Foodnotes

Smitten by Smitten

I am a boring person. Once I find something that I like, I keep going back to it over and over again.

The same books. The same magazines. The same dishes. The same hair stylist. The same brands of clothes.

And once I discovered Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar – thanks to the recommendation of Yuling – I find myself wanting to go back there again. And again.

I like the unpretentious vibe of the place. The cosy and intimate set up. The friendly people running the joint. The good coffee. The delicious cupcakes from Plain Vanilla Bakery (hazelnut is my choice of poison). The fact that I can sit there for hours, and feel comfortable and at ease.

Is it any wonder why it’s the first place I think of when I am craving a good cup of java?

Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar
The Quayside
60 Robertson Quay #01-11
t: 98762347

Foodnotes

Happy meal #35: Baked cod fillet

Thanks to the generosity of my mother-in-law, our freezer has been stocked full of cod and salmon in recent weeks. The only problem was that I was either too tired or in too much pain from the posterior pelvic pain to actually prepare a home-cooked meal. And so the fish stacked up higher and higher in the freezer.

Last week, I came across a ridiculously simple recipe for baked cod and decided to try it. Holy cow! It was GOOD and I ain’t blowing my own trumpet. I modified the recipe a little and made it three times (yes, we do have that many pieces of cod in the freezer). And it tasted pretty damn good every single time. Even the carnivore in my home approved.

For those of you who are looking for fuss-free dishes that can be cooked up on weekdays, look no further.

(It doesn’t look very pretty – OKAY it’s the PHOTOGRAPHER – but it tasted better than it looked.)

Baked Cod Fillet
(Serves one)

What you’ll need:

  • A cod steak or filet
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Japanese mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs or panko
  • 1 tsp melted butter
  • Dash of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Sprinkling of paprika

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 220 degree Celsius. Place cod in a lightly greased pan or plate
  • Combine lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt and pepper in a bowl, and spread it over the cod
  • Sprinkle paprika on top of the mixture
  • Cover the surface with the breadcrumbs and then drizzle the melted butter over
  • Bake in oven for about 25 minutes
  • THAT’S IT!
Foodnotes

Thomas Keller’s Favourite Simple Roast Chicken

We had some friends over for dinner on Christmas eve and while I was thrilled to be cooking up a storm in the kitchen, I was also aware that I wouldn’t be able to spend too much time there, thanks to the nugget. If I am up too long on my feet, the back starts to creak and the calves begin to protest.

Pfft! There goes all my idealistic notions of being mobile right to the day I deliver.

To keep things simple for myself, I decided to roast up a chicken since you can’t really go wrong with that. And since I have had my ad hoc at home cookbook for a while now and haven’t really been utilizing it, I decided that we would have a Thomas Keller meal for the evening.

But while surfing the net for the roast chicken recipe found in the book at work one day, I chanced upon another Thomas Keller recipe that was even more alluring: the chicken needed no marinating and would require only salt and pepper for its flavour.

Say what? Sold!

On the day itself, I let the chicken sit in the open for a good two hours before drying it thoroughly with paper towels. I then trussed the bird for the first time in my life. Yes, I is noob cook who thought trussing was difficult but it really wasn’t at all!

When the oven dinged and I took the bird out, I was impressed. For one, the colour of the chicken was simply perfect. Secondly, the meat fell off the bone oh so easily. And when we dug in, everyone was amazed that I had used nothing but salt and pepper because it tasted that awesome. The breast meat was juicy and tender while the skin was nicely crisp. I thought we would have enough leftovers for chicken sandwiches for the next week but it was devoured completely.

Absolutely a winner!

Thomas Keller’s Favourite Simple Roast Chicken

What you’ll need

  • 1.3kg farm-raised chicken
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp minced thyme (optional – I didn’t use it)
  • Unsalted butter to taste
  • Dijon mustard to taste (I didn’t use this either)

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 230 degree Celsius. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird.

Now, salt the chicken – try raining the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a saute pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone – I don’t baste it, I don’t add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don’t want. Roast it until it’s done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I’m cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip – until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook’s rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be super elegant.

Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad. You’ll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it’s so good.

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