Friday, 24 May 2013

Six tracks for May 2013

I tried so hard to look for Spring this month. Where's the sunshine gone?

Anyway. The usual six tracks. =)

The Radio Dept - Heaven's On Fire
Nothing new here, but this song just seemed so apt for this month. God bless the Swedish.

Jakwob feat. Maiday - Fade
In love with this song. It reminds me of strange but nice feeling I used to get a lot in college while sobering up afternoon beers with peers by literally burning the midnight oil, late night study sessions with a Hed Kandi CD (the Jason Brooks illustrations were trés chic and the tunes were pretty cool) playing in the background. My favourites were those on the Winter Chill / Serve Chilled series and I think this song would fit into the category.

We Are Augustines - Chapel Song
Awesome guitar and rhythmic that almost gets nowhere. Works handy as the lyrics spread an ironic situation, too. Makes me think how many people actually keep mum when they see the ones they love walk away with someone else. 

Ghostpoet - Meltdown
This dude seriously has a way with words. Nothing highfalutin, nothing of Eton/Oxbridge calibre. Just plain English with high volumes of truth. Case in point: "So it won't be forever then / I can't do forever friends".


Night Beds - 22
There's a more famous song called 22 floating about but this one is heaps better. I'm not a fan of country music, but Winston Yellen's vocals are pretty good and his debut album Country Sleep is very calming in a mellow (almost melancholy) kind of way.

Feel the Love became an anthem from last year and Spoons (my favourite from his album Home) was too cool for school. Rudimental is on a roll! No doubt this track, feat. Emelie Sande of Heaven fame, is set to be a sure hit for the masses.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Lessons from a baby shower

My friend R is due this summer and everyone in the supper club is excited. She threw a baby shower last week at their place in the 'Hamptons' =D

It was an afternoon tea set-up and I couldn't help but notice how awesome the spread was. Most of the treats were homemade. R & A are really awesome hosts. Lesson 1: Afternoon tea time is the best time for baby showers. Nothing too heavy for the guests and nothing too hard to prepare!

They put the barbie out too. We were having been typical menopausal London weather, so it went all drizzly. It took a while to get the fire starting, but the boys managed to build up a fire and soon enough, we had delicious smoky meat off the grill. =) Lesson 2: Let the men take over the barbie! 

Lesson 3: You know how they say getting preggos is a great excuse to eat anything you want? Lie. Pregnant ladies actually need to watch what they eat because there's quite a list of unsuitable food. Did you know that some fish have high-levels of mercury, some juices are unpasteurized, some brekky food like sausage and bacon aren't ideal - not cos of fat but cos of nitrate? Contrary to popular belief, soft cheese is actually okay. And a cheeky glass of wine is actually not so cheeky. 
Grandma and the girls
Then it was time for games.

The first game was Pooey Pampers: we had to figure out which type of chocolate was smeared on a particular nappy. They all looked scarily similar to actual poop so it felt strange having to taste, smell and observe the choccy... but that didn't stop my team mate and I from naming all of them correctly. Woohoo! Lesson 4: Everything is not shit. You have to learn to look at the bright side and not take yourself too seriously.

The next game was a test for suckers. The boys had to drink a concoction of G&T off baby bottles. I think the boys learned that babies are hard suckers too! Haha! Lesson 5: Sizes for nipples and nipple holes vary depending on the age of the baby.

While the men had to suck, the ladies had to blow. Balloons, okay? (This is a wholesome post after all.) We had to match R's belly circumference. R's belly ended up measuring at exactly 100cm. My team mate and I got the closest measurement at 105cm =) Lesson 6: The belly size does not guarantee a big baby.

Then it was time for pressies! R accidentally blurted the baby's name (she's been keeping it a secret for the longest time) which, according to a gushing grandma, is absolutely perfect. I think everyone agreed. I can't tell you the name yet, but I can tell you  there were lots of cute stuff for the little boy. Lesson 7: Babies can never have enough onesies, but if you're giving pressies it's always best to get something the kid can use for a loooong time. =)

After the pressies we went to look at the nursery, which was super cute with hand-painted walls. I can't post the photo because they've painted the baby's name on the wall. =)

It was an interesting day. I've learned so much about being preggos, the grotesque details of being in labor (c/o A's mom!) and the way a child really changes things for the parents-to-be. I'm excited for R's baby boy to arrive because looking at how his parents look at each other, I'm sure he's going to be surrounded by a whole lot of love. Lesson 8: Always appreciate your parents. You will never have an idea how much they have/are willing to sacrifice for you.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The girl who made naughty brownies

When my friend A told me she was off to Manila, my heart sank a bit because she was my dine & wine and whine buddy. Ever the thoughtful friend, she was super kind to introduce me to some fellow foodies who would be interested to try new joints. That's how I met R.

R's size is inversely proportional to her personality. She is an absolute laugh to be with; a fun, funny girl with eyes that pop and twinkle, and a belly laugh that is seriously contagious. A complete master of her craft, she also exudes a fierceness that is very impressive. You wouldn't want to mess around with her.

In my smorgasbord of friends, R is the alcoholic brownie square. She's a tiny block of joy and comfort who makes you feel fuzzy and gooey all over. She's a huge chunk of hilarity with a hint of naughtiness (definitely the good kind). She's a very sweet friend, a super loving wife and, without shadow of doubt, an incredible mum-to-be.

R's a very, very, very good cook/baker who's always welcomed our supper club at her home with good food and great cheer. She's recently thrown a baby shower and served a really awesome spread for afternoon tea. Of course, she had to serve her yummy naughty brownies. Her recipe is shared with us here. =) 


125g bittersweet chocolate
100g chocolate spread (R uses Nutella)
1/2 cup of your favourite liqueur (R uses 1/4 cup Kahlua, 1/4 cup Cointreau)
90g  butter
3/4 cup sugar (reduce if you like it less sweet as Cointreau is sweet already)
1 medium egg
2 medium egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sifted flour
a pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. In a double boiler with hot (but not boiling) water, melt chocolate, then add Nutella.
    You can leave this in the pan while you take care of the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Cream the butter until it is white and smooth, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  5. At this point the chocolate will be melted. Add the liqueurs, whisk, and let it simmer.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating continuously. Add the vanilla and salt. Beat until frothy and light in colour.
  7. Add the chocolate mixture, beat until combined.
  8. Fold in the flour. Do not overmix!
  9. Pour the mixture into a greased 7x9 pan and bake for about 25 minutes. If you like gooey brownies, you can leave keep the pan in the over for less.
Thanks for the recipe R, can't wait til your bun gets out of the oven!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Shoryu Pop-Up: where third ramen's a charm

I am, shamelessly, one of those people who can eat the same thing every single day.

Ate T: Dinner?
Me: Ramen?
Ate T: Again?!
Me: Shoryu Pop-Up in Soho.
Ate T: Again?!
Me: 50% off
Ate T: Game!

My diet last month involved a lot of noodles, broth and ramen (blame the weather!). I was ready to punch my meals with a bit of variety but I seriously couldn't forego Shoryu's Pop-Up restaurant in Soho. (Also, as they have 14 types of ramen on the menu, I'm sure it's not the last visit either.)

It was the last day of their discounted menu promotion so Ate T and I went early to avoid the queues. We were seated early enough but as the restaurant is half the size of their Regent St branch we were squeezed between diners. We were so close I could actually hear - and feel - diners slurping and burping.

But nevermind. The food is worth it.

The chicken kara-age (£5) was at its best. I remember having this the first time around and thought it was 'impressive but I've had better'. This time it was juicy and moist. I had to stop myself from eating everything!

Now let's talk ramen. My first Shoryu ramen was the spicy pork miso and loved it so much. I've only tried something different once but since then I've reverted to my safe choice. Wanting to try something different again (and way too many bowls of spicy pork miso ramen for lunch), I decided to get the karaka tantan tonkotsu (£9.90 - but £4.95 that day).
Mad, mad love for this! The fried minced pork was deliciously substantial, the white miso and garlic broth was a slurpy kind of delicious and the chilli oil was just amazing. Strange thing though, it said on the menu that it didn't have sesame but mine came with. Not that it mattered, because the whole thing is just damn yummy!

I'm not a massive fan of the organic onigiri (£2) though. Then again, I was never really a fan of rice.

Our neighbourly diners seemed pretty happy with their yuzu rolled cake (£4.50) so we tried that too. It's definitely my favourite green tea dessert out of the ones we've tried. It wasn't overpowdered and the aduki bean cream created a nice sweet aftertaste that wasn't sickening.

Overall, another good experience at my favourite ramen joint!

Post dinner, the queue still snaked around the corner. People were obviously taking advantage of the last day of the 50% off ramen promo! =)

Looks like Shoryu Pop-Up is here to stay and I do hope it does! They have another promotion - 10% off the full menu if you bring this voucher. It goes til 31 July so hurry up and slurp delicious noodles! =)

Shoryu Pop-Up Soho
3 Denman Street London W1D 7HA

Shoryu Soho on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

How did you meet the great love of your life?

Two days into the bank holiday the question popped after a few hours and a few beers under the sun. The married ones easily spoke fondly of how they met their spouses while the not-so-married ones skiddley-doo-dah-ed, anxious to change topics. It got me thinking...

When I was a child, I was a huge fan of love in its Rainbow Brite coloured glory. I believed in flowers and fairy tale endings, grand gestures and the thrill of the chase, celebrating monthsary dates and a million kisses in the rain. All that jazz.

Somewhere between 14 and 26 the hopeless romantic grew up, fell in and out of love, saw a handful of hearts broken into a million pieces and turned into a cynical crud. I tried to believe in the 100% strength of the yihee/kilig factor by documenting stuff and telling everyone (myself included) how happy I was (I really was). I devoured those moments but fun as they were there was, almost always, something amiss; whilst I knew I felt something genuine, there was still some some sort of emotional disconnect. I just couldn't see beyond the yihee/kilig. I wanted to (and God knows I've tried), but I couldn't. Unlike other girls who had their plans sorted from flower arrangements down to the white fluffy dress, I couldn't find the happy ever after and often wondered, when a relationship didn't work out, if I'd ever be happy after.

Then again perhaps the annoying cynic was just a facade... a wall I've put up for protection. I say this because in a way I still believed in possibilities. I still imagined and played scenes in my head as to how I would meet the love of my life. My favourites included the following:

At a train station:
Because yes, harana will always be uso.

At a record store:
Here's Charlotte Gainsbourg & Johnny Depp from that scene in ...And They Lived Happily Ever After.

Ahhh.... wouldn't that be something to tell the grandkids?

So how did I meet the great love of my life? I'm sure I've talked about this before... but you know, two years after burying the inner cynic and after a string of dates, mates and exchange rates I've realised that though music will always be my first real love, I am actually capable of really and truly being in love with an actual human being. 100% deadset. Like most relationships there's a lot to be afraid of. This may or may not be the great love of my life, there may or may not be a happy ever after - who knows? The surprising thing is, I've never felt the audacious desire to find out... until now. Possibly because the timing is right, definitely because I've never been this happy. Ever. And it bloody feels great.

I still can't see myself in a white fluffy dress, but that's because I prefer a slick nude silk-chiffon. And if this road does lead to a happy ever after, we'll tell the grandkids that it all started with this (ironically):

Go open yourself to the possibilities of life. If you're lucky enough, you might just find something (or someone) that could surprise you in more ways than one.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Cheesemen of the board

I saw a man devouring a grilled four-cheese sandwich. He licked his lips deliciously as he pressed it into a less intimidating size. The cheese oozed down the crusty sourdough with the smoothness of silken honey, before settling on the curious waxy paper that held it together. I saw him hesitate as if to admire the flattened creation before going for the kill and biting a third down the sarnie. Impressive. He chewed, eyes closed, and I swear I heard a flock of cherubs fly by. In that moment I knew he was in an entirely different world. Somehow, I wanted to go there too. 

That's how I fell in love with cheese.

Last week I went to Borough Market eager to replenish my stock of fresh artisan cheese.

First stop was L'Ubriaco to get a piece of my favourite drunken cheese, Testun. I was ready to order but I saw they had new blocks of pecorino; one from Sardinia (creamy, dense, a bit tart and fruity) and one from Sicily (slightly tangy, nutty, crumblier). I went for the latter because it was punched with peppercorns, which gave the cheese a bit of a kick. This would go down well with pasta - I could already imagine munching the shaved and grated bits before they even melt.

Pecorino nero d'avola

I went to the new wing of the market where I found Une Normande a Londres. I saw the shelves of goat cheese and swooned. The assistant who served me had the most amazing French charm and I wondered whether it was his accent that lured me to get this ugly looking piece of gorgeous aged goat cheese.

This brain-looking cheese is an aged coupolé. This one is more pungent in aroma and the flavour is distinctly stronger and earthier with a slight hint of nuttiness. It's definitely not one to please the masses, but it's an impressive addition to any cheese board.

I found the Jumi Cheese stall which sold a variety of Swiss cheese with interesting background stories, like the 'hanfmutschli', a cheese created by the artisan's wife made with hemp she found growing in the garden so the kids won't use the weed in other ways. My pick was the Dr. 13, a hard sheep milk cheese which was mild with notes of fruit. It took the makers 13 attempts to perfect the recipe and boy am I glad they did not stop at 12. Like Emmental, this is super good with sandwiches.

I went to Neal's Yard Dairy because I wanted to get a piece of Wigmore, one of my favourites from the shop. I think this sheep milk cheese is perfect for Spring, as it tastes fresh on the palate with its mild and subtle sweetness. It's hard enough to keep for picnics and super delicious when baked to its sweet soft spot.

I also got some Childwickbury, another goat cheese, which reminds me of summer because of its citrusy notes. It's soft and crumbly and I think it would be super perfect for summer eating. This is my favourite goat cheese from Neal's Yard Dairy.

The crumbly cheese would be perfect for superfood salads, light pizza snacks and cracker spreads!

I also got some Tymsboro, another goat cheese which has a texture in between that of the Childwickbury and the Wigmore. It's a bit more versatile because the bits closer to the rind can be melted for a nice dip whilst the inner layers are crumbly enough to top pasta with.

The flavour is mild, but strong enough to get a hint of the goat milk. It's a bit nutty and a bit zesty in parts.

Dr. 13, Childwickbury, Wigmore
Tymsboro, Coupolé, Pecorino
Six days later, I've already finished the Coupole and the Wigmore, three-fourths of the pecorino and half the Tymsboro. I've used up a third of the Childwickbury and I'm saving the Dr 13 when I've used up all my drunken cheese. I can't wait to get some more for the bank holiday. =)

What's on your cheese board?