July 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
I can’t budget for time like this. I do my best to prepare putting my heart where it needs to be, but I can’t rehearse it or perfect it. So much of life happens outside of our expectations and our preparedness. So much of life does not look perfect. – Rebecca Jessica Parker
It comes to a standstill. I have been waiting for this trip. When I finally board the flight, I couldn’t help but feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. Guilty ,because I left the crew to face the busy weekend, but excited to see B again.
There is only so much you can prepare, to look pretty, to feel fresh, to keep the heart light and greet with honesty. I have been traveling so much over the last few weeks, the teetered suitcase is still unpacked. The body recovers from heavy meals to another indulging meal & late night out.
But I feel at ease. I could put my feet up and feel comfortable in my own skin. The early hello to the sun, a late morning yoga session, light lunch, more walks & homemade dinner could not be more splendid. It is not always the case of let love and let go, but a matter of existence.
A few weeks in since we started the cafe, and everyone is worn out already. From the front of the house to the kitchen crew. The long standing hours kept us afloat with casual banters & silly laughters, but we are fatigued. Random glasses will be found in the corner of the kitchen, or an abandoned apron left on the chair, indicating the tiredness from last night’s busy service. I have dreams of missing an order or dropping a slice of cake, which both happened before. But as much as I want to be perfect at every element, I remember the little voice in my head going “breathe”.
These was the word I remember the most while working at the bakery in Orlando. With Katie it was always: let’s do our best, but remember to be present and be happy. It was simple but yet it was difficult. Meeting expectations & demands, composing a picture perfect cake almost too pretty to eat so a four year old child with gluten/peanut/soy allergies can enjoy her birthday in a little pink dress surrounded with concerned happy loved ones. And getting thank you notes from her parents for they thought she could never have another slice of cake again. The weariness easily dissipates into bubbles of joy illuminating our presence to time.
It’s with this constant reminder of appreciation, there is always extraordinary in the ordinary. A mocha for a dreary weather, a greeting from a regular through the glass window or perhaps even a snail mail.
Today was special. I got the loveliest wedding invitation card from Katie. Words cannot express how excited I am to visit her this fall but also for an extended trip up north. To add more icing to the cake, my little contribution for Books Actually’s Twenty-Four Flavours: Century Egg published.
May 22, 2013 § 6 Comments
She loves antiques. She loves junk. She loves anything she does not need but gets them nevertheless. She loves the idea of a hand me down, a good thrift store, a good bargain, a good steal and even more so, a fantastic car boot sale.
We would be forced to wake up at dawn, whist the moon barely set and dreams are just beginning to climax. Lifted from an innate zeal, she will get dressed eagerly and be at the door without haste. Layered in three/four winter clothing, she manages to look divine under the dim bedroom light. As we drive down the country side with beaming car lights shining along the hedges leading the way, I wonder if my stomach had completely digested the buttery apple pie from last night.
The cars lined up in a row and their things are laid unkempt with much order. It’s as disheveled as a lovely afternoon tea with the Royalties. You can get anything least likely to imagine. A box of jewelry from a recently deceased old lady, century old stamps, to a barely used camera. It’s a shopaholic haven. For mum, it is her nirvana.
I have fears of her stepping onto the wet field. Her heavy purse will be emptied and her grocery bags filled with unnecessaries.
For her birthday this year, I got her three brass bowls from an antique store. For what need, I do not know. The stubborn elderly man who runs the shop, could not have a better pair of eyes for collectable items. If anything, it would be his cranky personality that helps his memory. I ponder for a moment whether my mum should open her own antique store. The house is one itself.
Her all time favourite dessert is a simple apple pie. This year, I had decided to make a gluten free version as she has gotten slightly unfriendly with wheat.
Thank you for being the best mother and friend. Happy birthday mum!
300g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
1/2 tsp salt
130g vegetable oil
20g non-dairy milk
1/2 cup ice water, perhaps less depending on the weather
apple pie filling
3 green apples, sliced thinly
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
130g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
30g sorghum flour
30g walnuts, chopped
15g brown sugar
30g vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 200C, coat 8 inch pie tin with a light layer of oil.
2. Slice apples and combine brown sugar until well mixed, set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix pie dough ingredients except for ice water. With your hands kneed the dough until it comes together, add the ice water slowly until it forms a ball. If the weather is humid, add a little more ice in the water. Set the dough aside.
4. For the crumble, add all the ingredients together with a fork or get messy with your fingers. I like the later better.
5. Place the pie dough on the pie tin and spread it with your fingers, make sure to get an even layer on the sides. Lay apples evenly and sprinkle the crumble on the top.
6. Bake for 20 minutes at 200C and then, 25-30 minutes at 180C.
May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
Finally a recipe post! This should be a regular go-to recipe as it is so simple to make. I have been approached by a few vegan/gluten-free home bakers on what to use for substitutions. While I have no fix gluten-free flour mix nor foolproof methods, I had managed to bring this lovely chocolate delight to the table just in time for tea.
Baking with gluten free flour is not as challenging as you think it is. I have failed and succeed; threw and sold many gluten free vegan cupcakes/brownies/cookies/shortbread. One thing, I have learnt is to never stop baking/cooking until you find the right fit. It is a journey for you to discover your own tastebuds and explore the wonders of different ingredients.
1 cup 70-80% dark chocolate, melted
1/2 cup fruit puree (apple, papaya, pear or any fruit you enjoy)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
50g rice flour
50g sorghum flour
30g tapioca flour
30g brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp guar gum/xanthan gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 vanilla pod
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and lined an 8-inch baking pan with a layer of oil.
2. Melt dark chocolate over the bain-marie or one minute medium heat in the microwave. Do not worry if the chocolate bits are not completely melted. Some bites are always welcomed. Puree fruit in the processor and set aside.
3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Once chocolate is melted, add in fruit puree, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated.
4. Pour it into the pan and even the top with a spatula. Bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will come out soft and very moist. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before indulging.
And more to say, this is not available at the bakery/cafe I work in, but I am more than happy to share it with anyone.
*After leaving it for a day or two, it tends to get very dense. So best consume within the day of.
November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
Did November just pass without a trace? It’s hard to miss with all the beards and mustaches around. Along with Movember, I try my best to take it all in at once since the cafe has been very busy. Sporadical quiet moments, were either to catch a deep breath outside or read a short article.
At home, I have been rather blasé with stepping into the kitchen. At the very least, I will make pancakes on my days off. But, yesterday, for the very first time in 6 months, I turned the oven on.
My heart grows with excitement as the oven heat rises. Slicing two crimson beetroots into quarters, lightly rubbing some sea salt with my pink hands, laying them out on a cast iron pan, drizzling olive oil and cracking black pepper. The whole gesture made me fell in love with baking again.
I forgot how salt can be magically transform bitterness to sweetness. I forgot the sound of the ticking oven timer. I forgot how hot the kitchen can get. I forgot the loveliness of seeing the sides of a vegetable go from glaring smooth to golden brown crisp.
All of these were irreplaceable, despite baking everyday at work. I held on to the time as it stood still, with me staring into the oven glass watching them baked and day dreaming of light-hearted banters with customers. When it was time to indulge, I joyfully put some garnish on and tossed a few more fresh greens with roasted beets. Relishing the moments of getting my fingers dirty, appreciating wholesome vegetable and sharing it with the family.
beets, halved or quartered
salt, a pinch or two
black pepper, cracked
a whole garlic, broken into pieces
Preheat oven at 220C. Season the beets. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes, take them out, shake it, pop it back in for another 10-15. Yes it is that simple.
June 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
Headed up north last weekend to restart my button before a new adventure again. A light travels across greystone tiles, staring at my feet absorbing the warm humidity and waiting for the kettle to boil. Barely half awake, but eager to set myself up for the new day.
The previous week has been fulfilling. Mostly because I had the pleasure to dine at some heartfelt eateries with a compassionate community and enjoyed their company.
Real Food, situated along Killiney road, offers one of the simple yet memorable dining experience. Once entered, you are welcomed with a wide calm space with tall ceilings and light wooden communal tables. Though seemingly authentic, its minimalist approach yields a calming atmosphere. Much like their food, which focuses on cooking from scratch and requires a longer waiting time. Family and friends are seated, then patiently wait for their meals to come, meanwhile, they catch up on their hectic day and enjoy each other’s warmth.
Real food takes pride in organic, wholesome and natural ingredients. Their dishes inspired by a blend of local, Western and Japanese cooking, are remarkably flavourful and refreshing.
Tempted by a quinoa burger, put together carefully with lentils and beets, sandwich with wholemeal bun. A little disappointed that it falls apart much too easily, nevertheless tasty. The organic steamed sweet potatoes are real tender, succulent and pack with natural vitamin A. Amanda, a SG base vegan food blogger, had a wheat penne pasta with cherry tomatoes and olives. The basil gives it an extra lift of Mediterranean flavour.
Dessert was at Brownice, a plant-base ice cream store. It has every flavor you can imagine, uses whole ingredients like cacao bean and fresh self-frozen fruits. It turns ingredients into a refreshing healthy dessert. Real delightful. Rumour has it that they serve durian ice cream but I have yet to try that for myself. For now, a summer strawberry ice cream would suffice.
Good food and company goes hand in hand. Having the most splendid meal in the world would not out do a simple meal of bread and butter with love ones. I would feel like Anton Ego, the food critic in Ratatouille, taking pleasure in negative reviews. In a city where everyone is rushing to dine in new eateries and discover the latest trend, I find myself ravishing over a relaxed dining space, with lovely ambience and nourishing food.
June 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
She’s doing it, he’s doing it, they are doing it, we are doing it, why aren’t you? They say it’s hard to be vegan or vegetarian in Asia, well, since moving back to SG/MSIA, I’ve found ways to prove that phrase wrong and also met a community of compassionate like-minded people.
A delightful cup of soy latte at Plain Cafe, Craig Road; meticulously instagraming.
spinach and potato fritters and a chocoholic’s heaven muffin at Veganburg, Eunos
a lovely memory of California
May 30, 2012 § 3 Comments
Getting astray in the crowded streets, wondering about mindlessly, searching for what the city could offer, I chanced upon an inspirational eatery along Wellington Street, Central District HK.
I stood still. Dumbfounded, initially by the earthy outlook and rustic designs, staring at the black board. “What are you grateful for?”, it wrote. It brought back sentimental memories and forgotten emotions from all my travels. Feeling right at home walking in, gazing over the counter filled with delightful raw desserts and vegan treats. Everyone was really helpful with orders and introducing the unique menu. Flats, burgers, salads, fresh juices, gluten free, vegan and raw options? I simply could not demand for more.
After much persuasion from Menchie, who has the most outgoing/lovely personality, I got a Babylon flat wrap. A customized combination, personalized to your own taste wrap with homemade wholemeal or GF wraps. Avocado, arugula, spinach and some wholesome hummus pressed in a divine warm gluten free wrap.
Christian, a traveller, a yoga lover, raw food advocate and modest owner, shared his philosophy Mana! and stories from the world. I took empathy in a desire for change in personal health, seeking growth and creating a strong community.
Their raw hazelnut cake is by far the best raw sweets I had tasted. Thick and luscious layer of bittersweet cacao & nutty hazelnut texture, ironically gave a delightfully ending. Perhaps, it was the conversation with Christian and the ambience of peace and awareness that heightened my appetite, but it was so moorish, yet healthy.
It is real charming for a quaint sustainable cafe advocating a balance and holistic well-being in one of the most polluted but beautiful cities in Asia. If anything, I would personally dine there everyday to keep the splendid innate energy, whole.
Fast Slow Food
92 Wellington Street