We have been spending time at my in-laws for Christmas and I thought to give my mother-in-law a break by cooking one of the meals for dinner. Since we had a guest over who was a vegetarian, I thought to try and make a vegetable curry. Yes, despite having two kids – Noah was finally starting to settle in – and busy with my knits, I wanted to cook before my skills started to go down the drain. I based my recipe for the paste from this one here and thus began the quest for ingredients.
Lyon is a much better place for finding Asian ingredients. We went to our usual spot in search of herbs and spices, and I decided to get some herbs for planting such as lemongrass, galangal and turmeric. Am keeping my fingers cross that these will do okay in the apartment in Dole. Since it was a last minute thing – deciding to make the vegetable curry – we went to a much smaller store nearby instead of our usual spot and opted for a Thai version of the sambal oelek. In terms of veg, we used cabbage, zucchini, eggplant, okra and tomato – no long beans and tau foo though. A pity because tau foo would have been excellent!
Anyway, my vegetable curry still came out well although it was sweeter than normal. No matter, Nil thought it was fab and would go awesomely well with fish or other seafood. All he could think of while he was eating it was fish head, fish head and fish head. Hahaha.
I thought of giving some brownies away for Christmas and decided to try out some new recipes over at Smitten Kitchen and Raspberri Cupcakes. I ended up having a very long day in the kitchen and then out of it with the vacation packing and what-not.
Eva, as usual, was my kitchen assistant even though this time around, she didn’t do much – just help me taste the chocolate, clean the spatula and well, mix the batter for one of the recipes. Through some stroke of bad luck, I didn’t exactly preheat the oven so my plans of baking one brownie first went out the window so I decided to bake both brownies together. I baked them both at 175°C and for 30 minutes. While the banana walnut brownies came out fine (even though I forgot that I had a new carton of eggs in the fridge and used only 2 instead of the 3 called for), the classic brownies from Smitten came out cakey. Still good but a sign that it was baking for far too long.
Nonetheless, they were a hit especially the banana walnut brownies – Nil’s words were “C’est excellent, ton brownies, Mabel!” Me? I’m determined to get it right so I’ll be working on these again. In the meantime, back to my search for personalized lapel pins.
In search of an afternoon activity for Eva considering the rainy afternoon & days, I decided to make some Christmas cookies with the almonds I have in the pantry. Turned out to be a really fun activity for her and it ate up our entire afternoon – nearly two hours! YAY!
As for the recipe, I made some changes. I used orange juice instead of water and cut back on the sugar – I am certain that if I hadn’t, these cookies would be ultra sweet! I also made the cookies in such a way that the flaked almonds were layered in the cookies instead of just sprinkled over the top. Turned out to be pretty delicious and a keeper!
Flaked almond cookies
175 gms unsalted butter, diced
225 gms self-raising flour
100 gms cane/brown sugar
1 egg, separated
2 tbsp orange juice
50 gms flaked almonds
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Rub the butter into the flour until they resemble breadcrumbs and stir in the sugar before adding in the egg yolk and juice to form a firm dough.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1 cm thick and sprinkle over the almonds. Fold twice and roll again until the dough is approx 5mm thick.
- Cut the dough into desired shapes and place on an ungreased baking tray. Continue to do the same until there is no more dough left. Whisk the egg white lightly and brush over the cookies.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove immediately and leave on a wire rack to cool & harden. The cookies will be soften at first but will harden as they cool.
I woke up at 3am for a feed and on a whim, took a peek outside the window.
Yup, you’re looking at it.
And Christmas is just around the corner.
Looks like we’re having a white Christmas after all.
While the two kids are asleep, I better quickly do my blogging, especially considering how easy it is for Noah to stir and wake up before midnight!
That was taken this morning about five minutes after we got back home from our trip to the baker near the market. Thanks to Dad, we have a timetable of the bakers nearby and since it’s Wednesday, I decided to drop by the one near the market – she sells fab pastries as well – for some ficelle (very thin and short version of the baguette) and a croissant for Eva’s breakfast tomorrow. I babywore Noah in my meitai after having decided that it would be best to wear him in the mornings – after an awful night yesterday. Initially there was some sunshine but the moment we left, it went back and got replaced with some really strong wind and very very slight drops of rain. But we carried on anyway since it was very mild and on-off. We had initially planned to feed the ducks but upon arriving at the usual spot near the market (thanks to Nil, I discovered that I didn’t have to walk all the way to the river), there weren’t any feathered creatures around except for a raven or two. So we headed back to town and home instead (no thanks to my bladder) and took a slightly longer way.
We reached home in time for me to head to the toilet and after I was done, I got the two kids settled into their playtime routine with Noah on his playgym and Eva doing whatever else she wanted to do. Suddenly it poured!!!! And it wasn’t just rain. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was hail! It was a first for Eva and after showing her what exactly it was, she decided that she had enough of going out. “Rain rain, cannot go out.” O’well, there is always tomorrow. But really, thankgoodness we were indoors when it hit. Another couple of minutes and we would have been caught in it with a flimsy umbrella! Eeks!
As we get ready for the coming Christmas and New Year holidays, I’m taking stock of my craft work this year and am glad to report that I finished a cool 23 projects. Out of the 23, three of them were from before I had Eva!!!!!! The oldest was my Ivy cardigan which I casted on in 2007 and will not care to mention again (not very happy with it – hmpr).
I discovered the joys of knitting two socks on two separate DPNs, thanks to Lois, who decided that this would be best to combact my SSS – Second Sock Syndrome. It was also the same project in which I knitted with my plied handspun and discovered that uneven spinning makes for uneven finished yarn which will affect the outcome of the sock. These were gifted to my mum as I decided that the measurements and stitch count that I have always been using was not exactly suitable for me. I reckon in 2012, one of my knitting goals would be to knit myself a sock that will fit me decently!
Anyway, as we get ready for the end of the year, I find myself looking at one WIP that is nearly finished – Eva’s cardigan – and one that I would probably finish next year – my entrelac stole. I am beginning to see why some people are monogamous when it comes to knitting projects and after having read other people’s account of the dreaded startitis (the habit of starting but not finishing projects), I’ve decided to have a maximum of four WIPs in queue at any one point in time. This would include other crafts like weaving, spinning and crochet work. That way I reckon I can organize my time better, especially seeing how needy Noah can be.
So yes, all in all, a good crafty year! Now back to my hunt for some funky address plates – I wonder how addressplaques.net for address plaques works out.
Another one of those hearty yet light dishes which is great on a cold autumn evening. It’s pretty easy to whip up – I started working on this at 5pm and by 6pm, it was all set for the dining table to be consumed. No leftovers too! Everyone loved how this dish turned out.
The pastry must be rolled to the right thickness – too thin and it’ll break during the transfer, too thick and it won’t taste right. The addition of cherry tomatoes directly into the dish and not into the pan to cook makes the resulting sauce/juice oozing from the pie sweeter and all the more fragrant. Feel free to try this with seafood, fish and other meats as well as other vegetables like potato, zucchini, eggplant and carrots. Definitely a keeper!
Meat with leek, tomato & mushroom pie
Approx 80-100 gms plain flour
Approx 40-50 gms butter – cubed
A sprinkle of ice cold water
Some fresh button mushrooms – quartered
2 medium sized leeks
About 1 cup cherry tomatoes
Some chicken breast – skinless and cubed
Some mince beef
A handful of smoked pork belly
Salt & pepper to taste / Vegetable stock cube
Egg yolk (for glazing)
- Prepare the pastry by mixing in the butter with the flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add in some water to bind into a firm dough. Place aside in the fridge.
- In a pan, add some oil before tossing in the leeks and smoked pork belly. Fry until fragrant and the leeks slightly burnt/caramelized before adding in the mushroom, beef, chicken and the stock cube. Fry until the meat is semi-cooked before putting aside.
- In an ovenproof dish, toss in the cherry tomatoes before spreading the filling over. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and roll out until it reaches the size needed to cover the dish.
- Place the dough over the dish and seal the edges before trimming off the excess. Remember to slit the top to allow steam to escape.
- Brush some egg yolk over the pastry and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm as is or with a serving of French loaf to soak up the excess juices.
I ran out of ideas on what to make for dinner and decided to use the tortilla chips my parents bought – they would be heading back soon and I didn’t want to have any chips lying around (bad for Eva)! My parents wanted something light and since Noah has been fussy of lately, I wanted something that I could prepare earlier and put together quickly when necessary. Plus me turning into a panda and complex recipes equals a disaster!
So I ran out and bought some avocados as well as mince beef and bell peppers. Ended up with some pretty interesting nachos and really fabulous guacamole! Do note that with nachos, it’s best to use cheese that melts like mozzarella topped off with a strong flavoured cheese like cheddar or Gruyère. They didn’t have any of these so I settled for Emmental. Not the best of choices but it makes for a decent meal. Also, feel free to pile your nachos high up with plenty of layers of chips and mince as well as cheese. Do feel free to substitute beef with chicken, turkey or even pork and don’t worry – you can use different cuts of meat and not just mince!
Nachos The Grousson Style
Tortilla chips (unsalted)
1 Red & 1 yellow bell pepper – chopped and sliced (size is up to you)
1 cup fresh button mushrooms – chopped roughly
500 gms minced beef
1 medium sized onion – diced finely
A handful of smoked pork belly
Grated cheese – mozzarella & cheddar is preferred
1 stock cube
- Line the tortilla chips in a pan or ovenproof dish of your choice and place aside.
- In a pan, add some oil before tossing in the onions and smoked pork belly. Fry until fragrant before adding in the peppers, mushroom, beef and the stock cube. Fry until the beef is cooked and the mushroom is soft.
- Once ready, spread the meat mix over the chips before topping off with some grated cheese. Bake under the grill under the cheese is golden brown. Serve with some guacamole and sour cream.