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Archive for the ‘Recovery’ Category

#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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Wednesday 19th Jul 2017 Noon.

I met Flo for my ‘surprise’ lunch that he had made a reservation for. I had a little inkling as to where we were going to go but wasn’t entirely certain. We met at City Hall station and headed towards Carlton Hotel. There I guessed we were going for Japanese. Then I narrowed it down to Shinji. I was right!!!!

The restaurant only opens at 12pm on the dot so since we were a couple minutes early, we I took some wefies of me and my beau.

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Shinji is actually an extension of Chef Shinji Kanesaka’s 1-Michelin Star Edo-style sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Only omakase menus are offered to ensure that the freshest, seasonal produce are served at their highest quality. Of course, I expected great things, especially since Flo had visited before and always gushed about how great the food at Shinji is.

We both opted for the smallest Setsugetsuka Sushi Course Menu – Hana, which consisted of 9 pieces of Nigiri Sushi, one dish of Maki, Soup and a Dessert. I was a little apprehensive about how much rice I’d have to consume, but overall, I was excited.

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We were seated around a 17-seat counter where we could see the sushi chefs at work as they deftly sliced through lovely fillets of raw fish, moulded sushi rice into small mounds, and carefully wiped their benches and our serving plates after each course. It was a clinical operation that flowed so artfully.

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The prelude to our Hana Set began with Seared Maguro. This was light on the palate and the subtle smokiness from the sear highlighted the cleanness of the tuna.

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Moving on to the Nigiris, we were first served Hamachi (Yellowtail). I’ve always heard, but never tried, that proper nigiri should be eaten with warm rice. It was the perfect mouthful – the grains of sushi rice were lightly packed yet still held well together, warm and pleasing to the tongue and topped with a beautiful slice of the delicate-flavoured fish.

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The Ika Nigiri was the next to grace our palate. Never have I ever had a slice of squid so soft and so creamy before. It was a delightful surprise and surely not one that I will easily find elsewhere at this level. It was served with a hint of wasabi and a single drop of freshly squeezed lime juice that brought the entire piece of nigiri to life.

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So Flo actually knows that I’m generally not so much a tuna fan than a salmon fan. When Chef asked if we had any dislikes, we both said we didn’t. Thank God for that! Our lunch ended up comprising of a fair number of tuna courses and I’m glad I didn’t dismiss the tuna so quickly because I ended up developing quite a fondness for it.

I’ve only bothered to have Maguro tuna which is the leanest cut. Hence, it was my first time eating Chutoro, which is semi-fatty tuna. It was definitely a step up from Maguro in terms of its soft, luxe texture. But then…

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Ōtoro made its appearance and lordy Lord! This was even more luxurious than the Chutoro since it comes from the fatty part of the tuna. See how handsomely marbled this slice of ōtoro is? This practically melted in my mouth and disappeared far too quickly, as with all wonderful things.

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Our trio of tuna made way for the Aji (Horse Mackerel) Nigiri which was topped with a chiffonade of aromatic Shiso. The tiniest, pea sized dollop of herbaceousness served to accentuate the sweet freshness of the fish

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I quite enjoyed this Flying Fish with Tobiko Gunkan Maki. I loved the tiny bursts of the tobiko with inflections of shiso against the still-crisp seaweed, and soft, yielding sliced fish that gave for a balanced textural contrast in this mouthful of yum.

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The Maguro-Zuke, shoyu-marinated tuna, was nicely executed – not too salty and perfectly complemented by the seasoned rice beneath.

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I love me my prawns and this Tiger Prawn Nigiri was deliciously sweet, thoughtfully cut into two pieces because I’m a lady and couldn’t possibly fit the entire prawn into my mouth. #thatswhatshesaid

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Now, this. THIS turned out to be my favourite of the lot! This Negitoro was sublime! As soon as the last of it slid down my throat, I turned to Flo and said “I think I’ve just had an epiphany!”. It was just so amazingly creamy with its richness cut by the presence of very finely chopped Asatsuki Chives.

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Our final piece of Nigiri was the Anago (Sea Eel). Unlike the unagi which is often served slathered in sweet teriyaki sauce, this was a lot more toned down with a swift brush of sweet soy glaze. It was topped with sudachi zest which gave a slightly bitter tang against the salty-sweet of the eel.

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After the excitement and dynamism of the nigiri courses, the tune of our meal mellowed down to present to us the humble Maguro Tuna Maki, with sweet, crunchy, Pickled Radish, and the most custardy, lightly sweetened piece of Tamago I have ever had.

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To wash everything down, we were served a bowl of this clear broth made from boiling tuna bones. It was light, yet rich in flavour, and boasted an incredibly fluffy, delicate, almost falling-apart-in-your-mouth tuna ball.

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Our meal ended with a light, refreshing dessert of Orange Jelly with Kiwi and Grapes, topped with a Raspberry Red Wine Sauce. In all its simplicity, I appreciated how it came to be the perfect two-bite dessert to see us off. As with our entire lunch, it was unpretentious yet bold in highlighting the quality of ingredients used. Like a ballet performance, this sweet was like a graceful bow signalling that the finale had come to a close.

Needless to say, this was one of the best Japanese meals I have had. My tastebuds have been thoroughly spoilt and it’s certainly going to be no easy feat to surpass the level at which the food at Shinji was prepared and served. Sushi – so seemingly simple to make, but so great a skill is required in order to compose it into a singular, perfect, mouthful. The impeccable service and constant replacements of our cups of hot green tea ensured that our meal from beginning to end went without a hitch.

Thank you Flo, for yet another wonderful culinary experience with you. And because it was with you, lunch was that extra bit more delicious and memorable!

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I’ve never been much of a citrus kind of girl. It’s not that I dislike how they taste, I’ve just never found myself drawn towards oranges and lemons and limes even though I have to admit that they are awesome at adding a zing to baked goods as well as salad dressings and avocados! So for some unknown reason, I started thinking about grapefruit.

I’ve probably only eaten grapefruit less than 5 times in my life – I kid you not! And it’s not a citrus fruit that crosses my mind whenever I think of playing with new ingredients for my bakes. The thought of its bitter, sour flavour profile never made me think that it could match easily with much else.

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The other week, I was just itching to bake something new and as I mentioned, grapefruit simply wouldn’t leave my mind. So I went out and got me some because then it meant I would really have to find a way to utilise them. I do silly things like that sometimes.

I cut open the grapefruit which yielded its gorgeous sunset red colour to me and while I braced myself to taste its acridness, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that it was sweet, with bitter undertones and a touch of tartness – nowhere near the full-on in-your-face bitter-sour I always remembered and thought it to be.

I began to rummage around my pantry to find that I still had half a bag of ground hazelnuts that Flo really wanted for the time he had a mad craving for German Hazelnut Cake. Hmm… Sweet, nutty hazelnuts with the acidic, floral scent of grapefruit? That could work.

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And work it did! It was an unusual combination that tasted so right together. The ground hazelnuts created a slightly denser crumb and I liked that the grapefruit mellowed the sweetness level of the cake. The soaking syrup I used heightened the flavour of the fruit while adding moistness to the loaf. If you prefer, you can add more icing sugar to the grapefruit juice in order to make a thicker icing instead.

Grapefruit Hazelnut Loaf Cakes (Yields 2 small loaves)

150g Butter
120g Sugar
150g Plain Flour
100g Ground Hazelnuts
1 tsp Baking Powder
3 Eggs, whisked together lightly
1/2 Grapefruit, zested and juiced

Soaking Syrup
170g Icing Sugar
1/2 Grapefruit, juiced

  1. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Alternate addition of wet and dry ingredients ending with dry (i.e. flour, ground hazelnuts and baking powder vs eggs and juice of 1/2 grapefruit)
  3. Pour batter into baking tins and bake 35-40min until golden brown or skewer inserted comes out clean.

For soaking syrup:

  1. Whisk icing sugar with juice of 1/2 a grapefruit until mixture is smooth.
  2. Allow the cakes to cool before pouring icing on top. If you prefer your icing thicker, add more sugar and if you prefer a thinner glaze, use more juice.

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Now while you dig into these delicious cakes…

If you have been following my blog for some time now, you’ll know that I sometimes share updates about my journey towards attaining a healthy relationship with food and with myself with the help of my family, Flo and my psychologist. Right now, I’m kind of experiencing a bit of a plateau, not feeling much like progressing upwards but also trying hard not to fall back.

I guess recent events regarding loss in the family, and then scampering around trying to cater to the whims of older relatives have been stressing me out. That, as well as the instability of work. Sometimes, I don’t seem able to recognise stress so well and only when I begin to crave my ED, do I realise that perhaps I’ve been holding back on acknowledging my emotions a lot more than I thought. It’s certainly not the best way of stress management but it helps me to feel safe and anchored. And like an addiction, falling back onto ED makes me hanker after it more and more.

I was talking to Dr A about how ED is very much an anchor for me and because it’s accessible 24/7, it makes it difficult to look to something or someone else to take its place. Then it kind of hit me the other evening that perhaps it isn’t about finding a substitute for it. Rather, it’s about me learning to trust and depend on myself, and believing that I am strong enough to carry me through life’s highs and lows, and that I should be my own anchor. It doesn’t meant relying on myself 100% all day every day, it just means having faith in myself to get over periods of fear, stress and uncertainty instead of using a crutch.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cauliflower and Chickpea Burger (Yields 4-5 patties)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Washed it all down with a cup of Piccolo Latte.

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

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

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

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

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

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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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… And almond cake.

But before I get into the nitty gritties of my latest kitchen experiment, I had the privilege of baking Kim’s birthday cake albeit a little early since I’ll be away on her actual birthday.

She requested an Apple Walnut Cake with Peanut Butter Cream but as she’s pregnant and currently having to watch her sugar intake, I made this with 60-40 Coconut Sugar to Caster Sugar ratio, and refrained from adding sugar into the cream since peanut butter already has some of its own. I did drizzle more plain, melted peanut butter on top since peanut butter is love and who doesn’t want more of it?!

Kim’s special in that she was the one who recommended Dr. A to me. She’s a real inspiration to me and is someone I love and admire. Kim and her husband are both outstanding people not just in their accomplishments, but also in character. I know that both of them have gone through challenges in their lives, individually and as a couple, but God is faithful and they are now being blessed with a soon-to-be-born daughter whom I cannot wait to meet!

Now, this is actually a scheduled post and right now, I’m probably biting into a Currywurst and walking around Planten um Blomen in Hamburg with Flo. I’ll definitely be writing about my virgin trip to Hamburg as well as my 3484239th trip to London (first trip there with Flo though!) when I get back. In the meantime, I wanted to share this Date and Almond Cake recipe with you.

The Muslims are about to begin their fasting month and it is often the case that they break fast by eating dates. I have never fasted for religious purposes before, and I won’t even try to compare my ED days of extensive restriction to what my Muslim friends go through annually. I respect their steadfast dedication to their beliefs so what better than to demonstrate that than by baking a cake using dates!

Also… I just wanted to bake something different.

The beauty of this cake is that you get crunch from the almond nibs, a bit of chew from the dates, a hint of spice from the cinnamon, all smacked in the middle and on top of fluffy, vanilla cake!

Date and Almond Cake (Yields 1 8″ Round)

150g Finely Chopped Dates (I find it easier to cut them using a pair of scissors)
100g Almond Nibs
90g Brown Sugar
5g Cinnamon Powder

250g Butter
180g Caster Sugar
Vanilla Extract
3 Eggs
290g Plain Flour
7.5g Baking Powder
125g Milk

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8″ round baking tin. 
  2. For the filling and the topping, mix dates, almond nibs, brown sugar and cinnamon powder together and set aside. 
  3. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Then add in vanilla and eggs one at a time. 
  4. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry mixture. 
  5. Pour half the batter into prepared tin, then sprinkle half the date and almond mixture on top. Pour the second half of the batter on top to cover, before topping with the rest of date and almond mixture. Gently press the mixture down into the cake batter so that they ‘stick’. 
  6. Bake for 75min. If the top starts to brown too much, cover with foil for the last 15min. 
  7. Allow to cool before removing from tin. 

This cake is perfect for sharing amongst friends and family. Have it as it is, or if you’re feeling indulgent, drizzle some salted caramel sauce or honey on top. This cake has so many different textures and flavours that work incredibly well with each other. Definitely stick to the dates but if almonds aren’t your thing, switch to walnuts or pecan nuts. Not into cinnamon? Try ginger or cardamom!

Chances are, this cake isn’t going to last you through to when I return from my little Eurotrip. I’ll be back though so don’t you forget me!

And a quick update:

I saw Dr. A one more time last Monday because I wanted to get a little ‘booster shot’ before leaving for Europe. After a couple good weeks, ED is trying to hit on me again which is expected since that’s what bullies do. I’m anxious about how meals will be while I’m away but apparently, our body reacts to fear and excitement in exactly the same way. The only difference is how we perceive the situation. In other words, I may actually be excited about the different foods I’ll get to try especially in Hamburg – tasting things that Flo grew up with. Will I fall in love with them? We’ll just have to wait and see…

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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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