Monday, 29 October 2012

Unplanned perfect

We just had the most wonderful weekend.

Saturday was our kids local Primary school fair.

It was so super lovely to just spend the entire day mooching around celebrating our lovely community.

I didn't know where my crew were most of the day but I knew they were safe.

Being looked after by each other & by their friends and by other parents.

I would look around and this is what I would see....
 Brothers loving each other.

On rides together, faces sore from smiling.

And then later on my 12yo went on stage with his band.

OMG when did kids get so awesome?
And so brave?
Can you imagine doing that at 12?
It was amazing.
They played a bit of Leonard Cohen & a bit of Paul Kelly.
As you do.
The little kids made up the mosh pit down the front.
Max was keen on getting them up on stage with him to dance.
They did.
So much fun.
The fun went into the night.........
We stumbled into bed late with happy exhaustion
A busy busy day.
A lazy brekky out on Sunday morning was in order...
We left the teenager behind fast asleep.
As you do.....
We walked home slowly.
And did some Spring gardening....
Then later we realised we hadn't had lunch or thought about dinner.
We did a late rush to Prahran market at closing time.
I wanted some fish for dinner.
We scored all this for a tenner (the benefit of shopping at closing time).
And I got a couple of pieces of Salmon and Swordfish.
Our closing time Market haul
I made the bunch of Basil into Basil Butter.
The kids devoured mango after mango.
We ate a delicious meal outside together and stumbled again wearily into bed, content.
What a lovely weekend.
A weekend of accidental perfection.
We couldn't of planned it better.
My favourite kind.
A perfect start to my birthday week.

The heady scent of basil is like no other.
I you don't have it in your garden and buy bunches you will notice how quickly and easily it bruises.
This is a great way to preserve the fresh and perfume rich flavour of basil a little bit longer.
Try & use the best butter you can afford. 
I love butter from Myrtleford Butter Factory .
Once made you can use slices from your roll of herbed butter to pop on top of steak, fish, chicken, in pasta or on top of vegetable fritters- really the possibilities are ENDLESS!

  • 1 bunch Basil
  • 125g Buter
Pop a small pan with a little water onto the stove and bring to the boil.

While the water is cooking, remove all of the Basil leaves from the stems (don't throw the stems away, they can be finely chopped and used in pasta sauce or stock).

Once water is at boiling point, throw the leaves in- just for a moment, until they are blanched and vibrant green. 

Remove and squeeze as much excess water as you can.

Blitz till fine in a food processor & now add the butter and blitz till combined.

On your work top place down some glad wrap and silicon paper on top of that.

Use a spatula to remove the herby butter from the food processor and onto the silicon paper.

Use the glad wrap to help you roll into a sausage.
Twist the ends tight to help you achieve that shape.

Place roll into the fridge for at least an hour to set.

Keep refrigerated for a couple of weeks.
I used it to pop on top of our Barbecued fish. 

The kids played this at the fair. Three guitars. One trumpet. SO very much amazing right there on stage.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What different eyes see........

We bought our little house nearly five years ago.

I fell in love with it instantly.

It was desperately in need of a whole lot of love.

To most it looked like a knock down but what I saw was a whole bundle of opportunity.  A blank canvas.

An opportunity to keep the history of someone else's family & add ours to it.

Our house is a classic 1920's Californian Bungalow.

The floors were like trampolines and some of the floors already had holes in them down to the dirt below.

The house had been unchanged since it was built by the owner's Mother in 1924.

When we won it at the Auction the family that owned it cried with joy that a new family was moving in to love it like they had despite the Real Estate agent warning them that most people would be looking at it to knock down and develop.

All I saw was joy.  No undoing someone else's reno that wasn't me.  My husband not so much.  He couldn't see what I saw.

To him it was just a smelly old mess that looked overwhelming.

To me it was a house filled with windows and light and opportunity.

The first time I saw it I had visualised walls down opening up the living space, floors sanded, walls painted and our family in it loving it.  I saw dramatic changes for not much money.  I am always looking for creative ways to make do without the dollar cost.

What I like isn't to everyone's taste but I am not one to make the design of my house about resale I am about making my house a home.  A home that tells a story about us. About what we love and about how we live.

Luckily my Husband trusted my judgment & let me bid for it & then freely create my vision.

Over the five years we have grown to love this place.  Our home.

But now as our children begin to grow very big (one is bigger than me and the rest won't be far behind) our little 3 bedroom bungalow is becoming a wee bit squishy and we are looking at making ourselves some more space.

I have been busily designing the extension with the same builder who knocked down the walls for me 5 years ago to create our gorgeous combined Kitchen & Living space.  I am lucky.

My builder understands me & my quirky 'out of the box' ideas.  He is happy to accommodate my nuttiness.

We had a meeting the other night to finalise the design.  He told me he is very excited about this job.  About doing something that is so unlike most other things he does.  I know how very lucky I am to have an existing relationship with a builder.  I trust him.  He understands me.  So very very lucky.

The important factors for me about the design have been about putting our personality into it with very large consideration to using sustainable, environmentally sensitive and recycled products where we can.   There will be some old recycled Australian Wharf timbers being used as features, there are plans for vertical gardens & kitchen gardens & we will be using a super energy efficient building method.

I wanted the new building to have harmony with the old but to be unique in itself.  I didn't want to mirror the old but celebrate the new.

Le Husband has left me pretty much to my own devices with regards to the design.  The wharf timbers was his idea & one that I am super doop excited about. The timbers will be visible from both inside and outside of the building.

It really is happening.

Our very own Grand Design.

And I am very very excited.
As will this little Builder boy be......

Watch this space.......

Have you caught the Kale chip frenzy?
It is everywhere.
I have mentioned many times on this blog my unashamed affection for Cavolo Nero.
I LOVE it. I use any excuse to put in stuff.
And so a couple of years ago when the kale chip frenzy began I was totes on board!
Another excuse to eat kale?
You betcha!
My kids ADORE these.  Plus they are SUPER nutritious and delish to boot. So much better than packet chips. My lads take them for morning tea snacks to school.
So so easy and so so yummy.
Give them a whirl - you will never look back.

  • 1 bunch Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale but you could use any Kale)
  • 1 tblspoon Olive Oil
  • Japanese Chilli  (you will find this in the Japanese section of your Asian Grocer)
  • Salt

Heat the oven to 150C.

Strip the leaves off of the stems and tear into large pieces.

Toss well in Olive oil so the leaves are coated (but not wet).

Lay out on baking paper so that the leaves are separate & not overlapping.

Shake over a little Japanese Chilli and salt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp.

Remove from the oven and let cool.
 They won't last long!

This song has been on high rotation this week. So very lovely.......

Friday, 19 October 2012

Things I have loved this week

After a tough few weeks I have actively tried to slow things down a little here.

The kids are better.

I am still exhausted.

I needed to slow down.

A lot.

So I did and here are the things I loved.

  • had time to spend nearly an entire day with an ace friend  mooching around Ikea and then an obligatory Dumpling lunch. So good.  I smiled for the rest of the day.
  • looked at my eldest and saw a fine young man

  • went & sat outside with the kids for afternoon tea everyday after school instead of me being in the kitchen cooking.  It meant we had very lazy dinners because boy oh boy it is 7pm before you know it- but it was the BEST.  The kids were in their pirate ship or just sitting with me on our very gorgeous YELLOW chairs that just make you smile when you sit in them & chatted. 

  • cried at the lovely comments on my last post. 
  • made a point of going outside to water the veggies at dusk and watch the sunset.

  • listened to some music I haven't listened to for a long time & loved it all over again.
  • talked with my gorgeous brother on Skype. I never tire of seeing his lovely face & chatting & laughing & crying with him. How goodamn ace is technology?!!!
  • made a point of cooking a really ace breakfast every morning. It was my way of saying to myself- give some good back to you GG. Sometimes the kids joined me, sometimes not but it was great. Great to give me some time back.
  • had a meeting at school and was amazed yet again at how super ace the teachers are and how very lucky my lads are to be involved with such inspired & inspiring people every single day.
Life is good.

I made these for one of my 'being good to myself' brekkys this week and had requests on Instagram to share the recipe.  I have started my own #ggbreakfast hashtag if you are IG, you can have a look at my breakfasts there for inspiration. 
I LOVE a brekky fritter- I shared my Zucchini, Dill and Fetta ones a while back.
Basically the ingredients are limitless- the bater is the same, you just add whatever you like to the mix.
Super simple but always SCRUMPTIOUS!
I had plenty leftover and my kids loved them for dinner. 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large can Organic Corn kernels  (or the kernels of 2 fresh corn cobs)
  • 1/4 cup SR flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • S & P
  • 2 large red chillis (omit of you don't like chilli)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped roughly
Crack the eggs into a large bowl.

Add all other ingredients and mix well.

Heat a non stick pan to medium and add a little Olive oil or butter.

Use a soup ladle to transfer the corn fritter mix to the pan. I did 3 at a time in a large pan.

Flip when the fritter has small holes that remain- this takes about 4-5 minutes (like Pikelets).

Flip and cook till brown on the other side.

Serve immediately. 

"I know the story, I know how it goes... you've broken into my soul."
aaaaah Richard Hawley your tunes were perfect for me this week. le sigh.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Am I really cut out for this job?

Do you ever have doubts about being strong enough to be a parent.

I have moments when I am overwhelmed by self doubt.

Doubts that I have the credentials to fulfil the job description.

Last night was one of them.

A heavy black velvet veil of anxiety draped itself around me good and proper.

Our family had only 2 days before shown the signs of recovery from the WORST gastro ever to take it's grip on our family.

I went out on Saturday night with some of my gorgeous blogging pals that were in town for a conference.

It was so good to get out.

We laughed HARD all night.

The best medicine of all.

I thought things were on the up.

All the hard stuff had gone out of my head.

Then last night our 12y.o's lips blew up- he was clearly having an allergic reaction to something.
My tummy felt like it had fallen to the floor.  I just felt paralysed with anxiety.

My head was shouting at me-

"You are not strong enough to cope with this.

Do I go to the hospital?

Do I wait & see what happens?

Do I ring the Ambulance or will they think I am stupid?

WHAT DO I DO?????"

Lucky for me my rational Husband comes to the rescue at this point.

We called Nurse on Call and the Nurse put us straight through to a Doctor.  He told me I had done exactly the right thing (I had given him an antihistamine as soon as I saw his lip) and now we talked about a plan.

I felt better.  Despite hating plans to do with my personal life- this sort of plan was my friend.

But I still had this feeling of panic- a sort of "Oh my god I have FIVE children and I am NOT any good at this parenting thing. I really am not."

Yeah that.

Then I take a breath and think of some advice a gorgeous friend gave me a few weeks back when I was talking to her of being consumed by self doubt.

She said the key is accepting that some level of self doubt is normal.  Is human nature.  But that to carry on we need to accept that and move ahead by letting ourselves believe we CAN do it.

I'm trying in amongst my sleep deprived, barely recovered state to hang on to this advice.

To say it over and over.

This morning we have seen a Doctor as his lip was still way too swollen to feel at ease.

Looks like we are going down the Allergy testing route.

But somehow I felt better.  I feel like we have support.  Like people are looking after us.

But I feel a little scared.  And a whole lot fragile. That little voice is in my head making me feel anxious. If anxious is the new black I am so in fashion right now.

We might have to wait SIX months - SIX MONTHS I mean really??!!!- for an appointment with the specialist and there may well be another allergic reaction in that time.

The key for me is to know to ask for help.

Don't try and be brave.

People DO want to help.

And there is nothing cowardly about asking for it.

And NOTHING cowardly at all about ringing an Ambulance.

Are you full of self doubt?

DO you find asking for help easy?

I first found out about this dish from my ace Sister in Law who has Chinese heritage-( she's related to the super doop Sydney chef Kylie Kwong don't ya know?!! (gotta drop that in don't I- cause it's super ace!))
Anyway she taught me about this dish after eating it from street stalls when she was living in Wuhan.
It is an intensely aromatic dish yet ever so simple.
The flavours are not what most of us would first think of as Chinese- but they are very authentic. Most of our views of what constitutes Chinese cuisine are limited.
Like many National cuisines, Chinese cuisine has incredible variety from province to province.
Xinjiang is one of the far northern provinces- bordering Mongolia.  Lamb- which is not seen in a lot of the other Chinese region's cuisine- is common here.
I went out with some ace friends and had this dish- I was reminded of it's simple glory & wanted to share it with you all. 
I hope you give it a try & LOVE it!

  • 1/2kg finely sliced Lamb (I deboned a leg of lamb and sliced the meat from that- get your butcher to do it for you & reserve half the meat to make something else)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons WHOLE cumin seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 10 whole dried chillies (optional for the chilli lovers)
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tblspn Rice bran oil (this is a high heat tolerant oil)
To get the BEST flavour from your spices you need to dry roast them. You will NOT believe the difference this makes to the overall finished dish. 
Heat a heavy based (cast iron pots are perfect) pan to a low/medium heat.

Pop in the Cumin seeds and the Sichuan peppercorns into the pan & roast until the seeds are starting to brown slightly and are giving off a gorgeous aroma. 

Remove from the pan and put into a Mortar & Pestle.

Grind till there is some powder but still some whole seeds. Drink in that perfume!

Dice the onion into wedges.

Place the finely sliced Lamb into a large bowl.  

Add the spice mix, the crushed garlic and the soy sauce and mix very well with your hands.  

It is preferable to let this marinade for a few hours but will still be delicious if you cook straight away.

Now you need to heat your wok to smoking- the heat of the wok is super important. 

Add the oil carefully and let it heat or about 20 seconds. 

Add a small handful of Lamb at a time. 

Let it sit in your wok for a minute WITHOUT stirring or touching AT ALL.

I know you want to!  I can see you reaching for your spoon!


By leaving the lamb you achieve this lovely crunchy exterior to the meat while leaving the meat tender.  It is the secret to this dish.

Once it has cooked for a minute you can now stir.  Once the Lamb is cooked remove form the pan and set aside.

Continue in small batches allowing the wok to come back to full heat in between batches.

When you have done all the lamb and it is sitting aside you can now add the onion wedges and stir fry till brown on edges and soft.  

Add chillies now if you are including them.

Now add the Lamb back to the wok and stir through to combine all ingredients well.

NB. This dish can be done on a BBQ plate if you have a solid plate and allow it to come to a VERY high heat.

Serve with Jasmine Rice.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The joys of growing food

Last week we had our veggie beds arrive.

I have looked on with interest at Melbourne company The Little Veggie Patch Co.   over the last few years.

Have you seen what they are doing smack bang in the middle of our city at Fed Square?

They have been busily creating the Pop- Up patch- an urban Veggie patch experience to help & support people understand the joys of growing your own veggies in a city Car Park. Such an ACE idea!!!   These kinds of ideas of using urban spaces excite me so very much.

You can read more about how to be involved here. 

Just because we live in Urban and Suburban environments doesn't mean we can't do all we can to grow stuff to eat.  You don't have to grow EVERYTHING.  I am not suggesting that.   But kids really do LOVE growing things and you will be amazed at how they will happily try foods they have refused time & time again if they grow it themselves, devouring it in front of you as you wonder what you had missed before.

I would love to see everyone just give growing some food a try. I really really would!

Even growing some stuff is good for you.  It's good for your soul.  It's good for the environment.  It's ever so good for your children.

And veggies are so very beautiful. And delicious.

I believe strongly in the educational aspect of it for our children.  It helps give them an understanding of where our food comes from. Of the effort that goes into it.  Of the things that are out of our control in terms of whether that seed we planted will ever actually make it to our table. Of waiting....... such a good lesson.

Food doesn't magically appear on the shelf at the Stupidmarket.  Or does it?  There are plenty of people- young & old that don't give it much thought.

Sadly I think too many people have lost sight of the big picture.  We choose to take the easy option in our busy lives and block that all out and buy from the big two because it is there and it is easy.  We choose to pop on the blinkers about how that food got there, where it came from.

We don't ALL have to do it the same way. We don't all have to have enormous beds that sustain all our needs. I am not professing that we all become self- sufficient.  It is a matter of awareness but also an opportunity.  An opportunity to BE with our children in a way that not many other activities allow.

Nothing can replace the pure joy of knowing that something you tended to from the very beginning made it's way on to your table and into your tummy to feed you goodness- goodness for your belly and for your soul.

I get that sometimes it is super dooper hard.  I really do. I have five little kids and it does take effort and time. But I think the rewards are immeasurable.  It's quiet time with your children. Time slowed down. Time to converse.  Time to watch. To take notice.

Just TO BE.

As we have had to move our veggie beds in order to make space for some building at our place we started thinking about options that could work for us while the building takes place and into the future.

Since we moved here 5 years ago we have been gradually changing the garden to Native and food producing plants.

The fruit trees look like producing fruit for the fruit time this year and we are beyond excited!  3 years ago we planted a pear, a peach, 2 varieties of nectarine, an apple, a Kaffir lime, a lemon tree, a blood orange, a pomegranate & a  few olive tress. We harvested our first Pomegranate last year- oh the joy.  This year we look like getting an olive crop and there are looking like LOTS of peaches. The kids are beyond excited.  They have learnt about seasonality, about the joy of what the changing seasons means in terms of what they can harvest.

We have had veggies growing in old wine barrels, old polystyrene containers, old pots collected form hard rubbish, old tin cans- whatever we could get our hands on. But we really wanted a bigger space & I needed something elevated because of my back problems and we were keen on using recycled products if possible. This was what led me to the Little Veggie Patch co.- they use recycled Apple crates.  They are the perfect height for me- no bending over!


So last weekend after letting the composted goodness in the soil settle the kids planted out the seedlings they had chosen.

They planted several varieties of heirloom Tomatoes, Radishes, Eggplant, coriander, Pumpkin, Cucumber, Rockmelon, Watermelon, basil, capsicum, sugarsnap peas, Giant Sunflowers & Marigolds to bring the good bugs to the patch.  We also have growing in other areas of the garden- Thyme, parsley, mint, rosemary, artichoke, vietnamese mint, oregano,  horseradish, mustard greens, strawberries & lemongrass.

I left the kids to plant as they wanted.  We don't follow any rules although there probably are some. But I think it is so beautiful to just watch how they think it should be.  They did a great job.

There was talk of how much they loved Gardening when it involved food growing.  That growing flowers was pretty boring but being able to grow veggies that you know you love to eat was so much fun.

The sun behaved just for the hour or two we needed.   It was absolutely delightful.

As the produce grows and we harvest I will share with you more of what we make with it......

NB: This post was not sponsored in any way- we paid for our beds-  I just love to shout out for peeps I think are rad. Onya Little Veggie Patch Co!!!

I would LOVE to tell you I made this with ingredients from my garden but we aren't there just yet.
One of my fave ingredients of Spring is ASPARAGUS! So much yum.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram (you will find me there as gourmetgirlfriend) will know of my addiction to Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale). 
I just love it- I have it in nearly everything. I will find any excuse to have it.
So this tart was an excuse really to use two of my fave spring things.
Wait a few weeks and it will be Broad beans.......
I have also started making my own shortcrust pastry- I used to be so scared of doing pastry. 
Shortcrust is quite forgiving really & super easy if you use your food processor to do most of the work- give it a try. It is super satisfying eating it knowing you have made it! 
The trick is to rest it before rolling & of course to using the best quality ingredients you can. 

for the pastry:

  • 200g Plain flour
  • 100g butter
  •  a pinch of salt
  • about 50g  ICE COLD water
for the topping
  • 1 bunch of spring asparagus
  • 5-6 stems of Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml cream
  • S & P
  • 200g your favourite cheese ( I used Bruny Island Raw Milk C2). Half will go in with the eggs and half on top

preheat oven to 190C.

First make the pastry by adding the flour and butter in to your food processor and blitzing for about 30 seconds or until it looks a little like breadcrumbs.

Now add the water and blitz again until it forms a dough.

Remove onto a floured bench and knead lightly.

Wrap in glad wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling out.

 While the pastry is resting you can prep the topping.

Trim the Cavolo Nero (i use the whole shebang as I love it but some people like to trim the leaves off the stems- do this if you like.

Add a little butter to a non stick pan. Add garlic and Cavolo Nero and fry gently till wilted. Set aside.

Remove the woody stalks from the Asparagus.

In a bowl whisk the eggs and cream and 100g of the cheese.

Now roll the pastry on a floured surface until it is able to cover the base of your pie dish.

Grease the pie dish and lay the pastry over carefully. Prick the base with a fork.

Place soem baking paper over the base and add baking stones (I didn't have any of those so I just used Dried Chickpeas).

Place into preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the base is cooked. 

Remove from the oven and remove baking paper & baking stones.

Add the Cavolo nero and then lay the Asparagus over the top.

Now pour the egg mix over the top and finish with the last half of the grated cheese. Season.

Place in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked.

This tart is delicious served Hot or Cold.  

Ours never made it to getting cold though!

I wanna go hang out with these kids & their furry boots of awesome in the forest & play pillow fights. Wanna come? 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Food memories Singapore style

Without a doubt one of the loveliest - and for me most unexpected- thing about blogging has been the interactions and relationships built with my readers.

A couple of weeks ago I posted my picture on Instagram of Congee (Chinese Rice Porridge- my recipe is here).  

One of my readers- Germaine- saw it there & talked about how her family often pop Ikan Bilis on top of Congee.  Ikan Bilis is one of my all time fave goodies! My 12yo LOVES it sooooo much! I am not sure why I have never cooked it myself so when Germaine told me about her family recipe I was super excited to ask her to share it with all of you too! I feel absolutely thrilled she has shared one of her family recipes with us. aren't we lucky!!!! I can't wait to make this!

Germaine Tan is a mumma of two super doop cutie patootie girls. They live in Melbourne & she is the owner of the very cute online store ChibiRun
Today I am thrilled to share with you a post written by her.  Germaine shares a heartfelt piece about her food memories as a child growing up in Singapore and how it has influenced her cooking with & for her family now.

Here is Germaine's gorgeous story. I hope you love it as much as I do. ~ 

"I believe that food always brings people together. In more ways than anyone can imagine. 
Ruth and I haven’t met in person (but we will someday!)
But that hasn’t stopped the both of us from feeling that we know each other, just simply over happy, excited little chats about her food. And mind. And FAMILY.
When Ruth shares about her little family, it is just magical. 
I was and still feel so humbled that she’s asked me about mine.
So now, it’s my turn to share.
About my family. About our foods.

Food in my family is a BIG thing.
I was born and bred in Asia. Singapore to be exact.
Melbourne has become my home for the last 10 years and I don’t think I’m leaving anytime soon.. I have so so much love for Melbourne.

Every morning in Singapore, Mum went to the local markets because that’s just what you did.
The local markets in Singapore were so so wet and slippery. Unlike the markets here.
As a child, I had to be extremely careful not to slip, especially near the fishmonger’s stall!
It was amazing.
You came to know ALL the market sellers and they always gave Mum the good cuts or the freshest fishes.
She bought the family’s food for that particular day to cook and because marketing was done every morning, every dinner was so fresh.
Sitting in our kitchen was this huge mortar and pestle.
And I remember it so vividly. Because it was one of the few cool things in the kitchen I was allowed to touch.
That and beansprout plucking. The two jobs I was quite proud of.
I could help pound all the spices, nuts, garlics into pastes with my little hands.
And I loved that rhythm the pestle made.
Dad was fortunate to be home for dinners but after dinner, he went off back to work and didn’t come home until at least 9pm at night.
So dinner was special to me because I got to sit next to him.
I was such a slowwwww eater!
We had a huge round table with a lazy susan in the middle.
Mum always cooked rice with dishes, which is a typical Asian Style meal. She always whipped out at least 4 dishes for a family of 5. Every. Single. Day.
Which till this day, I still don’t know how she managed to do so.
A fish. A soup. A meat. A veggie.

But after much thought, I think getting dinner out on the table was very important to Mum.
She stayed at home to look after us and we always had so much food to eat.

I think having family traditions are very important.
They don’t have to be crazy traditions that involve big parties once a year.

I think little traditions are the best.

One of Mum’s little traditions was to bake with me.
Mum loved to bake and she taught me everything she knew.
She allowed me to help her do all sorts of cakes and cookies, I can’t really remember what kind we did. But I always remembered that the kitchen table was full of flour, all dusty and powdery. 
Our cordless phone was wrapped in a clear plastic cellophane bag with a rubberband tied around it when we baked.
I don’t think it helped keep it clean much!!!!
But Mum thought it did.
She loved chatting with her friends on the phone and doing something else at the same time.  
Our little tradition was making chinese new year cookies together to put into bottles to give to everyone. 
I still know of some of Mum’s friends who get together to do that every year.

Dad also had his way of showing his love despite his busy schedule and he made his own little traditions with me.

One of his little traditions was actually brought back to mind when Ruth posted a picture of her delicious Chinese porridge.
She is COMPLETELY right when she said porridge was a comfort food.
Because we’re Teochew, Dad loved his porridge.
And he used to bring me out alone to his favourite Teochew Porridge stall in Singapore where they’d sell just bowls of plain porridge for 70 cents each and you could choose from over 40 different dishes all laid out at the front of the stall to go with your porridge!! They had braised eggplant, lobster with plum sauce, omelettes, sambal kangkong and so so so much more.

Dad enjoyed it so much, he always had at least 5 bowls of porridge!
Saturday morning breakfasts in Singapore weren’t eggs at a cafe.
Dad brought us to the hawker centre to eat roti chanai, chinese carrot cake and have refreshing sugar cane or soya bean drinks and there were hundreds of families there doing the exact same thing. 

Now that I’m wearing my big Mum shoes, I’ve REALLY grown to enjoy cooking.
Cooking and watching those people called family eat my food.
Making our own little food traditions.
After having one of those crazy weeks where everything happens in a rush, we usually sit down
on Sundays and have a bit of Chinese porridge.
Nice, simple, comfort food.

And to add a little bit more excitement in our life, we like to sprinkle lots of ikan bilis on top of the porridge."

Ikan means ‘fish’ and bilis means ‘small’ in Malay. 
The most common dish you can find ikan bilis in is Nasi Lemak, malay coconut rice which is simply delicious too.
It is like an Asian style tapas too!
The beauty of ikan bilis is that it is crunchy, salty, sweet, nutty and spicy all in an instant.
SO addictive.
My children love it - they think it is a very yummy snack!

We like to fry it up in huge batches in our household and give a few bottles here and there to family and friends.
It is a very forgiving recipe and it doesn’t mind if you’re a nut lover or if you’re not too fond of nuts. 
You will find the dried anchovies and the spanish red peanuts in dried goods section of the Asian grocer. 
The dried anchovies are often used as soup stock as well for lots of Asian clear soups! Just boil them in a pot of water and throw all your yummy veggies, tofu in and you have a nice, nourishing soup. 
You can also find the sambal at the asian grocer.

      300gm dried anchovies
      200gm spanish red peanuts (optional, or you can add more or less according to what you fancy)
      4 Tbsp evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
      1 onion, diced
      6 Tbsp sugar
      1 Tbsp tumeric
      4 Tbsp sambal (optional)


Wash the dried anchovies in a bowl under the tap a few times until the water runs clear.
Air dry them on a tray or switch on your oven to 150 deg C and dry them in there for 15 minutes. I like to dry mine in the oven as it seems to give it a nice additional crunch.
Have a feel of a few little fishes and they are ready to be cooked once they feel dry and crisp.

Heat up your evoo in a wok or a frying pan.
Fry your peanuts for 15 minutes until you get a nice, smoky, nutty fragrance wafting out strongly.
Pick out a peanut or two to taste and see if they’re crunchy and cooked.
Once cooked, remove from heat and set it aside in a bowl.

Increase to high heat and once oil is smoking, add your dried anchovies into the pan.
Fry the dried anchovies on med-high heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring and tossing regularly to make sure all the anchovies are getting their fair share of the heat.  
Watch and the anchovies will start turning a really delicious, golden brown and start curling and crisping up. Exciting!
Taste one or two or ten...
Once brown and crispy, remove from heat and set aside in another bowl.

Now, add in your onion and fry until fragrant.
Toss in your bowls of anchovies and nuts.
Add your sugar, tumeric and start mixing them all up evenly.
Last but not least, add in the sambal, mix it around and you’re done. 
If you’re cooking for the kids and I usually do a batch for my children, I don’t add any sambal or if I feel like giving them a hidden surprise, I just add a smidget of sambal and taste. And either way works out great too. It is still very delicious! 
Now for those of us who love chilli, I usually add the sambal in tablespoons and taste in between to see how spicy it becomes and stop when I feel that it tastes like something I would really enjoy.
I have to warn you though, Sambal is addictive!!!!
I have to stop myself from adding more and more!!! :)

Once cooled, put into old pasta jars to keep.

Ikan bilis can be used as a lovely addition to porridge, nasi lemak or even fried rice.
Writing this blog post has made me re-live many fond memories of my childhood.

Thank you so much for that, Ruth!!

Last but not least, one of my favourite composers EVER... Joe Hisaishi, seems perfect to accompany my memories of being a child which seems far away on certain days...

I love listening to him at any time of the day. :)

Sending ALL my love to each and every one of you this week 

xx Germaine

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Exciting times

Today the postman brought me something I have been excitedly waiting for.

My copy of the latest Anorak magazine- the Happy Mag for Kids.

Do you know this fab mag?

It is super ace!

Filled with ace stories, activities & gorgeous illustrations from lots of very talented & creative people.

But this issue has ME inside too!!!


My very first regular 'Eat Stuff' recipe- Yummy Soba noodles- recipe words by me & illustrations by Nanae Kawahara.   

I LOVE it!


I will now be a regular contributor to this rad mag dreamed up and made reality by the very clever Cathy Olmedillas.

Do subscribe to this gorgeous mag- it will be a tussle between the grown ups and the kids who gets the first look!

My kids LOVE it!!!!

And....while you are waiting for your mag to arrive you can go here and download Anorak's great apps from the app store & play to your hearts content.
Click here to take you to the app store to download this great activities app. Image via

Or you can click here to get the super dooper ace Anorak TV app. Image via
Yippee to the HAPPY mag for kids!
I am soooo happy to be a part of it.

We had run out of bread by Friday night (GASP!!!!) & I LOVE to eat a super doop yummo brekky on the weekend days, so Potato Rosti it was as something to pop my  egg on!
These are great next to a steak too! What's not to love about crunchy spuds?!
I poached an egg and topped it with a mix of very finely chopped Parsley and some of my homemade Horseradish.
It was SOOOOO good! 
If you don't like chilli, just omit it.
I used regular spuds but Sweet potato rosti are DELICIOUS too- just exchange! YUM.
This will make about 4 large Rosti

  • 6 medium potatoes, scrubbed well
  • 1 onion, peeled.
  • 1 red chilli chopped finely
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tblspns Rice bran oil for frying (you can add a little butter to the oil if you lik, it will add a lovely flavour!)

You want to make these just before you serve them so the outside stays nice & crispy.

Grate the spuds (I leave the skin on- that is where all the goodness is, this is why it is important to scrub them well) and pop into a colander. Squeeze out any excess moisture.

Now grate the onion and add it and the potato to a large bowl.  

Add the egg, the chilli and a bit of S & P.

Mix well.

Heat the oil in a non stick pan to a medium heat.

Grab a palm full of the potato mix and flatten it into a small pancake shape and place carefully into the pan.

Cook for about 4 minutes, or until brown, then flip and cook on other side.

Serve immediately.

I have been loving this track this week ~ very cool vid too!