Tuesday, December 31

The Journey

Part I

I tried a few different starts to this post, depending on the various moods and colours it could take on. To be honest, it's hard for me to tap into what it's like to speak as Truffle anymore. In a sense, the person that was Truffle is long gone. Always positive, loving, energetic, enthusiastic. I'm still loving, superbly energetic, and excitedly enthusiastic. But I no longer feel I need to be positive whatever the true state of affairs. For me, Cinnamon and Truffle was a positive energy blog. Spread the positive energy, let it change the world.

Yes, but.

The truth is, I don't feel so positive right now, so it's hard for me to be completely honest here. Because this is supposed to be a positive energy blog, right?


And so it continues. The censorship.

I'll be starting a new blog.

So there's hope, there is a chance, and I will wait to find out. In the meantime, I'll keep writing, I'll keep eating, and I'll keep talking about life, love and the arts. I'm dying to tell you the blog's name, but I can't until it's released. Otherwise you lot are going to google it and see all of our construction efforts, right? Which is what I want to avoid.

So here it goes, I'm taking the plunge.

Guys, you have all been really supportive of this blog. So many thoughts, ideas, recipes, smiles. It was all worth it for that, and for the fantastic joy I got out of writing these posts. I reread a draft I hadn't published yet, a story I started about our cook at home when I was young(er). And it made me smile. It made me laugh, in a way I hadn't for a while. And I missed the writing. Thank you for being there for us, for reading what we wrote, for looking at our photographs, for sharing it with your friends, for smiling at the thought of 'Cinnamon and Truffle'.

I will see you again, this time with (probably) my own name. Which is Radhika.

Lots of love to you all.

Part II

The above was written some days ago, and it's a true expression of how I felt at the time. Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while will know how difficult I find it sometimes to express myself freely, without being afraid of the opinions of others crashing down on me. I've come a long way, thankfully, and this blog has been one of the reasons. It's been one of the stepping stones on my path. The other is Resonance.

Before I leave, I'd like to give you my last post, the one I referred to above. It made me smile when I was reading it, and I hope it does the same for you.

Part III

I miss Solai

Some of you will remember Solai. She joined our family as a cook when I was about 11 years old. I remember the evening she arrived. My mother, Tamarind (my new blog name for my younger sister, Rice Krispie), and I had just returned from an evening out, and Solai was standing by the armchair next to the telephone. A business associate of my dad's, who was visiting, had met her at the airport and brought her home. She looked silent, nervous, and very thin. So very different from the Solai we all know and love now! For me, she was then yet another cook someone had dispatched to us, after a spate of misadventured individuals. One previous holder of the post had argued - in Tamil - with the cleaning lady - who spoke only Malay - about who should do the mopping, resulting in the cleaning lady leaving in a huff, believing herself to have been threatened with said mop. Another had been discovered stealing the beer and emptying numerous cans in her room after parties. (I always did wonder why she looked in a perpetual haze.) This was what Solai arrived at the back end of. I wasn't convinced anyone would be staying very long.

Our home was a pretty active place when we were growing up (I'm not sure that it's changed, really). Many kids, many visitors, lots of guests, unscheduled drop-ins, and house parties. Solai would single-handedly cater most of these events. (For the really major events, an elderly no-nonsense man would pitch up from my parent's office, and he would cook biriyani in a huge metal vat on hot coals in the backyard.) I don't remember what her cooking was like in the early days, but once she hit her stride, she was a seriously good cook. Our friends loved her cooking, and no one refused a dinner invitation at ours. Chicken curry, lamb masala, crab, prawn and aubergine curry, fried fish with onion and fennel seeds, kootturasamsambardosaikesari, amazing home-made yoghurt... I can't even list all the stuff she could make, and very well. When I was a teenager and back home from school in the UK, she'd make sure my favourites would feature at least once on the menu: that is, pan-fried Maggi noodles with vegetables and egg, macaroni and cheese with cauliflower and chili sauce, appan jala with chicken curry, that prawn curry with aubergine for me, and tamarind gravy with fried potato for Tamarind (now you know why I picked that name).

Solai was very vocal. She would yell at various people who came to the house - delivery men, van drivers, electricians, pest control - as well as various people at the market on Sundays. Sadly, she wasn't given the benefit of education, but her natural smarts meant that she picked up the few words of English she needed to get things done: "Eh Aunty! I giw $20. You giw me $5. This [pointing at chicken] $10. Back $5!" plus determined waving of fingers would usually get the overlooked amount of change back in her hands. She also seemed to have the scariest dreams of anyone I've ever known. If Tamarind and I were up late watching TV, she would fall asleep nearby, and once her dreams started, she would yell out repeatedly 'aathaiaathai!' (translated literally from village speak: 'mother! mother!'). She'd wake up, look around, and say: 'It was like someone was holding my throat and strangling me'. And she'd fall back asleep.

That's as far as I got with the post before I stopped. I was trying to remember what incident had made me suddenly think of and miss Solai. Maybe it was a lonely London late afternoon, when the sun had gone, and I thought of someone who would have sat down and told me what it was like in her village - how hot the fields were when she worked in them, or the mischief of her mother-in-law. And for a brief moment we would have exchanged something human - she, far away from her family, and I with a distance between me and mine.

Wednesday, September 4

Namu Gaji in San Francisco

Every time I come back from a long spell away from the blog, I feel I ought to apologise to our readers. Having said that, I'm immediately reminded of Cinnamon's friend from Hong Kong saying to me once: "I'm going to tell you what I told Cinnamon. Stop saying 'thank you' and stop saying 'sorry'!"

Yes, the Cinnamon-Truffle sisters love to apologise. I myself have been working at kicking this habit over the years, because frankly it's irritating. So today I'm going to start this post with a different spin. It's great to be writing again, and I hope you're all well :)

September has rolled around, and while I'm hearing reports of summer being on its way out in the UK, I'm told it's just getting started here in the Bay Area. The fog gets burned away, so they say, bringing relief to those who are tired of hearing Mark Twain being quoted over and over again for a period of two months. It's warm. So warm, that I'm in need of a cross current.

I've been exploring the Bay Area recently, and I can't put the experience into just a few words. It's enthralling and frightening at the same time. Something as simple as driving from one city to another just over an hour away (San Francisco to San Jose) takes you past a sparkling bay to the east, or alongside sweeping views of the Santa Cruz mountains to the west. If you turn north by San Jose, towards Fremont or Oakland, the Diablo mountain range looms over the landscape like a uncoiling python. (London to Oxford on the X90, this is not...) The mountains and valleys are also a reminder that the very earth beneath your feet might uncoil at any moment. The reason they're there is because of the San Andreas fault line, but people go about their daily lives without seemingly fretting about this. One newspaper article stated matter-of-fact that the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge would improve emergency vehicles' access after the Big One.

But now I'm talking geology and not about food. I'd promised Namu Gaji, and I don't want to keep you waiting! Namu Gaji is the work of three brothers - a chef, an engineer and a music producer - and they've come together to create a fantastic, vibeing, thriving restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco, serving NKA, or New Korean American. California always seems to me to be a crucible for incredible ideas that then roll around the rest of the world, and this could be one of them. New Indian British, anyone...?

I'm dying to start with the killer dish (see what I did there?), but I'll go in order of appearance.

First up, a melon amuse bouche to cleanse and activate the palate.

Then a heirloom tomato salad with crisps and hotdog powder. I only ordered this because I loved the sound of hotdog powder, but the tomatoes were the stars of this dish. Colourful, flavourful, individual - like a family medley. Very attractive too.

As you can probably tell, I rushed through the first two to get to this. Take a look at this beauty and tell me what you see. I saw (and tasted) a foie gras ravioli in a morel sauce. But what it really was: shitake mushroom ravioli in a dark soy sauce with nori and scallions. It was outstanding. It was exquisite. I'm still thinking about it.

This was the dish that told me what this kitchen is up to and what they're capable of. Some people might try to pigeon hole this as 'Korean' or 'American' or 'French', but finally the pigeon-holers and labellers of this world have been routed. This plate just is. Eat that.

I also loved this: ramyun. Handmade noodles, a hotdog (from San Francisco's own artisanal butcher, 4505 Meats), an enormous panko-crusted egg, bean sprouts and homemade kimchee. It was hot and very satisfying. Listed under the 'Kind of Korean' section of the menu, it could also easily fit under the 'Comfort' section. I found myself wondering if it had been inspired by the chef's student days. You know, dorm room, instant noodle packet, snip in a hotdog and bean sprouts, spoons of kimchee, an egg, and you're ready to go with that episode of Neighbours.

Dessert was whipped cream heavy for my taste, but the chocolate fondant was yummy.

Even yummier was this. In between a sorbet and a granita, made with in-season strawberries.

Got to run, and thank you for reading. (Well, at least I've stopped saying 'sorry'.)



Tuesday, May 7

Changing time zones

This is what it looks like to arrive at our parents' home in Singapore. Milky tea with sugar, with lots of bubbles on top. Books with interesting titles on the coffee table. Some time to sit on the sofa and ruminate, allowing all the puzzle pieces in the mind to disconnect from their jammed positions and float away.

Tuesday, March 26

Not only musicians know how to rock

The School of Wok. The name finally got me midway through the presentations at last night's wine and canapés event, held in the Asian cookery school in Covent Garden. I had to smile at the founder's sense of humour.

The amazing Wen of Edible Experiences had invited me and other food bloggers of note (yes, I seem to have graduated from my blogger guppy days) to experience some Calcutta canapés from the Darjeeling Express Supperclub. Each of the canapés had been paired with a wine by A Grape Night In, a new wine company that organises themed wine tasting events.

For last night's theme, the spices in the canapés had inspired A Grape Night In to come up with 'Spice Routes'. Trade, food, and the old world being topics close to my heart, I was looking forward to the journey already.

First off, we had vegetarian samosas with three chutneys. Kiki and Laura, the ladies from A Grape Night In, had already explained that they had wanted to go beyond the standard pairing of Riesling with Indian dishes, so I was waiting to see what the first wine would be. Start as you mean to go on, right?

And they're bold, these two. They opened their foray with ... wait for it ... an English sparkling wine. No better way to immediately blow any preconceptions anyone might have about wine out of the water. The Limney Estate's Blanc de Blanc was so well-matched, that I couldn't wait to have another sip after a bite of the samosa. The New York Times recently asked a NYC sommelier for pairings with Indian food, and he suggested champagne for dosai. Watch this space for high margin opportunities at Indian restaurants, y'all.

The second wine was exciting for me too, because it hailed from Portugal. You might know by now that Portugal is another home for me in Europe. (For those that don't yet, it has to do with our sister Chili and her family living there, and also with Viva Vino, which is one of our parents' lines of business, bringing Fine Wines from the Old World to Singapore.) So I was really glad to see more people appreciating the fantastic wines of this country. 

We had a white from the Douro Valley (which is also where Port comes from), made of a blend of Malvasia and Verdelho. Incidentally, Verdelho and Vinho Verde ('green wine') are two varietals I'd come across with Viva Vino, when my family were first doing tastings and pairings around the dining table in Singapore. We found that the Vinho Verde went beautifully with Singapore's Chinese cuisine, so perhaps Verdelho is one to try with Indian spices. Darjeeling Express' contribution was dahi puchka, a potato-filled mini puri, with a tamarind chutney and yogurt dressing.

So, the food and wine were amazing, clearly. But as every person who writes about food will tell you, good food and good wine are only accompaniments to wonderful company. And this I want to emphasise: wonderful company. The thing about people like Wen and her Edible Experiences venture is that, because of the energy of awesomeness she herself projects and injects into her business, she never fails to attract and surround herself with awesome people. Each of the people involved in last night's event - Laura and Kiki from A Grape Night In, Asma from Darjeeling Express, Adrienne from School of Wok, and the peeps from Nuffnang X - was just radiating rock 'n' roll. They're passionate about what they're doing, they have something new to bring to the table, they're brave in the execution of their ideas, and their presentations as the evening kicked off made me feel like I was witnessing a great performance at one of the gigs I'm at almost every week - they were inspirational. 

Kiki and Laura of A Grape Night In

Over the last few days, I've been looking for inspiration. Writing and performing music on stage feels great, but after the high of a gig, it can feel a bit low once you've stepped off. Also, getting a band going somewhere is just like trying to get any other venture going somewhere. You give a lot, so there are moments when you feel like you need to refuel, and to find the accelerator again. The enthusiasm and energy that these guys put into last night's event is one of the things that's helping me refuel this week, and I'm very grateful to everyone.

It was also wonderful to meet some peeps I'd gotten to know through the blog. One of these wonderful people is Ailbhe, who writes Simply Splendiferous and whose beautiful illustrations adorn her site. I had a really good conversation with Ailbhe, during which she gave me some advice and I realised a few things. One of the realisations is that I've been super shy about talking about my music on this blog. So here it is, people. My band is called Resonance. Resonance is what happens when something moves at its natural frequency, and when I'm making music, I feel like I'm at mine. We just released our debut record recently, and it's called "If The Fires They Burn Too Bright". It's out now on all the major online stores (and also on sale in a record store in Soho!). We gig lots in London - playing a live gig is one of the most uplifting experiences for me, and the energy is amazing. We'd love for you to come along and be a part of it. You can find out more on Resonance's website: www.ResonanceMusicProject.com

Lots of love


Tuesday, September 4

How to fry Pappadum

As requested by some lovely people, here is a video demonstration of how to fry pappadum. Below the video, I've included some written instructions to help you along your way. My parents very sweetly filmed the clip for me - my mother is frying the pappadum, and my father is capturing it on his smartphone. I did some editing and added the text and transitions.

I found the video very relaxing to watch. It's almost hypnotic - hearing the pappad sizzle in the oil, listening to the tap-tap-tap on the side of the vessel, and that beautiful crunch sound when the pappads come into contact with one another. I'm almost expecting lunch! :)

1. Watch the video first.

2. Secure a vessel with a rounded base.

3. Heat some cooking oil in this vessel for about 3 minutes over a medium-to-high heat. You can use pretty much any vegetable oil (e.g., sunflower), but not olive oil.

4. Before starting the frying process, check if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small piece of pappadum in the hot oil. If it doesn't look like anything much is happening, then the oil's not hot enough.

5. Once you have the right temperature, ensure that you maintain the same temperature throughout the frying process.

6. Drop a single pappadum into the oil. Use some tongs to pick it up and turn it over.

7. When both sides are fried to a golden yellow colour, remove the pappad from the oil.

8. Notice from the video that the whole thing is done relatively quickly. Don't let it sit around in the oil for too long.

9. Once you've taken the fried pappadum out of the oil, you might want to gently tap it against the side of the vessel, to remove any excess oil. Watch how this is done in the video.

10. Place the fried pappadum straight onto some kitchen paper towel.

11. Ready. To. Serve!

Usual precautions apply: hot oil, hot temperatures, don't touch it, don't break the pappadum when you're tapping it, don't try to fish broken pappadum out with your fingers in a panic, etc. etc.



More photos from the Supperclub Summit

I mentioned in my last post (on Maltby Street Market at the Supperclub Summit) that I'd been gigging at some of the other wonderful supperclubs that were part of the series. I asked some of the chefs for photos from those nights, because the food looked simply spectacular, and I wanted to show you what guests were enjoying while yours truly was singing. The audiences at each of these dinners were really wonderful to me - there were so many smiles of appreciation and encouragement, and the positive energy was just ricocheting around the room. I loved it.

Here are the photos of dishes and scenes from those days. Thanks to Fabio of the Backdoor Kitchen for providing photos of their dishes and to Wen of Edible Experiences for providing the rest.

Grigliata "Pollock", inspired by Jackson
The Backdoor Kitchen

The Backdoor Kitchen

The Backdoor Kitchen

Rob and Fabio
The Backdoor Kitchen

Poached chicken with ginger and spring onion sauce
Two Hungry Girls

Chili Crab
Wild Serai

Pork buns
Mama Lan

Come and get 'em! Pork bun distribution

Bamboo boat of desserts
Two Hungry Girls, Wild Serai and Mama Lan

Shu, Chef at Two Hungry Girls, and Goz, Chef of Plusixfive

As I said, I loved playing at these gigs. It was a hugely uplifting experience, and I'll never forget it.  Whenever I do a gig that includes covers, or when I'm busking out somewhere in London, there's one song that unfailingly gets the biggest smiles, the most number of people stopping to listen, and the most love. This is it.

A blues song that never needs an introduction



Monday, August 27

Maltby Street Market at the Supperclub Summit

The Supperclub Summit just wrapped up on Saturday night. I'd heard news of the almost-month-long Summit before the series began, but I didn't foresee that I'd be playing three gigs there. The room ended up being quite special for me as a result, and so I was quite excited to be at the grand finale, which featured traders from the Maltby Street Market.

Maltby Street Market is a Saturday food market in Bermondsey, south of the Thames, near London Bridge. It's been getting a lot of attention recently, and having been to the dinner, I can see why. Check out the courses for yourselves below.

Cod roe amuse bouche, by Greek Archipelago

For amuses bouches just after being served a welcome drink of negroni, we had cod roe served with slices of radish on bread from St John. There was also cod roe served on white bean mash, but my dining companions finished it off before I could photograph it.

Pulled pork on peri-peri croute, by African Volcano

This starter was one of my favourites of the night. An absolute star of a dish. It was pulled pork on peri-peri croute, from African Volcano, a creator of peri-peri-style sauces and marinades. I checked out their website, and if you are dying to try the above, you might want to look at their recipe for pulled pork and their bap recipe. Honestly, this dish beats hands down any other pulled pork I've tried in London (and I've tried some of the most popular ones).

The vegetarian starter was sun-ripened tomato relish en croute. I didn't taste it, but it sure was beautifully presented.

Sun-ripened tomato relish en croute, by Pink Organics

Jamon Ibérico and artichoke 'barigoule', by Tozino

This was my other favourite of the night - jamon ibérico from Tozino. For me, the taste test of jamon ibérico is all in the fat, and this one didn't just pass, it was awarded a distinction! Melting and yielding, without any of the chewiness that substandard jamon displays, but with an explosive yet elegant flavour. If I ever get to Maltby Street Market on a Saturday, I will be buying some of this jamon.

Norwegian smoked salmon with caperberries, by Hansen and Lydersen

The alternative to the jamon was Norwegian smoked salmon. I was so busy with the jamon, I didn't even think to ask to try someone else's. You have a pretty picture, so you'll have to use your imagination.

If you thought we were full by this point, you'd be right. But if you thought that was it, you'd be wrong. Oh yes, the good people of Maltby Street wanted to feed us some more, and, after a palate cleanser of elderflower sorbet, the following is what came out.

Smoked lobster, butter-soused fennel, heritage potato 'gremolata', by Christchurch Fish

This was the fish option for the main course. I couldn't try it, but Frangelico and my mother were very happy with it.

New season lamb, spinach, 'dauphinoise', port jus, by Cornish Grill

I had chosen the meat option and was faced with two very generous cuts of lamb (the part in the photograph was only half of it). The lamb was beautifully tender, and you can see as much from the part of the above photo that's in focus. I also have a weak spot for dauphinoise (having had an unfinished plate of it cleared away from my wedding dinner table, when I'd foolishly stepped away for a few minutes. Yes, 5 years on, I'm still unhappy about this.)

We then had a plate (each) of Austrian cheeses from Reiners Austrian Fine Foods, followed by Apfelstrudel by the awesome Speckmobile. (By the way, my buddies** Marco and Franz at Speckmobile make the most desirable Kaspresknödel - pan-fried cheese dumplings served with a yoghurty sauce and rocket. Check them out!)

Baklava from Turkey

With coffee, we were served gorgeous, soft, springy, syrupy baklava.

A little bit about supperclubs. This is important! I was thinking recently about how amazing some of London's supperclubs are. The quality of the food can be outstanding, and if the hosts have love and passion in their hearts, the vibe they create is awesome and the other guests that they attract can be very personable. Going to a supperclub, in a complete stranger's home, ends up turning into such a personal experience. I first experienced this at the plusixfive supperclub, and felt it again most recently at the Backdoor Kitchen. When dining out, I realise I've started to think of them as options alongside restaurant bookings. I really hope more people do, because there are some amazing people out there with ideas and passion, who want to share their cooking with you. If you're looking for a supperclub to book, you might want to try Edible Experiences*.

A Supperclub Summit dinner in flow

I spent a completely unexpected total of four nights at the Supperclub Summit (either as the background entertainment or as a guest), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the co-ordinators of the Summit is Edward Smith, chef and food writer. I'd heard of him from a friend, but the first time I met him was an evening that I turned up in South Kensington (where the dinners were taking place) with my guitar and busking amp. I was fiddling with my equipment, trying to find a spot where the feedback wouldn't deafen the entire room, and he very kindly offered for me to share the family meal he'd brought along for the front-of-house team. Thank you, Edward. I discovered that he used to work at the same firm that I was once a slave at, in a previous life. It seems that he, too, decided to pursue a passion, and there we all were. I really wish him all the best. Check out his food blog, Rocket & Squash. If he does another pop-up series in London, I'll be there!

Florian Siepert and Edward Smith, rocking the Supperclub Summit

Thank you also to the fantastic chefs who invited me to sing at their supperclubs during the Summit - Goz of plusixfive, Yolanda of Wild Serai, and Fabio and Rob of the Backdoor Kitchen - and their co-chefs who made the dinners splendid places to be.



* Disclaimer: I'm totally partial to Edible Experiences (apart from the fact that it's the only supperclub booking site I'm aware of...). I first met the amazing Wen Lin Soh, co-founder of Edible Experiences, at my first plusixfive supperclub experience and have met her a number of times since. And she has a cute baby.

**In case anyone thinks I'm plugging my friends' products, I don't actually know the Speckmobile guys personally. We buy their food, and we chat with them while people behind us in the queue are figuring out what to order. But Frangelico and I love their food, so we wish they were our buddies!

Read more about Aug 25: Maltby Street Market Dinner on Edible Experiences

Friday, July 27

food for the body, food for the soul

I might have mentioned some weeks ago the reason for the drop in blogging frequency: i.e., I've been spending a lot of time on music. Writing songs and gigging around the city requires a lot of energy, though, and the restaurant circuit still gets plenty of visits! (Just not so many photos and written observations from Truffle.)

Next weekend, there's a wonderful opportunity to combine both the music-making and the feasting. So, if you want food for the body as well as for the soul, read on!

Global Feast 2012 is a supperclub* festival taking place in London from 25 July to 13 August. Coinciding with the event-that-may-not-be-named, it will feature 20 top London supperclubs on 20 nights at the Old Town Hall in Stratford. The festival kicks off with a West African night on day 1, and then it winds it way through the rest of Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia before landing in the Antipodes. 

It's an ambitious event, and having been at the press launch earlier this week, I can tell you I was impressed at the energy and passion that's behind this project. I hope it prospers. There are plenty of high-quality supperclub chefs out there who want to feed you, people of London!

Day 12 will feature Truffle's all-time favourite supperclub, +65. This Singaporean supperclub has been discussed a number of times here**, and I am absolutely thrilled that Goz, the rockstar chef of +65, has asked me to play at his dinner. Want to see Truffle play guitar and sing, while feasting on Goz's amazing food? What are you waiting for? Get booking!

Flying the flag for Singaporean cuisine

More shapes of things to come (photo credit: Shu Han of Mummy, I Can Cook)

Date: Sunday, 5 August 2012
Time: Welcome from 6.30pm and first course at 7.30pm (times are estimates only)
Place: The Old Town Hall, 29 Broadway, London E15 4BQ
Bookings: http://www.globalfeast2012.com/

Follow my Facebook event page for updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/359396997462212/



*A supperclub, in this context, is a private dinner party hosted by a professional or hobby chef usually in his/her home. Members of the public may secure spaces to attend the dinners, and they pay a suggested donation amount in return. The supperclubs I'm talking about have nothing to do with that worldwide restaurant chain with beds. You have been warned.

**As if you needed any more enticement, check out photos from an earlier post of mine about the +65 Supperclub.

Thursday, June 7

Just a thought

I’m taking a bit of a leap with this blog post. I’m not going to re-read and agonise over it before it’s published. It’s scary, but sort of liberating too. Here goes…


This week, I’ve been taking a break.

From what or whom, you might ask.

I’ve been taking a break…

…from myself.

And boy is it a relief. 

New things are exciting again. I let myself play with ideas that crop up in my head, unrelated to what-I-am-supposed-to-be-doing (what is that anyway?). And I feel like I can finally breathe once more. I’ve realized I’m a bit of a slave-driver. I don’t say that with any hint of pride in my voice at all. Being unkind to anyone (oneself or other people) is not nice.  And if you’re being calculating about it, it ain’t productive either. Ultimately, I suspect, you’d end up killing any connection that person has with anything beautiful in this Universe.

What does this have to do with food? Nothing. But everything. Anyone who has tried to grow anything will probably know what I’m talking about. Roses? Cucumbers? Since when did treating that thing badly get you the results you wanted? But treating it kindly and giving it the conditions it needs will usually make it achieve its potential. I’ve been thinking that the same applies to cooking. When I cook in a hurry, with no attention being paid to what I’m chopping or stirring, it turns out bland, unbalanced, shapeless. That’s no surprise, I realize when I’m eating it, because it’s unloved. Giving it time, listening to my instinct about what it needs, feeling warmth flowing through my hands, that’s when it works. Does this happen to you?

If we know this about growing food, cooking food and serving it, why are so many of us tuned into thinking that it’s ok to be unkind to our selves? ‘No pain, no gain’ ringing any bells?

(For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not endorsing, for example, letting go and eating the entire bag of chips. I suspect that over-indulging in unhealthful things, or even over-eating healthful things, is actually one of the ways of being unkind. It’s not entirely unlike self-flagellation, to punish yourself for something else that didn’t go right…)

Why are we sometimes somehow deemed more worthy when we box ourselves up (or agree to let others box us up) into situations which, if we asked the question to the voice really deep inside, we wouldn’t want to be in?

Just something that’s been going through my mind today, and I wanted to share it with all of you, because I know some really thoughtful peeps are reading this blog. I would love to know what you think.



Wednesday, February 15

Pizza in Tuscany, a guest post from Bibsey Mama

This week, we have a special guest blogger! Bibsey Mama writes to us from España and tells us a wonderful story from her childhood. I know Cinnamon will love this story too. Read on, good people...

¡Hola! Readers of Cinnamon and Truffle

When the delicious Truffle asked me to write a guest post for her highly edible, and achingly stylish blog, I was of course ridiculously flattered and the vain-glorious egomaniac in me (such a small part of me, honest guv) jumped at the chance.

Then the non-food writer in me thought "eek". You see, I am in fact an British expat mummy living up a mountain in Spain writing about life up a mountain in Spain, motherhood and the ravages that both have wreaked on my poor beleaguered body and social life.

What do I know about blogging about food? Nada, niente, nix. But when in doubt write about what you know, right? So, I know my family and my family loves food.

The writing of this post has led me to suspect that I may have led a rather charmed childhood. Annual family holidays were spent in an ancient, and idiosyncratically rustic, Italian farmhouse (originally bought by my grandparents in the 1970s) tucked away in a Tuscan hillside. There my sister, my brother and I braved such torments as scorpions, hornets, hoppy things, bitie things, monster mosquitoes, wild boar, unidentified night-time roof dwellers, bats and much, much more. There were even tortoises to be found on those hillsides.

Long afternoons were spent playing rummy and whist in the sun. Nights were spent trying to keep cool and fending off the mosies. And in between there was swimming in the lake, trips to the sea, stargazing and moonbathing on the terrace and above all else there was food.

Our Italian holidays were a festival of food to which we as a family wholeheartedly surrendered ourselves. There was no talk of moderation. No stinting ourselves. There was limited time and we all have to eat, right? We would have our lunch on the terrace under the shade of an enormous fig tree looking out over the olive groves. Panini, finocchiona, mortadela, prosciuto, mozzarella, gorgonzola and dolce latte, bruschetta, salad, watermelon, coffee, chocolates...

Gnocchi making with Mum circa 1979. I'm the one bottom right looking for all the world like Steptoe Snr.

The majority of nights we ate out. Consequently a great deal of time would go into the planning of our eating itinerary. So many good restaurants and never enough time. You have to go a long way and try very hard indeed to find a bad meal in Italy. Or so has been my experience.

Everyone had their favourites: the best place for pizza, the best for supa di vedura, or crostini or bistecca or scottaditta or frittura mista, or best located for a walk and ice cream after dinner. At times we nearly came to blows over where we might eat. This was generally when we were running out of time. Much depended on who could shout the loudest.

 Amazing pizza. So why do I look so sad? I suspect I had no front teeth that year.

But there was one place where all appetites were met, a typical family run restaurant where four generations of my family have been eating for nearly 40 years. We know the waitress as Bronzatta because of her perfect tan and general air of glamour. She's still there of course. As is her similarly glamourous brother who sports a very distinguished streak of grey. This was, and still is, the first place my family visit at the start of the holiday and the place where they choose to eat on the very last night.

So, if you ever find yourself near the beautiful hill town of Cortona in Tuscany, and in the market for the best pizza on earth, visit Pizzeria il Vallone. I would say "tell them I sent you" but I imagine, no, I am sure, that they would have no idea who or what a Bibsey Mama is.

Sunday, February 5

A taster from Roganic, London

Hello C&T readers! The blog posting schedule has been relaxed somewhat dramatically, as you can see. Stateside, Cinnamon and her family are busy with many projects I'm sure. On this side of the Atlantic, my excuse is that I've been starting up a band with a friend of mine. Exciting times!

That doesn't mean I've been passing up many foodie opportunities that have come my way. We've still been eating, exploring and photographing. I have an enormous stock of photos to share with you guys, so I thought a quiet space on a Sunday (occasioned by the snow on London streets) was the best time to get some of these photos on the road.

First up, we have photos from a long-ago lunch at Roganic, one of the biggest openings on the London restaurant scene in 2011. We had dinner there just last week with some visitors from San Francisco, and they loved it. San Franciscans have high standards when it comes to food, so Roganic is clearly still going strong in 2012.

Lion's head mushroom

What the mushroom looks like once the kitchen's transformed it

Leek baked in clay

Said leek on plate, before generous amounts of black truffle were grated on

Venison, with a sliver of autumn vegetable reaching for the sky

Warm spiced bread, with smoked cream, salted almonds and buckthorn curd

Lunch is a cosy 3- or 6-course affair, and dinner is a full-blooded 10 courses. Of all the tasting menus in the city, this is currently my favourite.

That's it for now, but I'm hoping to get more of my stock of photos out there to you, so watch this space.

19 Blandford Street
London W1U 3DH
020 7486 0380



Tuesday, January 3

Warm up January with some Beef Rendang

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2012 sees you having had a fantastic holiday, feeling well-rested, and now raring to go! First up this year, we have a guest post from our friend, Vanessa, with a delicious-sounding recipe for beef rendang. If you're trying to remember what rendang is, here is a picture from a previous post...

Ox cheek rendang, at the +65 Supper Club last year

Now it's over to Vanessa!

I boasted on Facebook a few days ago about an outstanding Rendang which The Husband spent an afternoon cooking. Having seen the wifely praise and a pretty dubious picture of the dish, Truffle kindly invited me to share the recipe. So thank you, Cinnamon and Truffle, for this opportunity to write a guest post. I’ve read Cinnamon and Truffle since it’s inception and enjoy the easy prose, the fantastic steering to London’s (and the world’s) good food and all the epicurean miscellany I glean.

Rendang is an Indonesian dish, which can now be found as extensively in Malaysia and Singapore. Originally a ceremonial dish which would be served to honoured guests, Rendang has cemented it’s place onto the menu of Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean restaurants in Asia and around the world. You can have Rendang made with all manner of meat – mutton, goat, chicken, liver – but we prefer Beef Rendang.

The key to Rendang is in the long, slow simmer. Initially, once the ingredients are fried together and the coconut milk and water added, it looks like an ordinary wet curry. 2½ hours later however, this has reduced into tender beef that falls apart at the slightest touch of a fork, covered with a sticky, dark and divinely fragrant sauce, which has completely infused the meat. It’s pretty much heaven in a pot. Soon to become heaven on your plate. Which then melts in your mouth. You can’t say better than that.

Monday, December 26

Pandan sighting!

Frangelico and I were at the Singapore Botanic Gardens this afternoon. Walking around the Orchid Garden, I said to him that I could suddenly smell pandan in the air. That reminded me that I'd tried to describe the fragrance of pandan to you guys by saying that it's what a South East Asian rainforest smells like after the rain. (Part of the grounds of the Botanic Gardens, incidentally, consists of 6 hectares of rainforest. Singapore is home to one of only two urban, city centre rainforests in the world. The other one's in Brazil.) Just as I'd made the pandan remark, I spotted this!

So now I finally know what pandan leaves look like as they're emerging from the ground. I was seriously excited by the find and wanted to share it with you guys. (Yes, I'm a geek. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'd already know that.)

This makes me think that a South East Asian rainforest probably smells of pandan after the rain, because there is a lot of fragrant pandan growing in it... Caught in a circularity trap, I am.

Anyway, here are pictures of some of the stunning rare cultivars in the Orchid Garden. Don't say we only ever talk to y'all about food. :)




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