Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Everywhere you go, you see glistening lights. What a pretty sight!

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We were in Cologne, Germany, recently for the annual Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom (Christmas Market at the Cologne Cathedral)

We have been to several Christmas Markets. They are quite similar everywhere in Central Europe. The decors, colours, the sweet smell of spices, waffles, pretzels, fried onions, dry roasted chestnuts and the crowd! 

It was amazingly crowded the weekend we were in Cologne. It was also the day when whole Belgium stood still. 15th Dec 2014 saw the country went on strike against the ruling government’s policy of austerity measures. Many low landers from Belgium took a day off as well as neighbouring Netherlands thronged at the Cologne Christmas Market that weekend. It was almost impossible to take decent pictures of the Christmas stalls without human beings stampeding in every nook and cranny. I managed to take a few with just the roofs 🙂

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It was such a pity with the immense crowd, we were struggling with our manoeuvres, elbow to elbow. We had been walking around the same stalls for the umpteenth time. My younger son said he preferred hanging around in the big Lego shop in the centre of Cologne. We did that! And wow, the price tags! Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching! Lol!

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A Glowing Christmas 

A German colleague once told me, “Never leave a German Christmas Market without trying the German Glühwein.” 

By the way, what is Glühwein?

Glühwein literally means “glow-wine”, from the hot irons once used in heating wine with mulling spices. The holy trinity of a traditional German mulled wine are cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange (juice and rind or zest). However, there are many variations of mulling spices used for making Glühwein today.

A few German friends I know swore to the “glow” in Glühwein as the addition of stronger liquor such as rum, whiskey or brandy. Whatever it meant, I never failed to “glow” within me when sipping the warm mulled wine :-). An excellent winter treat. 

My version of the Glühwein included lemon rind, juice and honey instead of sugar plus the holy trinity of the mulling spices.

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For the red wine, I used Ruby Cabernet from South Africa because of its fruitful essence. To make Glühwein, the red wine is warmed at low heat (Note: Do NOT boil the wine). In a muslin cloth or tea bag, add the cinnamon sticks, star anise , cloves, and rinds of orange and lemon. Throw the mulling spice bag in the warmed wine. Add some honey and juices of orange and lemon to taste.

And that’s it!

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Unlike other Christmas Markets we have been to, the ones in Germany are quite exceptional. Instead of plastic cups, the Glühwein is served in festive mugs.

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These Glühwein mugs have become collective items, but for a price, of course. Eur 2.50 for the wine and another Eur 2.50 for the mug! Well, it’s Christmas and it only happens once a year! 

I am sharing this Christmas warmth to the following Cooking Challenges – my last one for this year 😉 

Lavender and Lovage’s “Sugar & Spice (November and December Cooking with Herbs Challenge)”

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My Treasured Recipes #4 – Ho Ho Ho It’s Christmas (Dec 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Cook and Celebrate: Christmas 2014 hosted by Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids

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And without much ado, I would like to take this opportunity to wish my family, friends and readers a very Merry Christmas!

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May the real message of Christmas fill your life with love, joy and peace. 

Best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season. 

 

God bless!
xxx

This is an extraordinary special dish and a special dish does not come by everyday. I made this dish on Sunday although it should have been served today, 9th December.

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Too Good To Be Forgotten 

It was 18 years ago today when this special tot became plus one mortal to earth’s population, however, I can tell you that this homo sapiens was not ready to come out into this world that soon. It was comfortably curling itself in its own world, called the ‘water bag’.

Was it going to be 1st Dec? 3rd Dec? 6th? 10th? 15th? I hadn’t the clue because it was all new to me. No contractions. No pain. Nothing. I could dribble a ball and do a slam dunk. No problem at all. And yet my OB/GYN confirmed full term and scheduled the planned date for delivery on 1st Dec. 

Hubby was anxious, or rather, nervous, because I showed no signs of labour. Then what?

Going back to my OB/GYN, she said, “Check in early on 9th Dec. The baby should be out.” Hubby checked me in at 8 am on 9th Dec… but the baby did NOT want to come out. The ‘gateway’ was too narrow and it was curling and snuggling comfortably really high up. And then a nurse came and I felt a sharp and piercing pain. She did something to open the ‘gateway’. I was in agony. It went on for hours on end. I was the loudest (literally speaking) patient on that floor, because the pain was just unbearable. I felt like I was dying. I was completely exhausted and worn-out. Poor hubby was nervy and on edge seeing me wailing in pain.

After a long and grueling 12 hours and 45 minutes on the ward, baby made the statistics – after an induced labour, ten hours of excruciating pain, one hour of epidural anaesthesia and the last one hour without – the little dude came at exactly 20:45CET! My firstborn 💙

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And that was the day when our lives changed completely. We were no longer two, but three and counting 😉 My second experience was an exact opposite. Baby could not wait to come out. You can read my experience here

A Birdy December 

Have you ever realised that the meat dish that is normally served on Christmas Day is usually a bird? Even the Christmas Carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas mentioned 7 different feathered friends. Oh by the way, if you had counted six, count again. It’s SEVEN – really!!

7 Swans a Swimming
6 Geese a Laying
5 Golden Rings
4 Calling Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

You must be wondering, 5 Golden Rings? Well, the 5 gold rings were not actually gold rings but they refer to the five golden rings of the ring-necked pheasants!

It’s December, so a bird on a plate is the best gift ever for a birthday boy.

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Last year, we had Baked Quails with Bacon Rashers in White Grapes Sauce – A Christmas Eve Special. On the request of the birthday boy, I bought some quails on Sunday. Instead of baking them, I braised the little birds.

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This recipe is adapted from Cooking Channel’s Braised Quails with Wild Mushrooms. I tweaked the recipe and improvised according to taste and available ingredients. Instead of white wine, I used Bourbon Whiskey. I excluded the mushrooms altogether as my sons are not fans of wild mushrooms. My recipe as follows –

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INGREDIENTS 

  • 6 quails, cleaned 
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • Some butter 
  • Olive oil 
  • 250 g bacon, cut into slivers 
  • 2 small onions, chopped 
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour 
  • 2 caps Bourbon Whiskey (Jim Beam)
  • Water or stock broth 
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves 
  • 1 bay leaf 

DIRECTIONS 

1. Season the quails with salt, and pepper. Melt a knob of butter with a drop of olive oil in a casserole dish and brown the quails on all sides. As you can see, my casserole dish is quite small. The 5th and 6th birds were browned in a separate pan (I did not photograph).

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2. Remove the quails from the dish, and set aside. Add the bacon to the pan, brown it, and remove. Finally, fry the chopped onions until fragrant, adding a bit of olive oil, if needed.

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3. Stir the flour into the onions, and cook for one minute. It will get dry and lumpy at this stage. Deglaze the pan with a capful or two of the Bourbon Whiskey, stirring up the good bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the onions, bacon and quails to the casserole dish. Pour over the stock and bay leaf, cover, and simmer until the quails are just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Toss in fresh basil leaves.

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4. When the quails are done, remove them from the cooking liquid and keep them warm. Make a gravy from the cooked liquid. Season to taste.

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If only you were here to see my son finished this plate. He licked his platter clean – literally speaking – and if only bones were edible, too 😜

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With Christmas round the corner, I am bringing this platter to the following Christmas Cooking Challenges –

My Treasured Recipes #4 – Ho Ho Ho It’s Christmas (Dec 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Cook and Celebrate: Christmas 2014 hosted by Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids

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I am also sharing this pre- Christmas story to readers following
Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking

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Nine months of anxiety, ten hours in agony but pride and joy forever. 

Happy birthday, Niels! 🎁🎉🎂 

And happy mid-week all! 

 

Cheers!

It’s not Christmas Day yet in Belgium, but it is in some parts of the world already, however, chances are you would  probably be reading this post on or after Christmas Day 🙂

Here’s a picture I took of a part of our Christmas tree, with the cherub angel harping glorious message to you, my dear readers.

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Christmas Eve

While growing up in Malaysia, the Christmas Eve dinner and Midnight Mass were the pivotal points of our lives. My parents made sure everyone sat at the dinner table enjoying a 6- to 8-course meal together, after which we adjourned for the Midnight Mass. 

We did not bother to observe the time.  It could be 1 am or 1.30 am in the morning when we got home, but who cared.  It was Christmas Eve…erm…Day!

I missed those days…

Christmas Eve in Belgium is still a family thing, but not as boisterous as the one I knew growing up in Kuching 😉

I made a simple but special Christmas Eve lunch today.

This recipe is adapted from a festive catalogue of Colruyt, a Belgian family-owned retail corporation, most significantly known for its eponymous discount supermarket chain.

I was browsing through the brochure, and chanced upon a small column about Quails and how to prepare them.

Quails are categorised as a game bird and belong to the pheasant and partridge family. Great!  Sounds Christmassy. “… and a partridge in a pear tree…”

I bought 8 Quails, which looked like midget chickens or turkeys.

1. Quail

The recipe indicated only the method: Pan-fry the Quails in a pan to brown before placing in a baking tray. Season with salt and pepper and wrap each quail with 3 bacon rashers. Sprinkle rosemary, thyme and crushed garlic and olive oil before baking in a pre-heated oven of 180°C for 30 to 40 minutes.

Not bad, I thought.  I meant, the recipe looked simple to follow, so why not, eh?

As usual, my creative right-brain got the better of me and whispered to my Grey Matter what I should add or omit from the ingredients 😀

Here were the ingredients I used to prepare the Quails –

  • 8 Quails, washed and cleaned
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A handful of fresh basils, torn roughly
  • 1 chicken stock cube, crumbled
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • Olive Oil

I made a special sauce to go with the Quails.

  • “White” Table Grapes, skin removed
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • Some Cognac for flambéing
  • Some water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Corn flour, to thicken the sauce

Method –

  • Pan-fry the quails to sear and brown the meat
  • Place the lightly brown quails on a bed of sliced onions, crushed garlic, roughly torn basils, chicken stock cube, freshly milled black pepper and olive oil
  • Cover the quails with the bacon rashers, like you would, a blanket over a child 😀
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven of 180°C for 40 minutes

2a. Quail2b. Quail

2c. Quail2d. Quail

To make the sauce, I sautéd the shallots, then added the alcohol while flambéing the sauce, which in my opinion enhanced the flavour of the sauce. I then added some water and seasoned to taste before thickening the sauce with a mixture of corn flour and small amount of water.  Finally, in went the skinned grapes just before plating up.

3a. Quail

Grapes

3b. Quail

3c. Quail

Our simple yet stupendously noteworthy Christmas Eve dish 😉

I’m sharing this post with the following links –

The December Cooking with Herbs Challenge…AND Christmas Spices!  hosted by Karen Burns-Booth of  Lavender and Lovage

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Cook-Your-Books#7  hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours

 Cook Your Books

Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads – Thinking, Reading, Photographing

Weekend Cooking

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!!

Cheers!

With its 31 days, December to me is the “shortest” month of the year. There are a million and one things to do, or rather, rush in the last month of the year. My checklist is endless…juggling between my office work and house work are the craziest challenges ever 😦

Probably the most difficult task is getting the right Christmas gift for that someone as it takes a lot of time and energy. Yes, no kidding here. I hope the recipients this year will un-wrap the packages with lots of “oohs” and “aahhs”.

Well, last Christmas, I received a rather special gift. It was an “oohh” alright 😉

It was a book – to be more precise – a lime green cookbook!  The author is Leemei Tan.  Her name sounded rather Malaysian or Singaporean.  I was extremely curious and delved directly into the Introduction page of the cookbook.

Bingo!

The author IS a Malaysian. I had no clue that Leemei Tan had a blog: My Cooking Hut. I checked it out almost immediately the next morning.  And there’s that lime green recipe book again: Lemongrass and Ginger: Vibrant Asian Recipes 😀

By the way, I had a Dutch translated version: Citroengras & Gember – heerlijke Aziatische recepten.

1. Baked spiced chix 

Page 95 looked extremely inviting! I was mesmeric!

2. Baked spiced chix 

I flipped through the pages several times over and I kept coming back to page 95.  I was bewitched, so to speak. 😀

So, almost a year later (YES!), last weekend, I made this dish. Oops…I have been procrastinating again, haven’t I?!

According to the author, this is a superb, tasty and simple dish originated from the Baba-Nyonya. The Worcestershire sauce used in the dipping sauce is an example of the Colonial influences in the Malaysian cuisine.

Here’s my version of the Nyonya Chicken, which I baked, rather than fry them ;-).  This makes a great side dish for Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, however, we had this as our main dish served with steamed white rice and stir-fried brussels sprouts and carrots.

3. Baked spiced chix 

Oh by the way, I have also made some minor changes to the recipe according to my personal taste. These are highlighted in blue italics.

Ingredients –

  • 1 kg drumsticks ( I bought  a packet of 11 drumsticks weighing at 1.2 kg)
  • 5 shallots (I used 4)
  • 5 cloves garlic (this was not in the recipe)
  • 1 Tbsp coriander powder (I used ½ Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp corn flour
  • 2 tsp honey (I used 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 ¼ tsp coarse sea salt ( I used the Himalayan sea salt, to taste)
  • 2 cm fresh ginger (I love ginger, hence, I used a bit more)
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder (this was not in the recipe)
  • 5 dl sunflower oil (I used a little drizzle of corn or vegetable oil for baking)

Dipping Sauce –

  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 red chili (I used chili powder)
  • Juice of 1 lime (I did not have lime in the my pantry, hence, I used lemon)

Method  –

Please note the original recipe calls for frying the drumsticks. I baked mine. Below are points I have adapted using the original recipe with some changes to accommodate the baking method.

  1. Blend the shallots, garlic and ginger to a smooth paste. Spoon the paste into a large bowl. Add the powders – coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili, the egg yolk, corn flour, honey, freshly milled black pepper and coarse sea salt. Mix and combine the mixture. Coat the drumsticks with the mixed paste. Cover with a cling film and marinate the drumsticks for at least 4 hours or better still, overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C
  3. Remove the drumsticks from the fridge and let the marinated meat stand for at least 15 – 30 minutes at room temperature. 
  4. Lay the marinated meat in a single layer in a large shallow roasting pan. Bake for 20 to 25 mins until they are tender and clear fluid appears when pierced with a skewer into the thickest part of the meat.
  5. Serve immediately with steamed white rice and drizzle some of the dipping sauce. Simply divine!

 

A picture is worth a thousand words…

4. Baked spiced chix_marinate 5. Baked spiced chix

6. Baked spiced chix+rice+veg

7. Baked spice chix_platter

This dish may not be a typical one served at Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas lunch – but hey – don’t we normally associate Christmas with baked or roasted birds or poultry with the amalgamation of herbs and spices?

This dish is as Christmas as it can be 😉

I am linking this special Christmas edition to the following events –

The December Cooking with Herbs Challenge…AND Christmas Spices!  hosted by Karen Burns-Booth of  Lavender and Lovage

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Cook-Your-Books#7  hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours

 Cook Your Books

Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads – Thinking, Reading, Photographing

Weekend Cooking

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Cheers!

I grew up eating homemade Ngo Hiang at almost every festive meal – the Chinese New Year’s eve dinner, Easter lunch, Christmas Eve dinner, New Year’s Eve dinner and birthdays.  My siblings and I never grew tired of eating Mum’s scrumptiously prepared sausage-esque roll.

Ngo Hiang is a unique dish omnipresent in Malaysia, Singapore and many parts of Indonesia and in Cebù in the Philippines.  In my hometown, Kuching, we called this tasty sausage roll, Ngo Hiang. Some bloggers claimed this dish to be either Hokkien or Teochew. In my ear, Ngo Hiang sounds very Teochew, as “ngo(h)” is five in Teochew, whilst “go(h)” is five in Hokkien. “Ngo hiang” means five-spice (powder) and that is also how the sausage roll – Ngo Hiang – has been christened 😀

In West Malaysia and Singapore, the dish is dubbed as loh bak. In this post, I will refer to this dish as Ngo Hiang, which I’m most familiar with.

1. Ngo hiang  

By the way, this is one of the best pot-luck dishes, where minced pork and prawn (or fish) are mixed together with some vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, seasoned with the hallowed five-spice powder (ngo hiang hoon) before rolling inside a bean curd skin and deep (or shallow) fried.

I did it my way….

While Mum makes the finest Ngo Hiang – succulent, luscious, tasty and mouth-watering, I had to make do with what I could find here in Belgium to simulate Mum’s feat.  The most challenging stunt is to accommodate the palates of my three guys – my most priced critics 😀

While Mum would slog away self-mincing the pork shoulder, with a mix of pork belly (for flavour and extra sappiness), fresh prawns, fish, onion, garlic, water chestnut, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, spring onions and flat-leaf parsley using a BIG Chinese chef’s knife or Cleaver on a thick round Chinese wooden chopping board, I used ready minced meat – a mixture of veal and pork or poultry and chopped the other ingredients separately on my little bamboo chopping board.  

I know the ingredients I used may differ from Mum’s, but the bean curd skin is sine qua non (a prerequisite) in making an authentic Ngo Hiang.

2. Ngo hiang

The bean curd skin (or bean curd sheet or tofu skin) is really lightweight, and depending on where it is sold, the one I had was a 45gm salty sheet folded in 18 parts. 

3. Ngo hiang

By the way, this was bought for me by a girlfriend on my request when she made a home trip back to Kuching not so long ago 😉

X, if you are reading this post, the Ngo Hiang I made recently which I brought over to A’s “laksa à volonté” get-together came from the packets I got from you. Cheers, friend! 😀

Boy, were the bean curd skin delicate – I meant really delicate, as they tore quite easily if handled gracelessly. I guess the saltiness in the bean curd sheets resulted in them being quite brittle.  A simple trick I learnt from my Mum is to wet a clean kitchen towel and gently pat on the bean curd sheet to remove the excess saltiness, plus also making the sheet more workable or pliable.

4. Ngo hiang

How I made my Ngo Hiang, and trying to replicate my Mum’s recipe…

Ingredients –

(Makes 25 suasage rolls)

  • Minced meat (I used 1 kg mixture of ready minced veal and pork)
  • Fresh prawns ( I used 500g frozen prawns, defrost, shelled, deveined and chopped roughly)
  • Fish (I did not use)
  • Water Chestnuts (I could not find these, hence I did not use them)
  • Shiitake Mushrooms (I used 8, soaked in hot boiling water until plumped)
  • Carrots (I used 3 carrots, skinned, washed and diced finely)
  • Flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh coriander in lieu)
  • Spring onions (I used 5 stalks)
  • Onion (I used 1, chopped finely)
  • Five-Spice Powder (Like sesame oil, please use sparingly – a little goes a long way…I used 1 tsp.)
  • Chicken stock cube (I used 1 whole cube)
  • White pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste (I did not use as I have used one whole chicken stock cube and please bear in mind that the bean curd skin is quite salty)
  • Sugar (I used about ¼ tsp)
  • Sesame Oil (Again, use sparingly. I used ½ Tbsp)
  • 2 x 45g bean curd skin (Cut along the folds)
  • Chinese Rice Wine (optional – I did not use)
  • Egg (optional – I did not use)
  • Corn flour (Depending on the texture of the meat mixture, if the mixture does not hold together, you may need to add some corn flour. I used 1 tsp)

Mix and combine all the above ingredients in a big glass bowl and cover with a cling film. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

5. Ngo hiang

That’s about it!

Next, the fun part – assemble all the ingredients and accessories: the meat mixture, the cut bean curd skins, the binding agent (I used a mixture of corn flour and water), a scooping spoon, and a work surface and – simply, start the ball ROLLING!!!

6. Ngo hiang

A picture is worth a thousand words! (X, no excuse for not making this yourself. These steps are specially made for you 😀 )

7. Ngo hiang8. Ngo hiang9. Ngo hiang10. Ngo hiang11. Ngo hiang12. Ngo hiang13. Ngo hiangIMG_0173

Then I shallow fried the sausages, until the meat was cooked and the bean curd skin turned golden brown and crisp.

14. Ngo hiang15. Ngo hiang16. Ngo hiang17. Ngo hiang

We had these gems as starter for our Sunday lunch.  An absolute winner 😛

I cut the sausage on the bias and served with some sliced cucumbers and tomato

I cut the sausage on the bias and served with some sliced cucumbers and tomato

Serve with a squirt of spring roll sauce or sweet-sour sauce or hot and spicy sauce or any sauce of your preference.  YUMS!

Serve with a squirt of spring roll sauce or sweet-sour sauce or hot and spicy sauce or any sauce of your preference. YUMS!

One of the best pot-luck dishes, ever!   The sausages freeze very well. Before serving, just bake in a pre-heated oven of 160 deg C for a few minutes, or until the meat warms through.. :-P

One of the best pot-luck dishes, ever! The sausages freeze very well. Before serving, just bake in a pre-heated oven of 160 deg C for a few minutes, or until the meat warms through.. 😛

Oh by the way, my eldest sister and BIL came to visit us last week and guess what?  She brought 20 freshly made bean curd skins from a factory somewhere in Kuala Lumpur.  Thanks, big sis! Now, I can’t wait to start making MORE Ngo Hiang 😉

I am linking this post to the following events –

1)      Little Thumbs up using the ingredient, “SOY or SOYBEAN” organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and hosted by Mich of Piece of Cake at this post.

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2)      Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish ReadsThinking, Reading, Photographing

Weekend Cooking

3)       Cooking with herbs challenge October 2013 hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage. I used the following herbs: Fresh Coriander, Spring Onion and Onion

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Happy Sunday and have a great week ahead 😀

 

Cheers!