Sunday, January 25, 2009

911 on Rice

Rice - every Asian's favorite carb.

Although I own a rice cooker, I hardly ever use it except for making sushi rice. Most times, I cook rice, as I've been doing for years, in a pot. I know exactly how long it takes so I don't ever burn the rice unless I intentionally want that to happen.

The reason I cook rice in a pot is because I'm too lazy to clean another appliance but mostly because I like the crust. When we were kids, my grandmother would pour hot water into the pot of leftover rice & we would fight over who gets to eat the crust.

Burnt rice is excellent when accompanied with soup. I usually burn my rice for shabu shabu or whenever I prepare chinese soups. For those who have not tried this, go burn your rice today & you won't regret it.

I decided to do this post on rice because what I take for granted about rice is not apparent to most. By most, I refer to non Asian & non regular rice eating folks. It came as a big surprise to my friend Gaby when she found me washing rice one day.

I've been doing it forever & so did my mother & my grandmother & her mother before her, we do it without ever questioning if it's really necessary. I wash my rice about 4-5 times till the water runs clear. I told Gaby the reason is to clean the grains & to remove extra starch.

Even then, I wasn't thoroughly convinced & so decided to do some research online & came up with the real reason here.
I was also asked what type to use for fried rice. Leftover rice kept in the fridge over night is perfect. The grains are drier & thus don't clump together as much when frying.

Here's wishing all my Chinese readers
a very Happy & Prosperous Year of the Ox !!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Destination Ailleurs

J'adore Yannick Noah. He went from becoming the last French player to win the singles title at Roland Garros (French open) in 1983 to performing bare foot on stage. He is very active in charity work & one of his hit songs "Aux arbes citoyen" highlights the need to protect the environment.

Destination Ailleurs translate to mean destination elsewhere which is very appropriate for us right now. For those of you in colder climates, hope this will take you briefly away to somewhere warm & sunny.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seafood Pasta

Some food porn to tie you over until regular blogging returns.

Did I mention I love seafood pasta ?

X made this for the family the weekend before we left for Singapore. He overdid the seafood and believe me, there is linguine at the bottom. We slurped & soaked up with bread every last bit of the sauce.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

La debacle des sentiments

I realised that even though I try to cover all aspects of French life as I know it on this blog, I hardly talk about it's music. And music is such a big part of my life here. I listen to French radio when I'm doing my chores, when I'm driving or when I'm surfing the net.

You might have heard of Carla Bruni, otherwise known as Mdm Sarkozy, our first lady or maybe even Yannick Noah, who has gone from being a tennis star to a very successful singing career. But other than that, most French singers/musicians are hardly known outside the French speaking community. How many of you know Johnny Hallyday ? Perhaps one of the most famous pop star here (he doesn't even have a wiki page in English).

So I now start my series of favorite French songs & this is my current fave from 2 excellent French artists - Calogero & Stanislas (bet you've not heard of them right ?)

I will be in Singapore for the next 3 weeks so I've scheduled a couple more posts for you to enjoy while I'm away.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cauliflower Gratin

This is something I make so often I was surprised I haven't blogged about it already.

X has his eggplant gratin but this is our favorite (The Girl too). I recently made a variation of this after reading a post @ CityMama - with addition of proscuitto & three cheeses (brie, parmesan & mozarella) which is also delicious.

But here is the basic cauliflower gratin.

Cauliflower gratin

1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp oil
1/2 litre of milk
grated cheese
salt & pepper

1. Boil the cauliflower till soft, drain & set aside

2. Make bechamel sauce (more details here) - heat up 3 Tbsp of oil then stir in 3 Tbsp of flour, next add milk, a little at a time & keep stirring till the sauce thickens before adding more milk

3. Stir the grated cheese into the bechamel & season with salt & pepper

4. Spread cauliflower in an oven dish. Pour over bechamel & cheese over. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top

5. Bake in oven 190 C for around 30-45 mins till the top is golden brown

Note :
For the other variation, just diced up the proscuitto & fry them in the oil when making bechamel then proceed as normal. Cut brie & mozarella into pieces & add them into the oven tray with the cauliflower. Pour bechamel over & lastly sprinkle the parmesan & breadcrumbs on top.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Galette du roi

After Christmas & New Year, galette du roi (king cakes) will start to appear in bakeries. This is generally eaten to celebrate epiphany (the first sunday of January in France) but they are available all through January.

Galette du roi
is a delicious flaky pastry filled with frangipane, an almond cream paste. Inside each galette, is a small ceramic figurine called a fève, bean in French which is what they used to put in the galettes before.

The person who finds the
fève in their piece of the cake will be declared the King (le roi) or the Queen (la reine) & gets to wear the paper crown that comes with each galette.

This year, it's the Princess cos it was The Girl who found the hidden treasure.

Gaby's Paintings

So here are a sampling of Gaby's paintings shown at her first solo exhibition entitled "Meditation & Nature". Sit back & enjoy as I take you on a tour.



Le coeur des Bains





La fille
dedicated to Juna (her daughter)





Saturday, January 10, 2009

Eggplant Gratin

Eggplant gratin or eggplant parmigiana is one of X's favorite side dish. So much so when aubergines are in season, I would make platters of this & freeze. We like to eat this hot or cold.

I made this once with white aubergines but I didn't fancy them too much. White aubergines just don't have the same flavor.

Before frying the eggplant, egoutter or drain away the water. This is how you do it. Clean, cut off the stems & then slice thinly lengthwise. Next make criss cross marks ensuring you don't cut through.

Then sprinkle generously with salt & leave in colander for at least half an hour. You'll see big drops of water appear on the eggplant extracted by the salt through osmosis. Although it might seem like a lot of salt, I don't rinse them, I just make sure I don't add any more salt to the dish.

Once that's done, you're ready to fry the eggplants. The tricky thing is that they absorb a lot of oil so have tons of kitchen towels on stand by to soak up as much oil as possible.

Then line them in an oven dish. Layer the eggplant, pour tomato coulis / tomato sauce, then sprinkle grated cheese (I used parmesan in this case). Repeat with the rest of the eggplant.

Bake in the oven at 190C for 30-40 mins until the top is golden brown.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Linguine alle Vongole

I *heart* pasta with seafood. Any type of pasta with any type of seafood.

My first love & you never forget your first. Linguine alle vongole. We go way back.

Clams are really easy to prepare & if you don't add pasta, this makes a great clam starter - not unlike the one that I'd already bogged about here. Some recipes use tomatoes making it a red clam sauce but I personally prefer not to.

Remember my trip to Geneva way back in August last year, well my friends gave me 10 packets of Prima Taste's Vongole Sauce. I thought Prima only does Asian so I was a little sceptical at first. Besides I've never really needed this to make vongole sauce before. But you know what - I'm already down to 4 packets. I don't know how much they are retailing for so I can't say if they are worth it or not but if you're given free packets by generous friends, by all means use them.

Since it is basically clam juice - I've used it to flavor my fish stew & instead of clams (cos they are really expensive here), used them to cook prawns & squids. The packet suggests using Chinese wine but I wouldn't dream of using anything but white wine.

Linguine alle Vongole

(for 2-3 portions)

2-3 cloves garlic, diced

2 chilli (optional)
500g fresh clams



1/2 cup white wine
clam juice (if available)

1. Cook linguine. Drain & set aside

2. Fry garlic & chilli in olive oil until fragrant. Then add clams, white wine, clam juice, salt & pepper. Cover the pan

3. Once the clams open which shouldn't take very long - around 5-10 mins, they are ready. Discard any that aren't opened

4. Toss linguine in the sauce & add chopped parsley before serving

Thursday, January 8, 2009

International Museum of Shoes, Romans

We rang in the New Year with friends who lived in Romans, not far from Valence, just over an hour from here. Even though we've visited them many times, we've never actually explored the town. This time round, I decided we should go earlier to see what Romans has to offer before heading over to their place.

One of the must see is the International Museum of Shoes. Romans sur Isere or simply called Romans has a tradition of leather making & shoe making thus earning the title of City of Shoes.

The museum is situated in a convent built in the 17th century with a beautiful garden. The visit takes you through the cells which used to house the nuns.

There are apparently more than 15,000 items going back some 4000 years & as their name implied, also covering the evolution of shoes all over the world. They even had a collection of shoes from China for women with bound feet. My favorite were the thigh boots worn by the musketeers.

There were also designers of the 20th & 21st centuries but the focus seem to be more on contemporary design. The Girl was particularly tickled by the pair of zebra shoes (shown below).

Even if you're not a shoe lover (like the
Dutchess whom by the way I've dedicated this post to), I would recommend a visit.

International Museum of Shoes

rue Bistour
04 75 05 51 81

Art Exhibition

I'm really pleased to announce that my friend Ms Gaby Scholz is currently exhibiting at the Salle Volane in Vals les Bains. This is her first solo exhibition & we're all very excited for her. She's been hard at work the past few weeks putting the finishing touches to her paintings.

A couple of us were over on Monday to help her hang her paintings & let me tell you, it was a lot harder than it looks but we all had fun doing it. I didn't have time to take individual pictures of her paintings yet but will do so soon & post them on the blog to share with my readers.

She was also interviewed by the regional newspaper, Le Dauphiné libéré. Below is the announcement that they published on the 4th.

We now have a celebrity in our midst.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Coconut macaroon

Coconut macaroons are more like little coconut bites rather than cookies.

I made them at our last playgroup & they were a big hit with the young & old. If you don't like coconuts, you can substitute with almond powder.

Coconut macaroon
makes about 30

180g desiccated coconut
1 packet vanilla powder

150g sugar

3 egg whites

1. Mix dessicated coconut, vanilla powder & sugar

2. Beat the egg whites till stiff then add to coconut mixture

3. Place wax paper on oven tray

4. Form little balls & place on oven tray tray

5. Bake at 190C for 10-15 minutes until brown - check often to make sure you don't burn them

Monday, January 5, 2009

More feasting & dining

This is just another one of the many lunches & dinners we've been to the past couple of weeks. Isn't that what the holiday is all about - feasting & dining ?

It has been a while since we were over at our neighbour's - Laurence & Christophe for dinner. Back then in the summer, we dined on the terrace. Well we couldn't very well do that now, could we ?

This was the first time I had Hydromel -
a honey liquer with origins from the Middle Ages, brewed by the Greeks & Romans

No outdoor dining this time of the year
- there's nothing quite like the warmth from the fire place

Raclette with vegetable side dish

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bonne Annee

Albeit a little mellow, we had a wonderful New Year celebration. How could we not when there were good food, good wine & good friends ?

Here they are again, the Usual Suspects

Foie Gras with Fig Jam

Les Huitres - Oysters with red wine vinegar & shallot sauce

Scallops & Lobster


I'm not one for resolutions cos I always end up breaking them so after a while, I don't even bother any more. But recently several issues have been bothering me so I've decided to make a list this year. I figured if I were to blog about it, I would be more motivated to try to stick to it.

1. Eat healthy
We hardly eat out so I suppose we are already eating healthier. Which means in our case, it would also translate to cooking healthy as well. But there's a lot more to talk about so I will do a separate post about this.

2. Start speaking Chinese to The Girl
This is something that I've been meaning to do & I know the sooner I start, the easier it would be for her. So one of my goals this year is to make sure I start teaching her to speak Mandarin & to let her appreciate her Chinese roots.

3. Make time for the family
Being a SAHM, you would think that's all I do but I'm not talking about chores, cooking or even going to The Site. I want to take time to do things as a family like this. I want to stop saying "wait a minute" to The Girl whenever she wants to play with me. I want to have more couple time with X.

So instead of waiting till the end of the year, I'm going to do a review after 3 months to see how I'm doing with these resolutions.

Happy New Year & here's wishing you joy, happiness & health for 2009.