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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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Being misunderstood especially towards the end of my adolescence is something I found difficult to contend with. Even now, I sometimes struggle to understand why. I remember at the beginning of University when we had Orientation Camp, my peers would comment that I looked like a clubber. Nothing wrong with clubbing only they made me seem like some wild child who started their day with a shot of vodka and chain-smoked after brushing my teeth. Funny thing is that on ‘clubbing night’, they were the ones gyrating to the music while I awkwardly spun myself around and headed out the door because I felt so uncomfortable. One guy who later decided he liked me said that he thought I looked quite ‘bitchy’ at first and was surprised to find out how easy to talk to I was when he got to know me.

I did actually find myself getting on with my camp mates but once Uni commenced, the girls in my group broke off into a little clique of their own without me, and the boys would hang out with me only for so long as they thought they had a slither of a chance to end up as my boyfriend. Not all. Some. That’s not to say I didn’t have any friends whatsoever. I had a few and perhaps on my part, I never felt a desire to develop them much further than at surface level because I decided that they would never last post-graduation anyway.

Perhaps it’s the case of resting bitch face, or perhaps I may seem like quite a tough cookie on the outside, but the fact is, I’m really quite a softie on the inside – just like these Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake bars.

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At first glance, it’s easy to mistake these bars as a little naughty because OOoOoohhh… there’re chocolate chips in there! And Oh. Em. Gee. Cookies are little bites of sin that make your pants a little tighter. But sink your teeth in and you reach the creamy, gooey cheesecake middle that will make you think, well… looks like there’s more to this bar that meets the eye. Sure, it’s no angel but it’s worth getting to know because there’s a richness inside that I wouldn’t have thought was there to begin with!

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And as you continue on your journey munching through these bars, you’ll get inflections of vanilla studded with dark chocolate chips, titillating butteriness that sinks into luxurious creaminess, and small bursts of caramel undertones from the brown sugar to keep you from getting bored. It’s no one dimensional cookie bar, that’s for sure!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars (9×9″ Square):

Cookie Layer:
170g Butter, melted and cooled
250g Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
Vanilla
250g Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
50g Chocolate Chips (or more!)

Cheesecake Layer:
250g Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
40g Sugar
1 Egg
Vanilla

For Cookie Layer:

  1. Whisk melted butter with sugar.
  2. Whisk in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Incorporate flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Place half the mixture into prepared baking tin and level out as evenly as possible.

For Cheesecake Layer:

  1. Beat cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add sugar and cream together.
  3. Add egg and vanilla. Blend until mixture is smooth.
  4. Spread cheesecake mixture on top of the cookie layer.
  5. Spoon the rest of the cookie batter on top of the cheesecake layer. Don’t worry if not all the cheesecake is covered.
  6. Bake for 25-30min or until the cookie layer on top is a nice golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then chill in fridge for 4 hours (or overnight) before slicing.

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So have I made peace with the fact that I’m special and full of goodness on the inside whether people see it or not? On the whole, I believe so but there are moments where I would be sharing with Flo about my thoughts and my past only to have my emotions surface.

In a way though, my ED has enabled me to cherish the friends that have stood steadfastly next to me through all my ups and downs and in part, I have to blame myself as well for not wanting to nurture some friendships that I did have in Uni because growing up and constantly moving schools/countries made me feel that most friendships, no matter how strong they appear to be, are fleeting. These days, I make more of an effort to stay in touch and meet up with friends.

Perhaps in some way too, I may have haphazardly appeared nonchalant towards opening up to deeper friendships without realising it. Regardless, it’s not the quantity but the quality of friendship that counts and while like all relationships, maintaining friendships is hard work too especially as we get older and have partners and start our own family, the ones that continue to stand the test of time are truly friends who are worth having!

 

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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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One of the things I most look forward to at the end of most evenings is sitting down with Flo, enjoying our dinner, and chatting about our day as well as random other things after. I love how we can exchange ideas, or can share about a difficult day, or help the other see things that may have happened from a different perspective.

The last week has been tough some days. Especially with regards to family. I guess to a large extent, I have had a sheltered life. And I’ve always preferred to think that the people who I share bloodlines with are people who have compassion, who love deeply, who care strongly, not just for others, but especially for family. Our family.

Unfortunately, ideals do not always reflect reality. In the last year, my eyes have opened to see a lot of things that have left me disappointed. But I suppose, this is my human nature in patching up the holes in stories that I only hear parts of. As a result, what I see as shortcomings, may simply be ones I created. It doesn’t make it easier to stop thinking about why some people act the way they do, but I realise that perhaps they have justifications for why they choose to do certain things, or not do them, without having to share them with me.

As Flo advised me one of these evenings, I shouldn’t assume their thoughts and guess the answers to the reasons why. It’s true. I also recognise now that even if I cannot control what they do, I can control what I do. And really, that’s what matters the most.

Sharing a bit about how Flo helped calm me and alleviate my heavy sadness brought about by recent events reminds me so much of the peace and tranquility I get whenever I sip on a cup of hot Matcha green tea.

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And so, I decided to share a recipe I baked this period that involves Matcha. In order to balance off the familiar earthy bitterness of Matcha, I threw in some mashed sweet potatoes. Keeping in line with the Japanese theme, I used Japanese Sweet Potatoes (aka Satsuma-Imo aka Purple-skin yellow-flesh) which imparted a slightly chestnut-y flavour. For crunch, my choice of nut was Macadamia because I figured that its creaminess would go well with the herbal fragrance of the tea.

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One of the boons of this recipe is that all you really need to do is throw all your ingredients, apart from the nuts, into the blender and give it a good whizz. Badabing-badaboom. Done. 

Sweet Potato Matcha Blondies (8×8″ Square)

360g Sweet Potatoes, Cooked and Mashed
2 Eggs
75g Butter (or Coconut oil if you want to make this paleo)
Vanilla Extract
60g Honey
7g Matcha Powder
28g Coconut Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
80g Chopped Macadamia

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8×8″ baking tin. 
  2. Blend everything together apart from the macadamias. 
  3. Fold in chopped macadamias.
  4. Bake for 18-20min.

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These blondies were mildly sweet from both the honey and the sweet potatoes which suited my palate. You’ll probably get a slightly different flavour profile if you use the orange US sweet potatoes, and I reckon that you’ll also yield a moister blondie. Not keen on sweet potatoes? You can also try using kabocha or a winter squash of your choice… In fact, I did just bake up a batch of Kabocha Blondies. I’ll share the recipe with you soon I promise!

Not-so-secret-fact of the day: I LOVE KABOCHA! I could eat it every day – I actually used to!, but now living with the boyfriend, I’ve adapted to becoming more varied in what I eat. Still, kabocha is love!! Eat kabocha and drink matcha-chacha all day every day and I’ll be pleased as pie. This story can be saved for another day. Right now, it’s time for sweet potatoes and matcha!

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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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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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