Monday, November 07, 2005


Holy cow, this was sooooo good. As I started cooking it, I was actually a little worried that the dish would be a bit too rich and pungent, even for a lamb lover like me. I was really glad I'd used two small lamb shanks and 4 lamb loins on the bones for this dish. I will make a note never to use smaller cuts of meat forthis dish as even the lamb loins broke into tiny morsels with the long cooking time.

First off, I must thank Oslo Foodie for posting this recipe on her blog. It is absolutely delish, even if it takes about two days to cook. But if you use a slow cooker like me, this works out well.

Here's how I did it ...

I bought the lamb last night and placed everything in the crock pot to cook overnight. This morning, when I stumbled off to work, I switched it off and just draped a tea towel over it to retain as much of the heat as possible. Even though I only got back at 9.15pm tonight, the dish held well. I heated it up slowly and started making the mash potatoes to go with it.

30 minutes later, I was stuffing my face and singing Lambchops a la Sherry Lewis. J, if you are reading this, I blame you.

Here's Oslo Foodie's recipe which I stayed fairly true to - a rare occurence for me.

1kg of lamb, preferably on the bone and quite chunky - I like it chunky
4 tsp salt
2 tsp of black peppercorns - OK, I lie. I must have added like 3 or maybe even four. Hey, I'm Eurasian, gimme a break!
800ml boiling water
1.5 kg cabbage, wedged - make some chunky and some smaller so you get different textures

1. Place your lamb and cabbage in a fairly deep crock pot

2. Sprinkle the salt and peppercorns on top
3. Pour the boiling water over the lot
4. Cook it on high for about 20 mins till it begins to simmer
5. Turn down the heat
6. Say your prayers and go to bed
7. Wake up, check that a fire has not broken out during the night as your farikal was cooking
8. Turn off the heat and go to work, school, party, doghouse ... whatever

9. Come back home and turn the crock pot back on high
10. Make your mash potatoes ... look you have time so make it from scratch, ye lazy git
11. By the time you've made your mash potatoes, the farikal should be simmering merrily away
12. Eat the lot, fast 'cos cold lamb tastes awful .. unless you're pissed and just back from the pubs

I must say, I was feeling rather poorly the last few weeks trying to kick this gastrointestinal flu. Everything I've eaten has not fully agreed with me as well as this dish. Talk about comfort dish. It made me think of warm, woolly blankie; soft, sun-warmed cotton on cheeks; warm spring water trickling along your limbs ... everything comforting and warm. I felt so much better after eating it, I was thinking of bottling the whole thing as a cure-all.

Better still, I paired it with mashed potatoes - only my favouritest comfort food in the whole wide world. A friend used to kid me that I must have part Irish in me because of my love of potatoes. I would cheekily retort that I have only ever had one Irish boyfriend ... I know ... TMI. Eeeuuuwww, sorry.

Mash potatoes are so easy to make, I can never understand why peeps would buy those instant stuff. The fresh made ones are so phenomenal that it truly baffles me.

Mash Potatoes (You Should Be Ashamed You're Making Me Give You This Recipe)
About 5 potatoes, peeled and halved if small or quartered is large
Le Pot
Ground black pepper
A knob of butter
A dollop of milk
Elbow grease

1. Boil the potatoes in the pot of water, making sure to cover them with enough water
2. Keep boiling till the potatoes break up easily when you poke a fork into them
3. Drain the potatoes of water
4. Add the butter and start mashing with a fork. OK, if you are wimpy, using a masher
5. Add salt & pepper and season to taste
6. Add the milk slowly so you can control how creamy or soft you want your mash potatoes
7. Eat the billowy, golden mounds of joy with your farikal or any stew

I was so happy after this meal, I was skipping along ... well, as well as I could considering I was bloody full after pigging out. The creamy, luscious mash potatoes melting right alongside the melt-in-the-mouth lamb and sensually soft cabbage is ambrosia enough to make you weak in the knees. Except this dish is so hearty that you might be able to lift Norwegian woods after this.

On the taste scale, this is near perfect. I give it a 9.25/10. Healthwise, normally lamb would not score that highly being a fairly fatty meat, but the boudacious amount of cabbage makes it a healthy dish. Also, do not forget there is no oil added at all in this dish. Just so you know, cabbage is an incredible vegetable. It not only helps you lose weight, which is why it features so prominently in the infamous Soup Diet or "American Heart Association Diet" (or so I've heard - sic) but it is also good for settling a nervous stomach. Mine has been so nervous it's been seeing a therapist so this dish was a God sent. Therefore I give it a respectable 7.75/10.

I am a happy camper. Lamb chops lalalalala ... off to my sock drawer now ...

Categories - In Hot Soup, Meat Me For Dinner

Ole or Oily

I went for a dance recital today. And it was a real toss-up between going for this flamenco performance and staying home to complete the mountain of work I have.

In the end I went even though there was not much to compel me to go. This was an event where some people I thought I would be going with informed me at the last minute they were going without me, prompting the dancer to give me a free ticket out of guilt. And also, I had a funny feeling that it would be a waste of time. And it kind of was even though I saw a lot of old friends and other performers.

Although it featured a few good dancers, the choreography, scripting (as such) and production were fairly amaterish and plebian. I was already inclined to make this a show-face-and-bugger-off-immediately social obligation, but after watching the uneven and soul-less performances, I was even more determined to make my getaway as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I was seated right behind one of the principals who kept turning around to chat. Bugger.

I know these dancers - one of them has even taught me before. And I wondered why their performances were so uneven and uninspired this time around. It was a shame and I left the theatre underwhelmed.

So I decided to cheer myself up by going grocery shopping. It was off to Carrefour. I wanted to get the ingredients to make Farikaal, a Norwegian recipe I found on Oslo Foodie's blog. I love lamb, have not eaten it in a month or two and it looked really easy. So I thought I would give it a try. But since it requires long cooking and I was doing it on a slow cooker, I needed the makings for tonight's dinner.

I saw the most intriguing looking shellfish, labelled as "Green Mussels". It looked like no green mussels I'd ever seen. In fact, it looked like giant versions of this shellfish I think locals call tok tok (I hope that is the right spelling). Eating this shellfish should be an Olympian sports as it involves skill, determination, pain (if you rap your fingers instead of the shell on the table), grunting and grimacing. But the tiny morsels of flesh you fish out with your toothpicks is well worth the effort. Sweet and tender yet with enough bouncy texture to make it interesting, the tok tok is something I have only ever seen in the seafood restaurants.

This giant version, so-named Green Mussels, were most mysterious. I admit, I did a very female thing. I decided to buy them because they were pretty. My rationale was that I could dry them after eating and make them into incense holders. So rationalised, I bought five, although they were bloody expensive. I left muttering about my susceptibility to intriguing food and damn curiosity.

I also spotted some butterfish and decided that would do as the main dish. And just as I was leaving, I saw one of my favourite vegetables - the winged bean! I grabbed the only packet gleefully and buggered off before someone decided to fight me for it.

At home, I had no clue how I was going to cook the lot. So I just winged it. Geddit? Sorry.

I started with the "Green Mussels" as a starter - I am still convinced it was labelled incorrectly.

"Green Mussels"
5 "green mussels"
Pot of water

1. Steam the damn things for about 5 mins. That's all. If you do not know that, leave boiled eggs alone.

Butterfish Done Three Ways
3 butterfish fillets
3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

2 large shallots, coarsely chopped
2 inch knob of ginger, coarsely chopped
8 chilli padis
1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 tsp ground coriander powder
1/4 ground cumin powder
1/2 tsp curry powder
4 winged beans, washed and cut into 1/2 cm slices
3 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 tbsp peanut oil
Ground black pepper

1. Salt and pepper the fillets
2. Blitz the garlic, shallots, ginger & chillies with the 1/2 tbsp oil, and all the powders till they form a fine paste
3. Marinate the fillets in half of this mixture for at least 15 mins
4. Heat the 1/2 tbsp oil in a pan and stir fry 1/2 of the remaining green chilli paste till fragrant and slightly golden
5. Add the fillets and fry for about 4 mins each side
6. Remove the fillets and place each apart in a big platter or in three separate plates
7. Place a spoonful of the cooked chilli paste on top of one fillet and you have the Pan-Fried Butterfish in Green Chilli Paste
8. Add the winged beans, oil and rest of uncooked chilli paste to the chilli paste left in the pan
9. Cook for about 6-8 mins, longer if the winged beans are older and therefore tougher - as mine were
10. Place a spoonful of the cooked winged bean chilli paste on top of one fillet - voila, Butterfish Pan-Fried in Winged Greens (yes, I know I am corny)
11. Add the coconut milk and cook for about 3 mins till milk and vegetables are well mixed and heated through
12. Plate the last fillet with this mixture and you have the last dish - Butterfish in Green Curried Wing Bean Sauce

The "green mussels" did indeed taste like giant tok toks. But because they were so big, the texture and taste was uneven. The most tender and succulent portion was in the middle. The "head" and end were tougher and more rubbery and therefore, less flavourful because these areas (one being much smaller, and the other being exposed), were the ones that got overcooked easier. I think I prefer the normal tok toks.

Overall, this is the unhealthiest dish I have cooked in a long time. It was very oily - I am not used to too much oil in my food and as I ate it I could feel my heart constricting in protest. Gasp, the horror ... the horror. Pairing the buttery and oily butterfish with the coconut milk was not the brightest thing to do. It was definitely overkill and I found my self eating most of the fillet with the chilli paste as the flavour of the fish was best enhanced that way. The second dish with the plain winged beans fried in the chilli paste was not too bad but again, I found that too oily. I must have added a smudge too much oil in frying the paste. So I would recommend going easy on the oil. But not when you are blitzing it as the oil helped make the paste finer. All in all, I would rate the dish 4/10 for health. I am so ashamed ...

Tastewise, I would rate it at 6.75/10 overall. The coconut curry sauce ruined it for me. Everything tasted way too rich after that. The best contestant, the butterfish in the green chilli paste rates about 7/10 but I think next time I might add some kaffir lime leaves to the paste to give it more zing. Also, the biggest disappointment was the heat level. I thought adding 8 green chilli padis for a half-bowl of semi-rempah would give the dish quite a bit of zing. In fact, it was so mild, I think a baby could have eaten it. Either those chilli padis I bought from Carrefour are capsicums in disguise or I have under-estimated the number of chillis. Next time I will double it. I hate it when spicy dishes turn out to be mild imposters.

I felt so unhealthy after that meal, I had a pear instead of the chocolate tart I had bought from Carrefour.

Sigh ... back to work for me. Till tomorrow when I let you know about the progress of the Farikaal.

Categories - Fish Tales

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Beef Balls & Poached Eggs

I know it sounds bizarre but something told me it would work. And it did. I woke up from a sound sleep, famished, and decided that I needed supper.

I was not inclined to cook up a storm as I had every intention of going back to sleep quickly. So I decided to use some of the beef balls I had saved. I wasn't very keen on just zapping them and eating them with salsa or even pesto. I had a hankering for eggs so in a flash of inspiration, I decided to poach a couple of eggs and have them with the beef balls. But what about the sauce? Should I go continental and whip up some sort of butter sauce? Hmm ... butter sauce with beef balls ... bit odd. Or a curried coconut cream sauce? I was definitely in a creative and adventurous mood tonight.

In the end, I decided to whip up a gravy-like concoction. I julienned some ginger and mixed it with kecap manis (the thick, sweet black sauce from Indonesia), a little vinegar and for good measure, I added a little fish sauce. I then zapped the lot in the microwave to wilt the ginger and incorporate all the different flavours. When the sauce was hot and piping, and the fragrance was driving me barmy, I added the beef balls and zapped them to heat through and cook thoroughly.

My poached eggs were semi-successful. I am often too impatient with poached eggs and try to rush the process, resulting in "cauliflower" poached eggs. This time, the first egg was a glossy vision of cloudy beauty cradling a hiding sun (I must stop reading haiku) while the second egg was a a disastrous, cratered cauliflower. Sigh ...

I gently plated the eggs on top of my beef balls in dark sauce concoction - I like my poached eggs with runny yolks and I hate bursting them accidently before I decided to liberate the golden rivers of yolk.

Anyway, you may wonder why there is no picture. Because I am a greedy and sleepy cow so I gobbled down the lot before I even thought to take a picture. It was only when I was sipping my chamomile tea that I realised I neglected to take a picture. Still, I think this may be a recipe I will be repeating. So easy, yummy and just plain ole comfort food.

Now back to bed.

Categories - Meat Me for Dinner

Thursday, November 03, 2005

When Drummer Means Dumber

I come from the school of "If I do not bother you ... fuck off and don't bother me." I like that school of thought. And I get really pissed off when others try to change my mind.

For years now, there has been a particularly loathsome drummer sullying the shores of Singapore with his half-banged lack of rhythm. Almost all the dancers and musicians have boycotted him because of his phenomenal lack of talent and correspondingly great ego and dishonesty. I think the last real conversation I had with this empty vessel was to tell him I chose never to work with him again and reminded him that while a dancer can always play a piece of drum music, it is pretty sad for a drummer to show a video of a dancer while he performed.

You would have thought that anyone with an ounce of dignity would then hie himself off and avoid me like a malignant plague. But no ... in this case, I think "drummer" is synonymous with "dumber". He had to irritate me and a few other dancers earlier this year with a bitter attempt at condescension which was really a faintly veiled attempt to offload tickets for a concert that he was in. We ignored him after Ser and I told him to bugger off.

I thought that was that until I received a message from someone asking if he could pass my contact number to a person asking for me. I had no clue who it was so I asked politely if they could identify themself. This person replied, "Your favourite percussionist."

Confused, since there really are only a few percussionists in Singapore I consider top class and none of them were so ... forward, I messaged back.

"Wan? Could you tell me who is looking for me or pass me their contact so I can reply please? Thank you and have a good holiday."

The reply was an astounding affirmation that the dumb drummer is a stalker (he once refused to get off the phone even after I hung up and kept calling me every 15 mins) and validated why I found him untalented and unsavoury.

"Oh yeah, sarcasm doesn't travel well by sms. This is your least favourite percussionist but I'll still pass you their number if you want, assuming that doesn't constitute working with me which you don't do."

Alright ... psycho alert. You know I once jokingly told him I did not consider him a male (when we used to work together) because I usually forgot he was around during practice or rehearsals. But this latest mouthing off truly does not make me think any better of him. All I can say is I rolled my eyes and replied, "Thank you for reminding me why I do not work with you. There is no need to forward anything. If they want me, they can find other ways of finding me."

Frankly, if these people were stupid enough to associate with him and to connect me with this git with no class or dignity, I do not want anything to do with them.

Now good riddance to bad music. Lame git.

Categories - Rambling Prose

Cor, Ta Guys!

I obviously could not sleep so I flipped onto here again. And noticed that the blog has hit 2,000. Huh? When I last posted it was just 1,979. Whoever you guys are who have enabled my site to hit another 1,000 since Oct 2, you guys are stars.

Please don't be shy about sending in your comments about what you like or think can be improved. If I do not like it, I'll just delete it! LOL. But seriously, I would like to hear from you - I've been wondering who have been coming in here so often. Ta so much guys. I will strive to do better.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Catfish Curry & Beef Balls Sup

I admit, I cheated a lot for this meal as there were a bunch of peeps to feed and I was essentially doing majority of the dishes and they needed to be ready in a hurry.

First off, I had some left over rempah, which is the curry paste we usually make fresh from raw ingredients and pounded on the traditional mortar and pestle. Some of us cheat (ahem) but let's not tell my grandmother or she will give me hell. But when I say cheat, the only shortcut we use now is the food processor. Even then I might pound 1/3 of it in the mortar & pestle because I want the texture. And the taste of course. For some reason, the curries do taste better prepared the traditional way.

Anyway, there was a ready pack of rempah and a nice packet of real Indian chilli paste for curry. None of that Sharwood's powdered business, thank you very much. Eeeuuwwww. I also had catfish so I cleaned and hacked it into cutlets.

Making it is so simple, when you have your rempah ready, that it is embarrassing.

Catfish Curry
Rempah - most important and about a bowlful; I cannot tell you our family curry recipe because I am sworn to secrecy (also because my grandmother would skin me alive) but there is shallots, ginger, garlic, candlenut, dried chilli, galangal aka blue ginger, sireh aka lemongrass for this one - work out the proportions yourself, I have already revealed too much
Chilli paste - use about 2 -3 tbsps of the Indian ones and please! No chilli powders
Coconut milk - about 2 cups
One whole catfish, cleaned & cut into cutlets
I cup of ladies fingers, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1 brinjal aka egglant, cut into cubes
1 tomato, cut into quarters

1. Heat some oil and fry your rempah for about 1 min till the fragrance is starting to emit from it
2. Add the chilli paste and stiry fry quickly for about 2 - 3 mins
3. Add the coconut milk and turn up the heat a little
4. Add the catfish, tomatoes, ladies fingers and brinjal and if the curry is not enough to cover the fish, add more milk
5. Cover and stir occasionally
6. Season to taste and serve hot on rice

Simple, eh? Tastewise, I would rank it as 8.5/10 as I prefer my curries a lot more spicy but I had to compromise because there are guests who were not born with a sambal bowl in their cots. Healthwise, it will score a lowly 6.75/10. All that coconut is really not that good for you but I can't resist curries.

I also made a soup. Beef balls soup with kailan. Simple and nourishing, the idea is that it should counter all the spicy food that was being served and would be an alternative dish for those who cannot eat spicy food. However, beef balls is something that my grandmother placed a lot of stock on. Beef balls were either packed full of spice or extremely hearty and meaty, Danish style but never the "wimpy" Chinese versions that lacked any spices. She forgave the Vietnamese and Thai versions because they had spices but every time she ate Chinese beef noodles, she would curl her lip in disdain to shame Elvis.

So, I had to make my beef balls interesting enough not to get the infamous lip curl but also innocuous enough not to send the poor non-spicy eaters to the loo. So, I compromised. Ballsy beef balls but a clear broth with lots of veggies. I had to call it sup instead of soup in honour of my grandmother.

Steph's Ballsy Beef Balls Sup
About 125g of minced beef
2 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp oil
1 cup kailan
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups oil for deep frying

1. Place all the ingredients except the kailan, garlic and chicken stock in a mixing bowl
2. Mix the ingredients well and roll into balls
3. Heat up the oil in a pan on high and deep fry the beef balls very quickly. Just enough to get a little brown
4. Heat a little oil and saute the garlic cloves quickly till they start turning a little golden
5. Add the chicken stock and the kailan
6. When the soup starts to simmer, add the beef balls
7. Season with salt and peppers and when the balls float to the top, it's ready

This dish would have been a lot healthier if I did not deep fry the beef balls first but that's how my grandmother likes her beef balls as she claims that it makes the beef balls a lot more flavourful. You can omit the deep frying part if you want. With deep frying, the dish rates about 7/10 for health and about the same for taste.

Note: Growing up, my grandmother would always use leftover curries for a late night supper. She would make curry noodles by adding in noodles to the leftover curries. This was one of my fave suppers but I would not recommend using leftover fish curries because you might have pesky little fish bones that could prove dangerous.

Also, you might find you have quite a lot of beef balls - I always keep some of the deep fried beef balls before I add them to the soup. These are great little snacks. I would zap them in the microwave with some salsa and have a neat little snack or add this to some pasta and pesto and voila! beefballs pasta! Also, they are great if peeps suddenly turn up (something I highly discourage as I am an anti-social cow) and you just zap them, add a cube of cheese and a cherry tomato and stick a skewer through the lot and you have a quick hor d'oeuvres. There are lots of nifty ways you can use them from canapes to main courses to supper dishes. But remember to zap them first as the deep frying would have only partially cooked them.

Categories - In Hot Soup, Fish Tales, Meat Me for Dinner