Monday, May 18, 2009

Caramel Cafe

Cafes and eating joints spring up all the time. Some of them make an impression either on the food or the decor and sometimes, though not often- both !

Visited Caramel Cafe at Beach Road (Singapore) recently. Its vintage style of mismatched plates, beautiful teacups, upholstered stools and sofas in bright vintage prints took my breath away when I first stepped into the cafe. The walls were covered with unusual frames and pictures sourced from flea markets around the world and there was even a corner selling hand made plushes, bags and toys.

The four co-owners were former illustrators and fashion stylists who were seeking an alternative career path. There is even an adjorning hair salon which shared the overall concept.

I must say the decor made a bigger impression on me than the food on the first visit. I ordered a bacon salad with white wine vinegar which was reasonably good. But I started to enjoy the food more during my subsequent visit. My Japanese Goma sauce spaghetti and my friend's Rendang spaghetti were really delicious with a home cook goodness about them. The menu changes everyday which is great if you love surprises.

We had their signature drinks too - lemon grass tea and Vitaplum, a mixture of Vitagen and plum. Kudos to the chef CK Koo for being so creative ! Of course, there are delightful cupcakes which are a visual and tasty treat. Check out their blogsite which is just as beautiful as their cafe. Not surprising, considering their previous careers.

This cafe gives me such a happy, positive vibe. Loved it.

Hairloom & Caramel
100 Beach Road

#01-50/52 Shaw Towers
Singapore 189702

Hairloom, the Salon

Caramel, the Cafe

Singapore cooking

Singaporeans love their food and the rich variety we have is due to the Malay, Indian, Chinese, Eurasian and Peranakan influences we have in our country.

I have not cooked a day in my life while growing up and it is only after marriage that I find it a necessity. If there is one book I would recommend to all newly weds, it would be the late Mrs Leong Yee Soo's cookbook The Best of Singaporean cooking. It was first printed in 1988 and has since gone into many prints.

According to the book, Mrs Leong Yee Soo belonged to the generation of Straits "nonyas" who were part of the Peranakan culture. They created a wonderful blend of both Malay and Chinese culture, from the food to the dressing. Nonyas from the past devoted all their lives to perfecting the art of cooking and sewing and stories of how their mothers-in-laws perceived or accepted them depended greatly on the culinary skills and beadwork.

From hawker favourites to nonya specialities, from Singapore savoury snacks and kuehs to claypot dishes and noodles, her cookbook is one of the most comprehensive Singaporean cookbooks I have come across so far.

Another favourite of mine is from another Peranakan matriach, the late Mdm Lee Chin Koon , the mother of Singapore's most famous political leader - Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Thanks to these visionary ladies who believe that good receipes should live on beyond their lifetime, modern women like me can still try and learn and create some forms of domestic happiness. Home cooked food has always been conducive to health, goodwill and happy relationships.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mix and match crockery

I was getting a little bored with my all white dinner plates and decided to get some new ones to do a little mix and match.

Heard of a place at Tagore Lane that sells over a 100 varieties of crockery, from dinner plates to salad bowls and tea sets, from mugs to expresso cups. Best of all are the low, low prices. Most of these plates are made in Indonesia for export to US and Europe, but the factory over runs are sold here at a fraction of their prices at department stores. Many expats make their way here too for the great bargains.

I bought 17 plates at just Singapore $20 and I can't wait to use them at my next dinner party.

Location of warehouse

Java Enterprises
25 Tagore Lane,
#03-13 Singapore Godown
Singapore 787602
Tel: 6452 2780

Open Mondays to Saturdays, 10am to 6pm Closed on Sundays and public holidays

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mango Cheese Cake

When fruits are in season, that is the best time to use them to whip up some receipes. I've always loved to eat seasonally as you get quality at good prices. In Singapore mangoes are everywhere now and making a mango cheese cake seems quite a natural thing to do.

My friends gave good comments about this mango cheese cake which requires no baking and I do hope they mean it.

Here is the receipe.

200g digestive biscuit
100g melted butter

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and press into a 9" round spring form baking tin. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes or until the base is firmed.

500g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
3 tbsp fresh mango puree
1 tbsp lemon juice
250g mango flesh (diced)

1 1/2 tbsp gelatine powder, mixed with 4 tbsp water. Dissolve it while stirring and boiling the water
200g non dairy whipping cream (whipped)

Cream cheese mixture: Use an egg beater to beat cream cheese, castor sugar, mango puree until smooth. Add in mango flesh and stir well.

Mix in whipped fresh cream in 3 or 4 batches. Lastly add in gelatine mixture and stir well. Pour mixture onto the prepared base.

Chill in the fridge for 3 hours.

1 tsp gelatine powder, mix with 100ml water. Dissolve it while stirring and boiling the water
2 tbsp fresh mango puree

To get a nice top layer of gelatine and mango puree, pour the mixture onto the set cheesecake and return to the fridge to chill overnight. Cut into pieces and serve.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Green roses

While cleaning and cutting some Pak Choys this afternoon, I can't help but noticed how the cross sections of these vegetable stems appear like green roses.

Makes a mundane chore like cutting vegetables seem more interesting. Also I haven't been out much this week and I needed some form of inspiration.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Chinese Bingtang Hulu

While waiting for a cab outside Yue Hwa emporium in Chinatown Singapore, I saw a little cute clay figurine of a Chinese boy in the window display and I just had to get it.

He was enjoying a moment with his bingtang hulu. These are candied hawthorn fruits on a skewer and are popular Chinese snacks in China

The little Chinese kid was also wearing a little cape which showed the face of a lion. Based on tradition, this was important for warding off evil spirits which can make a child sickly.