February, 2007

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More Pasta

Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil @ Home

It’s been a while since I tried out new recipes at home. What with Ling going full bore on trying out new Peranakan and Asian cuisine at home, I figured it was time to reassert my place as Lord of the Kitchen @ Rivervale.:)

Now, one of the problems I occasionally face is finding the appropriate pasta sauce whenever I dish out a plate of carbonara. I usually opt for Leggo’s, but on at least a few occasions now, the NTUC outlets near home run out of stock on those stuff. I remembered that I received from Sharon and Siang an Italian cookbook as a Christmas present some years ago. So I dusted it away, picked it up, and chose one of the simpler recipes that didn’t need pasta sauces to try out. So here it goes:

dining-143.jpgPasta in parsley and pepper

  1. Slice and dice cloves several cloves of garlic.
  2. Cook it in olive oil until it’s very (very) slightly brown.
  3. Throw in cut fresh parsley. We couldn’t find parsley even at Cold Storage, so I opted for the bottled ones.
  4. Throw in pepper, or so the recipe said. I opted instead for the more potent black coarse pepper instead. Yummy.
  5. Throw in thinly sliced fresh mushrooms.
  6. Throw in fresh prawns. Ling had these sliced into halves for me.
  7. Throw in spaghetti, stir and mix well for 3 minutes.
  8. Introduce a mite bit more of olive oil.
  9. Shake a bottle of basil leaf pieces over it.
  10. Serve with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

The dish didn’t take too long to prepare; perhaps just 15 minutes including spaghetti cooking time in all starting from scratch. And the turn out? Well, not too bad actually. It’s certainly cheaper than carbonara, since it’s sans bacon and sauce. And taste wise, it’s… different. Dried pasta that I enjoy slurping.:)

Pining for Mee Goreng

Punggol Mee Goreng @ Hougang Mall foodcourt

dining-150.JPGNow that I’ve more or less completed my survey of great chicken-rice stalls around Sengkang, I’ve decided on my next fixation: find out the best plate of Mee Goreng around these parts! It’s funny to think of it. I haven’t always been a fan of Mee Goreng. It’s not terrifically healthy food course, certainly less so than chicken rice. But I got hooked on it after trying out an 80 cents plate of this stuff at the school canteen last month.

There’re a couple of things I’ve noted about Mee Goreng stalls so far too. Firstly, they’re typically offered at other noodle-based stalls, for example those that also sell Hokkien Prawn Noodles. Secondly, each plate has to be cooked on the spot, which means there’s usually some waiting time upon the placement of order. These two circumstances were certainly what I observed when I tried Hougang Mall foodcourt’s offering: the stall was also selling Prawn Noodles, and there was just one chef preparing plates of different fare for the persons just in front of me in the queue. The wait was around 10 minutes, and for $3.50, I got a so-so plate. There were three prawns, a few slices of fish cake but not much other condiments or garnishing. And the plate was rather small.

Funnily, I was about to put a spoonful of sambal chili on my plate – you can see it on the left side of the picture – at the counter, when the stall assistant offered that there “was already chili in the noodles ya know.” Be that as it may, but it certainly didn’t taste it. Without the additional sambal chili, the noodles wouldn’t have tasted very well at all. Taste wise, I figure this to be about the equivalent of my school canteen offering, the only difference being that this plate at Hougang was $3.50 while the Malay auntie at the Poly canteen only charges me 80 cents.

  • Food: 6 / 10
  • Value: 2.5 / 5
  • Overall: 2.8 / 5. Rather small portions with so-so taste.

Everybody Loves Pineapple Tarts

blog-pineapple-tarts-PICT3127.jpgThat’s right, it is one of our local festive delicacies which has a strong following, besides bak kwa (sliced BBQ pork).A colleague has formulated an improved recipe for making the skin of pineapple tarts creamy and moist. A few of us pineapple tart lovers asked for the recipe and tried it at home. The result? Yummy, soft, chewy and sweet tarts! My mom liked it too and I baked some for her recently.

Yang’s mom has her own special recipe too! Her pineapple filling is truly hand-made using premium pineapples. She baked a few tins of such tarts for her children and relatives. In addition, she also baked chocolate chips ‘n’ nuts cookies and almond cookies for us. We are very privileged indeed to be at the receiving end of such exquisite goodies! :)

Two of Four

blog-two-of-four.jpgLing had to work late on VD several evenings ago, so I got off the hook from having to plan for another madly expensive and exorbitant dinner as it’s often the case for days like these. We instead had dinner at home, with myself whipping up one her favorite fare: Pasta Carbonara pasta, and over an episode of The West Wing, a drama series that we enjoy watching together.

Valentine’s Day was in short a quiet and simple affair for the both of us. That said, we were saddened that not all of the four Lionheads Ling bought me as a year ago in the last VD made it past their first birthday.

The four little buggers had been surviving pretty robustly for most of the last 12 months; until a week ago for some reason part of the bacteria colony – an essential component of an aquarium cycle – died, causing the water conditions to suddenly and quickly deteriorate without either of our knowledge. Two of the fellows managed to survive long enough for us to discover the problem while the other two succumbed quickly.

We were fearing for the survivors too as they remained sick for several days. Fortunately, as of yesterday, both seemed to have fully recovered and are swimming abouts as before, even if they look just a tad sorrowful at missing two of their family.

Bombs Away!

blog-birdie-dropping.jpgOne of those things that Singaporeans have to live with is the large amount of bombs that land on us everyday. Serious; and these bombs explode, cause anguish, trauma, tons of cleanup – even if they’ve yet to kill a living human being.Oh yes, I mean the bird shit that lands on us, on our roofs, on our sleeves, and on our cars.

For some reason though, our car is often subject to these unwanted sky droppings, and more so that other cars. That’s what our car looked like the other day; and it was the more painful because we’d just sent it for an overhaul servicing that included a $150 buff and polish.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m starting to wonder if it has something to do with Ling, who usually is the person who uses the car. I mean, mosquitoes are drawn to her too; every morning she’ll wake up with bites all over her; just several nights ago she whimpered in despair after one of those insects gave her a big love bite just above her eyelid.

I joked with her and said she’s the best insect repellent I’ve ever had; because whenever I’m with her, all those things go for her instead of me haha! She snorted that she’s a “animal lover”, so maybe there’s some logic to the suspicion.:)

New Eateries

Katsu set @ Shi Fu

dining-147.JPGWe were delighted to find that a new coffee shop, Shi Fu, had just opened across the road from The Rivervale. It’s about the same size as Vari Nice, and offers the same variety of fare common in little eateries like these. What’s even better – to boot – is the Shop n Save supermarket right next to Shi Fu. Granted it’s no NTUC, but it still carries a sizable range of groceries and daily necessities. Vari Nice is getting some serious competition, finally.

All that said, we’ve tried out Shi Fu’s stalls twice now since its opening last week, and the results have been pretty mixed. The first attempt was packed Nasi Lemak which didn’t taste anything like such. The second attempt – yesterday evening – was dine-in, and I chose the katsu set offered at the Japanese/Western cuisine stall, for a pretty very low asking of $4. Ling chose a fish & chips set that – surprisingly – cost more than mine at $4.50.

dining-148.JPGFood wise was bleh. The rice was somewhat cold – the first time I’ve had Japanese katsu sets that serve cold rice. The chicken slice itself tasted nicely crisp and fresh, but like the stall at Hougang Mall was so thin it didn’t have much meat on it. The coleslaw seemed out of place, but was pleasant. The real highlight for me though were the two small cubes of toufu; excellently soft, and Ling liked them.

  • Food: 5 / 10
  • Value: 3.5 / 10
  • Overall: 2.8 / 5. The low asking price is the draw. But for slightly more, one can find better katsu sets elsewhere.

Bad Bird!

Hotplate Black Pepper Chicken @ Kopitiam (Rivervale Plaza)

dining-145.jpgLing needed to look for nearly a dozen water pistols for a lesson on the new week. She insisted adamantly that the pistols would be used for a “science experiment” in school, but exactly how those toy guns will fit into that exercise I’ve yet to find out. In any case, there was a toy and stationary shop at Rivervale Plaza, so that was where we hit on Friday evening last week and also for a quick dinner.

Between the two foodcourts on the second level that eye-ball each other at the Plaza, we’re pretty certain that the Kopitiam one offers noticeably cheaper fare. Which one sells better food we haven’t figured out yet though; the stuff in both are pretty mediocre so far. Still, the both of us checked out the same stall; Ling had shrimp dumpling noodles, and myself a black pepper chicken hotplate with rice. Ling’s noodles weren’t really any good, even though the asking price was a very low of $2.50. Mine was $3, and for that I got a bowl of rice, a hotplate with a sizable portion of bean sprouts and chicken meat. Great value for money; elsewhere for these portions, the set’s asking would had been at least $4.

The taste was quite a different story however. The black pepper flavour was minimal, and the chicken cooked in too watery a sauce that the pepper flavour got pretty diluted. I’m reminded of similar fare at Sembawang Hill hawker centre; and for a slightly higher asking price, you get a much better rendition of this dish.

  • Food: 5 / 10
  • Value: 4 / 5
  • Overall: 3 / 5. It’s edible stuff, just not very delicious. I had to cut it some slack though, given its very low price.

The Herb ‘Garden’ – Part II

blog-herb-garden-2.JPGRecently, I discovered that I got company in my interest for growing herbs. At least 3 other colleagues were also herb enthusiasts. We making branch cuttings of our herb ‘collection’ for one another – what a wonderful way of sharing without having to spend at all! :D So far, I have acquired Dill, Laksa plant, Mint, Sweet Basil and Pandan. The Laksa plant is adapting very slowly to its new environment but my mint appears to be struggling with wilting leaves! The rest are doing fine so far.Anyway, updates on my 4 basil plants bought from Cold Storage now. Except for the lemon basil which was so frail that I decided to uproot it to make space for other plants, the rest are growing very well! The red basil has been losing its deep maroon colour over the weeks – I suspect that this is due to too much light. The cinnamon basil is a winner. I had recently propagated 3 small pots of it for my colleagues :)

Yang asked whether I could also keep parsley too – the Italian variety. I saw Cold Storage sell that recently. Will keep an eye out for new supply. Alternatively, I could drive northwards to some herb farms which sell it. Actually, I had been contemplating of growing them from seeds. Theoretically, it should be quite easy and neat. Moreover, plants grown from seeds have stronger root system. I like robust plants. :D

More Pasta

Spaghetti with bacon and eggs @ Home

In my continuing foray into home Italian cooking, the next recipe I tried was spaghetti served with bacon and eggs. This one is sans pre-prepared sauce again, and thus the component and condiment cost is pretty low; perhaps to around $6 that serves two persons nicely. This one’s a variant from my cookbook again.:)

  1. dining-146.jpgShred the bacon into tiny strips and pieces
  2. Cook in a large pan with just a bit of oil and two crushed cloves of garlic. I didn’t use too much oil, since the bacon will naturally shed its fat during cooking.
  3. Dash in some black pepper.
  4. While the bacon’s cooking, boil the spaghetti.
  5. While the spaghetti’s boiling, beat three eggs. Throw in parmesan cheese, pepper, and stir well.
  6. Keep the bacon on the pan on low heat since the spaghetti should take longer to boil.
  7. Once the spaghetti’s boiled, drain, turn off the pan’s heat and immediately toss it into the pan. Pour in the egg mixture.
  8. The heat from both the pan and also the newly boiled spaghetti will help cook the egg mixture. Stir and mix, and serve! :)

The overall result wasn’t too bad, though perhaps because the bacon had been left stir frying for too long, the dish tasted on the salty side. Ling had some fresh tomatoes in the fridge, so she cut a few slices and had them alongside her plate too.