27 July 2007

Paw Paw Paradise

When J volunteered to bring drinks, I was expecting a few bottles of vino. I really thought that he might bring some special wine from Africa, or a particular wine that goes well with rich stews. So when he asked if I had a blender, and martini glasses, I was pleasantly surprised! I thought it was great that even the drink was specially concocted for the occasion.

Paw paws are more commonly known to us as papayas. The first time I heard of the word paw paw was from Stella and I thought it was a hilarious sounding name. I was never much of a fan of papayas when I younger, and would only venture having some if they were ice cold. Over the years, I've grown to love them (as I've grown to love other things like bittergourd and lady's fingers/okra). And while J made this pretty thick, there shouldn't be a problem thinning it out with a little more ice or milk. Heck, you might as well go all the way and indulge yourself with more rum.

It is essentially a cold papaya milkshake - adapted for adults. I know that my mum would make me drink this everyday (sans alcohol) if she could help it. She somehow thinks that papaya milkshakes are good for the ahem... slightly under-endowed. Erm... I don't see a difference, but then again I've only had it once.

You really should use papaya for this drink, but mangos will provide a good substitute if papayas are not available.

1 ripe papaya, peeled, cut into small chunks and pureed in blender
1/2 cup milk
1 cup dark rum
1 cup ice
2 tbspn sugar

Blend all ingredients together until smooth
Pour into 4-ounce glasses
Garnish with 1 strawberry each

24 July 2007

Jeeps, kakis... and Mutton Stew

Cooking from Africa is mighty challenging. When I started to think about what I could cook to the theme of AFRICA, I realised I hardly knew a thing about it. Of course I was thankful I had friends to share the brain work with, who would do their own little research on what makes food in Africa, African.

L brought the other stew for the night. While it was meant to be a lamb stew, it quickly turned into a mutton stew because he didn't realise how expensive lamb was going to be. Together with the dish came an ah-soh-like rave about how wonderful (and cheap) Giant hypermart is. Ask him where you can get some elusive ingredient you've been hunting down for ages and he'll quickly offer 'GIANT!'

Even though the lamb was replaced by its less regarded sister - mutton, the stew was scrumptious. I was heady with herbs and spices, but in a good way. The added chickpeas and sliced almonds brought with them some very welcomed crunch. This is really a labour of love as the mutton will be relatively tough until they have been nursed into resignation given sufficient time. Evidently, there are also many steps to this recipe, but I'm sure would be worth your while.

'Goes great with almonds! I've cooked this twice and I've always used a hotter oven and a longer time, otherwise the meat won't be tender.' - Lawrence

Serves 6-8
2.5 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch cubes
salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-large onions, chopped coarse
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
3 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp ground coriander
0.125 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2.25 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 can (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
6 fresh cilantro sprigs
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
0.25 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
0.25 cup toasted silvered almonds (optional)
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large oven-proof dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the meat so that the individual pieces are close together but not touching.
Cook, not moving the pieces until the sides touching the pot are well browned, 2 to 3 mins.
Using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until most sides are well-browned, about 5 mins longer.
Transfer the meat to a medium bowl, add another 1 tbsp of the oil to the pot and swirl to coat the bottom.
Brown the remaining lamb in the same manner, transfer the meat to the bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil and swirl to coat the bottom.
Add the onions and 0.25 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently and vigorously, scraping the pot bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits, until the onions have softened, about 5 mins.
Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 secs. Add the flour, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and cayenne (if using) and stir until the onions are evenly coated and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Gradually add the broth, scraping the pot bottom and edges with the wooden spoon to loosen the remaining brown bits and spices, and stirring until the flour is dissolved and the liquid is thick.
Stir in the tomatoes, apricots, bay leaves, and cilantro sprigs (if using) and bring to a simmer.
Add the lamb and accummulated juices, pushing down the meat to submerge the pieces.
Return to a simmer, cover the pot and put in oven for 1.25 hours.
Remove the pot from oven and stir in chickpeas. Cover and return the pot to the oven.
Cook until the meat is tender and the chickpeas and heat through, about 15 minutes.
If serving immediately, spoon off any fat that rises to the top.
The stew can be covered the refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Spoon off the hardened fat and bring back to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Discard the bay leaves and cilantro spirgs. Stir in the minced cilantro and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with almonds, if desired.
If you can't find boneless lamb shoulder, you can purchase blade or arm chops and remove the meat yourself. Figure that 4.5 pounds of chops will yield the 2.5 pounds of boneless meat needed for this recipe. A variety of fried fruits - pitted rpunes, dark raisins, golden raisins, or currants - can be substituted for the apricots. serve this over couscous or basmati rice.

21 July 2007

From the land of giraffes and hyenas... and Groundnut Stew

In this post, I spoke about the confluence of interests and passion. How finding a like-minded soul is such a beautiful thing. That the other two similarly fanatical friends - GM and P - were only going to be in Singapore together at the same time temporarily, was an opportunity I needed to seize before it slipped away.

By some stroke of luck, a couple of mutual friends had also just flown into Singapore either for their summer break or for to bask in Singapore's humid weather for good. GM helped arrange for a dinner potluck (on a weeknight, I wouldn't settle for less) and after some online discussion, we decided to take on the challenge of cooking from Africa.

It was serendipitous that two of the whole gang had been in Africa and stayed with a family for a while - long enough to pick up a recipe or two. One of which was for a Groundnut Stew. For some reason, the first image that popped into my mind was that of soft, braised peanuts floating freely in a thin sauce.

However, the stew turned out fairly thick but deliciously smooth. While you would assume it contained plenty of groundnuts, it actually did not. It simply contained juicy chunks of chicken, a few tablespoons of peanut butter, and a handful of peas thrown on top just before serving. GM graciously passed me the recipe, and while he hasn't exactly told me I could post it, it would seem terribly selfish not to share this with everyone else.

'There isn't really an "authentic" recipe I think. It was made for me in Ghana, and the recipe seems like what the cook told me was in it when I was there, so I think this is reasonably close. I also made some changes on my own, and much of it is to taste, so you can tweak the recipe as much as you like.' - GM

Served 6

500g chicken (I used chicken thighs), cut into small pieces
2 cups water
1/2 medium onion, quarter-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced (use a garlic press if possible)
1 tbspn minced ginger
Tomato paste,
2 tbspn 2 cups tomatoes, diced/minced finely (one can of chopped tomatoes with the liquid should do the trick)
Chili, minced, to taste (I used 2 large red chili)
Peanut Butter, about 4 heaped tablespoons (or to taste)
Some chicken powder (if desired)
sugar, salt and (white) pepper;
peas are optional (some recipes add okra or eggplant)

Sear chicken pieces, skin side down, on high heat, in 2 tbspn oil till browned.
Overturn and brown other side then remove from pot.
On medium heat, fry onion till translucent with 1/2 tspn salt, then add garlic and ginger.
When fragrant add tomato paste and fry. Then, add diced tomatoes and chili.
When everything is well mixed and fragrant, add water, deglaze, and nestle the chicken pieces in the water.
Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer.
Simmer for about 1/2 hour (to get the chicken flavour running).
Add peanut butter in batches to the mixture, stirring to get a thicker, more homogeneous sauce. (Some recipes suggest taking some hot liquid out, and adding the peanut butter to it, and then stirring it into the mixture. I don't really see the purpose of this so I'd omit this step.)
Add chicken powder (1/2 to 1 tspn), sugar (about 1 tbspn), salt (1/2 tspn), and pepper to taste.
If the mixture gets too thick at any point, add water. (I might have added more water than 2 cups, and I find reserving the tomato juice from the canned tomato is a great addition.)

18 July 2007

In The Mood For Food

I go stark raving 'mad' when surrounded by cookbooks. That just means I often prance excitedly towards the cookbook sections in Borders and Kinokuniya like a kid going to a candy store. I slowly scan through the sections, picking up new books that catch my eye or cookbooks by the latest chef-in-the-rage. My recent purchase is a bright pink cookbook with some really pretty pastel pink motifs sprawling over the hardcover.

While the colour caught my eye, the way the cookbook was organised kept my attention and kept me flipping through. It was organised according to our emotions. Lazy days, indulgent days, days you want to show off, days you just feel like something quick and casual, days when you want something soothing or comforting, or days when you feel you could do with a few pounds fewer.

In line with my mood for the weekend, and in preparation for a dinner with a couple of old friends, I chose some simple and comforting dishes from Jo Pratt's "In the Mood For Food". I didn't think fancy-schmancy food would fit the bill. I was thinking plenty of cheese, ham, butter and cream. I felt like something thick, smooth and chunky. And so it was that in my semi-lazy, I-want-to-let-my-hair-down-and-relax sort of mood, I chose a couple of easy recipes to play around with.

Sheepishly, I have to admit that while I initially balked at the recipe that used canned tomato soup to make, well, tomato soup, I still went ahead with it anyway. I was feeling incredibly lazy obviously. And my excuse was, well, I didn't have any. The recipe did however, come with some 'croque-monsieur croutons', which are ham and cheese sandwiches, toasted and sliced into little cubes. They were easy to prepare, cute, and easy to pop into your mouth. They didn't really go with the tomato soup the way normal croutons do but were great finger food anyway.

Mini Pot Pie Duo

For the mains, I copped out again and used store-bought frozen puff pastry to make mini pot pies. A Chicken and Leek Pot Pie recipe in the book called out to me while finding for a simple main course. I was worried however, that all that chicken, ham and cream would be too heavy. So instead of making one pie for each person, I broke that into 2 mini pies. I filled the other with a lighter tomato-based vegetable stew with smoked salmon bits and peas.

It was simply improvised from one of Jamie Oliver's recipes for a cauliflower dish. It just took plenty of peeled and chopped tomato chunks, onions, garlic and of course cauliflower florets. If I didn't have a clue about what order the ingredients should be put into the pot and for how long, and just added them altogether at once, I'm pretty sure simmering it until the cauliflower softens would still have yielded a pretty yummy vegetable stew to top off with a puff-pastry cover. In the end, the cauliflower with smoked salmon won the chicken and leek hands down.

And to end off on a sweet note, I flagged the crumble recipe. If there's ONE do-able dessert I had to recommend for people who feel instantly uncomfortable holding a whisk, it would have to be the crumble. Although Jo Pratt's crumble recipe didn't yield the kind of pastry I was looking forward to - buttery, literally crumbly and light - at least it satiated my sweet tooth. Replacing the mixed berries, I diced a punnet of strawberries and halved a big handful of grapes for a still luxurious and comforting dessert.

From Jo Pratt's In The Mood For Food
Serves 4

4 slices of white bread (brioche, if available)
100g gruyere cheese (I tended towards mozarella), finely grated
2 thin slices of ham
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Butter both sides of all bread slices and scatter half of the cheese over two of them.
Lay ham on top, scatter over the remaining cheese.
Add a twist of black pepper, top with remaining bread and press down firmly.

Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
Place sandwiches in the pan.
Leave for 1 or 2 minutes until th base is golden and the cheese is starting to melt.
Turn over and cook for a further minute, or until golden.
Remove from pan and leave to cool for 5 mins to make the croque-monsieurs easier to cut into cubes.

14 July 2007

The Mortar and Pestle in Southeast Asian Cuisine

Friends who've visiting my home know what an absolute sucker I am for kitchen tools and gadgets. My latest kitchen accessory is actually something I just bought a few hours ago from Pantry Magic (Chip Bee Gardens) - Salt and Pepper Grinder. I have been lusting after it since I first lay eyes on it, and that to me is a sign that our souls belong together.

You know how sometimes you're tempted to buy something but do not know if it is really worth your every dollar? Yet when you walk away from it you find yourself haunted by its image, its smooth curves and gorgeous colour? That's when you know you just have to get it or you'd never be able to have a good night's rest. And that's how it was for me and my bright red salt and pepper grinders.

But I digress.

The thing is, I have almost everything I really need to make things from pasta and bread to ice cream and waffles. But there are certain things that never crossed my mind to add to my collection of tools. One of them is a mortar and pestle set, and for many reasons. It is incredibly heavy, bulky, chunky, and requires much work. Compared to my snazzy looking brushed-steel food processor-with-20-horse-power-engine, the grey and rough mortar and pestle just looks dismal.

Yet, I felt like I had to give the mortar and pestle a chance. There has to be a reason why even after the invention of the food processor, many great chefs are still pounding their herbs and spices. And so when the National Museum's Life and Living - Food and Culture series came about, I readily went for the Mortar and Pestle class held by Christopher Tan (food writer and proficient pounder among others).

Frankly, if not for this workshop, I would never have stepped into the National Museum. A short tour of the Food section in the National Museum has effectively gotten me hooked. I never knew how funky and edgy the National Museum had become and fully intend to head back one day to walk through the exhibits at my own leisurely pace.

If not for this workshop, I would never have learnt the effectiveness of a mortar and pestle - how best to pound your food, and in what order. How different types of mortar and pestles suit different types of pastes and why. We learnt how to make a 2 sauces from scratch and learnt the 'science' behind the mortar and pestle.

Ideally, this is how cooking classes should be. They shouldn't just teach you what to do, but why we should do it that way. We should be learning things along the way, or I might as well just stay at home watching cooking shows.

The Food and Culture series has only just begun and I'm already thinking about which other part to go to.

10 July 2007

A sip of tea

I love unwinding after a frantically hectic day at work. Today I swore to leave the office at 6pm, and I did! When I arrived home to a home still slightly softly lit by the evening light, I rejoiced at the feeling. Usually when I open the door, my mum would be watching tv and would ask me if I wanted to have some leftover dinner. This time, I could greet my parents when they came home!
To finally stop, take stock of life, and ponder about the next dinner party over a tiny pot of tea - feels supremely good. I really love dinner parties at the end of the week. It gives me something to plan for and look forward to throughout the week. It keeps me sane, and keeps my home (somewhat) neat.

08 July 2007

French from French

I can still remember the huge relief I felt when I wrote the very last word, for my very last exam paper in University. I remember the lightness of being I enjoyed, walking back from the exam hall to my hostel. Despite all that happiness of having finished studying for good, and despite the fact that the past 15 years of my life had been just for that one scroll, I didn't attend my very own graduation ceremony for my 15 seconds of fame. As it was held in UK and it would have been astronomical to pay for my parents' tickets over and attending the ceremony without them would have been a little pointless.

So perhaps to make up for it a little in some warped way, I've been attending all my close girl friends' graduation ceremonies. Of course, being the photo-geek, I had been tasked to be the official photographer for the day. Not that I'm complaining, really. It gives me something to do while the star of the day relishes in her accomplishment, finding more similarly accomplished friends to take photos with.

Prawn Cocktail Salad

As Addy and her other half had their commencements (convocation, graduation, tomayto, tomahto) over the weekend, we decided that we'd get Val and partner together as well for a dinner celebration. Though it was also an excuse for me to stop thinking about work, which was mighty effective!

Admittedly, I had half a mind to call it off because I was simply knackered from fighting fire the entire week before. However, looking at Addy's beaming face, and Val's expectant face as we talked about dinner (in particular her DIY Creme Brulee), I could not bear to.

Despite sleeping late the night before, I rose early and headed to Cold Storage to stock up on ingredients for the French themed dinner. I conveniently picked a few easy recipes from Damien Pignolet's French to attempt for the very first time. While that made me feel a little apprehensive, I decided to just have absolutely faith in the recipes which have not failed me so far.

So for starters, the simplest of all entree recipes in the book was a prawn cocktail salad. With two extra set of hands, it was a tremendous breeze to make. I prepared the Marie-Rose sauce an hour in advance, had my girlfriends boil, peel and refrigerate the prawns, thinly slice the crisp and cold iceberg lettuce, then assemble. This whole thing ran on autopilot while I took my time arranging the bread bowl and prepping the mise en place for the second course.

While whipping up the Marie-Rose sauce (think Hollandaise sauce with tomato puree), my surprise turned to slow horror as the more olive oil I drizzled in, the thicker and more firm the supposed sauce became. I should have stopped at 100ml, but carried on like a girl whose fingers had been burnt from too many wrong decisions based on gut-instinct.

Besides that though, it was mostly 'to taste', to which I responded by being a little heavy handed on the salt since it was meant to go with plenty of finely sliced lettuce. Super refreshing, with a hint of the earthiness and almost floral scent of tarragon, and a cinch to prepare. Perfect to start off dinner parties on the right footing.

Pictured rather fuzzily here would be our second course of pasta. I had intended to make Grilled Duck Breasts but had problems finding for duck breasts sold by itself. It seems I have to buy entire ducks to get their breasts (heh) at NTUC/Cold Storage/Sheng Siong. So I gave up and switched to the easiest of all dishes - pasta.

Briefly roasted tomatoes (to the point of bursting, but not quite) with a small bottle of anchovies, some basil and plenty of portobello and white button mushrooms. Bucatini (long, tubular spaghetti) was introduced to me by my brother, and was disturbingly fun to eat. The cooking time is reduced, and when al-dente it is almost spongy. Val suggested (jokingly I assume) that if we ate bucatini the Japanese way (by slurping your noodle as loud as possible), we might end up whistling.

We then had stuffed (with pistou) tuna with potato and caper salad. I would never have made pistou before, but had a change of heart ever since the Pestle and Mortar class I attended at the National Museum just a few days before, that deserves an entire post in itself. It really was gratifying at the end of it, and surprisingly painless. And it has gotten me eyeing a certain mortar and pestle by now.

The tuna and potato with caper salad was a light interlude before the DIY Creme Brulee was brought out. May I just say at this point how absolutely fun it was, to let everyone torch their own! Not many of my friends have ever held a torch in their lives or even heard of the word 'caramelise'. So to have fine sugar crystals melt, bubble and morph into amber syrup then harden into a delicate, stained glass hiding some rich custard beneath, was a first for them. Served with a choice of vanilla or chai tea ice cream, it was a memorable finish to our dinner.

From the previous two tries, this version of creme brulee was a vast improvement. I got the recipe off the Baking and Pastry book from the Culinary Institute of America, that involved some stovetop cooking as well. But there's still plenty of room for improvement. While it was now soft, and virtually falling apart on the spoon, it was rich and thick. What I have been trying to achieve is something resembling a milk jelly - soft, light and incredibly smooth. I have a feeling I will need the help of some gelatin to achieve this effect, or using milk to replace some of the cream I used. My quest shall carry on!

Prawn Cocktail Salad
Adapted from French - Damien Pignolet
Serves 6


24 medium prawns (1.2 kg)
1/2 an iceberg lettuce, washed and sliced thinly (keep chilled)
6 lemon cheeks (chilled and sliced just before serving)

For Marie-Rose sauce
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped into 4 parts
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 egg yolks
100ml olive oil
lemon juice
1 tsp tomato puree
1 knife tip cayenne pepper
1-2 tbspn chopped tarragon leaves

Place half the prawns in boiling water for a few minutes or until it turns entirely pink.
Immediately remove from water and dunk in ice water.
Repeat for the other half.
Peel the shells off the prawns, leaving the tails intact.
Devein, cover and chill in fridge.

Rub garlic cloves around the inside of a bowl.
Whisk mustard, egg yolks and a pinch of salt together.
Drizzle in olive oil in a thin stream while whisking vigorously.
Add tomato puree, cayenne pepper and lemon juice (to taste).
Season with more salt if necessary.
If too thick, dilute with some water or chicken stock, 1 tsp at a time.
Add 1 tbspn tarragon leaves and chill sauce.
Just before serving, add additional 1 tbspn tarragon leaves.

To serve:
Fill a glass with lettuce.
Dip 3 prawns in Marie-Rose sauce and lay on top of lettuce, then top off with one unadorned prawn.
Add one lemon cheek to each glass and serve.

05 July 2007

Cooking from Europe

Mozzarella and Prosciutto
The joy of meeting people who are just as crazy about cooking as you are (though I think I am pretty mild) is just impossible to describe. Most of the times, I try to hold my tongue when in fact I wish I could share my excitement at having perfected Creme Brulee (which by the way I haven't, but have to by Sunday), or at having discovered this fantastic waffle recipe that beats any waffle I've ever eaten. That is because I would then very uncontrollably launch into a high-pitched speech on the technicalities of cooking or how I so feliticiously decided on giving the recipe a go.

But to meet someone who doesn't only indulge me by listening intently to my every word, but also tell me that he has been trying various egg tart recipes for the past five days? Now that's seriously insane. Insanely wonderful.

To meet another who gets just about as excited as I am about cooking, and mulls over the potluck theme as long as I do just adds to my happiness. Then bringing these two individuals, GM and P, together and inviting a spunky old friend, SY, at a tiny potluck made for such an enjoyable dinner. This is the precise dinner I referred to in my previous post. The one that was so long, but too short. That knocked me out till the next day when I was meant to shave.

SY and I looking really blur, literally. Courtesy of P.

After much ding-donging back and forth through emails and sms-es (did I mention we were all a little crazy about cooking?), we finally settled on cooking from a single continent. This would give us plenty of leeway to get creative. I decided that SY would do the starter since she is possibly nowhere near as manic about cooking as the other three of us are, though always game to try the latest kid on the block.

It was incredibly heartening to know that since SY returned from US, she had not stepped into the kitchen. And that her first time handling real food, was for us! As she stepped through the door, she bore luscious balls of buffalo mozzarella (alliteration on the wrong words!) and paper thin prosciutto. The combination of which brought back beautiful memories of Rome where I had tucked into a platter of prosciutto wrapped mozzarella. If I'm not wrong, it was drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with a special combination of herbs her mom had.

Glorious Moussaka

P decided on a Moussaka, most closely associated with the Greeks or Turks. Moussaka always has eggplant but may contain almost anything else imaginable. The Moussaka P concocted by bringing two recipes together had pork mince, egg plant, onions (all the crying was worth it), tomatoes, yogurt, eggs and cheese. As the sauce bubbled away and spilled over the deep dish in the oven, I couldn't wait to work through the crisp top layer to the soft and oozy mince at the bottom.

Paella with Prawns, Chorizo , Red Peppers and Peas

I'm sure GM hummed and hawed as long as I did to choose what to cook for the dinner. He finally settled on Paella (Spain), for which he used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen (the irony!). This website is pretty cool though, and suits GM's style of cooking to the T. Like a science experiment, he would go through the recipes and stick to the recipe as closely as is humanly and financially possible. So even though I had a paella-like pan that would have passed off almost perfectly as a paella pan, he chose to use my Staub cast-iron dutch oven instead simply because the recipe said so.

Perhaps it was because he used the Dutch Oven or perhaps it was just the recipe. A crunchy layer of paella formed at the bottom of the cocotte, just like what you would find at the bottom of your traditional claypot rice. I really enjoyed that part the best, and found out that GM had to put it over the stove for a little just before serving in order to achieve that effect. So having the patience to allow your food as much time it needs to blossom definitely pays off.

Pour, close till golden brown and serve.

As for my little contribution, I took the easy way out and prepared all the ingredients one would need for some DIY Belgian Waffles. Waffle batter, check. Salted Caramel Sauce, check. Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar, check. Vanilla Ice Cream, check. And I am not tooting my own horn, but I've really never tasted any waffle as good as that. It was so crisp on the outside (partly because it was eaten straight out of the waffle pan), and incredibly light and airy inside.

Drizzle Salted Caramel, top with ice cream and tuck in.
Certainly helped that the caramel was smooth and not too sweet, that the strawberry sauce was chunky with a slight tang, and that the vanilla ice cream was rich, smooth and delicious. The accompaniments just had to be prepared a day in advance, and the waffle batter in the morning. This would leave you plenty of time to go for a leisurely swim, shine your silverware, set the table and enjoy the rest of the evening.

While scanning the web for waffle recipes, I could not find one that would promise light, crisp waffles. That is until I decided to google yeasted waffles. Deeply embedded in one of the nooks of my brain sat 'yeasted waffles = crisp waffles'. So when I read this article, I couldn't wait to jump straight into it. Though it is a little time consuming, I swear it is worth it. At this time, I am not inclined to attempt any other waffle recipes but this one, over and over and over again.
For Yeasted Waffles click here.

02 July 2007

Over and done under 10 Minutes

In ten minutes, what I took many months thinking about, was over and done with. Up to now, I still walk around thinking I still have a full head of hair, until I catch my odd and unfamiliar reflection in the mirror or habitually raise my hand to stroke my ponytail.

The night before:
I thought I would be too excited/nervous/horrified/regretful to sleep, but I was too worn out from a great dinner party at my place that I just collapsed into deep, deep slumber.

The morning:
I woke up at 9, remembering that I was to meet Fel for 'The Last Brunch'. We headed to Marmalade Pantry to catch some Mushroom and Spinach Tart. I still felt like this was any other Sunday. I stopped by the Thai Festival at the Thai Embassy, bought a dress and was on my way. I didn't want to be late, but I certainly wasn't rushing to shave my head.

At Novena:
The gravity of the deed dawned on me and hit me hard.

I saw many clean shaven heads walking around me, with a few women among them too. Phew, I wasn't alone. Oh dear, that's how little hair they're leaving behind?

I queue up, register, change into my 'Hair For Hope' T-shirt. Shucks, I should have taken the 'S', but I'm almost always an M or an L. Let me fold up my sleeves, at least I'll look better.

I walk out and see Fel there, waiting for me with a camera in hand. "Last photo before you shave!" Oh dear, so it is.

I start queueing to shave and realise my friends and family aren't here yet. I stand around and wait, meanwhile I try to look down, pretending to look for something in my bag as I tear a little. Why are there tears?

My grandma comes and excitedly gives me a hug, introduces me to a friend of hers and wishes me good luck. Soon, everyone is here and there's no other reason for me to delay. I walk up the stage and my heart suddenly quickens double speed. Badaboom, badaboom, badaboombadaboombadaboom.

I sit down, feel the shaver contact my scalp and immediately, tears stream down my face as I sheepishly smile and wipe them away. I try not to think about it, close my eyes and think about how the little ones must feel. How this is kind of loss is nowhere near what they have to go through.

I finally stop crying and realise how many cameras are on the shavees. A couple of strangers were even taking a video of my entire process and I wonder if I could collect some royalty fees for that if they post it up online. My hair'stylist' gives me a rub on my head and tells me I'm done. But I know my ponytail is still left. I give a nervous laughter and tell him he's 'siao'.

When it is finally done, the tears have dried up and my friends shower me with words of encouragement. Photo after photo was taken and I got a shock when I saw my photo on the camera viewer.

It definitely takes a little getting used to, and I still feel as if my hair is still there. But it definitely feels a little cooler, my hair dries super quick, very little shampoo is needed (or should I be using shower gel?) and I can't wait for it to grow out so that I can try funky hairstyles.

Of course, more crucially, I managed to raise about $4000 (at last count) in total. And I hope the little ones feel the support everyone is giving them.

In Oscar Awards Ceremony style, I'd like to thank everyone for being so generous with their donations and encouragement. For those who would still like to donate, the online donation website is still up. Just search for Daphne Yuan and donate via your credit card. OR, contact me at amoebamoron@gmail.com to arrange to donate through other means. I'll be keeping my pledge card till 14 July 2007!