Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Singapore!

It's been over 17 years since we first visited Singapore. At the time, neither Andrew nor I had been anywhere in Asia and it seemed like just the right balance between exotic (multicultural, tropical, famous for its food) and safe (a developed country where English was spoken). Since then we've ventured to far more challenging places ... yet we still crave Singapore between visits.

While most people see Singapore as merely a stopover between flights, we like to visit for several days at a time to soak up the ambience and hoover up the food. We were there again a couple of weeks ago. The adventures included ...


Intriguing signs


Apostrophes embedded in the pavement


Colourful buildings


A fabulous tour of three hawker [street food] centres
led by the lovely folks from Singapore Foodsters



Kaya toast and kopi C


Richard Feynman's bongo drums, in an
exhibition at the ArtScience Museum


Cooking class (our second!) at Food Playground






Discovering Azmi Muslim Restaurant in
Little India ... so fabulous we ate there twice


The cat cafe. Who can resist a cat in a cravat?


Singapore is always a joy to visit. Although it's changed a lot over the years, we still find quirky things to do ... and delicious things to eat.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A tale of two pumpkins

We've lived at our 'new' house for almost 2.5 years now. The garden was a massive pile of weeds when we moved in (the house had been rented out for many years and the garden neglected) so the first year was mostly spent removing weeds, large and small. In year two I experimented with a few fruit and vegetable plants, and this year we've built a small but thriving collection of berry bushes and fruit trees. One very exciting achievement, in year two, was growing my first two pumpkins ever! I germinated some seeds last October, planted the seedlings in the garden, and harvested the two pumpkins around April this year. One we ate pretty quickly (scones, soups, stews ...) and the other hung in a macrame hanger until this week.


I finally decided the time had come, this week, to eat it. Half of the pumpkin went into a large batch of pumpkin, sweet potato, lentil and coriander soup (enough for five dinners; four portions went into the freezer) and the other half found itself in a pumpkin loaf this morning:

0.25 cup olive oil
2 eggs
0.5 teaspoon vanilla essence
1.5 cups wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
0.5 cup chopped nuts or pepitas (optional)
2 cups pumpkin, chopped and microwaved (or steamed) until soft

Beat oil, eggs and vanilla together. Add to sifted dry ingredients, nuts and mashed pumpkin. Bake in a greased loaf tin for 1 to 1.5 hours in a moderate oven (about 180 degrees Celsius).

Slather on some butter for a delicious yet nutritious weekday lunch.


Behold ... pumpkin loaf! Yummy

Once again, I ate some for lunch and packaged the rest up into lunch-sized portions in the freezer. Fingers crossed this year's pumpkin plants also bear fruit.

Oh, and if you're interested in the berry bushes ... they've just started fruiting! Here are some gooseberries and red currants ...



... and if we're lucky there will be boysenberries and blueberries too in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Brekkie @ Stand By Me

Andrew and I have been to Stand By Me for breakfast many times. It's about 20 km from our place (not exactly walking distance) so we tend to go every couple of months. It's a warm, fuzzy place and the staff always greet us like old friends! Stand By Me is famous for its French toast (a new and magnificent creation each week) and I also like that it has Asian-themed savoury brekkie options.

We went again on Sunday and he had:


French toast with poached pear, citrus semolina
custard, walnut and almond butter

while she had:


Thai-style eggs with silken tofu, mint, coriander, Spanish
onion, chilli, sticky rice and pulled pork

Sooooo good. More pics of some of their past French toast offerings here if you're interested ...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

One night in a spaceship

Last weekend I attended a one-day seminar (related to my editing work) in Sydney. I was travelling alone and didn't want to spend too much money, so looked for accommodation at the cheap 'n cheerful end of the scale. When I discovered Sydney has a Japanese-style 'capsule' hotel, I decided to give it a go! Space Q is called that, I guess, because it's like sleeping in a spaceship, rather than because it is spacious ;-)

The setup is sort of like bunk beds, but with walls and card-controlled doors.


I climbed up three stairs to get to my bed


My sleeping space (view from foot of bed)


There was an electronic panel allowing the occupant to
control lights and fan speed, and charge devices

The place was clean, comfortable, central, and about one third of the cost of a hotel room. It was also well-appointed, with shared laundry and kitchen facilities. My only quibble was that while I could alter the fan speed I couldn't control the temperature, and my pod was rather hot. Still ... it was an adventure!

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Brekkie @ Muse

This year we've invited a bunch of Andrew's family members to join us for Christmas Day in Canberra. Much as I enjoy cooking (in small batches and in a leisurely manner) I DON'T do the whole cooking-as-performance-art thing that Christmas dinner seems to require. Also, we live in a tiny house with an eccentric forty-year-old oven and without air conditioning! Which suits us just fine but probably wouldn't suit all the rellies in the height of summer.

Soooo ... I've done a bit of research lately to find restaurants and hotels offering Christmas dinner. One place that fits the bill is Muse, in the stylish East Hotel in Kingston. We'd never been there before so thought we'd check it out over breakfast this morning. Muse has both a restaurant and a bookshop, so is right down our alley! Their website describes the place as follows:

Contemporary yet warm and inviting, Muse is an inspired venue for
conversation, ideas and indulgence, both literary and epicurean.

Our breakfast was certainly spectacular. The menu was bursting with delicious-sounding ideas, but in the end he had:


Rolled oat porridge with banana, apple, currants,
cinnamon, mint, cashews and fresh raspberries

while she had:


Sriracha eggs benedict, with poached eegs, pulled
ham hock, sourdough and sriracha hollandaise

OMG. It was so good. I ate super slowly to make the flavours last longer. I think we need to go back to try some of the other menu options.


The coffee hit the spot too ...

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Date loaf for Sunday lunch

As summer approaches I'm increasingly unwilling to use the oven (and so heat the house). But I've been craving this simple date loaf lately so have made an exception for today's lunch!

This is a quick, easy snack to whip up when you realise you have guests arriving in an hour or so. It can be served warm or cold, and also freezes well for later lunches.

1 cup dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon butter
1.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Put dates, butter and soda into a bowl. Pour boiling water over and mash slightly. Mix with flour and baking powder, pour into a loaf tin and bake about 50 minutes at 200 degrees C (400 degrees F). Slice and serve with butter.

Optional: add some walnuts (or other nuts) for added flavour and crunch.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Best salad ever?

A friend asked me today how my blog was going, and I had to admit I've neglected it lately! Too busy with other stuff. But spring has arrived in Canberra so it's salad season. Yaaaay. Here's a photo of tonight's dinner, which is one of my favourite salads ...


Baby spinach, rocket [arugula], tomatoes, pears, avocados, blue
cheese (Adelaide Blue, this time) and pecans. A delicious way to
get one's daily dose of fruit and veges!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Eggs, glorious eggs

We've just spent two weeks feeding our friends' chickens while they were out of town. We've actually had a reciprocal arrangement (they feed our critter/s while we're away, and vice versa) for about 15 years now.


One of the bonuses of visiting chickens, of course, is that you get to steal their eggs while they're not looking. (Tee hee.) The four chickens have produced an average of three eggs per day so it's been a very eggy fortnight. Tonight I'm making a cheese soufflé. Of course, there are heaps of other things you can do with eggs too! Thanks, chickies ;-)

Brekkie ideas
Eggs benedict
Bombay toast

Lunch ideas
Cheese soufflé
Corn muffins
Pumpkin scones
Lemon butter
Hard boiled eggs

Dinner ideas
Shakshuka
Zucchini, basil and feta fritters
Bacon and egg pie
Spanish omelette

Dessert ideas
Lemon meringue pie
Chocolate cheesecake
Crème brûlée
Orange and almond muffins
Portuguese tarts
Caramel pavlova

... and of course
Wattalapam (this blog's most popular recipe of all time)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Keep eating strawberries! (Please.)

The recent rash of strawberry sabotage in Australia is incredibly sad. It is heart-breaking to see mountains of perfect fruit being trashed because people are too afraid to buy it. I've found myself buying more strawberries than usual, in the hope my purchases will support the beleaguered growers.

Here's an ice cream recipe you can make without a fancy ice cream maker! Some others are here and here.

250 grams fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon gelatine (or 1 gelatine 'leaf') *
1.5 cups cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water

Slice strawberries and sprinkle with sugar. Place in the fridge for one hour or until the juice runs from the strawberries. Soak the gelatine in cold water and drain the strawberry juice into this. Stand bowl over hot water and stir until gelatine dissolves. Add strawberries. Chill until starting to set. Whip cream, fold strawberry mixture into cream, and freeze until firm. Allow to soften for a few minutes before eating.

* gelatine [gelatin] is an animal product so not suitable for vegetarians. You could switch it for agar-agar for a vego option (though I'm not sure what quantity to recommend ... a very small amount would probably work).

Brekkie @ Concrete Jungle

Andrew and I took a whirlwind trip to Sydney over the weekend to catch up with his sister and go to an exhibition. We stayed near Central Station so sought out local cafes for Sunday brekkie options. Concrete Jungle, at 58 Kensington Street Chippendale, was excellent!

He had:


Smashed avocado on toast with coconut
feta, black sesame and a poached egg

while she had:


Eggs Benedict on a Smoking Gun bagel with
kale and house-smoked salmon

Delish. The coffee was great too.

I spent about ten years (1992 to 2002) working in about a two-kilometre radius of Central Station and it was fun to take a walk around and see how things had changed. The area has definitely gentrified over the past twenty years! Here are some scenes spotted near the cafe:






Oh, and we enjoyed the exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum too. It was called Reigning Men and showcased men's fashions from 1715 to 2015! Here are a few pics ...






Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fancy-pants rice crackles

The lovely people at The Minimalist Vegan recently posted a recipe for a three-ingredient puffed rice slice. It's my turn to take dessert to our friends' place tonight and as their kids recently gave a big thumbs down to my besan laddu (apparently they don't like cardamom? inconceivable!) I figured I'd take something chocolate-y this time. My version of Maša's slice is vegetarian rather than vegan and I adjusted her proportions to use equal volumes of chocolate and puffed rice. Here's what I did:


  • Melted 2 cups of Belgian dark chocolate buttons with 2 tablespoons of cream (by microwaving for 2 minutes on medium in a large Pyrex jug)
  • Stirred 2 cups of puffed rice into the chocolate mixture
  • Squished it into a silicone cake mould
  • Refrigerated for a couple of hours.


The uncut mixture


Some of the finished cakes

If I make it again I'll probably use more cream so it's easier to slice and doesn't shatter so much. Still! Very yummy. We think the munchkins will approve. It's a little like an upmarket version of the traditional NZ (and Australian) kids' birthday party treat chocolate crackles.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Obrigada barak, Timor-Leste

It was a privilege to visit Timor-Leste and I'm incredibly grateful to the study tour organisers and everyone we met in our travels. It was truly an eye-opening and heart-warming trip. It was comforting to see so much positivity, peace and forgiveness in a country that has suffered so much over the years.

Here are a few more pics from the trip that didn't fit into previous posts ...



Cristo Rei (some of the tour group climbed about 600 steps up a hill
to reach this statue ... twice! Good exercise in a tropical country)


View of Dili from Dare


The cake Xanana Gusmão organised to celebrate a tour participant's birthday!!



More pics at sunset at Cristo Rei


Farewell, lovely Timor

Obrigada barak / thank you very much!