Saturday, December 29, 2007

Read in December 2007

Veronica - Mary Gaitskill
Slightly depressing but oh, the writing is good.

The View from Castle Rock - Alice Munro
Alice Munro is always amazing.

The Nasty Bits - Anthony Bourdain
The Las Vegas episode was showing on Discovery Travel a couple of days after I read the chapter and after that, I couldn't get Bourdain's voice out of my head when I read the rest of the chapters. Always entertaining, although some of his earlier articles were (and he does point this out in his end notes) rather pompous.

The Romantics - Pankaj Mishra
His descriptions of India were such vivid and colourful ones, that makes me want to take a trip there. But the main character lacks, er, character.

Forever a Stranger and Other Stories - Hella Haasse
Forever A Stranger sort of made some of the journal/book articles written by anthropologist Ann Laura Stoler come to life. Didn't read the Other Stories.

Bad Vibes - Alberto Fuguet
Kind of like Catcher in the Rye but based in Chile. Entertaining.

Forever a Stranger and Other Stories - Hella Haasse

Friday, December 28, 2007

It was a good year for reading

104 books, (don't ask how) some of them cookbooks, some technically for school. Some thoroughly enjoyable, others requiring patience. Some made my stomach growl and my fingers twitch, others put me off certain foods (only for a little while). I will always have my favourite re-reads, but I will always look forward to that new find.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Leiths' Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies (from the Leiths Baking Bible)

225g butter, softened
170g light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1 egg, beaten
340g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cloves

1. Beat the butter, sugar and molasses in a bowl until fluffy. Gradually add the egg, beating well between each other addition.
2. Sift together all the remaining ingredients, except the icing sugar, into a bowl. Stir into the butter mixture.
3. Press the dough into a flat layer between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper. Chill for about an hour until firm.
4. Heat the oven to 190 deg.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 5mm thick for slightly soft cookies, or thinner for very crisp cookies. Cut out cookie shapes and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving 4 cm between each cookie. Chill until firm.
6. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 8-10 min or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Cool for 1 min, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


When I get back from the library, with a gleeful new stack of books, it takes me a while to figure out which book to begin with.

I like to open each of them and have a read of their first line or two.
So here they are:

"I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother's house the summer I was eight or nine, but I'm not sure if it really did happen."
Anne Enright, The Gathering

"My name is Robinette Broadhead, in spite of which I am male."
Frederik Pohl, Gateway

"I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975." Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

"Don't call me a fairy. We don't like to be called fairies anymore."
Keith Donohue, The Stolen Child.

I think I might go with The Stolen Child, which is Keith Donohue's first novel. Scotland on Sunday calls it "sparklingly quirky... wistfully elegiac". Promising.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

gingerbread things

I made gingerbread people - a man a woman and a brat. Oh and some trees, a couple of ugly hearts and a blob.

This year I used the recipe from Leiths Baking Bible (which is going on my 'to buy' list), which was a bit harder to roll out than the recipe I used two Christmases ago. But it is also more buttery and a bit more tasty. The old recipe (which my mum had been using for ages) required golden syrup, which tends to result in a crunchy biscuit - I prefer softer, slightly chewy biscuits so this new recipe does it for me. I'll have to figure out how to roll it out better next time though. I'll try to put up a recipe soon. But my cookie cutters are still the same as before so in the meantime, please revisit the suicide family.

Next up from Leiths - cinnamon biscuits perhaps?

And in other cooking adventures, I churned out a sangria and a Bill Granger Brownie on Saturday morning, hopped out to Au Petit Salut at Dempsey for a set lunch (snails, salty duck confit, chocolate and hazelnut custard), meandered my way through the puddles back home to cook mussels (For 1.5kg of mussels, use 250ml white wine, chopped garlic, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil, and a bit of pepper. Chuck into a pot, steam till the mussels open), and a chickpea/bacon/spinach warm salad, and a cold salad of butterhead lettuce and cherry tomatoes. My mom made her seafood paella, and when the guests arrived, we poured out the rather strong sangria, offered two types of olives, sliced bread and tada, a Spanish-inspired dinner for a Saturday night.

Listening: Tina Dico - One (from In The Red)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Taking stock 2007

It's been a long year.

It's been a good year. I got my Masters, I bid farewell to my room with a view and to falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing (and to waking up at 3am to the sound of bottles breaking or drunken louts yelling), and I came back to find that so much had changed (was I thinking that the whole world would stand still while I went off to do my thing?). I started a new job that enabled me to use some of what I learnt at school and learn some more, with a nice boss whose only kink is 24/7 Blackberry-ing. It took me a while to get used to that gaping hole at Scotts and the new massive developments all around. It took me a while also to get used to the weather but the constant rain has been pretty welcome. When I came back, I went into recluse mode for a while, because I didn't know what I was doing here (I still don't but I've decided to not let that bother me for now) and I turned down various invitations to things and haven't yet met up with some friends. But recently I've been forcing myself to get out more, although I still cherish my daily loner routine of my favourite sport - reading.

It will be a good year (for travelling at least). I haven't seen R since June, but having used Northwest's (bleh) early bird special to pick up a cheap-ish flight to SF, I'll be there for 3 weeks in Feb - and hopefully see my sister too. And in January, I'll be in Hong Kong for 9 nights for work - but it's starting to sound like a packed schedule with interviews planned for the very day we land. But if anyone has any good eats (or other travel tips) for SF and HK, let me know (and no, I don't really like krispy kreme, and can't really afford the French Laundry right now, but I do have my eye on Chez Panisse).

I hope you've had a good year and may 2008 be a great one. Happy holidays. Happy eating.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

so near so good

Thanks to this post by Popaghandi , I had a great time on Friday night at the oddly named Smokinn Frogz at Bukit Timah.
The concept is a modern kopitiam, with a nice bar that does great (and cheap!) beer, a western stall and so far a North Indian stall (no pictures, too dark)

It was confusing at first. We had our drinks (2 pints of Stella Artois for just $14!) and were handed two menus but the waitress wouldn't take our orders as we had to go order at the respective food counters. I ordered a salad with tomato and avocado ($5) and a calamari ($7) at the western stall. And at the Indian stall, a cheese naan and a garlic naan, a meat curry with capsicum, and a chicken tikka, which came to the very low total of $14. Unfortunately they don't do pakoras (although it is listed on the menu) as they don't sell well.
Later, another pint of Stella and one of Hoegaarden came to $15. It looks like they have several bottled beers as well.

The food was good. For a $5 salad I was expecting cheap iceberg but it came with a nice variety of leaves like rocket and butterhead. The calamari was nice and lightly fried and came with a tartar sauce. The naans were not too overpowering with the garlic and the chicken, oh the chicken was great... it was described as a chicken tikka but it tasted more like tandoori, and it was so tender and just really delicious (I felt bad that we weren't able to finish it as we had ordered far too much). The guy who took our orders (never got his name but I presume he's the owner) said sometimes customers pay him more than is owed as they feel that his prices are too cheap. And indeed they are.

Here's a tip, go before 730 on Friday as by that time all the tables were taken up and so were the free carpark lots. Oh and test out the chairs before you plonk yourself on them as some of them are secondhand ones from the Salvation Army. One guy's chair came crashing down - in pieces - just as he sat on it.

Cheap beer, good food, free parking. And all just a five minute drive from my place. Who knew?

Smokinn Frogz (or something to that extent)
879 Cherry Avenue