time and space

March 14, 2016 § 2 Comments

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. – Vincent Van Gogh

It’s mid-morning Monday, I am still thinking of the inspiring words and creative stories from Saturday’s U Symposium discussion panel. The community of speakers from various well-established magazines gave so many enriching advices for us to challenge ourselves and look at the bigger picture.

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In this day and age, Independent Magazine is a new-found territory. Not that there hasn’t been any independently published magazines before, but the competition is much more prevailing and people are gradually changing their perspectives. To start, Kai from Offscreen mentioned we have the internet; a big open community filled with information for us to immerse ourselves. It’s fast, easily available and so effective (especially when it comes to hot-gossips). We evolved into having high-speed internet and absorbing quick data that we have forgotten how it feels like to pick up a book/magazine/newspaper.

Hard copies have soft copies edition. Newspapers turned digitalized. People have online profiles. Our identities are constructed onto websites with personal information that everyone else needs to know. We connect so much faster than before, but yet there is a deep sense of regression.

Did we forget how to interact offline? Text over calling? Do we not realize that print is going out of business because we don’t read from hard copies anymore? Instead of telling ourselves that we are saving the earth by going paperless, we are contributing to a bigger carbon footprint movement by draining our batteries so quickly that we constantly need to charge it, even when it is not half-full?

So where/when do we draw the line? Where do we start? How do we pace ourselves to find balance between staying updated and slowing it down?

I find it most difficult to be constantly chasing the bright spotlight. To be at the top or follow trends. The next rainbow bagel or latte art pen. Un-necessities. If we could do without them before, why do we need it now? Certainly down the road we got bored with what we had and soon, tried to compete with the other. So we add something extra to be better. What if we didn’t need that something extra to be better, but to work on what we have and stay authentic. Perhaps then we will have a larger chance to be sustainable in the long run instead of feeding a temporary hunger. Then only to realized it was a hasty decision after it is said and done?

We are going backwards, that is for sure. Embracing crafted handmade goods, taking pride in artisanal products and spending more time in nature. But it does not mean we are degenerating. Taking it slower, embracing time and space or the present moment, allows us to accept life wholeheartedly.

Grab a piece of good read, embrace the contents fully and connect the dots with how we are seemingly interconnected in many ways. Whether it is an offline interview, recipe from female cooks, a long passage about a far away land or just beautiful landscape images of a place set in a particular time; it brought everyone to a room on Saturday/Sunday afternoon. A community, which redefines the way we indulge in literature by being transparent and sincere with their voices.

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Later that evening, I had the pleasure of watching NOMA and got intimately acquainted with René Redzepi’s journey (along with a hundred over viewers). He feels strongly about capturing time and space. The current moment, seasons; the wide space, nature (ingredients). He focuses on foraging for fresh produce, meeting local farmers, staying fiercely loyal to his family and taking care of his crew. How does one have time or the capacity to find such equilibrium in life?

It is not a bed of roses. It is hard work. It is also important to know that you can’t figure everything out at once. It just comes and goes, like tide. The best waves are those you decide which one to ride on.

What I love about René Redzepi is that NOMA isn’t his, it is also his crew. They took pride and ownership in the work they do. They got hurt and had fun. He made mistakes, he is human, like we all are ; and at the very least it’s honest. The cinematography is enthralling. Pierre Deschamps, did a beautiful job in capturing the whole essence of the chef’s life. Allowing us to feel the sensations of his every action or thought through slow motion and fine music, brought together a certain closeness/understanding.

Perhaps Claudia Wu, the editor of Cherry Bombe, described us is true: “when we were all living on the plains of Serengeti, it was better to hunt and gather in groups- it’s basically the same now”.

We really should learn to live by creating a sense of community with our five senses; whether its magazines, pottery, music or food; it should bring warmth and a sense of belonging. After all, we all look at the same sky.

Our boss decided to spoil us with a big pot of eggplant, homemade tomato sauce pasta with mozzarella and fresh basil. Staff lunches can’t get any better than this!

Nourish

January 25, 2014 § 4 Comments

Our dinner celebrated the pre-launch of Nourish. After months of contemplation, we finally have a name for it! We had prepared food using recipes from the cookbook, shared how we met, our inspirations and how we got to this point. The book entails food stories and mood recipes. It illustrates an interconnected relationship between food/mood every human being should understand and appreciate.

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We cannot be more thankful for all the help we’ve got to make the evening so memorable. A big gratitude to Hjgher, the ladies from Ate, Triceratops for the gorgeous flower arrangements, Books Actually, Siew & Yang, Todd Belz, Kitt Santos & your amigas, the journalists, our beloved guests and loved ones.

This is just the beginning of something remarkably beautiful and we are so happy that you are part of it.

The images here are taken from the tags and friends. Do send us more pictures or tag #jovialgathering!

food demo

December 2, 2013 § 1 Comment

Good things come in bunches. I hope this month brings much of those delightful feelings.

Our demo yesterday went surprisingly well. Apart from me burning an entire pot of hot chocolate to not even cooking because of a malfunction induction, I had a splendid time. All that effort of cooking/baking at 5am and preparing the bread dough the night before, were well paid off. It was the first time presenting ourselves to the public and bringing the cookbook to its presence. Our cookbook is going to be one of a kind. Why you may ask? It entails daily recipes influenced from our mood and emotions. How we feel and how we cook/bake is essentially the way we are. Naturally, like seasons changing it is easy to alter our meals with how we feel in this moment.

Yesterday was fun because, my parents were there, Elodie’s family was there, we made mistakes and laughed about them, food was splendid, people were receptive and so ever supportive. Thank you so much for everyone who made it !

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Spontaneous flatbread: flatbread, hummus, smoked aubergines and pomegranate; vegetable rosti (beetroot, carrots and potatoes) with yogurt and cherry tomato chutney.

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u press & cooking demo

November 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s a delightful morning in the sunny island. One of my fondest memory growing up here is having chwee kueh for breakfast. A local delicacy made with rice flour, sauté radishes and chili. It’s so simple yet each step is tender and essential. In U Press N°4 issue, I wrote about Mr Lee’s passion in making our breakfast count. Decades of hard work, fatherly love in raising his children and their filial piety. Thank you Underscore for publishing it! Pick up your copy at any local cafes/museums.

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This Sunday (1st December, 11AM), my lovely co-writer Elodie and I will be feeding everyone at Gillman Barracks for the Singapore Art Book Fair. We will be cooking up some recipes from our cookbook. Drop by and say hi!

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the gooey cake

May 29, 2013 § 4 Comments

An accidental bake. I had wanted to make something else but had forgotten to write the ingredients in the grocery list. Having Deb Perelman‘s book in my hands, I stumbled upon the simplest ingredients and without a second thought, turned the oven knob on and rummaged into the refrigerator.

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With the new space coming up, we have been testing a few recipes and getting the place together. I am enjoying the silent kitchen with construction noise behind thick walls. The cleanliness of our bare feet against spotless beige tiles. Unused porcelain still wrapped in newspaper tucked near the dishwasher, which is still adjusting to its awkward piping system.

For the cafe family, we are thrilled for the opening day. But the delay had costs much frustrations yet allows us to ease into the comforts of our new home. Already, we have a creative corner, the manager’s favourite chair, an habitual angle to lean on the wall and usual parking space. While there will be many more avenues for each of us to fall calmly into, it is already a great start.

Much like this cake, which was shared and enjoyed immensely, the day turned out unexpectedly lovely. Perhaps, perfecting our crafts, slowly taking our time to focus on shaping and molding, brings unadorned pleasant surprises. In turn, reflects individual personalities, understanding characters and working better as a family. Learning to be patient with time, with ourselves and one another.

recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Cookie Base

1 1/2 cups (190g) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum-free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk

Soft Gooey Layer

1/4 cup (60ml) light corn syrup or golden syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk or heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 (155g) cups flour

Cinnamon Topping

2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Line a 9- by 13-inch cake pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all four sides. (I overturn the pan, shape the foil over the bottom, remove it, then flip the pan over and ease the foil into the pan.) Spray the foil in the pan with nonstick spray or brush with melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

2. To make the cookie base, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups (190g) flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Beat the 8 tablespoons (115g) of butter and the 3/4 cup (150g) of sugar in the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand, until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the egg and the milk and mix in, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients, until fully incorporated. Put the mixture in the cake pan in dollops (it’s too thick to spread if you add it all in the same place), and spread it into an even layer with an offset spatula.

(You don’t need to clean the bowl; you can reuse it for the next step.)

4. To make the soft gooey layer, in a small bowl, whisk together the corn syrup or golden syrup with the milk or cream, and vanilla.

5. Beat the 12 tablespoons (170g) of butter with the 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225g) of sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

5. Add one-third of the 1 1/4 cup (155g) flour, then half of the milk/corn syrup mixture. Add another one-third of the flour, then the rest of the milk/corn syrup mixture. Then stir in the remaining flour. Dollop the batter over the unbaked cookie layer and spread evenly.

6. Mix together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle it evenly over the cake.

7. Bake the cake for 25 minutes, or until the cake feels slightly damp, but gently set in the center. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When cool, lift out the cake using the overhang of the foil, and cut the cake into 1-inch (3cm) squares.

Note: Sharp-eyed folks might notice that my cake squares didn’t get as dark has hers, as shown in the book, which I attribute to a new oven which I’m still learning how to use. The cinnamon I ground was also not as fine as the finely ground cinnamon that you buy, so the pieces are more distinct, which also led to the tops of mine looking a bit different from hers. Regardless of any differences in appearance, it’s quite an amazing cake and I urge you to try it.

*coffee is from Nylon*

brownie

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

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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.

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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.

recipe
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.

left tables

April 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

There is something rather peculiar about left tables. They are mostly messy and unthought of. A dapple of spilt milk, stained coffee rims sat beneath long banters of serious conversations, crumbled bread flakes from a man who ate his sandwich while focusing too much on his phone. You can almost tell how someone eats by the way they leave their tables.

When it’s business, they drink with courtesy sips. Occasional quick gallop between deep negotiations when the other is in serious thoughts, paraphrasing vocabularies carefully in the head. A chance to drink up before one is judged to be seemingly rude for not listening. They leave with prudence, empty cups and no napkins. When it’s two ladies, they would sit all afternoon. Granted there will be two slices of pretty cakes and lattes, it would last longer. You can hear loud laughters from this end of the room, sporadic whispers of gossips and childish giggles. They leave unhurried with chairs untucked, napkins on the table or floor, forks with bits of cake intact and stained coffee spoons. Perhaps they enjoy their coffee sweetened much like their lives, sugar coated with fancy dresses and accessories.

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After waiting tables for five years, I have gotten used to cleaning other’s mess. “That’s her job”, you may say, but I have a list of pet peeves of how people should treat a common space. A cafe is much appreciated with honest respect and sincere humility. I always treat it as my own home, keeping it tidy with careful thoughts for the next person stepping in.

Chef J used to say, “Make these chocolate truffles as if you are making them for yourself and loved ones. Be good to yourself. Be good to others.”

While admiring left tables, I think of the conversations and thoughts taken place. Whether they agreed to disagree, what they think of the new spring/summer couture dresses, what colour they are going to paint their walls, what’s for dinner or whether they will ever meet again. At that moment, I have the privilege to be part of their history, unnoticed or so. To provide a wholesome meal, a sweet treat or just a cup of joe. I preserve the empty unkept space for a moment. After it ends, I carry on with the same duties for other people. In it, I learn the beauty to endings. That there is no real ending, but a continuation to shape lives in trivial ways.

There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. – Frank Herbert

 

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