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Watching The Moon

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

― A.A. Milne

Ham & Cheese French Toast 02
Ham & Cheese French Toast 03Ham & Cheese French Toast 04

It feels like we are back in time, back to when we were dating. When we were constantly separated by time, by continent and sea. Just before my world went to sleep, I stayed up and waited for you. Praying the internet would work this time and I would not get frustrated that I couldn’t hear every other word you say. What is a second or few? That was how long it took for me to hear you and vice versa. Do you remember, one day you tried to console me about our separation by looking at the moon? You said we would be together by the next full moon. I always had to stretch my head and look for it amidst the skyscrapers, while you could easily see one whenever you step out of your cabin. Two years and 20 hour flight later, I stepped out of the duane and finally.. finally you became a constant sight.

So whenever we are separated, I watch the moon. And I know, by new moon, you will be home. With me, with us.

Be safe, my love.

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Make It Good

Air pollution in Paris : Eiffel tower through a haze of pollution in Paris

Photo source: AFP, via Le Monde

The past few weeks, Paris has seen very sunny winter: weather hitting 19-20 C during the day while it dipped to 3-5 C in the coldest mornings. We were overjoyed, obviously. We started to ditch the heavy cloaks, queuing for ice creams & sorbets during the day. The parks were full of people strolling and picnicking. It was the mildest winter, no snow to date and we were happy. We had enough of the cold weather. Then the smog happens. The Tour Eiffel disappeared. All public transports were free for 3 days. And today, only odd plate number vehicules can roam within Paris & its immediate surrounding.

Having lived the Indonesian forest fire and been to Shanghai on numerous occasions, there’s no comparison or reason to complain. The current pollution is bad, but it is still below their levels.

On the good side of things, I have been enjoying what the doctor calls high metabolism rate. Every girl’s dream: to be able to eat everything without putting on weight. I can see the finish line, starting to get the hospital bag ready and washing the tiny clothes. Ready or not, this little baby is coming! The only damper in my mood is the nightly leg cramps.
Baked Chicken Curry Puff 3
Curry Puff filling
Anyway, here’s one of my favorite snack, curry puffs : the cousin of samosa. Sometimes I also add boiled eggs. I usually make the dough myself, but this time round I use the ready made puff pastry. You can fry them or bake them, they are equally good. (more…)

I Dreamt of You. And Now You’re Here.

Few weeks ago, H & I tried an Italian restaurant that’s constantly packed with people. I’m curious because their menu isn’t particularly interesting (inviting comfort food, probably.. but original? not really). However I like how deceptively inviting their deco is. Fresh herbs in pots as center pieces for every table, yellow warm lights, floor to ceiling windows on all sides perfect to sky-gazing or people-watching, low benches as well as high tables. So we gave it a shot.

Fettuccine with Ginger Lemon Confit & Salmon

Long story short: the food was decent but it’s unlikely that we’ll return. It’s not a place that one lingers (solo, probably.. but not for double dates and especially not with children). However, I did come home with a recipe of some sort of the pasta I had. This is it. My new found love. A really good change from the usual pasta dish: light yet bursting with flavors.

You can make your own lemon confit (or what I call cured lemon). Stuff the lemons with salt and keep away for weeks or months. But in any good supermarket in France, you can find it in the Middle Eastern/North African section (not as firm as the one I had in the said restaurant, so maybe gourmet supermarket would be better). The pâte can be found under Regional produce section.

Citron Confit & Pate
Fettuccine with Ginger Lemon Confit & Salmon 2
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Baking is Love Made Visible

Apricot Jam Biscuits

“Nothing can make you look more like an accomplished baker than a beautiful- and symmetrical- assortment of rolled biscuits. The little cutter does all the work and we get to take all the credit. .. Sandwich biscuits are the biscuit lover’s dream, the politest way to eat two biscuits at the same time without appearing greedy.” (Nick Malgieri, bake!)

Of all my cookbooks, I probably trust Nick’s the most. His recipes consistently turn out well for a novice (and stubborn) baker like me. His explanations are well ordered and simple, measurements are well recorded, variations are noted down, as well as remarks on serving and storage. The pages are clean, making it easy to navigate. Each chapter starts with a master recipe like sweet pastry dough, flaky pastry dough, shortcrust pastry/ crusts, etc followed by the various recipes using the dough. So it does get me awhile to attempt some of his chapters when I am already overwhelmed by the numerous steps on the master recipe. Wait for me, salmon avocado tart.. I’ll get to you one day.

Bake by Nick Malgieri

Having said that, I had no issue like runny spinach tarts. The fruit tart dough is perfectly flaky, his biscuits are indulgences. I have never heard of him before this book, which I bought one fine day while walking in Cape Town, he seems very low key as compared to other pastry chefs.

Anyway, these sandwich biscuits from the bake! cookbook are heavenly. I love how it is paired with apricot jam, creating sour and sweet combo. I don’t know how the Swiss eat it, but I love to dip it in my black coffee. I feel guilty for posting so many of his recipes here, so I’m just going to recommend you to buy the book. You can also go to his website. He offers plenty of recipes there too.

p.s. Here‘s an old interview of Nick by David Lebovitz. See how down to earth the man is, just like his recipes!

First Order of Business

H Birthday Cake

It’s the boy’s birthday last weekend and this year, he requested a chocolate cake, a simple classic chocolate cake. It’s unusual of him since in the past he’s asked pear tart, raspberry tart, etc. He didn’t want chocolate tart or chocolate brownie cheesecake either. He wanted a chocolate birthday cake. A. Birthday. Cake.

I never gave much thought that a birthday cake would be different, besides the fact that it would be fancier. But I think I understand now.. a birthday cake would typically have 2 or more layers. Icing all around it. The simplest cake is sometimes the best, because you want to enjoy the cake (as in eat it) and not just gawking over it. You want one that you can eat again and again (when else will you truly indulge?) and not turn sick after a slice. The last bite tasting as good as the first.. (more…)

Sugar & Company

He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast in his heart.
– C. S. Lewis

Banana Waffle with Pearl Sugar

The past few days, my taste bud has been somewhat off. I am craving for something that I don’t even know what. I’d thought I wanted some pasta, only to turn it down after one taste. I’d thought I wanted some cheese, making H got up and fetched it from the fridge, I changed my mind. It seems sweets are all I want these days.

Pearl Sugar

I had thought I knew all that I needed to know about sugar and the variety there are. Then I came to France and went grocery shopping, wanting to buy a regular white sugar. Boy, was I dumbfounded with the many options for a simple sugar. Even with a decent level of french, I could not make sense any of it.

There is sucre cristallisé (your every day white sugar), sucre semoule & sucre en poudre (finer than regular white sugar, aka castor sugar), sucre glace (icing sugar), perles de sucre (pearl sugar) then there’s cassonade (natural brown sugar), sucre de canna (unrefined brown sugar), and then there’s sugar in sachet the commonly use in french baking: sucre vanille (sugar infused with vanilla). There are more, I’m sure. Needless to say, my pantry is now filled with several variety of sugar, as if I’m a sugar collector.
Banana Waffle 2
I never get to make chouquettes, a classic french snack, the whole reason I bought the pearl sugar in the first place. But here’s a really delicious recipe with pearl sugar, for breakfast or for snacks..

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Born Again in Second Language

There must be a moment, however brief, when you cease to be.
– NY Times Haiku

Salted Cod 4

Accras de morue is fritters made from salted cod fish. Originally of Portuguese origin, but also largely eaten in the Caribbean, Martinique, Guadalupe and Barbados. In France, Accras is almost always synonymous to the Caribbean, it is as if the original version is made there. We certainly ate this in Angola and in Mauritius, though I didn’t particularly pay too much attention on their differences.

There isn’t one unanimous recipe when it comes to accras. Opinion differs as to what make a good accras. Some uses eggs, some uses baking powder. Some uses different flour. One thing is clear, parsley is key and if you like it hot, piment antillais (or habanero chili) is added.

Salted Cod Collage
Salted Cod 3

Saying that I have had my fair share of bland accras is an understatement. But when it comes to fritters, I think Asians know a thing or two. They know how to tease the taste buds, playing with the saltiness and sweetness to reach that nice balance where everything just make sense together. And after multiple adjustments and tweaks, I think I found the accras that I really like: smooth and crispy skin, most importantly, far from bland.

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