Sunday 28 October 2012

Apple Cake - The Ugly one

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I've a lovely colleague R who keeps feeding me in the office, chocolate, cakes, crisps etc and she also sometimes gives me fresh curry leaves or green chillies when she goes for her bi-weekly shop at a Sri Lanka Supermarket. Recently, she gave a big bag of cooking apples plucked straight from her garden and so I went searching for an apple recipe! The first recipe I came across was one that was approved by Paul Hollywood, a baking 'superstar' in the UK so if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. ;)
This is a very easy and tasty recipe though a little ugly looking. :P  When eaten on the day of baking, it has a lovely crusty biscuity top, when left overnight, the top will soften but the cake itself becomes even more moist and delicious, as the flavours starts to amalgamate. The demerara sugar adds an additional texture to the already lovely cake!

Ingredients (Adapted from here)

225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
110g soft brown sugar
Sprinkle of demerara sugar
2 eggs
130g light olive oil
400g cooking apple

1) Put the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl.
2) Beat the eggs and stir this, along with olive oil, into the bowl.
3) Spread half in a greased cake tin, cover with apples, spinkle some sugar over the apples then cover with rest of mixture. Sprinkle more demerara sugar on top.
4) Bake at 150C for 1 hour or until nicely crusty.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Slow Braised Pork Ribs

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Don't you just love a stew with a gravy that's so good that you'll be more than happy just to eat that with rice? With tender meat literally falling off the bone? If you answered YES and YES, this dish is made just for you!! ;)
It's easy to put together but it has a cooking time around 2 hours to allow the ribs to cooked till it's so so tender. Flavoured with warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon and star anise, it's definitely one that's well worth the wait!

Adapted from Cheat Eat
Ingredients(Serves 4)

800g pork ribs or soft bone (cut into 5cm pieces with fats trimmed off)
2 tbsp oil
40g galangal (cut into chunks)
40g ginger (cut into chunks)
1 tsp coriander seeds (pounded)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 tbsp bean paste
12 cloves garlic (leave skin intact and crushed)
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1tsp five spice powder
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp corn flour

1) Place pork ribs in a colander, pour boiling water over it and drain well. The purpose here is to clean the pork ribs and gets rid of any gaminess.
2)Heat up oil in a heavy bottom pot. Add the galangal, ginger, coriander powder, cinnamon, star anise and bean paste. Fry the aromatics over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Bring up the heat, add the pork ribs to the pot and continue frying for 5 more minutes. If it gets too dry and the spices are starting to blacken, sprinkle some water in the pot.   
3) Add garlic, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, five spice powder and sugar to the pot and mix well. Pour in enough water or stock to just cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to very low, cover and cook for about 2 hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Remove any scum that might appear.
4) Mix corn flour with some water and stir it into a paste. Add this mixture into the pot and mix well. This helps thicken the gravy. Bring the gravy to a boil and add more dark soy sauce and/or sugar according to taste. Serve with rice and green vegetables.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Breast Cancer, Willow Foundation, Fat Duck and Me

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It's Pink October or Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast Cancer Awareness is a cause that's close to my heart as I unfortunately had to go through treatment for it and yes! I've kicked it in the a***!!!! I've been wanting to raise some awareness about Breast Cancer on my blog and looks like its the right time for it now isn't it? ;) I'm still not too sure about how I'm going to go about writing this so please forgive me if I start rambling on as it's not the easiest of experiences to share. 

I was diagnosed in Sep 2009, aged 32(yes, you now know how old i am. haha), a pretty young age to be told that one has Breast cancer(BC), however I was not alone as there are quite few ladies around that have shared the same experience as me. Being told that I had BC was one of the worst things I ever had to hear, I went through all sorts of emotions and there were so many questions that no one could answer... Why me!?! What did I do to deserve this?? No one could say the right words during the 1st few days of finding out  as I wanted to just be alone and not talk about it. I remember my lovely breast cancer nurse telling me that Breast Cancer is the 'best' cancer to get as it has one of the highest survival rate and my immediate thought was... I don't care!!! I just don't want it! I don't want to go through Chemo! I don't want to lose my hair, i don't want to wear a wig, it's not happening!! etc etc etc. It totally screwed everything up. I was suppose to get registered for marriage within the year, I had holidays booked so everything had to be put on hold. At this point I would like to thank my awesome fiance at that time and now loving hubby for sticking with me all through the treatment period. 

Something my mother said kinda woke me up a bit. I had to accept it and fight it! Simple yet made so much sense. I then drowned myself listening to sermons CDs by Pastor Joseph Prince, my home church, New Creation Church in Singapore and within the week, I felt much better about things and was ready to do whatever it is I had to do.

First all sorts of tests had to be done, ultrasound, CT scan, Bone scan, blood test etc, a tiny procedure was done to insert a Portacath, a kind of valve or catheter that's inserted below my collar bone to assist in the administration of the chemo drugs. Thank God the cancer didn't spread to the other parts of my body and was just isolated in the breast. 

My amazing mum almost immediately flew over so she was here when I had to start chemo and was taking care of me throughout my treatment.16 rounds of chemo I had to go through. I lost all my hair, was nauseous, had tummy problems, lost weight, was perpetually tired, had hot flushes but there were drugs to help with the nausea so it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. There was also surgery, radiotherapy, herceptin treatment to go through so it was a very long process and I was off work for 10 months, mostly stuck at home as blood count was low and i could pick up viruses very easily. Come to think of it, I don't know why I didn't start my blog then since I had so much time on my hands. Oh well! Too late for that now. 

As my energy levels were still low after all the treatment, I had to do a gradual return to work starting from just 2 half days a week to working full time again. This took me around 4 months and I'm blessed that my company understood and allowed me to do it in this way. 

I've been back at work full time for 2 years already and somehow, the whole episode seems like almost a distant memory. Even now, my energy levels isn't like what it used to be before treatment so I still have to listen to my body and rest when it tells me to. Am still taking medication that has some side effects, there are also some things that I've to be more aware about but I won't bore you with the details. :) I got through this only with the support of my family, friends especially my mummy and hubby. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for what they've done.

Ok, that might have been a little long winded but please, please, please, ensure and encourage your loved ones as well as yourself to go for regular mammogram checks once you are 25 or above. I hope that I'm not scaring you and I also have no desire for anyone to go through what I've been though but it's always better *touch wood* to detect things like this earlier as there may be less treatment to go though to get rid of it and there will also be more options available. 

So what had the Willow Foundation and The Fat Duck have to do with this? The Willow Foundation is a charity that provides days out for seriously ill 16 to 40 years olds. Please visit the Willow Foundation website to find out more about what they do and how they have lifted the spirits of many others and myself! When my chemo nurse first told me about it towards the end of my treatment, I asked if I was eligible for it as I wasn't exactly seriously ill but someone from the foundation approached the Chemo team at the hospital and told them that patients who have undergone breast cancer treatment were welcomed to apply for a day out.  I had always wanted to make a trip to the Fat Duck for a meal since I came over to the UK but had been unsuccessful in getting a reservations even after quite a few attempts so I said that I wanted a meal there as a day out and they made it happened! I had to wait a few months, which I didn't really mind as they had to wait for someone to make a last minute reservation. When the time came, the Willow Foundation made the reservation at the Fat Duck and booked us into a nearby B&B for one night. This outing came at the right time as I had just completed all my treatments and it was a great way to celebrate!!!! I was also way excited that I was finally making my way to the Fat Duck!

Here are some photos of my stunning 4 hour meal but take note that I was there in April 2011 so the menu should have changed since then. 
Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast
Oak Flavoured film
Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast
Iberico Bellota Ham, Shaved Fennel
Rhubarb, Braised Konbu and Crab Biscuit
"Mad Hatter Tea"
"SOUND OF THE SEA" with edible sand made of tapioca and eel. Bubble/Foam was from a seaweed and vegetable stock.
Artichoke, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe

Blood Pudding, Risotto of Spelt and Umbles
Blood Pudding, Risotto of Spelt and Umbles
HOT AND ICED TEA.....Right half was warm, left cold!
Neroli scented Yogurt and Rhubarb Sorbet
Kirsch Ice Cream and the smell of the Black Forest
Whiskey Gums
THE QUEEN OF HEARTS she made some tarts.
white choco with a thin layer of jam and olive biscuit in it.
Heartfelt thanks to the Willow Foundation for making this wonderful meal happen!
And without being too naggy, please book yourself for a mammogram test too. :)

More information on Breast Cancer can also be found at the following

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Hainanese Chicken Rice

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Originating from Hainan, China, Hainanese Chicken Rice, a very popular dish, was brought over to Singapore by immigrants and have evolved to what we see being sold in almost every corner of Singapore! Tender, succulent chicken served with fragrant rice that has been cooked in chicken stock, accompanied with a soy, sesame oil dressing as well as a spicy homemade chilli sauce makes for a very, very satisfying meal. 
Chicken rice recipe adapted from I am a Feeder and Chilli sauce recipe adapted from Feast to the World
Ingredients (Serves 2)
For the chicken:
2 free-range whole chicken legs
Bunch of spring onions 
2 pandan leaves, tied into a knot
4″ knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
Water (see method)
Sea salt
Large bowl of ice water

For the rice:
1.5 cups of rice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2-3″ knob of ginger, peeled and finely minced
2-3 tbsps vegetable oil
1-2 tbsps Sesame oil
1 pandan leaves, tied into a knot

For the chilli sauce:
6 large fresh red chillies
2 small clove garlic
5cm fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar

To serve:
Half a cucumber, sliced
Garlic chilli sauce (above)
Sesame oil

1. Rub the chicken legs all over with the sea salt, then place into a large pot with the spring onions, pandan leaves, ginger and add enough water to cover the chicken legs completely. 
2. Bring the pot to the boil over a medium-high heat, then turn it right down to a simmer and skim off the scum that floats to the top. Don’t allow the stock to boil again or it’ll turn cloudy. Simmer for around 20-25 mins, removing any more scum from the top. When you chicken is cooked, remove immediately and plunge into the bowl of ice water. Strain the stock and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat, then add the finely minced ginger, garlic and fry until fragrant – be careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the washed rice and stir, making sure the rice is well coated, the ginger and garlic distributed and the grains are beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add about 1-2 tbsps sesame oil and stir well until evenly distributed.
4. Pour the rice mixture into the rice cooker and cook it as per normal, using the chicken stock instead of water
4. To make the chilli sauce, put all ingredients into a blender and pulse into a paste. Season with salt to taste.
5. To serve, plate the rice, cold chicken, sliced cucumber, achar and garlic chilli sauce. Mix 1 tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tbsp of sesame oil and drizzle it over the chicken. 

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