Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tempura Soba at Tsukiji, Tokyo

Japan has always been on my list of destinations to visit, but being the procrastinator that I am, I always thought "I'll go some day". On the cusp of suffering a quarter life crisis, why shouldn't some day be a lot sooner so I headed off to Tokyo in October 2010.

I had breakfast at this delightful little noodle shop at the Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market which only had seats for 6 people. The stall was operated by 2 men and 1 women who looked well into their 70s. The menu was entirely in Japanese so I just pointed to the first item on the board.

This was the best tempura soba noodles I've ever tasted! The broth was simple and subtle (not super salty like some Japanese food in Melbourne), the prawn tempura crisp and it was sprinkled with finely chopped spring onion. It was steaming hot, fresh and perfect for the cold wet Autumn morning, it was like a warm hug. Although I didn't slurp the noodles, I did drink the broth straight from the bowl so that's as Japanese as I got. I often think back on my trip and this memory always stands out as one of the best experiences I had in Japan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Katong Laksa, Singapore

Over the past few years I've developed an interest in the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) culture, and I was fortunate to visit Katong earlier this year

Located in Eastern Singapore, the culinary specialty is Katong laksa which consist of a rich coconut broth, strips of fish cakes and bean shoots. Unlike other laksas, the dish is eaten with a spoon as the noodles are short. We went to 328 Joo Chiat Place where one of my favourite food presenters, Anthony Bourdain filmed his program "No Reservations". The laksa was accompanied with rojak (salad) and lime juice - yum!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pocket for Photo Album

I've finally finished my notes for my Tokyo trip (29 October to 4 November 2010) after much procrastination. I always tell myself to write down my thoughts straight after a trip when events are still fresh in my mind, but quite frankly, it can be so boring! Nevertheless it is worthwhile to jot down dates, attractions and impressions so you can later recall how you felt when you look back on your journey.
I like to keep (hoard?) little mementos gathered during my trip like boarding passes, restaurant menus, travel itineraries and train tickes so I made a pocket for the front cover of my photo album. I used this beautiful Autumn leaves print from Cristina Re.

Simply measure the size of the pocket you wish to make and add 2cm around the two sides and bottom. Score the fold line with the back of a butter knife and fold. Apply double sided tape and then stick the pocket to your album. I also used another piece of matching paper for the backing. My photos and mementos are now kept neatly together!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crossed Stitched Pot Pourri Envelopes

I love cross stitching little motifs, and then have no idea what to do with them. I usually work on small pieces of aida or canvas, and upon completion find that the fabric is too small to do anything useful with. Sigh, I should plan projects before I start cross stitching, but sometimes I just want to stitch!

I'm obsessed with lavender - not only does it have a sweet and soothing fragrance, it is a natural moth repellent too (three cheers for Mother Nature!).

I made pot pourri envelopes to hang on my hangers on Monday. I folded the top corners (of the fabric with the motif) into 45 degree angles and sewed along the edges to create a flap. With wrong sides together, stitch the side and bottom edges. Neaten the edges with pinking shears and secure the flap and back with Velcro. For me, a project is not complete without a bow.

Decorative yet functional, surely Martha Stewart would consider this a "Good Thing"?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Margaret Fulton's Spiced Pork Stew with Chickpeas

A stew is the perfect way to end the Queens Birthday long weekend. Mum found this recipe from the Sunday Age magazine a few weeks ago, and since we were yet to use our new red casserole pot, this was the perfect recipe for the pot's maiden dish.

  • 500g diced pork Scotch fillet
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili (we used chili flakes instead)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 carrots cut into chunks
  • 400g can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup water (we found that 1/2 water was not enough and ended up using 1 cup of stock)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch parsley leaves chopped
  • 1/2 bunch mint leaves chopped
  • Lemon juice
1 . Heat a flameproof casserole dish with a tablespoon of oil and brown the pork, set aside. Add onions and cook until soft. Add chili and turmeric. Stir in garlic, carrots and salt and pepper to taste. Return the pork into the pot and add drained chickpeas and water (we added 1 cup of stock instead).

2. Bring slowly to a simmer and reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently for 1.5 hours. Add cherry tomatoes, parsley and mint and continue to cook uncovered for 5 minute. Sprinkle with half a lemon juice.
This is the perfect comfort food - the meat was tender, the carrots and tomatoes sweet and juicy, the chickpeas were mushy (well I like it mushy), the mint and parsley added a burst of freshness and the lemon's tanginess complete the dish.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Donna Hays' Earl Grey Tea Cake

Mum and I made this cake (recipe) on Sunday from Donna Hay's April/May 2011 edition and it certainly will be a keeper. I'm not sure why this recipe appealed to me - it contains fresh dates and Earl Grey tea, definitely not my favourites, but the combination is superb. I suppose the lesson is to try something that you ordinarily wouldn't consider, and you might discover something new you like. We borrowed some tea from our good friends Janice and Charles (who actually have proper tea leaves rather than tea bags). Since this cake turned our so well, we plan to bake one for them (it is their tea after all!)

The rich aroma of the dates and muscovado brown sugar filled the house, and Mum and I couldn't wait to taste it... and we didn't stop with just one piece! The cake is springy, there is a slight crunch from the grated apples (we used Fuji) with a smokey and spicy flavour from the tea. Have you stopped drooling yet?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Donna Hay's Steamed Maple Pudding

On Saturday afternoon, I attempted to make Donna Hay's steamed maple pudding (from the April/May 2011 issue) which tasted yummy, but mine didn't end up looking too pretty (I don't think even the most accomplished food stylist could make it look appetising!). Nevertheless it was still eaten and enjoyed which is more important! 
  •  1 cup maple syrup
  • 150g butter
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking power
  • 1 cup milk. 
1. Boil the maple syrup and pour into lightly greased ramekins and refrigerate (we didn't have enough maple syrup so we used 1/4 golden syrup).
2. Place butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking power and milk beat with electric mixer until well combined. 3. Divide mixture between the ramekins. We didn't have 1 cup capacity ramekins so I used 6 x 8cm diametre ramekins which were too small. Note to fill only the ramekins 3/4 of the way (there is baking powder in the recipe!); I filled my ramekins to capacity which is why my pudding didn't look pretty (looked more like souffles!)
4. Place the puddings in a water bath. Cover tightly with 2 sheets aluminium foil, and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the puddings are springy to the touch.
5. Invert the warm puddings onto plates and served with vanilla ice cream.

It makes a perfect winter dessert - I loved the rich caramel syrup, slight saltiness of the pudding and coldness of ice cream (is it just me, or does ice cream taste even better in winter?)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ribbon Notches for Wooden Hangers

I like to keep my suit skirts and jackets on the same wooden hanger; not only does it save space, but most importantly, it ensures I grab the matching skirt and jacket when I'm still half asleep in the morning.
I prefer wooden hangers for my suits, but IKEA no longer stocks the hangers with the notches (to hang the skirt/pants by the side straps), so instead of using a hand saw to cut the notches myself (not even going to consider that), I decided to make ribbon notches.

I wrapped a piece of ribbon 4cm from the end of the hanger using ribbon lined with double sided tape for a neat and smooth finish.

I then sticked 2 square foam pieces on top of the ribbon (I used double sided foam pieces), and to finish off, taped a ribbon bow on top. Done!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Felt Dahlia

The crafting community is generous and unselfish as there are many bloggers who are willing to share their ideas and take the time to create tutorials so others can reproduce their designs.

I found this beautiful pattern of a dahlia brooch by Megan of the Not Martha blog, but I plan to sew the flower onto a denim draw string bag instead (I bought 6 of these bags from Diaso... well you can never have too many, right?)

I used a piece of deep red felt and cut out a circle, 15 large petals, 13 medium size petals and 9 small sized petals (template here). I didn't glue the pieces together as specified in the pattern (mainly because I'll make such a mess) but chain stitched the petals together on the sewing machine. I then hand sewed the petals onto the felt circle, and rolled a strip of felt that I cut with pinking shears for the centre of the dahlia. Even though we grow dahlias in Summer, I can't remember what the leaves look like so I need to do a quick Google search before completing the project.

Despite the coldest May in 40 years, there are still flowers blooming - this was taken outside the Melbourne Town Hall on Swanston Street after Mum and I went to Markit at Federation Square on Sunday 29 May.