Single Malt Appreciation Club: Highlanders and a New Islay

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It was yet another overdue meeting of the newly renamed Single Malt Appreciation Club. In addition to our mainstays of Lagavulin 16 and Laphroaig Quarter Cask, we had a Highland Park12, a Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition and a Kilchoman. Tricia brought the Highland Park from a sojourn to Batam and the Kilchoman from whisky trip to Scotland. Hypodermically and Jam somehow found the Macallan sitting at home.

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It was up to Tricia, the resident whisky expert to line them up for tasting. Her usual impeccable taste was spot-on! The Highland Park first then the other Highland Macallan, followed by the Islay with the youngest Kilchoman first, then the restrained and elegant Lagavulin and last the brash, in-your-face Laphroaig.

I must admit upfront my bias against Highland malts. I’m not so keen on sweet and spicy without the peaty as I find it quite flat and not a great deal different from other liquors. What makes whisky special for me is the complexity that peat brings into the picture. With that, I dismissed the Highland Park 12 (40%) quickly by taking a quick whiff and sip of Tricia’s dram. As expected, it was nothing but sweet honey and fairly one-dimensional.

The Macallan (42.8%), as a Speysider, fared a bit better. I think I’ll enjoy drinking it on off nights where somehow an Islay would be too much work for me. The honey was rounded with spice and orange peel, quite the thing to put in a fruit cake and then enjoy with said cake. The tasting notes mentioned toffee but I didn’t get any, probably because I was still recovering from a bout of flu. Definitely one to try again.

The Kilchoman (pronounced “kil-ho-man”) Spring 2010 Release (46%) was a strange hybrid of honey and peaty smoke. There was something rough and unfinished about it,  I guess that indicates that it would benefit greatly from more ageing. Nonetheless, it was full of promise and I’m definitely looking forward to a later release. Just too bad it isn’t available in Singapore yet.

Apricot Upside Down Cake

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Last thing to top off the festive season. Here’s an apricot upside down cake from a recipe I found online. It was incredibly yummy, so I made it again for the family Christmas party, this time with nectarines. Practically any kind of vaguely soft fruit will do. I’d like to try it with pineapple or pisang rajah (local banana) next. It’s easy, it’s pretty spectacular, it’s very tasty, what’s there not to like?

I needed a pan that can go from stove to oven, so my all-metal WMF pan worked very well for this. I’d almost junked it because normal cooking just kept sticking to the pan. With the buttery caramel topping, there’s no fear at all of anything sticking here.

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Ingredients:

Caramel topping
50g butter
170g brown sugar
10 small apricots or nectarines, stoned and halved

Cake
2 tbsp yogurt
½ cup milk
200g flour
¾ tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
100g butter
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 drops almond extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Make the caramel topping by melting the butter in the pan. When the butter has melted fully, reduce to low heat and sprinkle the brown sugar over evenly. Cook undisturbed for a few minutes. The sugar will start to melt and turn a bit darker. When most has turned darker, take it off the heat. At this point, there’d still be plenty of sugar crystals still visible. Carefully place the apricot halves cut side down onto the caramel. Be very careful because it’s very hot and can spit at you if too hot. Cut the fruit into slices and slide in between if there’s too much fruit. Leave aside and make the cake batter.
  3. Stir the yogurt and milk together and set aside.
  4. Stir the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and salt together and set aside.
  5. Beat together the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one, followed by the extracts. Beat till creamy and doubled in volume.
  6. Fold in flour mixture in 3 batches alternately with yogurt/milk mixture starting and ending with the flour.
  7. Pour batter over the apricots and spread evenly.
  8. Bake till golden brown and a satay stick inserted in the middle comes out fairly clean, about 45 minutes. Cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly.
  9. When the cake is ready, wear oven mitts. Remove from oven and put a large flat plate over it, pressing plate and pan firmly together. Quickly invert cake onto plate and carefully lift off the pan. Quickly scrape off any caramel from the pan and drizzle onto cake.
  10. Best served warm, though really excellent cold too.

Makes 12 slices.

Seoul Quick Eats: Red Mango

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I know Red Mango’s already in Singapore but the first time I tried it was in its hometown of Seoul. We had it after a food court dinner at COEX mall.  One of our colleagues treated us: I had a little portion of blueberry yogurt while Shinta was persuaded to have a massive fruit topped dessert. The frozen yogurt was smooth and creamy, very good stuff. Plus the fruit toppings were generous and fresh. My blueberry dessert was pretty good too. The blueberry tasted like it came from fresh berries and not from processed blueberry sauce. Good stuff!

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Quick Eats: Hollywood Ice Jelly

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I like the ice jelly at Hollywood best. It’s got smooth, soft jelly that tastes fresh and non-synthetic (yes, ice jelly standards are currently at a low), it’s got tropical fruit cocktail with nata de coco and bits of (canned) papaya. Plus, it’s cheap and it’s consistent. Not much not to like here.

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Hollywood
#01-66 Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre

Where’s your favourite ice jelly?

Homemade Yogurt Breakfast

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I had a teeny bit of time one Saturday morning, so I made this healthy yet very satisfying breakfast. There was mango and pear in the fridge, and some greek yoghurt too. I wasn’t quite content with just fruit and yogurt, so I rummaged in the freezer for some rolled oats, toasted it and then drizzled over some Manuka honey. I think the combination of nutty toasted oats and herby honey really lifted the yogurt to a higher level. Not to mention, the mango was nice and fragrant, making it something yummy to look forward to again soon.

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There’s no real need for a recipe, but here goes if you must.

Ingredients:

1 small mango, skinned, seeded and cubed
1 pear, cored and cubed
1 cup thick greek yogurt
1 handful rolled oats
1 tbsp Manuka honey

Method:

  1. Prepare the fruit, lay in a shallow dish and spoon over the yogurt.
  2. Spread the oats in a thin layer in a toaster oven and toast for about 2 minutes or till just brown.
  3. Scatter the oats over the fruit and yogurt, then drizzle over the honey.
  4. Stir and enjoy.

Serves 1.

Seafood and an Unexpected Find at Alexandra Village

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I try to make sure I don’t get too fat by running three times a week. Unfortunately, running is almost always negated by dinner. After a good run at Labrador Park, we headed to Alexandra Village. We got there a bit too late as most of the famous stalls were closed. The good thing was that Rong Guang BBQ Seafood was not. We ordered sotong kia (deep fried baby squid in black sauce) and sambal sting ray. I managed to head off disaster by persuading DC that we really shouldn’t go for the deep fried you tiao.

DC decided that the sotong kia was one of the best he had, very similar to the memories of his childhood. I liked the crisp crunch of the squid especially while still piping hot, but I thought it was a bit too sweet for my liking. The best I’ve had in recent memory is the one at Pulau Ubin still.

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I adore sting ray and can never get enough of the moist smooth flesh. Grilled with sambal and eaten with onion-soaked chinchalok, it really is heaven in a mouthful. Here, the sambal was spicy with good kick and the fish fresh and firm.

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We had been rather, um, restrained in our ordering as DC wanted avocado ice cream. He was buying our very fresh and sweet pineapple and starfruit juice when he spied the avocado ice cream sign. Apparently Seng Hong Fruit Juice specialises in avocados. They make a mean avocado juice/milkshake too. (We had to go back another day to try it!)

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It’s the avocado ice cream that takes the cake. At first look, it’s a small tub costing $1. The pale green stuff was frozen solid and needed a while on the tongue to start yielding up some taste. I was dubious at first, but then started whining at DC for eating faster than me. The ice cream was very creamy and had a lot of avocado pieces swirled into the jade goodness. It’s definitely better and probably cheaper than the stuff you get at the local ice creameries. A definite win!

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Rong Guang Seafood BBQ and Seng Hong Fruit Juice are pretty much side by side, at the far corner of Alexandra Village hawker centre.