Whenever Christmas comes round, it signals the start of mum’s American Cheesecake baking season. Her record was set in the early 2000s when 47 cheesecakes were made and sent out our doors over a period of 3 weeks leading up to Christmas. The whole house just smelled of cheesecake… constantly. So safe to say, everyone in the family is a sucker for the dessert.
“Didn’t we go to school together?” is not a question I’m usually asked by chefs. And yet, it seems par for the course in Lolla, a one year-old modern establishment that has become one of the hottest tables in the town, but which refuses to forget its convivial, clandestine origins. I’ve had two vegetarian meals at this sparkling supper-club-turned-restaurant (with my herbivore girlfriend K); the experience was eclectic, serendipitous, and sensational.
It wasn’t until two years ago that La Mother dearest found it necessary to learn how to cook – which was rather odd I suppose, given what a fantastic cook my maternal grandmother is, and how my mum was raised in a very typical Kampung environment in Muar, i.e. great Peranakan and Malaysian food. Prior to her learning how to cook however, she did learn how to bake an exceptionally good molten chocolate babycake (aka chocolate fondant) – in part to save us from the teasing at school that our mum couldn’t cook; classmates can be a most unforgiving lot. “Hey, my mum bakes a great chocolate fondant ok? Bet you don’t even know what that is, so b****r off.” Pardon me.
I got pretty sick the past couple of weeks. I had a bad bout of flu and cough, and I lost my taste buds. I was so buried under my blanket that our editor, Charmaine was rather shocked that she had not heard from me for a while.
Five years ago, I cradled a cherubic baby boy in my arms, barely 3kg. He is a little man now, who first and foremost, loves to read and has committed at least three dinosaur encyclopedias’ worth of information to memory, whose favourite food is cold soba noodles, and who absolutely adores this cake.
I will admit that I am not much of a cook when it comes to the savoury, but if it is one thing I can do without demolishing the kitchen, it’s baking. I’m not entirely sure where my love for baking stems from, but my family and friends don’t seem to care much for the reason as long as I continue providing them with their favourite desserts. One such dessert would be my Chocolate Raspberry Tart.
The last lasagne that I had was at a potluck party, where a friend SL made the most delicious eggplant, mushrooms, beef, pork and tomato number. It was oozy and comforting and I had no trouble clearing out a hefty portion. The lasagne went down easy. The only problem was that it kinda sat in my stomach like a stone for a rather long while after that. Although I know that the blame falls largely on me for lacking self-control, it got me thinking as to whether I could create a lighter lasagne, that was just as hearty and satisfying.
When I was nine years old, my Aunty J migrated to Vancouver, Canada. Every couple of years, she would make a trip back to Singapore to visit my grandma. Each trip, she would lug goodies from Canada for all of us. I remembered seeing Aunty J unpack her luggage, anxiously anticipating the treats that I was going to receive. We got boxes of peaches and cherries, salmon jerky and my favourite – Wagon Wheels.
Even I’ll admit, there are days when I’ve simply had too much cheesecake, and a few too many croissants and deep-fried chicken wings. I’m often left feeling bloated, clogged up and frankly, quite disgusted with myself. To remedy this, I switch to temple-mode and focus on clean, fresh, light foods. Although I always aim to drag this phase on for as long as I can, it realistically only lasts a couple of days. I cram in as much goodness in this time as I can muster, and this minestrone features frequently as a temple-mode lunch.