Happy meal #18: Roasted tomato soup

Mr Thick had commented that the previous tomato soup that I had concocted tasted “raw” (remember, this is the same man who thinks that fish is NOT MEAT) so I decided to “cook” the tomatoes a little before turning them into liquid food.

Well, it did taste a lot nicer after I roasted them in the oven. I had made a huge tub of it (I never learn, it seems) but this time, I was pretty happy with having leftovers because it meant that my lunch for the next day was provided for and we all know that soups taste a lot better the day after.

Roasted tomato soup
What you need:

  • 1kg tomatoes of mixed variety (I used plum, cheap cooking tomatoes and cherry)
  • 850ml of stock, either vegetable or chicken
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • A knob of butter
  • A dash of olive oil
  • A handful of parsley
  • A handful of basil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste


  • Pre-heat your oven to 220 degree Celsius
  • Quarter the big tomatoes and deseed them
  • Chop the cherry tomatoes into half
  • Spread the tomato and garlic out on a baking dish, taking care that they do not cover one another
  • Drizzle olive oil on each slice of tomato, followed by a sprinkling of salt and pepper
  • Stick the tomatoes into the oven and roast for between 20 to 30 minutes
  • Heat up some olive oil and butter in a pot over medium heat
  • Fry the onions till they become soft and translucent
  • Add the roasted tomatoes and garlic into the pot and stir fry it for about 5 minutes
  • Roughly chop up the herbs and add that into the pot, save for little pinch
  • Add in the stock and let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes
  • Let the soup cool down for 15 minutes
  • Stick the immersion blender in and whiz everything up into liquid
  • Serve up with croutons or a sprinkling of parsley and basil

How many servings did this yield, I hear you ask. Well. It fitted nicely into four plastic containers but beyond that, I cannot tell you more. I think it would have served six comfortably as a starter but alas, we had too much food during the picnic so we ended up polishing only one box.

If you are not as lazy as I am, you can skin the tomatoes – I’ve read that chucking the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute can help you to remove the skins in a jiffy. You won’t, as I did, end up chewing bits of tomato skin and the soup will definitely be a lot smoother. I also had to chew through green stems from the parsley so it might do you good to just use the leaves.

Love the orangey-red colour
Geek Girl

Mastery or tools?

I’ve been thinking about upgrading to a new camera body for a long, long time now. It’s not that my current Canon 400D is not working fine – on the contrary, it’s been a great road warrior for the past three years. Ever since I switched to my Tammy lens, I’ve seen a great improvement on the quality of the pictures.

And yet the one thing that is holding me back is my self-perceived lack of skills.

I don’t think I am a great photographer and I keep wondering if I deserve to splurge $2K a high-end camera like the 7D (husband is convinced that the 50D is not worth the money). It always boils down to the question of skills versus tools. Undoubtedly, a good tool can only be fully utilised if the hand holding it is skillful. Otherwise, it will never achieve its full potential. Do I have the necessary skills or knowledge to handle such a solid piece of equipment?

On the other hand, can a tool help to improve the owner’s skillset? Will I become a better photographer with a good camera in my hands? I had the same conversation with my photographer friend Alwyn and his take is that with a good camera, even if your pictures turn out to be crap, at least they are good looking crap. Well, that’s one way of looking at it, I guess.

I have never thought that my so-called good pictures were due to skills or technique; they were simply borne out of luck. One of my favourite pictures taken at Haji Lane, for instance, was taken when we were leaving the place. I turned around, stuck a camera up and snapped without thinking. I didn’t think about lighting or angle or composition. I just clicked the shutter. For every nice picture like that, there are probably 15 duds that I never bothered to process.

I’ve asked myself several times: did I become a better baker after we got the KitchenAid? I’m not sure – but I do know that I started to bake more and I became a more efficient baker.

I highly suspect I will continue to be stuck in this dilemma for a while longer. Come back here in another six months and I will probably be still hemming and hawing over it. Well, blame it on my Feeling preferences. It’s been proven that I decide with my heart, not my brains!


Happy meal #17: Lemonade

I know, lemonade is not really a meal in itself but I figured that given the amount of effort one needs to exert in order to get a jug of it, surely it can be ranked on par with food. Trust me, trying to wring a lemon dry is like trying to break Arnie’s hand while you are shaking it – IMPOSSIBLE.

This may look nice and dandy:

Delicious jug of Vitamin C

but it sure took a hell lot of strength to get there.


What you need:

  • 6 lemons (or enough juice to fill 1 cup)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar (I used 3/4 cup instead because I didn’t want it to be too sweet)
  • Zest of 1 lemon


  • Combine sugar, zest, water and lemon juice in a sauce pan
  • Heat over a gentle flame for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved to form a syrup
  • Add cold water to syrup for lemonade, depending on your taste, and remember to add lots of ice!

As simple as that! Or so it sounds. I had to call for reinforcement in the form of a husband who was mopping the floor. Squeeze the lemon as hard as you can, I instructed. He did and, oh, two drops of juice dripped out into the bowl? (Don’t worry, he washed his hands before doing that. Or did he?)

I’ve read that sticking the lemons into a microwave oven for one minute can help to release the juice but we don’t have one at home so I had to settle for the old fashioned “roll the lemon on the countertop using your entire body weight” method. Then, there was also the hassle of getting all the seeds out of the juice. Messy, messy.

But the end result, I was told, was worth it. Just remember the ratio of one (cup of juice) : one (cup of sugar) : one (cup of water). Works everytime.

When life hands you lemons...
...chop them up and squeeze them dry!
The zesty bits

Out in the field

The weather was perfect today.

It was sunny AND windy at the same time, just right for a picnic. And it was a great way to end the week for me, especially after the second of my six-day work week. It’s tiring having only Sunday to rest – by the end of Saturday, I felt so zonked that all I wanted to do after dinner was to go home and sleep. Two down, six to go.

Anyway, we had the Squirts and Popartgirls (ie. the girls and their partners) over for a little potluck picnic and it was wonderful. Although the kite flying was EPIC FAIL – where was Trevor when you needed him? – the rest of it was fabulous. Great conversation, catching up, delicious food, jokes…I guess I am an introvert by nature, I’d rather spend time with a small group of friends than to hang out at parties. Not that I am hip enough to be actually invited for parties.

Four soups and a lemonade

Cooking is becoming therapeutic for me. I happily spent two hours in the kitchen in the afternoon whipping up a lemonade, white wine sabayon, roasted tomato soup and sauteed mushrooms. My bad leg was aching by the end of it but boy was I on a roll. Recipes to follow shortly!

Eagle not quite soaring in the sky

That’s our kite on the right. If it doesn’t look too high to you, well, it’s cos it DIDN’T stay up in the sky for more than 30 seconds.

The carnage

On top of what I made, we also had Ikea fried chicken wings (DA BEST!!), beer bread, tuna, Daim cake and fruits. We were STUFFED after that.

Dotz stuffing her face

Ikea chicken wings are GOOD STUFF.

Dotz and Melvyn
Dawn and Xuhao

It’s hard to believe that we have been friends for more than 10 years. We shared secrets and giggles as school girls, got married and became a group of six, and in the future, our kids will be friends and play together. And then we will trade stories of teenage angst and go line dancing together. Can’t wait!

Happy birthday to husband!

They thoughtfully celebrated husband’s birthday in advance – and I promptly took a bite of his Daim cake before he did. Of course, he didn’t mind.

The sky turned dark

It was a perfect Sunday.

Geek Girl


Ever since Mr Thick bought the Hipstamatic app for the iPhone, we have been having loads of fun taking pictures.

This clever little app mimics the unpredictability and effects of those cheap toy cameras that I love so much – light leaks, desaturation, graininess etc. And the developers are clever enough to come up with different film, lens and flash packages for suckers like us to buy so that we can come up with different effects depending on our permutations.

And guess what, it worked! Because Mr Thick bought every single “supply” up for sale at the Hipstamart. Ka-chink! And I wondered why the credits of his iTunes account dropped so drastically. But it’s okay since I get to enjoy the frivolity of Hipstamatic too.

My photographer friend Al The Awesome (yes, he really calls himself that and yes, I do have friends like that) says, YOUR PICTURE IS STILL SHIT EVEN WITH THE HIPSTAMATIC EFFECT. Obviously, he wasn’t referring to me. At least, I don’t think so. But I politely disagree, I think all pictures look super cool with Hipstamatic.

I mean, look at mine, I think they are fabulous! But I may just be biased and a little narcissistic. They may look like crap after all. Oh well.

Macha latte at MOF - looks good, tasted bad
Sunset over the Pinnacle@Duxton
Mango gelato at Frigidarium - Gelateria Italiana (#01-40 Market Street Car Park)
Foodnotes, Little Miss Shopaholic

K.Ki and The Little Drom Store

I had a tough two weeks at work recently, when my boss went home on emergency leave and I had to cover her duties. On the second Friday of her absence, when I had to get to the TV studio at 715am to accompany one of the worldwide CEOs for a live interview, I was so tired that I asked to leave work early.

She, being a wonderful boss, of course said yes and I immediately knew where I wanted to go: k-ki and The Little Drom Store. Two stores under one roof, the former sells Japanese style cakes and pastries (“k ki” is Japanese for cake) while the latter is a wonderful trove of knick knacks.

k-ki is a tiny hangout place in comparison to the bigger coffee chains. There were probably only five tables in the air-conditioned store and on the Friday afternoon that I was there, all the tables were full. I had to settle for the outdoor bench, which was fine since the weather was cool due to the recent drizzle.

But the interior decor would probably appeal to those who are fans of Muji (me! me! me!). It’s minimalist with lots of sunlight, beautiful curves and use of light coloured wood. In fact, it could very well have been torn out from the pages of a Japanese interior decoration magazine.

The cake selection was interesting – there were mango mousse, white chocolate cakes and a delightfully light cheesecake souffle ($5.50) which I had. The teas were Gryphon and cost about $4 per pot, which was pretty decent. The service staff was amazing – they offered me ice water, apologized for not doing so earlier when I asked to add more hot water to the empty teapot and smiled and waved goodbye when I left.

Tea and cheesecake

On the other side of the shop is The Little Drom Store. If you love whimsical, vintage little knick knacks the way I do, then please fly down to the store. It’s stocked with gems like vintage glasses, old cameras, limited edition prints and picture books. I wanted to buy everything!

I decided to rein in my impulse though, because I kept thinking that I would end up being like Carrie, the (Fendi) bag lady, except I would be Yann the (vintage) knick knack girl. Instead, I went home only with a tissue holder made of the retro Good Morning towels. Oh, and a roll of expired film too, which I am excited! about.

I didn’t bring my camera out that day but I shall leave you with those lovely pictures from the flickr stream of The Little Drom Store.

Goodies in The Little Drom Store
Look at this stuff, isn't it neat?

k-ki/The Little Drom Store
7 Ann Siang Hill


Happy meal #17: Beer bread

Making bread scares me. The thought of handling yeast somehow scares me to bits. Don’t ask me why. I just feel that way. Maybe it’s because yeast is sort of living. You need to treat it at the right temperature, with the right attitude so that it works for you. Meh. Scared.

But then, I saw this recipe from Honest Fare and I was intrigued. Making bread without yeast? And with beer to boot? Hell, yeah! I’m going to try it.

The idea behind it is that beer is yeast, just in a prettier, bubbly form. The list of ingredients is short and it’s simple to make. It probably took me all of 30 minutes to prepare, and I am not the world’s fastest baker.

Gabrielle recommends mixing the dough using your bare hands but my kitchen lacks a big enough countertop and I was really itching to try out the dough hook of my KitchenAid. As for the beer, I opted for Singha beer because I like Thai beers. Does that make sense? And since I had a jar of dried rosemary leaves sitting in my cupboard unused, thanks to my still alive and kicking rosemary plant, I decided to sprinkle some on top of the dough before dumping it into the oven. Good move too, the smell of rosemary wafting through the air as the bread was baking was heavenly.

Less talk, more pictures.

Dough sitting in the loaf pan
Rising, rising
Close up of the bread

The result was fab! Because of the butter at the top of the dough, the bread crust ended up being, err, crusty. Yum. We had it with butter, jam, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with black pepper and it tasted GOOD.

Have I gotten over my fear of yeast? No. But I sure can make bread.


Kyoto 2009: Nijo Castle

Another must-go in Kyoto was the Nijo Castle, or Nijo-jo. According to my good friend Wikipedia, the castle was built in 1600s and was the home of the Japanese Imperial Court.

It was built in 1600s. Can you imagine that? The old girl certainly wasn’t showing her age, she still looked magnificent and grand. Does Singapore even have architecture remaining from the 1900s? Oh well, even if there is, it would have been painted over with a garish colour and pimped as a tourist attraction. I mean, look at Chinatown.

Back to Nijo-jo. What was most intriguing about the castle was its nightingale floors. To protect the occupants from sneak attacks, the builders constructed the floor such that it squeaks like a bird whenever someone walks upon it. Trust me, we tried tip-toeing and short of doing qing gong, the floor really creaks elegantly. It sounds like an oxymoron but trust me, it really isn’t.

The compound is huge and it takes a while for you to walk around the two parts of the castle as well as the vast garden. No pictures were allowed though, poo.

Ninomaru of Nijo-jo
Overlooking Nijo-jo
Within the grounds of Nijo-jo

For more photos of our Kyoto-Osaka trip, click here.


Happy meal #16: Summer tomato soup

Continuing the story of my soups for the sickly, I dropped by the supermarket after seeing the doc’s and grabbed a kilo of tomatoes. Only to realise, upon coming home, that I only needed about 500g of it to make a tomato soup that serves four.


Anyway. I was inspired by Laura Calder‘s French Food at Home, which I had watched on telly the night before. She’s gorgeous, isn’t she? She makes cooking French food look so easy and breezy. In that episode, she was supposedly making a birthday champagne lunch for a friend and on the menu was Summer Tomato Soup with Basil and Croutons.

Did someone say tomato? Ding!

Chilled tomato soup for warm evenings

Summer tomato soup with Basil and Croutons
Adapted from Laura Calder’s recipe
What you need:

  • 500g of ripe tomatoes, chopped and deseeded
  • 1 can of stewed tomatoes
  • Half a cucumber, rough chopped
  • A handful of breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • Half an onion, roughly chopped
  • A handful of basil leaves, preferably fresh
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or tomato juice
  • Handful of croutins
  • Truffle oil, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Slice of bread for croutons
  • Butter, a knob, for croutons


  • Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, breadcrumbs and garlic in a glass bowl
  • Add the stock and basil leaves and leave to marinate in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours
  • Make your croutons just before pureeing the soup: dice the bread into 1cm thick cubes. Heat a knob of butter into a frying pan and add the bread cubes. Fry until they turn crispy.
  • Puree the tomato mixture, and season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper
  • Add a drizzle of truffle oil and top with basil leaves and croutons

I didn’t have the time to marinate it for 12 hours as suggested, nor did the NTUC Fairprice I went to sell red wine vinegar. These two steps would probably lend a richer taste but for someone who lacked time, this was good enough.

Mr Thick thought that it tasted a bit raw, which it does since nothing was cooked or fried. Except for the croutons, which he didn’t have because I ate up every piece by accident. He was not a happy camper to see just one small scrap of bread that I had missed sitting in the frying pan. Oops.

It made for a strange bedfellow with my rice and chicken dish, since it was chilled and slightly on the bland side. On its own, however, it was a nice appetizer for the insufferable hot evenings we have been having.