I feel that part of the beauty of travel is also in the food that’s eaten whilst you’re away, so much culture is shared by not only those moments around the table with locals but also in the food preparation. When the food is brought fresh from farm to table or even garden to table. I think this is really special and I love that it’s having a resurgence. It’s something we don’t really have in Singapore as so much of the food is imported and thus often looses its freshness and taste.
When stayed in Hoi An in was in an amazing hotel, it was on an organic farm and everything was grown within 100m of the hotel and served field to table, it tasted so fresh. I loved that there was a little window in my bathroom so that when I took a hot shower I could look into the fields and watch as the farmers tending so carefully and patiently to their little organic patches. I will always remember the breakfasts we had there with fresh greens from the allotments.
Back whilst we were in lock down and we couldn’t travel to learn about cultures and food I became a bit obsessed with travel food programs on Netflix ’Somebody Feed Phil’ is still a favourite. I just love hearing the history behind a dish, how is it prepared, how you’re meant to eat it, all those little secret ingredients that surprise and delight you with each mouthful, who the people are that make the dish, why they love to cook, who taught them the dishes, were they passed down the family, and so many more questions. It then inspires me to get into the kitchen, I find cooking a very calming almost meditative process.
Part of the perks of living in Singapore and being an expat is making friends from around the globe and the part I really love is sharing meals at their table. I don’t have to always travel to get my food fix. My cherished friend Hila who is a chef from Israel and I connected with over our shared love of Ottolenghi cuisine (and crafting), my friend Adrianna from Brazil is the one who introduced me to a typical Brazilian New Year’s Eve where we wore white, only ate things that moved forwards (think fish not chicken) and coordinated our pants to what we wished for in the coming year, my Israeli friend Dana is the one who invited my family over many a Friday night for pot luck dinner and gave us a life long love for Challah and humous, my English friend Sarah who whips up comforting meals from my childhood, my Polish friend Lucy who introduced me to a Polish salad, the local ladies who invited me to play Mahjong and shared Asian dishes so spicy they gave me hiccups, and so many more moments shared around the table. Each one expanding my horizons and locking in memories. I don’t know about you but as an adult I find no greater joy than when one of my friends cooks me a meal, even better when I can help with the preparation.
But isn’t it kind of comforting and also exciting to recreate something you ate on holiday or a friend’s table back in your own home. Something that you maybe loved that you didn’t previously know about. My kids certainly didn’t eat sushi till we moved to Singapore or eat summer rolls until we visited Vietnam or drink mangosteen tea till we explored Bali.
Each holiday an opportunity to expand their horizons and broaden their minds on what they liked. I have unashamedly spent many a holiday offering them $1 for every new thing they tried. I always paid up. If they didn’t like it and spat it out, that was also ok, I rewarded the trying and we made it a game.
So it’ll be no surprise that my cookbook collection is a melting pot of different countries… Whilst my collection might be a little vast, I want to share what my current favourites and a few books to help transport you around the globe from your home kitchen. I’m a fan of doing big batches, keeping it simple and room temperature food for gatherings. As much that can be prepared in advance is a winner. But also keeping it simple as possible for mid-week meals. We tend to keep to a pescatarian diet, but will cook meat if we’re having meat-eaters over.
A lot of my cooking these days is done with our Thermomix, my dutch friend Mireille finally persuaded us to invest and it’s transformed our meal times. What people from colder climates don’t realise is that cooking in 30degree heat is like going to the gym and standing at a gas hob is like being in a sauna, you you really need to shower before you sit down to eat. The Thermi certainly helps with this.
Right back to cookbooks, these are my go-tos…
- Ottolenghi – Simple, Jerusalem, Plenty and Flavour (yes I’m obsessed)
- Dishoom ‘From Bombay with Love’
- Deliciously Ella – Original book and also ‘Quick & Easy‘
- Donna Hay – Weeklight and ‘Life in Balance‘
- Lizzie Loves Healthy Family Food
- A House Party in Tuscany
- Keep it Vegan
- Vegan Comfort Classics
- Get the Glow – Madeline Shaw
- Carrotsticks and Cravings
Would love you to add your favourite cookbooks in the comments please.