Sunday lists n.1: 5 things I cooked this month

Cooking used to be one of those things that I did because I had to and I didn’t start to enjoy it until quite late in my life. Now it’s an integral part of me and a way for me to express my love for the people I cook for.

Today I am sharing five recipes that have gotten me through this month. Some comfort food, some amazing family dinners, and some test meals. Why these five and not others? No clue. It is Sunday and I have decided that on Sunday, I’ll share lists. I also think that five is a great number and when I started going through five things that I made this month, these were the first five to come to mind– no filter, no sorting. So here we go:

1. Grilled cheese

Cravings. I can’t be the only one who gets them. My weakness is for things that are savoury and full of carbs. This month grilled cheeses were the thing for me. I didn’t even bother with the tomato soup. The combination of grilled bread, salted butter, slightly gooey cheese (cheddar and gouda are my go to), ham for some texture and a good spread of cream cheese is enough to make me salivate. And yes, I am salivating as I type.

Ingredients (for one serving of grilled cheese)

  • Two slices of bread per grilled cheese
  • 1tbsp salted butter
  • Too much cream cheese (yes, that is a standardised form of measurement)
  • 1 slice of cheddar
  • 1 slice of gouda (other good ones include other hard cheeses like edam, mimolette…)
  • 1 slice of ham

Method (but let’s not pretend that this is an exact science)

  1. Butter one side of the first slice of bread
  2. Place it butterside down on a plate and spread an obscene amount of cream cheese
  3. Place your slices of cheese on next. You can just put one of them, or both (the latter is obviously my go to when I am at Peak Craving)
  4. Next is your ham
  5. Heat your pan and then as it gets hot, butter both sides of your last slice of bread
  6. When you hover your hand above the pan and it feels almost too hot, it’s time to place your grilled cheese on the pan
  7. Get both sides nice and golden-brown
  8. Eat the sucker!

There are some people who like to toast their bread first and believe me I have tried but I just really love the way the bread’s interior stays soft while getting hella crunchy when you grill it directly on the pan without toasting it first. So, yeah, Team Untoasted here.

Some people like adding mayo, but nah. Some like adding hot sauce and I love it too, but I would add it after the cooking process and not before. Just a matter of personal preference.

2. Lamb ragout

(Inspired by Samin Nosrat’s Netflix series Salt Fat Acid Heat)

A huge hunk of lamb. Look, it is not the most beautiful photo on the planet, but holy balls it was delicious

Man, I love a good ragout. We made an amazing one at my partner’s mother’s place this summer with lamb after watching Salt Fat Acid Heat and it was literal magic. So magic that I had to recreate it again less than two weeks after the first one. Live a little, am I right?

Let’s be clear about a couple of things here: do not waste your money and get a good wine. If you are going to really Treat Yourself for this recipe, put it in your pasta and your meat.


  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 lamb shoulder
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • One 28-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved (or a box of tomato puree if not)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound rigatoni or campanelle
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving


  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or pot over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes each side or until browned. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add onion, garlic, pancetta, carrot, celery and herbs to the same pan pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until veg has softened. Bump up the heat and then add wine. Cook for 1 minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add tomatoes and 2 cups cold water. Stir to combine. Bring to the boil. Return lamb to pan. Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, turning halfway during cooking, for 2 hours 30 minutes or until meat is tender. Transfer lamb to a large plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Increase heat to medium. Bring tomato mixture to the boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Remove and discard fat and bone from lamb. Using 2 forks, coarsely shred lamb. Add to tomato sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, following packet directions, until tender. Drain. Put it back into the pot with the shredded lamb and tomato sauce. Mix in the Parmesan
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Pro tip: The lamb can finish cooking in the oven on low heat for a couple of hours before you shred it if you got the time to spare. That’s what we did the first time and it was amazing.

3. Chicken mole

Adapted from this BBC GoodFood recipe

Completely forgot to write a blurb about this before posting, like a total idiot. This recipe has been waiting to be made for awhile now and I have been avoiding it because even thinking about it brought back bad memories. Starting this blog, honestly, gave me courage to face certain truths and then the energy that I had lacked to do things that I needed to do.

Big has been asking me and my partner to make this for her since our ex moved out. She was the one who made it first, just the one time and it made such an impression that Big, who usually doesn’t do spicy, asked for it again. A couple of weeks ago, when this blog was just a sparkle in my eye, I ordered a bunch of ancho chilies and four tins of chipotle in adobo sauce so that I could make this for Big. It wasn’t my best attempt, but at least I know what to do next time: use cocoa powder instead of chocolate, peanut butter instead of marmite peanut butter and no beer (it was such a mistake that I didn’t even include it in the ingredient list below).


  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 ancho chilies
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs and legs
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp chipotle paste
  • 400g can chopped tomato
  • 25g dark chocolate (look for one with at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • juice 1 lime , plus wedges to serve (optional)
  • 150ml pot soured cream

For the coriander rice

(Full disclosure: we ran out of limes and I used lemons instead, but it would have tasted so much better if we had limes)


  1. Put the chillies in a bowl and add enough boiling water to just cover. Leave to soften for 20 mins.
  2. Meanwhile, grill the red peppers until blackened and soft. 20 minutes at 200c, approximately. Cool them, then peel and use as needed in the recipe.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish, season the chicken, then brown on all sides. If you don’t have enough room, do it in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the chicken and end up undercooking the chicken. Remove the pieces to a plate.
  4. Add the onions to the dish and cook for 5 mins until softened. Add the spices and cook for 1 min until aromatic.
  5. Remove the chillies from their soaking liquid, reserving the liquid, and discard the stalks and seeds. Put in a food processor with 4 tbsp of the soaking liquid and the garlic. Whizz to a paste, then tip into the dish. Add the peanut butter, chipotle paste, tomatoes and 400ml water (fill up the tomato can and swirl to get all the tomato bits out). Return the chicken to the dish and season. Cover with a lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hr (we were hella lazy and hungry and fast forwarded it to 30mins and I regret having done that now).
  6. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate. Using 2 forks, shred the meat and discard the bones. Return the chicken to the sauce, add the chocolate and continue cooking, uncovered, for 30 mins more. If the sauce looks like it’s getting a little too thick, add some of the chilli soaking liquid or some water.
  7. Cook the rice following pack instructions. When the rice is cooked, add the coriander and lime zest and juice, and fluff up with a fork. Remove the mole from the heat. Serve alongside the rice, with soured cream and lime wedges, if you like.

4. Courgette carbonara

Courgette (or zucchini) is one of those things that people either love or hate. We had a week where we barely ate anything green and so I dug this up from my archives. Everyone loved it, because who the hell hates carbonara? And I got to sneak in a whole mess of courgettes in there without anyone noticing (even Big who supposedly “hates” courgettes). Lovely comforting carbs, savoury bacon and pure heaven. No complaints. 100% will make again.

(Adapted from this Jamie Oliver recipe with a bit of pizzazz thanks to Nigella)


  • 250g campanelle or penne
  • Salt for water, to taste
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely diced
  • 4 medium green and yellow courgettes, finely diced
  • 60mL dry white wine or vermouth
  • a bunch of basil of flat leaf parsley
  • 100mL single cream
  • 3tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 6 slices of bacon or 250g of lardons
  • salt and butter to taste


  1. Put a pan of water on for the pasta, salting generously (should taste like the sea) when it comes to the boil, then add the pasta. Cook it for 1-2 minutes less than packet instructions. Meanwhile, get on with the sauce.
  2. Put the oil and onions in a heavy-based pan (that comes with a lid) on medium heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the courgettes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and again.
  4. Add the wine or vermouth, letting it bubble up, salt to taste, then lower the heat, cover with the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes, by which time the courgettes should be gorgeously tender.
  5. Now get on with your carbonara. Separate the eggs and put the yolks into a bowl. Add the cream and grate in half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly with sea salt and black pepper, and put to one side.
  6. Heat a very large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil. Cut bacon into chunks or if using lardons then just add them straight to the pan and fry until dark brown and crisp.
  7. Add the courgettes and stir everything up, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.
  8. It’s very important to work quickly for this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving around a cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta in the pan straight away with the courgettes and bacon, then remove the pan from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs and ruin the sauce.)
  9. Get your people to set the table! While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, grate in the rest of the Parmesan and add a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning.
  10. Eat immediately as the sauce thickens real quick.

5. Luxury instant noodles

No spam, but this’ll have to do

Instant noodles always make me think of Hong Kong. It’s not the healthiest food in the world, I know. But when I am getting all nostalgic and weepy, let’s face it, healthy is not the first criteria that I am trying to look for. When I close my eyes and think of home, the first thing that comes to mind is always food. Creamy milk tea, macaroni soup, wok stir-fried spaghetti, watery congee, bright and crunchy stirfried vegetables… The ultimate for me, however, is instant noodles. Not just any instant noodles, but the Demae Ramen sesame oil kind with a fried egg and spam on top. The noodles have to be cooked to al dente, the fried egg cooked until the sides are brown and crispy and finally the spam golden and delicious.

When I started living abroad, whenever I would visit my parents, we would go to the cooked food market (that’s what they are called officially in Hong Kong) every Sunday morning in our neighbourhood after our morning jog at the race tracks. I would always order instant noodles with spam and egg on top with an iced tea (later it would become a milk tea instead). Now that I visit less, whenever I have a bowl, I can almost feel my parents sitting next to me, chatting about our day, our week, our plans or the clientele. I can hear the hustle and bustle of the cafe: the newspapers, the choppiness of Cantonese, the clinking of mugs and metal silverware.

For a place that never truly welcomed people like me, I miss home so much and sometimes when stuff hits me a bit heavy, this does the trick.


  • 1 pack of Demae Ramen
  • 2-3 slices of spam
  • 1 egg


  1. Cook the package of noodles 1-2 minutes less than indicated on the packet.
  2. Shock the noodles immediately under cold water and discard the cooking liquid.
  3. Set the noodles in your bowl. Set aside the two smaller packets.
  4. Heat up some neutral cooking oil in a small pan.
  5. Cook your spam through and a bit more so that the slices turn golden and slightly crispy on the side.
  6. Set it on a plate lined with paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
  7. Fry your egg in the same pan. Do not touch the egg as it cooks.
  8. Boil around 500mL of water in your kettle and in the mean time, swirl your pan from time to time to ensure that the egg is not stuck to the pan.
  9. Cook the egg until the sides get crispy.
  10. Start plating! First open the two other packets from the ramen and sprinkle their contents on top of the noodles. Pour the hot water that you have boiled into the bowl. Do not cover your noodles, though, or they’ll get soggy! Place your slices of spam to one side and your fried egg on the other.
  11. Enjoy!

When I eat, it’s one of the rare moments where I feel like time and space takes on a different shape or feeling and it’s like I can travel back home and feel like I’m little again. Or I fast forward and think about a holiday where I am going to eat a local version of the thing I made. Or I imagine living somewhere else and cooking only using what’s readily available in that place. Good food can bring tears to my eyes, and make me feel alive.

Eat, taste and live.

See you next Sunday for more lists!


Day 3


End of the work week, bevvies, date nights, house parties, Netflix and chill, me time.

Every other Friday is also the day I go with my partner to pick Little up as she will be staying the week with us. This has been relatively new. It has been three months, give or take, so far. Maybe one day I will have the guts (and clarity) to write about how this all came to be, but today is not one of those days. I have always loved picking her up. We built a ritual where I would hide her snacks in my pockets so that she can look for them. She would run over, pat me down and do a whole thing about how she wanted this snack or that. On our way home she would tell me about her day while doing a sort of kiddie parkour and I would rush her home because I would need to get dinner on the table for the family. It was new every single time. It was fun. It was great.

Since the separation a few months ago, however, we have been having some difficulty setting a rhythm for pick-up because of the summer holidays and so forth. But every time we go now, there is an immediate sense of anxiety and panic even before reaching the school or the meeting place. How is she going to be this time? Will she scream and cry for her mother? How long will it take before she calms down?

I have been close with Little since the first day I met her, when she was still in her nappies. The memory I have of her from that day is when she began to grimace at me while holding the edge of the coffee table. I was so confused and worried until I realise that she was looking at me while doing a poo. Standing up. In the living room. I remember playing horsey with her so much that she started calling me Horsey, instead of my name. I remember when she started developing the habit of asking me really deep questions about life and love at really weird moments (like when we were taking a shower). I remember when she started using drawings to describe how she felt when she would throw a fit. Our relationship is special in the sense that she is not my biological daughter, but we have a bond that goes beyond traditional understandings of family ties.

I love her more than life itself and seeing her in pain– knowing that she is suffering– rips my heart out. I know that when she cries when she sees me now is not personal, that when she screams for her mom now it’s not because of me. I know that, but that understanding has not made its way to my body yet.

The panic was well on its way of rushing through my body several hours before pick-up time, despite my telling myself the things that I know (that she loves me, that I love her, that she has fun with us, that we nurture her and that we just need time). I felt myself getting squirrelly walking with the traffic rushing past me and with people coming up behind me. I tried to steady my breath, but all I can think about is her little face and how she howled the last time I picked her up to start the weekend. I tried to counterbalance this with memories of last week, when she first started school and when she spent the week with us. How she asked me to draw something for her to leave in her backpack so that when she’s nervous, she could look at it. How she asked me to “forget” to put her afternoon snacks in her bag so that she could possibly see me when I drop them off at the gate during lunchtime. But to no avail. By the time we reached the gate, Little was nowhere to be seen. We asked after her and told her teacher that she is meant to go home with us at this time. Waiting for what seemed like hours with her tiny scooter in hand, with parents and kids crowding around us, I finally saw her and the look she had on her face.

Framed by a mess of sweaty hair was the look of pure disappointment.

At that moment I felt myself melting into the ground, leaving only my head sticking out of the ground, screaming but with no voice and to no one in particular.

I never ever, ever want her, or Big, to have the burden of managing my feelings, but this is the pain that I am feeling every other Friday and the only sane way of managing it is by letting myself feel it and ride through it.

The only way out is through.

Day 2

After writing yesterday, I felt my brain going almost manic. For the rest of the day, it fired a hundred ideas a minute for the next post: life as a stepmom, lists of books, life after trauma, life after academia, living in Paris as an ethnic Chinese who speaks French, English and Chinese, the intersectionality of racism and sexism here and elsewhere, pen recommendations, recipes and the list could go on for quite awhile, but I chose to stop listening.

Choosing was easy, but actually stopping was incredibly hard.

Instead, I made a promise to myself to write and to post just once a day. For a fixed period of time, I will sit down and write everything down for one post. I can go back to it, edit it, or change it up completely. But when the time is up, I will stop and call it a day.

The thing is that I am no stranger to this feeling of manic writing frenzy. I remember when I used to embrace the sudden burst of creativity and would let myself sit down and write paragraphs that turned into chapters overnight. I loved, and welcomed, these moments which (to nobody’s surprise) usually came in the beginning of a project. What would inevitably happen is that the “burst” would inevitably live up to its definition and fizzle. The outpouring of ideas that I had in the beginning would slowly taper off and I would feel incredibly guilty for no longer churning out several chapters a day and that would lead to a cycle of guilt, pressure and shame that would then transform into the infamous writer’s block.

This was more than five years ago.

I have come to realise that the best way to make this a steady and long-lasting habit, or ritual, even, is to go slow. Write a post a day, and then close it. Do not give in to write down all the ideas that tickle my brain just yet. Believe that if an idea is important enough, it will stay with me until the morning. Believe in the limitless possibilities that this writing medium offers.

As I got to thinking about nurturing habits, ny thoughts went to my teenaged stepdaughter, whom I love and of whom I am so immensely proud. She radiates light when I look at her. Whenever she talks to us about something that she is passionate, I see roads opening in front of her and I swear I would chop off an arm if it means she could get a chance to walk them. She is also brilliant at testing my patience and sanity. The prevailing issue with us concerns rules, how to set them, and how to enforce them.

She and I share the same size for most clothes. I enjoyed this from the start and loved loaning her pieces from my closet when she went out. It began to grow into a habit that I called her out on. The next time that she took clothes without permission, she also went into our bathroom and used my perfume and makeup without asking. I spoke to her again, writing her a very long letter explaining that I love sharing things with her but that asking me before using them is a bare minimum. It does not matter that each time I say “yes” to her. She cannot take that “yes” for granted and just assume that she can go ahead and do whatever she wants. Now that half a year has passed, she is doing it again. As they say, old habits die hard.

Included in these old habits of hers are the following:

  • Constantly asking for new clothes when she clearly has enough. I am aware that they are not the latest style, but that is not what she is saying as she obviously knows that if that is the reason she brings up, we would shoot it down right away.
  • Not taking care of her belongings and when called out either says that she needs to be taught it (instead of just going ahead and doing it) or that she does takes care of her things, just the things that she happens to care about.
  • Complaining that she looks to her parents for discipline. Problem being that firstly, I do not discipline teens, nor does my partner, and she knows that. There are rules that are understood in our household and they are to be followed. Secondly, the brand of discipline that she is looking for is that of her mother’s. I have no problem with that, it’s just that they are not mine nor do I share her values and therefore not mine to set. Thirdly, is the way she feels entitled to set the rules for us by passively aggressively letting things slide, ignoring rules that have been set and feigning ignorance when called out.

I am tired of going over the ground rules again and again with my kid, only to have them ignored all over again. I am exhausted to have to explain to her how her actions violate my privacy and trust, or to have to explain to her why her intentions do not matter when her actions indicate something grossly different. I am pained each time I do the mental dance of asking myself is she or is she not being manipulative. How do you deal with a person who maliciously ignores your requests, such as please return my belongings immediately after using them? At some point it is not about the person not knowing better and it becomes clearer that the person is blatantly ignoring what you have asked them. What to do then?

How can I teach my teen to be considerate? How do I nurture respect and selflessness in her? What does the world “belief” mean to someone of that age?

Checklist of the day, AKA my brain is registering all the sounds and nothing else:

  • My typing, or I am smashing ants on my keyboard
  • The dog barking next door
  • The light coming through the living room and kissing my basil
  • The low hum of the refrigerator
  • My kid’s half-eaten sandwich and thermos of coffee sitting on the kitchen counter (for which I woke up at 6 to prepare)
  • The bunny pushing around its dish

Day 1

I write today to stop escaping and to start documenting.

To document the reasons that made me escape in the first place. To document the numerous checklists that I made in my head to make me stay grounded (but let’s be honest. If they worked, I wouldn’t be here). To document the darkness. To document the light. In doing so, I can come back here when the whirling dervishes of my head try to drown me, when I feel like I have nothing more to give, that it is okay because like everything else, it will all pass. When I am at my most stable, I know there are others out there like me, with worry and doubt behind their eyes, hoping for a kindred spirit out there.

I write today to start something.

When life comes at an unstoppable speed, when I feel like a grain of rice being washed, with both hand and water pushing me towards something greater than you, I just want to hit the stop button. If not “stop”, then “pause”. It is times like these when I would escape: into a book, under my covers, in my thoughts. A shelter for my brain so I can breathe again. This sort of escapism saved me from the worst of myself, but also made me incredibly vulnerable. I want to stop running and start living.

I write today to fight back.

There are often multiple sides to one story and there are moments, especially in this time that we live in, where it seems as if that whoever screams the loudest wins. Where I would once keep my head down low and my mouth shout, now I wonder why I feel as if I should do that? Would I not be complicit in shutting my voice down? Don’t I also deserve to be heard?

I do, we do.

I have always had the habit of making checklists in my head. It was/is a crutch for me when dealing with anxiety and when I was recovering from my rapes. Maybe I will stop making them one day, but until that time I am going to document them here. In doing so maybe it will banalise the process, free up some much needed headspace and also it’s all part of the archive.

Checklist for the day:

  • Heightened hearing: Y/N
  • Strained breathing: Y/N
  • Lowered appetite: Y/N
  • Knot in stomach: Y/N
  • Heightened irritability: Y/N