Perfectly Peachy Pound Cake

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

I love pound cakes. I remember mugging for my 'A' levels and having slices of Sara Lee pound cake straight from the freezer. There's just something about pound cakes that make it a classic comfort cake for me, perhaps also since I'm not too big of a sponge cake fan.

Pound cakes were called such because of its original mix: 1 pound each of butter, eggs, sugar and flour. It contained no flavouring, salt or baking powder. Back in the days when people were illiterate, this standard measurement made it easy to remember its recipe. If we were to use the original recipe, it will yield 3 x 9" loaf tins, and I suppose it was perfect - given the size of families back then. Naturally, as time goes by, the recipe was adjusted to fit smaller family units and suit lifestyles, but the name of the cake remained.

There are many variations of the classic pound cake now, with fresh fruits or nuts adding more flavour to an otherwise simple cake. I like mine as is with a cup of tea... but when I chanced upon a recipe which promised a zesty cake with a fresh burst of flavour, I couldn't resist trying it out. I also had a few pieces of tinned peaches sitting forlornly in the fridge, and decided to add those in. I figured that the cake will either end up being a failed experiment, or here on blog.

So... since you're reading this, you really should give this cake a try. It actually turned out better than I expected!

Perfectly Peachy Pound Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Prep time: 15 min
Bake time: 65 min
Yields: 9" loaf pan / 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 170 gr salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup 7-Up / Sprite
  • 4 halves peaches, either fresh or tinned

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F / 160 deg C. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Wash peaches in cold running water until all the syrup has been cleaned off. Pat completely dry, and slice. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar till it turns very light and fluffy.

Always, always use good butter for pound cakes. No  margarine, oleo or substitutes!
Thank goodness for electric mixers! Imagine having to whisk this by hand!
3. Add in eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl and ensuring that the batter is mixed thoroughly. Don't be tempted to cut short the mixing time! As this cake doesn't use baking powder or soda, it needs the extra 'air' from the whipping in order for it to rise sufficiently. Slowly mix in the flour and 7-Up alternately, starting and ending with flour.

The magic potion

4. Spoon 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange sliced peaches sparingly in a single layer on top of the batter. Too many slices will result in a soggy cake, so you've been warned!

Cover with a layer of batter, more sliced peaches, and smooth the remaining batter on top.

Yes - I use clothes pegs to keep the baking sheet in place while the batter is poured in! So much easier, don't you think?
5. Bake for about 65 min, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of cake comes off clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Fresh out of the oven. DON'T be tempted to cut the cake when still warm - I will not be responsible for a broken cake!
6. Sprinkle icing sugar, and be prepared to have more than one slice.

MummyMoo





Talking about Divorce

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

"I HATE him. I don't know what I ever saw in him, and why I even got married to him in the first place. I grew up, he never did. I don't love him. I love someone whom I thought he was"
As I sat there listening to the torrent of harsh words from a good friend of mine, I didn't know what to say. She had made up her mind to get a divorce, and I think all she needs at the moment is just someone to listen to her, and empathise with her situation. I felt that she needed to unleash her thoughts, her feelings, and perhaps even convince herself that she is about to do the right thing.

What could I possibly say? I am not about to give her a morally right (read: self righteous) advice, because I know exactly what her husband has put her through. What struck me most was the choice of words used. She isn't angry, and so the words were not said in anger. She seems more resigned than anything else. Tired, almost. Perhaps even somewhat relieved.

Have you ever thought - that perhaps we hate only because we know what's it like to love?

I'm not sure what is it about the most powerful of emotions that makes them so inexplicably intertwined in some way or the other. Is it really true that if we love a person, assuming that if they were to do us wrong, the hate within would be much more than if we were not to care too much about that person?

Then again, is it even possible for us to hate a person whom we (used to?) love?

I've always thought that love should be unconditional, that it gives without expecting anything in return, it yields without contempt, and it forgives without the slightest hesitation. Perhaps my views of love are conservative, maybe even a tad impractical and unrealistic, but shouldn't that be what love is all about?

Could it be that love has become slightly overrated - or is it that we can hate what a person does to our innermost feelings, which has so far been governed by love? Is it all too difficult to handle the myriad of emotions lying on the opposite ends of the spectrum? Do we go into the self defensive mode when we are made to confront our vulnerabilities?

There is no denying that once upon a time, my friend and her husband were very much in love. They loved each other enough to want to grow old together. Sadly, somewhere along the way, things happened. I will not elaborate on the nature of events which took place that has eventually led to the current situation, but regardless of whether the decision is deemed right or wrong, it is not my place to judge. As a friend, I will only be there to provide my unwavering support.

It's sad when a union breaks down, but I am thankful, at least - that there are no kids involved in this instance. Alarmingly, too many of my friends (who got married much earlier than I did) are either going through a divorce, or have been through it. Many couples choose to separate or grow apart because they simply were not honest enough or brave enough to confront their differences. 

Marriage is not only about love. Or hate. Or being in love with a person enough to accept him or her the way they are per se. Marriage is almost like a job in which you have signed a life long contract. It's a job where two people have to work the hardest at. Harder than any other job we've ever been employed in. Some people cave in to the pressure and choose to leave. Some will weather all storms and evolve together.

At this stage in my life, when I think about people in general, I realise one thing. When I look at a person - any person, someone whom I'm close to, an acquaintance, or even a stranger... I realise that everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through trying times in life which has made them who they are.

Divorce may not be an option for many people, but in some cases, it may be the only way so that they can live again.




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Redmart: Let's Go Shopping!

A month ago, I tried online grocery shopping at RedMart, and I honestly don't know how I ever survived jostling with the crowd and long weekend supermarket queues prior to that. I never worry about having to rush to the supermarket to buy the heavy and bulky essentials now, and only need to purchase a few fresh items every now and then from the supermarket just a stone's throw away from work.

Most importantly, with the option of being able to order groceries either from a computer or via a mobile app, I can shop at my own convenience - any time, anywhere! As a working Mum, I try to squeeze in as many things as I can within a 24 hour time frame, and I'm pleased that some of the 'chores' are at least taken care of by the RedMart team.


RedMart was started in early 2012 by three key people who have a common aim: to make a (necessary) everyday chore easier for everyone, and making sure that costs are kept as low as possible so that people can save money, too. To me, that's a combination for success, and results in a win-win situation for everyone.

Source: RedMart
I like that the people at RedMart make it a point to deliver not only orders on time, but on two occasions when the item I've chosen has unfortunately run out, they took the trouble to call me to not only let me know, but to apologise and offer substitutes picks similar to what I have originally purchased. I appreciate this gesture (instead of doing a delivery sans item which was out of stock) because no matter how efficient a system is, there will always be occasions when 'overlapping' orders are placed. Customer recovery is almost immediate, and I don't know about you - but I actually feel SO much better being contacted by, and thus able to communicate with a 'real life person', instead of via email or an automated response system!

Should you place an order by mistake, have forgotten to purchase something, or found out that you have ordered an extra bag of rice although there are still 2 big bags at home (yes, it's happened to me before!), simply email the RedMart team or call 6261 3456 / 9751 5036 and they will try their best to modify the order.

All personal information is kept confidential, unless otherwise advised, and when you POP (Pay Over Phone, not the Labour sort!) bank details will be deleted once the transaction goes through.

RedMart also offers a "My List" program, which is like your personal grocery list. During your first purchase, the products which you buy are compiled and stored onsite. They are then tagged with information on the frequency of purchase. When it's time to restock the particular item, an email will be sent to you, and repurchase is as easy as clicking the accompanying link in the email!

When they have periodic specials, some of their discounts are worth stocking up on that particular item. I have opted to receive email alerts should there be new additions or offers in store, so that I will never miss a great deal.


The 'ON SALE' tab on the home page contains all of the items currently on promotion. If an item in your My List is on promotion, the discount will automatically be applied to your order.
Current deals:



Working in the Service industry has also made me realise that the core of every successful business is made up of not only technological and product know-how, but the passion of the people who run the show. Going by my experience so far, the people at RedMart, from the higher management to its delivery team - certainly enjoy what they do.

They have turned what was previously a chore, into a pleasant shopping experience for me.


Disclaimer: This is an advertorial for RedMart. While I was compensated and shopping credits provided for a first hand user experience, all opinions are 100% my own. I've also been regularly shopping at RedMart because it's just too convenient!

Babi Pongteh (Stewed Pork with Fermented Soya bean)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

When I first had a taste of Babi Pongteh in my then boyfriend's dinner table, I was struck at how it reminded me so much of a dish which my Granny used to make. From the cut of meat used to the simple lilt of spices, every bite yields a burst of flavour so good that it very nearly brought tears to my eyes. Lest you think I'm exaggerating, most of you who follow my writings here will know how close I was to my late Grandmother, and a certain taste or smell is enough to trigger a flood of memories and make me miss her more, even though it's been 13 years since she passed on.

It will not be the only Peranakan dish which I will then find in common with the foods I grew up with, which perfectly made sense when I realised that many Indonesian dishes were also a marriage of Chinese and native Indonesian flavours. The Peranakan community was born when Chinese men who settled in the South East Asian islands married the local women in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

I was fascinated by the mystery surrounding the Nonya and Babas of yore, their culture and their cuisine. Furthermore, the ability to cook and sew were the prerequisites toward finding a husband, and it's been said that a matriarch can always tell if a prospective daughter-in-law will be able to feed her family well (and thus take care of her husband and her mother-in-law) just by the sound made by the mortar when she pounds the spices using a pestle.

Recipes are almost family heirlooms in Peranakan communities. Every family will have their own style of cooking a particular dish, and these methods are often closely guarded secrets, only to be passed down to daughters or favoured daughter-in-laws. So because I needed to learn how to cook these intricate dishes, I married that 'nice' Peranakan boy!

Today I share with you a dish which I learnt to make because it is the Mookid's absolute favourite. He perks up at the smell of it cooking, and will always race to the dining table when he knows that his Mama has prepared it (especially for him, these days, that lucky boy!) for dinner. Just a word of note, though - do NOT attempt to substitute the fatty pork with a leaner cut. The dish needs the layer of fat to accentuate the base notes of the ingredients used, and will not taste the same with a dry slab of lean pork. Make this on special occasions, and savour each melt-in-your-mouth pork piece with relish.

Babi Pongteh

Mrs. Jessie Moo's recipe

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 2 hours
Serving: 6 adults or 4 adults + 1 Mookid

Ingredients:

  • 800 gr Pork shoulder (Twee Bak) or Pork belly, cut into squares
  • 15 nos. shallots
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, or approximately 8 cm.
  • 2 tablespoons of Fermented / Salted Soya Bean (Tau Cheo 豆酱)
  • 4 nos. potatoes, cut into quarters (optional)
  • 30 gr hard brown sugar or palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cups of water
  • Spring onions (for garnish)


Directions:

1. Blanch pork with boiling water for about 5 minutes, and drain. Marinate with 1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce, and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

I prefer to use hard brown sugar for this dish, but you can also substitute that with regular brown or white sugar. Grate the required measure.


2. Blend shallots and garlic till you get a smooth paste.


3. In a wok, fry the shallots and garlic blend for about 3 minutes. Take care to control the fire and sauté continuously so that it won't burn. Once it turns a slight golden yellow, add the fermented soya bean, and fry till fragrant.


4. Put the marinated pork pieces in, and stir fry for about a minute or so, or until the pork loses its translucent look. Add dark soya sauce, sugar and salt, stirring till well blended. Add about 1 cup of water and continue to stir fry till the mixture thickens.

Add the remaining 3 cups of water and bring to boil over high heat. Once it boils, reduce the heat. I added in the raw potatoes halfway through the cooking process, so as to not overcook them.


5. Simmer for about 1.5 - 2 hours, or until meat is tender. Trust me, it will be difficult to wait till dinner time when the house is filled with the wonderful aroma of the stew simmering. Oh... and cook more rice than the usual measure.

Babi Pongteh usually calls for more than just one bowl of rice.



Babi Pongteh tastes even better the next day - when all the flavours have had a chance to fuse 'into' the pork!

***

This is my contribution to the 'What's Cooking?' blog train hosted by Alicia, over at Beanie N'Us. Stop on by to check out more recipes by other Mums!




The train stops next at The Domestic Goddess Wannabe's blog. Diana is a good friend of mine, and she inspires me to bake and cook! Do check out her blog for simple yet tasty recipes that you can make easily at home, as well as wonderful bakes with step by step instructions which are extremely helpful for novice bakers (like me!)

Diana will be sharing another Peranakan favourite, Ayam Assam Tumis, which is a simple but tasty dish made with chicken and tamarind (assam). The piquant flavor of the assam and aromatic spices highly complement the spicy chilli and the result is a fragrant curry that pairs perfectly with rice.


MummyMoo




U Grand Prix Experience 2013: Go-kart Challenge!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Mookid loves fast cars, and has been thrilled by F1 races ever since he was in the tummy. He wasn't much of a kicker or a difficult baby in utero, and there are days when I get worried because he wasn't making his presence felt. When I felt him kick and move so much more than usual the first time I settled down in front of the TV while there was a race on, I dismissed it as mere coincidence, but when it happened every time I managed to watch an F1 race, I knew I would have more reason to worry in the future.

For now, he has to settle for me yelling at Daddy when he goes over the speed limit (much to the little one's joy), racing in the arcades or manoeuvring his die-cast cars along the play tracks at home.

We were kindly invited to U Grand Prix Experience 2013, organised by NTUC and supported by U Sports last Sunday evening at the F1 Pit Building. The main highlight of the event is the Go-Kart challenge on the F1 race track. I felt that this was the perfect opportunity for the kid to experience the bright floodlights of the F1 circuit without having to really jostle with the crowds amidst tight security. Furthermore, even though he can't race as yet, watching the go-kart challenge will be a treat for him!



There was also fashion show, entertainment by a local band, grid girls and guys, sports cars display and F1 gaming simulators. Basically it's an event held for union members as a run up to the 2013 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.










Of course, there is that obligatory grid girl photo shoot session. I've never understood the come hither poses against the car thing. A study in contrast? Or what?


Anyways, the kiddo loved the entire vibe and feel of the experience. Looks like we've got one with a need for speed.

Be still, my heart.



Linking up with:

new button    My Little Drummer Boys    

Of dreams, reality, and whatever else in between.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

"Reality is a fact that when you stop believing in it... wouldn't really make it go away."



One thing that I've learnt in life is that no matter how cheerful a person looks, there must be at least a little something in them that's eating them up.

That laugh which sounds too loud, the smile which is a little too wide is perhaps the perfect way to conceal and hide all the troubles and worries deep within. We sometimes simply assume that we are the only ones who are facing a problem.

How many times have you questioned: "Why Me?"

The fact of the matter is that we are not the only ones trapped in that self imposed bubble of seclusion. Each individual cast their worries aside and ensconce themselves in that private little space deep in the recesses of the mind - where we all run to whenever we are faced with a problem. We then hope that we can either manage to settle it on our own, or that it would eventually go away. We never like to look vulnerable in front of others, and we never want to look like we lead anything but a blissful, blessed life.

It's strange how the world actually works. Perhaps the Law of the Universe does protect its beings, somehow. Things that are beyond our comprehension; maybe its faith, magic, beliefs or reality - none of us can really even begin to fathom the mysterious ways things do happen. There is no way that we can actually know what will transpire, not in the next 5 minutes, 5 years, or any time in the foreseeable future. 

Why don't we all learn to genuinely take life as it comes by the moment?

Life gives us brief moments with another...but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that lasts a life time.

I've never regretted anything that I've done, or experienced - for it has made me who I am. All that I am, today. And I shall never regret anything that will happen tomorrow, for I'm sure it will be something that will contribute towards my future.

It's as though we are time travellers, each and every single one of us.

Night turns into day, the seasons change, the kids grow up just that little inch more. We often forget to tell a person how much they mean to us, or cherish the little things that may be gone in the blink of an eye.

Live, love, and cherish life for what it's worth. Never hesitate to show your feelings whenever, wherever. Tell someone how much you care and love them... for tomorrow may be too late.




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