Three Salads and a Rice


Any night is a good night to see the children for dinner. I am happy to spend time in my kitchen whether it is the weekend or the beginning of the working week. Tonight I made three salads, a beef curry, some rice and a pistachio bundt with fruits for dessert.

Need I say it? It is raining as I write. I know some men have Man Caves where they try to hide away from the world. But you can’t get away from the rain! After nearly 40 years of living in England, I have come to accept (but not entirely embrace) it.

The three salads are very simple to make, provided you use the oven to roast the main vegetables of aubergine, celeriac, beetroot. Recipes follow for each salad, with a photo at the beginning of the recipe.


Salad Number 1: Roasted Aubergine with a Soya and Maple Dressing


Vegetable: 3 large aubergines, olive oil

Dressing: 2 tablespoons soya sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean chilli powder)

Garnish: spring onions, sesame seeds, red chilli

How To:

Preheat the oven to 180C fan.

Cut the aubergines widthways into 2 cm slices.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and drizzle on some olive oil.

Place the aubergine slices on the tray in one layer. Drizzle over more olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes, turning over once.

Whilst the aubergines are roasting, mix the dressing in a large mixing bowl.

When the aubergines are ready, tip them into the bowl and toss them gently in the dressing.

Place the aubergines on a serving plate and garnish with some sliced spring onions, sesame seeds and sliced chillies.



Salad Number 2: Roasted Beetroot with Salad Leaves and a Sherry Vinegar Dressing


Vegetables: 4 medium sized beetroots, a handful of mixed salad leaves

Dressing: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

Garnish: toasted walnuts

How To:

Preheat the oven to 180C fan.

Clean the beetroots if they look muddy. Wrap each beetroot in a piece of foil and place in a small roasting tin.

Roast for 40 minutes or until the beetroots feel soft enough for a knife to pierce through it without much resistance.

Cool the beetroots then scrape off the skin with a small knife.

Slice each beetroot in half, then each half into even sized wedges (as thin or as thick as you like).

Place the salad leaves in a serving bowl, add the sliced beetroot, whisk the dressing ingredients and pour over.

Garnish with some chopped walnuts.



Salad Number 3: Roasted Celeriac with Green Lentils and Asparagus


Vegetables: 550 g (peeled weight) celeriac, 150 g green lentils, 350 g thin asparagus spears, olive oil

Dressing: 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Garnish: some chopped flat-leaf parsley and toasted chopped almonds would not go amiss, but this time the salad was fine without them

How To:

Preheat the oven to 180 C fan.

Please see the original recipe here, and simply add some asparagus which have been roasted at 180 C for 10 minutes. This time of the year make sure the asparagus are locally grown.



Confit Garlic and Mushroom Rice


Rice: 300 g basmati rice (soaked for an hour if possible), 8 large garlic cloves, 6 tablespoons olive oil, 200 g sliced mixed mushrooms, 1 stick cinnamon, 3 whole star anise

How to:

Preheat the oven to 180C fan.

Please see the original recipe here. I make this rice a lot and today I used mushrooms. I have also added cherry tomatoes, courgette and bell peppers at other times.

Place the garlic and olive oil in a large oven-proof pot (I used Le Creuset) and cook over a low heat until softened.

Turn up the heat a little, add the mushrooms and sauté this for around 2 – 3 minutes.

Tip in the drained rice, add 600 g boiling water along with the cinnamon and star anise.

Give everything a gentle stir, cover the pot and place in the oven for around 35 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

If you have an inkling that your guests might be running late, switch the oven off after 30 minutes and leave the rice covered until everyone is ready to eat. This rice dish is very forgiving in this way.



Dessert: Pistachio Bundt


Recipe in a separate post, as it is a bit more detailed. Need I say it? I love cakes baked in bundt pans.


PS: I left out the beef curry because I had a lot to do, and used a ready made paste. But the tip is to use beef short ribs and cook this in a pressure cooker for one hour. Remove the meat from the bone, cube the meat, reduce the sauce, skim off the fat, return the meat to the sauce-turned-gravy and serve to your guests.



Gingerbread Bundt


I have been spending my free time clearing up files of unwanted notes and avoiding the still persistent rain here in London. As a reward for accomplishing more or less the daily To Do lists, I make yet another bundt cake. This time it is Nigella Lawson’s Fresh Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Icing (page 236 of How to be a Domestic Goddess). I have said it before and will say it again: baking a cake in a bundt pan makes it so much more attractive and presentable.

The original recipe will fill a 10 cup bundt pan but I wanted to make a smaller one. Much as I hate to mention this in a blog which deals a lot with baking, my doctor said I have to watch my sugar intake as my recent blood tests show that I am in the pre diabetic range. Worry about overworking my pancreas needs to balanced with a healthy eating life. I have been to hospital so many times with friends (and my father) who were dying and who wanted to eat but couldn’t. So I always tell everyone around me: eat when you can and enjoy every bite and every chew.

Each time I use my 5 cup lotus bundt pan I think of Singapore, where I bought it. Shamefully I also remember I need to write up some notes about the Botanic Gardens and share a few photos of the city at nighttime. Hopefully sometime this week or next.


The gingerbread ready to be turned out of the lotus bundt pan


To update the recipe, I added some crystallised stem ginger, doubled the grated fresh ginger and cut the sugar elements in the cake by 60%. It was still quite sweet because of the stem ginger and the lemon icing. Instead of crystallised stem ginger it is also fine to use stem ginger that has been preserved in syrup. Either way just cut each knob of ginger into smaller pieces before adding to the cake and icing.



For a 5 cup Bundt (double the recipe for a 10 cup bundt):

8 g each of softened butter and plain flour, to line the bundt pan

75 g unsalted butter

25 g dark muscovado sugar

40 g golden syrup (I used Lyle’s brand)

40 g black treacle (I used Lyle’s brand)

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

125 g milk (semi skimmed is fine)

1 large egg

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon of warm water

150 g plain flour

85 g crystallised stem ginger (70 g for the cake and 15 g for the topping)

90 g icing sugar and 1½ tablespoons lemon juice for the lemon icing


You will also need a 5 cup bundt pan. The recipe can be doubled to fit a larger 10 cup pan. Nordic Ware is the only one manufacturer you should go to for these marvellous baking pans.


How to Make:

Preheat the oven to 170°C/ 150°C fan.

Brush the softened butter evenly over the entire inside of the pan, taking care to fill every corner. Sift over the flour, moving the pan around to coat evenly. Remove the excess flour by turning the pan upside down and giving it a tap (do this over a sink).

Start by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add 75 g of the cut up stem ginger. Set aside and prepare the wet ingredients.

Measure the milk and beat the egg into this. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in water. Set both of these aside.

Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon in a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat. Do not boil the mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour into the bowl with the flour. Add the milk and egg mixture, followed by the bicarbonate of soda in its water.

Mix everything together until you get a homogenous batter. Work fast as the bicarbonate of soda will react with the other ingredients, releasing bubbles which trap precious air into the batter.

Pour the cake mixture into prepared bundt pan. Level the surface and bake in the oven for 40 minutes (up to 55 minutes for the bigger pan) or until the cake bounces back when touched. A metal skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.

Leave the cake to cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon juice then whisk until smooth.

Pour the icing over the cake and sprinkle over the remaining 15 g of stem ginger. The icing will stick better if the cake has cooled down a little.



Mr Gochugaru and I loved the cake but I had a customer complaint from Junior 2. She had requested this cake as she remembered it from earlier schooldays, and so could not understand the shape, lighter colour and additional stem ginger. I had to explain that I changed the baking tin, removed 60% of the black treacle and added whole preserved ginger. She didn’t quite agree with everything but in this round of Baker vs Cake, it is the Doctor who wins hands down.


The Book:

How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus, ISBN: 978-0701189143. You can safely cut down on the sugar in all the recipes, and still have a delicious cake at the end of the baking sessions.



Banana Bundt


One of a number of nursery rhymes the children and I used to sing together:

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
Roll it, pat it, and mark it with a B
Put it in the oven for Baby and me.


How fast can you bake a cake?

In my Home Economics classes at school, I learnt the different methods of making cake batter e.g. the creaming butter and sugar method, the whisking egg and sugar method. All add air into a batter so the cake would rise and hold its shape. I understood the science behind it, but it was also time consuming.

Imagine my surprise when I first watched Nigella Lawson putting all her cake ingredients into a food processor, giving it a whizz and pouring the batter into a baking tin. How revolutionary, and contrary to everything I had been taught previously. That Ms Lawson’s cake rose and looked very edible was the start for me to see how far I can push things when pressed for time.

There is only so much you can adapt. Definitely, you cannot make a chiffon cake unless you are prepared to wait whilst the egg whites get whipped up separately. For other simpler cakes (what I call butter, eggs, sugar and flour cakes) you can pretty much use a food processor to make the batter without compromising on the quality.



In the past few weeks I have been making batch after batch of banana cake, using different methods. I wanted something that was easy to make, looked presentable and which could also have add-ons like seeds, nuts and chocolate. I also wanted a gluten-free version for my mother-in-law.

The recipe here is what I made today, using spelt flour to up the fibre content of the cake. There is a substitution and add-ons list at the bottom of this page for ideas on how to make this cake your own.

I have always made my cakes in loaf tins or round tins. Currently I am in a bundt pan phase as their shapes make the plain cakes look so much more appealing. Here then is a banana bread recipe adapted for use in one of these shaped pans.



For a 6 cup bundt (see below for a 10 cup bundt)

80 g unsalted butter, very soft

80 g unrefined caster sugar

2 medium eggs (100 g without shell)

210 g ripe bananas, each cut into 4 pieces

135 g spelt flour

1¼ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

60 g soured cream

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract


You will also need a 6 cup bundt pan. The recipe can be increased proportionately to fit a larger 10 cup pan. I used a Thermomix but you can also use a food processor. The results would be the same.


How to Make:

Preheat the oven to 170°C/ 150°C fan.

Brush 10 g of softened butter (15 g for the 10 cup bundt pan) evenly over the entire inside of the pan, taking care to fill every corner. Sift over some plain flour, moving the pan around to coat evenly. Remove the excess flour by turning the pan upside down and giving it a tap (do this over a sink).

Place the butter, sugar, eggs, banana, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, soured cream and vanilla extract into the TM bowl. Mix 20 seconds/ speed 5. That’s how fast it is.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes (55 minutes for the 10 cup bundt) or until the cake bounces back when touched. A metal skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Today we ate the cake warm, after a sandwich lunch. Last week we brought a few slices (walnut version) to the Cotswolds with us for a picnic tea.


10 cup bundt with walnuts


For a 10 cup bundt:

135 g unsalted butter, very soft

135 g unrefined caster sugar

3 large eggs (165 g without shell)

350 g ripe bananas, each cut into 4 pieces

225 g spelt flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

100 g soured cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Gluten-free version, which turned out to be the most popular on account of its sponge-like texture


Substitutions and Add Ons

Instead of:

  • spelt flour, use plain white flour, gluten-free plain flour, wholemeal flour
  • soured cream, use buttermilk, plain yogurt, crème fraiche
  • unrefined caster sugar, use coconut sugar, light brown soft sugar, light muscovado sugar
  • butter, use sunflower oil.

For the 6 cup bundt, add one of the following:

  • 50 g chopped walnuts or chopped hazelnuts (works best with plain flour)
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 60 g milk/ dark chocolate chips.

For the 10 cup bundt, add one of the following:

  • 80 g chopped walnuts or chopped hazelnuts (works best with plain flour)
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 100 g milk/ dark chocolate chips.


For the gluten-free version I used flour and raising agents from Freee. Here is a gluten-free banana bread recipe from Nigella Lawson



Easter Sunday: The Lord is my Shepherd


Happy Easter! For Christians all over the world this is a joyous day as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, and a triumph of life over death.

On our drives over the Cotswolds I have been thinking about Psalm 23, as fields abound with grazing sheep. They look well fed, calm and contented, but upon approaching them (for a photo) I found that they scattered and ran away with no clue on direction. I think this is why they need a shepherd.

Like sheep, we too need a shepherd. When we are lost, scared, unsure of what the future holds or mistrusting of life in general, we have Jesus who said he is the Good Shepherd.



Today’s plan was to have a walk, eat lunch, visit a National Trust property and not do too much. In detail: Batsford Arboretum – The Howard Arms – Chastleton House – Hotel. Maybe some ice cream.

Being so busy these past few weeks, we mostly missed the cherry blossoms in London. We saw the stretch along Swiss Cottage (now quite famous) but had no time to visit Kew Gardens. The season is over all too soon so I was very happy to see the cherry blossoms in Batsford Arboretum, most of which are still in bud.



The estate of Batsford Park was inherited in 1886 by Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale. His interest in Japan and East Asia led to the planting and development of the garden in an Oriental style. Besides the cherry blossom trees, there are different types of bamboo and magnolia trees grown here.



After lunch we visited Chastleton House. The house is 0ver 400 years old and is in a Jacobean style, which means it was built in the time of King James VI and I. See here for an explanation on why he had two titles.


Front and back view of the house, although it is more than what I would call a ‘house’!


Chastleton House was owned for 400 years by the same family until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1991. As the family fortune decreased and the cost of upkeep went up, the building, interior and furnishings of the house went into slow but steady decline. The National Trust made a decision to leave the house as it is, and to not restore it to how it was 400 years ago, to give visitors an idea of what it was like to live in the house. You will see original architectural features as well as things owned by the house’s last occupants.

Be prepared for some uncomfortable moments as parts of the house are really in a state of disrepair and there is even a layer of mould on the ceiling of the original basement kitchen. Walking around Chastleton, I told myself that a) it is better to live in a small house that can be managed more easily and b) I must do more decluttering and cleaning when I can.



The Juxon Bible was one of fifty commissioned by King Charles I in 1629 to be given to the Bishops and members of the senior clergy. William Juxon (1582 – 4 June 1663) was Bishop of London from 1633 to 1646 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1660 until his death. The bible was passed from Bishop Juxon’s estate to the family at Chastleton in the 1700s after his descendants had to sell their estate.



Give us today our daily bread: the meals we had today…

Breakfast at the Hook restaurant (The Fish Hotel): toasted sourdough with poached eggs and avocado, lime, chilli and feta


Lunch was a traditional Sunday roast at The Howard Arms in Ilmington, where the vegetables were plentiful and served in bowls made by Winchcombe Pottery (see previous post)


Dinner of pizza at the Lounge (the Fish Hotel) where we caught up with the latest Spelling Bee


We did manage to sneak in some raspberry and pistachio gelato to share


The prediction is for the rain to return from tomorrow. We have had a very good run with the weather for the past three days. This has helped make our long weekend in the Cotswolds more enjoyable than it would have been if we had to do what we did in the rain. We return to London tomorrow, but hopefully not before seeing a little more of the Cotswolds before we leave.


The Cotswolds: Throughout the Ages


Another sunny day with blue skies. I am getting a bit blasé about wearing a padded coat. Instead, I wear a thick jumper and put on a scarf and light rain jacket to keep the worst of the chill at bay.

The plan today was to visit a pottery and two National Trust properties, one a 16th century manor house and the other an open space which reveals the foundations of a grand Roman villa built in the 4th century. In detail: Broadway – Snowshill Manor – Winchcombe Pottery – Chedworth Roman Villa. Somehow we managed to fit in some ice cream.

We started the day with a visit to Broadway, which I think is one of the liveliest and loveliest towns in the Cotswolds. There is evidence of settlements here dating from 5,000 years ago. It’s possibly best to start looking first into the past few hundred years, through the displays and exhibitions in the Broadway Museum.


Some of the buildings of Broadway


I wanted to revisit Snowshill Manor as I have been there only once or twice, around 25 years ago. The earliest surviving part of the Manor was built around 1550, during the Tudor period. It was later extended, and you can see the differences in stone and window design in the photo below. A bit more of the manor’s history can be found here.



At the entrance I spotted this letterbox with the motto Nisi Dominus Frustra. This was, in fact, my school motto. It was explained to us that the Latin words meant ‘without God all is in vain’. A more accurate meaning is ‘Except the Lord in vain’, which is a shortened version of Psalm 127 verses 1 and 2: Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.



Nothing quite prepares you for the eclectic and eccentric collection amassed by Charles Paget Wade. As I get older I try to regularly go through the stuff I have owned over the years, keeping just what is useful and needed. Not so Mr Wade, who basically collected anything and everything that had been discarded when it was replaced by something more modern or newly designed. It did not matter that the item was now obsolete or non-functional, the point was that nothing should perish (i.e. be thrown into the junkyard). Then he had the ingenious idea to leave it all to the National Trust, thus entertaining generations to come.


Some of the collected items displayed in different rooms throughout the Snowshill Manor. Nothing is labelled so it’s quite fun to work out what some of the items are and how old they might be, also its country of origin


View of the house from the garden (top) and the entrance to an inner garden (bottom)


When I was at university I often ate in Cranks, the wholefood shop, in Covent Garden. I enjoyed what I ate immensely as it was healthy and nutritious, but the pleasure was also about eating from the plates and bowls the food was served in. I never lost my love for this type of pottery serveware, and have looked out for similar pieces since. I now buy them from David Mellor Design, who carry many items of craft pottery.


Pottery pieces similar to that used in Cranks (top and middle) and pieces with a dark brown glaze (bottom)


It was a slightly longer drive to see the remains of Chedworth Roman Villa, parts of which were unearthed in the 19th century. The distance of course was much, much, greater for the Romans (or it could be another nation under Roman rule at the time) who came to this part of England in the 4th century. Read more about its history and discovery here.


Details from the floor mosaics


Pillars for the underfloor heating system which heated the villa (top) and the remains of the villa’s foundations (bottom)


In the afternoon we made another visit to Alfonso Gelateria (The Square, Stow-on-the-Wold) where the owner Lewis was paddling out different flavours of gelato as fast as he could. He told us that yesterday was the first day of serving gelato in this new location. It seems that we were at the right place at the right time.

From the Specials menu we had Lemon and Hibiscus, Peanut Butter and Chocolate, Mascarpone and Profiteroles and Dark Chocolate and Almond. I am already wondering if we can nip in to the shop again before we leave the Cotswolds.



Dinner was at The Ebrington Arms. The food was good but not memorably so, the lighting was a bit harsh and we came home with our clothes smelling of fat. Life outside my own kitchen can be a bit of a hit and miss affair, but it is these little experiences here and there that keep me motivated to cook better meals when I am at home.


The Cotswolds: From Burford to Broadway

St John the Baptist Church in Burford


When I was in Secondary School, there was a cheerful but serious girl in my class who once declared that ‘it always rains on Good Friday, wherever you are in the world, because this is the day that Jesus died on the cross’. This is the story of God coming to earth in the human form of Jesus for the sole purpose of taking on our individual and collective burden of sin. What the cross achieved was a reconciliation, for it takes such a sacrifice to restore the broken relationship between God and man.

For the past 40 years I have made it a point to check the weather on Good Friday to see if it rains. More often than not, here in England, there is some or a lot of rain in April.

But not today.

Today, we had one of the sunniest days in the past six months. This made for an excellent start to our weekend in the Cotswolds. The plan would be to drive up to Oxford, head west to Burford then drive north to Broadway where our hotel is located. In detail: Oxford – Aston Pottery and Gardens – Burford Garden Centre – Burford – Daylesford Organic – Stow-on-the-Wold – The Fish Hotel. Below are brief descriptions of each place we visited.


Besides hand-stencilled pottery, Aston Pottery and Gardens also sells a large range of gifts, with an on-site cafe


Burford Garden Centre is a stylish storehouse of everything you would need for your home and lifestyle, from furniture to furnishings, stationary to scarves. Its core business is still selling plants and everything associated with gardening. There is a beautiful bookshop next to the garden centre and a cafe on-site. I think this is a great place for family shopping.



Besides the beautiful church in Burford there were two very interesting shops in this lovely town. The first is the House of Mälu where you can commission your own bespoke leather holdall, from the same atelier that also makes leather bags for some of Italy’s top fashion houses.

Speaking to James Watson, who showed me the holdalls, I gathered that there is a racing connection to these bags. I am not familiar with the world of motor racing, so had to research what GTO stands for. The term Grand Turismo Omolgato is Italian in origin, and refers to road-racing vehicles which are not designed as one-offs. The class of cars have at least limited production and are open for public sales. Maybe it’s something like going down to the Ferrari showroom and saying you want a fast car, not for parking outside Harrods in Knightsbridge but for racing cross country over rough terrain.

More interesting was the fact that Mr Watson told me that his great, great, great grandfather started A.S. Watsons, the renowned pharmacy chain in East Asia. More about it here, but it was so much more engaging to hear from a family member.


Some of Burford’s more interesting buildings (top) and James Watson with the GTO holdalls (bottom)


The other interesting shop in Burford is the Oxford Brush Company who assure that ‘we have a brush for everything’. Once you enter the shop you know you have reached brush heaven.



Some of my favourite foods (top) in Daylesford Organic in Kingham…shame I am on holiday and do not have access to a kitchen. A display of chopping boards made from woods such as walnut and maple (bottom). Like the Burford Garden Centre, this is a great place for the family to visit as there many things to look at, as well as a cafe and restaurant on-site.



Stow-on-the-Wold: we had gelato at the just opened Alfonso Gelateria, and peeked into D’Ambrosi Fine Foods. No food photos but here is one of a building I thought was unique (top). The one shop I would recommend here is The Crock, because it sells all kinds of useful household and kitchen items, like enamelware, which are increasingly harder to find these days (below).



We had a rest at the hotel before dinner at The Horse and Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill. Excellent fish and chips, but the menu has been reduced to three items each on starters, mains and dessert. I am not sure why, but since the service and Mr Gochugaru’s pint of Butcombe’s were both also excellent, I did not ask too much.



And So To Bed…

There is no shortage of good hotels and inns in the Cotswolds. We are staying at The Fish Hotel because its location is convenient for visiting nearby villages and National Trust properties. There is an on-site restaurant and it is possible to walk from the estate to Broadway and other towns. There is a boot room where you can borrow wellingtons and maps of the walks. To top it, they can send round a Singapore Sling to your room. La vie est belle mon ami.

Address: Farncombe, Broadway, Worcestershire WR12 7LH


Reception at The Fish Hotel


The Happy Everything Dinner



What a great evening for our family to have a communal dinner. With our combined faith and cultural backgrounds we are celebrating both Passover and Easter. Over in Malaysia, Cousin A and Kepong Auntie went to visit the grave sites of our extended family as it is the Chinese Ching Ming Festival, where we remember our ancestors. It was also Brasenose Girl’s birthday yesterday. So it is a Happy Everything dinner where we have multiple reasons to celebrate life and Spring and the gathering of those whom we love around the dinner table.

The first I did this morning was to sharpen my knives. The first thing I did yesterday morning was to work out the menu, which we wanted to keep mainly vegetarian. I shared the workload with Junior 2. I made Carrot Salad with Cinnamon, Aubergine in Charmoula, Grilled Red Pepper Salad and a Roasted Cauliflower Salad. The recipes for the first three dishes are here and the cauliflower salad recipe is below.

Junior 2 made Hummus, Tabouleh, Harissa Roasted Potatoes, and sliced and grilled two blocks of haloumi cheese. We roped in Junior 1 to bring in some flatbreads and pastries as he lives near Green Lanes, home to multiple Turkish and similar ethnic restaurants and food shops.


Carrot Salad with Cinnamon



Aubergine in Charmoula



Grilled Red Pepper Salad



Roasted Cauliflower Salad (recipe follows)



For the Salad:

900 g trimmed cauliflower florets + cauliflower leaves, if any

300 g trimmed tender stem broccoli florets

3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons dried sour cherries

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

60 g toasted hazelnuts, chopped

30 g fresh coriander, chopped

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped

salt and ground back pepper to taste

olive oil for roasting


How to Make:

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/200ºC fan.

Place the cauliflower on a roasting pan and drizzle over a good quantity of olive oil. Sprinkle on some fine sea salt and ground black pepper.

On a separate roasting pan do the same with the tender stem broccoli and cauliflower leaves.

Roast the broccoli and cauliflower leaves for around 8 minutes, until they are slightly charred around the edges.

Roast the cauliflower for around 15 minutes, until it is slightly charred around the edges.

Whilst the vegetables are roasting, place the pomegranate molasses, sesame oil, dried sour cherries and cranberries in a large mixing bowl. Chop the hazelnuts, coriander and chilli. Leave aside.

As soon as each vegetable is cooked, add them to the mixing bowl. Toss everything together and place on a serving plate.

Garnish with the hazelnuts, coriander, chilli and sesame seeds.


Hummus and Tabouleh


Cod fillet in a ‘sandwich’ of sliced sweet peppers, preserved lemons and fresh coriander. Roast in an oven at 180ºC/ 160ºC fan until the fish feels firm


Dessert was sliced oranges in vanilla: Slice the top and bottom off 12 oranges. Place each orange, flat bottom down, on a chopping board. Slice the peel away from the flesh, using even downward strokes. Carefully trim away any remaining white pith. Slice each fruit horizontally into 5 or 6 segments. Place in a salad bowl with 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste. Stir through everything and add a few fresh mint leaves before serving.



I made another chocolate and olive oil birthday cake (recipe here) because Junior 3 continually urges me to make it, saying it is the best chocolate cake she has ever eaten. It is not even her birthday! Today’s frosting was a chocolate ganache, made easily by warming up 150 g each of 70% dark chocolate chips and double cream in a small pot, stirring, cooling then pouring over the top of the bundt. This has almost no sugar compared to the regular cocoa and icing sugar frosting, but we made up for it with the sweet chocolate eggs.



We finished dinner very late, everyone helped with the washing and drying, and there were enough leftovers for a simple meal tomorrow. I will attempt to finish writing up my Singapore notes in the next week or so. For the Easter weekend Mr Gochugaru and I are heading to the Cotswolds to walk, eat and sleep. We are so looking forward to it.





Singapore: A Walk in Chinatown



Singapore is full of Chinese people, whether local-born, Chinese nationals or ethnic Chinese tourists (like myself). It might seem a bit strange to have an area called ‘Chinatown’ because it’s not as if that is the only area where you can find Chinese residents or businesses run by Chinese people. This then, like Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, is the historical area where the first Chinese immigrants settled in the 19th century.

We took the MRT (underground/ subway) to Chinatown because I read about a recently opened section of the Thomson-East Coast Line. Living in central London, we travel by Tube all the time, but our system is over a hundred years old. It creaks, breaks down, acts up and travelling on it is increasingly frustrating and joyless. We took the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line from Orchard station to Maxwell station. The trains and stations were clean, bright and the signs were clear. I sighed with happiness.


The Thomson-East Coast MRT Line currently runs from Woodlands North to Gardens by the Bay


Clear local maps at Orchard and Maxwell MRT stations (I love maps)


I was probably just lucky to find Maxwell station devoid of passengers…this is my fantasy scenario for public transport travel


Chinatown Complex at 335 Smith Street (which I refer to as Smith Street Market) houses a wet market in the basement, clothes and souvenir stores on the ground level and cooked food stalls on its upper floor. Smith Street is the only road in Chinatown to be named after a European. Sir Cecil Clementi Smith was Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner to Malaya from 1887 to 1893.



I specifically wanted to see this mural (entitled Chinatown Market) painted on the side of 30 Temple Street, of tea being poured out from a giant teapot. There are other murals by the artist Yip Yew Chong along alleyways in Chinatown.



Sometimes we need to look beyond what is in front of us. Here is the reality behind the photo above…roadworks and traffic jams


Part of the mural (the rest was obstructed by road machinery) on the side of 30 Temple Street, showing a kopi tiam / local coffee shop scene


Temple Street is lined with shops selling all sorts of catering equipment. The first photo is of a wooden barrel used to make 豆腐花 tau foo fah, a soft tofu dessert.



Sia Huat at 7-11 Temple Street: if you cannot find what you are looking for here, it probably does not exist. This shop is an Aladdin’s cave of every item needed to prepare, cook, display and serve food, set over several shop lots and two floors.



Another mural by Yip Yew Chong in an alleyway between Smith Street and Temple Street, depicting scenes from the artist’s first home which was in Sago Lane. It is entitled 我家牛车水 My Chinatown Home. For those interested in language, 我家 wǒ jiā means ‘my home’, and the three words 牛车水 niú chē shuǐ literally mean ‘ox car water’, translated to bullock water cart. This is a reference to the ox-drawn carts that transported water to the area, and today Chinatown is still called 牛车水 in Mandarin. For a map of other murals in Chinatown, see here.



The area is full of interesting traditional shops selling dried and preserved foods. Its buildings are better maintained than similar ones in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, which we had visited earlier in our trip.


We only had time to make a short visit to Chinatown, and even as a Chinese person I found the shops here very interesting. Singapore is so much more than a convenient stopover. I could easily spend a week here, go out day and night, and still have things left to see/ eat/ do/ write about for another day.


Young bamboo plants. A reminder of the Chinese advice: the right time to discipline children is when they are young, while they can still bend without breaking. I did not just make that up, honestly.


Singapore: Thoughts of Food and Food for Thought



It is the weekend here in London and I feel seriously let down by the weather. It seems to me that we have had nothing but ‘grey, cold and wet’ for the past six months. I am glad then that a) I had reasons to be called away to the Far East for a lot of that time and b) I have so much to do when I am home in London. The sound of the rain falling is most pronounced at night, when I am getting ready for bed. A thought occurs that just as in the days of Noah, we have no control over the weather in our day and age. The only positive is that it is better to have rain than to have drought.

Having to stay indoors means I can push myself to write up my Singapore notes. We had such a wonderful time there and it is the one country to which I could happily return again and again. Singaporeans sometimes complain publicly about their government, society, housing, education system etc but secretly I think they are very proud of their country.

We ate very well in Singapore, and I appreciated the excellent service wherever we went. One interaction I will remember is when I emptied a purseful of coins to pay for my matcha soft serve ice cream at Matchaya Takashimaya. I explained to the young man who was serving that I did not want to carry so much loose change around, and would he mind if I did not pay by card? He was lovely. He patiently sorted out and took away all the smaller denominations, leaving me with the $1 coins. When he brought round our drinks and ice cream he took the time to ask where we were from, how long we were staying and what else we might be doing in Singapore. He did not have to, but he did.

I asked myself what it takes to acquire this level of easy confidence. I suppose it comes mostly from good family upbringing and definitely from strong role models in leadership. Leadership from school, the workplace and the government. So many countries can learn from this.



I love living in London because every type of cuisine is available here, thanks to our immigrant population. In the past month I ate at Sri Lankan, Turkish and Korean restaurants. Singapore is delightful in this respect also. We were invited to meals at Chinese, Portuguese, Korean and Peruvian restaurants. Smaller meals taken at home or in shopping malls were Indonesian, Japanese and Peranakan/ Nyonya.

Some photos below, but not too many otherwise we could be here all day and all night! Also, we were with friends so it would have been rude to take photos instead of eating and engaging in conversation (see end of post for further thoughts).


Watching the professionals make siu long bao at Paradise Dynasty in Wisma Atria. I was intrigued by the eight types of fillings


Admiring the carving skill at Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck in Paragon


Counting the bottles of wine at Tuga Portuguese restaurant, and wondering if any bottles get stashed away in diners’ handbags or rucksacks


Working out the Korean alphabet in the restaurant sign at Anju restaurant


A few of the wonderful plates of food at Anju:

관자 gwanja (scallop) with uni ice cream, cubes of kimchi radish and cucumber, dill, chervil and lemon truffle oil


호감전 Hogam Jeon: to deconstruct this dish in order to make at home (a future project) a few clues lie in its name. 박 hobak is courgette, 자 gamja is potato and jeon is pancake. This was like a rosti but better as it had school prawns in addition to the vegetables. School prawns are tiny prawns which are fried shell and all, adding to the overall crunch of a dish


섯밥 Sotbap: scorched rice with dried radish leaves and charcoal grilled seabass. 돌 dolsot literally means stone pot and it is the cooking of the bap (rice) in this that gives the dish its characteristic scorched bottom and smokiness


보쌈 Bo-ssam: much loved boiled pork belly, here finished off with a light grilling. ssam means ‘wrapped’ and the pork is eaten with pickles and wrapped in lettuce leaves


화채 Hwachae: this was a very clever modern take on the traditional Korean fruit punch, in which fruits are soaked in honey or omija berry juice. Here the fresh fruits are served with watermelon sorbet, apple foam, yuzu jelly, omija watermelon juice, mint oil and a honey tuile. We were so spoilt!


Colourful welcome and colourful food at Canchita Peruvian restaurant



I have very fond memories of Violet Oon’s restaurant because we shared a meal here with Seoul Friend and her daughter when we visited Singapore together. We ate again our favourites of satay and pie tee for a light lunch


I have so enjoyed looking through the photos of our meals in Singapore. Photos are a great way to recall what we have eaten, but I am mindful that in days past when eating out in restaurants with my parents and grandmother we never took photos of the meals. We took photos of the people around the table. What I remembered most about the meals were the cautionary tales bandied about so freely by the elders of the family. I learnt a lot about life, love, loss through the successes and misfortunes of my aunties, uncles, older cousins and various other old people.

Of course I loved what I ate, however as I get older my kitchen endeavours are less about trying to recreate those dishes, and more about trying to recreate the happy atmosphere of the shared meals. After so many joyful communal meals with our friends in Singapore, I have taken a step forward in working out how to further shape my cooking style and to continue in my culinary journey.