2020 – a recap

As the last of the Christmas turkey is consumed, we continue to count our blessings for what has been a turbulent year.

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, I fell incredibly ill, an ailment that resulted in an asthma diagnosis. Whilst I continue to rely on inhalers, I can exercise, walk up a hill and count myself healthy in many ways.

In summer 2019, I made a wish that I would spend summers to come with my daughter and I got my wish in 2020 where working from home made that possible.

We discovered the joys of baking bread and cakes whilst in lockdown and I became reacquainted with simpler recipes of years past. ‘When did we forget the art of stir-fries?’, I asked the Hubby recently.

Holidays to France, Ireland and Asia were foregone this year but we hold on to memories of people, food, sunshine and the sea.

We took a leap of faith and holidayed in Lisbon again in that short timeframe when the travel corridor was open between Portugal and the UK. We found people to be collectively responsible, masks were worn everywhere, sanitisers available at points of contact, space and social distancing observed during our holiday. One of my most memorable meal in 2020 was this Indonesian dish in Lisbon of all places, a lovely restaurant called ‘Santai’.

We mourn the loss of travel experiences, time with loved ones and our general liberty and freedom but understand the sacrifices needed in keeping COVID at bay.

We show gratitude foe jobs that we continue to keep, ones that pay our bills and essential for our livelihood. We mourn the loss of personal time and well-being when so much is demanded of us by our employers.

We hold on to our diminishing faith in the universe that this is a much warranted re-set and we’ll come through much stronger in body, mind and spirit.

Here’s to marking the end of 2020 and filling up on hope that 2021 will offer us much needed light.

A long overdue trip to Bill Granger’s

Any long time reader here would know that I credit my kitchen prowess to Bill Granger. I am a proud collector of his cookbooks and have enjoyed cooking many of his recipes over the years which are perfect for weeknight family meals.

I have been to a few of Bill’s Granger &Co restaurants in London (plus the Surry Hills one in Sydney). My favourite is the Clerkenwell branch as one is able to book a table and I’ve enjoyed many meals there with old co-workers.

Hubby suggested a trip to NottingHill today – it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining after an awful downpour last night and frankly we were in need of new perspective.

Don’t you love the colours on the building? The Bear calls them PlayDoh houses!

We headed over to Granger & Co, registered our booking and were told it was a 30 minute wait. We decided to wait it out in the car, playing ‘I spy’ with the Bear who was frankly unimpressed at being dragged out of the house on a Sunday!

I received a text message from Granger & Co that our table was ready and we were seated at a nice table upon entering. The restaurant seemed very full and I mentally wished Bill resilience and success in keeping his business going in such difficult times.

A shoutout to Bill. There was no kids menu. If you’ve read his cookbooks or watched his cooking shows, you’ll know he isn’t a fan of kids menu. Bill is a believer in giving kids the same food what grown ups eat and has suggested in his books that any good restaurant would offer some kids options if you were to ask. Well ask we did, and the Bear has a choice of a small sized beef burger, chicken schnitzel or plain pasta. She opted for the burger which was a generous portion of beef burger in delicious brioche bun, lettuce, tomatoes and skinny fries. Success!

The Hubby had the grown up portion of the beef burger whilst I had soft shell crab with kimchi fried rice. I asked for chorizo and poached egg to be omitted from the dish which they happily obliged. It came with smashed pickled cucumber instead which was yummy.

I couldn’t leave without dessert and we ordered pavlova and choc fudge to share, plus a flat white for the Hubby.

This was seriously delicious.

The ambience in the restaurant was great. Staff were attentive and friendly. I’ve got my eye on Bill’s new book, Australian Food. Perhaps I’ll put it on my list for Christmas but in the meantime I’ll dust off some of his old cookbooks.

London today

A temporary lull in weather meant today was mostly dry with a hint of sunshine at lunchtime.

I was in the city for the day and I have to say, London was looking very well (despite the lack pre-Covid crowds).

I am always on the go and thus rarely stop for photos but the last few months had taught me to stop and appreciate everything around me. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

A day of cooking

What do you do when it’s a rainy Sunday? As tempting as it was to turn up the electric blanket and turn on Netflix, I decided to have a productive day in the kitchen! The Bear joined me and we whipped up:

1. Nasi lemak with chicken rendang and prawn sambal. This is a popular Malaysian dish and is a labour of love. It took me 2 hours to cook everything you see on the plate (bar the cucumber 😄)

2. Pandan cake which is my favourite cake. The Bear enjoys is too and was more than happy to help me whip it up.

3. Pisang goreng or banana fritters. The Bear is a big fan and was delighted to find it on a menu at a lovely Indonesian restaurant in Lisbon!

We spent the whole day in the kitchen paying absolutely zilch attention to the dreary weather outside. The Bear and I agreed today was by far the best day in a long while.

How did you spend today?

Have a great week ahead.

Green risotto

We received some broad beans with our fruit and veggie box a few weeks ago. We looked up a few recipes online and decided on a green risotto.

The flavour of this dish is nutty and wholesome. Paired with mint, the risotto was perfect for a late evening supper.

I’m not a fan of constantly stirring my risotto nor adding stock gradually. However the dish always turns out fine. Do what works for you.

Ingredients:

  • Fry lite and some butter
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 2 to 3 cups of veggie stock
  • 1/2 cup of blanched broad beans blended with a sprig of mint (plus some water to loosen the mixture)
  • 1/4 cup of blanched broad beans
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon to taste
  • Grated Parmesan

Method:

  1. Heat a heavy based pan over low heat and spray with fry lite and a knob of butter
  2. Once the butter has melted, sweat the celery and chopped onion for 2 minutes until translucent
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute before mixing in the rice
  4. Stir the rice until it turns translucent
  5. Add just enough stock until it covers the rice, give it a stir
  6. Repeat step 5 until rice is cooked
  7. Mix in the blended broad beans plus mint mixture
  8. Stir well, finish off with the remaining blanched broad beans
  9. Top with a knob if butter, stir through and season with salt and pepper
  10. Squeeze lemon juice over the risotto, served with grated Parmesan

Life lately

Hi everyone, I don’t know if anyone ever stops by here any more but if you are one of those who checks in every now and again, thank you.

Summer went by in a blink. Where we’ve had grandparents visit from overseas in previous years, Covid put a halt to that this summer. My parents have been doing their best to cope with minimal support but I know it’s been hard for them not to travel, see their grandkids and friends. My mum has been unwell (non-Covid related) and with travel restrictions in place, my constant worry is that I won’t make it home halfway across the world in time, when the time comes.

We had to cancel our week in France due to quarantine rules that would have impacted the Bear’s return to school. The thought of a second winter in a row with no time off, sea air proved unbearable and we headed over to Lisbon when Portugal was temporarily removed from the risk list.

We had such a lovely time in Lisbon. Blessed with great weather all week, we spent a lot of our time on the beach.

The week away brought some zest back into our lives. The Bear was chirpier and has since asked if we could return next year.

My work life balance is virtually non-existent. I spend 95% of my day working, the environment is fast-paced and there are aggressive individuals involved. I’ve been running on cortisol for years and my heart and head are screaming in unison that this isn’t the way life should be.

I’m grateful everyday for all that I have in my life, but I also know some significant re-balance needs to happen and I’m at loss with how to make it work.

The Bear returned to school a few weeks ago, as a new academic year commenced. She was nervous about having a new teacher but looked forward to seeing her friends again after 7 months! She seems to have settled in well. The school is doing a great job at keeping parents updated on their Covid measures.

Health wise, I am managing ok with Asthma, having been diagnosed earlier in the year. Triggers include chillies, cold drinks/ice-cream, alcohol and pollution in general. Last winter was a bad one for my health which led to the asthma diagnosis. I’m hoping this coming winter is going to be uneventful, Covid or otherwise!

As I write this, it is still raining outside and has been for the past day. I’m up in the middle of the night unable to sleep wondering what kind of test is Covid presenting for mankind in general? We’ve existed for thousands of years and are we to be defeated at the hands of a deadly virus? It all feels surreal.

As the last quarter of the year is upon us, this is my wish for the future:

1. Better work life balance, tipped towards having more time for family, rest and relaxation

2. Travel – back home to Asia, Christmas in Perth, a visit to San Francisco, a long overdue trip to NYC, our beloved France

3. Be healthy – body, mind and spirit

4. Be brave

5. Have multiple passive income streams

6. Have a job to combines passion and contribution

We ventured into Chinatown recently to fulfil a craving for one of my favourite dishes.

The day trip gave us all a much needed break from our four walls. We made a quick stop at the Lego store which the Bear really enjoyed and we treated her to a set of Lego friends she’s had her eye on for a while.

It’s her 8th birthday in a few weeks. We threw her a big party last year but it’ll just be us this year. I hope to make it extra special for the Bear.

Take care and keep safe everyone.

Life lately

Strange times indeed but I’m thankful for every minute I’ve had with the Bear and Hubby since lockdown started in March.

I’ve discovered a great local fruit and veg delivery service, thankful for Ocado (I’ve been a customer for a decade) and our local restaurants that deliver. We have seen activities picking up this week as lockdown is eased and the Bear is heading back to school this week before the school year is over.

We’ve cooked a lot of meals on high rotation but also discovered some new favourites – black pepper chicken, chicken katsu curry and homemade chips. The Bear and I have been baking bread, muffins, cakes, pies.. a good lesson in resourcefulness and pushing the boat out when it comes to cooking.

We made a lovely carrot cake which proved quite the treat!

The Bear scored me 9 out of 10 as she couldn’t taste any carrot!


The Bear is learning to ride a bike, a gift from the Hubby. The two have found this to be immensely bonding, rendering the Bear asking her dad to tuck her in instead of me.

We’ve used the time at home to make this place our home. We moved in just before Christmas and I fell spectacularly ill for 3 months. The last few weeks have seen me spending a lot of time researching mirrors, side tables and sofas! The house is coming together slowly and much more welcoming than when lockdown started.

I’ve discovered Chloe Ting’s workouts on Youtube. She is the sweetest but the workouts are hardcore for a pen pusher like moi.

We are missing our holidays in France but we just need to let things happen when the time is right.

In the words of our lovely parish priest, keep going, folks. What’s the best thing about a storm? It passes.

Fun Friday

We have an end of week family ritual, inspired by long time bloggers at @thefoodpornographer on Instagram and A healthy slice of life

The Bear usually comes up with suggestions for food and this week, insisted on a family games night too!

Pizza is usually the preferred choice but last night, instead of our usual takeaway, I made them at home. I looked up sourdough pizza five days too late and settled for an easy dough from Joy food sunshine .

Toppings were limited but tasty! Pineapple and lots of cheese for the Bear. Spicy olives, chilli flakes and pineapple plus cheese for the grownups!

The pizzas turned out really well and tasty! As for games night, the Hubby recently introduced the Bear to the first two Harry Potter movies and suggested watching the third. A big round of yes ensued and we settled in to watch Prisoner of Azkaban. Popcorn was on standby ready to be popped but frankly we were stuffed from pizza!

A pretty fun Friday had by all.

What’s your Fun Friday ritual?

Chocolate cake

If you’re reading this post, hope you’re well and thank you for stopping by. My mum was hospitalised for the last 2 days but she’s back home now. I felt a need for a band aid today, it’s been a tough few days emotionally.

Wanting to bake to take my mind off things, I found a lovely chocolate cake recipe in the Together cookbook that was backed by the Duchess of Sussex. You’ll find the recipe here.

The Bear asked for less sugar (!) so we must have used 1/4 less in the batter. I used 90g dark chocolate and substituted the rest with milk chocolate. The icing was quite sweet. Next time we’ll use whipped cream instead. I topped the cake with chopped strawberries. It is a very delicious cake and we served it with afternoon tea. A much needed band aid.

Keep safe everyone.

Coconut bread

When life deals you lemons, in my case, bake coconut bread. This Bill Granger recipe is from Bills Sydney cookbook which I bought from Borders many years ago when it was still in business. The cover of the book may be tinged with a yellow hue but the smell and taste of this bread transports me right back to Bills in Surry Hills almost 12 years ago, when I had fire in my belly, guts and an amazing sense of adventure.

I’ve made this recipe several times over the years but it was my first time baking it with the Bear. I tried to talk her into adding some pandan extract into the batter but she was adamant at wanting to taste the bread as Bill intended.

The recipe can be found here.

Now excuse me whilst I go reminisce.