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Archive for December, 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

To all (three) readers of Whimsicaljottings, wishing you a Blessed Christmas! I will be away in Naples for a short break, will be back just before 2009, so stay tuned for pictures of my trip 😉

 

Happy Holidays!

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Sign number 56852091 that I’m totally morphing into a domesticated being:

 

It’s 11 pm and I am translating the entire flyer/advertisement from the hypermart from Italian into English.  And deriving an unexplainable satisfaction out of it too >____<

 

You know, I’ve been having a hard time buying fish at the hypermart coz of course, their fish is different from the ones we have back home. Lots of trout, salmon, halibut. cod. But I’m not accustomed to these types of fish. So what we did was to experiment slowly with the different types of fish and buy different types each time we go fish shopping.

 

I like salmon. Grilled, pan-fried, almost any way is good for me.  (Try it with balsamic vinegar, really good). It’s meaty, smooth and almost buttery even. Will buy again.

 

I HATED trout although it comes from the same family as salmon. Perhaps we bought the fresh water type. We’ll never know. But I will never buy it again. It was sooo fishy tasting. Bleargh.

 

Sardines. Not from the can, but fresh. Cheap. Tastes quite good grilled. But the bones. OH THE BONESSSSS! Do not believe what they tell you about being able to eat the pin bones and all. IMPOSSIBLE. It had the most bone I have ever come across on a fish. And mind you, its not just the “backbone” I’m talking about here, but the TINY, sharp bones that are not tiny enough to be eaten whole and swallowed. Out of 8 fish, I only managed 1 teeny one.  That too with a little bone getting stuck in my throat. Luckily it went down quite easily. I dunno how HB managed to eat the rest. Will never buy again.

 

Perch. We bought the African Perch. Quite cheap. Quite tasty baked with breadcrumbs, garlic and cheese. Light taste to it. Will buy again.

 

Tuna. Not those in a can, but tuna steaks. Man, they are really meaty. And mighty expensive too! Like EUR9 per piece (per person!). I ate this at a friend’s place over here. Although I thought it was mighty generous of him to cook tuna steaks for 5 of us (that’s about EUR50 for one course), I thought he could’ve made it a little more interesting instead of just pan frying it with olive oil, salt and pepper. Quite yummy, but don’t think I’d buy it coz of cost. I’ll stick to canned tuna thankyouverymuch 😛

 

Anchovies. (Not ikan bilis) I figured, since I’ve been waxing lyrical about Foccacia with anchovy in my previous post, I’d take a picture of how the anchovy looks like.

 

Alici

Alici

 

Now this 720 gram jar of yumminess doesn’t come cheap. It’s about EUR10. The anchovy fillets are soaked in olive oil. They may not look very appetizing here, but oh trusttt me, they are to die for.

 

And in case you are curious, the jar on the left (melanzane) contains aubergine/eggplant, tomatoes and some other goodies. It’s sorta like a pickle. I have no idea how it tastes like. HB got it as part of his company’s Xmas goodie bag. Actually it came in a box, and I was as amazed as heck at the contents. But I digress. And the carton on the right contains tomato paste.

 

So yeah, anchovies. I’ve not bought the fresh version, but the jar ones as above: Will SO buy again and again 😀

 

Gilt Head Bream. Oh my. Finally! A type of fish suitable for Asian cooking. I steam it Chinese style. It was sooo good satisfying my (our) craving for Chinese style steamed fish. The other fish I mentioned above are not suited for Asian style cooking. But bream, it was heavenly. The flesh was firm, tender and sweet. Will definitely buy again.

 

I actually spent a whole hour looking up types of fish and its name in Italian, so that the next time I go fish shopping, I won’t be so perplexed and go eeny meeny miny moe to pick one. >____<

 

I know how frustrating it can be to not know what you’re buying, so if you’re a non Italian who speaks/reads English AND who can’t tell a catfish from a stingray 😛 , here’s a list of popular fish, those in bold are in Italian:

 

Salmon               =   Salmone (duh)

Trout                   =   Trota

Perch                  =   Persico

Anchovy          =    Alici / Acciuga

Sardines           =   Sardina

Gilthead bream   =  Orata

Sea bream(red)   =  Pagro

Bass                         = Branzino/spigola

Sogliola                  =  Sole

Cod                          =  Merluzzo

Herring                  =  Aringa

Mackerel              = Maccerello / sgombro

John Dory           = Pesce San Pietro 😀

Tuna                      = Tonno

Octopus               = Polpo

Squid                    = Calamaro/Totariello

Flounder            = Passera Pianuzza

Haddock             = Asinello

 

 

I’m not all THAT bad when it comes to picking out fish, it’s just that I’m more accustomed to Ikan Tenggiri, Ikan Kembung, Ikan Bawal, Ikan Selar you get my drift 😛

 

Damn. I can’t believe I wrote an entire post about fish.

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I know I'm cute

I know I'm cute

 

❤  ❤ 

Counting down till I see you again Boo!

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Do pardon my lack of posts lately, I’ve been really tied up with work, classes and eating! Yepp, eating 😛 I’m really excited as I will be spending 4 days in Naples just right after Xmas! 😀 I’m actually most excited about Pompeii , being a history buff and all that. The last time I was at the Colosseum in Rome, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven 😀 Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage site to boot. 

 

And oh oh ohhhh, IFFFFF we happen to have some time (which I suspect we may not), we will take a short trip down to the Amalfi Coast too! Heheh, I’m really excited as you may have deduced.

 

Back in Modena, the streets are now lit with Xmas lights. Not as grand and showy as I thought it would be (read: Orchard Road) but still very pretty nonetheless.

 

Along Via Emilia (Highstreet)

Along Via Emilia (Highstreet)

 

 

Along Via Emilia

Along Via Emilia

 

Pardon the rather blurry picture, my hands were so cold I couldn’t hold the camera steadily. You see the maze of wires between the buildings? Initially I thought it was an eyesore, but then I realized that it serves a very good purpose. You see, the buses (L’Autobus, bleargh) that serves the inner city runs on electricity and not diesel/petrol. Now I don’t know WHAT type of electricity we’re talking about here, but one thing’s for sure. There is no smelly/black smoke emission from these buses! So it must be good right? No smelly buses = cleaner city.

 

So when the buses are on the road, this is how they look like:

 

 

So I’m guessing that the buses get their power from those cables. Nifty, methinks.

 

Ok, back to more Xmas light pictures;

 

Along Via Farini

Along Via Farini

 

 

Palazzo Ducale

Palazzo Ducale

 

Palazzo Ducale (and almost all other ancient buildings in Modena, really) has an interesting historical background. You can read this for more information. Hmm, maybe I will write a post about all other interesting / historical buildings in Modena. That would be a long post, thats for sure. >___<

 

I have so many things to write about, but so little time! Arghh, I’m a terrible blogger! I’ve been baking and cooking and they have been really yummy (blows own trumpet :P), and the blogger in me says:  “Take a picture of this and blog about it later!!” but the glutton in me goes “Just EAT IT already! You can make more of this and take a picture another time” >_______<

 

How la to be a super blogger like that? O____o

 

I’ve especially wanted to post a picture of my favourite food ever in Italy. No it’s not fancy pasta with expensive porcini or stuff like that, but it’s simple foccacia with anchovies on top (not ikan bilis! But the anchovies soaked in olive oil, in a jar). OMG. I can eat that EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. And we’ve eaten that like four times already at home, and nope, no pictures to show 😛 coz as soon as I remove it from the oven, I (we) tend to just gobble it up.

 

Next time ok! I promise! 😉

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My interest in fashion, that is 😛 I was beginning to think that I was turning into an Ah-Soh (read: frumpy old woman) especially after I wrote down my Christmas wish list here and realized that only ONE item was fashion related. Yikes.

 

I think it’s coz I have sort of thrown in the towel and not bother about fashion here in Italy. I mean, back home in Malaysia, I was more picky about what I wore, partly due to the fact that I was working and had to look professional. But here. Gosh. You should see how they dress. I mean, why do I even bother trying! Not coz they’re laidback and all, but the very opposite! I definitely am not trying to dress like the Italians (personally I feel that Italian fashion is a little OTT, I prefer classic looking, clean lines) but sometimes you feel “little” walking amongst these fashionistas. So now, I just wear what’s most comfy and warm. Shoot me. >______<

 

I left Malaysia with 25kgs worth of luggage. Most of it, food. I took the bare necessities when it came to clothes. Knitted tops, jeans, the sensible stuff. And of course, ALL my clothes are summer clothes. And now it is winter, 2 degrees outside. I can’t wear my sundresses! I can’t wear my floral tops! I can’t wear my baby tees! 😦 I see people clad in winter apparel, and it’s actually quite nice. The boots, the gloves, the trench coats, and cute beanies. I’ve seen quite a number of women in mink (faux?) coats but ecchhh they turn me off.

 

We bought a beanie for me the other day (yayyy!) and I chose the warmest looking one without giving much thought to how it looked. It came with a pom pom on top, and the first few times I wore it, I was as conscious as heck 😛 That pom pom on my head made me feel like I was Santa. Or a baby. And then it made me feel as though I bought the wrong type of beanie, perhaps I should’ve bought one without the pom pom. Which of course, made me turn to my best friend : Google. And wowwww. There are sooo many chic beanies out there!

 

I’m loving the beanies from Urban Outfitters!

 

Urban Outfitters Slouchy Rib Beanie

Urban Outfitters Slouchy Rib Beanie

 

I’m totally loving this grey one above.

 

Picture from nollie.tv

Picture from nollie.tv

 

I like the rightmost white beanie on the second row and the mint green one with a visor right below the white one.

 

And this, is my beanie:

 

My first beanie *beams*

My first beanie *beams*

 

😀 It actually has some shiny glitter on it, but the camera doesn’t seem to have caught it. You see that pom pom at the top? That’s why I was a little conscious about wearing it. Most people seem to be wearing the more chic slouchy beanies like the grey one above. But of course I did a little googling, and lookie what I found:

 

 

Picture from voguefactory.blogspot.com

Picture from voguefactory.blogspot.com

 

😀 Haha, who would’ve guessed. Christina Aguilera, Britney and Kate Moss. Wearing beanies with pom poms. Phew.

 

Now that Google has shown me that little girls women actually DO wear beanies with pom poms on them, I’d be wearing mine a little more proudly.

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Oh

My

Goodness.

 

Today, I outdid myself. I made the best dish EVER. Thanks to Jamie Oliver. I am officially in love with the guy. Here I am, a novice in the kitchen, and I whipped up the best lamb dish I have ever tasted. (Ok, I am NOT bragging, but I tell the truth and nothing else.) It totally rocked my socks. I daresay its restaurant quality.

 

I bought the lamb shoulder from the hypermart only coz it was the first time they had lamb, and I was excited as heck. I figured I could look up a recipe on the Net when I got home and thats what I did today.

 

When I googled “lamb shoulder recipe”, most of the recipes were of Jamie Oliver’s Incredible Roasted Lamb. Wow, with a name like that, I guess it should be quite good. So I decided to give it a shot. I was taken aback by ONE thing though. It required 4 hours in the oven. Yupp, you read that right. Four hours. But I tell you this, its TOTALLY worth it.

 

So here it is, Jamie Oliver’s Incredible Roasted Lamb

 

Serves 6

 

1 pound lovely greens, such as white cabbage, Savoy cabbage, Brussels tops or cavolo nero, leaves separated, stalks finely sliced

 

For the lamb

 

A large bunch of fresh rosemary
1 x 2.2 pound shoulder of lamb
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bulk of garlic, unpeeled, broken into cloves

For the smashed veg

1 ½ pounds peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
½ a large rutabaga, peeled and cut into small chunks
6 tablespoons butter

 

For the sauce

1 tablespoon flour
2 cups good-quality hot chicken or vegetable stock
2 heaped tablespoons capers, soaked, drained and chopped
A large bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

 

Preheat your oven to full whack. Slash the fat side of the lamb all over with a sharp knife. Lay half the sprigs of rosemary and half the garlic cloves on the bottom of a high-sided roasting pan, rub the lamb all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place it in the pan on top of the rosemary and garlic, and put the rest of the rosemary and garlic on top of the lamb. Tightly cover the tray with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Turn the oven down immediately to 325ºF and cook for 4 hours — it’s done if you can pull the meat apart easily with two forks.

 

When the lamb is nearly cooked, put your potatoes, carrots and rutabaga into a large pot of boiling salted water and boil hard for 20 minutes or so until you can slide a knife into the rutabaga easily. Drain and allow to stream dry, then smash them up in the pan with most of the butter. If you prefer a smooth texture, add some cooking water. Spoon into a bowl, cover with foil and keep warm over a pan of simmering water.

 

Remove the lamb from the oven and place it on a chopping board. Cover it with foil, then a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for your greens. Pour away most of the fat from the roasting pan, discarding any bits of rosemary stalk. Put the pan on the stovetop over medium heat and mix in the flour. Add the stock, stirring and scraping all the sticky goodness off the bottom of the pan. You won’t need gallons of gravy, just a couple of flavorsome spoonfuls each. Add the capers, turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes.

 

Finely chop the mint and add it to the sauce with the red wine vinegar at the last minute then pour into a pitcher. Add your greens and stalks to the pan of fast-boiling salted water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes to just soften them. Drain and toss with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place everything in the middle of the table, and shred the lamb in front of your guests. Absolutely delish!

 

I did not follow the recipe verbatim, as I left out the smashed veg, knowing that it would be too much for the both of us. I substituted with a simple boiled broccoli and carrots tossed in some melted butter, salt and pepper.

 

Also, I kinda got a little impatient after 3.5 hours, so in effect, I actually roasted it for 3.5 hours and not 4 as specified by Jamie’s recipe. But the end result was fantastic nonetheless. Maybe its because the lamb shoulder piece we bought was a little on the small side, and cooked a little quicker than the specified 4 hours. The meat was juicy and succulent, falling off the bone. Drooooool.

 

Here are the pictures:

 

Lamb Shoulder

Lamb Shoulder

 

Agnello Spalla = Lamb Shoulder. Yepp, it costs EUR 10.25. I shudder thinking of the price in RM. 😦

 

And here is my masterpiece 😀

 

 

P

Jamie Oliver's Roast Lamb

 

 

Lamb, sauce and bread

Lamb, sauce and bread

 

I seem to have forgotten to take a picture of the vegetables in my haste to gobble everything up.

 

Clean plates, check out the bones!

Clean plates, check out the bones!

 

Empty wine glass, empty plates, full tummies. We even picked the bones dry.

 

Haha, our dining table is piled with food, check out the cake with Grand Marnier in it 😉 We bought more stuff due to Xmas being around the corner, and of course, the entire city (if not country!) will be closed.

 

I tell you, this lamb recipe is fantastic. Best of all, its actually quite easy if you have the ingredients at hand. I’m quite happy we bought pots of rosemary and thyme, and they’re both growing quite well. It’s quite convenient to just snip off some stalks when I need it.

 

Give this recipe a try. Its awesome. And easy!

 

I need to get Jamie’s cookbook already dammit.

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Dunno, but it’s something. I don’t know whether its the weather (rhyme!) or things in general that are making me feel blahhh, but something definitely is. I hope things get better. I need bright sunshine. I need hot Malaysian comfort food. The cold weather is getting to me. I need to rant.

 

For the uninitiated, here are pictures of Boo, courtesy of my smart little sister who, own her own, figured out how to take pictures using the webcam. Clever girl! 😉 I find it quite cute that she’s trying to hide her head from showing, but you can actually see her fingers and the top of the head 😀 Lol.

 

Boo looks like the naughty dishevelled Shih Tzu that he is. He usually looks this way after his dinner; he gobbles his food and sticks his entire face into his bowl >______<  Greedy little thing.

 

Hi everyone!

Hi everyone!

 

 

Looks like its not just Boo that’s messy eh? Hint, hint Bulat Girl!

 

 

Ok, enough with the pictures already, imma look elsewhere now...

Ok, enough with the pictures already, imma look elsewhere now...

 

I find this picture really funny 😀

 

Let meeee goooooooo!

Let meeee goooooooo!

 

I miss the little tyke. I sobbed my eyes out when I received these pictures. Sigh.

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