Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kids' playtime lunchboxes

Bought 2 lunchboxes today at the flea market. They were sold originally with mashmallows but the owner didn't want to keep the boxes after the mashmallows were gone ! They are absolutely adorable and had different patterns of child's play on both sides. Kids need to play with other kids just like the old days but somehow, I don't seem to see enough of that these days. School work, tuition and new gadgets seem to be holding back the new generation. Glad I was born at a time when neighbourhood kids would gather naturally and improvise games along the way. We would fight and quarrel sometimes but that was part of the fun and it taught us social skills along the way. All these before angry birds, bejewelled and candy crush had everyone fixated from a very young age. 

The Family Cookbook by Marguerite Patten

Hors-d'Oeuvre platter

Nicoise salad

Milk pudding - a very popular British dessert back then 

Coconut syrup tart - I always dreamt my mum would make this one day

French raisin flan 

Rich chocolate cake 

Maple walnut biscuits 

Chocolate Sponge with glace icing 
This was one of the first cookbooks my mum bought after her marriage in the early 60's, thinking that she had to learnt how to cook ....but she never did.  She was then starting work as a teacher which was the time women were coming out to the workforce in Singapore. Singapore cookbooks were non-existent till the 70's but due to the availability of good and cheap street food, we never felt deprived. 

The Family Cookbook by Marguerite Patten (2nd edition 1965) was fascinating to me as a young kid as I've not come across any coloured cookbooks in my mum's library. Most of them had just words and maybe a few pictures in black and white but this one was a real beauty. I liked the way it was established on the cover "in colour" as it was probably a big plus point in a market of black and white books. 

We weren't really exposed much to British crusine except for steak and fish and chips which were cooked mainly by the Hainanese for their British masters. I remember asking my mum how to pronounce hors-d'Oeuvre but I don't think I got the correct version. The dessert section of the book was my all time favourite and I dreamt that one day, my mum will cook me a coconut syrup tart and a chocolate sponge with glace icing as they were my favourite pictures in the book.  

Years have since passed and Mum was just packing her books the other day when I happened to drop by. Reluctantly, she gave it to me saying that she might want to try some of the recipes.  I laughed upon hearing it as I knew it would never happen. She hates to cook and has never done so except on a few occasions such as heating up sardines from a can. She knew and I knew and her favourite line came - " Guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks ! "   

Maybe I will attempt to make coconut syrup tart soon, just to fulfill a childhood dream ! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Banglacity, Brick Lane - London

I thought my friend was kidding when he mentioned that he was bringing me to Banglacity. I knew London had many people from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India but a whole town with its own lifestyle was amazing. Brick Lane otherwise known as Banglacity was brimming with activities that Sunday and people were literally spilled out to the streets, eating curries on the pavements and generally just chilling out. As it was a Bank holiday the very next day (Monday), the Londoners were out in full force. There was busking on the streets ( I must say I have not encountered any busker in London who sucks ), flea markets, an open air hair salon, food fair, beautiful dogs and many, many curry houses. We tried one that says it had the "best curry in the world" with a picture of a younger Prince Charles having his curry there one royal afternoon. It was pretty good, though a little sweet but I suppose the curry in London has been adapted to suit the taste of the British.

This advert sums up my feeling on a Sunday at Brick Lane

The most natural ambassador of Banglacity, London

The Royal princes are poster boys at this curry restaurant in London

This guy must be wondering why the hell is she taking my picture - Snap ! 

These lads really sound as good as they appear to be 

Old furniture that can be given a new lease of life

Curries from the different Indian communities in London 

French bull dogs with their ears tuned to the Bangla beat of Brick Lane

Gail 's Bakery , London

Popped in at Gail's bakery in Portobello Road , a quaint bakery that prides itself as bread purists using only pure ingredients for their bread. This means no preservatives, colouring or flavouring and are serious about "slow dough" without the use of chemicals to speed up the fermentation.

I was really hungry and opted for the standard English breakfast which was really good but guess I should have at least try some of their artisan bread. Maybe next time. 

Gail's Bakery 
138 Portobello Road
London W11 2DZ

Portobello Market, London

The Portobello Market is part of an eclectic neighbourhood with a rich history. Came a few years ago but had to rush through it due to a scheduled appointment but this time, I got to walk through it leisurely with a friend on a Friday which is really great cos it gets really crowded on a Saturday.

There are more to brown, white, oyster, shitake, portobello mushrooms than I know

Portobello, porcini mushrooms and more at the Portobello market

A range of artisan breads at the market 

5 pounds for second hand designer shirts 

A "Barack" lookalike at Portobello market

A beautiful retro side cupboard in good condition 

Vintage buttons

The most quaint things are found at Portobello market

Pop up food festival, London

It was a wonderful moment of serendipity on the 5th May when I happened to walk along the South Bank of the River Thames towards Hungerford Bridge. A quaint little pop up food festival sprang up just like a rare moment of sunshine in London. Love the little food vans and airstream trailers that were cooking up a movable feast that day. What had me invigorated was the smell of paella in the pan as I couldn't resist rice with the combination of spices such as saffron, paprika and rosemary. The burnt rice at the base added to the fragrance. Amazing food, weather and a nice chill out vibe. Glad I came by this route on my way back to the hotel.

A food carnival near the London Eye

Paella Valenciana that is worth the wait  

Tea House Theatre, London

A friend brought me for an early breakfast at the Tea House Theatre situated on the grounds of what was originally the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in the 1800s. The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens was an illuminated outdoor entertainment site popular with English locals and tourists, a perfect rendezvous destination featuring tight rope walkers, drinks galore and even hot air balloon ascends. I suppose all good things do come to an end when trends change.

But the pleasure is still there with the all time quintessential English event - the afternoon tea. The Tea House Theatre came embellished with all things tea and English, from teapots, cups and cosies to glass covered tea cakes at every table. The walls had wicked little quotes of tea, of which my favourite was

 "Gossip and scandal are the best sweeteners for tea."  Harry Fielding

 I must say the tea selection was quite overwhelming and it took me a while to decide. My friend said it was tempting to ask if they serve coffee. It would be quite charming if they had this quote on the wall, just above the exit. "If you are looking for coffee, this way please." 

Tea House Theatre
139 Vauxhall Walk, Vauxhall Pleasure Garden, London, Greater London SE11 5HL

So true and human ! 

I love flower displays that look as natural as it were just plucked from the garden.

It's good to ensure your tea is kept warm and snuggly