Mid Morning Delight

So today, like every other day since I started working, around 11am, I started to feel slightly dizzy and light-headed. And hungry.

I’m hungry most days without much motivation to actually eat something. Today wouldn’t be much different. But I had some free time and thought that I should at least go to the staff café and pick up a snack to keep me going. My energy levels were also dropping. I thought I would get some chips or packaged nuts or an energy bar or something.

I walked into the poorly lit café. The trays that served hot food were empty. Breakfast time had ended and the cooks were working on making the lunch menu. I walked over to the shelf with bags upon bags of chips. “Kumara crisps” the bright red writing on the packets said. A boast that this is super healthy, why wouldn’t you pick me? Low salted, baked and virtually bland, oddly shaped chips that can scratch the inside of your mouth or crumble down the front of your shirt as soon as you bite into one. I picked up a bag without enthusiasm.

Just then, someone walked past me with a small paper bag in their hand. They had come from the other side of the pillar I was standing in front of, where the cabinet was. The cabinet usually has sugary treats. Caramel slices, passionfruit cheesecake, raspberry brownies, etc. I’m not a big sweet tooth. So there’s no point in my going over to the cabinet.

But the person that walked past me said “I’ve just got a Danish” to the lady at the cash register.

Danish?

I curiously went over to the other side and saw a large platter with a cake cover placed over it on top of the cabinet that had the same treats they always had. The platter however, had four, flat, eye-shaped, bright golden pastries piled one on top of the other. “Danish” the pink writing on the outside of the cover read. That’s a terrible description, I thought. I lifted the lid and eyed the pastries. I could immediately smell butter, sugar, and something like golden syrup intertwine and assault my senses.

Hmm. The pastries were eye-shaped with a border of pastry crust but a centre of custard and three raspberries in a row baked in with the pastry. And the whole thing was covered in  a layer of dried golden syrup. This looks promising, I told myself.

I picked one up and placed it in a white paper bag and headed for the cash register.

When I was back in my office, I pulled the pastry out of the bag and saw the top few layers of pastry crumble into my hands. Ooooh. that’s the sign of good pastry.

The smell was strong as I brought the pastry to my mouth and took a bite, making sure I had a mouthful of the pastry, the custard and the raspberry all at once.

In a word: Heavenly

The pastry crumbled away in my mouth as the soft, sweet custard and golden syrup delighted my taste buds, and the tart and perfectly cooked raspberries cut through the sweetness, and sent a burst of flavour straight to the pleasure centres of my brain.

Every bite, the buttery, crumbly, slightly sweet pastry alone, or the soft, creamy, perfectly balanced custard alone, or the small but immensely flavour concentrated raspberry bringing it all together, made me smile. I took small bites, savouring it and making sure I was aware of every mouthful.

It was the first time in days that I actually enjoyed eating something. My mouth was very happy. And I had the right amount of sugar and happiness in my brain to continue on with my day

Just Christmas Things

Ahh Christmas arrived! And since I’m on leave, I got to celebrate Christmas at home with my family.

It’s summer in New Zealand! So, since Auckland is always so faithful, It poured all day. Effectively ruining any plans of going out. My dad, sister, and I still drove down to our favourite beach in West Auckland, only to find the road to it was closed due to flooding. And surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones going that far and turning back.

So we returned home and lounged around with our presents as I prepped for dinner. Every year, it is tradition that I try a new recipe for dinner and dessert. This year, my sister requested to take over dinner and I would do dessert. She and my dad requested I make Tiramisu as a tribute to our trip this time last year. So I took on the challenge.

I wanted to make it as authentic as possible. Many recipes suggested buying pre-made Savoiardi biscuits for the base of the Tiramisu but I decided to make my own. They actually turned out pretty good!

Et Voila!

They look kinda flat, but trust me they had risen the right amount.

I hadn’t worked with mascarpone cheese before so it was all a bit challenging to get the consistencies and ratios right.

 

Here is the finished product.

My sister and dad liked it a lot. The cream was brilliant! I was worried I had too much coffee in it. But oh well. If we stay up late all caffeinated, it could be worse. Overall I think it was a success.

Here is my tree and assorted decoration macro photos. As I had promised myself last year and on HD’s advice, I had bought a whole new tree with new decorations. The gold and blue were quite Christmas-y and lit up, the tree actually looked pretty great. I had splurged for a big tree this year. Retail therapy is a real thing, kids.

And I also got a great Christmas present this year from secret Santa at work. My secret Santa was one of my friends from med school. He had given me this.

A lucky bamboo plant. It is an indoor plant that needs very little light or water to grow. It is supposed to bring you peace and luck. He of all people knew I could use some luck and good vibes. He also mentioned that this plant was the perfect metaphor for our friendship. “Low maintenance, and strong” he had said. I loved that. It made me feel special. He really does know me. ^^

Hope everyone else has had a great Christmas! 😀

The Time A Chef Cared

Life is sometimes hard when you’re a vegetarian. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m iron-compromised a lot. But also, I get discriminated against a lot. 

Especially when you’re the only vegetarian among your friends. 

It’s not fun when you want to catch up with some friends for lunch/dinner or a birthday, and when the question arises about where we should go eat, they give each other the side-eye and say “we have to go somewhere with vegetarian options”… blech. Or they invite you somewhere, saying there are vegetarian options, and you arrive only to find that the “options” are 3 different types of salads. Or something with tofu. 

Like excuse me I am Not a rabbit. And I hate tofu. 

Now I’m not ferociously vegetarian. I don’t tell people they’re going to burn in hell for eating meat or they’re murderers for eating a cheese burger. Everyone has their beliefs, and I have mine. I actually enjoy watching cooking shows and like appreciating how well the chef prepares a filet mignon. And sometimes, I just wish I were non-vegetarian. Just so I wouldn’t have to put up with the discrimination from the carnivores. 

I call the people who are ferociously non-vegetarian ‘carnivores’ because they are the people that cannot contemplate my lifestyle. And make a point of telling me so. The people that go “omggg you have NEVER tried chicken?? Omg you poor thing” “ahh you’ll never live life properly” “you wouldn’t understand about this… It’s so good though. You’re missing out on life” …Like for real? Get over yourselves. It’s just food. No need to be so dramatic. But oh well. I’m used to it. I’m just glad I’m not an overbearing vegetarian.

But anyway, today I had a different experience. Some friends wanted to meet up in a Café for brunch and I went along. This cafe had hardly any vegetarian options to choose from. 

So I had to do my regular walk of shame to the counter and ask if one of the dishes could be made without the meat. It was this ‘Mexican omelette’ thing that had bacon and chorizo etc. So without those things it was essentially a spinach and mushroom omelette. Which was fine. Better than nothing. And definitely better than salad or tofu.

But when the dish came, the chef came up to me and placed a very colourful omelette in front of me. I looked up at him and he smiled and said “I added some extra vegetables just so it’s a little more interesting. Hope you like It.” 

I could have burst into tears in the middle of that place just then. It was such a thoughtful thing to do and it tasted amazing. I thanked the chef repeatedly. 

He didn’t need to do that. He could’ve just put in less effort and made the bland spinach thing. After all, I was paying the same amount as a full Mexican omelette. And I’m someone who will probably visit this cafe very rarely. I’m not a regular. He didn’t have to care. But he did. He realised I was vegetarian and made the effort to make sure I didn’t feel like the annoying customer I usually do. 

That gesture completely made my day. It’s not that hard to be considerate. He showed me that. I am extremely grateful to him.  

Tiredness

These days, more often than not, I find it difficult to get out of bed. Like in a “I wish I could just sleep all day” way. Which is very weird because I am a notorious early-riser. Holidays or no. I can’t stay in bed for ages. I also can’t stay up very late in the night like other people can, so that can’t be why I lack motivation to get out of bed.

Also, once I have gotten out of my bed, I don’t really have the energy to move around. My mum seems to think I move around like molasses moving uphill.

Eugh why so tired? Holiday laziness?

Well unfortunately, this happens every year. I am in fact, anaemic.

Being female in a certain age range of a certain demographic means my iron levels always seem to jump ship. Yep. Iron deficiency. And yep. This happens all the time.

There’s two ways to deal with this. Head over to my GP who will send me to the vampires for the blood test to confirm that which I already know and have had done repeatedly. And then receive the prescription for the annoying little red iron pills that I must continue to take for 3 months before returning for another prick to make sure the levels have gone up.

The second way to deal with it, is apathy. I’ll just stay tired. It takes less effort. Which has been fine since last year when I was so completely fed up with my GP pricking me over and over I just said to hell with it and refused to pick up my iron tablets. I survived. Uni is a good distraction. I don’t got time to be tired. I gotta keep moving. So when I’m tired during my holidays, it doesn’t really bother me. My iron can correct itself eventually.

Which it does, don’t worry.

My mum told me to chug some vitamin pills. “Vitamin C helps iron absorption” she says. Which is true, but being vegetarian means that I am terminally prone to having the useless kind of iron in my diet. Ie. Even if I ate 10 pounds of capsicums (for vitamin C) and 10 pounds of spinach everyday, I’d still have less iron absorbed in my blood than someone working through their beef steak on the BBQ. Oh the woes of vegetarianism.

Meh. I choose apathy until my iron sorts itself out and I get my energy back. Good thing I’m on holidays. I will just continue to stay in bed. ^^ Bright side to everything.

Therapeutic Baking

If you’re a med student, you’re expected to bake something for your team on the last week of every rotation. Some take this as a pressure (they don’t know how to bake), some think this is slavery, some think it’s bribery, some don’t bother and end up buying something from a shop. While some, like me, enjoy this quite a bit.

I find baking therapeutic. It’s almost the perfect way to finish any rotation. Spend a night reflecting on the last 6 weeks while melting butter, mixing sugar and flour, savour the smell of vanilla essence in the air as you create something new and beautiful from nothing. Poetic, no? It’s just therapeutic. The sugar smell in the air literally works like an awesome placebo effect. Plus, the boost to your self-esteem when what you bake turns out well, is priceless.

Of course, there’s the occasional mental breakdown and emotional damage when your cake fails to rise or your cookies crack. It’s heartbreaking really. But with practice, these become fewer… mostly.

Anyway! I am baking one week early because my house officer and one of my consultants are leaving this week, so I thought I would thank them early. And indulge in some therapeutic baking. Sounding familiar?

Hehe. My other favourite thing to do these days when baking, is have a narrative in my head in the voice of none other than the lovely Nigella Lawson.

I’m baking her brownies actually.

Nigella Brownie recipe

I chose to bake brownies because, as stated above, “However much people have eaten, there is always, I’ve noticed, room for a brownie”. And nothing holds more true.

She’s quite great with her flour-less recipes and egg-less cakes. Which works out great for me because I’m out of flour today. My goodness, just read that description. I love how every one of Nigella’s recipes have a description that makes me smile and really excited about going ahead with that recipe. That’s how baking, well, cooking should be. It’s an art! As she would say.

So! Let’s get started!

Brownie choc

Of course all great Nigella recipes calls for gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous Chocolate! The darker the better. Her recipe calls for atleast 70% cocoa.

Mixing things together yields the perfect brownie mix.

Brownie mix

Here, Nigella would say something like: You’ll know the mix is ready, when you can really feel the silky, velvety, gorgeous richness that chocolate brings. There’s something so satisfying about that beautiful gooey texture in your brownie mixture.

Then, in the pan:

Brownie pan

Isn’t it poifect? Nigella suggested walnuts/almonds, but I’ve learnt in hospital that you never offer someone something with nuts in it without checking if they might be allergic.

And then finally, after it’s done cooking and filling my house with that luscious chocololate-y smell, it comes out all pretty looking:

Brownies

Nigella recommends a hot chocolate sauce, which I would love to make, but since these are for others, I chose icing sugar as decoration instead.

Brownie with icing

They are simply, gorgeous. Gorgeous and indulgent. 

That was a really fun evening. And they taste amazing. Why wouldn’t they? Hopefully there’s enough of them left for my team tomorrow.

Psychiatry may not be right for me, but these brownies definitely are!

 

Birthday Flashbacks 

Does anyone remember these? 

We used to call them “rockets” when I was in primary school. Or “rolly biscuits”. I’m sure there’s some form of sophisticated name for them. Like wafer rolls or something. But they’ll always be known as rockets to me. 
Why are they on this blog, you may ask? Well I spent my birthday indoors reading a book. It was actually very relaxing, don’t worry. I was content. And I was replying to birthday wishes all day. But I felt the general mood was lower than last year. Which is fine because as I’ve said, 22 is a pretty meh age. And there’s not much hype about it. But it did make me feel terribly old, as my friends seemed to be too busy adult-ing to spend ages talking to me on my birthday. 

But what did happen on the day following my birthday is that I got a chance to catch up with some friends and we found ourselves in a rather low key, but fancy enough restaurant. One of those ‘hidden treasures’ as they say. And it was indeed that for me, because when I ordered dessert, lo and behold they brought me a piece of my childhood!! 

I can’t explain my feelings when I saw the rocket. I was overcome with excitement such that I didn’t take a moment to photograph it. I hadn’t eaten or even seen one in years. Instantly when I bit into it, I was transported back to my childhood when I would spend lunchtimes with my friends arguing about what super power would suit us best while munching on a couple of rockets, straight out of a round tin full of them. Trying to eat all of it without the crumbs falling down. And if any did, it was one of life’s biggest disappointments. 

Ah. ‘Twas a simpler time. 

It’s funny how happy this little thing made me. I felt no longer 22. I enjoyed being 8 in those few moments. It reminded me just how sticky the mind can be. It seems to latch on so vividly to little things. And when triggered, releases such a huge wave of emotions just like that. Good and bad. But if it’s good, it’s really good. 

I enjoyed this birthday in a way I never thought I would. And I’m grateful. Even if I am 22, I’m pretty sure I’m 8 whenever I see a rocket. 

Guilty Pleasures

I know only that “guilty pleasures” exist, but I have never understood the point of feeling guilty about pleasure. Rather, I see plenty of reasons for feeling guilty about failing to take pleasure in things.

-Nigella Lawson

Pure Poetry, that. ^^