4 weeks: 5 pavlovass

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Pavlova with lemon curd, cream and berries

As soon as I told my friends and family I was heading to Maldives for holidays, I was greeted by multiple requests for pavlova. In fact, I made more pavlovas in that month than I had in a year!

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Making pavlovas was certainly an adventure. I have a fond memory for each and every pavlova I have made. When I made a pavlova with my younger siblings at my Dad’s place, I had to beat the egg whites with just one beater in the electric hand mixer. The kids’ enthusiasm to help me out made up for the missing beater though.

When I decided to make one for my cousins (whose requests had been the loudest), they told me it was too hard; they didn’t have all the equipment. I told them I would take everything: bowls, electric mixer, baking paper, etc., they told me to calm down, they didn’t even have an oven! In the end, they bought an oven (not just for my pavlova, but so my aunt could also bake her delicious fish pie). Never have I seen a pavlova being devoured so quickly than when I made it that day.

I also got to connect with a friend I had only really spoken on Instagram. We both had a food-loving mutual friend, and we bonded over delicious looking food photos. So when I headed back, we had a pav-date, so she could learn how to make it. Making the meringue worked like a charm (my friend had all the equipment ready to go), but I was trying to whip the cream and it was taking forever, and not getting any thicker! This was something I hadn’t anticipated. Due to the humid and tropical Maldivian weather, I was told by my friends to put the beaters and the bowl in the freezer to cool them down to be able to thicken the cream. Working in an air-conditioned room could help too.

The end product was always well received and the memories we made were always worth any hurdles we faced. My holiday did turn into a pavlova, as my friend mentioned and it was a lot of fun.

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Meringue stack with blackberries

I went through my Instagram account and managed to find some of the pavlovas I had made over the last few years. I’ve included my go-to meringue recipe below. For the pavlova I made today, I steered away form the traditional passionfruit drizzle and made some lemon curd instead. I was inspired to use lemon curd as a topping when my friend from work, Paula, gave me some delicious lemon curd she had made. I had it with some berries and thought about how good it would be on a pav. Plus it is a great way to utilise those egg yolks.

I tend to stick to seasonal fruits when topping my pavlovas. I love berries hence, I usually make my pavlovas during summer. Mangoes are also perfect topping for a tropical theme and even stone-fruit like peaches and nectarines will be delicious, especially if you caramelise them first! Blackberries, blueberries and raspberries with a sprinkle of basil and drizzled with fig balsamic vinegar is the favourite topping I have made so far.

What are your favourite pavlova toppings? Feel free to share.

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Pavlova with lemon curd, cream and berries 

This recipe will make a nice little pavlova enough for about 4-5 people. If you want a bigger one, just double the recipe.

Ingredients:
– 3 egg whites
– 150 grams caster sugar
– 1 teaspoon white vinegar
– 1 teaspoon cornflour
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup thickened cream
– fruits to top (strawberries, banana, kiwi, blueberries, mango, etc)

Method:
– Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees. Prepare a flat baking tray and line it with baking paper. Draw a 20cm disc (or however big your serving plate is) on the paper and place the pencil side down.
– In a clean metal bowl, whisk the egg whites  using a stand/hand held electric mixer until soft peaks form.
– Slowly add the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating, until the mixture becomes thick and glossy. A test to see if the sugar has been incorporated is to rub a bit of meringue between your fingers. If it feels grainy, keep mixing.
– Beat in the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla extract.
– Spoon the mixture onto the baking tray and smoothen the top. You can leave it rustic, or round the sides using a knife.
– Bake the meringue for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 110, and then bake for further 60 minutes or till the meringue shell is completely dry. Leave in the oven to completely cool.
– Whisk the cream till soft peaks form and spread on top of meringue. Top with fruits and enjoy.

Thoodles at the Night Noodle Market

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Getting into summer means market food time! Long days, sipping drinks in the sun and digging into delicious food with friends. If my summer social outings don’t involve some sort of food, it doesn’t feel right.

The Melbourne Night Noodle markets have been happening for a while but this was my first visit. Set right on the edge of the Yarra River, the area looks small at first, but once you get in there’s more to explore. We got in really early, just as they opened at 5pm, which meant no lines and plenty of seating. We quickly dug into the juicy Hoy Pinoy chicken skewers as we browsed around the food stalls.

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One thing I was clear on, I definitely wanted dessert. In fact, I was more excited about the dessert options rather than the baos and dumplings. Sydney’s Black Star pastry was here with their famous Strawberry Watermelon cake which I had never had when I lived in Sydney. And I also got to try the N2 Gelato. I’ve always approached the N2 Gelato with some scepticism, assuming it was mostly the hype of the Nitrogen ice cream rather than taste. But watching them make the ice cream with goggles on, dry ice flowing everywhere and working their KitchenAid mixers was something else. I was definitely proved wrong after digging into the Gold Mugger. It was filled with crunchy gold-speckled cookie dough and some delicious brownie/cake thing. I squeezed the Nutellla ganache out of a tiny dropper and it was delicious. My husband said he didn’t want to try it when I offered, and I said ‘Good, more for me’.
Next dessert in line was the Brûlée Cart. These guys, I visit religiously whenever I see their truck parked. Their creme brûlées are so creamy and smooth. I’ve had their Salted Caramel and Ginger brûlée which is just fabulous, topped with caramel popcorn (here it was peanut butter popcorn, I think). One can never go wrong with the Brûlée Cart. Delicious!

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For savoury, I could not walk past Wonderbao’s fried chicken baos. Their mushroom steamed buns were tasty as well. It was a wonderful afternoon, nibbling on everyone’s plates, tasting fried dumplings, nasi goreng and thai fish cakes. I felt like I didn’t have as much savoury food. The desserts seemed to be the highlight, particularly because I wanted to eat dessert before the day got cold.

The biggest challenge for me was the photography. I thought since we got in early, there would be plenty of light, but the light was not at all helpful. Taking even a decent photo of a bao was challenging in the afternoon sun. The direct sunlight did not help at all and everything was over-exposed. I had to then get my friend to act as a shade, trying to get out of the sun. I did feel like a bit of a douche, taking photos so seriously with my camera and directing my friends and family around. But I love taking photos of food and I especially enjoy taking photos of market food, so after a while I just got into stride. I couldn’t stop and worry about what others were thinking of me.

Next up is the Queen Victoria Night Market. I absolutely love that! So much market fun in summer. Now Melbourne weather just needs to get itself sorted and give us some more sun.

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Local Market snaps

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I have always wanted to go to the Male’ local Market to take some photos. Placed on one of the most traffic jammed but picturesque roads in the tiny capital, the fresh fruit and veg market is bustling during the day. I did feel a bit weird at the thought of holding my camera and walking around the local market. However, people were mostly indifferent to me and carried on with their business.

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One stall owner called out to me and asked me to take a photo of his rooting pineapple top. He seemed very proud of his pineapple top. He said he had brought the pineapples from overseas (Sri Lanka maybe?) and he managed to root the tops. He had even sold two of the tops.

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It was a lot of looking and chasing moments. I had the idea I wanted to take photos of transactions taking place or people inspecting the fruits. But more than once I found, if I was too slow, I lost the moment and the customer would have moved away. And then there were the struggles of taking a photo, checking it and the lighting not being right. By the time I adjusted the settings, the person would be gone. This made it challenging but very enjoyable as well.

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This is one of my favourite photos. I only realised the perfect timing when I checked the photo when I got home.

I loved the variety, the colours and the energy in the market. Seeing all the different fruits and vegetables, I wanted to buy everything and cook it all. I could have easily spent an hour so just browsing around. Each aisle and alley had new characters and bargains. I didn’t have a lot of time on the day, and do regret seeing most of it just though the lens of my camera. I’m sure if I had hung around to talk to the stall owners, I might have heard more stories like the pineapple tops.

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T is for Travel

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My wedding required a lot of traveling. For starters, I had it on the island next to the one where we lived on, so a short travel period on a boat was needed. I had to make my journey from Sydney to Maldives, which turned out to be more eventful than I thought it would be.

Plan was simple. In fact, quite adventurous. Leave Sydney on Wednesday morning, get to Perth at noon (yes, ultra cheap tickets meant a detour to Perth) and leave Perth in the arvo and arrive in Malaysia that night. We were supposed have a glorious day of shopping, body scrubs and meeting up with friends in Malaysia and get to Maldives that night. Sounded so much fun specially because I had the most fun travel partner, Loofa.

It started out pretty well. Only hitch was the lady at the check-in counter kept telling me that she can make no promises about being able to hang my wedding dress in the plane and they might have to put it in the overhead compartments! I nearly died at the thought of bags tumbling around and crushing the sparkly bodice of my dress, but these fears were quenched when at every plane I boarded, the crew were very excited and hospitable and offered to hang my dress and take care of it. I felt quite special when walking out, carrying the dress as the captain wished me luck for my wedding.

However, the fun stopped when we boarded the plane to go to Malaysia. Our flight was initially delayed and after sitting in the plane for two hours, the captain finally announced they had to cancel the flight because a panel in the cockpit was broken and they could not replace or fix it. I kid you not, the captain at one point said they were going to reboot the plane to see if it was working (the time-tested ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ method being applied here). I looked at Loofa and she just gave me a look of a forlorn puppy and went back to doodling and listening to Lorde. In the meantime, I sent panic-stricken texts to my fiance (the ONLY time I decided not to get travel insurance, this happens!), however he reassured me the airline will take care of it and compensate for delays and missed connecting flights.

After another hour sitting in the plane we were finally allowed to get off. We had to collect our luggage and after standing in line for hours, we went to the hotel the airline organised for us. It was almost midnight in Perth when we reached the hotel (we were still in Sydney time so it was 3am for us) and found out the hotel was locked. No one was out in the lobby, the doors were locked and we were briefly stranded on a Perth sidewalk in the middle of the night with a bunch of frustrated travellers.

Initial plan when we got to our hotel room was to go to sleep and figure out our flights in the morning. However, after calculating time differences and flight times, we decided we would try and call the airlines immediately in case we missed our connecting flight, which we were already checked in for.

After having to call the airlines three times (each call included almost half an hour waiting times, explaining our situation each time and the last guy who spoke to me telling me he liked the way I said ‘yeap’) we were finally, finally booked and ready to leave to Singapore the next morning.

With only two hours of sleep, we were pretty pumped to be on our way. We were in high spirits, despite being very sleep deprived. We were checked in all the way to Maldives which seemed like a good sign. We arrived in Singapore and headed to the transfer desk to collect our boarding passes so we can go to KL to get our connecting flight to Maldives. Of course all this smooth sailing was too good to be true. The lady at the transfer desk checked our itineraries and then got on the phone and started talking looking rather worried. She kept muttering to the lady next to her and then we were told that our booking was confirmed, but the flight was full so we were going to have to be put on stand by and come back to check the status later.

20131205_190204The next hour we spent was the longest hour ever. We didn’t even have the energy to do window shopping at Singapore airport. We went back to the transfer desk and luckily we were given boarding passes and we were en route to Malaysia. Once we got to Malaysia we were frankly delirious on sleep depravation and at the thought we had only one flight between us and Maldives. Tugging the wedding dress along, trying to make sure nothing happened to it and adjusting it inside the garment bag was getting tiring as well. We celebrated with a Teh Tarik while waiting at KLIA and arrived in Maldives quite cheerful, despite having had only 2 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours.

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We went on 5 airplanes in 2 days and waiting around the airports was quite frustrating at times. But I knew I was getting a story out of this and having the best travel partner to help carry my wedding dress and keeping me company made the journey so much better.