Friday, December 28, 2007

This Christmas...

Christmas lunch setting

Last Christmas, we had 2 separate christmas celebrations. We had an early christmas lunch on the 17th Dec and then a Christmas dinner with our friends on Christmas Day itself. This year, thankfully, we only had one Christmas celebration that lasted the whole day from 1pm to 11:30pm.

What a perfect way to celebrate Christmas away from home than with your second family - your friends. :)

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1. Our posh Christmas set up - with plastic knives and forks to make up for the lack of serving ware


Christmas lunch setting


2. Our hosts this Christmas

Ali & Ange


3. The makeshift Christmas tree

Make shift Christmas tree :)
(See that notebook there? It blared christmas carols throughout the whole day)


4. The grog

The grog opener



5. Food, Glorious Food!

Appetisers, Entree and Main
Appetisers: Rosemary Infused "Pigs in Blanket" & Smoked Trout w/ Creme Fraiche on crackers (not pictured), Entree: Seared Scallops w/ Orange Butter Sauce, Main: Turkey w/ Wild Mushroom, Bacon and Sausage Meat stuffing, Hampshire Breed Pork Loin Joint w/ stuffing and all the trimmings.


6. What's a Christmas without some caroling?

Christmas carolling


KK
Photo courtesy of B.Wong


8. And last but not least

Chocolate surprise

Dessert:
A chocolate tasting plate -
A trio of chocolate delight - dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate and dark chocolate infused with orange and cointreau. Chocolate biscotti (with pistachios and cherries), Pistachio and cranberry biscuits and Matcha Truffles. (not in picture)

And that was our Christmas. :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Seasons Greetings & Merry Christmas

It's 6pm (London Time) on Christmas Day and we've just finished our Christmas lunch for 2007.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

London, thus far...

London postcards (cropped)

Dear Diary,

It's been over a month since we arrived in London and how quick time has flown! We haven't done as much as we'd thought we would've but it just seems like after the first week, days just seem to go by and sometimes we feel a little uninspired and lack luster?

Days are shorter here too. The sun sets early here. Before you know it, the room becomes dark and the lights all come on and you start thinking it's night 7pm at night when it's only 4pm in the afternoon.

We're staying with friends at the moment, in Central London. Free loading is great, except you feel bad so you start cooking (actually that was a requirement for free loading here) and cleaning and doing the laundry for them. Before you know it, you're someone's full-on maid! Hey isn't that great, your best friend is also your maid. Ah.. I digress.. life's too short to complain about that.

Did you know the Brits love their sandwiches? There is a sandwich bar/pattiserie-cum-sandwich bar at almost every corner offering sandwiches (duhh..), pannini and baguette rolls for breakfast, lunch and dinner. According to one of our friends, most Brits grab a sandwich for lunch and a packet of crisps (English for Chips!). No wonder subway does so well here and get this, you know those subway meals that we used to get with a cookie and a drink? The meal deals offered here are with cookie or crisps. Wow! It must be true!

So what have we done in the last 4 weeks? Umm... not much London wide - strolled across the London Millenium Bridge and Hyde Park, did some window shopping from Oxford Street down to Piccadilly Circus, stopped by Leicester Square and had dinner in Covent Garden. We also took a trip down to 2 of the most famous London Markets - Borough and Portobello in our first 2 weeks and since then we've also made our first 2 trips to Europe! Yay... We spent the weekend (just past) in Bremen, Germany and the weekend prior in Luxembourg.

Will write about Bremen and Luxembourg at a later time, for now here's a peek of some of our London photos.

Portobello Markets:

1. Hummingbird Bakery

hummingbird cupcakes


2. Cakes, Olives and Bread

bread cakes and olives

3. Others

antique101


portabello

Borough Market

borough

borough1

Ok. Gotta go. I'm so buggered. Am sick again (2nd time now) and have been baking christmas cookies all day. Til next time..

xx iL

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Menu for Hope IV 2007


Have you been a naughty blogger this year?

Why not get into Santa's good books this year by doing your good deed and supporting Menu for Hope?

Give a gift this Christmas, buy a raffle ticket and support "Menu for Hope IV", the Annual World Food Blogging Event started by Chez Pim. Last year, Menu for Hope III raised US$60,925.12 for the UN World Food Programme.

This year, donations raised will again support the UN World Food Programme specifically the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa.


What is 'A Menu for Hope'?

A Menu for Hope is an online non-profit Food Blogger fundraiser organised by Chez Pim. This is the 4th year for the fundraiser which started in 2004.


What do I get for a raffle ticket?

Food bloggers worldwide have sponsored a number of gifts to encourage and entice you to participate. A list of gifts can be found here on Pim's website. You may select which prizes you are interested in. (Don't forget to write down the code of the prizes that you are interested in! Eg. EU 07, or AP09)

You can also view prizes from specific regions:


How much is a raffle ticket?

Raffle tickets are US$10 per ticket and and each ticket gives you one entry into the draw for the prize of your choice. Your $10 will feed more mouths than one - so do it!


How can I help?

Tell your friends, in fact tell everyone you know and buy a raffle ticket! In fact buy two or three, even four raffle tickets .. the more the better. Not only are you helping your chances to win! You are helping raise money for the UN WFP and more importantly you are helping to fight the war on hunger.


Where can I buy raffle tickets?

Go to: http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhopeIV

Don't forget to select a prize and write down the code in the personal message section.

Donations are accepted until Friday, 21 December 2007. And the prize winners will be announced on Chez Pim's blog on 9th January 2008.

Need more information? Visit ChezPim.com for updates on this years Menu for Hope or any of the above regional organisers.

So, have you done any good deeds this year? :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A blondie for all occasions

Bite sized blondie stack

There was a time (before I started paying attention to what I ate) that the word "Blondie" conjurs up only 2 images in my mind.
  1. Tsk! She's such a blondie! - ie. a clueless blonde person.
  2. And so I wake in the morning and I step outside... to the tune of "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes. (not to be confused with the Blondies)
That, fortunately was many moons ago. Nowadays, there are 3 things that come to mind when someone utters the word "Blondie". At the top of the list, is:

"A white chocolate Brownie" :)

I have to say, it took a while for me to start appreciating the quality of white chocolates. I've always avoided white chocolates not because I'm a chocolate purist and don't think they "count" as chocolate, but more for the taste or sweetness of it. It used to give me toothaches for days on end whenever I have a piece of white chocolate - the bigger it is, the longer the ache lingers.

So imagine my own surprise when I found myself craving for this creamy confection one day after listening to my boss/colleague Kathy's weekend dinner party stories about the white chocolate and mascarpone cheesecake she had served up to her dinner guests. I remember her telling me that it was superb and it was the only cheesecake that her daughter (who is a little bit of a fussy eater) would ever eat. It contained a large amount of white chocolate, loads of double cream and mascarpone cheese. It was full of cheesey and creamy goodness and so rich that she had to serve it with a raspberry compote to tone things down a little.

To this day, I do not recall what was going through my mind that day, but I remember stopping by the supermarket for those 4 items (white chocolate, double cream, mascarpone cheese and frozen raspberries) on the way home that day with grand ideas of making that same cheesecake that very night.

With all the ingredients stacked up in the fridge I was confident of reaching the doorsteps of cheesecake heaven that night until I couldn't find the recipe for it! :( It was one of Bill Granger's recipes and I have almost every single publication that he had ever released... except for one. It turned out that the recipe was in THAT VERY BOOK that I didn't have. Boo... I lost interest after that, the whole cheesecake craving went straight out the window and the white chocolate and raspberries sat forgotten in the pantry and freezer.

Until one day when it was announced we were having a social function at work and everyone was to bring a dish to share. I had left it to the very last minute and a quick survey of the pantry the night before revealed the white chocolates I had bought a few months ago. The white chocolate brought back memories of the frozen raspberries and little bit of digging later I found some macadamia nuts and the idea came to me that I should whip up some sort of blondie/brownie with the ingredients.

So I turned to my then new acquisition Donna Hay's chocolate book and this was the result of that little pantry-digging/recipe-searching expedition.

A whole block of blondie

Blondie
adapted from Donna Hay chocolate

180g white chocolate
125g butter
385g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
250g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 punnet of raspberries
100g macadamia nuts

  1. Preheat oven to 160 deg C.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan and stir until smooth.
  3. Place in a bowl with the sugar, vanilla and eggs.
  4. Sift over flour and baking powder and mix to combine.
  5. Fold in macadamia nuts.
  6. Pour mixture into a 22cm square tin (I used a rectangular sized slice tin) lined with non-stick baking paper.
  7. Lightly stud the top of the mixture with the raspberries (click here to see example).
  8. Bake for 1 hour or so until set.
  9. Remove from oven and set aside.
Serve by either: cutting into small bite sized squares using the raspberries as guide or into bigger slices if serving as a dessert.

Optional: dust with icing sugar before serving.

My Verdict:

Remember how I said I didn't like white chocolate?? Can a girl be fickle and change her mind?? Of course! What else is new!? I love this blondie recipe. The tartness in the raspberry helped cut the sweetness of the white chocolate whilst the macadamia nuts added a great texture to the dense slice.

At first, I was a little worried when I brought it to the social gathering because there were soo many desserts and mine was parked right at the corner out of line of sight. My worries were unfounded, because by the time I went back to the dessert table to collect my leftovers and plate more than 2/3 of the plate had disappeared! I almost had to scramble for the leftovers.

Not satisfied that I was left with so little to take home, I made another batch of it on the weekend and since we had visitors over, I cut up a bigger slice of the blondie and made some raspberry sauce to go with it. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it turns a simple slice into a decadent and classy finish to a meal. :)

So, cut it into small squares to share or big slices for a simple dessert. Is this a blondie for all occasions or what? ;)

Blondie as dessert w/ raspberry sauce

Edit: Doh! I was going to bring this to Peabody's House Warming Party. But since I was so disorganised, I missed the submission deadline yesterday. Bummer. Hope you have a fabulous party Peabody!