is his alternative) as well as toast slathered in marmalade. 

It took all of two minutes for Herr Rennekamp to dish ice-cream for all of us, to be eaten with berries compote. And not long after, he made sure to have a second round.

We spent quite a bit of time chit-chatting. Back in the day, Herr and Frau Rennekamp used to travel a lot but age has slowed them down. Frau Rennekamp used to visit the US quite often so she was able to speak some English although after years of little practice, she claims to have forgotten quite a lot. Still, I thought that she spoke really well!

We went for a short walk after lunch, like a really really short walk. Like 50m off from their home where we stood around looking at neighbouring houses before we returned. Then Flo’s grandfather showed us around his garden – Flo helped him build the garden 15, 16 years ago when they had just built the house. It’s a gorgeous garden with a little camping ‘hut’ where you can BBQ in, and even sleep in, in winter.

And just as Asian families love to feed their loved ones, Flo’s grandma had prepared cakes in anticipation for tea time. Or coffee for them.

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These were huge (to me) slices of cakes and each person had one for themselves.

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I went for one that was akin to a Blackforest but not typical of the usual one. It had a marble butter cake base studded with sour cherries, was topped with fresh cream and then covered by a thin layer of dark chocolate. I loved the cherries but I just couldn’t stomach any more than half the cake.

Right after tea time, Flo and I had to bid farewell to Herr and Frau Rennekamp. It amazed me how quickly time flew spending the afternoon with them and Ute. I could see how sad they were that we couldn’t stay longer and Frau Rennekamp asked for us to spend more time with them next visit. Alternatively, she might come over to Singapore or meet us somewhere in between.

Ute dropped us at one of the train stations on the way home so Flo and I managed to hop on over to Hauptbahnhof station where he managed to buy some new ear phones from a nearby electronic store, and also for us to get some dinner.

Flo was adamant that I try one of Germany’s favourite street grub, especially after a late night out – the Doner. According to Google, Batman served a mean doner. And it wasn’t too far from where we were either.

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They made fresh wraps on site and I swear, it took 30 seconds to make a doner from start to finish. They were that fast! See video below for evidence:

Unfortunately, they were out of veal which was Flo’s preference, so we had to settle for chicken. And let me tell you, their doners were like the size and weight of a baby!

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Digging in.

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Fresh chunks of chicken, fresh, crisp salad, onions, yoghurt sauce, chilli flakes. 


I wasn’t blown away. I guess I haven’t had enough doner kebabs in my life to know whether this was a good one, bad one, or great one. It did the job of filling me up though although Flo and I agreed that the bread was a bit too thick and chewy for our liking.

After we left Batman, Flo felt a tinge of regret at not having decided to go to a different doner shop to get one with veal. Also, he claims that his usual spot still makes it better. It’s ok. It was fun just having a go and crossing something else off our ‘To-Eat’ list.

So I’ve just shared with you about meeting part of Flo’s family. On Thursday, it was time to meet his friends. After being with Flo a while now, I know how important his friends are to him and it was important to me too that I made a good impression on them.

His friends and him go back years and years, and I know that they’ve stuck by him through thick and thin, just as Flo has done for them. I was also excited in finally seeing in person the people Flo has shared stories with me about, from their school days to travelling together.

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Thursday was a perfect day for a BBQ with the warm sun smiling upon us. We went to Chris’s home – Chris actually just visited and stayed with us a couple months back so it was great seeing him again! He has a huge back garden, the kind that’d be lovely for kids to get up to no good in.

Anyway, the BBQ was set such that every person/couple brought just enough food for themselves, and would cook their own food as well so that everyone would be able to socialise. Flo and I had put our meats into the fridge but somehow, in our frenzy to go over to Chris’ home (which is about a 45-60min drive away), only Jens and Leslie’s food got packed. We did however, have our two red bell peppers make the trip.

Flo’s friends were sweet enough to offer us some of their grub and we ended up having more than enough food that evening. So much so that we could only stomach one bell pepper while the other ended up being kept by Chris I believe because it certainly didn’t make it home with us.

We managed to get a picture of all of us with Flo’s drone.

And another.

After sunset, it started to get a little chilly so we moved into Chris’ living room. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Flo’s friends – Geezy, Felix and Thomas especially, all of whom I was meeting for the first time. They all spoke great English although as a group, they sometimes lapsed into German unconsciously which is natural.

It was a tiring day but so fulfilling. I told Flo later that after getting to know his friends and his family, I felt closer to him. Closer to him in the sense that I was able to see him mingle with his nearest and dearest, and see how he treated them, cared for them, loved them. And it warmed my heart to know that his friends and family too, care for and love him the same way back.

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Friday night, Flo left for Hamburg and in merely a few hours’ time, it will be my turn. He’s supposed to pick me up at the airport upon my arrival and while I’m excited, I’m also a little apprehensive about meeting his good friends and family.

I had some RenneKookiesDark Chocolate Cranberry Cookies, baked and packed for some of his nearest and dearest. I also made sure to keep a box for Mum and Dad to pass to Grandma and Grandpa since they’ll be in London middle of next week.

Flo’s family have had these before and loved them so how can I deny them the pleasure of having these cookies once more?! With the baking frenzy I’ve been in the last week, I think I’ll be happy to keep away from the mixer for two weeks anyway. I think. I usually start to get a little antsy after a week.

Before Flo’s red-eye flight, we managed to have dinner together before he packed to go. Something simple but yummy – Raw Pea Shoots, Garlic Shimeiji Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, Tomato Avocado Salsa, Not-very-mashed Japanese Sweet Potato, and Grilled Prawns. 

My favourite was the salsa although I was too lazy to clear the chilli padi of its seeds so it had quite the fiery kick. All I did was cut up a tomato, 3/4 of an avocado, half a red onion, one bird’s eye chilli, half a lime – zested and juiced. I forgot about coriander but it wouldn’t have made sense to buy a bunch for just a small portion of salsa. Moreover, with Flo and I being away for two weeks, there’s no point stocking up the fridge.

Speaking of avocados in salsa, I also used up two of my very ripe looking ones earlier in the week to make a super-healthful Avocado Bread.

I’ve been having fun experimenting with healthier flours and super dark chocolates the last couple of weeks as you may know – Spelt Blondies, Rye Brownies, 90% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Brownies

This bread however, is by far my healthiest bake to date. I had no idea what to expect from it in terms of taste, and have never used ground flax in any of my baking before, but there’s a first for everything isn’t there? Also, since I had some fresh mint and lime at hand, I made sure to add those in since avocados generally do go well with the other two greenies.

Avocado Bread (Yields 1 small loaf):

2 Small Ripe Avocados (or 1.5 large avocado)
3 Eggs
75ml Sunflower Oil (You may use Olive Oil or Coconut Oil or any other flavourless oil if you prefer)
100g Ground Almonds
60g Ground Flaxseeds
Black Pepper
Sea Salt
Bunch of Fresh Mint
Zest of 1 Lime
Pumpkin Seeds and Sunflower Seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C and line loaf tin. 
  2. In a bowl, use a hand mixer to blend avocados with eggs, oil, pepper, sea salt, mint leaves and lime zest. 
  3. Fold in ground almonds and ground flax. 
  4. Pour batter into baking tin and top with pumpkin and sunflower seeds. 
  5. Bake for 45-50min. Allow to cool before removing from tin. 

Remember, this is more of a savoury bread/cake so it does taste like a whole lot of healthy. Gluten-free, Egg-free, Sugar-free as well as being packed with a good dose of healthy fats, this avocado bread promises to give you a boost to your day with a simple egg on top and a drizzle of honey, or spread on a pat of butter and you’re good to go.

 

 

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Flo and I had another cooking session together this past weekend since we figured after our salmon dinner the other time, that we’re pretty good cooks. And food cooked with love tastes even more awesome.

We decided to go for something relatively simple but fun – Vietnamese Summer Rolls. Only, we switched things up a little by making beef bulgogi and because I couldn’t find the thick vermicelli noodles often used in the filling, I went for enoki mushrooms as fillers instead.

I sliced up some tenderloin steak the night before and did a quick, easy bulgogi marinade  for the beef to sit in overnight. I found the recipe on My Korean Kitchen although I scaled down the portions and used less sugar. I also used Asian pear instead of the apple but Ooooh the flavour was really good anyway. Flo did the cooking of the beef slices which was perfect. They were not too sweet and very tender.

We also grilled up some prawns before having them, sliced up some red onions, and julienned a carrot. Flo did most of the handiwork this lunch, while I plucked the mint and basil leaves off their stems.

Flo also made the sauce while I made sure he got the measurements right. Keeping in with the idea of Korean-inspired Vietnamese Summer Rolls, we made a Gochujang dipping sauce. I find that gochujang is already sweet by itself so we left out sugar in our recipe.

Flo was exceptionally generous with the garlic so you can imagine how lovely our breaths smelled after we were done with our meal. We both tried to make photogenic summer rolls but for some reason, our rice paper kept getting really sticky no matter how quickly we dipped it into the lukewarm water. Yeah, I’m blaming the rice paper and not our wrapping skills in creating not so pretty looking rolls. Still, they were very tasty with the herbaceousness from the mint and basil, that gentle kick of spice from the gochujang dipping sauce, the smokiness of the prawns and the savoury sweetness of the beef.

This week has also been very busy for me. It’s been cakes galore with Mother’s Day being on Sunday and then lots of birthdays the rest of the week. It looks like May is a popular month for babies to be born.

Also, because I’ll be leaving to Europe on Sunday where I’ll meet Flo who’s going a couple days earlier to attend a wedding, I’ve been trying to meet the extra orders from the cafes I supply to so that they’ll be able to have enough cakes for the two weeks I’ll be out of action. The kitchen has been buzzing with activity and the closer it’s getting to the end of the week, the more tired I’m getting and the more excited I am to go on my holiday. I’m half-dreading the work load when I return but I’ll leave that for when I’m back.

I guess the tiredness has also made me feel a bit more bleh about the physical changes my body is currently undergoing. When I’m tired my brain automatically translates that to feelings of fatness. The fact is though, that as big as I may feel, it’s probably because I feel like I haven’t yet got on top of all my orders even though I’m currently on schedule for all my tasks. The process of still wading through my work makes me feel as though I’m not in control but in reality, I am. In reality, based on what I’ve set myself to do each day until the end of this week, I’m right on the ball.

In order to make light of my negative feelings, I decided to get some dark chocolate. The last time I made Rye Brownies, I used 70% dark chocolate and I felt like going darker might not be a bad thing. After all, once you go black…

Anyway, dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, has been proven to improve blood circulation, raises good cholesterol, protects the heart aaaaaaand is good for brain function. It also makes people happy.

90% Cocoa Dark Chocolate! I was contemplating 99% but I think that would have been a little hardcore. Instead, I used 160g of this dark chocolate and mixed it with 40g of 60% dark chocolate to use in my brownies, while reducing the amount of sugar so that the recipe yielded a more bitter brownie with just enough sugar to sweeten the deal.

I added orange zest into the brownie batter for a touch of tang as well as some shiro miso for that hint of salty umaminess. Then I threw some white chocolate buttons on top to caramelise while the brownie baked in the oven.

Bitter dark chocolate offset by fragrant zesty orange, followed by a wave of subtle miso, and finished with a light caramel flavour from the sweet white chocolate. So rich and so decadent.

90% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Orange Miso Brownies (Yields 1 8×8″ Square):

200g Dark Chocolate, Melted
200g Butter
115g Sugar
3 Eggs
50g Shiro Miso
1 Orange, Zested
50g Plain Flour
50g Cocoa Powder
85g White Chocolate Droplets, to top

  1. Preheat oven to 175deg C and prepare an 8×8″ baking tin.
  2. Cream butter with sugar, then add miso paste and orange zest in to blend. 
  3. Add melted chocolate.
  4. Incorporate plain flour and cocoa powder until just mixed.
  5. Pour batter into baking tin and scatter white chocolate droplets on top – the oven heat will caramelise them.
  6. Bake for 20-25min, then remove from oven to cool before cutting.

Again, as with most of my recipes, you can play around with the ingredients. You can omit the orange zest or use a less intense chocolate. However, what I really love about these brownies really is the boldness of the dark chocolate that really stands out. This is a brownie for serious dark chocolate lovers and less for the kiddies. Give it a go and you may fall for it hard just like I did.

 

 

 

 

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Food challenges are part and parcel of ED recovery, although there are other factors that may contribute to the ED and need to be dealt with concurrently.

My appointment with Dr. A last week went well and it was quite a light-hearted session. I shared with her about how I think that things are going well for me and how I feel better equipped mentally to handle food situations most of the time. I also shared with her about how reframing my negative feelings have helped me to feel more in control of my emotions, as well as my own well being.

I am becoming increasingly aware of how my body has changed over the last few months. Pictures that I used to think looked ‘chubby’ now make me cringe a little at how emaciated I actually looked, how tired, lifeless. And current pictures are sometimes a touch bit challenging to look at even though I have to admit that they look a lot healthier and I am a lot happier. Learning to accept my body is a work in progress, but so far, I’m not hating it.

One of the things Dr. A asked me during our session was how I think I’m doing on a scale of 1 to 10 with regards to recovery. I told her that I think I’m a 7. I’m handling my fear of carbs a lot better and I always try to incorporate some carbs when I make dinner for Flo and I. I’m able to consume carbs as part of my lunch meal even when dining alone – which is often the case on weekdays, and every week I try to push myself a little harder by incorporating something more into that meal.


I still find it difficult when facing a variety of food choices and usually opt for slightly safer options when at the hawker centre. For example, I go for soupier dishes and while some are much nicer in a soup form, other dishes taste better when eaten dry. Like wanton mee (wanton noodles). The other day when Flo had his wanton mee dry, I went for the soup version. Truth be told, I hadn’t had wanton mee for so long and never in my life before ED had I ordered wanton mee soup before. So yeah, the soup version was a little bland and not very exciting at all. Also, I guess I would struggle to bring myself to the hawker centre or food court if not for Flo, preferring instead to prepare something at home.

Dr. A then posed a challenge to me. Her challenge was to have a plate of dry wanton mee, and finish it all by myself before our next session. If I wanted to, I could try it alone, or I could have it with Flo.

Was I up for it? She asked.

Immediately, I could feel my brain whizz in panic – OMG! Calories. Carbs. Fat. They put lard in the noodles don’t they? All that sauce to mix into the noodles. Can I do it? Should I do it?

And then I took a deep breath and thought about all the big meals I’ve had that’s sure to put a little plate of wanton mee to shame – in particular, that Omakase meal. I decided that it was just ED instilling fear in me, when in reality, I have faced much greater food challenges before and managed to overcome them.

So Sunday lunch time, we met Amanda and Alex for lunch at Haig Road Food Centre before our Diablo 3 Marathon. I did queue up for my plate of wanton mee. For a good 15-20min. Wedged tight between two old aunties – one who liked her bum rubbing against me, and the other who liked her belly resting against my back.

I did order my plate of wanton mee – $3.

And…

I did finish my plate of wanton mee.

I did enjoy it but after seeing and tasting a little of Flo’s wanton mee that he ordered for the other stall he’s been eager to try but has never been open every single time we went until this last Sunday… I think his plate of noodles tasted that little bit yummier. The grass is always greener on the other side it seems.

Whatever the case, I made it through the plate of noodles and am none the worse for wear because of it. Life is still going on and I don’t think I’ve gained one-ton from the won-ton. Get it get it??? Hurhur..

In other news, we had Mum and Dad over Saturday evening for dinner. Flo cooked the German Bratwurst we bought from Huber’s which turned out nice, porky, and very juicy.

Alongside, we had a bit of cheese and cold cuts, as well as the lobster I managed to get at 50% off!! I get so happy when I find good stuff on special. Of course, it was a little lobster, and getting it out of its shell was my only contribution to dinner. Still, it was done meticulously and with a whole lot of love.

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