Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Magic of Beans

Not many know that I like beans. Call me a closet bean junkie but to me beans are one of those foods that I enjoy in delicious, wholesome silence. So it was with great interest that I RSVP-ed for "Magic Beans"- a lunch featuring the various canned beans from S&W.

While Jack had his beanstalk, I took the stairs to beany heaven.

Held inside cooking school, Palate Sensations, "Magic Beans" featured beans in every one of the dishes! Here's the chef busy over the food. One woman's work is many people's lunch. I'm thankful.

As a welcome drink and prelude to lunch, the Fresh Pineapple Drink was perfect. Made with S&W Sweet 16 Pineapples, canned pineapples, mint and ice, this was refreshingly sweet. I like the subtle minty touch.

Ok, no beans in this drink. But I'm not complaining because the next nine courses all have beans! :D

Starting with the Western selection:

S&W Three-Bean Salad was a protein-packed salad of crunchy cucumbers and beans. This was served slightly chilled here, but I think a warm bean salad would work too.

S&W Beans & Potato Mash was a good idea. Everyone (especially kids) likes mashed potato and the addition of beans into the mash introduces fibre, proteins and vitamins. This is an excellent way of sneaking some nutrients into the kids' diet. For those who want a creamier feel, I would recommend topping this with a good butter or yogurt.

Now comes pasta. I love pasta but oddly, I haven't thought of adding beans to it. The Aglio Olio with S&W Chili & Butter Beans was just the thing to inspire me. It was simple but tasty. Now I have to go and try whipping up some pasta and beans at home.

From the Chinese selection:

Kung Pao Chicken with S&W Garbanzo & Black Beans, anyone? A pity the chicken didn't taste like it was marinated enough and there was a sense of something missing. I think Kung Pao Chicken has to be done over a roaring flame with quite a bit of oil to release the flavours of the dried chilli. The one presented here was probably a healthier version. But yes, beans and nuts in Kung Pao Chicken works.

Sauteed Vegetables with S&W Kidney & Garbanzo Beans was one of my favourite dishes that lunch, despite my dislike for celery. There was a sweetness from veggies and mushrooms that paired well with the starchy beans.

Definitely a twist to the popular Cereal Prawns, the Cereal Coated Fish with S&W Kidney & Garbanzo Beans was interesting. Unfortunately, the dish was too sweet for my liking. Perhaps using the beans in Cereal Prawns would be worth a shot.

And lastly, from the Indian selection:

Generally not a fan of vinegary Achar Achar, I was pleasantly surprised by the S&W Achar Achar with Beans. I guess the sweetness from the pineapple syrup nicely rounded up the tangy flavours.

The last two dishes were Chicken Curry with S&W Butter Beans and Nasi Briyani with S&W Garbanzo & Chili Beans. I love chickpea (aka Garbanzo beans) curry so beans in curry was a, no surprise, good palate-pleaser. By itself, the Briyani was a tad dry for me. It was better eaten with some curry.

So yes, beans can be incorporated into many dishes, including home-cooked ones, across cuisines. And S&W beans are convenient, without one needing to spend time and effort washing, soaking and boiling the beans. Modern day ease with the full natural goodness of beans- high fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, zero cholesterol and saturated fat-free!

S&W range of beans (varying from $2.55 to $3.05 depending on which beans) can be found at various NTUC, Cold Storage and Giant supermarkets. Not every store carries the same items but Giant does have the most extensive selection. Happy bean-hunting!

Thanks to Meiling, Mansi and Kris of Bates141, and S&W for the invitation and hosting this closet-beanie cow.

S&W "Magic Beans" @ Palate Sensations
Aden (off Portsdown Road and opposite Colbar)
1 Westbourne Road
Tel: 6479 9025

Chew On This: Just in case some of you might have been worried for me after the bean-packed lunch, I didn't gas to death! In fact, there wasn't as much flatulence as I was prepared for. Apparently, soaking the beans helps to remove some of the gas-causing compounds!

Friday, October 23, 2009

One Smashing Chicken!!

I realise that I still have lots to post on my Aussie trip! So I'll be inserting an entry or two about more local happenings between the Aussie ones...just so to have some balance. Haha.

It's an unusual place to blog about, much less recommend on radio, but it was where I recently had lunch with two good friends. And the Ayam Penyet (literally "chicken smashed") was fantastic!

The place? Singapore General Hospital.

Rahiman Chicken Rice serves up a mean Ayam Penyet ($5). The whole chicken thigh was lightly-battered and deep-fried till golden. Enjoying a freshly-fried one meant that the chicken meat was tender, fragrant and more importantly, hot! The crispy skin was a delight to munch on, with flavours of tumeric and salt.

The rice was flavoured with, what I guess to be, chicken stock, garlic and a bit of ginger.

What was more impressive was the potent sambal- spicy (make that very spicy!), tangy and so very shiok! A shame the Begerdil (potato cutlet) was dry-ish but at least the sambal perked it up.

Eyeing the Beef Ball Noodles ($4), I went for it after the Ayam Penyet. The soup was similar to that of Ayam Soto and the beef balls were a little too soft for me. The taste got a tad boring after a while. Edible but nothing memorable.

I'll rather have another order of the smashing chicken PLEASE. This is a rare moment for me but I have to admit. Chicken 1; Cow 0.

Hospital food's not bad at all! :p

Rahiman Chicken Rice
Stall 5
Kopitiam Food Court
Singapore General Hospital

Chew On This: Kopitiam blue card-holders enjoy a 10% discount here while SGH staff's purple card gets 20%! Time to make more friends with SGH staff. Lol!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Balance Grocery: Tomorrow's Breakfast and Lunch

The osso bucco was browned on both sides then stewed in red wine with carrots, onions and later on, potatoes. It was gently bubbling on low heat for quite a while but sleepy me cranked up the heat hoping to cut short the time. Alas. I didn't keep a careful eye and the base on the stew got burnt! This left a bitterness to the stew. A real pity. :(

But life is about tasting the bitterness, eating up and gaining strength to start the new day, no?

Mum pan-fried some potatoes and made an omelette which was sandwiched between sliced bread. This later became lunch. And it was a good thing as it was quick, delicious and cheap! Saving us precious time to hop on to the next winery.

Forte Leeuwin Apartments
46 Wallcliffe Road
Margaret River
Tel: +61 08 9757 9332

Chew On This: The Forte Leeuwin Apartments, located right in Margaret River town, are very new, spacious and beautiful. Everything from washing machine, dryer, iron, clothes rack, dishwasher, detergent, toaster, pots, pans, plates and cutlery are all provided. Hey, there's even a tennis court with equipment for use!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dinner @ Forte Leeuwin Apartments

With the arrival of evening and the winding down of shops and wineries (too early!!), we checked out a supermarket in Margaret River town to replenish stocks of bottled water.

But what caught our eyes were the fresh-looking cuts of beef and chicken and fish and vegetables and huge potatoes!! Prices for the beef and chicken were rediculous by Singapore's standards. 12 chilled drumsticks for AUS$7! 2 chunks of osso bucco for AUS$5! This sparked off a 'cheap! cheap!' frenzy as we showed the true Singapore essense.

Anyway, we bought our groceries to cook dinner as well as the following day's breakfast and lunch, and headed back to the Forte Leeuwin apartment.

Not wasting any time, potatoes were scrubbed, pasta was cooked, salad was tossed and beef was seasoned!

Taking a leaf from Keith Floyd, I took a quick slurp between all the dicing and frying. Never did I expect that two days from this dinner, Keith passed away. Although I haven't been a fan of his seemingly haphazard style of cooking, his shows have amused me through some lazy afternoons and late nights. Goodbye, Keith.

Dinner was a simple pear-and-rocket-salad, pasta marinara and steak. A Peter Lehman Grenache-Shiraz 2007 (AUS$9.90) was the night's wine.

Forte Leeuwin Apartments
46 Wallcliffe Road
Margaret River
Tel: +61 08 9757 9332

Chew On This: Expensive items (when compared to those here in Singapore) at the supermarket include chicken breast, garlic and ginger. But still it's generally so much cheaper to cook here than to eat out! I got good advice from makankakis Alfred and Devi to cook, eat and drink in! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Olio Bello

Ok, back to Margaret River!

Wineries weren't the only stop-overs we made in Margaret River....there's also Olio Bello.

Olio Bello sounds like a reference to 'oily belly'. But hey! If it's good quality monounsaturated fats with antioxidants (not to mention loads of flavour), the body will in fact benefit.

Olio Bello has a counter top with small bowls of their many different types of olive oils as well as nuts and spices. Small cubes of bread are provided to dip into them for a taste. With 14 varieties of olives on their farm, Olio Bello churns out a range of olive oils that range from fruity, light and mild to more intense, nutty ones. There are also some flavoured with chilli, citrus, rosemary and other herbs.

The Dukkah was also very nice and exotic-tasting. Essentially a Middle Eastern item, it boasts nuts, seeds and spices like cumin that are grounded into a mix for dipping breads or sprinkling over salads and marinates.

Since we don't have olive bush shrub trees in Singapore, I took a photo of one as a souvenir! It was also my first time seeing one. :D

Olio Bello
36 Armstrong Road
Cowaramup, Western Australia
Opens: 10am - 4.30pm

Chew On This:

This small vegetable patch outside the tasting room had huge leaves! See them juxtaposed with human thighs. Monster salad, anyone? Lol.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Of Prawns & Balls..

For today's Foodie Lunch Pick on 938LIVE, I'll like to feature the Mee Bakso and Prawn Mee from Misa Bedok Corner stall.

After last week's absolutely memorable Kacang Phool at Mamu Kitchen, I was back for more. Unfortunately, many stalls, including Mamu Kitchen, were closed when I visited. Perhaps it was an extended break from the Deepavali weekend.

Anyway, I got to try Kacang Phool from another stall but it was unremarkable. Alas. I turned to another Muslim stall and ordered Mee Bakso and Prawn Mee.

Mee Bakso ($3.50) is a dish of yellow egg noodles in a broth with beef balls. I think it's an Indonesian dish but with the inter-relatedness and close proximity of south-east Asian countries, let's not go to the stage of nationalising dishes.

The broth here is kept light but I would prefer a more robust one. I like the crunch of the green vegetables and bean sprouts. It breaks the monotony of egg noodles. The beef balls were very tasty with a soft chewy bite and with a flavour of beef and white pepper.

The Prawn Mee ($3.50) had a soup that was rather different from the usual. Instead of pork bones, I think beef was used. In fact this soup was a tad similar to the Mee Bakso's broth. Except that it had the added flavour of prawn shells. But what really impressed me here were the four de-veined prawns- sizable, very sweet and with a great texture!

Maybe the next time I'll order a bowl of soup with just prawns and beef balls.

Misa Bedok Corner
Stall #11
Bedok Corner Food Centre
1 Bedok Road

Chew On This: For other halal delights, this stall also serves up Mui Fan and even Chicken Feet noodles!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Evans & Tate

If there is one disappointment for me, it would have been the visit to Evans & Tate. The issue was that most of the wines that they feature at their cellar door were made from other regions, not Margaret River. While I am no Margaret River snob, I was looking forward to sample and to try to understand the wines from the Margaret River region.

A quick sample of one sparkling, 2 whites and a red later, I got a little bored and decided to move on.

The interesting thing for me here was spotting an unusual (to me at least) closure for the sparkling wine. It wasn't natural cork, synthetic cork or screw cap. Instead, it was a plastic cap with rubber lining. The sparkling wine itself packed plenty of passionfruit aromas but the bubbles were very harsh. A quick check confirmed my guess that it was indeed carbonated.

Evans & Tate

Corner of Caves Road & Metricup Road
Wilyabrup, Western Australia
Opens: 10.30am to 5pm

Chew On This:
Evans & Tate sell 1/2 wine barrels at $AUS40 each. A unique flowerpot anyone?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gralyn Estate

Our first post-lunch stop was at Gralyn Estate- a family-owned wine estate that produces just 3000 cases per year and whose wines are exclusively available at their cellar door.

The feel of the cellar door was very different from Sandalford and Cullen Wines. Gralyn Estate oozes a very modern, simplistic style....with large sliding glass doors that gave full view of...

their vines! I could wake up to a scene like that every morning. Ah yes, BIG dreams...


Gralyn Estate doesn't seem to do much whites and focuses more on the reds. For those who are new to wines or prefer sweeter styles, the Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon would certainly please. Think sweet, ripe berries (Ribena!) with a faint minty scent. My sis was sold on this!

What impressed me more was their Cabernet Sauvignon 2005- dark, intense and powerful with aromas of black fruits, wood and chocolate. The tanins were fine, making this firm yet very smooth. I'm keeping this one for many years to come! Will be excited to see how it evolves. :D

Gralyn Estate also offers quite a few ports. Pink port, white port, vintage port, ruby anniversary port, tawny port etc. These were pretty good as well. Because of their higher alcohol content, drivers should go very easy on these or taste and spit them out.

Wine shopping is fun!! She's happy! I'm happy! Parents were taking a quick afternoon nap in the they're well-rested and happy too! Lol.

Gralyn Estate
4145 Caves Road
Willyabrup Western Australia 6280
Opens: 10.30am to 4.30pm

Chew On This:
Wondering what are those white collars around the vine stock? They are acutally cotton rings which protect the vines from garden weevil attack. A simple and cost-effective measure instead of spraying chemicals!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Pool of Delish!

Sorry, no wine in here but I had one of the most unforgettable lunches in a while last Sunday. And there was no meat involved. Surprise. Surprise.

Kacang Phool ($3.50) from this stall over at Bedok Corner Food Centre was delish! Essentially a stew of ground fava beans (aka broad beans) and spices, it was simple and so easy to enjoy. The mix pot of flavours were nutty, earthy, spicy and savoury. Chopped raw onions, green chilis and tomatoes were sprinkled over and imparted texture and a freshness that helped cut through the rich stew. A small lime was also provided for that zippy shot of acidity and citrus fragrance. :)

The Kacang Phool was served with a well-toasted baguette, that spotted a crusty crust with soft innards, for dipping. The smell and taste of the baguette brought to mind old-school bakeries. Yums indeed.

The other component of the Kacang Phool was the sunny-side-up. Unfortunately, it was a little too cooked for my liking and had only a small portion of the yolk that was still runny. Imagine a runnier yolk that one could break and mix into the Kacang Phool....

I'll be back for that. No hooves about it.

Mamu Kitchen
Stall #25
Bedok Corner Food Centre
1 Bedok Road

Chew On This: Beans are a great source of fibre, protein and vitamins! Psst. For all you fellow beanies out there, head on down to Chevron House this Friday 12noon to 2pm for S&W's Mad About Beans event where you'll be able to check out their range of beans as well as enjoy a free beanie lunch! While stocks last.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lunch @ Cullen Wines

After Sandalford, lunch was at the relatively near-by Cullen Wine estate.

Hungry tummies prevailed so wine tasting was kept to a short slurp before heading to the lunch table.

The Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 was lean and crisp. Perhaps best with food. The Mangan 2007, a Petit Verdot-Malbec-Merlot blend, was an interesting red. Cullen's flagship red, Diana Madeline 2007, had a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (majority), Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Through the tasting of about 4-5 wines, I generally found Cullen Wines to be very clean-tasting. Almost clinical.

On to lunch... which was a few dishes shared between the four of us.

The Soup of the Day was Green Pea with Watercress (~AUS$12)- Very vegetal and green. Hehe.

Another daily special, Fresh Grilled Sardines (~AUS$20), was a table-pleaser! Totally unlike their canned cousins, these sardines had a tasty and oily flesh with a hint of smoke from the grill. Nice!

And yet another daily special, Venison (~$AUS30), was available on that day. Apparently this venison was from from a deer "just down the road". Cullen Wines make an effort to source for veggies, oils, meats, fish and other food produce either from their own farm or other local farms around the area. So dining here showcases the produce of the Margaret River area!

Crispy Skin Duck Breast with Grilled Polenta, Bramble Berries and Swiss Chard ($AUS36) was pretty good with gamey duck slices that were chewy. Their flavour matched the sweet-tangy berries well. I would have liked the skin to be crispier though.

For those who want variety, the Cullen Vineyard Lunch (for one) ($AUS28) is just that. Bits of marinated local octopus, organic black pig salami, zucchini pickle, creek cheese, vegetable fritatta, organic seasonal fruit and Yullingup woodfired sourdough on a plate. This is a great choice for a light lunch or to be shared as a starter/side.

It was a beautiful day and since places close around 5pm here, we should get moving!

Cullen Wines
Caves Road
Wilyabrup, Western Australia 6284
Opens: 10am to 4pm

Chew On This: Cullen Wines is a firm believer of the biodynamic philosophy. It respects the environment and even uses the practice of burying a cow's horn, filled with dung, in the soil! This is apparently to introduce microorganisms to aid in the uptake of nutrients from the soil.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Vineyard Virgin No More

Being a wine enthusiast, this cow is extremely excited to visit my first winery and in such a beautiful place like Margaret River! The next few posts will be a little more wine-centric. The Thirsty Cow explores!

This may look like a cottage in the countryside but it is actually the cellar door of one of the wine pioneers in this region- Sandalford. I like how homely and cosy the place feels.

Step into the small cottage and take time to taste the wines and have a chat with the friendly counter lady. Check out the 3D picture hanging on the wall!

Personally, I like Sandalford's Estate Reserve Chardonnay and Estate Reserve Shiraz. The Chardonnay was concentrated with minerals, citrus and a touch of toast. The Shiraz was beautifully elegant and a bit sweet with dark fruits, chocolate and spices. I guess a cool climate shiraz like this is indeed seductive. I'm cellaring a few bottles of both to see how they develop in a few years.

Hooves crossed for now. Yay! I just lost my vineyard virginity. Hehehe. Now I want more.

Sandalford Wines
777 Metricup Road (Margaret River Cellar Door)
Wilyabrup, Western Australia 6280
Tel: +61 8 9755 6213
Opens: 10am to 5pm

Chew On This: Sandalford is one of Western Australia's oldest and largest privately-owned wineries!