01 January 2007

Dip it in

I've been incredibly busy this past week (what's new?) with dinner parties and gatherings in our newly redecorated home. Though I should really qualify that statement by saying that only the living and dining room has been massively changed while the rooms have remained exactly the way they were.

Of course it goes without saying that I would never let a bout of redecoration pass without having it sweep its magic through the kitchen as well. Little demolition was done, the kitchen has been well equipped with more shelves, a foldable table giving me the much needed extra working space for plating during service, and most notably among others, a reasonably priced oven that works like a dream. Actually it is possible that compared to my two-in-1 microwave cum convection oven, anything would be a dream to work with.


For the group of girlfriends who have stuck with me since the days I donned my blue uniform and white bolero, I had planned my most elaborate dinner party to date. I sent out e-invites, named the party a 'NewMas' (go figure) Celebration Dinner and gave it a Kim Gek theme that only SCGS girls would appreciate. Thankfully, Addy volunteered her help and the party went smoothly - it had better be considering that we spent three days prepping for it. I hardly even broke out in a sweat, except when having to crank the pasta machine, and we had a couple of hours before guests were due to arrive for us to freshen up, pour ourselves a glass of sparkling white wine with strawberry puree each and indulge in some chin-wag.

Thinking back to the same gathering the previous year, I still marvel at how I survived. An incredibly ambitious menu with no help at all and little preparation before the day itself was a sure-fire route to failure. My girlfriends were being overly kind when they talked about how the Chestnut Ravioli was great. Yeah sure, if you happen to love extremely chewy, thick and irregularly shaped ravioli skins. They are really such dears.

In any case, Addy was such a blessing to have with me in the kitchen and absolutely conscientious in every task she carried out. Without her, I would probably have grown a whole tuft of white hair as a result of the dinner. The only pity is that I lost the SD card that I used to take photos of some of the food. I really hope they are not at the mercy of Moka's digestive juices at this very moment. Perhaps then it is fate that I am not meant to have a pictorial log of what we managed to serve our 5 beautiful girlfriends that night.

The Menu

Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil Foam and Slow Roasted Tomatoes (a tried and tested recipe that I knew would not fail me)

Beetroot Pasta with Beef Stew

Truffle Risotto

Red-Wine Poached Pears with Homemade Cream Cheese Ice Cream, Pink Meringue finger and Chocolate Canele

Fleisher Family Hornchen Cookies and Pink Meringue Kisses (to doggie bag home)
A more recent dinner was a countdown dinner that my family decided to throw for my extended family. A couple of families were missing, making the crowd very manageable. It was also turned into a potluck just to make administration and preparation a little less hellish for us.
A few days before THE night, my brother and I mulled over the few cookbooks that I have, to choose an appetiser and a main to prepare. He seemed extremely excitable while talking to me about what we could or should do, creating a mild lovely tingly sensation in my heart as I adore talking to people about food and even more so my very own brother. (A short digression - he has requested that I teach him how to bake buns, poach eggs and make a hollandaise sauce tomorrow just so that he can prepare his very own eggs benedict!)
On THE morning, we went to Tekka Market together to purchase fresh herbs, vegetables (from Chia's veg supply, where else?) and meat then went home immediately to begin the preparation. While I had expected his help in the kitchen, remembering how thrilled he seemed while talking to me about possible dishes to prepare, I had NONE on the day itself. Granted, he had his room to tidy, but so did I! Anyway, I somehow managed everything alone and fell even more deeply in love with my new simple oven that I would never have been able to survive the day without.
I had made the Oolong Tea Steeped Pork Belly, that is yet another tried and tested crowd pleaser, along with a variety of dips for bread and table water crackers, and more Fleisher Family Hornchen Cookies to doggie bag home. I am a little (understatement!) embarassed to admit that I cheated a little by buying a bottle of cheese dip instead of melting my own cheese.

From top: Pomodoro, Pesto and Tomato Chilli Jam

That aside, the dips were each well received and no clear favourite stood out. I presented a rather effortless Rosemary and Thyme Pomodoro Sauce (that got my dad's vote), a strong Pesto Sauce (my mum loved this) and a Tomato Chilli Jam (my brother and I enjoyed this the most)alongside the Roasted Garlic Cheese Sauce. Breads were purchased from Simply Bread, and Corduroy and Finch at 6th Avenue along Bukit Timah Road and everyone loved them.
The Tomato Chilli Jam was almost as effortless as the Pomodoro to create. All you need is a good blender, the few simple ingredients and a pot, and you're good to go. I'm really glad I made quite a fair bit of each such that we had some leftover to enjoy the next day. This recipe was taken from The Cook's Book under the 'Flavourings' section contributed by Peter Gordon from New Zealand. I only suggest being a little less generous with the sugar if it is used as a dip, and perhaps even as a jam for your morning breakfast. Peter Gordon also recommends this as an accompaniment to 'roast lamb or pork, used to glaze a filet of fish under the grill, or in a sandwich of goat's cheese, rocket and avocado'.
The night was fun, clowning around with my cousins and doing the customary exchange of well-wishes with all my relatives at midnight after the loud counting down. But due to my perpetual activity through the night, I had little time to reflect on the year that had just past. It is only now in my quiet room (other than the incessant whirring coming from my laptop), at 536am on the second day of the year, that I have begun thinking albeit in my half-conscious state.
THE PAST YEAR saw me finally attain the paper that I had been working towards for the past 15 years of my life. It was a little anti-climatic though, since I did not attend the ceremony that would give me my five seconds of fame, but that does not discount the significance of the slip.
In my personal state of affairs, I had gone through major upheavals. Departing from close friends I had lived with so closely in UK for the past three years while being finally reunited with those back in Singapore. Getting to know an amazingly talented, personable and overly generous couple.
The couple of work experiences that I had gone through taught me much, made life a more interesting and allowed me to meet people I would otherwise probably have never been able to get to know personally.
On the homefront, I now have an additional member of the family called Moka, who has also adopted some very amusing nicknames such as Fei Zai (fat boy), but the winner has got to be 'Chief Shitting Bull' courtesy of my dad. The home is now a joy to come home to, and the kitchen very welcoming to cook in unlike before. My family has definitely come together a little closer as a result of the concerted effort, though that is not to say we made it through without some healthy argument. My cousins have also all bonded through a Big 81st Birthday Bash that we threw for our dear grandmother, slideshow, red and gold decorations and the whole works.
The year has definitely been thoroughly eventful, and I can only hope that this spanking new year will be just as fulfilling. Already, the first day of the year started out on the right foot when I spotted a pair of rainbows in Clementi while I was walking towards the MRT station. I marvelled at it for the little while that I could afford without being late for my appointment, felt the ends of my lips curl upwards and a sense of peace settle over me.
And here is the first recipe of the year:
Tomato Chilli Jam
Makes about 500g
500g very ripe tomatoes
2 thumbs of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
3 tbsp nampla (fish sauce)
4 fresh serrano or other red chillies, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
300g caster sugar (I used 250g)
100ml red wine or cider vinegar
Blend half the tomatoes, the ginger, and fish sauce until smooth.
Chop the remaining tomatoes into 1cm dice.
Put all ingredients in a deep pan and bring to boil, stirring frequently.
Once mixture boils, reduce heat to a simmer for 30-40 mins, skimming off any foam during this time and stirring every few minutes.
Jam is ready when it thickens and becomes glossy.
If left to cook and poured into sterilized glass jars, they can keep in the refrigerator for 2 months.


S said...

Happy New Year, Daffy! I just know you have a fabulous year ahead of you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! =) Happy New Year to you too. I'm sure you will have a fantabulous year ahead of you as well.