Foodnotes

Happy meal #34: Moist lemon cake

After months of not venturing into the kitchen – partly because the tyrannical Tiny Human was making me feel nauseous at EVERY SINGLE THING – I finally scratched that cooking/baking itch and made something.

I’ve forgotten how much fun it is to bake! Okay, so the washing up is a major PITA but it’s always so exciting when the warm smells waft out from the oven and your brains are going YUMMY YUMMY NOM NOM NOM. Plus, I love to use husband as my guinea pig and see his face go dinggggg when something tastes awfully nice.

Speaking of awful, I have come to realize that baking for me is not about making it look gorgeous. Unlike Rachel, Lady J and Sherie, I have neither the patience nor the ability to prettify my food and style it. Once I am done baking, I just want to eat it and then share it with others. In fact, it gives me joy to share my baking goodies with friends and family. It’s like therapy for me.

Maybe one day, I might fulfill my dream of opening up that cafe named Ugly Foods, where the cakes look a bit rough at the edges and the cupcakes have splotchy frosting. Hee.

Here’s the moist lemon cake that I baked over the Deepavali holiday. It combines two of my favorites: cake and lemon. And it’s super duper easy to make. What’s there not to love?

Easy Moist lemon cake
Adapted from Cakes (Page One)

What you’ll need:
CAKE

  • 225g all-purpose flour
  • 150g sugar (I used slightly less than that, about 125g)
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 90ml low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

LEMON FROSTING

  • 125g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice

How to make

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan (I used a round tin instead because I don’t have a square one)
  • To prepare the cake, beat the flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk, lemon zest, baking powder and salt with an electric mixer at low speed until well blended. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until pale and thick, 3-4 minutes. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan
  • Bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack
  • To prepare the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Beat in enough lemon juice to make a spreadable frosting. Spread the cake with the frosting and tuck in!

The ingredients used for the frosting is only half of that listed in the book. I decided to reduce it because based on past experience, using the full amount will yield me an extra portion of unhealthy frosting. Which I will then proceed to eat STRAIGHT. FROM. THE. BOWL.

(PS Doncha love my new cake stand! Been meaning to get one for the longest time and scored this beauty at the Robinson’s Expo Sale for merely $25. Yay! Oops. Did I just show off my aunty-ness?)

Foodnotes

We love Loysel’s Toy

After months of inaction and lazing like pigs on weekends, we finally mustered up the energy to go explore our little red dot of a city and check out new places to hang out at.

This means that we finally got to have a cup of coffee at Loysel’s Toy!

Yes, months after everyone’s raved about it. We are a bit slow. What to do, this is what you get what you are dealing with old farts like us.

Anyway, the verdict is: we love that place! The coffee is excellent and none too pricey, the desserts are yummy, the little cafe is cosy and warm. The only problem is that it is ALWAYS full when we are there on Sunday afternoons. And because it is so COSY! and so WARM!, people tend to chill out there and not leave.

And because the caffeine fix is so brilliantly fragrant and smooth, I don’t think I can ever get myself a cup of Starbucks coffee again. Shudders.

Neither of us brought our cameras – silly cows – and so we shot with the best camera available: our iPhones.

Waiting for our coffee
Flat white at Loysel's Toy
Lemon tart at Loysel's Toy
Foodnotes

Happy meal #33: Cheesy pork chops with spicy apples

I like buying pork chops (not my darling nephew, the piggy sort) and storing them in the freezer because pork chop can be the easiest meal to make. I tested this recipe twice and both times it didn’t fail me so I’m thinking that this is a pass!

The preparation can be a pain in the arse – you need to peel and slice the onions, peel and slice the apples, fry here fry there. But really, it wasn’t too difficult. I was just a little grumpy since the weather was nauseatingly humid and I almost melted over the stove on those two evenings after work. Husband liked it and if the carnivore says it’s good, it’s good.

Cheesy pork chops with spicy apples
Adapted from here

What you need

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • A pinch of chili powder (I used S&B nanami)
  • 1/2 apple, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pork chops
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Olive oil

How to make

  • Bash the pork chops with a heavy pan. Season with salt and pepper, set aside
  • Put a grill pan on high heat
  • On a separate frying pan, melt the butter with some olive oil over medium heat
  • Fry the onions until soft and translucent. Add apple slices and sprinkle chili powder
  • Add sugar and balsamic vinegar and simmer for about 5 minutes
  • Meanwhile, put the chops into the grill pan and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes on one side
  • Flip the chops onto the other side, arrange onions and apples on top and then cover with cheese
  • Cover the grill pan and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes

Cheesy Pork Chops with Spicy Apples

Eschewing our usual staple of rice, I decided to make garlic aglio olio with the wheat angel hair pasta that I had in the cupboard. Erm, well. That wasn’t a success because I was going a bit mad trying to cook two things at the same time. Added a wee bit too much garlic and fried it for a bit too long. Gah.

Foodnotes, Two of Us

Saturday in pictures

Our weekends have been chockfull of activities recently. There seems to be so much to do and so many new places to check out. It’s tiring but I love it because it makes me feel alive and all sparkly again. Plus – and it’s a big PLUS! – I have been taking the camera out again so this instantly adds another 5000 points to my ALIVE! meter. Dingggg!

Yesterday, we grabbed coffee at Oriole Coffee just before heading to my godmother’s birthday party. We’ve eaten there several times but never had their supposedly famous coffee because our meals were at dinnertime and I didn’t want to mess up my beauty sleep. I had a flat white and I liked it. Wasn’t to die for but hey, good coffee is hard to come by so I’ll make do with what I can get.

Garlic prawn bruschetta
My flat white
Coffee lace patterns

After the party, we went shopping! Yes, again. I know, I can’t stop. This was when I had to let the perfect pair nude pumps go because they didn’t fit my tiny feet. URGHS. Small size 34/35 feet can be such a pain sometimes. BUT. We went to Uniqlo where I grabbed some fabulous +J pieces. Seeing how the collaboration is going to end soon, I figured it was time to stock up on some of these gorgeous pieces. The bonus? They were on sale!

We got tired of shopping after a while (v old farts, we are) and headed to Brotzeit for a drink.

Weisbier with mango juice
Mini cheesy pork sausages
Foodnotes, Friends

Little Darling

The scope‘s done.
Nothing’s missing from my intestines.
Phew.
But there’s still the biopsy results pending and that’s gonna come later this week.
If nothing is amiss, it means that all this gastric nonsense stems from…MY BRAINS!
STRESS STRESS STRESS.
I’m so terrible at handling stress. Gah.
I was always meant to be a tai tai domestic goddess, I reckon.
Somebody tell that to husband, please?

(Also, the doctor said to me before putting me to sleep, Ah, you are the girl whom I thought was Japanese! Was v glad he didn’t say, Ah, you are the girl who flashed her knickers!)

**********

I spent one lovely Saturday morning with a girlfriend and her little one at The Plain.
I adore them both, they are the sort of people whom the world needs more of because they are wonderful, generous and full of heart.
Spending time with them always makes me feel lighter, brighter and better.

Taking a self-portrait
Our coffees
Perfectly poached Darling's Eggs, half-eaten

I liked The Plain very much – yummy eggs, nice coffee and cosy relaxed ambience.

Foodnotes

Happy meal #32: Chocolate cupcakes with macha frosting

To me, baking > cooking.

Cooking stresses me out sometimes. Maybe it’s because I know that if I screw up the meal, poor Mr Thick and I would have to swallow down the horrible food conjured by my own two hands. And subconsciously, I think the pressure comes from the knowledge that I have to feed a man whose own mother is the very incarnation of Asia’s Martha Stewart. Shudders.

But baking! Baking is about sweet treats and yummy delights. Baking is about having a cuppa tea with that slice of cake. I have been fortunate thus far to have made all the good things right, probably because they have all been safe choices. Yes, the washing up is a big Pain In The Arse but I think the rewards are worth the manual labour!

During my break from work in May, I managed to whip up a batch of chocolate cupcakes with green tea frosting: two of my favourite things in the world! Hot from the oven, the cupcakes were amazing and I was trying v hard not to cram the entire thing into my mouth. Like, OH NOM NOM NOM.

Not v glamourous, that. Thought I saw Mr Thick do that though, stuff the cupcake into his mouth. Hmm.

Chocolate cupcakes with macha cream cheese frosting
Adapted from Chockylit

What you’ll need for chocolate cupcakes:

  • 170g butter
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powdered
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How to make:
1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition.
3. Measure the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder into a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a measuring thing.
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Push down slightly and cover with batter using the back of a spoon.
7. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

What you’ll need for frosting:
(Portion has been halved because I didn’t want to frost everything)

  • 110g butter
  • 1/2 pack of Philly cream cheese
  • 1.5 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons matcha powder

How to make:
1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
3. Sift icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of matcha powder into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
4. Taste. Add more matcha if desired (I liked mine really strong)

ASSEMBLE!

Chocolate cupcakes with macha cream cheese frosting

These were some of the nicer designs that I piped. CANNOT PIPE FROSTING FOR NUTS. Sherie and R – help! (Also need help on photography please. I hate you both.)

Foodnotes

Happy meal #31: Mushroom + Bacon risotto

During my break from work, I made dinner for the two of us. And when I say I made dinner, it means that I cooked from scratch and not heat up stuff that was already in the fridge. There’s been a lot of that happening over the past month. Poor husband of mine!

I grabbed a pack of arborio rice from the supermarket one evening and decided to try making risotto. See, I have had Jamie’s Italy sitting on my shelf for the longest time and I haven’t tried any of the recipes till now. Decided to adapt his mushroom risotto and added bacon to the mix because, well, Mr Thick simply cannot live without meat. Tsk.

Anyway, my arm nearly fell off after that. Stirring that pot of risotto is so tiring! Was v glad I didn’t have to do the washing up.

Mushroom and bacon risotto
Adapted from Jamie’s Italy

What you need:
Risotto bianco
400ml litres stock (chicken, fish or vegetable, as appropriate)
1 tsp olive oil
A knob of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
40g risotto rice
1 wine glasses of dry white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
40g cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Roasted mushroom and bacon risotto
1 x risotto bianco (see recipe)
5 pieces wild mushrooms, cleaned and torn
2 slices of bacon
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and halved
A small bunch of thyme, leaves picked
A knob of butter
1/2 lemon
Parmesan cheese, for grating

How to make:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius.
  • Put the olive oil and butter into a large, heavy-based pan, add the onion, garlic and celery, and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.
  • Keep stirring the rice until it looks slightly translucent (about a minute). Add the wine and keep stirring.
  • Once the vermouth/wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft with a slight bite.
  • Towards the end of cooking the risotto bianco, you need to start roasting the mushrooms and bacon. Heat a heavy-bottomed ovenproof frying pan or baking tray until medium hot and add the bacon. Add the mushrooms and fry for a minute or two, until they begin to colour, and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, thyme and butter, and mix together. Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast the mushrooms/bacon for 6 minutes or so, until cooked through.
  • Remove the risotto from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Add half the roasted mushrooms and garlic, and stir into the risotto, adding a good squeeze of lemon juice to balance the flavours. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for two minutes.
  • Divide between the plates and sprinkle over the remaining mushrooms. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Mushroom and bacon risotto

Foodnotes, Travel

Hong Kong eats: Tai Hing

Mmm mmm mmm, more roasts coming your way!

Well, pictures of roasts anyway. This time, we found ourselves at Tai Hing Roast Restaurant, a recommendation of Cousin Ching’s colleague. Apparently, her colleague was on a business trip to Hong Kong and a local co-worker had taken him there for a meal. It was so good that he told Cousin Ching we MUST check it out. And check it out we did, one rainy evening!

The Causeway Bay branch that we went to was a like a hole in the wall eatery. Woe betide if you have four persons in the party – you’ll need to sit arm to arm in order to squeeze into a booth. Even with the just the three of us and mind you, we were all slim people, it was a bit uncomfortable.

But who cares? The food was delicious!

We each ordered the two-meats combination meal, which included a plate of vegetables and a soup. I opted for roast pork and roast goose. Even the soup, a run of the mill pork and corn soup, was so thick and yummy. I drained the bowl. The meats were nicely fatty and none too dry.

Me likey. Very much.

Pictures!

The order chit
Blanched lettuce with oyster sauce
My roast combi
Foodnotes, Travel

Hong Kong eats: Yung Kee

Despite its fame, we never had any intentions of dining at Yung Kee. I know, it’s famous blah blah blah but somehow none of us were terribly keen on the idea of eating there.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves in Central one evening, too tired to go anywhere else for dinner. Since we were in the vicinity, we decided to try our luck at the restaurant to see if we could get a table. We ended up waiting for 20 minutes! Bugger that!

But well, we were starving and our legs were like lead so we decided to stay and wait. Finally, we managed to get a table at about half past eight.

Hmm, what can I say about the food? It’s overhyped. Seriously. We had the so-called famous roast goose and it was…nice. Not great, certainly not as delicious as the one we had in Lei Garden. Everything was good but just lacked that certain wow factor.

The century egg starter was really nice though, especially when eaten with the slices of pickled ginger provided.

Yung Kee Restaurant

Our fish maw soup was a little bland, lacking the omph of a perfect Cantonese boiled soup.

Yung Kee Restaurant

The roast goose was nice but hmm I felt that I needed to dip it into the accompanying sauces for it to be palatable. With the Lei Garden roast platter, I was happily popping the meat into my mouth straight from the plate.

Yung Kee Restaurant

Okay, okay, so if I didn’t have Lei Garden to compare, maybe I would like Yung Kee too. Honestly, the food was good. Just don’t go to a Michelin-starred restaurant early on in your travels – it ruins your palate for everything else!

Foodnotes, Travel

Hong Kong eats: Yee Shun Milk Company

For this fantastic find, I have the lovely Miss Ene to thank.

I texted her back in the hotel room and she replied, You MUST go to Yee Shum Milk Company! Now, who am I to not listen to a fellow foodie’s advice? She’s even listed the directions of the outlet nearest to our hotel so one fine afternoon, we popped by for tea before Cousin Wan went to wash and blowdry her hair. It’s a complicated story. Well, not really. She just doesn’t wash her own hair so every time we go on holiday, she will be busily sourcing out hair salons to shampoo her coiffure. V vain but also v Fabulously Gorgeous.

The steamed milk with ginger was Super Duper Awesome. See, I love ginger. And this bowl of steamed milk was so gently pungent and smooth. I was happily slurping it down.

Cousin Ching had a bowl of chicken wings and beef noodles. That lady sure can eat. And she is so tall and slim! V v v jealous.

I decided to have a light snack and opted for the pork chop sandwich. It was YUMMY. The chop was nicely crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Deep fried goodness, mmm.