Kitchen equipment, food products and related items, or objects of desire (yes, they do exist) that catch my eye, or that I've used and loved.

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Piri Piri Starfish (Tessa Kiros)

April 24, 2010




Tessa Kiros is not Portuguese. She is of Greek-Cypriot and Finnish parentage, so, you might ask, what would a London born, part Greek-Cypriot, part Finnish cookbook writer know of Portuguese food? Authenticity is not a word I am comfortable with. Perhaps being a mixed bag of ethnicities myself, I tend to refrain from hastily endorsing or decrying anything because of "authenticity" or a lack thereof, preferring to evaluate something based on its own merits, which fortunately, this book has plenty of.

I instantly warmed to the dusty azure themed cover  featuring a washboard stiff sardine in the iconic Duralex Picardie tumbler. An arguably bizarre presentation, but one certain to draw the eye and garner attention. I've also had a lifelong but up to now, little researched curiosity about Portugal, though I have never set foot on Portuguese soil. Why? My mother's family name is Pereira, probably the most Portuguese of names and my grandmother spoke to me daily and exclusively in an archaic form of Portuguese, inflected with localisms, right up to her death when I was 13.

Ms Kiros travelled to and lived in Portugal, to experience the culture and colour of the country in order to write about its culinary treasures. I applaud such diligent research, surely a more than worthy stand in for having the "right" or required ethnicity or nationality?

Considering the past glory and reach of the former Portuguese empire, and the many influences of its numerous former colonies, the task of framing its culinary profile within 256 pages is a daunting one. Ms Kiros rises to the challenge and does an admirable job of showcasing Portugal, its history, its present, the Mediterranean warmth and inherent kindness that courses through the veins of all who call it home, both through the recipes that she shares as well as her observations of the country and its warm and wonderful people.  The photography is beautiful, though in a natural and slightly rough hewn rather than contrived and primped sort of way. This is I think, as it should be. After all Portuguese cooking is not haute cuisine. It is honest, sturdy, unpretentious, bursting with flavour and character, nourishing and heartwarming, much like the Portuguese themselves. This is a lavishly beautiful book which screams "quality", from its sturdy cover and thick pages to its very secure binding and even the satisfyingly thick and broad page marking ribbon attached.

I do have two slight grouses though; the ingredients for each recipe are laid out in paragraph form rather than as a list. This can be confusing and frustrating if you're actually cooking from the book and need to keep seeking out each individual ingredient from the indistinct paragraph. A conventional list would have been far clearer, more accessible and convenient. This is not so much an issue though, if you're pleasurably and leisurely reading it in bed, for instance. The cost, at SGD 71.95 is a mite overpriced for 256 pages if compared to a book such as The River Cottage Meat Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Still, I was sufficiently charmed to part with my money.

I would definitely recommend this book as a worthy introduction to Portuguese food, written in Ms. Kiros' characteristically warm and engaging style, if you don't mind the hefty price tag. Available at major bookstores in Singapore and here online.

 

Cafedirect Medium Roast Coffee

April 17, 2010



I'm the kind of coffee drinker who would rather go without and brave a thumping headache, then drink a bad cup. What's a bad cup? Well, that would differ from person to person but it's pretty simple for me; tar-thick sludge is a big no-no, especially if it comes with little actual coffee flavour. Sour coffee is another turnoff - a little acidity, even more than a bit is fine, as long as it's part of the inherent character of the coffee, not a result of brewed coffee standing around on a heate...


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Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2007

February 5, 2010




Three things I need to tell you before I say anything else; I'm cheap - I don't believe in paying $3 when I can pay $2, I don't like white wine very much; I'll have the occasional glass of Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc and that's it, and having said that, I'm IN LOVE!!!

On principle, I ordinarily, steadfastly refuse to buy a bottle of wine over $25 because I truly believe good wine need not cost an arm and a leg and in these difficult economic times, I believe vintners and other producers of no...


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Marks & Spencer Rhubarb & Custard Boiled Sweets

January 18, 2010



My mum almost started foaming at the mouth when she saw a stack of these in a Marks and Spencer branch in Orchard Road today. When I said I wanted to buy a pack and try them, she shoved some mint humbugs into my hands as well, whilst pushing me towards the cashier. "Well, go on then, pay up and let me have one of those red and yellow ones" Mint humbugs I've had countless times but rhubarb and custard boiled sweets, not so much, in fact, not ever. I do know they're a terribly British flavour c...
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The River Cottage Meat Book

January 15, 2010



Anyone who's been following my posts will know I'm a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, so I have to watch myself here. In all honesty though, fan or no, there is very little not to like, no, love, about this book. It's thick, at a whopping 543 pages in all, crammed with lavish photography and written with what appears very much to be sincerity and undeniable passion.

HFW has even taken pains to include two indexes - one, a regular alphabetical recipe index and the other, an "alternativ...

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Caffarel Gianduiotti (Bitter)

November 26, 2009



I've loved Nutella (that gooey, sickly sweet cocoa and hazelnut spread) since I was about 6 and while I was recently trawling the shops at Changi Airport, killing time before boarding, I saw this very handsome package of midnight-blue-foil wrapped chocolate nuggets that had me at, well.... "Hello". What sealed the deal was the insane (I am now breathing in  lungfuls of the remnants of that ravaged package) chocolate and hazelnut aroma that managed to escape the packaging and the fact that it ...


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Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2007

November 20, 2009



I had a glass of this today, just before dinner, just because the thought of imbibing the essence of two of my favourite grapes, in the same glass, was suddenly too tempting for me to wait upon the roasted lemon and black pepper chicken wings glazing in the oven. I've been coddling two bottles of this on my rack, a 2007 and a 2008 and I thought it was time to open the 2007.

I have this friend who annoyingly insists that I am an aesthete and that my true addiction is beauty, not  a certain de...


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KitchenAid Artisan (or Kenwood Major?)

November 9, 2009



Mine, mine, mine, mine, MINE !  At last. *sigh* I finally got one for my birthday about 2 weeks ago, in the exact colour you see above, a deliciously retro shade of creamy duck egg blue, that KitchenAid calls "Ice".

I've been silently lusting after one eversince I saw it on Monica Geller's turquoise  counter top, over a decade ago. Before that I'd been using either a Philips hand held mixer or a Kenwood Major, both purchased in the early to mid 80s. Eventually I stopped using both as the Maj...


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Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All

July 17, 2009



Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is my food hero of the moment, and probably will be for a while yet. It isn't for nothing that he's earned his amusing moniker. He has famously sampled everything from roadkill, to fugu, to placenta. He's done battle with some of Britain's largest supermarket chains, over the provenance of food, more specifically, about the way chickens stocked by supermarkets, have been farmed, and vexed burger titan, McDonalds with endless questions about what goes into their bur...


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Whittaker's Almond Gold 45 g Slab

July 13, 2009



Oh, how I love these gold foil packed nuggets of pure chocolate pleasure! What's to love about Whittaker's chocolates? They're made from cocoa beans imported from Ghana, acknowledged to produce some of the world's best cocoa beans. Whittaker's, a New Zealnd company, handles the roasting and processing of the beans themselves. There are flavours like coconut, ginger and kiwi, but my favourite is the single serve (45 g) chunky bar absolutely crammed with diminutive and perfectly roasted almonds...


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