Monday, May 31, 2010

A Working Gal's Survivor Soup: Heart Beef and Barley Soup

I am proud that I prepare all 99% of our meals each week and in order for me to achieve that while holding down a job full-time requires organisation.

I am not ashame to add that I love routine. My weekends are filled with household activities such as weekly grocery shopping, catching up tv shows that was recordered during the work week, reading, gardening, etc.

Grocery shopping can be a REAL chore especially after a long day at work, during peak hours, etc. Therefore, I do mine first thing on Saturday or Sunday morning (depending on which weekend-day I am actually at home and not away for work) when the supermarket opens.

As I've had over 10 years of experience in the area of food shopping, I am able to keep to our budget without having a shopping list. How do I know what I'm going to cook? It's all dependent on what's available /  seasonal / special as in sale.

Last weekend as in yesterday, I made 3 different meals for the work week ahead and here's a simple meal that is guaranteed to noursh your family!

Hearty Beef and Barley Soup serves 6


600g Gravy Beef / Shin Beef, cut into bite sized pieces
1 white onion, cut into bite sized pieces
4 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup barley
2 tbsps vegetable stock powder
4 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
Pepper to taste

  1. In a deep stock pot, place all the prepared ingredient. Add water to adequately cover all the meat and vegetables. Cook on high for 30 minutes and simmer on low for at least 2 hours
  2. Served on its own, with rice or crusty bread on the side
Bon Apetito!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recipe: Too Easy-Too Delicious Ox Tail Stew

Too Easy - Too Delicious Ox Tail Stew serves 4


1.2kg Ox Tail
3 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
3 sticks of celery, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tomatoes, cut into four each

1 white onion, cut into four
2 cloves garlic
12 sage leaves (3 tbsps dried sage)
6 sprigs of thyme (2 tbsps dried thyme)
2 tbsps vegetable stock powder

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (1 cup of red wine)

1 cup of water
2 tins of Heinz Big Red Tomato Soup *compulsory*

    1. Turn the slow cooker aka Crock Pot on "High Mode" while you are preparing the ingredients

    2. Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on "High" for at least four hours then turn it down to "Low" for two hours

    3. Serve with crusty bed, ricem mashed potato or on its own
If you will not be home for the day, cook this on "Auto Mode" for 8 hours and you will have a meal ready to be served when you get home

Bon Apetito!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ox Tail: One of my favourite cuts of meat

Ox Tail or tail of beef is one of the most flavoursome of meats. Famous in a stew and soup, it makes a delicious meal that is also kind on the pocket!

I can often be found with at least 1kg of this, destined for my slow cooker. Some people are turn off by Ox Tail because of where it's located on the animal and / or by the time required to turn this beast of a tail into a meat-melting-off-the-bone texture.

Make time and slow cooker your best friends. I do.

Stews and soups are always best consumed 24 hours after they've been cooked so as to allow the flavours to develop.

With the professionalism of the slow cooker, I can make mine anytime - weekday or weekend.

If I am at home, I take the slow cooker onto "high" mode for 4 hours followed by "slow" mode for 2 hours to complete the process. If I am out of the home for the day (e.g. out shopping or at work), it's "auto" mode for 8 hours and I kid you not, it's like magic!

The aromas that greet you as you walk through your home is absolutely divine! I will dare you to not consume the meal on the same day.

I will post a recipe of my too simple and too delicious Ox Tail Stew tomorrow!

Congee Comfort

Congee is a meal that I always associate with being unwell, cooler temps and a quick meal when one is not in the mood to cook.

Growing up, I would dread whenever mum made congee because my young taste butts prefered more exciting and flavoursome meals with heaps of salt & spice! However, times have certainly changed.

With each passing year, I find myself leaning towards congee for comfort. I love my congee. It's warm, nutritious, comforting and filling.

If you don't know how to cook congee, please find out for yourself especially if you are of Asian descent!

There are endless combinations with congee and here are some of my favourites:

  • Gai Chook topped with Yow Tiao(cantonese translated to english: Chicken Congee with deep fried fritters)
  • Pei Dan Chook (cantonese translated to english: Century Egg Congee) - yes the black egg that's supposedly being soaked in horse urine for 100 years. It's delish!
  • Gee Yok Chook (cantonese translated to english: Pork Congee) - minced pork balls in congee. Yumo!
  • Raw Sliced Fish Congee (raw sliced fish slices in congee - yum!)
  • Sweet Potato Congee (self explanatory)
  • Plain Congee with raw egg and soy sauce (yes, raw egg - yum!)
  • Plain Congee with Borvil / Vegemite (yes! Yes! Yes!)

What are your favourite combinations?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Delicious Marzipan Creations

I was sent a series of stunning food creations made out of Marzipan and have picked out a few of my favourites to share with you.  They look too good to be consumed!!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quick and Tasty: Japanese Curry

Whenever I am at a Food Court, I find myself gravitating towards the Japanese Food stall either for Sushi or Pork Jap Curry. They are both delicious, filling and hits the right spots in my tum!

One of my meal staples for home is Katsu Don either with Chicken or Pork. Yes, despite making it at home, I still have it when I am at the Food Court. Goes to show how much I love it!

I give you my word that this is so quick, tasty and afforable to make that it will become one of your meal staples too!

Those of us who cook regularly at home will have certain staples in our kitchen pantry. Amongst the various items in mine, are a packet of Panko and a few boxes S & B Golden Curry. They are my live savers!

Even though there're only the two of us, I tend to make meals for four so that we have enough to bring for lunch to work the next day.

Here's my recipe for Katsu Don and hope you will attempt it someday.

Chicken / Pork Japanese Curry serves 4


Preparing the meat
4 pieces of chicken breasts / pork chops, flatten with meat tenderiser tool
2 cups of panko, on a plate
2 cups of plain flour, on a separate plate
1 egg, lightly beaten, on a another plate
Salt and pepper (to marinate the meat with)
1 cup of vegetable oil
(or more depending on the size and  depth of your  fry pan)

Preparing the curry sauce
4 curry cubes
2 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
2 potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Hot water

Utensils required
1 plate to contain the meat that has been panko crumbed
1 shallow stainless steel fry pan (for shallow frying)
1 stainless steel small pot (for the curry sauce)
1 pair of tongs (to flip the meat while shallow frying)
1 spatula (for cooking the curry)

1. Preparing the sauce: In pot over medium heat, add the oil. When it's slightly smoking, add all the vegetables and brown them for 5 minutes. Add hot water to cover all the vegetables. When it is boiled, add curry cubes and add more water as it thickens until you are please with its consistency. Cook on high and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

2. In your shallow fry pan, add the oil on medium high heat. While waiting for the heat to reach its temperature (you must do this if not, the meat will absorb too much oil), start on the following step which should take you less then 3 minutes so long as you have prepared all the components before hand as listed above in the 'ingredients' section.

3. Preparing the meat: Dip the flattened marinated meat pieces one at a time in egg, followed by flour and then panko crumbs. Set aside on clean plate.

4. Shallow fry the meat for 3 - 5 minutes on each side (depending on how flat your meat is). Once it is golden brown on both sides, place it on a clean plate with paper towels to absorb the oil.

5. Serve on a plate of rice, with meat on the side and drizzle over with the scumptious curry sauce. Bon Apetito!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LV Galleria + LV Artsy = ?

Be warned that this is not a food related entry and I hear you asking, 'how does this and the other bag entry relate to this blog?' Well, I know that the title of this blog does not however this is my blog and there is more to me than just food and gardening. There you have it. :D

I learnt through one of my trusted sources that Louis Vuitton is launching a new 'hobo' style bag in June. In fact, you can go to your SA in your respective cities and reserve for one right now.

According to my source, the price will be similar to that of the Neverfull. Based on what I have seen, this new bag is more stylish and perhaps even safer than the Neverfull.

I would agree with the sentiment that this new bag is the bringing together of the Galleria and the Artsy. What do you think?



Presenting the new Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Delightful GM.

I have the Galleria and love it to bits for a whole host of reasons including its generous interior, design, adjustable straps, etc. I have also tried on the Artsy which, unfortunately, does not suit me. I feel constraint by it due to its short and rather uncomfortable strap that could not be adjusted.

I quite fancy the simplicity of this design with its "pipping" on the side to emphasize its shape and of particular interest, the two zippers!

Based on its price and classic lines, this will no doubt be selling like hot cakes. Is it the bag for me? I don't know. I need to check it out for myself and ascertain how it feels and looks on me before I can form an opinion.

What do you think of this bag?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Roasted Rolled Loin of Pork with CRACKLING!

There are two particular comforting smells I love emitting from the oven. One is of freshly cooked bread and other one is roast pork. The smells are heavenly and my saliva ducts, uncontrollably wet with greed! If you haven't experienced that sensation, trust me, you must!

Here's my foolproof method of ensuring that you get crackling on your Rolled Loin of Pork everytime and yes, you must follow this strictly and no, you do not need any special training.

Roasted Rolled Loin of Pork with CRACKLING! serves 6

Tools Required

 Fan-forced oven
Baking tray
Meat thermometer
Sharp knife
Paper Towels


1.7kg Rolled Loin of Pork
1 bunch of fresh rosemary
1 bunch of fresh sage
1/2 cup of Masterfood Brand Garlic Salt

1. Pre-heat your fan-forced oven to the highest temperature on the dial. Mine is 230C. Pre-heat the oven for at least 45 minutes. Yes, it must be scorchingly HOT!

2. Put your rolled loin of pork on the chopping block. Using your sharp knife, score the rind across in regular intervals (do not cut through the meat!). Using paper towels, pat the pork very dry (any hint of moisture and the pork rind will not crackle).

3. Stuff the loin with rosemary and sage. Sprinkle all the Garlic Salt over the rind generously. Patting it down firmly.

4. Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the loin. Place it into a baking tray  (ensure that the baking tray has a "bed" or rosemary so that the pork does not get stuck to the tray during the cooking process).

5. Place it in the scorchingly HOT oven for at least 40 minutes. After that time, turn the oven down to 180C. Cook until the meat thermomether indicates that the pork is fully cooked. Remove from oven. Cover it slightly with a tea towel (so that steam can escape) and let is rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

6.  Serve with roasted vegetables (my favourites include pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, onion, garlic) and store bought apple sauce. Bon Apetito!

Quiche of Spinach, Ricotta, Cheddar and Feta

One of my favourite past-times is to check out various food blogs to inspire me prior to the weekly visit to the supermarket. One of my favourite all-in-one meal is Quiche and I have never attempted making one, ever.

So here's my first attempt and I have to say that it's uber easy, yummy and great for the weekend!

Quiche of Spinach, Ricotta, Cheddar and Feta serves 6


1 + 1/4 sheet puff pastry, thawed at room temperature for 15 mins
250g spinach
250g ricotta
250g cream
150g cheddar
150g feta
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a pie dish, spray generously with canola oil. Press puff pastry firmly on the base and the sides of the dish. Prick the base with fork. Blind bake for 15 minutes at 180C

2. In a deeep stainelss steel bowl, add all the ingredients. Mix well with spatula or fingers. Combine very well

3. Allow cooked pastry to rest on kitchen benchtop for 15 minutes. Add the mixture into the pie and fill only up to 3/4 full. Bake in oven for 40 minutes

4. Slice and served with side of salad. Bon Apetito!

Left-overs may be re-heated in the microwave the next day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Love Affair with Handbags

My name is Magdalene and I am a Bag-a-holic.

This addiction started during my teenage years under the influence of my mum. She loves handbags and can always be found checking them in all sorts of places from retail to 'pasar malam' (outdoor night markets). However her taste and mine are very different and she used to buy me handbags because she loves me. Her display of affection was so frequent that I have two plastic containers full of handbags that I have never used and will never use! They were donated to charity last year because it was taking up too much valuable space in my linen cupboard.

During my 'spare' moments, I love checking out various handbag related blogs as it thoroughly takes my mind off reality, nourishes my soul and keeps me sane.

My taste in designer handbags begun in 2008 in the city of Bangkok. I went into the Gucci boutique and fell in love with a small bag. The euphoria of exploration and eventual purchase with me walking out with my very first designer bag nestled in its own dust bag, box and huge Gucci shopping bag is an experience that I will forever remember. It was S-A-T-I-S-F-Y-I-N-G, to state the least. I have acquired a few more Guccis since then.

My relationship with Louis Vuitton came about in 2008 (yes that was a particularly fantastic year) while taking a day off from Snow Skiing in Queenstown New Zealand. A Louis Vuitton boutique had recently opened and naturally, I walked in looking like the Masmallow Man with all my winter gear on and fell in love - head over heels with the Galleria in Monogram Canvas. From that day on, my life would never be the same again.

From then on, I have acquired a few more pieces and often purchase prior to my overseas holidays because I can claim 10% GST back from any Australian International Airports. It's so worth the wait!

I will be heading overseas in about 6 weeks time and have been to Louis Vuitton boutiques on the Gold Coast and Brisbane a couple of times to try on different bags. It's a really tough decision, ok? I think I have made my decision and here she is:

Alma MM in Epi Leather

She's absolutely gorgeous in a glossy finish, full leather, easy to maintain, generous & oh-so-practical interior and the rounded handles ideal for hand or elbow carry.  I love her to bits!

Some may say that black is a boring colour. To me, it's a classic and I love the shape of the Alma. Most importantly, it's very easy to upkeep and the Epi leather is known for its durability.

I can't wait to cuddle her in my arms. Alma, wait for mummy. I will pick you up soon!

Flame Grilled Lamb on a bed of Autumn vegetables

There's no denying in my household that we love our lamb and roasted vegetables. They have such distinctive flavours and when eaten together, makes our hearts flutter and sends us to a different planet. Here's a relatively quick meal that can be whipped up within the hour  - great for a weeknight after work or a leisurely lunch on the weekend.

Flame Grilled Lamb on a Bed of Autumn Vegetables serves 4 main meals

4 lamb loin chops and 4 lamb rump steaks
190g fresh rocket and spinach leaves
1/4 pumpkin
1 sweet potato, cut into slices
2 red onions, cut into 6
1 cucumber, deseeded
150g sundried tomatoes
100g feta, crumble with fingers
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tbsps coriander powder
4 tbsps cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Dressing (cook it over the stove until warm)
4 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 parts Balsamic Vinegar
4 tbsps Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

 Step by Step Instructions

Step 1:
Using 2 separate mixing bowls, one contains sliced pumpkins, sweet potatoes and onions. Marinate it with Olive Oil, Coriander, Cumin, Salt and Pepper. Mix well. In the other bowl, add all the meat and marinate it with Rosemary, Garlic, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. Mix well.

Step 2:
Pre-heat oven to 180C and roast vegetables for 45 minutes.
15 minutes before the roast vegetables are done, pre-heat your BBQ on high for at least 5 minutes. Cook the meat for about 10 minutes for well-done and cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the meat.

Step 3:
While the vegetables are being cooked in the oven, start putting the fresh produce together on a platter. Start with the rocket and spinach, followed by sun-dried tomatoes.

Step 4:
Add cucumber and add a layer of roasted pumpkins on top.

Step 5:
Add a layer of sweet potatoes and randomly place onions on top.

Step 6:
Serve the salad topped with a few pieces of meat and crumble feta. Generously drizzle with dressing. BON APETITO!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Posh" Shepherd's Pie

Inspired by the cooler temperatures and a husband's unrelenting request, I made Shepherd's pie for the first time in 5 years over the long weekend. It's not surprising that this recipe that I'm sharing with you is not the recipe from 5 years ago as my palate has evolved over the years with feasting!

"Traditional" Shepherd's pie does not have a pastry base and mine has because my husband loves puff pastry. We particularly enjoy the rich filling with red wine + pancetta - it's guaranteed to give you wings!

Be warn that this recipe takes time. Despite that, it is well worth the effort because of the praises that will be heaped upon you and of course, the enjoyment of tucking in!

"Posh" Shepherd's pie serves 6


600g beef mince
8 slices of pancetta, roughly torn
1 red onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sprigs of fresh oregano
1/2 bottle of red wine (yes, 1/2 bottle!)
1/2 pkt of instant mash (yes, I do use it!)
mixed with hot water to resemble mash
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg + 1 tbsp water, beaten together (egg wash for mash potato top)
1 instant puff pastry sheet, thawed for 10 mins on kitchen benchtop


1. In a deep-ish stainless steel pan, spray pan with cooking spray. Add, pancetta, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, thyme and oregano. Brown them well. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. In the same pan, brown beef mince. Ensure that you break it up as you cook so that the meat resembles mince and not clumps. This will take approximately 10 minutes.

3. Add the ingredients from step 1 into the pan of cooked beef mince. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and all the red wine. Bring it to boil and simmer on low heat with lid half covering the pan for 1.5 hours. Leave mixute to cool for at least 45 minutes.

4. In a pie dish, spray generously with cooking spray. Line the base and sides of pie dish with puff pastry. Press pastry firmly against the dish. Blind bake for 15 minutes at 200C. Set aside to cool.

5. Once the meat mixture is cool, add that to the pie dish. Top with mash and brush over with egg wash which will give the 'top' a lovely golden finish. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 200C.

6. Served immediately with side salad. Bon Apetito!

Left-overs may be kept in the refrigerator and not the freezer.
Re-heat in microwave without lid