28 May 2007

Tea For Four

Support me in my bid to raise money for the Children's Cancer Foundation through Hair For Hope 2007. Read more about it here.


Catching up with girlfriends over tuna mayo sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches and onion relish open face sandwiches couldn't feel more chic. Add cranberry/raisin scones and pseudo-treacle tarts to the menu and the gathering over tea was complete. It wasn't perfect, owing to the treacle tarts that never were due to some mistrust of a certain recipe. But more importantly, it was a simple enough menu to prepare in a few hours, and fuelled us more than adequately for a long evening of gossip.

Simple Strawberry Jam
When a menu whittles down into something so simple - sandwiches and a dessert, I tend to look at even the simplest of things that we often buy off the shelves.
Mayonnaise - while requiring just a tad more effort on your part, is definitely not overly complicated and is extremely gratifying when something so ethereally light and delicate has been achieved. Combine it with tuna flakes for incredibly tasty and fluffy tuna-mayo sandwiches.
Strawberry Jam - is usually almost as easy to make your own jam than it is to buy from the grocery stores. It is important to add slightly less sugar than is required in the recipe however, just in case you don't have a sweet tooth. I'm still learning how to adjust it to the average person's tastebuds since I am known to have a really high tolerance for the sweets.

Bitter Spiced Marmalade

If you have slightly more time to spare, you might want to consider making a Bitter Spiced Marmalade. Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me remember where I got the recipe from, and what the exact proportions were for the recipe. It did require a fair amount of time, simmering the oranges for 40 minutes to remove some of the bitterness commonly found in the skin, and chopping them before simmering them with sugar and spices.

However, I still found it a worth my time at the end of the day. I am slowly beginning to appreciate incorporating some of the bitterness of oranges in desserts, and in this case jam. It was a great counterbalance to the sweetness and spices (admittedly, I may have been a little heavy handed with the cinnamon and cloves). I also kept it rustically chunky, although a part of me was also inclined to keeping it in big chunks to save me a little bit of time and effort.

My girlfriends may have preferred the strawberry jam to the marmalade, but my mum and I finished the marmalade in no time in the following days. Always, always make a little more jam than you think you need for the day, so that you can have a sublime breakfast the next day.

Luxurious homemade jam with freshly baked, crisp, flaky croissants (get them frozen Swiss Bake - Takashimaya, Cold Storage Guthrie House/Centrepoint/Holland V/KAP) surely cannot be faulted.

27 May 2007

Dapur Babah

Support me in my bid to raise money for the Children's Cancer Foundation through Hair For Hope 2007. Read more about it here.


Considering the amount of time I spend with Fel, it would be silly not to visit her hometown at least once. So when I was assigned to travel to Jakarta as part of my study trip, I embraced the opportunity. I certainly didn't get much help from her though, when I asked about the places worth visiting and food worth eating. "Jakarta is very dangerous! Just stay in your hotel!"

Thankfully, there was the Kris Flyer Magazine on the plane, with a few restaurant recommendations. One of which was Dapur Babah elite, a restaurant peppered with odd and interesting artefacts. The description of the place and food certainly whet my appetite enough to convince a gang of about 14 to come along.

We might have been a little too rowdy, but the service staff did everything within their means to make sure that we got everything we needed and wanted. Even though one of the menus almost caught fire, and even though we didn't order any dinner sets after having gotten them to print dinner set menus for each one of us, they still accomodated us throughout our meal and smiled as we walked out.

Great service aside, the food was incredible. A selection of Javanese, Dutch and Peranakan dishes fill the menu, with some rather amusing English translations. The prices were really reasonable, and absolutely worth your dollar.

Ironically, I remember the rice with most fondness. Ironic on two levels, because rice is often just the side-kick of any meal, and because I have never been inclined to filling my precious and limited stomach space with rice. However the rice at Dapur Babah stole very much of the limelight on my plate.

Of course, the other dishes were also outstanding. Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to keep one of their menus, and cannot remember the names of the dishes that I managed to try. One of the two desserts that we managed to try was both intriguing and yummy at the same time. It had little chewy bits (almost like tang yuan/glutinous rice balls) floating in a light and slightly salty coconut broth.

I find it a great plus that they even have a separate vegetarian menu. It is a restaurant worth visiting, even if you only had 3 hours to spare in Jakarta. I really can't think of any restaurant in Singapore that is anything like Dapur Babah in terms of atmosphere.

Dapur Babah élite
Jalan Veteran I / 18, Jakarta Pusat 10110
Tel: +62 (21) 385 5653,
Fax: +62 (21) 385 3040

21 May 2007

Hair For Hope

Alright, here's when I really need all your attention and help.

I'm going to be BALD. Have I got your undivided attention now?

I really need your help.


Every year, the Children's Cancer Foundation organises a 'Hair for HOPE' event, getting volunteers to shave their heads to support their cause.

In essence, it is a publicity stunt to raise awareness, as well as funds that will go towards improving the quality of lives for the chlidren and their families. It is also intended to be a sign of support for the little ones going chemotherapy sessions and facing hair loss - this was the trigger point for me in my decision to shave my head.

As you can imagine, making the decision was a tough one. Going through with it will definitely be tougher. As the date to shave my head looms nearer, I can already feel a sense of dread. But I hope that with all your support, this action of mine will be a worthwhile one.

My Cry For Support

Here is where YOU can help me, or more specifically, children with cancer -I would be OVER THE MOON if you could donate as generously as possible.

Sure, if you all decide that supporting me would be a waste of your time, I will still go on to shave my head. But I'm hoping you'll agree with me that the extra $100 sitting in your wallet would be better spent on the Children's Cancer Foundation than on that designer shirt/dress (or atas meal for some of you) that you've been saving up for the past week/month/year.

How To Donate

1. Visit http://www.ccf.org.sg/hfh/webApp/listShavees.php, find for DAPHNE YUAN and donate using your credit card. (It would also be good to let me know via email -see below- how much you've pledged online, just so I can let Santa know who has been good this year)


2. Email me at amoebamoron@gmail.com with the amount you're willing to donate, and your name. I'll make arrangements with you to collect the donation from you after I receive my pledge card on the 20th June.

Where To Catch Me Bald

1 July 2007 (Sunday) at Velocity@Novena
Time will be updated via website: http://www.ccf.org.sg/hfh/index.php

There is of course, no minimum amount that you can donate. Still, I hope that my action (i.e. shaving head) will provoke you guys into digging a little deeper into your pockets.

If you're still not convinced that this is not worth your time/effort/money, email me and give me a chance to tell you more about this cause that I feel so much for, that I am willing to sacrifice my long locks for.

Please do help me help them!

Rest assured that I will give everyone the blow-by-blow account of the entire experience, from the night before the event to the moment the electric shaver is placed on my scalp.

With love,

20 May 2007

(Somewhat) Sad News

My laptop has finally thrown in the white towel. After years of massive photo-downloading, relentless blogging, and slave-driving (through the nights for assignments due the following morning), my laptop has blanked out, and refuses to start up. I can't even see the photo of Chocolate Macarons that I had kept as my wallpaper since the day I made them (which is really long ago).

As I type, my sweet, sweet brother is hunched over my laptop trying to salvage it. Alas, the light at the end of the tunnel is diminishing.

In other sad news, my bunny Moka fell ill while I was away. He had been pooping uncontrollably around the house (before that, he usually scampers back into the cage to poop), and running around our feet in quick circles, sometimes both at the same time. Although this doesn't sound like anything more than ill-discipline and mischief, I can assure you he is typically more docile than that unless provoked by my growling brother. He (Moka) has gotten better though, and is now a happy camper back in his old hideout.

Still, I wish I could give him some home-baked treat. It doesn't make sense that I can cook for the people I love but can't for the bunny I adore. If anyone has any recipe for bunny treats, please share!

01 May 2007

F-Stop Cafe

I haven't been making much ice-cream lately, the last excuse being the inability to get hold of my usual 1 litre carton of whipping cream. But 4 litres of whipping cream later, my ice-cream production is still nought, zilch, nada.

I have, however, been dreaming up of different flavours and presentation. Between two slices of shortbread, as pseudo-popsicles or simply in a pretty little glass with plenty of childhood toppings. (Thinking up of dinner or lunch menus has become a great digression to keep me awake during terribly boring talks that I've had to attend in the past few weeks.)

Yet, an experience at a little-known cafe along South Bridge Road managed to humble me with just one spoonful of ice-cream. While I had been mentally putting together unique flavours, I had gotten sidetracked from the fundamentals - texture. On my flight back from Hanoi (another entry on that another time soon), I managed to catch an episode of Heston Blumenthal's teevee debut - In Search of Perfection. In it, not only did he went in hunt of great tasting milk for the base of his ice cream, he also emphasised the importance of (ironically) icy-free ice cream. He waxed lyrical about how using nitrogen helped him turn creme anglaise into flawlessly creamy and smooth ice cream.

But at F-Stop Cafe, the ice-cream was not just smooth, it was 'chewy'. So 'chewy' that it resembled pizza. It was deliciously dense, and like a rose bud, took its time to blossom. It lingered in my mouth, leaving behind the lightest layer of chocolate perfume. The grape flavour had tiny bits of grape, was similarly 'chewy' and not at all like the other artificially sweetened fruit ice creams I've tried. The texture of Rum and Raisin was slightly different, most probably due to the addition of rum, which is resistant to freezing. Perhaps using 'chewy' to describe ice cream is a little baffling, but I'm pretty sure that if you try it yourself, you'll agree with me that 'chewy' is an apt description.

I have not spoken to the ice-cream maker himself to find out the secret, nor have I been able to re-create the texture, but rest assured it is on my list of things to do before I die. As far as I know, the ice-cream is only available in that shop. The F-Stop Cafe is a photography-cafe, where photographers can gather and talk all things technical without feeling like nobody understands. Apparently, Singaporean Canonians and Olympians gather there regularly discussing photographs, new upgrades etc...... My motivation for now is purely limited to the ice-cream, and I fully intend to conquer each flavour.

Cafe F'Stop

17/19 South Bridge Road.

Walk down along Jazz@South Bridge

Hazelnut Shortbread

Everytime I endeavour cookies, I tend to pick those whose dough keeps well in the chiller or freezer, so that I can retrieve them for any emergencies. By keep well, I mean that they can be pre-shaped but would not require too much space in the refrigerator. Friends who have taken a peek into my refrigerator sometimes get a little (perhaps slightly understated) taken aback by how packed it is. It is probable, however, that with just some proper organisation (something I swear to get down to in my lifetime), my refrigerator can be trimmer.

Digression aside, all that means that shortbread cookies that are shaped into logs, refrigerated and sliced only before baking have a permanent place in my repertoire of recipes. Flipping through Gordon Ramsey's Just Desserts on one of those rare slow nights, I spotted a simple enough recipe for Hazelnut Shortbread. Coincidentally, I had all the necessary ingredients at the moment and started working on the dough immediately.

I shaped it into 4 logs, that I have since used up on different occasions. As after dinner souvenirs for girlfriends, as a post-lunch accompaniment to Gryphon's vanilla sencha tea, as a way to show my appreciation or care, or simply to let my mum know that I love her (Mothers' Day is coming up, and one can never start giving too early).

Buttery, crumbly, delicately thin and rich, with the amazing aroma of hazelnuts, they disappear almost as quickly as they are baked. I had already tripled the quantities, but still wish I had made a few more logs to leave behind for my family as I'll be overseas for the next week or two.

I have had friends comment that my family must feel so fortunate to have an almost loony daughter who would bake way past midnight just to destress, as they get to enjoy the foods of my labour. But I realise that I usually share these with my friends more than I do with my family, and they sometimes get a wee bit neglected.

I guess it is never too late to repent.

Hazelnut Shortbread
From Gordon Ramsey's Just Desserts
Makes about 20

200g plain flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
125g unsalted butter, softened
90g caster sugar
1 large free-range egg, beaten
50g finely ground roasted hazelnuts

Sift flour with salt.
Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
Gradually work in the egg.
With the mixer on its slowest setting, add the flour a spoonful at a time, then the nuts.
Stop mixing as soon as the dough comes together.
Lift the dough on to a sheet of cling film.
Shape into a roll, about 4cm in diameter and wrap well.
Chill for at least 2 hours until firm.

To bake, preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius.
Slice off rounds of dough, 5mm thick.
Place on a non-stick baking sheet and prick lightly with a fork.
Bake for about 20 minutes until very pale golden.
Leave on the baking sheet for a minute, then lift on to a wire rack.
For a classic appearance, sprinkle with sugar as they cool.

Dough keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator, or for yonks in the freezer - just let it defrost in the chiller section overnight or at least a few hours. If dough is too hard to slice cleanly, dip knife into a cup of hot water and wipe dry with the kitchen towel before slicing.

Dinner Munching (Part III) - Fruit Tart

In making this tart, I was stepping way out of my comfort zone. This is not just the mud-is-seeping-into-my-shoe kind of discomfort, but more like the rolling-around-in-mud-with-worms-swimming-in-my-hair (which I had to do once in primary school at a nasty camp) kind of discomfort.

I never liked the rubbing-in method that I had first learnt about in secondary school. When Miss Amy Goh demonstrated it, I thought it incredibly unhygienic that our fingers had to muck around in the dough for such extended periods of time. This also sort of explains why I bake few breads, and when I do, I use my bread machine that relieves me of any contact with the dough. Before any rubbing-in or kneading, I never fail to sanitise my hands as much as I can, short of exfoliating the entire outer layer of my skin.

Being an extremely tactile person (which explains my fascination with all things furry), one would think I would take to rubbing-in like a (daffy)duckling to water. Still, I find myself skipping recipes that call for any hands-on work, literally.

During dinner, I told Jac that the last time I made a tart was in secondary school, but it had slipped my mind that I did actually make an apple tart more recently (2 years ago) in Paris. However, unlike many tart/pie recipes, that recipe did not call for too much direct contact with the dough except for the part where we have to roll out the dough and line the tart pan. Also, my aunt had a beautiful and huge wooden table, absolutely conducive for rolling or kneading, but that is unfortunately something I lack at home.

However I figure that there's no running away from tarts or pies all my life. Instead of running away from it, I decided to face my fear. This is also how I came to decide upon the politics part of my degree, and I'm glad I did it.

Similary, I'm glad I made the fruit tart. I am also glad that I left plenty of time to prepare for it during the day. While the pastry cream used to fill the tart up could be made, cooled and refrigerated beforehand, and the fruits could be added just before serving, the tart cases needed a fair bit of work.

You'd need to rub the butter into the flour, lifting your hands as high as you can manage without coating your kitchen with a fine layer (if you are lucky) of flour, mix the water and egg yolk into the flour mixture with a knife until a dough comes together, turn the dough out onto cling film, refrigerate or freeze (depending on your needs) it, roll it out between two pieces of baking paper, line your tart pans (I used 4 small individual tart pans), place some crumpled baking paper on top and fill with pie weights (or rice), then bake, and remove to cool.

And to think I took the recipe from a dessert book that is more tailored for the busy cook, with little time to spare. They did not have to tell me not to overwork the dough since the last thing I wanted was more playing with the dough, which got more tricky to work with the longer it was out of the fridge and under my irritatingly warm fingertips.

But the final result was truly rewarding, and can be attested by my girlfriends' praises. Not just for the pastry cream, which I had made before and loved for its taste and easy preparation method, but also for the crispy and crumbly tart base.

These individual tarts were more elegant and easy to serve compared to big 8-10 inch tarts. But this is definitely something I would make only if other parts of the dinner are much less involved.

Sweet, Rich Shortcrust Pastry (for fruit tarts)

From Sweet Food (Murdoch Books)

Makes 375 g worth of shortcrust pastry, enough to line the base of a 23 cm pie dish or 5 small round individual tart pans


250g plain flour, 125 g chilled butter (chopped into small pieces), 2 tbspns caster/icing sugar, 2-3 tbspns iced water, 1 beated egg yolk


Sift flour and 1/4 tsp salt into a large bowl.

Add chopped butter and rub it into flour using fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in sugar.

Make a well in the centre, add in egg yolk with iced water, and mix with a flat-bladed knife, using a cutting rather than stirring action. The mixture will come together in small beads of dough.

Add more water if necessary, a tsp at a time, until dough comes together. Test the dough by pinching a little piece between your fingers - if it doesn't hold together, it needs more water. Use just enough to hold the pastry together - if it is too wet it will toughen and may shrink on baking; if too dry, it will be crumbly.

Gently gather the dough together and lift out onto a lightly floured surface.

Press dough into a ball and flatten slightly - don't knead or handle the dough too much.

Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until large enough to cover the base and side of the 5 tart pans. Remove the top sheet and invert the pastry into the tins, allowing any excess to hang over. Trim with knife and prick the base several times with a fork.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes, place crumpled baking paper over and fill with pie weights or beans. Then bake for 15 minutes in a 200 degrees celcius preheated oven, or until crisp, dry and lightly golden. Allow to cool.

For Fruit Tart: Fill with pastry cream, decorate with raspberries or other mildly sour fruits. I thinly sliced apples, fanned them out, sprinkled sugar over them and caramelised the sugar with a blow torch. Let your creativity loose with this tart.

Dinner Munching (Part II) - Fish and Spinach

Sorry for the bad photograph, I'm still learning how to take photos in low-lighting with my camera without it appearing grainy or blur. It certainly doesn't help that no matter how I try, spinach puree cannot be made to look appetising.

However, it was the spinach puree recipe that I spotted first in Damien Pignolet's French. Instead of being enriched with cream and plenty of butter, transforming spinach into something absolutely heavenly but unbelievably unhealthy, it simply required pear puree.

Damien Pignolet recommended eating this with steamed or pan-friend fish, a piece of advice I took up but looked to Jane Lawson's Cocina Nueva for. Her Almond Crusted Hake piqued my interest, but was tweaked to include ground hazelnut instead of ground almond. It was breaded in the afternoon and chilled until just before serving where it needed 3 minutes (and then some) on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish. Even the spinach puree could be made in the afternoon and reheated just before serving.

This was especially useful because it left me plenty of time to prepare dessert, which required much more time, patience and effort.

I quite like the spinach puree and agree that it goes well with fish. Being a little fruity, it was definitely different and possibly a great way to get children to eat their greens by actually making spinach tasty, without negating its health benefits with cream or butter. The fish had the most wonderful aroma while being fried, and a delightfully earthy hazelnut taste.

Unfortunately I have learnt to be a little smarter and informed about my choice of fish for future use. As all the fish were labelled in Chinese, I had no idea what kind of fish I was purchasing and relied only on price to differentiate quality. I would have preferred a more tender, flaky fish to go with the puree. Embarassingly, I still don't know what I had served my girlfriends!

Spinach and Pear Puree
From Damien Pignolet's French
Serves 2-4

100g pear, such as Beurre Bosc or Packham, peeled and cored
400g spinach, well-washed and coarse stalks discarded
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few gratings of nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
a few drops of lemon juice

Boil pear until soft (10-20 minutes) then drain.
Boil spinach in plenty of quite salty water for 5 minutes until very soft.
Drain well and press out most of the moisture with the back of a spoon- the spinach should not be too dry.
For the smoothest result, puree the pear and spinach in a blender rather than a food processor.
Add the oil and season to taste, adding the lemon juice to freshen (do this only just before serving if you're preparing this in advance).
This very special recipe is adapted from Michel Guerard's Cuisine Minceur, a book dedicated to 'lean cuisine', as we would call it today. I like to serve it with steamed or pan-fried fish, and it is also excellent with roast partridge or guinea fowl.