From the build up to Christmas, to the interlude between Christmas and New Year and to the ushering in of the New Year, food and family festivities are without a doubt abundant. With Lil’ Bro flying in and out of Singapore, I enjoyed my first mother-daughter Christmas before my entire family was reunited in its full form to call in 2015.
I thought I would round up some of my festive season highlights before 2015 really takes off!
The latest addition to my family was the star of Christmas Day 2014 and we spent most of our lunch fawning over ‘baby-talk and -giggles’. I decided to undertake the role of dessert provider and spent the week prior to Christmas looking for ‘Eton Mess’ components. My original plan to make my own meringue was short-lived due to my baking essentials being left in Sydney and I was unable to find any pre-made crispy gems on my scavenger hunt. Luckily, Mum saved the day by deciding that we should ‘redesign’ the ‘Eton Mess’ with honeycomb crunch and cream cheese ice cream to substitute the meringue and usual mascarpone/cream component – it is just a ‘mess’ of deliciousness after all!
The month of June was saturated in copious amounts of studying with specks of excitement as I made a last minute trip to Singapore to celebrate Mumma’s birthday with her and of course visit Lil’ Bro who has less than a week left before graduating from Basic Military Training!
While in Singapore there were many dinners and celebrations of which one was a wedding, thus one could infer that it was indeed a fortunate coincidence that my ‘study vacation’ was abnormally long due to the dear old exam timetabling system.
Fast forwarding through a whirlwind trip, I landed back in Sydney with the prospect of 3rd year exams looming and three weeks of study hibernation clawing me into a draining ordeal. Only joking, it was not that dramatic but it was a tiring yet productive few weeks.
Over the past two years I have learnt the importance of fueling the brain with the right foods during this time. Not only does it provide for a productive session but allows me to take a breath, albeit quick. Time spent in the kitchen in the mornings before a day of study and during lunch hour somehow provides some form therapeutic relief from the technicalities of biochemistry and pharmacology.
Most mornings were filled with warming oats; eaten with pure class straight from the pot. As they say ‘practice makes perfect’ and I found myself discovering delicious combinations and improving in the ‘art of oats’. Given the wintery chill enveloping Sydney I would say that this breakfast staple was my survival aid and comfort.
Tips for Oat-Making Beginners
1. The amount of water you use will determine the texture that you achieve
For oats with more ‘chew’ use less liquid and for super creamy oats use more liquid
2. Cook on LOW heat i.e. cook with LOVE
Even if you use less liquid you can still achieve a creamy texture! In addition, you don’t want to burn your oats!
3. If you don’t have milk don’t stress
Using water will still produce a delicious bowl of goodness. In fact, I prefer to use water as my primary liquid and add my milk at the very end. I feel that this retains the fresh taste of the milk but of course it is all up to personal preference.
4. Add in your bananas/apples (fruit of choice) at the beginning and cook together with your oats
This allows your fruits to ‘stew’ and soften, releasing flavours into your oats. I always used to chop up my fruits as a topping, but realised how much flavour was infused via this method.
5. Toppings – anything goes!
I have always loved to add nut butters, but have recently discovered the beauty of Nutella. Lil’ Bro left many tubs behind when he headed off to Singapore so I have been trying to find easy ways of using this delicious treat (other than the obvious toast spread).
Fresh fruits are also great – save some from the fruit you cook with your oats!
Finally, to balance out the soft textures I like to add a sprinkle of granola. At the moment I am very much enjoying the new Woolworth’s Home Brand Orange Granola Clusters and Coconut Macadamia Toasted Granola.
6. Cinnamon and ginger
This warming and comforting combination of spices not only adds to the overall flavour but they also provide numerous health benefits! I always mix these in before I cook the oats.
7. Sweetness can be added in many forms
I love to use dates as a natural sweetener as they provide my digestive system with a good dose of fibre. If dates are not being craved I use honey or maple syrup. I have yet to try adding some good berry jam on top…but there’s another idea!
1. Apple + Date + Peanut Butter
2. Banana + Honey + Nutella/Peanut Butter
Thus comes an end to Mornings with Ming and my 2014 Oat Series! Hopefully I have not bored you all 🙂
I am now in the antithesis of Sydney winter and back in Singapore! More posts to come 🙂
If you’re sick of looking at oats, I have provided a photo of toast hehe.
The first half of this semester at university has definitely taken upon itself to race full speed ahead and now I find myself embarking on my 7th week back with the prospect of Easter Break acting as my ‘pacemaker’. One more week before I can truly take a semi-break as I jet off to Singapore for a quick visit before my Lil’ Bro heads into the army!
It has been a busy start to the year, to put it simply and any food spotting or life sharing has been limited to the world of Instagram. So…in a brief moment to breathe I thought I would make a quick visit to this space and share a little something which I always enjoy the most during my Singapore trip.
Although we eat out 99% of the time and I could rave about the Singaporean food scene for an infinite amount of time, it is the family gatherings composed of homecooked meals and sitting around a relative’s living room which I miss the most when I am back in Sydney.
On my past trip, which was longer than usual I was able to celebrate my twin Auntie and Uncle’s birthday. My Si Yi (Auntie No. 4) is no amateur in the kitchen, preparing ‘Peng Cai’, a Chinese New Year delicacy full of culinary delights such as abalone, with each holding a significant meaning. The birthday girl definitely deserved to be showered in affection after providing our stomachs with pure content.
Of course there was cake from our family favourite, ‘Bengawan Solo’ the makers of Nonya Kueh, what I have crowned one of the best desserts in the world…my tastebuds may be biased…
Blackforest Cake was featured as well as my newfound love, the Pandan Kaya Cake.
Until next time!
After each semester has come to an end, I instantly enter kitchen/baking mode while trying to organize numerous meetings with my dearest but ‘long-time-no-see’ friends. Believe it or not, I was an avid violin student for the twelve years which span from primary to the end of high school. Over this time I both Mumma and I formed a strong bond with my teacher. Each holiday I look forward to morning teas with her and her son, the cutest kiddie one will ever meet!
This meet up, Mumma and I were pondering upon the numerous morning tea options we could provide… Muffins from Cre Asion, Devon…. until…..through the gift of photo uploads Facebook, we decided to take the challenge and bake our own Pandan Chiffon Muffins. My Singaporean background means I have grown up with this distinctive and unique Asian flavor which I love so much.
A quick round up of ingredients, perhaps a secretive purchase of an electric whisk and an hour or two in the kitchen resulted in my first batch of Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes*. My heart was mildly fractured when I was unable to achieve the airy consistency of chiffon and troubleshooting led me to realize that I had made the rookie error of beating insufficient air into the egg whites. <face palm>
Nevertheless, due to the integration of fresh pandan leaves the flavor made up for this and the denser ‘kueh**-like” texture was rather enjoyed at our morning tea. It was a catch-up that we were all reluctant to end, however the challenge to create the perfect or rather ‘better’ chiffon still weighed heavily in my mind.
That afternoon Pandan Chiffon: Take 2 began. The final result was as I had hoped for but alas I am no chiffon expert. Visually it looked much better and the distinct Pandan aroma blanketed the kitchen. Might I say that ‘practice makes … almost perfect’!
My how the fifteen days of Chinese New Year flew by this year. I don’t think it was because we were particularly busy celebrating everyday as a family, but perhaps because individually our lives have begun to really restructure and return to reality, leaving our holiday mindset behind. Though I admit this is more applicable to everyone in the family but me (I’m still on summer break), with Mumma’s work schedule showing no mercy and Lil’ Bro sitting his first set of HSC assessments, our celebration of this annual event revolved around the significant days, which luckily for us fell on weekends. Working towards each date, the 7th day, the people’s birthday and of course the 15th and final day, punctuating Chinese New Year within hectic schedules really did make it pass with all the more haste. Nevertheless, it was of course filled with good food planned by Mumma and I.
The last weekend of Chinese New Year was a rainy and cold one. I took this as a sign to warm the soul with the goodness of oatmeal. I had just bought an adorably sized pot from Peter’s of Kensington and was slightly overexcited at the thought of using it. Thus came both Saturday and Sunday breakfasts of oatmeal.
Banana whipped vanilla and cinnamon oats topped with almond butter, coconut, a drizzle of honey and sliced banana.
Banana whipped vanilla and cinnamon oats topped with vanilla bean yoghurt, sliced banana, melted peanut butter, a sprinkle of wholewheat crumble, toasted coconut and a drizzle of honey.
Simple, healthy, delicious and comforting on cold weekend mornings.
Saturday night was the eve of the final day of Chinese New Year and this had really only just occurred to us that morning. We had not booked a restaurant, Lil’ Bro was studying in his own world and Mumma was overworked from a long week. Once again, Golden Century takeaway came to the rescue, providing a gourmet feast in the comfort of our own home. Our stomachs were indeed satisfied and any stress on Lil’ Bro’s part was minimised as he refuelled for more study!
On the menu for the night was my favourite Fried Fish, the taste and texture of which I think no other restaurant can replicate – wonderfully crispy while retaining the flavour and tenderness of the fish, not to mention the flavoursome and appetising sauce and spring onions which complement the dish perfectly.
Not even the hyped Roast Duck at Mr Wong’s can replace that of Golden Century. Although it was takeaway, the duck was absolutely perfect! As I usually claim ‘ownership’ of the Fried Fish, Lil’ Bro was taken by the duck – in fact the whole family was, so I sneakily went to forgo some of the fish in a trade. The skin was perfectly roasted with the fat rendered off, leaving a crisp layer encasing an extremely tender and flavoured meat, which had no hint of dryness!
After trying this dish on the first day of Chinese New Year, Mumma and I knew that the Soya Sauce Chicken had to be ordered again to finish the celebration. It amazed me as to how tender and smooth the chicken meat was, with the sauce not dominating the star of this dish. It was quite heavenly!
We even created our own ‘Kiong Yong’ – Ginger and Chilli Condiments to add to these dishes. Being the chilli fanatic that I am, I was quite the happy eater.
Sundays in my family are usually quite laid back and what I have begun to see as the day of cooking, appropriate for the final day of Chinese New Year.
Mumma boiled her wonderful Chicken Broth with Corn, Carrots, Vermicelli Noodles and Fish Lip. In my mind, boiling soup is a sign of comfort, home and love. Nothing can compare to such a nutritious and organic bowl of love to chase away the prospect of the weekend ending!
Mumma proceeded to state that we could now treat ourselves after such a healthy ‘entrée’, so we created an absolutely delicious ‘Toastie’ of Sharp Cheddar and Ham with Dijon Mustard. I can never find a toastie comparable to one made at home. Most of the time we attempt to do so, Mumma, Lil’ Bro and I (The Toastie Musketeers) are left rather disappointed. Such a dissapointment occurred on my Saturday lunch with Mumma, while Lil’ Bro and Papa were at their boy’s basketball!
Although the ingredients at the new Pattinsons’ Pattiserie at Westfield Bondi Junction were indeed fresh and quality, it lacked the flavour and ended up rather dry. However, our creation was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
wasn’t already enough food, my Auntie E who just returned from Kuala Lumpur brought with her an abundance of Chinese New Year ‘snacks’. Who could pass up the authenticity and deliciousness of these wonderful munchables?! For once I forgot the amount of calories and sinfulness in these yummies and gave in to the inevitable.
The perfection of the Peanut Cookies almost had us in tears. They were melt in your mouth yet crisp, peanut butter tasting, yet slightly salty and sweet. I was speechless.
Yes, we still managed to fit in dinner. How could we not end the celebrations with a hearty home cooked meal?! Our stomachs were satisfied with a simple Fried Lettuce dish, the standard and much loved Wagyu Beef and Grilled Salmon Belly and a new edition of Soya Sauce Chilli Prawns.
Grilled Salmon Belly, has become a usual suspect in our meals, with its super crispy and golden skin and melt in your mouth meat. I think we have perfected the technique for this one!
Live Prawns from Central are a must try for any seafood lover in Sydney. Somehow, they taste above and beyond the usual fishmarket variety and when cooked with soya sauce, chilli and a hint of garlic, something magical occurs. I may or may not have ended up wiping the sauce up with a scoop of rice….
I must say that we ended Chinese New Year quite well this year, even though we were without our extended family. Making an effort to cook and buy delicious meals, ensuring that we took the time to appreciate the tradition truly made this year’s ‘celebration’ more meaningful and left me very content.
On another note this is my last post before SECOND YEAR university begins tomorrow! A decision to transfer to Medical Science has resulted in a rather hectic timetable and I didn’t think that was possible after my first year! Please excuse me if there is a short hiatus/minimal posting. I’ll hopefully still be instagramming (a hard habit to stop!), but bare with me as I find my feet and maintain balance and health as the craziness begins. My goal is a find a way to keep everything in complete balance and find a way to integrate blogging into daily life. Until next time!
Hey all! A BIG Happy Chinese New Year from me :)! I had a wonderful weekend with my family and some close friends calling in “The Year of the Snake”. What would be a celebration without the production of hearty meals that bring everyone together around the table. Although we weren’t able to celebrate this important event with our family in Singapore :(, I think Mumma and I did a pretty good job in replicating the traditional reunion dinner and New Years Day meals.
Before, I present you all with the deliciousness of Chinese New Year I wish to present you with a “Hello It’s Ming” update since a new year calls for new ideas and goals.