Tag Archives: family

Home

I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
~ Maya Angelou

I’m home. Or am I?

I’ve experienced the feeling of being ‘at home’ in a few places over the last month, far from my bed, bathroom, kitchen, etc… and now that I am back in my flat, I feel like a stranger. Like I’m in someone else’s home, living someone else’s life.

Know what I mean? It is great, but painful, to be home. Where everything is ‘different different but same’ (a slight twist on this).

This trip is one of the craziest and best trips I’ve ever gone on, and not just because my sweet friend Steven convinced me that it was a good idea to go with him to Universal Studios in Singapore and go on ALL the roller coasters (save the Cylon because I refuse to be flipped upside down five times in rapid succession), or because I got to spend a few days and share a donkey burger and other wonderful fare with Jane in Beijing. Enjoying perfect summery weather the whole time.

I also got to experience family on a whole new level. My aunt managed to locate Granddad’s relatives and ancestral home in a province in China last year and my uncles, aunts and grandparents arranged to visit them this year. I joined the party at the last minute, and am I glad I got the opportunity to go along! I knew it would be a special trip for Granddad since he hadn’t been back in about 80 years – and it was, but I was surprised to be so personally affected by it too.

We arrived at the airport in Jieyang to a welcome party worthy of celebrities. An entourage of people holding a giant red banner surged towards us, simultaneously talking excitedly to my granddad who was caught by surprise and slightly teary (I just gaped stupidly – it’s all I could do). His tears then began to cause my own eyes to glisten… anyway, thus began six days of getting acquainted with family I had never known about…

There were many moments when I looked around me, at all these good-looking faces I was seeing for the first time in my life, speaking a dialect I term as my third language, in a place I had never thought I would visit… feeling strangely comfortable. Thinking, “wow. This is what family is.” Everyone together, no one texting/surfing the internet/glued to some technological device… just being human, laughing, talking, sharing, being. Distinct personalities emerged, my newfound distant cousins and I found ourselves doing an informal language exchange and being silly at a window-shattering karaoke session, and I was overwhelmed (there is no other word) by it all. We drank a lot of tea (they make fabulous tea of different varieties – I got quite addicted to it); ate too much; went sightseeing; practised speaking dialect and mandarin (I’m still trying to get back into this speaking English thing). In between, I got to catch up with my uncles and aunts, and listen to Granddad tell me stories of his youth which he had never told before.

There were so many conversations, unfamiliar sights, cultural differences, etc to take in that each night I fell into bed full of wonder and unprocessed thoughts…

And now, here I am. Wondering how life will ever be the same again… and yet thoroughly thankful that life is not dull, that life continues to teach and surprise, and show me love and grace.

P.S. On the note of home… banana cake is a good remedy for homesickness. Something to do with the smell, I think. I used this recipe as a base, substituting sour cream with yoghurt, cake flour with normal, and omitting the chocolate ganache to suit what I had on hand. Oh, and I threw in a handful of chocolate buttons into the mix and baked the cake in a bundt pan, just ‘cos.

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Celebrating with hiding smiles

In the last 24 hours, there’ve been lots of changes.

The feeling of happiness will arrive soon, I am sure, when the smile nestled deep inside me eventually finds its way to my face. Meanwhile though, I was surprised by a rush of emotion last night, an erosion of all the stability and calmness I had felt just a few hours before.

I’m still recovering.

I had planned to share some other things with you today, but the words aren’t coming out. I do want to say Mom and I loved dining at Le Canard last night (an early Mothers’ Day celebration) – the radiant face of our maître d’, the hearty, delicious food and the air fragrant with ribbons of enjoyment all contributed to this – and if you are in Wellington, I hope you don’t deny yourself the pleasure of dining here. Suffice to say, I thought of Julia Child as I brought the first spoonful of fish soup to my mouth – whatever once curled around her soul and enticed her into a permanent love affair with French food/cooking and all, wrapped itself around a corner of my heart last night. This was especially the case as memories of our trip to France a few years ago came rushing back to me…

Mom’s order:

    La Planche du Canard (a trio of duck liver mousse, rillettes and terrine of duck with fig and walnut)
    Poisson du jour (line caught fish of the day with champagne and oyster sauce, leek fondue and oyster gelée)
    Bavarois a la rose, rhubarbe confite (rose flavoured ‘Bavarois’, pistachio meringue and crystallised rhubarb)

My order:

    Soupe basquaise & sa garniture (fish soup from the Basque country with rouille and croûtons)
    Filet de Boeuf, beurre du canard (South Devon organic beef fillet with Le Canard butter and crispy celeriac galette)
    Le Café Canard (espresso coffee with Calvados and sugar cube)

I really loved every morsel of our dinner, almost as much as I enjoyed walking back to the hotel with Mom afterwards in the light drizzle, talking about all sorts beneath the velvety blanket of night…

Now, the rest of this post will be told with pictures… a little glimpse into some parts of my world.

Singapore:

Wellington, New Zealand:

Bonne nuit! (Goodnight!)

Le Canard – 10A Murphy Street, Wellington – Phone: 04 499 5252

Leg of lamb, and others

I tried to commit suicide by sticking my head in the oven, but there was a cake in it.
~ Lesley Boone

Today I set myself to play in the kitchen again to prepare dinner for 6 of us – it took around 2.5 hours including cooking time, but there were no complex procedures involved. And the obedient, intelligent oven did most of the work.

I do love ovens, they simplify life so.

Tonight I decided to do 1 new recipe from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” (leg of lamb), 2 repeats of Tessa-recipes (fish and tzatziki), 1 impromptu salad, 1 impromptu potato dish. The new dish was:

#14 Leg of lamb with oregano & lemon – Page 111 (pictured below)

Bread & tzatziki not pictured here, but this was the main part of our dinner. The lamb was easy enough, marinaded simply with oregano, lemon juice, salt, pepper – browned quickly then baked for 2.5 hours with the potatoes for company – it emerged brown and victorious, but not soft as they make it in good restaurants in New Zealand where the meat is just falling off the bone like clouds in heaven. Hmmm! Will have to work on that one.

This simple salad consisted just of orange zest, orange cubes, watercress & lettuce leaves, cucumber slices. Served with balsamic cream and olive oil on the side. A good mix, I conclude, and an excellent side dish which won’t overpower your main – but I don’t think I’ll try eating watercress salad again (frightful). It reeked so much of ‘grass’ I felt like I was a cow.

These babies… red potatoes, peeled, cut, boiled for around 10 minutes, then dressed with a little olive oil, orange zest, rosemary, black pepper & salt. This tasted light and refreshing. I think it is a good side dish (especially for lamb/chicken) when you are out of ideas and need to make something quickly.

The ling fish fillet was most wonderful – white and innocent, a delight to prepare. This is what it looked like with parsley and a tiny drizzle of olive oil before the rest of the sauce went on it…

The fish was a repeat of the oven-baked tomato, celery & parsley-dressed fish I did not too long ago – except I had to reproduce it from memory, since I do not have my book with me here. I think it tasted better today!

    Recipe adapted from Tessa Kiros’ ‘Falling Cloudberries’:
    Ingredients:
    4 stems celery – would’ve included the leaves, but we had none left
    700g firm white fish – cut into squares/size of your preference
    1 can tomatoes – chopped
    2 fresh tomatoes – chopped
    a handful of fresh chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
    juice of 1 lemon
    4 cloves garlic (adjust this to your preference), finely chopped
    1 shallot, sliced
    salt & pepper to taste
    olive oil
    Simple, simple method:
    Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Lay a deep baking tray with foil, and coat it thinly with a little olive oil. Lay the fish out in a single layer.

    Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, stirring it gently until it combines in an even mix. Pour this over the fish.

    Cover the tray with foil, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

    Remove the foil, and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. It should smell very fragrant and the fish should be juicy and very tender.

    Serve with crusty bread/salad/both.

In which my family came to dine

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.
~ Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story


This post won’t be a long one, since I am very sleepy!

My family drove down today to stay for the weekend :-) Naturally, I thought a good dinner was necessary. It was also the perfect opportunity, I thought, to try 4 recipes from “Falling Cloudberries” tonight! Remind me never to be so ambitious again… I started at 4pm and was still rushing along at 7! (Luckily it was mostly fun! Plus we got to shop at MOORE WILSON’S :-)


On the menu tonight were:

#2 Tzatziki (Yoghurt, Cucumber, Garlic & Mint Dip) – Page 76
#3 Stuffed Eggplants – Page 117
#4 Spanakopita – Page 153
#5 Baklava with Nuts & Dried Apricots – Page 129

… along with 5-grain sourdough with dukkah, olive oil + balsamic vinegar, barbequed lamb, mini stuffed red peppers, and vanilla ice-cream as extras.
And: Dad’s red wine
And: Matt’s coffee with Kahlua

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, but you are dooooomed if you try cooking all by yourself (if you are me). I owe tonight’s successful dinner to good help. For instance, Ben shelled pistachios and Matt manned the barbeque + washed dishes along the way. The afternoon rolled along in a whirl of squeezing cucumbers, de-fleshing eggplants, breathing in the scent of tomatoes + garlic, making filo triangles, drizzling syrup over the nut & apricot baklavas…

What I love so far about Tessa Kiros’s book is the way love + family just seem to consume every page of her beautiful book… and how her recipes involve simple things like cucumber, Greek yoghurt, tomatoes – so average people like me can follow them. I also like how her recipes require time and effort, but in perfect amounts so you don’t look at them and despair before you even begin. And she sure makes good food!

So we didn’t have a big enough dining table, so my family, Matt and Tim had to sit on chairs/couches and balance plates on our laps and put glasses on the floor – but it was fun nevertheless…

And now, one warm shower later, I’m sleepy, and my hands still smell faintly of garlic and almonds (kind of eeky and gross, but cool too).

Wow, this post sure got long. Bonne nuit x

Summer is here!

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
~ Wallace Stevens

Our dinner tonight tasted of Summer. Truly.

The good Matt did pretty much all the cooking… fresh fruity salad adorned with cashews + walnuts; monkfish seasoned with herbs + spices and cooked on the bbq; a glass of Gewürztraminer each. His parents were here too, and we joined hands to say a prayer before partaking of our meal. The sun streamed in through the windows and the wind carried faint strains of a choir singing somewhere…

What else is there to do afterwards but melt some chocolate, add in dashes of vanilla, black pepper, cinnamon + nutmeg and dip strawberries in the mix.

Beautiful