September 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
To say that MADFEED was an amazing experience would be an understatement. Rewind almost a year ago, I stopped working full time at the local restaurant. I have always been associated with the job I had and somehow it had integrated so much into my life that I lost my own soul. What is my soul? Was it a food writer/vegan avocate/coffee snob/yoga lover/traveler?
Through the years, I persisted on doing what sings to the tune of my heart. A cup of handmade brewed coffee, an hour long session of ashtanga yoga five times a week, 13 hours work day, juggling writing a cookbook, and so on. The list continues as I pile more things on in search for something meaningful to satiate this large appetite.
I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t full either. I just wasn’t satisfied. I had always thought that in order to make the best chocolate cake, it needed the best cocoa powder. I had always thought of using local produce but there wasnt anything local farmers that would entertain our daily consumptions. I also used to think there needed to be more local yoga studios that didn’t cost a hole in my wallet. Generally, I needed to be part of a community with a more holistic & environmentally friendly appraoch lifestyle. A SoCal lifestyle I had just left and couldn’t find in sunny Singapore.
Unwinding the clock, 4 years later. I am finally settling in. My mindset has shifted to intergrating my own lifestyle and creating a space for a better tomorrow.
What is the better tomorrow? What is Tomorrow’s Kitchen? At the event, we questioned ourselves what could we do better for the next generation or even ourselves. Business, community, creativity, leadership, sustainability etc. But before we moved on to building a better tomorrow, we needed to know our history. I was so grateful when slow food founder Carlo Petrini spoke:
“Cooking has to be, first and foremost, the act of love.”
The basic fundamentals of giving unconditionally, being patient and trusting the process. Remember the very essentials of making a good loaf of bread? Good flour, salt, fresh yeast, clean water and an enormous serving of patience.
Jacques Pepin, opened the event by impressing us with his effortless skills in deboning a chicken for a galantine.
“You have to know your trade. You have to repeat things long enough that you can afford to forget them”
and he did it, quite very much like brushing his teeth.
Jason Hammel, from Lula cafe, giving a talk about Change isn’t Cheap: the sustainbility of food industry.
The idea of slogging for hours in the kitchen and repeating the same techniques until you are bored out of your wits scare new cooks away. The new comers are so impatient with old school cooking, most of them just stand around getting distracted with their phones or taking a smoke outside. Owning a skill takes years, understanding the trade, perhaps will take a lifetime but that is not a destination, it is a journey.
During one of the ad hoc sessions, Aisha Ibrahim started a topic: Millenial chefs. Our idea of millenials in any trade is often a negative connotation(lazy, spoiled). But we spoke openly of the difficulties seasoned chefs faced teaching millenials; in hopes that we can learn from one another, so we can pass on a similar act of love to the next generation. Afterall, aren’t we here to make a point?
Team bonding, dynamics, repetition, discpline and crafting.
The more I sit on these words, the more I believe in the process more than the end product. Of course, we are here to entice our palates and senses with a beautiful dish, (which by the way, Michel Troisgros spoke at MAD5, his family invented plating!) To what avail do we stretch the process until there is no soul in the meal?
I have since stopped searching for a perfect this or that; or worry about not making ends meet. My perception had taken a momentous shift. If we look too far ahead, or too far behind, we cannot enjoy the moment. We start losing the soul of the journey, taking short cuts, going too fast, losing steam and eventually, burning out (which was also another topic at MAD5, Kat Kinsman started a group @chefswithissues)
I did reach that point, after being in this industry for 10 years. I stopped functioning. I took a break and travelled. One day, MADFEED opening came up and I applied. The evening I found out about the acceptance was after a 13 hours shift (one can never fully take a break from the kitchen #dontkidyourself ) I laid in bed with aching feet and opened my inbox. Sadly, I was too tired to feel excited and it only hit me the next morning that a few months later I would be here. Here, penning down this experience in a Scandinavian Airbnb apartment with the sunsetting at 7 in the evening.
I left the city on my birthday. It was perhaps the best birthday gift to myself. A fulfiling trip and pivitol event in a chefing career. Perserverance, resilience, push boundaries and follow your actions throughly. You know the feeling of waiting for a breakthrough? All your eggs in the basket, the right time, the right place. Yes, that moment came. I met the best chefs in the world and dug their brains. The best personal encounter was meeting Dalia Jurgenson, writer of Spiced. I read her personal memoir in culinary school and never imagined to meet her in reality. So when she introduced herself in the boat on the way to Refshalebassin, I kept my excitement until we got off.
“Are you really Dalia from Spiced?”
She smiled quietly and acknowledged. She, along with the Jenny from Institute of Culinary Education and I spent the next two days having meals and sharing notes. She had inspired me to follow a somewhat similar journey, cooking in ktichens and eventually writing a book.
Of course. It was also fantastic getting acquinted with the folks from Koppi, Tim Wendelboe, JP from Aniar, Max from Momofuku, and to name a few… It came full circle, but this is just the begining.
The real work starts when we get back to our daily routines. How are we suppose to intergrate all talks into our walks?
As René said, “Why dont we take a couple of minutes to stop, to listen and to meet?“.
But after we meet, what are we to do? I took a long walk at a farmers’ market, bought some fresh local ingredients and retreated back to my own kitchen. I turned the gas oven on, and starting to chop up some long red beetroot, oval heirloom tomatoes and fresh chives.Sliced a few sourdough from Mirabelle and drizzle extra virgin olive oil, threw it in the oven along side with the beetroots and left them inside until they were done. Is this my version of tomorrow’s kitchen at home? Simple local ingredients put together to create a meal for one in a foreign land. There is no need to go out to dine as often but get inspired from the local farmers market, observing the different cultures and talk to people.
I noticed people stay in Airbnbs more often these days. Most of them equipped with a basic kitchen. I baked my host a loaf of chocolate avocado cake. So when she got back from Berlin the next evening, she would have something to welcome her home.
At my stay in Oslo, I visited a family friend and we spent most of our evenings, cooking. After I left, she was inspired to get better acquinted with her kitchen and local produce. Did you know warming up potatoes encourage sprouting? When the baby potatoes are done growing, they are picked before they grow into odd shapes because the Norwegian lands are mostly rocky? How does one stay in one place for decades and choose to ignore the surroundings, of farmers, of growers or food purveyors? Yet to have a foreigner come into your home and learn the unnoticed.
René also said, “It starts with one person”. It sure did in my case.
I have yet to return back to the sunny island. But for now, making a change with the way people eat starts with the right next to me.
Found fresh redcurrents in Helsinki Sunday market and spent the evening making jam. Now I can share it with my family!
Next post will be about the places I visited, well mostly ate around Copenhagen, Oslo, and Helsinki .
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 !
Spontaneous flatbread: flatbread, hummus, smoked aubergines and pomegranate; vegetable rosti (beetroot, carrots and potatoes) with yogurt and cherry tomato chutney.
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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*
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.