Friday, February 24, 2012

Back to Work

I'm heading back to a full-time job on Monday and I feel like a big bag of mixed feelings.  I have inadvertently caved to family and societal pressure.  Its been close to 10 months since I last worked, and I'm extremely thankful to the Lord for providing me with a job in an industry that is (I would think) rather close to my heart.   I met my new team mates yesterday and they are a bunch of warm and people whom I am excited to work with. 

In my big bag of mixed feelings there is a small ball of trepidation, would I be able to adjust to work life? Would I be able to meet my employers'expectations, the organisation's goals?? Would I be able to manage the countless emails that flood our inboxes?  There's also the big ball of dread towards commuting... Morning rush hour.. 

As I'm rushing to prep myself for work, I can't help but to think about what went by in the past 10 months.  While typing this out, I'm glancing at our book-cum-prop shelves which we set up a couple of months back.  Though we have other prettier furniture around the house, these 2 simplest looking bookshelves are probably my favourite pieces.  My biggest regret - I didn't complete reading as many books as I should have. 

My hubby and I discovered a new hobby - prop hunting.  We have amassed quite a lot of props and kitchenware over the past months, more than we ever need in our little apartment.  We literally went hunting all over town for them. We walked under the hot sun in Sungei Road searching for vintage cutlery, we spent huge amounts of time ooh-ing and aah-ing whenever we were in the kitchen section of department stores. When he was in Thailand, he went around Chatuchak market searching for bowls, plates and cutting boards for me. 

We've also started a mini herb garden.. Ok, maybe more like a mini herb planting box.  In the past, I couldn't tell the difference from one herb to another.  Today, I can say that we are proud owners of mint, tarragon, basil, oregano, rosemary, dill and indian borage.  Admittedly I don't possess the greenest of fingers.  Mr Basil & Mr Dill have nearly drowned in my hands, hopefully they will survive.  Mr Mint makes me laugh. We call him Mr Sensitive because he droops ever so quickly whenever he gets thirsty, but once you shower him with love, he pops right back up. 

One of the questions that my friends and husband have been asking me is "Are you going to continue with your photography and blogging?". And funnily enough, before I could reply them, all of them continued with "I think you shouldn't stop."

This is probably the last posting that I can make on a weekday afternoon for a long while. I will definitely continue with erinnish, but given the commitments, photography and blogging can probably only take place on weekends. I really take my hats off to all you bloggers out there who manage to juggle blogging and work/studies at the same time.. I hope I'll be able to do so too.

It's strange, though I'm not saying a final goodbye, there was a strong tinge of sadness when I strapped my camera on to the tripod to take the shot of the props...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Minestrone Soup

Nothing says comfort more than a bowl of good hot soup.  I have often wished that we could have temperate weather in Singapore, and I can slurp hot soup from a mug in front of a cozy, warm fireplace.  Well, the fact is, I'm here on a humid, tropical island, the closest I can get is when it pours buckets around here, which strangely, has been happening for the past few days. 

So, I spent the day (alright, an hour or so) in front of a pot, lovingly stirring the vegetables over the stove, and loving how the colours all come together.  Warming colours, hearty taste... It felt like fall..

A rainy day, a bowl of heartwarming soup and a good book..
Beautiful combination.

Minestrone Soup (adapted from
serves 4

3 bacon rashers, rind removed, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 desiree potato, peeled, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1L (4 cups) beef stock
1 300g can red kidney beans, rinsed, drained (I didn't add beans)
1 425g can rich and thick finely chopped tomatoes
40g (1/2 cup) 3-minute rollini pasta (I broke some penne pasta and spaghetti into small pieces) 
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh continental parsley (I didn't have parsley)
I added :

1 yellow onion
a pinch of dried chilli flakes for a little bit of heat

- Place the bacon, carrots, celery, potato and garlic (& onion if using) in a large saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over high heat, uncovered, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
- Add the beef stock, red kidney beans and tomatoes to the pan, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

- Increase heat to high. Add pasta and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes (my pasta took about 8-9 mins) or until pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper, (and chilli flakes if adding). Ladle into serving bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Plum Cake Tatin for Valentine's

Valentine's over.  How was it for you?  We had a quiet dinner at home, just the way we like it.  We enjoy eating out, but we just aren't too crazy about crowds.  So, restaurants can wait for our patronage on a less commercialised day.  

I was watching Ina Garten make her plum cake tatin for a friend on television, and I thought what a perfect dessert that would make for dinner on Valentine's!  I was just so amazed by how her cake tatin looked when she flipped it over, with the juices dripping down the side of the cake..   

Had a go at it and as usual, it didn't turn out as pretty as Ina's. The taste was pretty good, but a tad too sweet. I used a mix of red and dark purple plums. I bought 2 punnets as her recipe indicated that it requires about 8-10 plums. I think I only used about 6-7 plums.  

My standards slipped this year.  I didn't get a gift for my hubby.  He, on the other hand, took me by surprise with a gift and a beautifully written card.  In case you are wondering, he bought me a kitchen timer.. Before you start groaning at my hubby's sensitivity or insensitivity.. (haha).. I like the kitchen timer!  We're both sort of kitchen gadget fanatics and happened to spot this timer a couple of weeks back.  We were unwilling to part with the money then.. Well, now I'm a proud and happy owner of a cool kitchen timer.. It's enjoying it's moment on the freezer door right now.    

Plum Cake Tatin (adapted from Barefoot in Paris)

1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water

8 blue plums, cut in half and pits removed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
Rind of half a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

- Place a medium saucepan on stove burner and put sugar and water into pot. Cook over medium high heat without stirring or moving pot until caramel reaches an amber color.
- Meanwhile grease a 9 inch glass pie pan liberally with butter and place on a sheet pan to catch any drips. Place plums, cut side down into pie pan crowding them in so they’ll fit. When caramel is an amber color, immediately pour over plums in dish. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350. Using an electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time followed by sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with a spatula to make sure ingredients are evenly mixed.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and add to butter mixture, mixing briefly just until flour is barely incorporated into butter mixture. Do not over mix.
- Remove bowl from mixer and finish mixing batter together using a spatula. Pour over plums and spread evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until cake is done. Cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack then invert carefully onto a plate. Serve warm or cold.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fried Calamari

I can't think of any appetiser that I like more than fried calamari.  Whenever I see it on the menu when I'm out with my friends, I have to order them.  Yep, for me, fried calamari is on the same level as french fries.  So, if I see both on the menu, it's goodbye to the all the work that I've put in in the gym (and I'm wondering why I'm gaining weight.. sigh)  

Seriously, who doesn't like fried food?  C'mon, admit it..  there are just days that you just need to have that crispy, crunchy feel in your mouth, isn't it?

Well, I've tried making calamari twice now.  My first batch failed because the crust was a little sticky and pasty.  So for my 2nd batch, I went online to search for videos to see what I was doing wrong.   I came across this video by Laura in the Kitchen, and decided to fry calamari her way since it seemed so mess-less!  And there's really no need for a recipe here,  just some cleaned calamari, sliced (make sure you dry them out), some all-purpose flour, salt & pepper.  You will need a ziploc bag, a bowl and sieve too..  Watch the video. It's seriously simple.  I think the important step which I missed out in my first try was in sieving the flour out.

My learning points from this 2nd try - I think I should have sliced my calamari thinner.  They were a little too bulbous.   I actually deep fried the calamari twice (very Chinese) because that is supposed to make the outler layer crisper. The 2nd fry is a really quick one, just slip them into the oil for around 3-5 seconds, and get them out.

Made a quick simple dip for the calamari too.. Just added a little chopped basil, a squeeze of lemon juice, a teaspoon of maple syrup and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper to some mayonnaise..  Mix and voila!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Portobello Mushroom Risotto

I've been rather sickly the past couple of days, and I decided to cook some portobello mushroom risotto to nurse myself back to health.  Hope I will be back in tip-top shape in the next couple of days or so.

Why I love risotto?  It is a great alternative to porridge and the parmesan cheese gives it such a warm, oozy creamy texture.  Perfect for cold rainy days as well as days when you are feeling down, in need of some comfort and warmth.  It helps that portobello mushrooms have such great flavour.  It's one of the few foods that I am willing to eat in place of meat!

Portobello Mushroom Risotto
(serves 1)

2-3 portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced
1 tsp rosemary or oregano, chopped finely
1/2 cup arborio rice
1-1/2 cups to 2 cups of chicken or beef stock
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper

- Cook the onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until soft. Stir in the garlic and rosemary/oregano and cook a couple minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute till cooked.
- Add in the rice and stir it thoroughly with the mushrooms and onions, cook the rice until it is translucent.
- Add in the wine, stir till it evaporates.  Then start adding the chicken/beef broth half a cup at a time. Stir well and adjust your burner so the broth simmers. Each time the broth cooks down to a thick sauce, stir in another half cup.  Keep doing that till your the rice is done (about 15 - 20 minutes or so).  [Note that if the arborio rice you are using is old, it will take longer to cook the rice, and a lot more stock is required.]
- When the rice is done, stir in the Parmesan. Salt and pepper the risotto to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side.