Inconspicuously nestled among pastel coloured buildings on an unassuming street is a place where you can have lunch in a flower shop - need I say more to entice you? Flowers and food are two things guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Extra points if they're both present at the same time, which is precisely why Potafiori is the one place that I recommend to everyone visiting Milano. This flower shop, restaurant, cocktail bar and live music lounge hybrid always has something to offer everyone, even if you're not there to grab a bite (you really should though). Just as the variety of flowers that they sell, their menu full of fresh, seasonal ingredients is always changing according to the time of year. During my recent trip to Milan, the dishes that made it to the table included a fresh garden salad topped with edible flowers, a steamy soufflé, seafood conchiglie, gnocchi in cream sauce and an exceptionally divine mango panna cotta. I just drooled a little while typing that out. Add this one to your bucket list, kids. It's worth it.
Howdy, y'all. I hope everyone's snuggled up under the covers and enjoying this rainy holiday. I know I am; I'm all ready for my siesta. But first, let's get down to business. If you know me, you'll be well aware that I enjoy cooking. Cleaning the aftermath, not so much. Actually, scratch that first part. I enjoy eating. And we all know the easiest way to get that yummy in your tummy is to cook it yourself. Until McDelivery* makes its way to the UK, that is.
In the over-sharing frenzy known as my snapchat story, every now and then you'll find me turning my kitchen upside down, but thankfully the results merit the mess. "That looks so delicioussssss!" - I won't lie, most of my food does. I wouldn't be eating it otherwise. "You're such a talented cook!" - Ok, hold up. As much as I would love the credit, let's be real. I'm no chef. Far from it. I have the utmost respect for anyone with the technical skill and ability to whip up a mouthwatering croquembouche, but people forget that it is really not difficult to whip up a meal that satisfies your taste buds. It's as easy as learning all the words to Beyoncé's new album**.
In fact, it should be easy to cook. It's a basic skill for survival.
Just to prove my point (because I love it when I'm right), here's a no-fuss recipe that took all of 5 minutes to prepare. You can lay back on the couch for the 10-15 minutes while it cooks in the oven.
Salmon over Garden Greens
- 1 salmon fillet
- ½ packet kale
- 4 to 6 asparagus spears
- olive oil
- teriyaki sauce
- lemon pepper
- white and black sesame seeds
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Or 360°F.
2. Wash all your veggies. You're not limited kale and asparagus, you can switch them out for broccoli, peas, spinach, whatever your heart desires. Or does not desire, if you don't like your greens. Put your kale into an oven-friendly dish, pour generous amounts of olive oil over and sprinkle some lemon pepper. Add a little regular lemon juice if you fancy. Mix thoroughly. Now pop it into the oven. The kale will shrink when it gets baked, so don't worry if your dish is overflowing slightly.
3. Lay out your asparagus on another tray and drizzle more olive oil over them. Don't pop it into the oven just yet. Make sure there's some space for your salmon on the other side of the tray.
3. Take your salmon and rub it lovingly with a pinch of salt. Lay it down next to your asparagus. Pour a capful of teriyaki sauce over it for a little kick in flavour. If you don't have any, soy sauce, oyster sauce, BBQ sauce, mustard - basically, anything sauce that you like will do. It all depends on your own taste. Most of the time I just have the salted salmon on its own without any sauce. Now pop this tray into the oven as well.
4. Head over to your couch and take a well deserved break. Check up on the salmon after 10 minutes. It should be ready between 10 and 15 minutes. You want a pale pink colour along the side of the fillet.
5. Once you see (and smell) that the salmon is cooked to perfection, take everything out of the oven and plate it. Add more olive oil and lemon pepper over your kale. Sprinkle your sesame seeds over the salmon. Et voila!
6. Give yourself a pat on the back, mate. You just made a tasty meal for yourself, by yourself.
The whole point of this is to show you that you shouldn't be struggling with measurements and ingredients. All you need is a tad bit of common sense to know what flavours go with each other and then just YOLO your way through. The more you cook, the better you'll get with experience. So head into the kitchen guys and show me what you come up with!
* Already drooling at the thought of ordering a McSpicy at 3am when I'm back in Singapore.
**Which is absolutely glorious, and we can't be friends if you haven't had it on repeat for at least three days.
A good thing about being back is having a fully equipped kitchen - I’ve missed having the liberty to bake whenever I feel like it (also partly due to university-induced burnout). Between having a sweet tooth and finding calm in cooking, I need no other reason to pull out the baking tins and my stash of cookbooks. After eyeing a couple of mouth-watering recipes, this one was on the top of my list, and as soon as I knew that we were going to surprise my cousin on her birthday, I was set on making it for her.
This caramel milk cake is without a doubt the perfect kind of cake for a hot summer’s day. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s cooling and it’s (unfortunately for me) not sickeningly sweet. Don’t take my word for it, you’ll have to try it yourself.
Caramel Milk Cake
- 180g unsalted butter
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 5 eggs
- 1½ cups self-raising flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups single cream
- ⅔ cup caramel sauce
- Beat the butter, sugar and ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one by one, and beat well. Add the flour gradually and mix gently until just combined. Place the mixture into a 22cm springform tin lined with baking paper. Pop your tin into the oven preheated at 160ºC and bake for 45-55 minutes. Once baked, use a skewer or toothpick or something pointy to make holes over the top of the cake, and let it cool in the tin. I repeat, don't remove from tin.
- Put the milk, sweetened condensed milk, buttermilk, ⅓ cup caramel sauce and remaining vanilla extract into a large jug and whisk to combine. Pour this milky concoction slowly over the cake (that’s why you need a springform tin, because you won't be able to flip it later). You’ll probably want to place the tin on a tray as well to catch leaks, which there will be. Refrigerate cake for around 3 hours, after which you can remove it from the tin.
- Whisk the single cream until soft peaks form and generously top the cake with it. As a final touch, pour the remaining caramel over the cream… et voila!
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay.
If you've been in London this past week, you would have witnessed the weather succumbing to bipolar tendencies - bouts of wind, rain and hail interspersed with intense sunshine. As if decision making wasn't already hard enough, now there's another factor thrown into the process. Do I wear a turtleneck sweater or a linen shirt? Should I carry an umbrella or sunglasses? Am I going to order a soy chai latte or an iced lemon tea? Choices, choices, choices...
One thing is crystal clear to me, though; the perfect dessert or snack, be it rain or shine, is undoubtedly ice cream. Chilly, stormy night? Hop under the duvet with an army of pillows, your favourite chick-flick and a tub of chocolate gelato. Humid, blue skies? Run over for a lemon-lime popsicle when you hear the ice cream van's jingle echo in your neighbourhood. There never isn't an appropriate time for this frozen delight, that must be why we all scream for ice cream. And in case you didn't already know, I'm crazy for ice cream. My flavour of choice alternates between Cookies & Cream and Strawberry Cheesecake. Albeit rather vanilla*, they are sinfully indulgent.
I found it pretty funny (and a tad bit sad) that I've never actually thought about making my own ice cream, especially considering that entire tubs get cleaned out in the span of a few days. That is, until I came across this recipe by Mimi Thorisson for strawberry ice cream and got inspired.
I never realised how easy it was to make ice cream at home, that too without any fancy equipment. All you need to make your base is double/heavy cream, condensed milk and sugar. Beyond that, whatever you put into the mix will determine the flavour - and here's where it gets fun, because the possibilities are endless. Fruits, flowers and herbs (raspberries, rose, lavender, mint) will give you a fresh and subtle flavour, while confectionaries, beverages and plain old essences (cookies, cakes, cake icing, tea, liquor) will give you sharper, distinct flavours. So get going, experiment with this recipe and find out what your summer flavour is going be.
* Pun very much intended.