Moving tales – Part I

With slightly less than two months to go till our relocation to Singapore, we naturally have started on preparing a number of things.

Packing up stuff
For my part, I have slightly more on my plate since I’m the one doing the delivery, and care of Eva as well as managing my shop and such. Nearly all my shop stock has been packed away except what’s on sale at the store which will close in a few days time. I’ve been lucky to have had a number of sales right up till today so I don’t anticipate a huge inventory to pack. There is, of course, the tools and dyes to pack up and a spinning wheel to disassemble. My yarn and fibre stash is almost done – I am just missing a number of big boxes to put them all together…I should be able to find a couple of boxes here so Mum, if you’re reading this, please don’t start packing your things into boxes and carting them here.

Thankgoodness we don’t have much furniture and such, not to mention valuables in the form of electrical goods and jewelry.

Today, we spent a good part of the morning going through what we wanted to bring to Singapore and what we wanted to leave here in Switzerland. Since we’re planning on moving into a fully furnished place in Singapore (which means that everything is provided), we’re not going to bring much other than the usual clothes and already bought baby items – don’t laugh when I tell you that I have to bring the cloth nappies, baby liners, baby wipes and cotton buds that Mum shipped from Malaysia back to the same region! Almost all our furniture is heading off to my in-laws and a variety of places for storage or use. My mother-in-law has already pre-booked our bookcase plus a couple of other items and all my plants (lavender, aloe, etc).

As for the kitchen items, we won’t be taking any with us apart from the hand mixer and pressure cooker – we’ll be leaving almost everything with Nil’s family. This means the wok, rice cooker, kettle, toaster, slow cooker, all purpose cooker (I have no idea what this is coz I didn’t buy it – Mum sent it over), my so-called blender, raclette & crepe maker (a wedding gift), Nil’s coffee machine, fondue set and the stand mixer. There is of course a big box of kitchen stuff in the basement which I haven’t looked at in over a year – there are a lot of things that we didn’t really use. I might bring my cake decorating stuff with me but otherwise, all our pots, baking pans, dishes, knives and all will go into storage here in Europe.

A huge bulk of our winter clothes and skiing items have already gone off to my father-in-law for storage so I guess that’s nearly done in terms of packing.

Tenancy
In case I haven’t explained it before, rental procedures here in Switzerland are bizarre. There are only four days in a year where you can move officially – any other day and you’ll have to find a tenant to take over the lease instead of being able to leave it to the agent, which is what’s happening in our case.

The next moving date is 31 July which is next to impossible for us since we’re only leaving in middle of August for France and then flying off to Singapore two weeks later. So Nil has had to put up paid notices for the apartment. I am glad (and so is he) to say that we’ve been having some pretty good luck, of lately. We had over 15 enquires and visits in the past week and a few look very interested in the place (thanks to the view). Nil’s pretty confident that we should be able to find someone. We have our eye on one particular pair and if they do bite, maybe we can offload some of our furniture to them for a lower price – that way we don’t have to worry about carting them back to France.

For my part, I’ve been “charged” to contact some agents in Singapore ASAP by Mum and Nil. I wasn’t too keen on pursuing the issue this soon but thought just to look anywhere to get a rough idea of what the market is like in Singapore. Completely opposite of Switzerland. Properties move fast and although I’ve established some form of contact with the agents there, the replies are almost always the same – “Please remind/call me again in August or once you land in Singapore. We can definitely find you something.” So really, starting this early does not help at all. We do have a rough idea of where exactly we want to go, what we’re looking for and our budget so no worries there.

Hey, it’s not as if this is our first time in Singapore or house hunting! Nil has stayed there for three years and moved three times plus I’ve had my fair share of house hunting in Sydney.

Keeping sane
With Eva coming in less than a month – she’ll be full term come next Thursday – there isn’t much I can do or go without getting those awful pelvic pains. Since my hobby gadgets have been packed or are nearly packed, I can only work on my WIPs and thus pulled out a project which has been hibernating for a while – socks for Nil. He isn’t exactly over the moon about it since it’s merino wool based and Singapore is awfully hot for wool socks but pfft, I couldn’t care less. XD

I might explore working/selling cotton based yarn for socks later this year for the store but we’ll see how it goes.

Then there is the cooking, the napping, easy house chores (gardening, light cleaning, etc) and usual online stuff. I can’t for the life of me understand why I cannot sit still and do nothing. I guess I’m too used to being busy and such. O’well…

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Profiteroles

Profiteroles with blueberry cream

Buttery, eggy yet rich, the profiterole or cream puff is a dessert item made with choux pastry, which is basically butter and flour cooked together with eggs and water. It is popular as a simple dessert item and the base – the choux pastry – is often used to make other pastries like eclairs and the traditional French wedding “cake” called croquembouches (filled and glazed with caramel). The little cream-filled pastries are simply divine when eaten chilled with side servings of fresh fruit or drizzled with chocolate sauce!

Making them is not very hard or time-consuming. Choux pastry can be mixed by hand – especially when you’re making small quantities – and then pipped into small balls before a 25-minute baking session which will result in some very lovely golden puffy structures. Definitely a quick bake for those with tight schedules or those who simply hate having to sit in front of the oven waiting for baked goods to finish cooking. After these pastry balls are done, it is just a simple matter of filling them which doesn’t take very long.

For the filling, simple vanilla whipped cream is the standard but you can opt for flavoured versions like lemon, strawberry, orange, etc. In my case, I decided on blueberry – still yummy to boot, even when served without the chocolate sauce. The result? If you’ve used low-fat whipped cream like I did for these babies, they are just great for that summer afternoon snack, especially when chilled!

Profiteroles
Adapted from The Cook’s Companion by Lisa McCormick

Ingredients

(A) Choux pastry
5 tbsp or approx 60 gms butter
scant 1 cup water
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten

(B) Cream filling
1 1/4 cup whipped cream
2 tbsp cane sugar
2 tbsp blueberry jam
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and preparing a baking pan by greasing it with butter or lining with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a pot, heat the water and butter together until the mixture boils. Meanwhile, sift the flour into separate bowl. Once the butter-water mixture boils, turn off the heat, remove from the fire and beat in the flour until smooth. Cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Gradually add in the beaten eggs until the dough is of a soft, dropping consistency. Transfer to a pipping bag with a 1/2 inch to 1 inch plain tip. Pipe small balls of about 1 1/2 inch in diameter onto the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and pierce each ball with a skewer in the center to let the steam escape.
  5. In a separate bowl, whip the cream, sugar, jam and vanilla extract together until stiff. Cut the pastry balls across the middle (but not fully) and then fill with the cream.
  6. Pile the profiteroles onto a dish and serve as is (or chilled) or with drizzles of chocolate sauce, and fresh fruit on the side.
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Tarte au citron & chocolat

Tarte au citron & chocolat

It’s the man’s birthday today and being the birthday boy, he has the privilege of deciding the menu for the entire day – yes, breakfast, lunch and dinner! I had actually spent the past couple of weeks bugging him about what he wanted since the only thing I could afford (well, I can get him a gift but I’m just stingy) was a lovely meal comprising of a main dish and a dessert. Well, as much as people like to think that I am capable of running a restaurant, I’m not a chef and neither is my home a restaurant. 🙂

Anyway, Nil filed in a request – yes, it sounds awfully funny but I did tell him that the kitchen is now only taking special orders and in advance due to the baby belly – for some asam laksa and his all-time OTHER favourite dessert – tarte au citron.

FYI, I HATE LEMONS. Sure, I like the smell, I like using the rind in baking but to make a lemon tart with tons of lemon juice and rind…no, no, no!

BUT it IS the birthday boy’s wish so okay, tarte au citron it is. I looked around my cooking books and found a pretty easy recipe with no fuss ingredients – eggs, cream, lemons (of course), butter and so forth. As usual, yours truly made some adjustments to the recipe, particularly the pastry. I had some leftover cocoa powder which I’m trying to use up so hey, why not make a chocolate pastry shell? I didn’t put much as I wasn’t too sure how the mix would go plus I just wanted a hint of cocoa in the pastry NOT full-blown chocolate. Nil was a bit shocked at first (“why chocolate????”) but it turned out surprisingly good. I halved the recipe to get just enough for a small (and shallow) 8″ pie pan.

The result was a very tangy custardy tart – perfect with a side serving of fresh strawberries to take the edge off the sourish taste of lemon but still fragrant and delish without being too…well, lemony! Again, both the pastry and custard filling was not very sweet as I cut back on the sugar and/or substitute white/refined with cane sugar.

Tarte au citron & chocolat
Adapted from The Cook’s Companion by Lisa McCormick

Ingredients

(A) Pastry
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp cane sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cold water

(B) Filling
Rind from 2 lemons
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup whipped cream/cream (35% fat)
1/4 cup cane sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and lightly grease an 8″ tart/pie pan.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl before adding in the sugar and cubing the butter into the flour mix.
  3. Rub the butter with the flour, using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center, add the egg and water. Mix well until it forms a dough – add more cold water if necessary.
  4. Cover and leave to rest for 1 hour in the fridge.
  5. When ready, remove from the fridge and roll out before covering the tart/pie pan. Remove excess dough from the top/sides, prick some holes in the base before pouring in the baking beans.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is set.
  7. Remove the pastry shell from the oven, put aside and immediately lower the temperature to 190°C.
  8. In a bowl, mix the rind, lemon juice and sugar. Beat well. Gradually add in the cream – do not overwhisk as it will result in bubbles or a frothy mixture. Add in the eggs one by one while stirring gently.
  9. Remove the baking beans from the pastry shell and pour the filling in before baking it for 20 to 25 minutes until the filling has set.
  10. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. Serve as is or with a dollop of cream and/or some fresh fruit.
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Char Kuey Teow

Char Kuey Teow (Fried Flat Noodles)

Hailing for the food center of Malaysia (to me, that is), the humble char kuey teow or fried flat noodles is well-known as a street or hawker dish which is utterly delish yet oh-so-sinful. Trust me when I tell you that most great Malaysian dishes are sinful to boot. It’s just how things are…

This dish is no exception with its high content of fat, and cholesterol in the form of oil, egg, prawns, Chinese sausage, pig fat and yes, cockles…and may I add, semi-cooked cockles. Sorry if you detect a hint of disdain in my words but there is no love lost between me and cockles. Have always hated the stuff and whenever I order this dish back at home, I would ask for no cockles, plenty of chilli paste and longer cooking time (the taste and fragrance of almost-burnt eggs is…divine!).

Being away from home requires some ingenuity on my part when it comes to cooking Malaysian dishes and I have long resigned myself to the fact that if it doesn’t taste quite like the original, at least it ought to be as close as it gets to the real thing.

For starters, the noodles required for this dish ought to be thin and soft but they don’t sell fresh flat rice noodles so I had to make do with dried flat rice noodles from Thailand which are slightly thicker. Then of course, the Chinese sausage which my mum swears is the best in the whole world (sorry la Mum but not everything back at home is the best) isn’t available so we used the Vietnam version which is also called lap cheong, for your info. I actually prefer the Viet version – more meaty, less fat but still quite fragrant. The fish cake I used came frozen and well, everything else is from the Asian grocery – beansprouts, chives and all. No cockles because I don’t fancy them and Nil doesn’t see the point of buying even a handful just for a couple of pieces in this dish.

Overall verdict is, well, this is as close as it gets to the real thing considering that my crappy blender doesn’t really blend the chilli into a paste and that the dark soya sauce is salty (and not sweet). Otherwise, my recommendation? Put heaps of chilli paste, ground white pepper and you’re fine! Do note that this dish must only be made in single portion to retain its flavour and taste. Any more and it won’t taste nice at all. And yes, I know what I’m saying. 🙂

Char Kuey Teow
All ingredients listed below are for a one-person serving

Ingredients

Some flat rice noodles (kuey teow)
Prawns
Fish cake – sliced
Chinese sausage – sliced
Beansprouts
Chives
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 egg
Handful of sliced chives
1/2 tsp dark soya sauce
Light soya sauce (to taste)
1/2 tsp chilli paste
Ground white pepper to taste
Oil

Method

  1. If you’re using dried flat noodles, prepare according to instructions and then put aside. Cover to avoid the noodles from drying out.
  2. Heat some oil in a wok on high heat and fry the garlic until light brown and fragrant before adding in the sliced Chinese sausage, prawns, fish cake and bean sprouts. Fry for several minutes until the prawns are cooked and push to one side of the wok.
  3. Toss in the noodles and the seasoning (dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, chilli and pepper) before mixing them with the prawns and such. Sprinkle some water over the noodles if you need to.
  4. After a minute or so, make a well in the middle, pour in some oil and add the egg.
  5. Break the yolk, cover with the noodles (from the side) and let it cook for a few seconds before tossing in the chives. Stir fry until the egg is cooked. If you like it to be more fragrant, cook it for a minute longer or until it is a little burnt – don’t forget to stir constantly. Add more oil if it sticks to the wok.
  6. Remove from the heat, dish, squirt some white pepper on top (optional) and serve immediately.
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Crochet: Miao

Crochet: Miao

Miao
Pattern | Amineko Crocheted Cat by Nekoyama
Yarn | Coop Maxima in Pale Yellow
Needles | 3.5mm crochet hook

Yes, this is another toy I knitted up while watching Murder, She Wrote seasons 3 and 4 as well as looking up info on all sorts of things, eg nursing bras, breast pumps, Pleasanton motorcycle accident attorney and such. (It’s interesting how there are such things as attorneys specialising in motorcycle accidents…we definitely more of those back in Malaysia!!!).

Anyway, this is what people would call an amigurumi toy – a Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small creatures or items like plants and such. It’s usually made up of a few pieces which are stuffed separately and then joined together by handstitching the parts together. In Miao’s case, I had to make two arms, two legs, one tail, one torso, the head, two ears and the piece for the mouth. Looking at the list, it may seem tedious but it is quick and almost mindless work during to the nature of how it is crochet – spiral.

Instead of plastic pellets to give it some weight in the arms, legs and torse, I settled on filling instead to make it squishable. And yes, as you can see, I even gave Miao an attitude to boot! Now to see if Eva will like it…

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Buttery Sweet Corn Apam Balik

Buttery Sweet Corn Apam Balik

My first attempt at making this had resulted in a pretty thick pancake-like layer which wasn’t really what I was looking for at all even though taste-wise, it was decent. Plus I had to substitute alkaline water with all sorts of things – in the end, I decided that it was just best that I stick to regular Western-styled pancakes.

But when Lily from Wai Sek Hong came up with her third experiment on the ever humble ban jian kueh, I thought why not I have a go at the recipe as well since not many people had tried it and I’m sure she would have appreciated the feedback. Instead of peanuts or any nut (which I ran out after making those muar chees), I decided to sub with sweet corn much to Nil’s disapproval.

The overall result was a much thinner layer with the characteristic honeycomb texture, fluffy and soft to boot. Am not too sure if it being chewy is desirable but I kind of like it this way. Perfect for me really!

Anyway, do hop on over to the link posted above for a go at her recipe.

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Tickets down…

More left to go!

Yes, we now have our plane tickets and by “we”, I mean Eva as well…yes, our little one will have her own passport, plane ticket, bassinet and even baby meal! Not that she’ll need it but hey, since it’s included in the price, why not?

The only thing we need to make sure is that there won’t be any surprises during the birth, as in “she” turning out to be a “he”. This is because the name on the ticket needs to match the passport and well, it’ll be tedious to change the name on the ticket (as compared to changing other info like her date of birth).

I’m hoping she shows up after her 37th week (that’s full term already) so that it’ll give us (and the French embassy here in Geneva) more time to churn out her birth certificate and passport. Nil will have to rush over to the embassy with our family booklet (I like to call it the Blue Advantage (coz the book is blue and well, considering what the mess with getting a Malaysian citizenship), Swiss permits and such right after the birth.

Then of course, there are things like settling her health stuff, vaccinations (it’s not compulsory here in Switzerland so we might do it in Singapore) and etc. But hey, at least one item is off our to-do list! 🙂

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Crochet: The Grey Whale

Crochet: The Grey Whale

The Grey Whale
Pattern | Sludgie the Whale by Carrie Melago
Yarn | Coop Maxima in Grey
Needles | 3.5mm crochet hook

Since I’ve been waiting for a while to get some dye-fixer solution in the mail (thus resulting in a halt in my sewing), I wanted to work on something while I catch up on Murder, She Wrote (Season 3). I just can’t stand not doing something with my fingers while I’m watching something. It’s been a habit of mine for the past one or two years – so I thought, why not work on a toy? It’s fast and well, hardly complicated. And we do need a toy or two to keep Eva occupied while she’s in the crib/bassinet and such.

I had read that babies have not much colour sense in the first six months and thus are attracted only to contrast – black & white plus solid patterns like stripes, circles and so forth (think barcodes! ^^). So I thought why not crochet up a toy in some grey yarn that I have lying around? Hence the birth of The Grey Whale as seen in pics above and below. I made some changes, choosing to omit the removable water spout and replacing the plastic eyes with embroidered eyes instead for safety purposes. The stuffing is leftover polyfill which I had used in my previous toy project.

While the original whale looks a little bit more happy with a smile and softer, I like my toys firmer and squishable – hence why the “stiff” and morose look. Still, Nil thinks it’s quite cute and personally, for me, it’ll do as a simple toy. I have a couple more toys queued up in my projects list over on Ravelry and I might be just tempted to do a “soft” one like a bear or something. We’ll see how it goes…

Crochet: The Grey Whale

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