Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Goodbye to foggy to Vancouver and hello to the year of the ox

We are leaving for Singapore tomorrow. The 19 hours 40 minutes plane journey will be a pain... but it will be good to see family and friends again. I have definitely put on some weight over the Christmas and new year period, and with all the eating out over the past 3 weeks with the brother-in-law's visit. Somehow I don't think the Chinese new year festivities is going to be conducive for weight loss... Ah well, time enough for that when I get back.

I leave you with a few shots taken when we were up in Grouse Mountain over the weekend. It's been incredibly foggy for the past 10 days or so, which has kept the city quite cold. What we did not expect was how warm it was up in the mountains! It was completely clear blue skies and bright sunshine but all that thick fog covered the Lower Mainland such that none of that sun could get through, which explained the temperature inversion we had - less than 5 degrees in the city, and about 15 degrees up in the mountains! It was a very strange sight to see the blanket of fog over the city, when we looked down from the mountain, with only a few skyscrapers poking through the fog.

The city through the fog
Foggy view of the city
Gondola

We are definitely looking forward to warmer weather in Singapore!

I certainly hope to maintain at least one of two postings here a week while we are away, but replies to comments and emails will certainly be sporadic. With new restaurants to check out in Singapore and Hong Kong, I am looking forward to bringing you more tidbits of culinary interests (if not actual recipes). To all who are celebrating, happy Chinese new year! In the year of the ox/bull, I am sure I won't be alone in the hopes of a bullish year ahead. Cheers!/Gan bei!/Yam seng!

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Monday, 12 January 2009

Bento backlog and no time to wax lyrical

I don't like to start an entry with lame excuses, moans and groans, but I feel that I should apologise to dear readers of this website for the disappointing lack of updates for the past week (well, the past couple of weeks, really). Things have been rather crazy at work and by the time I get home the last thing I want to do is to sit in front of the computer. Let's just say it was a rude awakening to realise, on my first day back in the office on the 5th of January, that I had less than 3 weeks to do a list of things before we leave for Singapore for the Chinese New Year festivities. I wished I have an extra week before we leave, ugh.

I still cook at home for dinners and pack lunches for AP and myself. But with so many things on my mind and particularly with the brother-in-law visiting this month, I have been going with tried-and-tested recipes that were mostly posted on this website already. It's not really the time to get too experimental! As for bento lunches, they too were nothing particularly new and I often just feel too tired or uninspired to take photos, edit and post them later. I will get myself back into the bento groove again in due course, but in the mean time, here are some of our last few lunches of 2009.

Roast chicken, cherry tomatoes, salad leaves, cous cous with parsley garnish.
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Edamame, cherry tomatoes and ham and salad leaves in harvest grain bun.
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Rice, black sesame seeds, french beans and carrot stir fry, nori wrapped chicken cakes.
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Mushroom quiche on mixed salad leaves, with a container of dressing.
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Thank you for your continued interest in Soy and Pepper, and I promise to return to more regular posting as soon as I can. I have some recipes waiting to be posted and the upcoming trip to Singapore and Hong Kong in February should also provide fresh material. If I don't reply to your comments or questions promptly, please know that they are read and appreciated and I hope you continue to enjoy food and cooking, even if one does not always have the time or energy to wax lyrical about them in writing or photos. In the words of Alton Brown on Iron Chef America, I bide you, "Good Eating".

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Thursday, 1 January 2009

Dijon honey pork chops

There always seem to be a lot of pressure to make a fuss about New Year's Eve/Day, with the requisite dining and partying. But the prospect of paying $70-90 just for some club entry, listening to loud music all night, mingling with strangers, and then having a nightmare of trying to make my way back home (with no taxi in sight and overcrowded public transportation) just do not appeal. A good meal out or just a well-cooked meal at home, perhaps with a couple of close friends or family, or just with the hubby, and watching the festivities on telly - that's more my kind of thing. Some people might find it boring but I like that it's relaxed and peaceful with no hangovers the next morning.

For dinner on the last night of 2008, we had dijon honey pork chops. An easy to cook dinner that takes little time except for the meat to marinate in the fridge. More time for catching with the brother-in-law who has arrived recently from London for a visit. He will be with us for 4 weeks and there are lots to do and plenty to catch up on, so my updates will not be terribly frequent. Not that I have been a model blogger the past month, but I promise to do my best!

The pork chops were served with spring onion mashed potatoes and slow roasted sweet peppers. This photo was taken a while ago, my apologies for the misleading vegetables! The pork chops were surprisingly tender (I am always concerned about overcooking meat). I think the marinating and particularly the acidity of the orange juice goes a long way in tenderising the meat. Pork loin is also a tender cut of meat that is well suited to quick and high heat cooking like stir frying and pan frying. I would normally buy cheaper cuts for oven cooking when there is sufficient time for the slow cooking to break down connective tissues.

Honey dijon pork chops

Ingredients (serves 4):

4 boneless pork loin chops, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp oil for cooking

1. Marinade the pork chops with salt and pepper, orange juice, honey, mustard and rosemary and leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan, and cook the pork chops over medium-high heat for 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.
3. Pour about half of the marinade over the pork and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 6-7 minutes. Remove the chops and keep warm.
4. Pour the remaining marinade into the pan and cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes until reduced to thick gravy consistency. Spoon over the pork chops and serve.

However you spent your New Year's Eve, I hope 2009 brings you all good tidings and peace. Cheers to a good year ahead.

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