Tag Archives: Falling Cloudberries

Dancing Babka

Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain.
~ Martha Graham

The word ‘yeast’ is still a mental hurdle for me. Something about it sounds complicated, out of my depth, like it’s something for professionals (not me, anyway). My one direct encounter with it came earlier this year when I made some pitta bread at home for a flat dinner. I remember marvelling at it then; but subsequently, the old apprehension came back each time I glimpsed it in a recipe.

I’ve been reading a very inspirational book over the last few nights though, and somehow – I think that led to me walking out of New World with a bottle of active dry yeast last night.

I woke up early this morning, and decided to kick off my day off work with some babka baking from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#57 Bobba’s Babka – Page 246

I was apprehensive about the yeast. I mixed it with the oil and tepid milk and for two long minutes, nothing seemed to ‘activate’… and then, suddenly, it looked like something bad out of my old biology textbook? Alive, gurgling like a deep sea monster, ugh! – it was at once fascinating and very unappetizing…

I waited some more before I poured it doubtfully into the flour mixture, and then it looked like a mini volcanic snowstorm.

Actual bread making. I fell into a sort of happy/painful trance kneading the dough. It was reassuring, of course, to knead like mad while reading “the dough should be thick and a little difficult to mix, even with the mixer”. (although even if I had a mixer, I doubt I would use it in my first few instances of making bread – how else to get in touch with your food, to know it, touch it, sense it – own it??)…

When I added the egg and worked the sticky dough, it squelched like a pair of rain-drenched shoes the whole way and I really thought I would never get to the next stage, which was “so that it is still very sticky but not actually sticking to your hands.”

As it is, I got there, and as my fingers repelled the sticky, springy dough, I exclaimed and promptly forgot about my aching wrists. Wow! If Tessa Kiros had been here in person I would have knocked her over with a huge embrace. :-O As it is, she was spared on this occasion :-)

After 1.5 hours of being placed by the heatpump, it had enlarged to a giant puffy dough:

Muscovado sugar. Deep and luxurious, I measured it out carefully, trying not to spill any. Then I leaned over the cup and gazed at the rich colour, inhaled the delicious flavour… mmmm.

Even better smelling with the addition of cinnamon…

Butter on the other hand, I was much more lavish with today – I didn’t measured this, just dug my knife into the box and took out a random soft pile of it.

I rolled out the bread into two (near) rectangles, and spread the butter and muscovado on to them.

Finally, it was time to plait the bread.

The whole process of baking this was really… seductive. I’m not sure how else I could possibly describe it. My hands were gooey, and bread dough is hardly a sunset, a silk dress, or whatever your normal icons of romance might be – but the emerging flavours and feel of the process pretty much had me walking on air.

So much so that after I brushed egg yolk and milk on the babka and shoved the tray into the oven, I put on some music and danced on my toes. THE AIR SMELLED WONDERFUL.

Babka, done – I gave more than half of it away to a gleeful Malinda and retained the rest of it for my poor flatmates. :-)

PS. Haidee and I were at one of my favourite cafes today – and out popped a mouse! While I was a little concerned about the presence of a mouse in an eating place, I was temporarily distracted by this amusing thing: saying “oh! mouse!” and watching the women around me gasp, kind of shriek and scramble to get up and run. I mean, it’s just a mouse……?


Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.
~ Pietro Aretino

Did you think I’d given up cooking through “Falling Cloudberries”? I was afraid I had too. However, it isn’t December yet, so I guess I’m not allowed to give up!

Tonight, I decided to try my hand at making this Greek dish from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” to warm us up…
#56 Avgolemono (Chicken Soup with Egg & Lemon) – Page 82

I tripled the amount of carrot and celery used in this broth, and absolutely loved inhaling the aroma of this while it simmered slowly on the stove. No butter, no oil, just sweet veges, flavourful parsley, piquant peppercorns and – of course – a grand free range chicken.

Tessa Kiros’s recipe for this yielded 4 generous servings of sweet, comforting broth with a refreshing twist of lemon, creaminess from the egg and a smattering of rice to provide texture. We had the chicken (tender and still sweet) and vegetables on the side. I am so pleased with the result of this!

In other news, we visited La Cigale yesterday where I picked up some yummy turkish delight, and Mandy and I introduced ourselves to the whimsical world of macaroons…. oh, and I also had a lovely chicken liver parfait brioche, which made for a tasty breakfast. I kicked myself for not having my camera with me as we watched a man sifting almond sugar on to his tray of croissants, people surveying the spread of fresh organic vegetables, a grumpy woman selling jam…

To market, to market

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
~ J. R. R. Tolkien

Visiting City Market this morning was a delicious experience. Haidee and I went around sampling some tasty things (especially loved the unique thyme-infused chocolate from Esque Chocolate), chatting with the lovely stall-holders about their produce and (unfortunately secret) recipes, and I also bought some fresh duck rillette which made for a delightful afternoon snack today.

Things I enjoyed: besides the food itself of course, I loved watching a smile flicker slowly across a baker’s face as he talked about what flours he uses in his bread, apologising that he couldn’t disclose details of his partner’s secret recipe… loved it when the lovely lady from Esque Chocolate shyly offered us two exquisite twigs of orange-peel chocolate, asking what we thought… loved seeing the lady selling vegetables obviously enjoying herself while bagging stalks of fragrant fennel and cheery figs for happy customers… loved listening to stall-holders talk about their area of expertise… loved seeing people milling around, taking time to do their grocery shopping…

If you want to read more about City Market, Millie did an excellent two-part review of it – here and here.

This is a snapshot of my duck rillette spread on some nice rye bread :-) Très bonne!

This afternoon, I decided to try my hand at making some pesto from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#55 Pistachio & Rucola Pesto – Page 306

Modifications: I used mesclun instead of rocket; and not having a weighing scale, I couldn’t ascertain the weight of my ingredients so I just went by instinct. Our blender isn’t working very well either, so it was pretty interesting shaking it vigorously in trying to get it to run! The result was a full-bodied, garlic-spiced pesto with the distinctive flavours of pistachios and parmesan shining through like a star – I do look forward to stirring this through some pasta on Tuesday night!

I also bought some fennel this afternoon, which I haven’t cooked with before… my poor flatmates John and Jono are going to be guinea pigs yet again for this dinner experiment (which I haven’t quite worked out the details for yet, except that it will involve chicken, cream, fennel, white wine, rosemary and maybe some leek and carrots).

[edit] Below: Tuesday’s pesto-ed pasta… (with leeks, cream, lemon & riesling)


These are busy days

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.
~ John Burroughs

Today, I wanted to break the glass on the universal globe-governing Clock and pull out its hands.

How can there be so many things to do and so little time?

Tonight is looking to be a very late night for me, so logically, a proper cooked dinner was in order. I went to the supermarket after work and came home to cook this from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” (long time no cook-through, I know):
#54 Lentils, Rice & Red Onion Salad – Page 348

I was initially dubious about the method Tessa gave for cooking rice, but it certainly worked well. This meal is great on a cold night, the different parts of this salad come together to form a cohesive symphony and it is pretty filling too.

Modifications: I added some rosemary, a tiny bit of paprika, curry powder and cinnamon. I also halved the quantities as it was just Jono and me tonight.

The picture above depicts this morning’s breakfast: pear, avocado and capsicum salad with a squeeze of lemon juice, some fresh rosemary leaves and black pepper. (I’ll probably be adding rosemary into everything for awhile now too, as my mom gifted me with a big bag of fresh rosemary sprigs from their garden…)

K gotta run.

Berry nice indeed

To invite someone is to take charge of his happiness during the time he spends under your roof.
~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Lizzie arrived yesterday afternoon to visit! She is golden-haired with twinkling eyes and a pure heart to rival Snow White’s. She has a wonderful way of drawing you out of your shell into who you are, and talking to her reminds me of what it feels like to bask in sunshine. She also makes me laugh – alot! – (in a good way, Lizzie, if you are reading this!)

We took a trip to Moore Wilsons in the rain to look at what to buy for dinner. As we studied baby beetroots, lemon verbena, the many types of olives, huge moon-sized (seemingly) blocks of cheese – I was drawn into a world just beneath the world we live in. A delicious world of memories, recipes, family habits/traditions, allergies (yes really!), etc… all this came forth as we conversed, remembered, thought about what would go well with what.

Groceries duly purchased, we shared an umbrella in the now pouring rain, and made a beeline for gelato. The best thing you can have when it’s raining.

Along the way, skipping over puddles and sitting aboard a cramped busy bus, we caught up on our lives.

I had prepared the cheesecake earlier in the morning, from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#53 Berry Cheesecake – Page 272

(I LOVE peeking into the oven in the final minutes of baking… it is like opening presents on Christmas morning!)

Sunny came over in the evening to join us in dinner preparations. On the menu:

Gingered Carrot Soup with Avocado – recipe from Orangette (a fresh cold soup with a nice touch of creamy avocado, slips down your throat like a dream)

Salad with pan-fried basil chicken, nashi pears, feta, mixed greens topped with lemon and a warm dressing of olive oil, olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, garlic (simple, elegant and tasty)

Grilled bread

We bustled around whilst John and Matt sat on the couch, trying to watch TV amidst the growing noise and slightly delayed arrival of dinner – poor boys! (Of note were Sunny’s patience with our temperamental blender and Lizzie’s super plating skills!)

Chocolate, cheese, action

A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.
~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

It strikes me now that I fed my flatmates and guests an overbearing amount of chocolate and cheese for dinner tonight… oops!

The first thing I started working on late this afternoon was the chocolate crust bit of this recipe from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#52 Ricotta Tart with a Chocolate Crust – Page 331

It looks like a thin pizza here, but really, it isn’t. It’s a comfy cake tin lined with a deep chocolatey pastry bed encasing some silky citrusy cheese mix (pre-baking).

I like starting dinner preparations with Dessert leading the way.

Now, lest you begin to believe it turned out to be a perfect success, it wasn’t. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I didn’t have a food processor and beat it all by hand, but it refused to set properly even after an excessively long time in the oven. It eroded with startling ease when one of my flatmates accidentally dropped the cake tin too (the tin landed on its bum, thank God!) Here is the remains of the eroded tart depicted, after everyone had a wobbly scoop of it:

Taste-wise, though, what can I say? You can hardly go wrong with the good flavours of ricotta, chocolate, lemon & orange juice and orange zest… ;-)

And this? No, it’s not a quirky dessert; it’s salad! Salad with arugula, feta, pistachio nuts, cranberry sprinkle, sliced almonds, plump dried apricots, onion, snow pea shoots, orange zest, and just for fun – chocolate bits (inspired by Molly Wizenberg’s book, “A Homemade Life”).

We also had filo parcels filled with chicken, apricots, brie, chutney, garlic, onions, cashew nuts, basil, parsley, salt & pepper… but I neglected to take photos of those.

I was a little sleepy as we sat in the lounge afterwards, so I missed out on quality engagement with the others… but it was an enjoyable night nevertheless and I’m glad everyone else got to see each other, eat, relax, spend time together. Super.

[edit] It is now Saturday morning, and I’ve just had a lovely surprise.

The ricotta tart has somehow improved greatly in taste and texture overnight (I just a small slice of it for breakfast). I’m not a fan of leftovers most of the time, but in making a few of Tessa’s desserts, I have been finding that they taste a million times better when they are given time to sit in the fridge or on the kitchen bench, depending on the dessert in question of course. [/edit]

Mind-clearing rice pudding

Pappou was quiet; he had integrity and no flashness about him. He always wore a perfectly ironed shirt, gilet in winter, polished shoes and had his hair slicked back with the special cream he ordered from Italy. He never demanded acknowledgement, but dashed around quietly with the energy of milk just at that rolling boil.
~ Tessa Kiros

Up till 11am this morning, I’d never eaten rice pudding. I’d never made it, either.

I made my first rice pudding today. It was imperfect, a little too dry, there wasn’t enough milk, it was a new flavour. I was very happy with it.

(Next time, I will do better.)

This recipe was from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#51 Rice Pudding – Page 192

This is a recipe inspired by her grandfather. I love what she wrote about him (see quote above)…

My grandfather too, is quiet and dresses neatly, never demanding acknowledgement or thanks from anyone. He likes his sugar and I am sure he would like to try this sometime too. When I next see him, I will make him this.

I decided to make rice pudding today because I awoke with a crowded head. Yesterday was my last day of work, you see, at an organisation I’ve worked for twice. It was surreal and sad to say goodbye again, but I was almost impatient as well – impatient to know what lay ahead, impatient to know what I’ll be doing next, impatient…

It didn’t help that I am in a season of turning my face to the sun and wanting to explore everything at once. I scared myself with a sideways glance at my diary this morning.

It is not wise to keep running when you haven’t had breakfast. It is best to slow down by doing something which takes time, something which reminds you of what you love.

Making rice pudding did this. It reminded me of my Grandma nourishing us all with rice porridge. It reminded me of Granddad and how he drinks tea with so much sugar it makes my teeth tingle just thinking about it. It required standing by the stove for around 45 minutes, enough time to slow down, relax and clear my mind.

This is how to handle a crowded mind: slow down, do something you love, think of the people you love and what you will do for them next.

Then, look at your list of things to do and don’t be surprised at how much smaller it looks now.