Foodnotes

Happy meal #14: Blueberry buttermilk

Blueberries! Ah, love that squishy purple berry that stains everything from my plate to my fingers. Every time I buy freshly made waffles from the bakery, I go for the blueberry flavoured ones. So when I saw punnets of these at the supermarket, I grabbed them without thinking.

The most logical thing would be to make blueberry muffins, of course. But I decided that I shall not go down the typical road and turned to trusty ‘ol Google for something more interesting. And guess what, it led me to the website of the sadly defunct Gourmet magazine, where a Raspberry Buttermilk Cake recipe was awaiting me.

There’s something about buttermilk that always makes me confident that whatever I bake with it will turn out great. It could be the thick, creamy consistency or the wonderfully warm aroma, I don’t know. But it just happened that I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge and a Blueberry Buttermilk Cake I shall bake.

I love that the list of ingredients is fairly simple and short, and the baking process is straightforward. It also doesn’t take too long to prepare. And it definitely helps that I now have a stand mixer, which speeds up the process significantly!

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake
(Adapted from Gourmet)

What you need:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 of a 250g stick of butter, softened at room temperature
    2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 large egg
    1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
    1 punnet of blueberries (about 125g)
  • Directions:

  • * Preheat oven to 200°C with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

    * Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

    * Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

    * At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined (ie. flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk-flour).

    * Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter blueberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.

    * Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

    Ingredients

    "Whrrrr" goes the mixer

    Before baking

    The finished product looking very bruised indeed

    Cake for tea

  • Foodnotes

    Happy meal #13

    One of the best cookbooks that I bought last year has to be Everyday Harumi. My purchase was entirely a fluke – I had no idea who Harumi Kurihara was prior to that, nor did I realise just how popular she was. All I knew was that the MPH store near my office was having a 20 percent discount on cookbooks and her book had caught my eye.

    It turned out to be a great decision for this rabid fan of Japanese food. In the book, Harumi talks about the basics underlying all Japanese food, such as the dashi stock and awase miso. The recipes are all easy to follow, and the results are amazing for the amount of effort.

    A favourite recipe of mine is the Rice with Soy-flavoured Pork and Carrots. It’s simple to put together, requires very little ingredients and is tasty to boot. I’ve adapted Harumi’s recipe by using plain rice instead of the dashi-mirin flavoured rice that she uses but the result is still good. The entire dinner, whipped together after work and a swim at the gym, took me about 45 minutes and I am a terribly slow and inefficient cook.

    Rice with Soy-flavoured Pork and Carrots
    (Adapted from Everyday Harumi)

    What you need (serves two):

  • * 1 cup Japanese rice
    * 1 carrot
    * 200-250g pork shoulder
    * 1 tbsp + 1 tsp soy sauce
    * 2 tbsp mirin
    * 1 tsp sugar
    * Black pepper – to season
  • Directions:

  • * Wash the rice thoroughly, drain it and then let is stand for 10 minutes before cooking it in the rice-cooker.
    * Peel the carrot and cut it into 2-3cm long thin slices
    * Wrap the pork in clingfilm and bash it with a rolling pin to tenderise it (very important step!)
    * Slice the pork thinly.
    * Combine the mirin, soy sauce and sugar in a pan on medium heat. Add the pork, taking care to keep the slices from sticking.
    * Add the carrots and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
    * When the rice is ready, serve it on a plate and mix it with the cooked pork and carrots.
    * Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve.
  • I served it up with steamed veggies and mushrooms. Bon appetit!

    The organised chaos

    Another year, another birthday

    Goodbye 20s!

    I celebrated my birthday last Tuesday and am proudly staring at 30 in the eye as next year will be the year I step over the threshold and say goodbye to my 20s. Ahh, the good ‘ol 20s. I think I may just be all too happy to leave those sordid years behind.

    Anyway, we had a picnic at the field across from our place the Saturday before the big day. I’ve been meaning to go down there for a while now – the place is huge and there are lots of going on there every weekend. There are Indians playing cricket, families flying kites and men with big-ass battery-powered planes.

    Picnic basket

    Kites in the sky

    Buttermilk fried chicken - doesn't look too good but was yummy!

    Mah boys

    That was as high as it went

    Not knowing that the boys were joining us, I made a little picnic for two: buttermilk fried chicken from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, mashed potato with butter and garlic and a salad. The fried chicken was a bit burnt (I wanted to make sure it was cooked through) but tasted pretty damn good!

    The boys very sweetly bought me a bunch of purple and white ballons which I absolutely adored.

    I tried sleeping with the balloons in the room but they freaked me out

    On the day itself, I took the day off and had some me time. Got my hair cut, bought the photo album from Frankie magazine (I love, LOVE! the book) and sat down with it for a spot of tea and sandwiches at my favourite tea lounge – the Royal Copenhagen.

    In the evening, Mr Thick took me to dinner at the Japanese restaurant at the Esplanade. It was fab! The grilled cod fish was deliciously tender and the sashimi was fresh.

    And then! We were supposedly admiring the evening skyline at the rooftop of Esplanade when we were ambushed by a gaggle of people! Mr Thick had sneakily arranged for the gang to have after-dinner drinks with us, heh. ‘Twas a nice surprise. We went to Orgo and were bundled into a glass enclosure where we promptly drank ourselves silly till midnight.

    It was a happy birthday. 🙂

    The organised chaos

    Tokyo raves: O Happy Day!

    When I was a wee kiddo, I grew up reading fairy tales and watching Disney movies. It’s not the greatest way to be learn English, really, because you either end up being cynical (“As if happily-ever-afters do happen”) or hopelessly idealistic (“When I am 25, I will marry my Prince Charming and we will live happily ever after”). No prizes for guessing which category I belonged in.

    But now that I am older and wiser, I – unabashed and unembarrassed – can say that I love Disney and Studio Ghibli to bits. Bits. Which was why I decided that we had to go to Disneyland and the Ghibli Museum when we were in Tokyo.

    What a perfect decision!

    On Friday morning, we packed ourselves to Mitaka where the Ghibli Museum was located.

    Totoro greets you while you wait for the shuttle bus

    It was such a whimsical place! You are encouraged to be “lost” and the place has no real order to it. There are beautiful displays that whirl and spin, a tiny spiral staircase where you have to bend to walk down, stained glass windows that depict scenes from Studio Ghibli movies, odd-sized doors, a replicate of the room that Hayao Miyazaki works in and even the Cat Bus! The Saturn theatre was too cute – the windows looked like airplane cabin windows with similar shutters, albeit automated.

    Needless to say, we loved, loved, LOVED the museum. Everything was so delightful and charming and FUN! Photography was not allowed in the museum though. Poo.

    Everyone gets to watch a short film at the Saturn theatre

    After that, we took the subway and headed towards Maihama for Disneyland. The moment we stepped out from the station into the glorious day, it was immediately obvious that we were in Happy Land.

    Minnie and friends greet you as you walk into the theme park

    Songs from Disney movies were playing and the railings had little statues of Disney characters. There were vibrant flower bushes and lots of ecstatic little children and adults. Everything was planned to perfection at Disneyland. Throughout our seven-hour (!) trip there, we were laughing and giggling, the joy and delight were so infectious. I felt like I was eight all over again. Even sitting on the cold ground, sipping hot chocolate and eating popcorn while waiting for the parade to start was fun. I loved seeing the oh-so-adorable tykes dressed in Disney characters, they were so rosy-cheeked from the cold and beaming from ear to ear.

    O, Happy Place, Happy Day!

    Snow White dancing with the Seven Dwarves

    We waited for an hour for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride

    Daisy Duck at the Halloween Banzai Villains parade

    Disneyland at night

    Cinderella's castle - spot the Jimmyliew!

    Cinderella's castle lit up at night

    Jafarmy Liew

    Of course, in future we will have a little girl whom we will take to Disneyland and then I am going to dress her as Belle. And how adorable will she be! (It’s a rhetorical question but the answer is: VERY.)

    Bye Walt and Mickey! Till we meet again

    Photos of our Disneyland/Ghibli Museum trips here.
    Photos of our trip to Kyoto and Osaka here.

    The organised chaos

    10 for 10

    I normally shun resolutions because I know that I am not the sort of person to keep to them. At the same time, I never needed to lose weight or stop smoking or start jogging – common things that most women aspire towards.

    But this year, I am beginning to think that I need goals and aims in order to keep my life chugging along. Now that the wedding and the house are done and dusted, there’s nothing to look forward to, really, except Christmas. Which is a dreaded 12 months away. Boo hoo.

    1. Go on photographic expeditions at least once a month
    Besides taking photos of my very adorable kitties, there was a point to my splurging on a DSLR so many moons ago. TO TAKE GOOD PHOTOS, duh. Unfortunately, the camera sits in its dry box idly most of the time because I do not make the effort to go out and have fun with it. And then maybe, I can restart that 10 photos a month project.

    Cue cute kittehs

    2. Finish the DIY tasks I set out to do
    That roll of paper and can of spray glue is still sitting in my storeroom, while the bamboo curtain is fast gathering dust. I have a lot of ideas for our house but we just never seem to get our asses off the couch to do it. (And by “we”, I really mean “he”.) I want to get the windows in my toilets covered up (so that nobody is looking in as I pee), get the Muji shelf-turned-nightstand “upholstered”, fix up the spare room and wallpaper my wardrobe (I can hear husband screaming for help).

    3. Cut my carbon footprint
    Hopenhagen might have been more like Nopenhagen but that doesn’t mean we should stop caring for the climate. We’ve tried to do our part – not using the air-conditioning when the weather is cool, bring along an Envirosax when we go shopping to cut down on our use of plastic bags, taking public transport etc – but we can certainly do a lot more.

    4. Read more books
    I’ve been so consumed by blogs and magazines that I have forgotten to read my books. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped me from BUYING books. It sounds absolutely ridiculous but I LOVE buying books, I love collecting books and I LOVE rereading my books.

    5. Try out one new recipe a week
    I bought some really great cookbooks last year: Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi, Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home and the great Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What I love about these books is that they make cooking seem to easy and exciting! All those pictures and illustrations teaching me how to cut a whole chicken (don’t laugh, but I haven’t dared to tackle a whole chicken!), tie kitchen twine around meats for roasting, poach eggs…it’s so amazing. Cooking is such an art and a science combined.

    6. Eat healthily
    I am not the sort to count my calories or abstain from chicken rice but I find that as I grow older, I care more about what I put into my body. That means being careful about eating fat laden food like laksa and char kway teow, and trying to sneak in more vegetables and fruits. I wish that husband would share my view but he doesn’t think twice about chomping down on that chicken skin. Maybe my caution stems from the fact that my father died of a heart attack at 52, years below the risk age of 55 but let’s just say that I prefer to enjoy my guilty pleasures in moderation.

    7. Exercise more
    Laziness and procrastination can be my middle name(s) and that explains why I haven’t hit the gym since, oh, early December. I vow to keep to my routine of yoga-pump-swim-RPM to keep that good ‘ol heart healthy. Afterall, I am no longer young (sobs!) and that metabolic rate has to go down one day.

    8. Write more
    I miss writing creatively. I don’t know how I am going to do this but I am going to try.

    9. Save money
    My bank account is doing okay but I think I can be financially stronger. The wedding and house drained my savings (hell, we paid for everything ourselves!) so it’s been a mammoth challenge rebuilding it but I am getting there. As long as I STOP filling my wardrobe with things. And STOP buying shoes.

    10. Be a mom!
    Now, is that pressure or what? But seriously, I’m hoping that this year will be THE YEAR now that we have decided to, err, try our best. (Underaged boys and girls can turn away NOW.) It’s all up to God and Super Sperm now. Hopefully, his boys and my girls can hook up over some champers and cheese, and then everything will be swell. Otherwise, it’s going to be a teary affair every time that bloody Aunt Flo (pun absolutely intended) visits.

    Little Miss Shopaholic

    What I wore in Tokyo #3

    Oh yes, that trip to Tokyo. It didn’t happen too long ago, perhaps in October last year? Bear me with me, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I promise you.

    Top - Dorothy Perkins; Skirt - POA; Sneakers - Converse; Bag - Marc by Marc Jacobs

    We were on our way to Asakusa Shrine, which was sort of fun but not great. After going to Kyoto and seeing those shrines, Asakusa feels like a touristy trap.

    I’ve been very into stripes recently, I think it’s an aftereffect of watching Coco Avant Chanel. In one of the scenes, Audrey Tautou was wearing a white and black striped long sleeved tee with pants and boy, did she look classy.

    Photo was taken by husband and I look like I needed sleep. But then again, I always look like that. Heh.