Phuket: Aleenta Phuket Phang Nga Resort & Spa

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We took off to Phuket for 5 days in November last year. In all the years that we have been married, we have never been to Phuket together, even though we have visited the island separately with friends and colleagues.  So we decided to celebrate TBH’s birthday falling in August in Phuket, but unfortunately, had to postpone the trip till November due to *my* work commitments.  Better late than never.

I have seen photographs of Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga floating around on Facebook.  An ex-colleague got married in that resort.  More recently, my cousin stayed at Aleenta and told me how much she loved it.  Then a promotional offer by the resort popped up on my Facebook news feed one day, and the offer looked too good to pass.

We chose a Loft room, paid for it in advance (a requirement to enjoy the promotional rates) and waited for August to come around.  Except that by the time we actually got to the resort, it was November and the promotional offer was no longer valid, so we had to top up for the same room.

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The Loft room at Aleenta is a two-floor unit, where the lower floor comprises the living room and bathroom are on the lower floor while the bed occupies the entire second floor. What is really nice (and very convenient) about this room is having an infinity pool at your doorstep.  We don’t swim but I like sitting on the edge of the pool and sticking my legs in the water, while TBH likes lying by the pool-side with his book.

The infinity pool is shared by the occupants of all the Loft rooms, so from time to time, we see a neighbour swimming outside our room.  So cannot wander around the living room inappropriately dressed!

DSC_0470-001_zps93945ee5 photo DSC_0470-001_zps93945ee5-1_zpsea14bd35.jpg^ View of the infinity pool from the living room.  We get to see a little of the ocean from the room.  No matter how inviting the pool looks, I will stay out of it.  I hate swimming.

DSC_0632-001_zps33ef5c46 photo DSC_0632-001_zps33ef5c46-1_zpsad6248eb.jpg^ Gorgeous view of the sunset from our room.

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For the entire duration of the trip, we chilled out in the resort, with a cocktail at the beachfront, or a glass of wine in the room.  We had purchased two bottles of duty-free wine in the departure halls of Changi Airport, and managed to make them last for 4 days.  We sipped the wine veeeery slowly. It was the perfect sort of holiday for us – nowhere to go at all, no itinerary to follow, no program to follow.

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The stretch of beach at Aleenta is a public beach, but because of the secluded location of the resort, it was as good as a private beach. It wasn’t crowded, or dirty, or noisy. Every morning, we would head to the beach for a walk before breakfast. I love walking barefoot on the beach, or what I call the ‘earthing’ process, feeling the grains of sand with each step, listening to the sounds of the waves crashing, getting my feet wet in the waters and watching people play frisbee.  It feels really good to step away from the hustle and bustle of city life and be close to nature, even for a few days.  The sounds of the waves soothes my tense mind and body.

DSC_0427-001_zpsb0e1a920 photo DSC_0427-001_zpsb0e1a920-1_zps9cea40e7.jpg^ This is the pricey beach-front villa. I don’t know about others, but I would be freaked out by the villa because it looks so…exposed. Unless one draws the curtains fully, there is no privacy because it is situated right on the beach front, along a stretch where anyone could walk right up to the villa and look INTO it. I imagine waking up in the middle of the night and see a face pressed against the glass windows…

2012-11-142_zpsf78d7554 photo 2012-11-142_zpsf78d7554-1_zps59429ba3.jpg^ Breakfast! The egg white omelette was quite interesting. Instead of cooking it the traditional way like an omelette, this version was served frothy cappuccino-style in a tall cup with tomato friccasee at the bottom of the cup.

DSC_0548-001_zps60f01d51 photo DSC_0548-001_zps60f01d51-1_zps0b0b2ed8.jpg^ One thing that we liked about our stay in Aleenta is how quiet it is. We did not see big groups of tourists and families thronging the beach and the restaurants in the resort.

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DSC_0561-001_zps7682c99d photo DSC_0561-001_zps7682c99d-1_zps1c0a66dd.jpg^ The pavillion where couples exchange marriage vows, or eat their romantic dinners by the beach.

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Pintxos at Kaixo (Singapore)

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I was at Kaixo yesterday evening when the staff were in the midst of assembling pintxos (pronounced as  “peen-chos”), a Basque tapas, in preparation for dinner. As I had my camera with me, I snapped a few quick photos of the pinxtos that were displayed at the bar counter.

I ate pintxos for the very first time early last year.  I even wrote a post about it here.  Kok had just returned from his stint in San Sebastian and made a selection of pintxos for us at a Chinese New Year dinner gathering.  I thought the morsels of roasted peppers, jamon, quince jam, mushrooms, anchovies and chorizo, etc, artfully stacked on slices of grilled baguette rubbed with garlic and plum tomatoes were visually interesting.  The bread has to be grilled and chewy so as to hold the ingredients without turning soggy.

What I was not prepared for was the explosion of flavours in my mouth – salty, sweet, savoury all came together so well with each bite of chewy bread. I have never been a fan of anchovies, but I love eating them now, especially when paired with roasted peppers on a slice of freshly grilled baguette and a glass of wine.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a photograph of that pintxo right now.  Will find an opportunity to do so.

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Pinxtos do not always have to be assembled with grilled bread.  One can be as creative as one likes. Pintxos can be plated, or  skewered, or as what Kok has done before, pair marinated anchovies with cubes of watermelon and a slice of tangerine, creating a refreshing salty-and-sweet flavour that pops in your mouth.

Meyer Lemons, Lemon Pound Cake

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I came across Meyer lemons in a supermarket and bought the last 3 packets on the shelf. I have wanting to try these lemons having read so much about how delicious they taste.

Meyer lemons have a thinner and smoother skin than the lemons that we are used to. They also taste sweeter and less tart than lemons, more like a cross between lemons and tangerines.

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I made lemon pound cake (using Doris Greenspan’s recipe) and some lemon cream (recipe from Julia Child) with some of the Meyer lemons. The cake and cream taste really yummy with coffee, wonderful for a Sunday breakfast. 🙂

Now, what I should I do with the rest of the lemons…? Lemon sorbet? Lemon-flavoured pasta?

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

I love the Japanese Strawberry Shortcake – it is a popular Christmas and birthday cake in Japan. It is my favourite cake. A confectionary of sponge cake, whipped cream and strawberries. It is so pretty to look at. And because the flavours are quite light, I can eat one entire cake by myself. I am not fond of strawberries but I adore sponge cake and whipped cream.

Initially, I couldn’t understand why the cake was called a “shortcake” when it is primarily made with sponge cake. But what the heck, it tastes good, looks good, and that’s good enough for me.

When I read that Sarah of Sarah’s Loft was teaching classes on the Japanese Strawberry Shortcake, I jumped at the chance to sign up. I have been reading her blog for a while and I love her photos, her cakes, pastries and cookies. The presentation of her baked goods is always so pretty, whimsical and tasteful. I also thought making the cake at a class was a foolproof way of getting the husband a wedding anniversary cake, which I could sneakily present as something that I had made on my own. Not entirely false there.

The baking class was conducted at Sarah’s home, on a Sunday afternoon, and lasted approximately 2.5 hours. There were 3 students per class and it was a hands-on, relaxed, easy-to-follow lesson. I had a bit of difficulty with icing the cake; I just couldn’t get the icing to be even because my wrist was just not moving in the right way and my cake was “balding”. Well, nothing that more practice cannot fix! 🙂

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Don’t you love her instruction sheet? ‘Cos I do. She made sketches of each step of the method and coloured them! There is so much heart in her work. ♥♥♥

Making David Lebovitz’s Vanilla Ice-Cream

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Eversince we moved back home last June, I have been so tied up with work that I have had neither the energy nor the time to use my brand new kitchen.  So I have been over-compensating during the Christmas and New Year break.  I went a little nuts in the kitchen the last couple of weeks, cooking up a ton of food, apportioning them into Tupperwares and sticking them into the freezer.

I like coming home after work, knowing that there is chicken broth in the freezer which I can use to make us a piping hot bowl of somen topped with vegetables, an egg and fried shallots.  Or a tub of chicken stew which we can eat with some  spaghettini or hot rice.  It takes alot of effort and time to prepare meals in advance, and being the disorganised person that I am,  it takes me twice the effort and time.

Besides cooking, I have been doing a bit of baking.  I made chocolate mousse, a Victorian sponge cake with a passionfruit curd filling, crepes and the latest, ice-cream.  I bought a Kenwood ice-cream maker during the Christmas period for $88, and I must say that this gadget provides great bang-for-the-buck.

My first attempt at making ice-cream was a disaster.  I used a banana-with-rum recipe from Tish Boyle’s The Cake Book, but it turned out to be a little too sweet for me.  Also, because the temperatures of the custard and the freezing bowl were not sufficiently low, the custard mixture would not freeze in the ice-cream maker  and I ended up with “ice-cream soup”.  Sadly, that went down the sink. *face-palms*

My second attempt turned out to be a success, and man, the feeling of eating ice-cream that you made yourself is so satisfying.  No, not just satisfying, but simply awesome!

I scoured the Internet for a simple vanilla ice-cream recipe and David Lebovitz’s recipe from The Perfect Scoop kept popping up in nearly every Google search result.  So that’s what I used.  And this time, I was careful (and patient) to chill the ice-cream bowl for over 24 hours in the freezer and the custard in the fridge for more than 8 hours, just to make sure that everything is as cold as it possibly can.

Ingredients

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar (I used castor sugar)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream (I used 400ml of Bulla’s pure cream and 100ml of thickened cream)
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I omitted this which I should include the next time)

Method

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

2. Set up an ice bath by placing a bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Peekture: A Purple Butterfly

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It is the time of the year when I go around snapping photos of Christmas trees and decorations that I see in various buildings. I saw this purple-themed tree with beautiful decorations in AXA Tower. Something different from the traditional gold-silver-red themed trees.

Oslo: Chilling Out At The Oslo Harbour

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This was our last day in Oslo. We checked out of the hotel, strolled to the harbour for the last time to admire the view for the last time and hopefully, find some lunch before we had to leave for the airport. For a large part of our trip, the skies in Oslo were grey, cloudy and threatening to rain all the time, so we were really glad to see gorgeous blue skies with fluffy white clouds on our last day.

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Chilling out with a glass of wine, watching people, and enjoying every moment of the gorgeous view presented before us.

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Walking Down The Aisle

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My cousin got married over the weekend at the ACS Barker Road Methodist Church.

What is most beautiful about a church wedding? If you ask me, it isn’t the exchanging of wedding vows. Nor the kiss that follows the unveiling of bride after the priest pronounces the couple man and wife.

To me, the most beautiful moment is the one when the bride walks down the aisle with her father.

Peekture: Rainbow Bread Ice-Cream

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Local ice-cream wrapped in a slice of rainbow bread. This has always been one of my favourite things to eat.

A couple of days ago, I got home late after a long day’s work and was feeling super hungry. I was so happy to see the ice-cream uncle selling this at the foot of my block at 10pm at night. And my dinner that night was ice-cream!

Little joys in life.

Oslo Radhus: Oslo City Hall

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I have been struggling for weeks to get this post up. I log into WordPress, I type a few sentences, I delete them, I re-type them again, and then I go to bed, without ever completing the post.

This is the Oslo City Hall, the capital’s administrative body and seat of the City Council, and the venue for the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.  It is also one of the few attractions in Oslo which does not charge an entry fee.

It is a beautiful historic building, with a brick facade, two tall towers and a huge clock. I enjoyed wandering around in the building, admiring the beautiful rooms decorated with intricate lights and standing lamps.  The City Hall is my favourite attraction in Oslo.

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