Earl Grey Chocolate Chip Spelt Waffles

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Back home in London again, after a long summer. The past few months have truly been something, and as my thoughts spin faster than I type, perhaps just jotting down a few highlights would be slightly more comprehensive.

Highlights of summer:

  • meeting old friends in Singapore and eating all the good, cheap Asian dishes of my childhood!
  • travelling alone to New York for the first time, for my first science conference. Then, going there again with family for a cute fam holiday because all. The. Food. Once again. My favourite things were pistachio halva at Seed and Mill,  the ravioli, lasagna and french toast– goodness that ravioli had my whole family screaming– at Blossom Vegan restaurant, and the ice cream from van Leeuwen. Thick, stretchy ice cream. New York was essentially one big blur of food ecstasy.
  • travelling all over Italy (Padua, Modena, Bologna, Bonassola, with my boyfriend and spending time with his family, too. It was weeks of less internet connection and more real connectivity, something I’ve found more and more necessary in an up-and-going, busy city such as London. Ignorance is truly bliss, sometimes. Padua, our first stop, is a gem with her cheap aperols and tramezzinis, and so is Modena with her divine food (pretty sure we saw Massimo Bottura on a bike) and pretty streets. Those two areas were probably my favourites, and to visit again would be a blessing.

Things I’ve learnt after returning to London:

  • always clean your waffle iron really well after each use; you don’t want gross black burnt bits of waffle from two months ago left behind on that thing…
  • spend enough quality time with both yourself and the people who mean the most to you
  • short naps are underrated
  • London is amazing, period– I always forget how vibrant, diverse and fun it is here. I also have yet to find elsewhere with an architectural scene as unique as it is here, and yes, I like the cold, the grey, the soft sun and tender clouds, I like it all. Further, there’s something for everyone here, anytime, anyplace. Want some fun? Head straight to Shoreditch or somewhere in Central London for a drink or delicious bite. Feel too overwhelmed? Escape to the outskirts or have a solo picnic in Hyde Park. Or stay home and make…

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Well, waffles. Of course.

Not just any plain old American-style waffle (although there will always be a case for that, and one will always be partial to that classic combination of butter and maple syrup), no. It’s a waffle with class, with taste, but all in good measure, not stuffy in the slightest. The earl grey lends a note of sophistication to the sultry blend of spelt and chocolate. Who knew spelt made such a good case for your Sunday stack? Not I, not I for too long a time. The nutty, almost sweet angle to spelt has made it popular in more and more dishes, both sweet and savoury, recently. Although it’s not gluten-free, its relatively low in gluten, making it easy on the abdomen for the more gluten-sensitive of you. It is incredibly rich in many B vitamins such as niacin (like mushrooms!), protein and minerals, and even used to brew beer in Belgium and Bavaria. If you’re not convinced by its versatility, then check out these waffles. They’re perfect in every sense of the word in waffle world– soft and chewy all the way through, and golden-crisp around the edges.

These are truly one of the best waffle recipes I’ve developed. I have always wanted to experiment with spelt, but the combination of earl grey, chocolate and fluff makes for something so wonderfully extravagant yet humble in the simple shape of a waffle. Easy to make, and take no time at all to cook. Compared to my other waffle recipes, these take less than a minute to cook fully– how sublime is that when you’re cold and starving on a weekend morning?

They pair magically with coconut yogurt, more chopped chocolate and strawberry jam. Maple syrup isn’t necessary since the waffles themselves are relatively sweet, but go for it if you wish– I understand than some liquescent element is necessary for it to feel like a Sunday sometimes.

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Ingredients (makes 5-6 mini waffles and serves 1-2 people, double or triple the quantities if necessary)

130g spelt flour (use plain if you wish, but spelt will make your waffles softer and chewier)

1 heaped tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

80ml milk of your choice (I used almond)

half tbsp apple cider vinegar/ white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g agave syrup/ maple syrup/ honey

90g yoghurt of choice (I used coconut)

2 tbsp oil (any type such as vegetable/ rapeseed/ coconut/ sunflower)

2-3 tbsp earl grey tea, made by steeping your favourite earl grey tea (loose/teabag) in hot or boiling water for a couple of minutes

40g chopped dark chocolate (use whatever chocolate you want but dark is preferable– I used Lindt’s 70% for a strong and true flavour)

Directions

Preheat your waffle iron according to its instructions. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then add the rest of the ingredients, the chopped chocolate going in last. Mix until everything is evenly incorporated, but don’t overmix the batter as this will result in rubbery waffles.

Liberally grease your waffle iron and place two heaped tablespoons of batter on the hot surface. Press the lid of the iron down and let the waffles cook for 30-40 seconds. Check if they’re golden and crisp on the outside by carefully lifting the lid. If not, let them continue to cook until golden-brown. There should be melting or cooked bits of chocolate all around the edges… yum.

Carefully remove the waffles (use your hands if you’re daring, and a fork if you’re not stupid) from the iron and place on a paper towel to let them cool while you handle the rest of the batter. Serve with coconut yoghurt, fruity jam and a little extra chopped dark chocolate.

 

Hotcake For One

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As like every Saturday, I took a route less travelled. That morning was colour and fairytale light and a whimsical plate. The perfect respite welcomed me at Paddy Hills, one of my favourite local hideaways for moreish brunch fare, ambience (and not going to lie, the lighting is always perfect for photographs). The light. Almost as if the window behind me had the slightest blue filter. Why is it that I remember these things and not actual important things like the bus routes back home?

Every time I venture out alone in search of a particular foodthing or breakfast dish (for I’m the sort who wakes up way too early to wait for brunch, though that’s always welcome on the social agenda), I savour every little component that arrives at the table. Food is meditation. Every sit-down is an analysis, a reconnection with the humble plate. A cup of coffee is a bit of serendipity, its acidity meaning more than just caffeine. It precedes the awakening of senses; always a bit of displeasure before every reward. Just like my laboratory internship that started in July– each new theory or paper encountered is an adventure for the senses. Every moment is to be savoured, every experiment a full-on thrusting into the meat of the mind.

Having tried many a hotcake before, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for the one at Paddy Hills, but it’s by far the best one I’ve tried. Golden, crisp edges encased a cake-like, fluffy interior, leaning towards pound cake on the density spectrum. Its perfect texture was proven by the soft drag of my fork’s prongs along the edge, followed by the total lack of resistance as they sank into the domed surface. It was then that I decided I just had to recreate something similar at home, and that’s exactly what the following morning demanded. With the mother’s new stash of gluten-free coconut flour at home, I have also included a gluten-free version for any of you who swing that way for personal health reasons. It took a couple of tries to get as close as possible as I could to what I enjoyed. The original recipe I followed online included the unusual addition of Japanese mayonnaise, which apparently is what the Jap folk use in their sky-high, souffle-like pancakes. Unlike American mayonnaise, the Japanese version is typically made with apple or rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar, and uses egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Perhaps its the chemical structure of the soy vegetable oil they use or the underlying sweetness that lends a hand to the delish result. It did turn out with a desirab;e ratio of texture and flavour, though next time I shall try it without the mayo and look out for the slightest of differences.

It must be taken into account that the size of your pan (mine is about 4.5 inches wide), as well as how close your pan is to the kiss of heat, affect the final result. There’s nothing more gratifying than a big, fat hotcake on your plate.

It was a Sunday morning and the café came to me instead. Here goes.

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Hotcake For One (adapted from this lovely lady)

Ingredients

1/4 cup cake flour

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (substitute with coconut flour for the gluten-free version, but take away 2 tbsp)

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

4 tbsp white sugar

2 tsp Japanese mayonnaise (substitute with American/homemade mayo if you have that on hand)

1 egg white

1/2 cup (180ml) milk or buttermilk

2 tbsp melted butter

splash of vanilla extract

whatever toppings you desire; I chose berries for a berry garden, mascarpone cheese, cashew butter and maple syrup

 

Directions

Preheat your pan on low heat and ready some butter for cooking. Make sure to have at least a healthy knob of butter for each hotcake you make, for this ensures the crispiest golden edges and ease in removing the cake from the pan. In a bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg white until it becomes white and frothy. Add the milk, vanilla extract, mayonnaise and melted butter. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is just combined. Tip the mix, which should have a thick dropping consistency, into your preheated pan and let cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes or when you can see that the edges have hardened and there are small bubbles around the same area, flip the hotcake (carefully) and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the hotcake and serve with whatever you wish.

 

Nadaman

Nadaman

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Another late post, but I’ve really been so busy with exams and oral commentaries and what have you. Life seems like a never-ending slew of happenings and events and emotions- I just cannot keep up with everything. Currently drowning in a quagmire of helplessness and self-destruction, yay!

Nadman, nadaman. Cue the witches’ chants. I came here with my Grandma during the December holidays one fine Monday (shock horror! Monday? It seems like an impeccable dream now). It always seemed like that high-class enclave shrouded in some dark and sophisticated air. Almost demeaning, it’s very name Nadaman seemed to reek of superiority. I don’t know why, but that’s just how I felt about it. Even though on the other hand, it also sounds like ‘nada, man, I don’t give a damn’.

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Steamed egg custard (chawanmushi)- part of the lunch set

Sashimi set -$70

I remember this chawanmushi in particular because of its lovely, silken tofu texture. And I usually pass up this dish. Really, I still find it a little hard to willingly finish a bowl of egg custard, mostly because many places serve it obtrusively bland. And then here comes Mr Flavourful Silken Tofu, punctured here and there with a little nugget of mushroom or fatty chicken. Lovely.  I still wonder at how, even after years of experience, chefs are able to manipulate their skills so wisely and deftly so as to produce the perfect texture each time. It’s mind-boggling and admirable. It came after a traditional small appetiser of sweet pickles in a little saucer, which perked my palate just enough to make me look forward to the main course.

70 bucks. That’s easily a burnt hole in your wallet. Then again, it was the most expensive lunch set, an aspect of the menu my darling grandmother cared rather little for. This woman loves her sashimi, and thank goodness it was worth it. The thing is, if it’s fresh, it will taste good. It’s really just a matter of chop, chop, plate, glaze. Make it look pretty too. I relish the light chew, cool slosh of slime, a soft wail from the dead animal’s voice as it hits the back of your throat. Factoring in that substantial variety of fish, including salmon, tuna belly and swordfish, the price was a little startling, but not extensively surprisingly either. Nothing too, well, fishy.

On a side note, I always feel like a duck next to my swan of a grandmother. She does everything with impeccable grace, so much so that my efforts with a pair of chopsticks would appear to be a toddler’s game when compared to Swan’s slow, deft handling of whatever she touches. Traditional, feminine, graceful. That is my grandmother compressed into three words, I tell you now.

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Gyuniku Koumikayi Set- $45 (sliced sirloin beef in onion and sweet soy sauce)

Prawn and vegetable tempura- $20

Yes baby. MY set. The beautiful juxtaposition between stealing bits of cold sashimi and the sweet, bold richness of that teriyaki-like onion and soy sauce, drizzled over febrile, firm strands of juicy sirloin. Scarred with ridges and perfectly angled knife marks to enjoy maximum saturation of sauce. Don’t get me started on those onions. They were caramelised to perfection, without yielding all firmness. Just the way I like it. Just between debilitating and robust. Crunch, chew, the earthly splendour of the bulb basking in the heat of your mouth. Coupled with a fat spoon of obese Japanese rice speckles, like three-dimensional bits of snow freckles- moist, plump, as white as ever, it made for the most satisfying bite. The unstimulating but necessary bed of warm rice creating an appealing, slightly sweet canvas for the drunk flavours of the plate. I wouldn’t say it’s the best beef ever, but darn, was it good.

And that tempura? Not too thick and pale with careless slopped-on beer batter. A thin wrinkled layer adhered nicely to the well-cooked underwear that was the succulent prawn and fresh, seasonal vegetables. I can’t eat tempura or any of the fried stuff without the signature tempura sauce (made with soy sauce, mirin, dashi stock, salt and sugar) and cool radish (daikon) flakes. Oh, how I love that white snowy mound which beckons me to dive into its textured complex! Saturate the wrinkled outside with enough sauce to kiss the outer layers of meat as well. The batter on each was a little uneven though, with some yielding a thicker, chewier outside than others. Well, I can’t ask for too much, can I.

Just the two of us Japanese gluttons, separated by a few centimetres and a few generations.

Rating: 4.1/5

Nadaman

22 Orange Grove Rd, Singapore 258350
Shangri-La
6213 4571

Kuriya Dining

Kuriya Dining

Quality, check.

Service, check.

The best kampachi fish head? Well so far, check.

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top: udon noodle soup and sashimi platter. The udon soup is pleasantly fragrant, tasteful (one might expect at least a small degree of blandness, but all is not lost here) and delicate on the tongue. The noodles themselves have a good hold. And that sashimi is wonderfully fresh, the ice cradling all its sea-esque glory and purity.

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You see it, I see it. Kampachi fish head. Topped off with a half portion of unagi rice. I shared the fish head with my lovely grandfather, the only other person I know who enjoys it as much as me, eyes, brain, guts, pectin, cartilage and all. You can see his hand peeking at the top there, I love him so. Thankfully, he was nice enough that night to give me the eyes. Believe me you, these small things put me on top of the world. The fish was grilled to absolute perfection, and with the radish, a little soy and wasabi, made for the king of all fish heads. There was a certain essence to the head, a certain pizzaz which I haven’t found anywhere else before. The quality flabbergasting, taste, impeccable. As for the unagi, the two fat strips sitting before me dazzled me with their top-notch shine and plumpness. One bite seemed to refute the rice, which seemed so unnecessary in the savouring of the sea-fresh, teriyaki-glazed unagi. Softly sweet, boneless, fat eel to put you on a high.

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Fresh, reliable Japanese fine dining. Yes. I repeat, that fish head.

Rating: 4.8/5

Kuriya Japanese Dining

1 Kim Seng Promenade, Great World City

Fat Cow

Fat Cow

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That’s the thing about personalised invitation cards. The epitome of real effort. My grandfather is still cool enough to do this sort of thing, even if, you know, he doesn’t quite know the name of the young woman beside me. Or such an example is common enough. You can’t expect the elderly to be superhuman too. Oh, but I do love him so. Charming and comely old man. Singapore’s No. 1 bowler back in the day, and with such a flying passion!

Anyways, no, this isn’t a Heston Blumenthal clone, or any cuisine of the sort. Japanese-inspired steakhouse right here.

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Japanese leek with ponzu jelly and sesame dressing
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sliced bream with black truffle

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That salad was a crisp concoction made by the Tangy Japanese Gods.

I was pretty scared to touch the carpaccio, which looked about 0.001mm thin and as delicate as my dad’s hairline. But I did anyway. It was still frightening on the tongue, as it close to evaporated once it hit the buds. Moist, a little bland, but the truffle made it boom with musk and sophistication.

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The fried zucchini flower was a light break during the rage of courses that night. The batter was airy but separated a little too easily from the flower, and its thickness merged with the flower made it seem almost incongruous. But a joy all the same.

It’s easy to talk about meat, but the steamboat here was magical. Each chopstick slip of the red, raw stuff was a ticket to the most tender slivers of melt-on-your-tongue premium beef. Boiled in a soup which starts off tasteless but ends off sweet, reduced and wondrous. I can almost feel the bubbles tickling my throat. Dip it in the pastel orange-clad shabu shabu sauce, maybe a little more in the soup, add a hint of rice and off you go and enter another mental state altogether.

Repeat.

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Porridge. I saw it on the menu and passed it as some filler idea. But then again, if it’s on this menu, it’s got to good, right?

Right. And I was.  No really I swear. It’s the best savoury porridge you will try in your lifetime. There’s writing your will and then there’s coming here to have just one bowl of this. As they say here, it truly is shiok. Nourishing, warm, glutinous. The consistency of a wilted lemon curd, with soft, popping granules throughout, and healthy dollops of tender mushroom, shallots, garlic and chives. I need to stop here because my mouth is watering. Also, because I’m rather angry at myself for having the smallest stomach in the world, so by this time during the meal I could finish a paltry fraction of that small bowl.

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I don’t like mochi on its own, but the little translucent cuboids here were paired with a sticky, gooey gula melaka to reinforce its glutinous texture. The matcha and peanut dippings helped a fair bit, too. My favourite was that yuzu, which reminded me of white angels for some reason. I receive strange and non-sequitur connections whenever I’m faced with beautiful or delicious plates of food.

Rating: 4.8/5

Fat Cow

1 Orchard Boulevard #01-01/02

Camden Medical Centre

6735 0308