Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tomatoes, Sugar High And Crime

Somehow we bought a big bag of tomatoes a couple of days ago and we put them to good use immediately.

G made a bruschetta with the tomatoes, coriander, garlic marinated with balsamic vinegar and olive oil on toasted fig and barberry bread from the Bourke Street Bakery this morning for brekkie. G topped his off with a poached egg.

For dinner tonight, I was thinking of a Thai noodle salad. I decided to use a similar bruschetta mix and throw in some mussels (these came marinated in lemongrass and ginger which was perfect for the Thai dish) and add them to some rice vermicelli. It was light and refreshing, especially since we had a big sugar high at tea time with lemon tart, chocolate tart with a raspberry compote and scones with strawberry jam and cream, at Y's place which turned out to be some sort of a real-life drama as we arrived at his condo estate to police blockades, TV cameras and blue and white police tapes.

We were informed that this was a crime scene and that we should get our friend to come down to get us since the whole estate was blockaded. G suspected that there had been a murder, and I was concerned that the murderer was still on the loose. It turns out that there had been a fatal fall involving a young couple, the woman had died at the scene while the man was seriously hurt after both plunged from the balcony. We somehow had the impression that the police was still looking for someone who had already left the crime scene.

Perhaps somewhat hardened to crime in the city and all around us, we turned back to the sweet comfort of our desserts and pigged out.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Few Successes

I have never had a falafel until I moved to Sydney and met G. He who loves Lebanese food, could not believe that I have not been introduced to the wonderful world of falafels. The falafels at Xeno on Crown Street are the best, even in my limited Lebanese food experience because they are moist and plump and freshly made only when you place an order. When you bite into one, the yellowish-green inside is just heaven. For a meal, I like the falafel roll, 3 fat falafels nesting in a piece of Lebanese bread with dollops of hommus, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions (I opt out of onions), tabbouleh and fresh mint leaves.

Simple, cheap and a great snack or meal in itself. And an exposure to new culinary experiences.

From tasting like home-made to really home-made is this fish pie that G made for lunch today. We had an abundance of sweet potato and pumpkin mash and I suggested making a shepherd's pie except not with meat. Well actually I wanted it with meat like a REAL shepherd's pie but G wouldn't come over to the dark side, so G made a fish (fisherman's?) pie, making a bechamel sauce for the fish and topping it up with the mash. Another success.

I felt like some baking therapy tonight and made some (adult) kahlua-flavoured cookies. Mmm, a taste of this experiment shows that this too, was a success.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Enduring Memories

This was the home that mum grew up in. This was the place I spent months of school holidays, where from a child's warped perspective, we peered through the hole in the wooden floorboards on the second level, down at the people walking on the five-foot-way below.

This was where we called out to the tock-tock noodle man as he cycled by with his stick hitting the wooden piece making the familiar tock-tock sound announcing his presence. This was where we bought colourful, home-made nonya kueh peddled by the Indian man wearing only a white dhoti, balancing a tiered, rattan basket on his head housing a myriad of delicious wares. This was where I waited for the soya bean milk hawker pushing his cart up the street, to buy a cup of black soya bean milk or a bowl of smooth soya bean curd, only realising after years had passed, that the blackness came from brown sugar and not coffee. This was where I experienced buying a ball of packed shaven ice, like a snowball, doused with colourful sugar syrups, holding the almost painful coldness in the palm of my hands and trying to eat it before it melted away. This was where every evening, I listened out for the toot of the hand horn of the bread man and handed out my coins in return for a sweet bun filled with butter cream.

This was the place for the memories of my childhood culinary pleasures, simple as they were. Perhaps it was because they were simple, that's why they were such enduring memories...

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

BBQ Marathon

And so we did it. A 9-hour BBQ marathon that began at 1 pm and ended at 10 pm when we sent off the last guests, well-fed and watered, into the night. A success. But we weren't that sure to start off with...

First there was the debate of cooking 2 different meals - lunch and dinner, for 2 separate groups (total 14 people) vs a BBQ marathon. Good sense finally prevailed and we went with the BBQ marathon. It would have been even more stressful to design and cook 2 different menus, I am not sure if the kitchen (or the relationship) would have survived the pressure.

We did our planning and preparation work on Friday night and Saturday morning. We heaved bundles of veggies, ice-cream and other nibbles back on Friday night and I started work on the curry, seeing as curry always tastes better after it has the chance to sit overnight for the flavours to seep in. It had to be a veggie curry, as we had to cater to a couple of vegetarians, so I made a Malaysian-style curry of eggplants, zucchinis, carrots, tomatos, onions and chick peas. Along with veggie shopping, was a bunch of pink flowers to liven up the room.

Saturday morning saw us scurrying around Chinatown, buying little veggie and peanut dumplings for the vegetarian entree (I've already taken care of the chive and pork dumplings for NORMAL people) and 3 different Thai desserts. That saved us a bit of work. The seafood was next - we got fish, squid, baby octopus, prawns and scallops. Several of our meat-eating friends had offered to bring sausages, while we bought a pack of veggie sausages.

G was in charge of the cooking on the balcony, while I was in charge of cooking indoors and serving food and replenishing drinks. Food and drinks flowed endlessly until we finally gave up at 4 pm and could eat no more.

With the second round of guests arriving at 5 pm, we had a brief respite before we conducted an encore performance. And finally we got to the finale. After the first round of dessert of the little Thai cakes and jellies, we seduced the dinner guests with a promise of an adult-version ice-cream, which was a chocolate and honeycomb nougat ice-cream liberally doused with kahlua and topped with shaven dark chocolate flakes. The dinner guests, stuffed as they were by then, could not refuse this offer. The lunch guests were left out of this as we had completely forgotten about the ice-cream after they had their Thai desserts. The adult-version dessert was a resounding success. People ask for an extra shot of kahlua, neat. We finally sent off the last group at 10 pm, happy and stuffed to the gills, staggering to catch their cabs home.

And with warmer weather coming our way, we can all look forward to more BBQs with our friends, celebrating summer, friendship and life.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Pendolino At The Strand

Some managers are generous with the company's money, some managers are generous with their own money, and then some are generous with neither. I've encountered all of the above in my 15-year career.

A couple of months ago, G's manager gave him a $150 budget to take me out to a nice dinner on the company's expense. Now, isn't that a really sweet gesture? Rewarding an employee by extending it to the employee's partner, will endear him to me, no doubt. Especially when the gesture involves a good meal.

So we had a quick discussion as to where we should go and decided on Pendolino, an Italian restaurant in the city, in a lovely Victorian building, well-known for its wide variety of olive oil used in its dishes.

The ambience was nice, the lights were low - in fact too low to take any decent pictures for this entry. In particular, I liked the shadow play on the wall where a wall lamp with a vine and floral sculptural feature made interesting patterns. The floor to ceiling shelf full of wine bottles forming a partition was also a practical yet aesthetic feature.

We were brought a couple different types of bread, a sourdough and an olive bread, for dipping into their famous olive oil. And for starters, we had oysters in 2 styles and a tuna carpaccio which was delicious and pretty to look at, with little flecks of green and dark brownish-red herb and veggies (species unknown) interspersed throughout.

I had the entree sized spaghetti with the barrumundi fillets and wild king prawns for my main, while G picked a pumpkin and some other veggie lasagne. As you can tell, I am not that interested in G's veggie dish, so apart from pumpkin, I can't remember what went into it. He was a little disappointed in his main, it had a caramelised sweet taste to it and a somewhat crusty base, and I too, felt it was a little strange to have a lasagne which is supposed to be normally savoury, turn out sweet - whether from the natural sweetness of the pumpkin or some sugar added. My spaghetti was yummy though. The prawns were super fresh and sweet and so was the fish. Eating freshly-made pasta just makes the thought of returning to eating dried pasta from a box such an unappealing option.

We shared a semifreddo for dessert, I liked the honeycomb sugar lattice that was stuck into the semifreddo. It wasn't a large portion but by then, it was just right for sharing.

And factoring in 3 glasses of wine, we did really well and the bill arrived at $144. So G put in a tip of $6 and brought the grand total to $150. This was a perfectly planned and calculated dinner, in more ways than 1!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Today's dinner was pretty awesome. In a flash of brilliance (inspired by several nasi lemak meals at the new KL Kopitiam on Dixon Street with the dollops of sambal on the ikan bilis), we slathered our fish fillets with sambal that we found at the back of the fridge and slapped them on the barbie. Then finished off with a squeeze of lemon. Mmmmm... not bad at all. A generous sprinkle of freshly chopped coriander over the fish and served with some Mediterranean-style grilled veggies (capsicums are my fave, eggplant comes a close second), dinner was delicious and wolfed down quickly. The mango pancake that I picked up at the Asian bakery on the way home, is a perennial favourite and was our sweet end note to a good dinner.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Seafood Pasta - Parts 1 & 2

Saturday dinner was a calamari and mussel pasta with a garlic and lemon sauce, lightly flavoured with shallots and coriander. It was very light and delicate.

The leftovers were for our Sunday dinner where G converted it into a tomato-based sauce and added anchovies and more mussels to the dish. Finely-sliced almonds were tossed into the mix and added a new texture to the dish. And of course, more coriander was added - that's my favourite herb and in my opinion, there can never be too much coriander.

My verdict? I prefer seafood pasta - Part 2 for its more robust flavour and the crunch of the almonds.

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Flower Power

Spring is in the air. These really colourful flowers which looked like poppies, carnations and a cross-breed chrysanthemum were really beautiful.

I had little vases of them around the house when we had Alex and Pete over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. Dinner consisted of little chive dumplings and siew mais for entrees (bought from our fave Thai supermarket), the main course was Malaysian fish curry with basmati rice with raisins, and a dish of stir-fried tang-oh. For dessert, we had some taro and water chestnut cream Thai confectionary in aromatic cases made of pandan leaves. It was a success and didn't tax us too much because we had combined store-bought and home-cooked dishes, all the food were personally tested by us in the past.

We had brekkie on the balcony that weekend and the flowers added a nice touch to our breakfast table, even if it's for our personal pleasure. A small gesture, but a a lovely addition to starting the weekend on a pretty note.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Open House

Currently nursing the cold that I was anticipated to have (courtesy of G, and his heavy-duty 4-day-lie-in-bed bout), we decided to stay close in the neighbourhood today after finally getting up at 10.45 am. On our way to brunch, we chanced upon the (in)famous "Top of the Class" brothel (3 brothel lots consolidated, a house for the working girls and an empty lot in all) up for inspection. The owner must be getting out of the oldest business and selling everything lock, stock and barrel. Seeing as there was a very slim chance of us (me, at least) ever setting foot into a brothel, we decided to inspect the premises.

What an eye-opener. There was little cubby-hole sized rooms, and also bigger rooms with 2 double beds for orgy-type parties no doubt, with ensuite spas and the di rigeur red PVC high-back chair with footholds (we spotted that in a few of the bigger rooms). There was also a pole in the middle of a big room, with Asian-looking statues. The beds were all covered in PVC (probably easier to wipe down!) and we made very sure not to touch anything! The nice real estate lady (English matron and not working girl type) informed us that there wasn't anyone working there at this time, but in one of the ensuite bathrooms we saw the back of a girl, with long black hair cascading down her back, in a dress so short, her bum was almost visible, washing her hands at the sink. We beat a hasty retreat.

I was tempted to take some pictures of the premises for the blog (for wider educational purposes) and I did have my camera with me, but G thought it wasn't appropriate.

This was certainly a very different house inspection to the others we normally go to on Saturdays. Yet another interesting activity that we get up to in Sydney...

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Making Money In This Chaos

The last 7 days have been a period of intense how-low-can-you-go for the stock and currency markets. With a vested interest in how the A$ is trending against the S$, I log in every morning and track the spikes and dips, hour by hour.

It's amazing how much it's dropped since June, when we went to Singapore for our holiday. At that time, we got an exchange rate of A$1 to S$1.29, making shopping and eating out a really attractive deal. Today, A$1 got you S$0.98 at one point. This is a mere 3.5 months later. In the past, it would have taken months if not years to get to such a large variance. As such, even as I see my investment drop 10% over exactly a week today, I am not that worried, because I know it will swing up again, and soon. Just waiting and monitoring, for the right moment.

Then again, with the sentiments of fear and uncertainty, with people worrying about their jobs and mortgages, and how safe their deposits in their banks are, and with every other large brand name financial institution in the US facing strife, who can predict with any degree of confidence how the market is going to look in a week. So perhaps ask me again in a month if I've started to panic.