A normal Saturday lunch in my household is usually a quick and hassle-free one, using available ingredients in my kitchen larder, fridge and freezer.

Last Saturday, however, my fridge was unusually, bare. I had a few stalks of spring onions, with parts of the greens turning brown, two small carrots, a green chilli and 8 small witloofs (Belgian endives) that I bought the previous week or two. Okay, veg was taken care of. Now, the protein. I walked down the basement where the freezer stands under the stairs. I started rummaging the compartments of the freezer for any interesting proteins that caught my eye.

Bingo!

I found not one, but two!! ‘Hidden’ somewhere in one of the freezer compartments, were 2 packets of prawns; one, with shells intact, and another, without. That was a gem of a find, I must say. I must have bought excess packets of prawns when I had friends over for a Laksa feast not too long ago.


Nope, I was not going to make Laksa again, so I had to put on my thinking cap. The first thing that came to my mind was curried prawns, but that would be too boring as I have cooked that on several occasions. Furthermore, I was missing some vital ingredients, so definitely no curry prawns 🙂

The Books That Saved My Day

As a matter of fact, I did not have to look far at all. In March, I had placed orders for 2 Thermomix Cookbooks. I had wanted to order more books, but due to the exorbitant shipping costs from Asia to Europe, I had to weigh my priorities. I contacted the “Suppliers” who immediately sent snapshots of the Table of Contents of a few Cookbooks. I was in love with 2 of the Cookbooks! “I just got to have them!” . Some friends wanted to know why I needed to buy the Cookbooks when I can already cook most of the Malaysian dishes. Erm …. Some dishes typical to West Malaysians are only starting to gain popularity in Sarawak and Sabah. When I was a kid growing up in Kuching, chwee kueh, pan mee, otak-otak, pulut tai tai, lo mai gai, lu rou fan, etc were unheard of. I grew up eating dishes I knew best : kolo mee, midin, mani chai, kueh chap, umai, kompia, kampua mee, Sarawak laksa, manok pansoh, terung dayak, ka chang ma, belacan beehoon, teh C special, linut, tomato kway teow, tumpik, kek lapis Sarawak … Well, I am pretty certain these dishes were unknown to our West Malaysian friends a decade or two ago, too. When I had my first taste of pan mee and chwee kueh in Belgium some 3 years ago, prepared by a friend who hails from KL, I could not get enough of those dishes, id est, if I’m craving for them, I’ve got to cook them myself. Likewise, after a long and hard day at work, I get home feeling like a ton of bricks raining on me. Then I would need something quick, fresh and nourishing and the pre-defined steps in the TM Cookbook is an absolute blessing. 

When the Cookbooks arrived in April (different delivery dates), I was over the moon. I have tried a few of the dishes already from both books. Last Saturday, I picked out one dish from each Cookbook. With two 500g-packet of frozen prawns ready to be consumed, I went straight to the Seafood section of the Cookbooks for some inspiration.

There were a few prawn dishes in the Cookbooks, but those 2 recipes caught my attention. I had all the ingredients, or almost! They are ridiculously simple to make, but will they taste ridiculously awesome?

Let’s find out …

From the Daily Asian Cookbook (DAC), I chose Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, pg 69


From Annie Xavier’s TM Cooks, You Relax (vol 1), I chose Tamarind Prawn, pg 54


The Battle of the Prawns. Bring ‘em on …!!

The DAC came with a cook chip, which made cooking a breeze. For the Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, I used the prawns with shells intact (without heads, though). I thawed both packs of prawns until it’s manageable to de-vein the shelled ones. The peeled prawns were all clean and good to go.

By the way, I followed the recipe from the DAC to a tee,


And here’s the result …


For the Tamarind Prawns, I had to modify Annie’s recipe a bit as her recipe calls for 250g prawns with shells and heads intact, while I had a 500g–pack of peeled and de-veined prawns. I did not double the other ingredients either, as I know doubling the measurement of sugar, for instance would result in a way-too-sweet dish, which will not be appetizing at all. I used dark brown sugar, by the way. I also used the sweet type of dark soy sauce, hence, I had to adjust the taste as I went along.  On the other hand, I used concentrated cooking tamarind  while balancing the sweet and sour flavor that I really wanted in the end.


And here’s the result, although not as dark as Annie’s version.

I garnished the prawns with some left-over spring onions and one thinly sliced green chillies.

My Verdict?

I followed both recipes using almost exactly the same ingredients with small modifications to the quantity according to desired taste. My family loves seafood, hence, serving prawns to them was not an issue. 

Now the taste test. I steamed Jasmine rice to go with the prawn dishes. I also cooked Belgian endives with carrot using the DAC recipe for Stir-fried cabbage with carrot.

After some munching, there was total silence….

I asked the guys which prawn dish was their favourite.

This?


Or this?


Annie’s tamarind prawn has a darker colour. I’m guessing that she used the saltier version of dark soy sauce. I did not have that soy sauce. Instead, I used the Thai version of dark soy sauce, which is similar to the Indonesian kicap manis. In order not to end up with an overly sweet dish, I had to adjust the amount of the soy sauce. My dish ended up quite saucy which went well with the plain steamed rice, so no complaints there. I also like my dish with a bit of heat, hence, the garnishing of the green chillies was Da Bomb!

The dishes were placed next to each other on the dining table. Like holding a pair of L-shaped metal dowsing rod, both my boys pointed their fingers in opposite direction to the platters infront of them at the same time, meaning, the guys had absolutely no preference to dish A or dish B. 

Both dishes were equally scrumptious. One was sweet and sour. I added green chillies to unite the trinity of flavours as well as for colour. At first I thought 12 garlic cloves were a lot for 250 g prawns (see, it’s not possible to double the quantity of garlic with my 500 g prawns! Important is to use your intuition and creativity), but I’m certain Annie knows what she’s talking about. We absolutely LOVE the garlicky taste, which was not too overpowering as the garlics were crushed/ bruised and not finely chopped.  After all, the dish is called Tamarind Prawns and not Garlic Prawns 😉

The other dish was lightly savoury with a hint of heat coming from the dried chillies.  The guided cooking for the crispy stir fried prawns was spot on where taste, timing and texture were concerned. Maybe next time, I will increase the quantity of dried chillies 🙂 

Guess what? I have bookmarked both the recipes and have classified them as “Tried and Tested” 

 

Blessed Pentecost!

Cheers!

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Fruit for Thought

What would you do if you have too much aubergine, bell pepper and tomato in your fridge? I had a bountiful of each waiting eagerly for me to consume them, as it had been almost a week since I bought the fruits. Yes, scientifically speaking aubergines, capsicums, courgettes and tomatoes are FRUITS and not vegetables, because they have seeds! I was planning to make a quick one-dish meal one weekend. First off, I was thinking of making ratatouille, but that would be too boring. Furthermore, I live with 3 carnivores and a no-meat dish would not entice them at all.

So I scurried to a nearby supermarket and bought 2 extra ingredients. Chicken and grated cheese.

I knew I would come up with a winning dish *wink

This!

Mmmm….does this not look tasty and festive at the same time?

A Frugal Regal Meal

I love the colours and more so, knowing how healthy the dish was, plus how economical I could put all the ingredients together for a top notch meal. Gosh, I may sound somewhat cocky, but I can’t help it, because it’s true *wink



I have adapted only some of the steps from the Thermomix BCB, while the rest are pure common sense, guestimation and creative thinking 😉

Ingredients A

  • Aubergines or egg plants, halved lengthwise 
  • Capsicums or bell peppers, halved

Ingredient B

  • 600 g water

Ingredients C

  • 550 g chicken breasts, diced

Ingredients D

  • 30 g shallots
  • 10 g garlic 

Ingredient E

  • 10 g EVOO

Ingredients F

  • 10 g fresh herbs (mint, basil, spring onion, etc)
  • 1 tsp dried herb (thyme)
  • 1 heap tsp homemade vegetable stock paste
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • 150 g tomato, de-seeded 

Ingredient G

  • 100 g bread (grate in dry TM bowl at 7 sec/ sp 10)

Ingredient H

  • Grated cheese

Method


  1. Arrange A in Varoma dish and tray with cut-side down. Place B in TM bowl. Steam A as per instruction in the BCB. Remove water from the TM bowl. Using a tsp or Tbsp, scoop out the pulp of the aubergines. Chop roughly. Set aside.
  2. Add D in mixing bowl. Blend for 3 sec/ sp 5.5. Add E and sauté for 3 mins/ 100 C/ sp 2
  3. Place the chopped pulp of the aubergines, C, F and G. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ R/ spoon. Season to taste.
  4. Fill the shells with the cooked stuffing, cut-side up on a baking tray. Drizzle H liberally on each stuffed shell.
  5. Bake at pre-heated oven for 35 to 40 mins or until the cheese has melted and turned a lovely golden brown.


This dish goes very well with baked new potatoes or potato wedges. Makes one awesome complete meal 😀


My Verdict?

To be honest, my other half does not like to consume store-bought ground meat. He says there’s too much fat and other-god-knows-what things mixed in the meat. I agreed with him on that, so I made this healthier version of stuffed aubergines and bell peppers. He could not believe I home-ground the meat in my thermie 😉

By the way, this was not the first time I made this dish. I have used store-bought ground meat before and they tasted great, too. The fact that I used lean chicken breast meat and home-ground them, made the whole dish lighter and healthier. Hubby was euphoric over the dish. And my boys? They eat anything that aren’t sloppy looking and with meat. Lol!

The best thing about this dish is, you can use almost any fruit or vegetable that you can scoop out the flesh to make a cavity. Courgettes or zucchinis are great. So are squashes, but the steaming and baking time need to be adjusted.

Will I make this again? You bet! Over and over again. Anytime, because …. It’s cheap. It’s tasty. It’s colourful. It’s healthy. It’s easy!

Have a fruitful mid-week!
Cheers!

I was completely engrossed in the third of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, when my 13 year old son (K) reached out for my right hand and tucked a pen between my fingers. He was trying to get my attention away from the book, but I was unreservedly enthralled by the adventure of Daniel Sempere and Fermín Romero de Torres that I hadn’t the clue that my boy got me to leave my signature on a piece of paper he had been holding all the time.

That evening, while preparing for dinner, K came up to me, and here’s our conversation …

K: Mama, so finally we are going to Japan!

Me: Huh? What are you talking about? When?

K: Ha ha … you promised to bring me to Japan.

Me: Say what? I never promised anything …

K (with a cheeky grin): Too late, Mama….you just did; this afternoon while you were so buried in your book. See, here …

He showed me a small piece of paper which was neatly handwritten with a sworn statement or an oath, swearing my promise to bring him to Japan for a holiday. My jaw dropped and my eyes goggled reading the troth with my signature on it, dated 1st May, 2014. I wanted to take the paper from his hand and ripped it off and thrashed it but he was too swift for me. He has the signed oath carefully hidden under lock and key to this day!

All things Japanese

K loves Sushi, all kinds of Sushi (and ramen). When he had his braces removed in July 2014, the first thing he requested was ~ yes ~ Sushi!! What else??

And here’s his portion! For a 13-year old, that’s one BIG portion and he walloped all 36 maki-zushi or nori-maki + uramaki + nigiri-zushi!!

Sakura Restaurant, Leuven

 

Kuching 2015

It doesn’t matter in which continent we are headed to, this young lad would sniff his way to a Sushi bar or resto anywhere in the vicinity. 

Sakae Sushi, Kuching, Sarawak

Summer 2016

When Pokémon Go was initially released in some countries in July 2016, K was adamant to download the App on his smartphone asap. His summer hols last year saw him so carried away with the new game craze and, boy was I glad that it was over in August during our annual family Summer Hols in the Provence in South France. I asked him why he was not ‘catching’ his Pokémons anymore. He said the holiday home we stayed in, sucked. The internet connection was so bad, ie almost no wifi and the place we stayed was rather deserted with no ‘active’ or ‘new’ Pokémons to catch. And so the game faded to oblivion, sooner than expected, much to his parents’ relief. Whew!

This was the photo he took in Carpentras, South France, to remind himself of the game that came and went …

Hand-painted boulder of Pikachu, Carpentras, South France



Christmas 2016

When my younger sister came to visit us recently, she spent Christmas and New Year with us. My boys have always been very thrilled to have their youngest Aunt around. For K, that would mean visiting places of interests and doing things out of the norm. Yup, we went to Paris for 5 days! Christmas Markets are BIG in Paris, especially along the mega long Avenue des Champs-Élysées, however, it was the Christmas Market near the Eiffel Tower that bewitched K!

Christmas Market near the Eiffel Tower, Paris


While sipping the warm Parisian Glühwein (vin chaud) and munching hot roasted chestnuts and admiring the magnificent wrought iron lattice tower from near; yes, very, very near, K was captivated by one of the booths a few steps down. The open booth was manned by one person, who seemed to be an Artist, but he was no ordinary Artist or Painter. He drew names and translated them from Roman to either Japanese or Korean. 
Guess what K chose to have his name translated into? 

No marks for guessing. Japanese…. Of course!!


By the way, the ideographic meaning of K’s name is translated to mean, Good Health and Happiness. The picture is now framed and hanged in his room next to his bed. As for his mother, she’s hoping that each morning, her son wakes up to the rising sun and the spring bird singing to good health and happiness 🙂

February 2017

K turned 16 on the last day of Feb this year. He had also been invited to a Sweet Sixteen celebration of friends who became 16 in January. When his turn came, he hinted on a small do. For me, a special cake for a 16-year old should do the trick.

Now, what cake should I order for my 16-year old?

K likes to construct things. His legos kept from yesteryears are being used at the max during school holidays. The most recent construction was a sweets or candy vending machine. I thought that was one of his coolest constructions. He made a slot machine type lego construction making sure that only the size (and weight) of a 2 Euro coin could vend a sweet or candy out from the ‘machine’ he made. And seriously? It worked! Anything less than 2 Euro would not ‘spit out’ any candy. So you can tell he’s thinking BIG, monetarily speaking, too! 😉

Hmmmm… I thought a Lego Cake would be a fantastic idea!

Looking for the person to make the cake was not a problem. He’s a colleague (CP) who works in the same building as I. Last year, CP was nominated and won the vote to represent our Region at our Company’s Got Talent Show. He’s a self-taught (hobby) baker who learns his tips and tricks of cake baking and decorating from watching the YouTube Channels. 

I lunched out with CP one lunch break and asked if he was willing to take my offer. It was the early week of February and we still had time until the actual birthday on 28th Feb. I discussed if it was possible for him to make a Lego Cake for a 16 year old. No probs, he said

A few days later, I kinda changed my mind about the lego theme and thought of a Book Cake. Why? Because K does not like reading and a Book Cake was a subtle message to him. To make it a more special book, I was thinking of getting 2 edible images (made from wafer) of him when he was a baby and one of him, now, hence at ages 0 and 16. I was quite excited about the idea but I thought it was rather selfish of me not to ask the birthday boy what he actually wanted. After all, it’s his birthday and not mine. BUT, I wanted it to be a surprise …

Again, my mind went back to the Lego Cake. Lego? Book? Humph! What’s it going to be??? Help!!

The calendar days went by one by one and I had not even finalized the theme of the cake to CP. The theme is important for him to check if he has sufficient inventory to come up with the final result, otherwise, he needs time to shop for the items

On the other hand, February was also a busy month for both CP and I at work due to the Budget and I was not sure if there was going to be a cake at all

That would be very sad, indeed … 😦

The Clock Ticked …

3 weekends in February had passed by. Still no concrete decision made. 

Then I told myself, “If I can’t decide this myself, the best help line is the person who knows best” And that person happened to be the Birthday Boy himself. 

On the evening of 22nd Feb, I asked K if there was going to be a cake for his birthday, would a Lego Cake be his thing. He said, “ No way! That’s too childish.” Er ….. okay. The Lego Cake theme was scrapped. I did not even bring up the Book Cake theme when he mumbled something about Japan!

Okey Dokey! Got it! Why didn’t I think of it at first ??? I was probably focusing too much on his past and what I want him to do, rather than what he wants. 

And by the way, I had the answer all the while. K wants to go to Japan! So of course, it has got to be something Japan-related.

And here it was! The best Sushi Cake (minus the chopsticks) for a mighty happy 16-year old. Happy 16th Birthday, K!


K wanted chocolate cake and he got the most scrumptious chocolate cake. Your wish is my command, my boy, but only for this time. The magic wand would not work after 28th Feb 😉



The nori-maki and nigiri-zushi nesting on top of the cake were filled with cake pops, cut from the bumped topside of the main cake, hence, there was no wastage at all. CP did a fantastic job in skillfully molding the icing fondants to a 3-D cake with nori-makis and nigiri-zushi’s complete with wasabe and gari (sushi ginger).


CP had the weekend of 25th and 26th Feb to complete the Sushi Cake and the Cake was delivered exactly on the day I requested, on 27th Feb.  K shared his cakes with some of his good friends and I shared some with my girlfriends. Everyone thumbed up to the tasty choclatey Sushi Cake


I’m glad I’ve made a special someone happy. It’s not Japan, but very close 😉

More Sushi 🍣 

I took a day off on 28th Feb coinciding with the school’s carnival break. I brought K to one of his favourite Sushi restos to celebrate his 16th birthday, thus concluding a plethora of Sushi and ramen bingings.

Sikinoya, Leuven


If you don’t already know …

25th March is a special day, too, because it was the date given to me by my gynaecologist 16 years ago. She estimated my baby would be born full term on 25th March. She was not totally wrong, because, baby K arrived almost 4 weeks too soon! You can read about his special birth on this post, “A special day that does not occur every year“.
 

K with his ukulele singing Ed Sheeran’s songs

Good Health and Happiness, my boy. God bless *heart*

Cheers! 

This recipe has gone viral a few months ago and shared several times within the Thermomix Community. I was curious, of course, and jumped on the bandwagon. The cake used the simple Quatre Quarts Cake (literally 4-fourths) recipe which was taught at Domestic Science classes. This cake is quite similar to a typical Victoria sponge and is referred to as Pound Cake.  

By the way, I have made a very similar cake which I have posted in my blog in 2015. I had wanted to use poppy seeds then but I chose the healthier chia seeds instead. You can find out the reason why in this post, Lemon Chia Seeds Sponge Cake.

I had bought a packet of poppy seeds some months back and it had been sitting in my kitchen pantry, untouched, hence this was THE perfect moment for me to make good use of the seeds… Finally!

The Challenge 

The owner of this recipe promised this cake would turn out soft and moist. That’s what fascinated me, especially so when we know that a Quatre Quarts Cake uses 4 ingredients of equal amount (butter, sugar, flour and eggs). The recipe calls for 250 g per ingredient. First off, it sounded heavy, too heavy in fact,  and I was quite hesitant to bake this cake because I usually skip a cake recipe using the entire block of butter and a quarter kilogram of sugar!  Yikes! But I was tempted to proceed because I LOVE oranges and I’m sure nothing would go wrong with a pound cake with orange and poppy seeds!  Ha ha ..

To be very honest, the biggest challenge is beating and blending the ingredients at the right consistency to achieve that moist and fluffy effect. 

Is that attainable with a Thermomix? 

Let’s find out, shall we?

The original recipe was posted by Ellin Chong as per below –


I tried to follow the recipe exactly but ended up modifying some of the steps to my liking and logic. Well, that’s just me 😉

The recipe indicated 30 mins baking time. I thought that was way too short. Was my judgement right?

Here are my modification to some of the steps 

  • I added another cycle of pulverization in (1)  i.e. 2 times MC/ 10 sec/ sp 10 to get the visual consistency I wanted.

  • I increased the time in (2) from 2 mins to 2 mins 45 sec as I thought that would give me ample time to crack the eggs one at a time to mix through the lid hole.

  • I added 15 g of London Dry Gin to give the cake a slightly boozy effect 🙂

  • I sifted the APF with 10 g of baking powder and increased the mixing time from 10 sec to 20 sec.

  • 30 minutes of baking time in my pre-heated oven was definitely too short. The cake was under cooked, i.e. still wet and the crust was too pale for my liking.  

  • I increased the time to another 16 minutes, making the total baking time of 46 minutes in my pre-heated oven at 180 deg C. That was a lot better.



So, was the cake moist and fluffy as promised?

Seeing is Believing!


    My Verdict?

    When I first saw the recipe, I saw the baking time of 30 minutes was too short for a cake as ‘dense’ as a Pound cake. Well, my initial judgment was correct. Perhaps it’s just my oven. If it worked well for the owner of the recipe then it was tested based on the type of oven she owns.

    When I increased the baking time to a total of 46 minutes, the cake turned out visually PERFECT ! I loved the citrusy smell whiffing past my nostrils and my kitchen smelt heavenly. 

    And I definitely prefer a tanned (not charred) cake to a pale looking one. Again, it’s just me.


    Was the cake moist and fluffy? 

    Yes, when it was fresh out of the oven and when still quite warm, like most cakes. When the cake was left to cool completely, I thought it was very lightweight but less moist than when it was warmer. Definitely not dry, but with a pleasant texture. It’s not bouncy either like chiffon cakes, but, hey I LOVED it!

    Some changes I would like to make are (1) reduce the quantity of sugar, as the cake became too sweet the following day(s), (2) increase a little of the poppy seeds, as I like the crunch and the subtle nutty flavour and (3) increase slightly the gin, as I was still trying to trace the aroma … ha ha ha …

    Oh yes, I should have left the cake to cool in the bundt pan and not got it out too soon when it was still hot. That’s why the surface of the cake was not smooth 😦

    Just compare the cakes I have baked using the same cake mould below …


    Nevertheless, this recipe is definitely a keeper but I will not be in a hurry to bake another one in a jiffy. 1 kg of sugar, flour, eggs and butter combined was a humongous amount to consume too often.

    Have a great week!

    Cheers!

    It has been a bit more than a month ago when we had an exclusive all-girl weekend getaway. It was meant to be a fun-filled and stress-free weekend for 7 girls for a getaway with great food, quality bonding, lots of laughs and just having the best time ever. Oooops… forgot baby Z, the only XY-chromosome in our girly group! 😀

    On 5th Nov, I have posted Part 1 of our weekend getaway to (O)Porto, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon. By the way, Portugal’s famous port wine is named for Porto, and Portugal, is one of the world’s most beautiful countries! 

    Oh dear, it has been 3 weeks since, and Part 2 was still not out … hmmmm

    I’m sure the girls were wondering, and I was right. Last week I met up with X for lunch and here’s our conversation:

    X (curious): When is part 2 of our trip going to be ready, or have you decided to stop…?

    D: Definitely not stopping. In the pipeline … 😉

    X: Ha ha …. I thought you have decided to stop !

    D (smiling): Nope, am collating the photos first and that’s one big hold-up! The App I’m using jumbled up my photos and they are not in chronological order anymore and mind you, I have more than 10k photos on my iPhone! Argghhh …

    X: My condolences to you, then …

    D (grinning): Humph! 

    Pre-Mortem 

    With the majority of us working and/or travelling, AO volunteered to do a research on Porto a week before our ETD. She had BIG plans for us 7 girls and her baby. It sounded just too good, but was it doable? The main point of discussion was whether Duoro Valley was a go or no go in our Weekend getaway. Places of interests and links were attached in an email for us to revert with our feedback.

    While X and G had replied, here was my feedback –

    Hi ya’ll !

    Hey AO, a massive thanks for the great research, indeed. Well done, charbor! I was re-reading your message and noted that getting to the villages would take at least 2.5 hours. That means to and from the villages would take 5 hours and that’s just the travel part and not taking into account the actual time spent there. We would easily lose three-quarters of a day just to get there and back. It’s a pity because I would love to visit the breathtaking Duoro Valley, but due to time pressure (short weekend et al), with a heavy heart, I’ll give this visit a miss. I’m sure Porto city has a lot to offer especially so when it’s a first time for most of us. Oh by the way, I just checked the weather forecast and it’s not looking great, It’ll be 17 to 18 deg C with 60% to 70% chance of rain!!! Hope the forecast is wrong ! So it looks like X, G and I are saying “no” to Duoro Valley. Not sure about C, O and AM. Anyway, since you and AM will be staying a day longer, hence, am assuming you girls will be going on Sunday, if we’re not going in a group, right?. And if you’re going, don’t forget to share your experience with us after the trip, k? 

    Cheers and counting down to our Porto trip!!

    D

    So the road trip plan to Duoro Valley was dumped, as C and O were also not keen, due to time constraints. That meant, AO and AM, the last girls to leave Porto, would be going on Sunday, right?

    Erm … afraid not… 

    Just a day or two before our departure, AO, the littlest, but feistiest girl in our group (Lolz!) decided a last minute change in plan, i.e. to go on with the trip to Duoro Valley, with or without the group not on Sunday but on the day of our ETA in Porto! The reason for the change in schedule was because of …

     …This !!!

    Sunday, 23rd Oct was to be the bleakest of all days. Cold and wet at 14 deg C! Driving along the winding roads to Duoro Valley under a heavy downpour would appear to be too dangerous, so it would definitely be a no go on Sunday to Duoro Valley … BUT… feisty AO was determined to make that trip!

    Now the question(s): Did AO go to Duoro Valley or not and if she did, who came along? 

    I left the office at almost 9 pm the evening before the trip. I was absolutely knackered and dog-tired; hence I was 100% looking forward to an easy and stress-free weekend with the girls and a baby …

    Bem-vindo ao porto! Welcome to Porto!

    We left Brussels Airport at 10:50 and arrived at Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport at 12:20. As soon as we touched down, our group had to split into two! Yup, the trip to Duoro Valley was decided at the last minute and AO managed to ‘lure’ a victim and who izzit?

    The group that left to Duoro Valley took a rented car whilst the group that headed straight for the city took the Metro. Before we said our temporary goodbyes, we wanted everyone to meet for dinner together. We suggested and agreed to meet at the hotel lobby around 7pm, all 7 girls and a baby!

    Did we make it? That’s the question … 😉

    By the way, it was C who volunteered to accompany AO and baby Z and she was happy to be the ‘chauffeur’ for the entire journey up the wine growing valley of Duoro

    The 5 of us had initially wanted to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. We queued on the taxi stand, but it was just hopeless because there were 5 of us. The cabbie allowed max 4 passengers per trip. A minivan-type taxi would be perfect but they didn’t appear very often, so we changed our strategy and went for the Metro instead. 

    The journey to the city centre took about 35 minutes and a single fare was Eur 1.80. For the first time, we needed to buy the Andante ticket which included the 0.60 cent rechargeable Andante card

    Taking the metro is by far the cheapest and quickest way to get to the city but I remembered well we had to wait for about 40 minutes for the metro train to start moving. We had lost precious time playing the waiting game .. 

    Porto Trindade Hotel

    Trindade station is the 15th stop from the airport. The hotel was not an obvious find as the sign was virtually non-existent. We had to cross the road from the Metro and walked uphill all the way to the hotel while at the same time, dragging our luggage. It was probably a blessing in disguise that AO and baby Z didn’t have to go through the gruelling walk that afternoon. 

    Goodness gracious!  It was almost 3 pm and we had not had our lunch. Before we checked in our rooms, X asked the receptionist where we could eat the famous Porto signature dish, francesinha. Without a smile on his face, he gave us the name of the restaurant (Café Santiago) and to remember the landmark “Coliseu do Porto“. The restaurant’s just opposite the theatre which is a local landmark and a leading venue for music and cultural events in Porto. Oh-Kay… with a landmark in mind, we shouldn’t get lost, right? 

    If I remembered well, I didn’t recall we being greeted by a friendly receptionist. I would describe the staff as professional rather than friendly, except for one super friendly barman, whom we got acquainted with that evening when we redeemed our welcome drink at the bar. He was very helpful and went the extra mile to give us tips on places to visit during our stay in Porto.

    When we checked-in into our rooms, we had only 10 minutes to orientate ourselves in our respective room, after which we had  to gather at the lobby and left the hotel in search for that mysterious francesinha

    It was not an easy peasy search for that specific Café because we still had to acquaint and orientate ourselves with the city and her surroundings. 

    Avenida dos Aliados

    From our hotel, we started at the monumental central avenue, Avenida dos Aliados, aka Porto’s ‘reception room’ right in the heart of the city.

    It’s a lively avenue during the day, but what a pity the skies were quite grey and it was quite chilly that afternoon as well. The avenue would have been a great place for a relaxing promenade, but of course we did not miss a photo opportunity next to the statue of D. Pedro IV on a horse. He was a symbol of courage and affection for the people of Porto. Behind us in the distance was the City Hall of Porto, situated at the top of Aliados Avenue, at the heart of downtown.


    We could not dilly-dally too long there as time was the essence. In hindsight, it’s unfortunate that our group was splitted into two. We came as one and we should have stayed as one. With two splitted groups, timing became a challenge. We hadn’t the clue if C, AO and baby Z had the rented car and/ or if they had started the journey direction Duoro. We could only hope and pray that the 2 girls and a baby were danger-free and fine. Therefore, the only right way to do was to respect our agreed timeline prior to our going separate ways. 

    And by the way, we still have not found the landmark the hotel receptionist was directing us to, so we walked and we walked and we walked …

    The Quest For Francesinha 

    In order not to have too many people doing the same thing, G and X were the map readers or navigators.  Girls being girls, little arguments and banterings were the norm. One said north, the other said south. So we walked and walked and walked until we came to Porto’s lively shopping street, Rua Santa Catarina. Part of the street is closed to traffic, making it a mostly-pedestrianised shopping street. Well of course we did not stop there to shop (not yet) BUT we had a closed glimpse of the most renowned “Harry Potter‘s” Café Majestic.  

    Harry Potter

    Yup! Will talk about that in a bit, because the priority quest then was to monitor the landmark, Coliseu do Porto and our francesinha !!!!

    And we finally found the landmark!!!

    Yay!!


    Café Santiago 

    If this café was recommended by staff at our hotel, then it must be good. It was full house when we arrived, so it’s a good sign that it must be more than good 😉

    We had to wait for a vacant table. What made it more difficult was we were with 5 people. First of all, 5 is an odd number and 5 were too many to get a table in a packed café, so we waited …

    We finally got a table meant for 4, so we had to squeeze one of the girls. When the waiter brought the menu card to us, I goggled at the photos of the menu. Only 2 shades of colours: yellow/brown and orange! Where are the greens? Reds? Purples? Whites?


    I suddenly felt constipated gawking at the photos. To be honest, that’s not my kind of food, but, hey we walked more than 10,000 steps just to experience a typical Porto dish, so game on!

    Francesinha is one of the most typical dishes in Porto. It’s a type of sandwich (toasted bread) stuffed with different layers of meats (cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, beef steak) and covered with cheeses and then oven-grilled until the cheeses just slightly melted. The sandwich sits on a spicy tomato-beer sauce, which secret recipe will never be revealed… well, that did not bother me, because I would not be craving for francesinha in a long while …

    We ordered 3 different items on the menu and shared those amongst the 5 of us. We had to be careful not to eat too much as we promised to meet for dinner, all 7 girls and a baby that evening.

    By the way, I was glad I got to try the infamous francesinha. For me, it’s once bitten, twice shy. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tasty dish, but it was way too heavy for my liking. I think the other girls shared the same sentiment as I did, right charbors? 😉

    São Bento Railway Station

    After the heavy late ‘lunch’ of francesinha, we were in dire need of more walks. Our next stop was worth the stop. It was a railway station but it was not just an ordinary one. São Bento is the oldest and is claimed to be the most beautiful railway station with its 20,000 dazzling blue-and-white Moorish tile panels, known as azulejos. The painted tiles on the walls illustrate the evolution of transport in the area, as well as depicting scenes of the history of Portugal. 

    Oh by the way, we were lucky to be entertained by the local military orchestra that afternoon 😀



    Churches and Cathedrals 

    It’s amazing to see how many churches and cathedrals in quite close proximity with each other in the centre of the city. We have probably been to most of the churches, which looked amazing on the façade as well as the interior. 

    It was good to have those peaceful and silent moments once in a while after the fast pacings and stresses of the day to recharge our batteries 😉


    Birthday Girl

    The clock ticked and we were wondering about AO, C and baby Z. Before we headed back to our hotel, we stopped at a pastry shop in the hope of buying a cake for birthday girl, AO, as a surprise, however, the cake shop ran out of cakes. Instead, we agreed unanimously to go for 7 mini cakes (mix of chocolate, passion fruits, raspberries and mangos) at a Specialty Cake Shop on the way back to our hotel. 

    Two weeks before our departure to Porto, 6 girls were discussing about giving AO a birthday surprise. In a way, it was good that AO was not around when we planned the small do later in one of our rooms. 

    Going back to the hotel was more civilised as we had internet connection and free wifi. X and AO were in contact with one another to get more information about their ETA at the hotel. 

    When the 2 girls and the baby finally arrived, the 7 mini cakes were lighted from the candles which G brought with her, and we sang the birthday song in unison while greeting the birthday girl. 

    Happy (belated) birthday, AO


    2 Girls And A Baby

    We were glad to see C, AO and baby Z again after 6 hours or so of separation. Surely there were lots of stories to tell. If not, then what happened in Duoro remained in Duoro 😉

    And most certainly the 2 girls managed to know each other a bit more, too. What those 2 girls had gone through were completely different than what the 5 of us had experienced that afternoon. It’s like the clash of 5 ‘city’ girls vs 2 ‘country’ lasses. Lol

    However, when C shared with us some of the photos, we could see why the Duoro Valley is called the enchanted valley with her magical landscapes. There’s no wonder why this cultural landscape is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

    While the 5 ‘city’ girls had their tastes of francesinha, the 2 ‘country’ lasses had a go with Portugal’s most renowned pastry, pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart pastry). C, with the golden heart, bought some grapes and a bottle of local Duoro red wine that she would later share with us. Obrigada, C!


    Full Quorum Dinner @ Restaurant Antunes

    Like Café Santiago, Restaurant Antunes was recommended by staff at our hotel. According to the receptionist, the restaurant served local Portuguese cuisines, hence, were not to be missed. Booking was essential, so the hotel staff made a reservation for us. 

    The restaurant’s located behind the Metro Station (across from our hotel). It didn’t look much from the street, however, when we got inside, it was packed to full capacity as the locals patronise the restaurant daily. 

    Oh boy, it was 8 pm and the francesinha and the mini birthday cake were not fully digested in my tummy and there we were, dining again! I ordered for a fish menu (grilled hake with baked potatoes … yes, boring …) and so did C, G, O and AM whilst X and AO eyed for the roasted pork shank. 

    And guess what? THE star of the evening was actually the roasted pork shank, the iconic Pernil de Porco, which was the house specialty. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. The pork shank was HUGE, man!  It was actually very good, 100 times better than my tasteless hake 😦

    Good choice, X and AO (Y)

    We ordered sardines as starter, which were excellent and we also enjoyed the couvert. I’m glad we were recommended Restaurant Antunes because for me, it was a Portuguese eating experience. The service was fast and excellent even though the waiter spoke limited English. Somehow we managed to understand and communicate with no problem 😀

    If I were to go to Restaurant Antunes again, I would go there with an empty stomach and order their Pernil de Porco

    Good thing that there’s someone in our group who’s a meat eater, so we could see what’s on each other’s plate. The culprit will know who I am referring to here 😉

    After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and went straight to the bar to redeem our welcome drink. I had their red Port Wine. What else ?! 😀

    I think we must have hit the sack at almost 1 am. It was going to be another long day the next day …

    Mercado do Bolhão (Porto’s Colorful Market)

    After a stuffed and almost dog-tired day the day before, we gathered at the hotel lobby at 9.30 am (after a scrumptious buffet brekkie with a fair choice of cold and warm dishes). AO and baby Z missed the headcount that morning as AO had to return the 24-hour rented car that brought the 2 girls and a baby to Duoro Valley. While waiting for AO, the 6 of us walked to the nearby Trindade Church to have a peaceful and quiet moment. 

    When we got out of the church, G, the ‘navigator’ and timekeeper, shepherded us to Mercado do Bolhão, which is considered to be Porto’s most colourful market located in the heart of the city. The exuberant market is found in a 2-tier, rather old building. The market opens daily from 7am until 5pm except Saturday when the traders called it a day at 1pm. Sunday is a day of rest.

    The Bolhão market is not a very big market, unlike the markets I have been to in the Provence (South of France). Nevertheless, it has its own charm as everything traded at the market was locally produced from fresh fruits, breads to household items. 

    All of us bought some souvenirs to remind us of our stay in Porto. AM was, undoubtedly, the happiest girl on the planet as she bought oodles of fridge magnets to add on to her colossal collection of magnets. Lol


    We adjourned to a Café in the marketplace spotted by G, of course 😉

    In less than 30 minutes, AO and baby Z joined us. And we were full quorum again …

    Now off we strode to the meeting point of the Yellow Bus!

    Hurry girls ….!!!

    Yellow Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off (HOHO)

    A week before our ETD from Brussels to Porto, AO volunteered to order 7 HOHO Porto Vintage tickets online for us. It’s cheaper buying online at Eur 11.70 per tix as opposed to Eur 13 buying at location. 

    Our tickets were valid for a day and we could HOHO in Porto as many times we wanted anywhere along the Porto bus tour routes, which were either the Purple or the Orange route/ line. The Porto Vintage included free access with wine tasting to Espaço Porto Cruz, which, unfortunately we did not use, due to a few non-drinkers in our group plus time constraints. 

    By the way, we were supposed to take the Purple Line that morning with the aim to go to Matosinhos, but somehow, we boarded the wrong line, the Orange route. 

    Wrong line or not, I thought that was a blessing in disguise. To be honest, I’m not a sea person so I did not mind missing the trip to Matosinhos, although one or two girls might be disappointed… Well, we knew when travelling in a group of 7 double X-chromosomes, there’re bound to be some ‘negotiable’ contretemps. Anywhow, Matosinhos was the less recommended place than the other side of the riverbank, Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply Gaia by the friendly barman at our hotel. That, I remembered 😉

    For me, I know I would be back to Porto and I could visit all the places I have missed. It’s not the end of the world 😉

    Ribeira and Porto River Bank

    It was 12.30 pm and the stop at Ribeira was just perfect. Excellent timing for our midday lunch. 

    The old town, centered at Ribeira, was built on the hills overlooking the Douro River. I absolutely adore the long promenade along the Duoro riverbank. In fact, the site is listed as World Heritage protected by UNESCO, and represents the famous postcard image of the city. 

    The Cais da Ribeira (the Quay of Ribeira) is the soul of Porto, where one can climb aboard one of the many typical boats and take a mini cruise down the river. We had thought of taking a cruise but had to quit the idea because of time pressure. 

    I loved the look of the charming pastel houses stacked like blocks of Lego and the narrow medieval streets and seedy alleyways, and of course the spellbinding Dom Luis Bridge. 


    We found a nice restaurant on a hilly slope but with 7 and a half people, finding a table was almost near to impossible in a touristic area if pre-booking was not done. Anyway we waited like predators 😀

    C double-checked with the waiter and he promised to set up a table for us as soon as a group of people left. 

    When we finally got a table after waiting for some 15 to 20 minutes, everyone sighed with relief.

    Phew

    After the more than positive review of the sardines we had at Restaurant Antunes, we ordered them again as our starter. They were so moreish and finger lickin’ good 🙂

    Before the Porto trip, I have heard a lot about Bacalhau (dried and salted cod) dishes, which are common in Portugal, but have never tried it. Out of curiosity, 5 girls went for the house specialty bacalhau dish, recommended by the waiter. AO went for the squid dish with tomato rice and X, for the pan-fried salmon. 

    The verdict? 

    I would rather have 20 sardines on my plate than that one piece of bloody hard, chewy and salty cod fish! I was totally disappointed, and so were some of the girls…

    In hindsight, I should have ordered that salmon 😦  Drooling …! 

    X, I want you as my personal food advisor. Lol!


    On the other side of the riverbank, I saw the famous Sandeman Porto Wine Cellars, which wine I have used in my cooking or just drink it as apéritif. Too bad, we did not do the wine tasting tour. Well, I’m even more determined now to return to Porto 😉

    Palácio da Bolsa

    After the amazing time we had at Ribeira and the riverbank, we took a walk to Palácio da Bolsa, literally translated as Stock Exchange Palace.

    Our visit to the Palace was probably one of the most memorable and flattering moments. 7 girls and a baby were standing at the cashier counter waiting to pay the entrance tickets and guided tour. Guess what? The friendly Portuguese girl thought we were students and charged us student rate which had a 50% discount! Wow! That’s amazing innit … we looked like students *feeling flattered*

    When the 40-minute tour started, we met the girl again. She was our bi-lingual guide who spoke in both Portuguese and English.  

    I’m not sure about the rest of the girls, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the guide’s stories.

    I was busy taking photos, of the floors, ceilings, walls, doors, pillars and what have you. I could see there’s a great mix of architectural styles and decorative arts and the highlight of the Palace was undoubtedly, the Arab Room. I felt as if I was transported into One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The room is decorated in exotic Moorish Revival style. It was breathtakingly spectacular with all the golds and glitters! Simply Wow!


    Porto Cathedral (Se Catedral)

    After the Arabian Nights’ tour, the girls were debating to either climb the 240 steps of the 75.6 metres high Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos‘ tall bell Tower) adjacent to Igreja dos Clérigos (Church of the Clergymen) or climbed a few steps up to Porto Cathedral. 

    We agreed to go for the latter, as some of the girls were showing signs of exhaustion. Porto is a very hilly city, by the way. Which reminded me of Rome.

    With Romanesque roots, the Porto Cathedral has undergone many changes throughout the centuries. What’s lovely from the square in front of the Cathedral was the panoramic views of the city. There you could view in a distance the Torre dos Clérigos, which we had to forego, most unfortunately…


    Livraria Lello – Finding Harry Potter in Porto

    We did not climb the Clérigos‘ tall bell Tower, but we definitely walked across the plaza to the most enchanting bookstore in the world, the Livraria Lello Porto. Does it remind you of a scene in a Harry Potter movie? 

    Did you know that this spellbinding and unique bookstore inspired the Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts?

    Did you know that J.K Rowling lived in Porto teaching English in the early 1990s and that rumor has it that her inspiration to write Harry Potter began at Livraria Lello?

    I did not, until I entered the bookstore. Wow!!

    It’s not a big bookstore but the stunning interior and the exquisite swirling stairway with its red-carpeted steps and banisters, impressive mouldings and wooden walls did not prevent tourists from taking non-stop photos. It’s simply dreamy and eye-catching!

    Oh by the way, there’s an entrance fee of Eur 3 which is fully redeemable if you buy a book. I bought 2 books, not Harry Potter. Ha ha ha …


    Remember Café Majestic which I linked to Harry Potter earlier in this post? 

    J. K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone while spending countless hours in local cafés, one of which was Café Majestic along the lively and busy Rua de Santa Catarina.

    Ponte de Dom Luís I (The Dom Luís I Bridge)

    It had been a very, very long day for all of us: walking, a bit of shopping, window shopping, sightseeing, eating, more walkings, etc. Poor baby Z  was in dire need of a nappy change, hence, AO and baby Z returned to the hotel whilst the 6 of us adjourned for coffee/tea at a nearby Café in the vicinity of the magnificent bookstore. 

    And then, it started to rain! 

    We had planned to meet for dinner on the other side of Duoro River, all 7 of us and a baby. In order for the 6 of us to get to the other side of the riverbank, we had to crossover walking the double-decked metal arch bridge, the Dom Luis I bridge, that spans the Douro River between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. 

    Due to time constraints, 6 very headstrong girls braved the heavy downpour and walked the bridge’s top deck from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. It was a 5 km walk. None of us thought of stopping or thinking of giving up and going back to the hotel. We just walked on wearing the skimpiest and most lightweight disposable ponchos. Only G and AM had umbrellas with them. I could feel my shoes ‘flooded’ with water. It was an uncomfortable feeling; wet and squidgy, and my pants from knee down were totally drenched. So was my hair. I just hoped not to get sick, that’s all.

    And we walked on and on and on …

    It was a blessing in disguise (again) for AO and baby Z. It would definitely not be a comfortable walk for both mama and baby, that’s for sure.

     

    The night scenes of the bridge and the views of the Duoro River dividing Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia were breathtakingly magnificent. 

    By the way, Porto’s iconic bridge was completed in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel, best known for the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris.

    After the seemingly long and unending walk to the other side of the bridge, we were not famished but we just wanted to sit down in a dry place and enjoy some light and fresh seafood.

    We found a lively seafood restaurant, Duoro Velho


    AO and baby Z uber’d their way comfortably from the hotel to meet us at the restaurant. It was good to see them again and gorgeous baby Z slept through the entire evening at the restaurant closed to his mama’s chest swaddled in his baby carrier.

    We spoiled ourselves rotten, stuffed with barbecued seafood and chicken dishes; our last meal together in Porto. Oh by the way, the sardines were huge and not as nice as the tiny ones we had at Restaurant Antunes and Ribeira

    We had probably spent a good deal of time at the restaurant because I could feel my pants gotten drier as well as my hair, except for my feet and shoes!  Couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel, though. 

    With 7 of us, we took 2 taxis, while AO did a test check on prices of the one uber’d and the other normal. AO, baby Z, X and D uber’d their way back to the hotel in one cab paying a total of Eur 3.80 which was almost 50% cheaper than the normal taxi taken by G, C, AM and O.

    Good to know (Y)

    Pyjama Party @ Room 702

    It was good to be back in the hotel, or to be more precise, my hotel room.  I’m sure the other girls felt the same way. It has been a while and my room was so immaculate, meaning the presence of housekeeping was there. Brilliant!

    C invited us for a nightcap of one of Duoro’s local red wines which she got while spending time at the wine growing valley of Duoro on the first day with AO and baby Z

    It was a good wine. Thanks heaps, C! Thanks for sharing the wine with us. Hugs xxx


    No worries, no one was tipsy. There was only one bottle and 7 glasses of whom 2 had to decline the offer for obvious reasons 😉

    The evening was still young and we played a ‘game’ initiated by C.

    And the game went like this …


    Nah …. what happened in Room 702 remained in Room 702…

    Hint: We got to know each other (even) better  and thanks heaps, O, for sharing with us the ‘scary’ story 😉

    And for the … Erm … sorry, my lips are sealed . Shhhh…!!!

    It was our last night in Porto together, all 7 girls and a baby, and we hit the sack at 2 am in the morning !

    Blue-Black: The Winning Colour!

    Sunday, 23rd Oct. 5 girls were flying back to Brussels.

    Strange but true, 5 girls met that morning at the buffet breakfast wearing, uncannily, the same colour tops. Blue! And – honestly – it wasn’t  pre-planned.

    That colour was to become the magic moment of the day!


    X‘s son, DJC is a professional footballer playing for one of Belgium’s First Division Pro League decorated clubs, Club Brugge that dons the  Blue-Black home kit. 

    And even stranger and truer, the team had a match while we were flying that afternoon, against one of their major rivals, Anderlecht. 

    And the result? 2 – 1 for Club Brugge. Awesome! 

    The Last 2 Girls And A Baby

    The girls said their goodbyes at the hotel, leaving 2 girls and a baby behind. 

    It was a lovely Sunday day and Matosinhos was explored and the girls’ boxes were ticked.

    And I made sure to buy a port wine at the airport. It was a 20-year old Tawny Port. One of the finests 😀

    Goodbye Porto, see you next time!

    The 5 girls parted ways at Brussels airport only to be reunited for quick lunches at work weeks.

    And life goes on as usual …

    Carpe Diem, girls! 

    Cheers!

    1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

    I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

    Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

    And I was right!

    10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

    Thai Chef vs Me

    There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

    For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

    Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

    So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


    And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


    To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

    Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

    (Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

    Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

    Ingredients A

    • 2 cm piece galangal
    • 1 shallot
    • 1 lemongrass
    • 2 coriander roots

    Ingredient B

    • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

    Ingredient C

    • 1,500 g water

    Ingredients D

    • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
    • Shallots, halved 
    • Galangal, sliced
    • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
    • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

    Ingredients E

    • Fish sauce, to taste
    • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
    • Salt, to taste 

    Ingredients F

    • Prawns, shelled 
    • Mushrooms, sliced 

    Ingredient G

    • Lime juice, to taste
    • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

    Ingredient H

    • Fresh coriander 

    Steps –

    • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

    • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
    • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


    • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

    • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

    • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
    • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


    • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
    • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
    • Done!


    Happy 1st Anniversary!

    I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


    There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

    And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


    IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

    Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

    Cheers!

    The rotisserie whole chickens looked so tempting. Every Wednesday evening while driving home from work, I would drive past the mobile food truck on the N2 road from Brussels to Leuven.


    I could smell the roasted chicken smoke whiffing past my nostrils through the vents of my car somewhere! It’s oh so tempting. 

    I just had to stop. 

    So one Wednesday evening, I stopped and walked towards the food truck.

    There was only one guy manning the truck that evening. I pointed to the chicken I wanted and some baked potatoes. The guy then packed the roasted bird in a microwaveable paper bag, and a separate bag for the potatoes.

    I was pretty certain my guys at home would be beaming with delight from what I had just bought.

    BUT … Most unfortunately what you see is not what you get!  The chicken was juiceless and shrivelled when I carved the meat. No doubt it was cooked through, but the taste was rather bland. I suspected only salt, pepper and paprika powder were used to season the chicken. To add salt to injury, the potatoes were swimming in buckets of dripping! Urgh!

    Hubby had his last words, “Don’t buy this chicken any more!

    I Did It My Way …!

    Okay, I did not buy the rotisserie whole chicken anymore from the food truck, but we have had some form of rotisserie whole chicken at home, done my way *big smile*

    Oh by the way, I had been fiddling with the flavours of the chicken and I have found the right one, me thinks!

    I oven-baked this whole chicken last Sunday and my family of 4 finished the entire bird and licked our platters clean!


    This simple lunch was a keeper. It was hassle-free. While waiting for the chicken and potatoes to cook in the oven, I prepared a simple and quick salad. I had the most idle Sunday ever. Yay!


    Eureka! 

    Here’s how I did it. 

    First of all, pre-heat the oven at 190 degrees Celsius.

    Rinse and pat dry 1 whole chicken weighing at least 1.5kg. Set the chicken aside to room temperature for at least half an hour.

    In a clean bowl, mix together your favourite dry herbs and spices, sea salt and freshly-milled black pepper. The choice is endless, so don’t be shy. Stir well to combine.

    Meanwhile, stuff the cavity of the chicken with 4 cloves garlic, 1 lemon or lime (halved), 1 onion (quartered), a few slices of ginger and fresh rosemary. Tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the chicken. This is the trick to keep the chicken sappy AND tasty from inception to end. *wink*

    Next, drizzle some olive oil over the chicken and transfer the homemade rub mixture all over the chicken. Then comes the most therapeutic part … massage the chicken thoroughly with the rub mixture making sure every nook and cranny of the bird is being swaddled completely.

    Finally, transfer the chicken, breast-side up onto a baking tray, lined with (olive) oiled and seasoned potatoes and/ or root vegetables, onions, garlics and fresh rosemary.


    Bake the chicken for 1 hour 30 minutes in the pre-heated oven at 190 deg C. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. 


    The chicken may look dry at the first instant, but trust me, the meat is cooked through perfectly and is as juicy and succulent as ever!


    By the way, I have oven-baked whole chicken a few times already. I discovered that baking at the right temperature and timing  are paramount execution in getting the best equilibrium.  Believe you me, I have had a few charred experiences. It was only by several trials and errors that I can finally say, Eureka!



    My Verdict?
     

    Well, I will definitely not buy the rotisserie chicken from the food truck anymore, that’s for sure! 

    What can I say, nothing beats homemade cooking any day, any time. Simple as that!

    A word of caution though, this foolproof baking is in accordance to the type of oven I own. You may have a different oven than mine, hence, the temperature and timing may or may not differ. And I did mention that it was by several trials and errors that I finally got the bird cooked right, my way *wink*

    Have a great week ahead!

    Cheers!