Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chinese New Year 2009 celebration

The past one week or so have been madness, though I could still find time to make cookies for Chinese New Year and photograph a few of them, but generally I have been busy with rushing all workload off before the Chinese New Year celebration started. Was even shooting some conceptual shots for Unilever Malaysia for their new recipe/marketing campaign before I left for Saigon this morning! (Just check out my flickr album to see my recent photos if you do not see me posting here...)

As I am typing now, I'm in my hotel room in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) at almost midnight, arriving today around 4 pm. I just thought I should kick my ass off to write something or I would keep procrastinating again!

I'll start by posting some photos of the cookies/goodies that I have made for Chinese New Year, some for myself, while others for clients and friends, to thank them for their friendship and support throughout the Rat year.

Here I have cream puffs filled with strawberries and cream, and another one filled with creamy corn custard. Really to die for!

On the day before Chinese New Year eve, I made some Ladies Kisses (made with ground almonds) and bought some flowers to decorate the house:

And the most important day for Chinese New Year - the reunion dinner on the eve, which I have decided to set up as a candlelight ambience...I made Hainanese Chicken Rice for lunch, and then followed by a simple menu for dinner: Steamed grouper; poached broccoli with crispy fried shallots and soy sauce; steamed Chinese sausages; braised pork ribs and mushrooms (not shown in picture); and radish, carrot & pork bones soup.

It's almost midnight and time to say good night! My friend and I are taking a Mekong River day trip tomorrow so I hope to post more on my Saigon holiday soon!

Wishing all of you a great,healthy and prosperous Chinese New Year, and the courage and strength to overcome any challenges in the year of the Ox!

I'll end with a family photo taken today (first day of Chinese New Year) with my parents and sister, my uncle, his wife, my aunt and my cousins and nephews/nieces...and my dog Sunnie of course!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vanilla Poached Forelle Pear and Apricot Mini Tartlets

This is my favourite among the lot. I love the "fresh morning" look and the texture on the wood.

I figured I had to find a way to consume the pears and apricots aside from them eating raw. So here's what happened to them, inspired by the recipe from here. I modified the recipe to make it easier for me, and put in a small piece of dark chocolate under the pears before baking. Aesthetics results not as good as I wanted it to be...but taste wise is okay. The apricot on the tartlets turned out way too tart (and soggy), so they went all to Sunnie's (my dog) tummy. She loved them though! (She loves any fruits in the stoned fruits family)

This is quite a tedious recipe as I had to poached the pears and apricots first. Puff pastry was store bought. Even then, it was a chore rolling them!

All photos taken around 10 am with natural morning light coming from back of the tartlets. Styrofoam used as reflector on the bottom right of photo.

Food Photography: Mini Forelle Pears and Apricots - playing with textures

The apricots looked so beautiful that I couldn't resist buying them! I love the texture of everything in the photos, from the skin of the pears, the velvety soft skin of the reddish orange apricot skin, to the folds of the napkin and bowl, and the wood below the bowl.

Lighting info: Afternoon sun (shaded porch) at around 2 pm. Light coming from back of the bowl.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Garlic Pepper Grilled Lamb Cutlets

My itch for cooking and photographing seem to have bitten me fully today, I just HAD TO MAKE SOMETHING or I would go mad...:-S

I bought half a dozen lamb cutlets before Christmas and never got to them as I was away in Koh Samui, then troubled by my right leg and depressed. As I also newly bought a cast iron grill pan that's worth close to RM 150 (for the sake of food styling...sigh...), I figured today would be a good day to make and photograph the lamb cutlets.

I just wanted something really (and I mean REALLY REALLY) easy to make and taste good as well. So back to the basics...salt and pepper, and finely crushed garlic, to marinate the lamb cutlets for about 2 hours. Nothing else was really needed as I bought the lamb cutlets really fresh (from Mr Ho's Fine Foods in Bangsar Shopping Center), all I needed was to taste the TRUE flavour of the meat. Grilled with 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.

Turned out quite good really, though I really didn't have time to style and photography properly, as I am still not that mobile yet due to my right foot still in pain...

Lighting details for above photo: Natural lighting through window from top of photo.

Lighting details for above photos: Tungsten softbox on left, reflected by gold foil on right.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Photography: Mini Forelle Pears

They looked so beautiful that I just had to bring them home to photograph! Inspired by this image taken by Tarlette.

I have not been inspired to cook anything lately. Still trying to recover from my post-holiday and troubled leg depression lol...But thought I'll just take a few photos to feel alive!

Lighting source: Natural afternoon light from left of photo through the window. Mirror used as reflector to lighten up the front parts of the pears.

Lighting effects: I wanted the lighting effects to be dramatic so I played with the shadows and texture, with natural light shining over the top of the pears, especially near the peduncle.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Subsequent visit to Chinese Orthopedist today...

...has made me more relieved....Today I was treated by another older Chinese Orthopedist...which told me that my problem will definitely heal, but just take longer time, at least 2 weeks or so....

Phew, it was a relief to hear, at least there is a time frame now! And he said I can also go traveling to Vietnam, just bring the herbal pills they prescribe to relieve tendon and ligament tightness/pain. I immediately lightened up after the visit. He also aligned my spine and neck by turning and "cracking" them, saying that they are too tight. Now my shoulder and neck feel a lot better and I feel less depressed almost immediately! (Which means I don't have to completely stop preparing and photographing food haha)

He changed the compress to cover my shin...as you can see below...The lower part of my leg is better but the upper part is still sore...

Highly recommended if you have muscle or bone injury/pain...their website is here.

Hot chocolate (and a troubled right leg)

I have had an injury from walking too much wearing improper shoes a few years back in Australia, didn't know I have flat feet problem then. The same injury was never treated when I first had it, and it went on for a few years. I've seen a couple of specialists in sports injury and orthopaedic but there was apparently no cure for it, physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs didn't help much either. Finally, I've resorted to seeing a Chinese Orthopedist a couple of days back. He said my muscles in the entire right leg are very tensed, and I asked him if my condition will ever heal at all. He laughed and said "Yes it will, just very long time as this is a really old injury". He gave me some herbal compress (as seen in the picture above) and the only way to relieve the discomfort (I sort of pulled my muscle under the right foot a while back and the soreness has stretched up to the whole leg) is to rest and minimise walking...for the muscles to relax back and hopefully to heal...

This has gotten me into depression....which means, I can't move too much, and also means that I REALLY have to rest and minimise moving around, which means...sigh...minimal photography for a while, at least until the foot is settled down a little bit...And also no more travelling for a while! Well I've bought my air ticket and booked my hotels in Ho Chi Minh City during Chinese New Year (about 3 weeks away, January 26, 2009) so I guess I just have to spend most of the time in the hotel room and have to walk carefully in proper shoes!

Anyway....I have already bought all the ingredients to make hot chocolate to photograph so I thought would at least shoot it before I go into hiatus. This may be my last food photograhy series for the time being, until my foot and leg settle down, since I am not allowed to move around too much :-(

I know I would fidget and feel uneasy for not being able to prepare dishes and photograph them, and I have restrictions in my diet too, making it quite difficult for me to come up with fancy dishes to shoot. This is sooooooo depressing (as I'm also still feeling under the weather from the bug in Koh Samui), but what to do, I have to get better for me to continue my passion! What a way to start the new year!

But anyway, I hope I will be able to get back on my feet soon (literally! No pun intended!) and can't wait to prepare and photograph more food again! I'm going for a follow-up check up today and hopefully I will hear some good news!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Fennel, green apple and pomegranate salad

Here's one of my favourite salads...crunchy, sourish sweet, and bursting with flavours and garlicky taste. Easy to make, and every person who has tasted it simply love it!

1 small fennel bulb (if you are not sure what fennel is, check out here)
1 green apple
seeds from 1/4 pomegranate
1 clove garlic, crushed using a garlic crusher or chopped finely
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white/red wine vinegar
1.5 tsp of honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
Serves: 2

  1. Cut fennel bulb into half lengthwise, remove the green stalks and hard core, then slice the fennel bulb paper thin.
  2. Peel green apple skin, cut half lengthwise and remove the core. Slice apple thinly, soak in a bowl of water with a pinch of salt to prevent browning. Put fennel and apple slices, and pomegranate seeds in a medium salad bowl.
  3. Mix olive oil, white/red wine vinegar, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, honey, lemon juice, and salt and pepper thoroughly in a small bowl.
  4. Add the vinaigrette mixture from (3) to (1) and mix thoroughly in the salad bowl.
  5. Sprinkle with some toasted pine nuts before serving if wished.
  • For KL folks, you can get fennel bulbs in Village Grocer in Bangsar Village or Cold Storage in Bangsar Shopping Centre. I prefer the imported Australian fennel for the bigger bulb and stronger "licorice like" flavour. The local fennel is smaller in size, and much more cheaper.
  • As for the lighting, I was being lazy today, only used the camera flash with the ceiling fluorescent light, bounced with a styrofoam board on the left of the bowl and the wall.

A brand new year, and looking forward to more food-related activities!

It's the first day of the new year. I woke up at 11 am, skipped breakfast and walked my dog. Decided that I should write something today to commemorate the new year. My new year resolution? Travel to my dream destinations; more food, cooking and photography related activities; and hopefully a more relaxed and restful year, it's time to improve my social life lol!

Looking at the past year, I've achieved many things, particularly in food related areas, but I'm still always learning and practicing, and they are the only ways to be better and wiser!

Am still feeling under the weather from an evil bug I caught in Koh Samui (food poisoning and flu).

Though still lazy, tired and suffering from holiday hangover, I should still toast to a good end to 2008, and gear up for an even better 2009!

Say Hi to 2009, and Bye to 2008! (with the last lunch of the year...Organic Pumpkin Soup and Herbed Garlic Bread)

I'm not usually a big fan of pumpkin. Perhaps the only few ways I eat them are pumpkin pie, steamed custard in pumpkin (a traditional Thai dessert), roasted pumpkin (together with other vegetables) and of course, pumpkin soup.

I normally try to improvise pumpkin soup by blending with other ingredients, such as pumpkin carrot soup; pumpkin, sweet potato and onion; cream of pumpkin and carrot soup; etc. But yesterday, I just thought hmmm.....why not just a simple pumpkin soup?

I had a whole organic pumpkin left from making pumpkin, sweet potato and onion soup the other day, before I left for Samui for my Christmas break. It was a small one, so I thought I use it all up and add nothing else to make a pure pumpkin soup for the first time.

It turned out surprisingly delicious and dense, with a creamy and smooth texture, sweet and bursting with pumpkin flavour. I normally use imported pumpkins from Australia (as they are generally sweeter and creamier than the local varieties), but this time, I used a local organically grown one.

And I've never made pumpkin bread without garlic bread. They are a perfect combination for me - match made in heaven, simply to die for! The recipe is very easy, you will not go wrong! So here it is...my last lunch for year 2008...

Organic Pumpkin Soup
300 g of organic pumpkin
500 ml of water
Salt and pepper to taste
Serves: 2


  • Peel pumpkin skin and remove the pulp and seed. Cut pumpkin into large chunks and steam in a steamer for about 20 minutes or until soft and mushy. Leave to cool.
  • Pour in the steamed pumpkin flesh together with the liquid from steaming into a blender, add 300 ml of water and blend until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour pumpkin mixture into a medium pot, add the remaining 200 ml water and simmer with medium heat over the stove until boiling. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot with garlic bread.

  • Herbed Garlic Bread
    1 half baguette, cut diagonal into 2 cm thick pieces, makes about 5 - 6 pieces
    1 tbsp of butter, melted
    1 large clove of garlic, crushed using a garlic crusher or chopped finely
    1 tbsp of fresh Italian parsley + 1 tsp of rosemary, chopped finely (you can substitute rosemary with other fresh herbs)
    Serves: 2


  • Mix butter, crushed garlic and herbs together. Spread using a butter knife onto on side of the baguette pieces.
  • Grill garlic bread in oven for 4 - 5 minutes (150 C) or until the edge of the crust turns golden brown. Alternatively, you can also toast the garlic bread with a non-stick pan or grill pan on the stove (with the side spread with butter, garlic and herbs on the pan surface) for 5 minutes or until golden brown.