Shooting with a camera phone; xiao long bao and cooking class
It’s been a slow week in the kitchen and a hectic week at work. The result is that I haven’t had any real time to roll up my sleeves and make anything worth blogging about. That said, I’ve decided to entertain myself with two items, both of which are accompanied with pictures taken on my new smartphone, an HP hw6515. Normally, I hate the cameras on camera phones. It really doesn’t matter if they can produce 1.3 megapixel images. Because the lenses are so crappy, and because, as users, we have no control over depth of field or shutter speed with these things, the images are usually fit only for the recycle bin. I bought the hw6515 a month ago, and hadn’t really field-tested the phone’s camera, so I decided over the weekend and the past few days to see whether it would be better than others or just another useless way for HP to increase the price of their product.I shot these pix last night, at the new Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant in Parco Bugis. As any regular reader knows, I am a xiao long bao addict. I had originally planed to visit this newest addition to Singapore’s xiao long bao scene last weekend, but because The Straits Times (our local daily English paper) ran a small article about it, I figured the crowds would be too big and put off going for a few days. This small restaurant in a teen-oriented mall is a franchise of Shanghai’s most famous (but in my opinion not the best) xia long bao restaurant. The staff, while a tad clumsy, are very nice—appropriate for a new restaurant that needs to secure business away from its many competitors. The décor is passable, neither better nor worse than Crystal Jade La Mien Xiao Long Bao or Din Tai Fung (the two main competitors). Of course, the décor is hardly what matters. What does is the dumplings. We ordered three varieties of xiao long bao: the normal pork ones; pork with crabmeat and “crab ovary” (crab roe would be such a better term…sigh); and the pork and shrimp. Overall, the dumplings were good. I wouldn’t order the pork and shrimp again but I’d order the other two, especially the crab roe ones. The soup in the dumplings was good; it was much tastier than the soup in either Crystal Jade’s or Din Tai Fung’s dumplings. The pork was also good, leaner than the pork used at Crystal Jade but fattier than what’s used at Din Tai Fung. Unfortunately, Nanxiang’s dumpling skin is too thick, especially at the top. In Shanghai, I witnessed hordes of people queuing up to buy take-away xiao long bao from Nanxiang. The dumplings are plated in a Styrofoam container, from which people, standing or sitting wherever they can along the road, happily eat away. It’s fine to serve thicker skinned dumplings in this kind of situation; serving dumplings with a thin skin might result in too much breakage and leakage. But in a sit-down restaurant, the skin should be much thinner. Crystal Jade’s xiao long bao are the best in this regard. So, would I go back? Sure, but mostly because I live in spitting distance to Parco Bugis.
If you want to read even more about xiao long bao in Singapore, here’s a Business Times article that reviews the various places that serve it here. Link to article HERE.
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
#02-53 Parco Bugis Junction.
Tel: 6835 7577Over the weekend, while I skipped out on a visit to Nanxiang, I did manage to make it to a cooking class at a school owned and run by a friend. Shermay’s Cooking School is where Shermay Lee (pictured above looking very Nigella-esque) teaches hordes of hungry Singaporeans the secrets of Straits (Nonya) cooking. The class I attended was not being taught by Shermay though, but by Chef Jimmy Chok (yup, the same guy who cooked that fabulous lunch for RW Apple Jr.)Since I started this post talking about cameras, I should state that both of these photos are also shot on my HP hw6515 smartphone. And while they are hardly fantastic, I think they’re not too bad. Anyway, Jimmy entertained a class of a dozen women and me, walking us through 3 simple recipes. I especially liked his braised lambshank, plated off the bone, with sautéed ceps and fried mantou (a Chinese bun). I’ll have to try making that soon sometime.
Anyway, nothing else to report for now. I’ve been tagged to take part in the Best Bit’O Grape in the Last 30 meme by Robyn, so I’ll try and do that in the next few days. Plus I’ll be visiting Wild Rocket on Saturday. Stay tuned.
Plug for new owner-operated restaurant
photo from www.wildrocket.com.sgTonight, at a dinner party, my wife S ran into an old schoolmate. Willin Low is one of those guys whose stories make you smile and laugh. I liked him immediately. But what makes him of particular interest (to this blog and all you foodies out there) is that Willin, once upon a time a hot young lawyer, has traded in his black suits for a set of chef's whites. Having spent 6 months slaving away in the kitchens of one of Singapore's top Italian restaurants and many more months sharpening his skills catering at friends' dinner parties, Willin has made the admirable and risky decision to open his very own restaurant.
Wild Rocket opens this coming weekend. In this casual 40 seater, Chef Willin will be serving what he describes as "simple unfussy modern comfort food with easy drinking wines." He also promises that the food will be very, very affordable.
Wild Rocket is also in a real cute part of Singapore. It's located in the Hangout@Mt Emily Hotel, a cheap but chic little hotel on Upper Wilkie Road, near Mt Emily Park, just minutes away from the Bugis and City Hall neighborhoods.
S and I will be trotting over this coming weekend to check out the restaurant, so you all can expect a full report with photographs. But you should also check it out if some simple unfussy modern comfort food sounds good to you.
10A Upper Wilkie Road
Childhood Memories meme
The latest meme that's been making the food blog rounds is called Childhood Memories. Once tagged, we're supposed to write about 5 childhood food memories that have shaped our current culinary predilections. Last week, the wonderfully sweet Tara made me "it", along with The Domestic Goddess and Nicky and Oliver, the hugely talented couple who write Delicious Days.
PB and J
There's nothing more familiar and reminiscent of early childhood chomping than this simple, oh so pervasive but still fantastic combination. My family moved to the USA from Singapore (for the second time) in 1974. While my mother became and still is an amazing cook, she has, for most of her life, pretty much stuck to her Chinese roots when in the kitchen. That said, she did make a few concessions to "American" cuisine, chief among them a pretty mean cheeseburger, Sara Lee's chocolate cake (take out of fridge, open box and serve), and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. PB & J sandwiches found their way into our family breakfasts, afternoon snacks and most often into brown bagged school lunches. Smucker's Goober Grape (pictured above) is one of S's and my secret indulgences and an easy way to satisfy this childhood craving with just one jar.
As I was saying, one of the other few American dishes that my mother excelled at preparing was cheeseburgers. And boy were these good. Honest to God, her burgers are some of the best I have ever had, far better than any I've found in Singapore and better than most of the ones I ate in numerous burger bars and diners across New York. She mixed ground sirloin, chopped onions, a raw egg, some worcestershire sauce, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Over her generous patties, she melted Kraft singles and served her burgers on toasted Thomas' English muffins. Today, when I make my own burgers, I use the same ingredients that she did.
Xiao Long Bao
I discovered these marvelous Shanghainese steamed soupy dumplings as a little kid in a restaurant in New York's Chinatown called Peking Duck House. As you would expect, the restaurant specialized in fantastic Peking Duck. Unfortunately, few of its other dishes were as good. In fact, over the many years and as a result of many, many meals, my family had discovered that aside from the duck, only two other items on the menu were equally delicious--a noodle dish and the xiao long bao, which were excellent. I can't recall when I had my first one, but they have since early childhood remained one of my all-time favorite food items. In fact, I would go so far as to say that xiao long bao have been one of my earliest obsessions and addictions. When young, I was downright embarrassingly greedy--consuming as many as 40 (and once 60) dumplings per sitting. These days, I try to limit my intake, keeping my consumption to single digits.Bovril, Rice, Butter and Fried Egg
This may just be the unhealthiest dish in my repertoire but it is one of my favorites. I've been eating this for the better part of two and a half decades. I have no idea whether the recipe comes from my mother, our old retired housekeeper or a family friend. It was the perfect one dish meal for a tiny tot, the perfect comfort food for a hungry college kid, and the perfect but occasional walk down memory lane for an aging chubby hubby. It's also a breeze to make. Put a pat of butter in a bowl. Drizzle some Bovril (yup, liquid beef) over the butter and spoon in some hot rice. Stir this up. The amount of Bovril you add is up to you; just don't put too much or the rice becomes too salty. Then fry an egg sunny-side up. Put the egg on the rice and stir the whole thing together. Eat.
Pate de Foie Gras
I discovered Foie Gras when I was 8 years old. I had attended a Christmas party thrown by a family friend. Among the many delicious treats that were being passed around was a silver tray laden with toast triangles covered with silken slices of Strasbourgian Pate de Foie Gras avec Truffe. My first taste was an utter revelation and before I knew it and to my mother's utter dismay, I had consumed all the Foie Gras in the house. The hostess laughed off my mother's many apologies, telling her that the only insult would be if I wouldn't be able to eat the rest of the Christmas feast that she had prepared (well, ordered... this was New York after all). Suffice it to say, I mustered up the strength to eat everything and anything put before me that night.
Since it's now my turn to pass the torch, I'd like to invite these fellow food bloggers, if they haven't already, to take on this meme:
South Park family
Okay, I'll admit this post has absolutely nothing to do with food. That said, I've just spent the past hour having a great time. Some wacky designer in Germany has set up a site that allows you to create your own customized South Park-ish characters. S stumbled upon it earlier today and alerted me to it a little while ago. The above characters are "portraits" of my family: from left to right, my mother, father, me, my wife S, my brother's girlfriend and my brother. Of course, I've taken certain artistic liberties, but I think they're pretty durned accurate.
Go check out the site here and create your own characters. Note that you'll have to use a screenshot software to clip the images.
Product Endorsements: Hot Sauce and Salt
S and I like poking around supermarkets and gourmet stores. We especially like doing so when we’re travelling. Obsessive gluttons that we are, we’re always thrilled to find new and exciting products as well as old favourites that for some reason or other are either hard to or impossible to find in Singapore. We even have favourite places to visit. No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a stop off in City Super; similarly, Simon Johnson is a must when going to Sydney. I love stopping by Dean & Deluca and Zabar’s in New York and, of course, Le Grand Epicerie in Paris. S and I love Margaret River—the Napa Valley of Australia—and we adore both the Cole’s supermarket there as well as the tiny but wonderfully stocked Margaret Riviera.
On our recent trip to Taiwan, S spotted a tin of Fleur de Sel a la Vanille (de Saint Leu, Ile de la Reunion). Ironically, we did not see this in the much-hyped but disappointing Jason's in Taipei 101. It was on a small counter in a French restaurant that we had visited with our friend Justin. Around it were a variety of other small gourmet products. When asked, Justin told S that this vanilla-infused salt was perfect for fish and other seafoods. S is a salt-addict. Not that she loves putting salt on her foods; in fact, she likes her foods to be a tad under-salted. Rather, she loves keeping our kitchen stocked with every and any kind of gourmet salt she can find. My favourite, from the many we have, is the Murray River Lake Salt that I’ve mentioned before. Anyway, I knew the minute S saw this fleur de sel, flavoured with vanilla from a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, we’d be taking home a tin. Amusingly, when we asked how much it was, the restaurant staff had no idea. No one had ever bought one before. Most of the restaurant’s customers had assumed that the products on display were, well, only for display.
Just as much as we like discovering gourmet products, we also love getting them as gifts from friends. On his recent visit to Singapore, our buddy Kevin passed up the hot sauce pictured above. I have to say that it has the best name and funniest label I have ever seen for a sauce. The picture is a tad fuzzy so for those without 20/20 vision, it’s called See Jane on Fire. Imagine my further amusement when, after googling the sauce, I discovered that it’s one of a set of three. The companion hot sauces are appropriately called See Dick Burn and See Spot in Heat. (You can buy the set of three here.
See Jane on Fire is a delicious sauce. It’s made from Cayenne peppers, water, salt, acetic acid, oleoresion cayenne, starch and carmel color. Unlike Tabasco, which can be watery and taste only of vinegar and heat, this sauce, while fiery, has a lovely cayenne flavour.Dying to try out both these new gustatory finds, S decided to make something that would incorporate both: deep-fried sole filets with aioli and some sautéed greens. The batter for the fish used a little of both the See Jane on Fire sauce as well as the Fleur de Sel a la Vanille. We also dribbled some of the hot sauce into the aioli and sprinkled some of the salt over the fried filets. The dish was wonderful. The hot sauce, as I mentioned, had some real power as well as taste. It gave the aioli a lovely sense of spice. The vanilla-infused salt lifted the fish a little, adding another, albeit extremely subtle dimension, to this simple dish.
SHF #12: Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Custard Pie
I rarely take part in Sugar High Friday. Unlike über-dessert chef-bloggers like Keiko or J, I'm much more comfortable cooking savory entrées and main courses. As I've written before, dessert is the domain of my darling wife S.
This month's challenge is being hosted by Elise of Simply Recipes. Elise has asked us to make custard-based desserts. Digging out a recipe from Susan G Purdy's The Perfect Pie, S prepared a really yummy Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Custard Pie.
I like pies a lot and pumpkin pies especially. It could be partly because of what it represents--wonderfully crisp Fall days and holidays. But it's also because they just taste so durned good. I love the smooth creamy filling, not too sweet, slightly spiced, contrasted with a good, flaky crust.
S made the pie with a can of organic pumpkin purée that I had bought eons ago. Since then, every so often--only once or twice each week (yah, I know, I can be annoyingly persistent)--I'd drop a hint to S that it would be wonderful if she were to make a pumpkin pie from it.
The pie was delicious. And I think S is happy to have finally fulfilled my (repeated) request. In other words, I have a suspicion that she's satisfied to have finally shut me up.
P.S. Elise's round-up is up. Please click here to check it out.
Another guest post by S: High on Chicken
There are days when I’m inclined to perform the culinary equivalent of a Cirque du Soleil act in my kitchen by attempting to create a menu degustation involving multiple recipes from the French Laundry Cookbook. I do love the challenge of it all. But there are other times when the occasion calls for simple, honest and, dare I say, reliable comfort food. Last week, we invited two friends, newlyweds, over for a weeknight meal. C & P had just returned to Singapore after having spent a whole month traveling; first tying the knot in Canada, then (re)tying the knot in Australia. While I wanted to offer them a meal that would celebrate their marriage, I also wanted to prepare a cosy dinner that would welcome them home. This was not quite the time for champagne espuma or menus boasting smart-ass wordplay.
So, I picked one of my favourite Charmaine Solomon recipes, one that I used frequently as a young undergraduate in Perth. Charmaine worked as a reporter in Sri Lanka before she moved to Australia (incidentally, the groom, P, is also Sri Lankan, by way of Australia). She is now widely recognized as an authority on Asian cuisine and is credited with having changed the way Australians eat and cook. (I actually interviewed her a few years ago. She’s such a sweet, generous lady.) The dish appears in her cookbooks listed either as Himalayan Chicken or Chicken Everest (the recipes are only marginally different). For this particular meal, I used the Chicken Everest recipe in her Complete Asian Cookbook. I love this dish for its heady combination of flavours (savoury and complex, with a delightful interplay between the fresh herbs and smoky, ground spices), its simple preparation, and the fact that it’s actually something Charmaine’s husband, Reuben (a noted jazz musician) created. She calls it one of his “successful variations on a traditional Indian theme”. As you might have noticed, I have a soft spot for men who cook.
Start with a large, roasting chicken, washed and dried. I usually try to get one close to 2 kg.
For the marinade:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1½ tbs curry powder
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbs lemon juice
½ tsp ground curry leaves (I substituted this for a small handful of fresh leaves)
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbs vegetable oil (I also added a splash of sesame oil, which I believe the other recipe calls for)
2 tbs ground rice (which I omitted)
a little warm water
2 tbs finely chopped spring onion
2 tbs chopped fresh coriander leaves
Charmine says to combine all the ingredients with sufficient warm water to make a paste of spreading consistency. My pressed-for-time method involves keeping the garlic cloves whole. I pop them into our Braun handheld blender’s mini processor along with a small knob of peeled ginger, the fresh curry leaves and roughly chopped spring onion and coriander. Top this with the oils and blitz it all into a pesto-like consistency before mixing in the rest of the ingredients with a spoon (pulse it a little as well to ensure even blending; remove the spoon before you do this, of course). Using this method, no additional water is required.
Next, rub the paste inside the chicken and all over it. She suggests leaving it to marinate for 1 hour. I prefer to leave it in the fridge overnight.
The trick is to get the chicken back to room temperature before you roast it. I also like to truss the chicken, although Charmaine doesn’t ask for this. We’ve learnt that it helps keep the breast meat tender and ensures even cooking (thanks Mr Keller). Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Roast the chicken for 1 to 1¼ hours (or until the chicken is done). Serve warm or cold.
For C & P, I served it warm with some other dishes I enjoy eating with this roast chicken: a refreshing tomato, onion and green coriander relish; mildly spiced Basmati rice and peas (it has toasted cumin seeds and onion in it, and I opted to fry the uncooked rice in ghee rather than vegetable oil); and small yellow split peas (chana dal), all from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery (another one of the books I dip into for simple meals when I don’t have much time to linger in the kitchen). We ended dinner with some homemade coconut ice-cream subtly infused with pandan leaf (from our proud little plant out in the hallway), topped with thick, oozy Indonesian coconut sugar sauce.
But I must confess that the real treat has to be in eating the leftovers. The tender, juicy bits of flesh running down the back of the chicken which I don’t usually serve are shredded by hand and refrigerated, as are any leftover rice and dal. When it suits your fancy, reheat and serve combined for an indulgent lunch or midnight snack. – S
A special dinner revisited
S and I got married on 9 September 2001. To celebrate our anniversary this year, we decided to recreate our wedding dinner--for ourselves and for two close friends who weren't able to attend the wedding. We were married at the Sandalford Winery in Swan Valley, Western Australia. And unlike many other couples that we know, S and I not only got to eat all of our wedding dinner, we also really enjoyed what we ate. As two obsessive foodies, we had insisted on these two things. Firstly, we had set-up a little photo studio in the corner of the room where the dinner was being served. So, instead of moving from table to table to have photographs taken with all of our guests, we invited our guests to pose for photographs whenever they felt like it, throughout the meal. We had left a stack of white boards and markers with the photographer. Our friends were asked to write messages on the boards and pose with them. Secondly, we worked really hard on planning the menu, meeting Sandalford's incredibly understanding and talented chef several times in the months leading up to the wedding. We planned a menu based on some of our favorite dishes. On the menus placed on each table, we then explained the significance of each dish.
Our first course at the wedding dinner was a squid ink linguini with fresh seafood and snowpeas. The menu description read, "A delightfully light dish Chef Margaret wowed us with on our last visit to Sandalford's." For last night's re-enactment, we tweaked the dish quite a bit, making instead a spaghettini with prawns and petits pois (pictured at the start of the post). The prawns and peas were cooked in a paste made from coriander, curry leaves, garlic, chili, salt, olive oil and prawn oil. The pasta was then tossed with this and served with a bit of freshly grated parmesan.Our second course at the wedding was confit of Atlantic salmon. Our menu read, "A signature Tetsuya offering that CH sometimes whips up in the kitchen--evidence that he won the girl over with his kitchen prowess." For last night's meal, I made a confit of salmon with nameko mushrooms. I marinated the sashimi grade salmon for a day in grapeseed oil infused with coriander, basil, garlic, pepper, and the zest of one orange. The salmon was then cooked for 7 minutes at 100 degrees Celsius. I covered the top of the salmon with a bit of chopped, shiso-flavored hijiki and a small spoonful of ikura. With the salmon, I served wonderfully fresh nameko mushrooms which I had sauteed in French butter.Next at the wedding was a fillet of beef topped with coriander pesto. S had written on the menu, "The first dish, stolen from Peter Gordon's Sugar Club, that S cooked for the boy. Thankfully, he survived." For yesterday's dinner, we had picked up some gorgeously marbled Australian wagyu striploin. I made the pesto yesterday as well, first crushing the fresh coriander, basil, young garlic, toasted pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan in a ribbed Japanese mortar, and then blending it into a smooth paste. To serve with the wagyu and pesto, I whipped up some yummy mashed potatoes (made with loads of butter).
To finish off the meal, both at the wedding and last night, we had a cheese plate and a cake. The cheese was Pavé d'Affinois served with fresh honeycomb. Our menu read, "CH's favorite cheese, which quickly became S's favorite too, after two beautiful meals at a little Thomas Keller-owned bistro in Napa Valley called Bouchon." The cake was a Strawberry Shortcake, because as S wrote on the menu, "Wedding cake should always be yummy!" With the dinner, we had some Watermelon martinis (I love our juicer), followed by a Curly Flat Chardonnay (1999). While slightly tart, the buttery Chardonnay worked well with the pasta and the salmon. With the beef, we had a bottle of a Valentini Cerasuolo (2002) that I had brought back from my June trip to Venice. I had both read and been told that this wine was Italy's best Rosé, so I was expecting quite a lot from it. Unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed. Nonetheless, it was a great meal, and I was glad to be able to share it with S again and to introduce it to two good friends who missed it the first time around.
Pork bone soup ramen
I have to admit that I really only became a real ramen fan after watching Tampopo, one of the best and funniest food movies ever made. For those few of you who haven't seen this delicious and delightful film, boy are you in for a treat! I'll try not to spoil too much of it, but essentially, Tampopo is a self-titled "spaghetti Western" (yah, I know, bad pun) that centers around a female ramen stall owner whose ramen are less than edible and a mysterious trucker and ramen connoisseur who teaches her how to make the perfect bowl of noodles. Watching Tampopo always makes me hungry. It especially makes me crave good ramen--ramen with delicious hot soup, light springy noodles, and tender fatty morsels of pork.
Singapore has a Tampopo as well. But it's hardly similar to the simple countryside ramen shop featured in Juzo Itami's amazing film. Our Tampopo is in the basement of the Liang Court Shopping Centre (just a short walk from my office) and is tucked in the back of the Meidiya supermarket. Further, this rather non-descript restaurant is actually two restaurants in one. Sharing the same premises with Tampopo, which offers up noodles, sushi and other cooked foods, is Tomton, a katsu specialist. Tomton serves some of the best katsu in town. Its specialty, predictably, is a breaded and deep-fried cut of deliciously fatty pork loin. But at close to S$20 an order, it's a little too pricey (plus a bit too unhealthy) for the average weekday lunch. What I do like to have, and have had over and over again, is Tampopo's Kyushu Jangara Ramen, which costs only S$12.80.Until recently, the signs in Tampopo that advertised the Kyushu Jangara Ramen said that because the pork bone soup that it comes with took two days to make, only 22 bowls were available each day. The first time I tried to order it, it was sold out. Which, of course, only made me want to try it even more. When I finally did get around to trying it, I was thrilled. It was delicious.
Tampopo's Kyushu Jangara Ramen is essentially a tonkotsu ramen, the term "tonkotsu" meaning that the soup, as mentioned above, has been made from pork bones. This kind of ramen is typical of Kyushu, whereas, for example, miso ramen is more typical of Hokkaido. Ramen afficionados will contend that the test of a great ramen is the soup. While the noodle itself and the other ingredients and toppings are important, without a great soup, the whole dish fails. The milky white soup that comes with the Kyushu Jangara Ramen is beautiful. It's both rich and satisfying. This is further complemented by a large helping of mentaiko (spicy cod roe), which gives the soup a delightful spiciness. The noodles are good. They might not be springy enough for some Japanese friends of mine--who all seem to favor extremely springy noodles--but they're good enough for me. The dish is further enhanced with two gorgeous pieces of roasted pork, a half of a hard-boiled egg, some woodear fungus and some freshly chopped spring onions. I recommend ordering an extra plate of pork; for S$3, you can enjoy 5 more slices.
While I've been having this wonderful ramen dish for lunch sporadically over the past few months, S had never had it. So today, I invited her to join me. I'm happy to say that she enjoyed her bowl as much as I enjoyed mine.
If you want more info on ramen, please check out this really great article.
Another cool site
While typing my last post, something kept bugging me. No, it wasn't the golden retriever sitting on my foot asking me if, by chance, I had any treats at hand. It was the fact that I was forgetting to do something. This morning, it hit me. In that post, I mentioned three blogs that I've come to enjoy over the past month or two. But I realized, in a fit of panic and sweat, that I forgot to mention the newish blog that has made me chuckle more than any of the others (in a good way). That blog is Jam Faced by a fellow male food blogger who calls himself Monkey Gland. So, if you get a chance, check out his site. His current post on eating at St John has left me drooling over my keyboard. I also like the fact that he's even more obsessed with changing his site's header than I am.
Back after a break...
It feels like years since I last posted. In reality, it's only been a little more than a week. But it feels much longer. The past couple weeks have been really busy. My team at work has been involved in a huge project that's taken up days, nights and even our weekends. But it's now over, so it's time to start eating and cooking again.
S and I did manage to squeeze one great meal in recently, on Sunday night. A friend of ours, food writer Kevin Gould (author of Dishy and Loving And Cooking With Reckless Abandon), was in town for the Singapore Writers Festival. We had him and a couple of other friends over for a home cooked meal. Because I've been so busy, S did most of the work. I made only the first course, Scallops with Herb Dressing, from a recipe from Jane Lawson's Yoshoku. S made the rest of the delicious dinner: Roasted Duck Ravioli in a Sage and Butter Sauce; Oolong Tea Steeped Quail Egg and Pork Belly; and Sago Gula Melaka with Coconut Ice Cream. Unfortunately, I was too busy enjoying both the food and the company of good friends and I forgot to take any photographs until after dinner was over, which explains the picture above. (Actually, S claims that since I was seated next to and opposite two gorgeous young women I forgot myself entirely.)S and I are slightly obsessive cookbook buyers. A good chunk of my monthly paycheck goes towards supporting both Border's and Kinokuniya. One of our favorite recently acquired books has to be Jane Lawson's Yoshoku. When S and I first saw it, I have to admit that we weren't inclined to buy it. After all, it was "Japanese food western style" written by an Aussie whose work we weren't too familiar with. But once we took a look inside, we knew we had to pick up this easy-to-use and gorgeous collection. Ms Lawson's recipes looked both easy and delicious while Mikkel Vang's pictures were both mouth-watering and clean.
Since picking up this book, we've made Ms Lawson's Scallops with Herb Dressing and Shichimi Schnitzel. Tonight, we made her Pan-fried Pork Cutlets and Nashi. It was, as the other two dishes were, delicious. I've posted a rather large picture of it above. I've also flagged Ms Lawson's Japanese Hambaagaa with Mushroom Sauce, Lamb Racks in Miso, Slow Roasted Duck with Yuzu Peaches, Soba with Sauteed Pork, Eggplant and Chillli, and Oysters with Japanese Flavours. I'm hoping that over the next few months we'll have time to make all of these. And I'm sure that they'll all be equally yummy.
On another, and slightly random, note, a number of wonderful fellow food bloggers kindly mentioned me and linked to me on Blogday (which was on 31 August). I just wanted to thank all of them and very, very belatedly do my own little part by mentioning three blogs that I only discovered a while ago and have been enjoying. Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit is a fun site by a very talented baker who specializes in, no surprise, cupcakes... which I love. Sweet Oven is a fun site by a fellow Singaporean who has decided to spend one night a week in one of Singapore's fanciest French restaurants. I really enjoy reading Nosheteria. She knows her food and writes passionately and eloquently about it. Her site not only makes me hungry but always provides something to think about.