Monday, 31 December 2012


All I did was suggested a few things she could do when Catherine visited Taipei last week.  I've only been to the city twice myself and wasn't even sure if my recommendations were any good.  So when Cat dropped by this afternoon bearing gifts, she took me by surprise.  

I've always loved Taiwanese pineapple cakes. Sweet and sour pineapple filling encased in a shortbread crust. Now there's even mango cakes made from Taiwan's famous Aiwen Mango (爱文芒果).

Thin sheets of crispy pork with slivers of almond. I can't wait to try it! Thanks, Cat! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012



I recently rediscovered the recipe for this Cranberry-Orange Walnut Tea Bread. I had it scribbled in an old diary. I don't remember where the recipe came from. I do remember, however, the person who gave me the diary. I also remember that I bought the Christmas linen (featured in the photo above) during a day trip to the Blue Mountains, NSW in 1999. Three days ago, I retrieved it from my drawer and put it up on a hanger to air it. Yesterday, it wasn't on the hanger anymore. I searched high and low only to find that I had already returned it to the drawer myself. 

They say that people with dementia can remember things from long ago, but not things from a few minutes ago. So if you ask me what I had for lunch today, my answer is "I can't recall it now but check back with me again in ten years and I'll tell you."

Makes one 7" x 7" cake

75 grams butter, softened
150 grams sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
110 grams fresh orange juice
110 grams buttermilk
260 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
65 grams dried fruit (I used a mixture of chopped dried cranberries, glazed cherries, orange peel and raisins)
65 grams chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven at 180 degrees C.  Line a 7" x 7" pan with parchment paper. (In the original recipe, the bread is baked in a 9" x 5" pan.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy and smooth then add sugar, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Continue to beat until the mixture is very light in colour and texture.

Add the egg very slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and pale ivory in colour. Stir in the vanilla extract, orange juice, then buttermilk.  Add flour mixture in 3 - 4 additions until incorporated.  Fold in the dried fruits and walnuts.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake the cake until the top springs back when pressed lightly and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out free of batter, 50 - 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 – 15 minutes before turning the cake out of the pan.


Tuesday, 25 December 2012



One Christmas Eve many moons ago, my friend Hans and I were treated to a ballet performance of The Nutcracker. The evening began joyously enough. The sweeping Tchaikovsky score, the visually entrancing set, the glittering costumes – what a cosy winter dream! Yet somewhere between the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, my eyes slowly glazed over ... When I recovered I stole a glance at Hans who was seated next to me. His eyes watery from yawning. (He later claimed it was because he was very much moved by the bravery of the Mouse King. The liar!) 

Every Christmas Day, I play my Nutcracker Suite CD, just to get into the spirit of things because even though watching ballerinas flirt, prance and dancing en pointe just isn't my cup of tea, I do enjoy listening to classical music.

Mum has been bugging me for weeks to make Rock Buns for Auntie Xia (阿霞). I must have told you about Auntie Xia before. She’s the neighbour who occasionally looks in on my parents while I’m at work. When we run out of eggs, Auntie Xia helps us buy and deliver them right up to our doorstep! She shares with us her homemade laksa, yam rice and chilli paste. And as if babysitting the neighbourhood kids doesn’t keep her busy enough, she still finds the time to ask my mother out to Rochor to buy dried seafood, and then have coffee with her afterwards. Needless to say, our family love Auntie Xia to bits.

I'm spending eleven slothful days at home during Christmas, Mum presses me to bake something nice for one of the most helpful neighbours we've ever had.

"来烘点饼阿霞啦!"  ("Come on, make something for Har!")
"烘什么饼好呢?" ("What should I bake?")
"就烘 'lock bun' 吧!" ("Rock Buns, of course!")

Mum labels everything ranging from Digestives to cream crackers, chocolate chip cookies to Tau Sar Piah, as 饼 (biscuits). Needless to say Rock Buns (or '骆笨' as my mother calls them) also falls under the same category. So if you're in our kitchen and my mother offers, "要不要吃饼?" ("Would you like a biscuit?") you should confirm with her which kind because you never know what you might get! 

By Jane Brocket

Makes 15

340 grams all-purpose flour 
8 grams baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
Finely grated zest of one lemon 
175 grams butter 
100 grams brown sugar 
75 grams caster sugar 2
255 grams mixed dried fruits (I used a mixture of chopped dried cranberries, glazed cherries, orange peel and raisins) 
1 large egg 
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk 
Egg wash 

Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and place them in the freezer until you're ready to use them. 

Preheat your oven at 180 degrees C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Place the flour, baking powder and butter in a mixing bowl and roughly chop the butter with a round-bladed knife. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest, sugars and dried fruits. Add the egg and, using the knife, bring the ingredients together to form a stiff dough. If the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of milk. 

With the aid of two teaspoons, dollop heaps of the mixture on to lined baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Lightly brush the tops of each cookie with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. 

Cool on a rack.


Monday, 24 December 2012


Santa Claus has come to town!

A box of Christmas treats from my French boss - all the way from Paris. 

Fauchon pink!  Ze ooh la la!

It eez no secret that I love all things French.

Merci, Stephane!  Joyeux Noël!

Saturday, 8 December 2012


I've been going to an acupuncturist for my wrist inflammation for some time now.  Dr. Liu is a devoted Buddhist, and vegetarian.  Last weekend she raved about the goodness of mushrooms and how easy they were to bake.  

Dr. Liu tops her mushrooms with shredded cheese and mayonnaise.  I didn't have mayonnaise at home and thought topping with only cheese might be a tad plain.   I contemplated buying some bacon but we haven't had bacon in the house for ages.  Then I spied a few slices of luncheon meat in the fridge - something leftover from yesterday's lunch, I suspect. 

I even made a crumb topping.  I got the idea from watching MASA make his Seafood Baked Rice. I love Masa.   He makes cooking look downright easy.

Baked Mini Portobello Mushrooms
Serves 3 - 4 as a side dish

200 grams Portobello mushrooms stalks removed, caps cleaned and aired dry
50 grams shredded Mozzarella
40 grams ham or luncheon meat, cut into 5mm dice

Crumb Topping
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 slices of cream crackers, crushed
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, if desired

Preheat your oven at 200 degrees C.  In a small bowl, mix together the crumb topping ingredients and set aside.

Place Portobello mushrooms, cap side down, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or aluminium foil.

Divide and top mushrooms with the Mozzarella, followed by the luncheon meat.  Spoon crumb mixture over the tops.  I didn't add any seasoning since luncheon meat is already quite salty.  Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the topping start to brown.

Dr. Liu is right, baked mushrooms are super easy to make, and seriously yummy!  I did well to add the crumb topping.  Adds a bit of crunch to the otherwise soft textures of the ingredients.

Friday, 30 November 2012


I just noticed that it has been one month since my last post! 

Maki - the friend who gave me rice flour and all kinds of goodies - and her mother were recently involved in an accident involving five cars.  It must have been SO scary for them both. The impact caused injuries to their necks, backs and, for Maki, her left leg too.  When she mentioned to me about it over IM, my heart went up to my mouth!   In fact, I was so stunned that I was lost for words (and that doesn't happen often).  My fingers were in shock too because all they could managed was to type repeated,"I'm so sorry you had to go through this Maki!"  There isn't much I can do to help Maki feel better since she resides in Tokyo.  So I baked.   

These cookies are incredibly tasty.  How can the combination of brown sugar, mango, macadamia nuts and dried cranberries be anything else but tasty?  Not many people like cakey cookies but my dad loves these bite-size morsels.  He feels cookies for the elderly should all be like that - not too sweet and not too chewy.  With that in mind, I made a batch to include in a care package for Maki and her mother.

I know that Maki would enjoy the dried mango bits embedded in each cookie.

Maki, I hope you and your mum will recover in time to fully enjoy the Christmas holidays!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

RIP 舅父

My mother’s younger brother passed away this morning.    It was all very sudden.  Just yesterday, he slipped and fell while he was taking a stroll, picked himself up and went home to tell his wife, “Luckily, I didn’t hit my head.  Otherwise it would have been goodbye!”  This morning, he got out of bed feeling dizzy, dropped onto the floor and fell into a comma.  He passed away quietly in a hospital a few hours afterwards. 

What can I tell you about my 舅父?  My uncle was a cheerful individual who lived a carefree existence.  He maintained a blue-collared job so that his family never went hungry and both my cousins went to school.  For many of us, we often stress about our jobs, mortgages or life in general – just because we aren’t satisfied with what we already have.  My uncle wasn’t a go-getter who expected more out of life, which was precisely why he was always light-hearted in the first place.  Nothing got him down, ever.

Modern parents would’ve been shocked by my uncle’s parenting skills (or the lack of it) because he brought his boys up in a seemingly careless fashion.  My older cousin was caught smoking in his teens, the rest of the family gasped and chided but my uncle waved everyone off with, “He's going through a phase!  Every boy his age goes through the phase.  He's only experimenting and he’ll stop before you know it.” 

When the same boy decided to drop out of school at 15, his father said, “That’s fine by me.  You don’t need to do well in school in order to do well in life.”   That school dropout is now a devoted family man, owns a recycling and printing business, recently set up a new factory in Shenzhen, has a club membership and about to move into a condominium.  His younger brother is a pharmacist.  Both are gentle, soft spoken and I've never once heard them raise their voices at their parents or each other.

Sure, my uncle didn't receive proper education or spoke six languages or possess a special skill of any kind. He didn’t own a large house or drove fast cars.  You might even say he had no aspiration.  Yet he brought up his next generation to be loyal, socially responsible and respectful.   So if life was a test, surely my uncle should be awarded an A+.   Kudos to you, 舅父!  I don't think you realized just how special you were.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


It was Maki who introduced me to baking with rice flour.  She sent me a packet of rice flour all the way from Tokyo. I used some of it in an almond shortbread recipe. 

Today I used the remaining rice flour to make bread.

The recipe called for 200 grams of bread flour. I used 150 grams of Lys Dor + 50 grams of Japanese rice flour. Mak tells me that using rice flour to bake isn’t something new in Japan.  Breads and cakes made with rice flour turn out softer and keep moist for longer. The bread turned out whiter than most breads.  The texture really looks finer than most breads, don't you think?

Sunday, 2 September 2012


CEOs from around the region are in town.  Meeting room set up.  I.T. standby.  Revise agenda. Room reservations.  Breakfast prep. Name tags. Cabs & Maps.  Lunch catering.  Revised agenda again. Cookies for tea break.  Dinner reservations + deposit payments.  A crazy week in general.

The best way to recuperate is to spend a lazy weekend, loafing on the sofa with a good book (or, in my case, usually several good books) - and a nice cup of tea!

I blame Holly Finn.  She started it.  All because I fell in love with something she wrote:

For those weary of coffee and couture and in real need of something soothing, the Salon de Thé recently opened at the legendary Fauchon food emporium in Paris, is worth a winter visit. There, on Place de la Madeleine, the emphasis is not on fast-forwarding, either one’s heart rate or one’s fashion status. It’s about stopping – taking a deep breath and a long sip. No matter how rudely random Parisians have treated you that morning you’ll soon feel better about the whole Franco-thing. A slice of Tarte au thé Darjeeling (a specialty of the house) restores confidence not just in your ability to translate, but in the civility of left-seat drivers, all sorts of things … A reminder of the bond between tea and sympathy.

And so I went out and bought some rather expensive Fauchon Darjeeling teabags.  For isn't Fauchon the company that "sold tea to royalty, pastry to politicians, and caviar to movie stars"?

Monday, 20 August 2012


It has been hard to juggle between work and elderly parents, and still find time for photo trips and baking. I really need to put in more effort in time management.

On Saturday I paid a visit to Little India and came home with some great shots.

My parents wanted to have fish porridge in Chinatown yesterday.  On the way we stopped by to shop at two Chinese medical halls which my mother frequents but they were both closed!  I know it's Hari Raya but I had expected the Chinese shops to stay open.  Hmm ... I guess everyone needs a holiday.

At the Zhen Zhen (真真) Porridge stall in Maxwell Road Food Market, I was in the queue for 32 minutes!!! Arghh!  If it wasn't because Dad likes the fish porridge, I swear wouldn't stay in line for more than 10.

The good thing about this Swedish Visiting Cake by Dorie Greenspan is how little effort it takes to put together. The recipe is too simple for words!   It doesn't involve creaming the butter or whisking egg yolks until thick.  Dorie says to bake it in a oven-proof skillet or 9-inch cake tin.  I used a 8-inch square tin.  As you can see, the cake isn't very tall so it didn't take long to bake.

Saturday, 18 August 2012


I really want to go on a vacation but several things are keeping me grounded until end of September. No matter, I can still take short excursions around our tiny island. 

Today I spent a few hours in Little India and returned home smelling like jasmines. Somehow, despite having lived in Singapore all my life, I've only been to Little India three or four times. It's a shame really, I should visit more often - and not just for fishhead curry or prata.


I just discovered that the new Blogger interface works with CHROME. How come no one tells me this?! I've been blogging with SAFARI sin...