October 1st, 2009

Achilles Tendonitis

I managed to hurt my ankle pretty bad…
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It actually first started to hurt about 2 months ago.
At the time I decided enough’s enough, I didn’t like the Chubsy-Ubsy in the mirror, so I went on a diet. – I jogged everyday & ate low calorie & healthy foods. I would read every food label for calorific content, & do a bit of maths to make sure I am within the daily set limit. (by the way, did you know that baby biscuits make a really tasty low calorie snack?)
And every time I jogged, I could push myself a little further than the previous day & I loved that feeling of accomplishment. But being an obsessive character that I am, when I decide on something, I have a tendency of doing it excessively.
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Two weeks of that went by. But one morning, when I woke up, my left foot hurt. I thought that I sprained it perhaps, so I put jogging on hold (& subsequently the low-cal healthy eating too…!) but never saw a doctor about it. Besides, I am so busy with the children & then the stall work, I didn’t give it much thought despite it hurting.
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I know I know, now I feel pretty silly about leaving it unattended like that. Because last Sunday morning, as I got out of my warm bed & ran to the toilets, I pulled on the sore muscle big-time. Like, BIG-time that I couldn’t walk… This finally made me go to the doctors though. I was told it’s Achilles Tendonitis, a sports injury. – I never thought I’d be suffering a SPORTS injury of all things!
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So guys, no Market this week, I’ve gotta rest my feet. But hopefully next week okay?
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I seem to be having a string of bad luck this year.
– Two weeks ago my iPhone got nicked in the bus which made me very upset. Like, why steal? Did they look through the family pictures on it? Don’t they have any guilty conscience? It was an invasion of my privacy & I felt uncomfortable & insecure for a while. It was also new, after having the last mobile for 8 years.
– Just before the Summer my laptop got broken by my son spilling a mug full of tea… I had that laptop for 5 years & I was proud of it.
– Our Dvd player got broken by our little one.
– Earlier this year I was pretty ill too.
– And now this.
Maybe I read too much in to this, but in terms of yin and yang, this year feels rather yin. I can only hope next year is yang.
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September 15th, 2009

Children’s story book with cookie recipe

Coco&Me - Childrens story book with recipe attatched - Nontan - www.cocoandme.com

(Children’s story book: “ノンタンのたんじょうび”

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I love this book. 

In this 1980 Japanese children’s book titled ‘Nontan’s Birthday’, a white cat called Nontan receives a surprise birthday party organized by his friends.

Coco&Me - Childrens story book with recipe attatched - Nontan - www.cocoandme.com

“I wonder what they are doing?”

Sensing something is up, Nontan tries to get a sneak peek at what his friends are up to but fails to see anything as they shut the curtain!

Coco&Me - Childrens story book with recipe attatched - Nontan - www.cocoandme.com

At the end, he is invited in to the house to find the table full of cookies shaped like him!

“Woow! Amazing! Me as cookies! Thank you!” 

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((Lucky cat. I wish somebody did a surprise for me like that too!))

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The inside front & back pages has a really good cookie recipe that I want to share with you. It is ultra simple to make & its taste takes you back to sweet memory of childhood.

Coco&Me - Childrens story book with recipe attatched - Nontan - www.cocoandme.com

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Nontan Cookie Recipe (with my extra notes): 

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Ingredients:

> 80g of room temperature unsalted butter   
> 80g of castor sugar   
> 1 egg   
> 200g of flour   
> 5g of baking powder
> extra flour for dusting the surface

> raisins/ nuts/ etc for decoration optional

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Method:

  • 1. Cream the room temperature butter in the mixing bowl (cream it to the extent of it being as soft like mayonnaise).
  • 2. Add the sugar & thoroughly mix until very airy & very creamy.
  • 3. Mix in an egg.
  • 4. Sift in the flour & baking powder to the mixture & fold it in. (Here, don’t be tempted to over-mix. Stop soon as you can’t see the flour. The flour will form gluten & the cookies will not rise as much & turn out tough!)  
  • 5. Wrap the cookie dough in cling-film & refrigerate for more than 30 minutes. (It loosens the gluten & the butter within will get solid again. If you don’t rest it the texture & the flavour will be sacrificed. Also, top tip for wrapping it in cling-film is to flatten it so that it cools quicker.)
  • 6. Flour your work surface. Take ⅓ of the dough at a time & roll to 5mm thickness. (You wouldn’t want to roll it out all in one go because it’ll take up space & the dough won’t keep cold.)
  • 7. Now have fun & make Nontan shapes. The book has the following suggestions;
    … Cut 5cm squares & use a toothpick to dot a face pattern on it.
    … Shape the dough like a face & use nuts/ raisins as the eyes & the mouth.
    … Cut a cardboard contour of the face & using a knife, cut around it on the dough.
    … Take some of the dough & add cocoa powder. Shape a big Nontan face & then use the cocoa dough for facial features.
  • 8. Place on a baking sheet & bake in a pre-heated oven of 180 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. (Half way through, you might want to change the direction of your tray in the oven so that it is evenly baked.)
  • 9. Once baked, take the baking sheet off the tray & cool on a rack.

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Coco&Me - Childrens story book with recipe attatched - child baking biscuits/ cookies - www.cocoandme.com

My son loves to make Nontan cookies. And I love that he enjoys baking, even if he’s handling the dough ’til it’s melting, or patting it so hard that it is too thin… not forgetting to mention the flour-y mess EVERYWHERE…

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Normally my cookie baking rules are: 

  • to measure the ingredients precisely to the gram.
  • to handle it less as possible. For example, never roll the same dough out more than twice because the extra flour from the work surface would muck up the delicate ratio of flour. it will also deteriorate the dough.
  • to work quickly as possible, so that the butter in the dough doesn’t melt & deteriorate texture & flavour.

But for home-baking with my son, I’ll throw all those rules out of the window any day…!

Coco&Me - Childrens story book with recipe attatched - child baking biscuits/ cookies - www.cocoandme.com

(Glass of milk, a must.) 

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It was an eye-opener of an idea that he stuck the sprinkles in the holes to create rainbow-coloured facial features. He also gently pressed half of the fluted cutter to emboss a smile!(bottom left)

August 27th, 2009

A backstage visit to Browns Hotel Tea Room

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In many occasions I feel blessed that I run a Market stall. It is because, not only is it a special time when I get to do a “me-thing” away from the house chores, it is also a time when I get to meet all sorts of people. Come Saturdays, I get to meet fellow stall-holders to whom I love chatting to, meet dear friends that come visit me, & then there are customers who drop by my stall who I love engaging in a bit of chat with.
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One such lovable customer I love talking to is E who is a regular face at my stall. After several visits & chats, we found out more about each other. She is a doctor, & bless her she would ask about how my children are doing every time, & if I tell her that ‘oh, baby S has a cold’ or something, she would always give me proper advice.
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Two weeks ago, on another of those across-the-table chats, she mentioned that her friend is the Chef Patissier of Browns Hotel. Browns Hotel?! Isn’t that where the reaaally famous Tea Room is?! When I expressed “Ooooh!” sounds amongst other words of excitement, E promised to get me in contact with the Chef.

Cut the fore-story short, Chef Patissier F kindly allowed me to visit him at the hotel. So last Monday off I went to Mayfair London, donning on nice pair of heeled shoes so that I don’t look out of place in the posh hotel.
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Coco&Me - Browns Hotel Tea Room - www.cocoandme.com

(Browns Hotel is London’s first ever hotel) 
Coco&Me - Browns Hotel Tea Room - www.cocoandme.com

(A blurry picture of the tea room that I took extra quick because I didn’t want to disturb any of their customers! It was 1pm, 2 hours before the tea service so it wasn’t crowded yet. On the left there’s a baby grand piano.)
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As I briefly wait in the reception for F, I see how grand the place is aswell as their clientele affluent & feel glad that I wore nice shoes. As I thumb through their leaflet I read that Queen Victoria & Winston Churchill often took tea here, Rudyard Kipling wrote ‘The Jungle Book’, & Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful UK telephone call from the hotel.

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Coco&Me - Browns Hotel Tea Room - www.cocoandme.com

(F is on the right)

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F turned out to be very friendly, & very generous. And we clicked right away. As we talked ingredients, merits of Italian meringue over French meringue for macarons, shelf-life of handmade truffles, he would hand out things for me to taste. Truffles made with single origin Varlhona & Amedei was truly divine. I couldn’t remember when I last ate a Criollo. I learnt that truffles shouldn’t be stored in a fridge as it’ll change the texture of the ganache.

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As he explains the ratio of fruit to sugar for jams (100 fruit: 80 sugar), I got given a table-spoon of homemade strawberry jam that was delightlful. Then on to tasting a chocolate macaron which had whipped ganache middle & I listen intently as possible to his recipe whilst I gorge on it. Hmm. I love chocolate macarons…
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This year Browns Hotel English Tea Room won The Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award & I can easily see why. F’s pastries are all made expertly, with the best ingredients & it tastes amazing. The tea room decor has original wood paneling, cosy fire places & it oozes sophistication & history. The location of the hotel is a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus & it’s perfect for stopping by after shopping. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever get to stay there since it costs something like half-a-grand per night, but on hearing that F had already made the Christmas fruit cakes earlier this Spring & has been topping it up with brandy regularly ever since, well, my curiosity will likely take me back to the hotel this Christmas just for that…!

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It was super nice of F to meet me just before he gets very busy with the tea service. What also made me happy about all of this is how my stall customer have cared for me enough to think better for me & connect me to him. I feel blessed. And what’s more, now I have F to telephone when I have pastry questions!
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Coco&Me - Browns Hotel Tea Room - www.cocoandme.com

(Mass amount of plain & fruit scones)
Coco&Me - Browns Hotel Tea Room - www.cocoandme.com

(More pastries that I tried in the kitchen)
Coco&Me - Browns Hotel Tea Room - www.cocoandme.com

(Here’s even more that I took home! And yes, I skipped dinner that night.)

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August 6th, 2009

The cakes that didn’t make it

www.cocoandme.com - rose tart & cherry clafoutis - Coco&Me

(Wine poached pear, sliced then arranged like a rose, above a layer of chocolate ganache – Adapted from a recipe from the book ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of Chocolate’ – Picture taken back in Summer 2006)

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x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x
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Whilst doing the market for 3 years, there’s been variety of cakes & chocolates that have appeared upon my stall table. Most stay popular & remain in the line-up – like my Flourless Chocolate Cake that I have been baking since I started the stall. It’s a pure fixture, that one. I roughly make 4 to 8 of these 8-inch’ers each week, which must mean that I must have made about 800 of them by now?! (crazy number, crazy notion)
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But sadly, some get withdrawn (‘getcha crumbs & get out of ‘ere!’). Mainly because they didn’t sell well enough & I preferred to transfer the time making them to making the more popular ones instead.
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Indeed, there are also other reasons for pulling those products. For instance, cherry clafoutis (de-stoning mass amounts of cherries was cumbersome & it stained my fingers), opera (too time consuming to make all the layers & the costs became too expensive that I had to charge more), & the ‘wine poached pear rose & chocolate ganache tart’ – which got the people oohing as they see it, but only occasionally netted me the crucial sale…! They would say: ‘The tart looks too good to eat’ (they really do say this for real, not kidding!) & opt for safer options like ‘pear & almond tart’ instead. I still love this rose tart to bits though. The pear fruit goes really well with rich chocolate cream. I guess if I know that it can be sold in bucket loads, I would’ve stuck to it.
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www.cocoandme.com - cherry clafoutis, wine poached pear & chocolate tart & pear tart - Coco&Me(Picture of cherry clafoutis, the wine poached pear & chocolate tart & pear tart – picture taken back in Summer 2006)
www.cocoandme.com - cherry clafoutis - Coco&Me(Cherry clafoutis, 8 inch’er – Picture taken back in Summer 2006)
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The tell-tell sign for me to be convinced that they remain in my line-up is obviously its sales numbers, but, also importantly, it is when & if there are specific customers that come back for more of that same product, week after week with great reviews. The ‘Summer Fruit sponge’ (sponge colourfully studded with lots of raspberries, blueberries & blackberries) & the ‘Caramelized Banana Cake’ (whole pieces of bananas were caramelized before incorporated in to the batter) that I had sold for over a year was not the case, it was delicious, & it sold well, but never had the crowd wowing, & eventually I also lost the love for it.
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Whereas this ‘Baked Cheese Cake’ I raved about sometime ago in an earlier post is. Totally is. I really have to let you know the recipe asap & spread this deliciousness! So stay tuned!!

July 28th, 2009

London travel tips

Coco&Me - La Fromagerie (2-6 Moxon Street) - www.cocoandme.com

(La Fromagerie on Moxon Street. – I sneaked this shot with my new iPhone camera!)

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Back in the beginning of June, I wrote a quick article on Jauntsetter about where to go & what to do in London. Jauntsetter is a weekly e-newsletter for New York women, packed with great travel tips & recommendations. Check their website out & see if your city has been featured!
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Here’s the article:
x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x .
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Tamami’s Perfect London Weekend:

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Saturdays:
Well obviously, my first recommendation will have to be Broadway Market where I have my chocolates & cakes stall! It’s a once-a-week Farmer’s market in the heart of east-end London. It currently has about 80 stalls, a third of which are non-food stuff like cool vintage wear, independent designers’ hats, dresses, handbags, etc. Walk alongside the canal to get there or get a direct bus from Angel. You can buy goodies to take to the park opposite and mingle with the arty locals & young trend-setters. Soak in the bohemian atmosphere. Later, head to the pubs (on the market) where people spill out to the streets, sitting on pavements in the summer.

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Sundays:
Check out the British art galleries in style. First see what’s on at the Hayward Gallery (past exhibits include Bruce Nauman and Dan Flavin), then stroll alongside the river to Tate Modern. Head to the stylish top floor restaurant for lunch and insist on the window seat to enjoy the fantastic river view with St. Paul’s Cathedral opposite.

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Another Sunday fave is to go to Columbia Road Flower Market. Get down-to-earth mug of tea from a cafe in the courtyard on Ezra Street & enjoy the day.

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If you haven’t purchased any huge plants to weigh you down, head to Brick Lane (just a 10 minute walk away) to buy the famous bagels at the Brick Lane Beigel Bakery. It’s super cheap at 20p per plain bagel. People buy in dozens so that they can freeze them at home. The Salt beef bagel (£2.60) is also a legend.
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After you’re satisfied with a bagel, turn in to Cheshire Street off Brick Lane for serious bit of shopping in the small selection of independent shops such as ‘Shelf’ & ‘Labour & Wait’.  If you go to the opposite side of Brick Lane, you’ll find yourself in the world of early Georgian architecture with narrow cobbled back streets (Fournier Street area). Think, Jack the Ripper walked these same streets back in 1880’s!

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Shopping:
Marylebone High Street is great fun. Browse Skandium designer furniture store and Divertimenti kitchen store, dream that you have hundreds of pounds to spend here and then do lunch with your girlfriend at La Fromagerie (2-6 Moxon Street, off Marylebone High Street) where you sit at tables amongst the delicatessen.

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If there’s room in your tummy, buy yourself a very decent hot chocolate from Paul and head towards Wigmore Street to check in on Margaret Howell clothing store. Then cross the road to St. Christopher’s Place to drop in on Marimekko to see if there are any good offers on their fabrics.

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The best time of the year to come to London:
…is definitely during the Open House event (this year’s dates are 19th & 20th of September 2009). There will be 700 buildings of architectural interest across the capital opening it’s doors, completely for FREE! You get to go in to places usually never available to public viewing! Dream-come-true for one nosy person like myself!

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x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x .

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And talking of being mentioned in other places, sometime back in February, this blog got mentioned in Time Out magazine! I was so proud. (Check out the article in their online archive). Many thanks to Lady C!

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