My First F1

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It was the first time for both of us at an F1 race. Miraculously, DC knew someone who knew someone who had tickets to give away. We got Pit Grandstand tickets for the Saturday race. Being a complete F1 newbie, DC had to brief me on exactly what happens at one of these dos. I found out that the cars don’t all start at the same time and definitely not in a straight line with a gun going off to signal the start of the race. Saturday night was to be for pole position for the final on Sunday: they all raced individually and whoever had the best timing would start in front for Sunday’s final. It was quite different from my mental image of a car race. (I’d obviously not paid a whole great deal of attention while playing Daytona at the arcade.)

When we got our seats, I realised that we could only see the last turn and not the finish line! There wasn’t much to see except cars whizzing by at random intervals. I couldn’t even get two cars into the same frame, nothing was happening.

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So I tried a zoom shot on sports mode. At least I got a nice blurred picture of a Ferrari streaking by.

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Soon I gave up, and popping the ear plugs out of my ears, I demanded nourishment. DC rose to the occasion by getting me horribly overpriced $12 Hokkien mee with scallop (the scallop was fake, some kind of small faux abalone that was nothing even close to scallop). At least it tasted pretty decent.

The heat became unbearable and we ducked into the Red Dot tent for beers and a 7 inch Italian sausage hot dog. In a rare instance, DC chose the wrong beer. He got the Weizen, a wheat beer that was light and, well, simply too light that it hardly had any flavour at all. My summer ale was much better. It was grassy with an aroma of floral honey, and bitter hoppy finish. Very refreshing especially when cold, probably the best part of the evening.

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So the F1 was a disappointment, but at least it was free. Oh well. And there was good beer to be had.

Quick Meals: Black Bean Noodles

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I wanted to make something vegetarian and something quick. A pack of fermented black beans (tau si) had been sitting in my fridge for far too long, so I put two and two together and made these very satisfying noodles. The beans have such depth of flavour that it’s easy to forget that there’s no meat in it. For the noodles, use any dried wheat noodle. The packets are normally labelled la mian or some sort. I like to buy the bai yu (white jade) ones.

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Ingredients:

1 bundle dried wheat noodles
2 tsp oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tsp black beans, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil

Method:

  1. Boil the noodles in plenty of water till al dente.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan on medium and add the garlic and black beans. Fry till brown.
  3. Stir in the noodles and season to taste. Add soy sauce if you like.
  4. Top with sesame oil and serve with blanched vegetables on the side.

Serves 1.

A Leisurely Breakfast with Easy Long-Rise Bread

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This is what I try to make my typical breakfast: lots of fruit with some dairy and complex carbohydrates. I think it’s a tad heavy on the sugar, but at least the jam is homemade and the Yakult gives me some sort of lactobacteria. I slice bread only when I need it and end up lazily using the chopping board as my serving platter too.

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The bread I make is very dense and quite moist, like the German fitnessbrot I grew up eating, so it doesn’t go stale easily. It’s based on a Cooks Illustrated almost no-knead bread recipe. I’ve modified it slightly to suit my own needs. My bread is dense because my tins are non-stick, meaning that the dough doesn’t get enough grip to rise high against its walls. If you have a regular (as opposed to non-stick) metal tin, go ahead and use that instead for a lighter bread. Don’t oil the sides, if not the high temperature of the oven will turn it into a gloopy mess that takes an eternity of scrubbing to remove. And use only metal tins because you need the metal to conduct heat to get the dough hot immediately. Fear not, the rest of the process is dead easy.

As for the flour, feel free to use all plain flour or all finely ground whole wheat flour, normally sold at atta flour or chappati flour at places like Phoon Huat. As long as the flour makes up three cups, try using a bit of rye or other grains for varying taste and texture. If you don’t have whey, just use water with a few spoonfuls of milk. Or try the original recipe with a quarter cup of beer in it.

Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup atta chappati flour (very finely ground whole wheat)
¼ tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1¼ cup whey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice

Method:

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a bowl and cover with a dry towel. Leave to rise for 12 to 18 hours.
  2. Punch down the dough and knead by pushing and folding over the dough 10 times.
  3. Put into a 20 cm diameter round springform tin and allow to rise for 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven 30 minutes ahead to 250°C or as hot as your oven will go.
  5. Cover the tin tightly with aluminium foil and put onto lower oven shelve. Turn down the oven to 200°C.
  6. After 3o minutes, uncover and bake for a further 30 minutes.
  7. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes. Cut and serve immediately to enjoy the crisp crust.

Makes 1 loaf.

Burps at the Beer Fest

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I was late to attend Beerfest Asia 2009 mainly because I was out diving for most of the time. (Will update on that in a while.) Finally made it on the last day, on a Sunday afternoon when all the fun was pretty much over. No matter, we made up for the lack of good music (and Vertical Horizon) by downing more beers.

We limbered up on the Turkish Efes which was surprisingly light for a 5% and tasted of… nothing at all really. This was swiftly chased down by our very own local Archipelago Travellers Wheat that had a very unique taste. I couldn’t place it until I looked it up on the website. It was tamarind and ginger together, so it was spicy and warming yet with a very pleasant tang.

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I’d originally planned to stop at a couple of beers, but I’d already paid $27 for entry only to pay more money to get my hands on some beer. So I wasn’t a particularly happy camper and proceeded to instigate my drinking companion to buy more beers.

The American Doggie Style Pale Ale (5.5%) was more packaging than good beer. We were not impressed. Another friend joined us with a Dog Schwarz (7.8%) and was similarly underwhelmed. No matter, onwards to better things! DC liked the Chimay Tripel (8%) from Belgium, proclaiming that it was complex, dark and… like a stew. I thought it was bitter and moved swiftly on to my favourite of the session. The Silly Saison (5%) was also from Belgium and was redolent of thick , buttery and almost salty caramel. It was smooth and amazingly good.

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Then came a silly in-joke as we drank to a friend called Calvin. Unfortunately the Calvinus Blonde (5%) from Switzerland lived up more to the second part of its name. Despite the pretty label, it was another one of those bland forgettables in the ocean of beer. John Calvin must’ve been rolling in his grave, more because it was such a bad beer, methinks.

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Next up came a short and rather ill-fated interlude with some cider. Magner’s Irish Cider (4.5%) from (you guessed it!) Ireland was, according to DC, metallic and tasted like rotten 500-year old cheese. I thought it was OK, but not worth the carbs and burps, so we moved swiftly on.

I don’t remember trying the Pompey Royal (4.5%) from the UK but DC said that it was malty and full-bodied with lots of hops. It was well-balanced and smooth, worth the $10 price tag. I remember scribbling some notes, but ended up losing them, so fat lot of good that did me and this blog post.

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And last of all, we dreg up the Swiss Schwarzer Kristall (6.3%) from the depths of my memory and all I remember is that it was a terrible letdown that tasted like the insipid Flying Dog stuff from the US.

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The conclusion really was that there are good beers and there are expensive beers and the two are not necessary the same. Oh and there are bad beers too. And beer makes me tipsy. And gives me a headache. So no more beer for a while.

Two Odd Vodkas

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Vodka is traditionally made from grains like wheat and rye. Trust the French to make it with grapes.  The five times distilled Cîroc I had was another novelty item at what was really meant to be a whisky night. I know it’s unfair to the vodka to say that it was bland in comparison, but that’s what vodka is like. Here, the usual clean and rather smooth spirit had a whiff of floral aromas, the usual smell of grape ferment. I wish I could describe it further but I wasn’t paying attention and was too distracted by the excellent single malts on offer that evening.

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Just to prove that I’m not such a vodka fan, this 50 cl bottle from Mongolia has been sitting around my kitchen for the past eight years. Despite doing the usual vodka shots and vodka watermelon at parties, it just hasn’t shifted. I think it means more that I need to have more parties.

Chinggis Khan is a wheat-based vodka. (In case you were wondering, Chinggis Khan is the way Genghis Khan really should be pronounced, it’d somehow got lost in translation/phoneticization.)  It’s pretty much top quality, exceptionally clean and smooth. Not much in terms of nose, unless you count the sting of alcohol. It was very warming and immediately set to work by tickling the back of my palate. Nice and tingly.

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[edited: 15 April 2009, 3.50 pm]