Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Remembering a legend - RIP Lee Kuan Yew

Image Source: Painting by Mai Huy Dung

“You begin your journey not knowing where it will take you 
you have plans
you have dreams 
but every now and again you have to take uncharted roads 
face impassable mountains 
cross treacherous rivers 
be blocked by landslides and earthquakes. 
That’s the way my life has been.”

- Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew (1923 - 2015), the founding Prime Minister of Singapore spearheaded the transformation of the island nation from a small trading port to the thriving metropolis it is today. He made an impossible dream a reality. Along with his colleagues, he built a nation for over five decades which will remain as his lasting legacy.

Lee Kuan Yew was highly instrumental in shaping Singapore from the time he and his socialist party, the People's Action Party (PAP) rallied for self-government in the 1950's to their pursuit for a merger with the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the new nation Malaysia in the early 1960s and their formidable struggle to ensure Singapore's survival after independence was reluctantly thrust upon it on August 9th 1965. He believed in a unified Malaysia and a multiracial society and famously wept on national television when Singapore was separated from Malaysia. Daunting as it was to rebuild the city-state, he clung on to the motto "Never fear" and led a generation of Singaporeans to overcome the herculean challenges that came their way. He fought relentlessly against corruption and prompted policies such as public housing, home-ownership, racial integration and adopted English as a common language. Under his able leadership, from the ashes of separation emerged a prosperous nation. He holds the distinction of being the only leader in history to bring an entire country from third-world to first-world status in a single generation. By doing so, he planted the little red dot firmly on the world map. For a tiny island like Singapore with its sparse population, limited space and lack of natural resources, this has been an extraordinary achievement. His years in office were not without controversy, mostly regarding his iron-clad grip over the country, repressive measures to instil order, curtailing freedom of speech and unapologetic stance in demolishing his political adversaries. Yet, he will be regarded as a one-of-a-kind, respected and admired individual for generations to come. He will go down in history books as a dynamic leader, an inspirational figure and a hugely accomplished politician.

Having lived in Singapore for almost 10 years, I am no stranger to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's contribution towards nation-building. I was able to get a more comprehensive understanding after reading his remarkable autobiography, The Singapore Story (a book I would highly recommend). He has played a pivotal role in making Singapore a clean, green harmonious, prosperous and safe country to live in. It has been the quality of life here that converted us from expats to residents back in 2007. No where else in the world would I dare to venture out alone past midnight (which I have done on several occasions in the past). Singapore to me is my second home and when the day comes to pack my bags for good, I will leave with a heavy heart. This country has given me more than I could ever ask for and in a way, I am indebted to Mr Lee Kuan Yew for that. I was deeply saddened by the news of Mr Lee's demise yesterday and I would like to offer my profound condolences to PM Lee Hsien Loong and his family. 

RIP Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you for making Singapore such a global success story. Your place in history as an exemplary leader, radical thinker and visionary is assured. As Singapore gears up to celebrate its 50th birthday this August, your presence will be sorely missed.

"A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion and not position"

-John Maxwell


Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Photo Gallery: Travel Memoirs

I kick-started my photo gallery series way back in Feb 2014 but after that one post, I didn't do squat to keep the series alive (my bad!). Lack of time was a major factor that led to the stagnation of the series combined with a lack of interesting subjects to photograph. But then, as I was sorting out my old photo albums to back them up the other day, I realized that I had a lot of 'decent' (in my opinion) travel photos that I had taken over the years. Travel has been an integral part of my life since childhood and I'm thankful for having been able to visit some truly incredible destinations so far. So for this post, I thought I'd compile my favourite travel photos hoping to take you on an interesting and colorful journey.

My next post in this series will most probably be baby-related because I take far too many pictures of my little ones! I'm at home with them all day so it is far too tempting to not go crazy with my camera. I'm currently experimenting with different styles, angles and photo editing tools so keep a look out for that 

So let us begin the photo tour shall we?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Recipe of the month: Potato Cheese Balls

One of the most universally loved things on this planet has to be fried food. Don't you agree?  Keep a plate of fried goodies anywhere in the line of my vision and the hidden ninja in me emerges to polish off everything within seconds! My appalling lack of self-control is the only reason why I cannot afford to  make fried food at home very often....boo hoo :(

On the rare occasions that I do fire up a pot of oil, I usually go the Indian route. This time round, I thought I'd make something with more of a western flair. In the past, I've made fried potato cheese balls using a mixture of mashed potatoes, minced green chillies, grated cheese and chopped parsley but me and especially hubs kept thinking that it needed a little something else. I wasn't keen on posting a recipe that I wasn't completely satisfied with so I thought I would play around with the ingredients a little more until I got what I was looking for. I didn't follow any particular recipe for this version of potato cheese balls. I just put together ingredients that I felt went well together and hoped for the best!

These bite-sized golden balls are a great idea for parties since they would not only be a hit with the kids but the adults too. What I like about them best is the contrast of textures - the golden brown, crispy breaded outer layer encasing the soft and gooey, cheesy potato filling. Not to mention the few ingredients and simple preparation procedure (gotta love that!).

This recipe is very versatile. You can use any variety of cheese or herbs that you prefer. Here is my version...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Baker's Corner: American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake

I'm back on the blog! Didn't expect to be back so soon but turns out that my girls are not as difficult to manage as I initially thought they would be and they probably want mummy to continue blogging! ☺ Of course I probably won't be as regular in posting content as I used to be but something is better than nothing isn't it? Anyway, more details on motherhood and my little munchkins in a later post. For today, let me try and stay focussed on this decadent dessert. 

These past few years, every Chinese New Year has always been very eventful with us holidaying somewhere in South-East Asia or visiting family in India or else have relatives visiting us here in Singapore. However, this year has been very different - quiet since we didn't have any major plans but busy nevertheless with the little ones taking up most of our time (as usual!). Over the course of the holiday, we took them to the mall and to a relatives house so by their standards, they had an action-packed long weekend. For the first time since they were born, I found the time to get reacquainted with my kitchen! I was able to make Schezwan Fried Rice, Masala Dosa and this American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake. My angels were so good that they not only allowed me to make the cheesecake but also photograph it, eat it and even blog the recipe  

Being severely deprived of sugar during my pregnancy due to pesky gestational diabetes, blog or no blog, I was desperate to get back to making desserts. I flipped through my Mary Berry 100 Cakes and Bakes book and found this recipe which I thought looked pretty darn good. I love...love...love cheesecake and if you have been following my blog, you probably have seen my previous post on Japanese Cheesecake. This American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake is a baked cheesecake and is sweet, rich and luscious so should be served in small portions. Using a spring-form cake tin for this is important so you can get out the perfect slice. Please don't try to make this recipe low-fat by using low-fat cream cheese because then it just wouldn't work as well. I was supposed to use crushed chocolate flavored digestive biscuits for the crust but I didn't find them in the supermarket so I ended up buying plain digestive biscuits to which I mixed in cocoa powder. The strategy worked so I didn't feel too bad about not trying hard enough to search for the chocolate biscuits. Moving on, the best part about this cheesecake is that you don't have to be neat and fret about perfection. On the contrary, the more random and haphazard you are, the better will be the marbling effect. Now isn't that a refreshing change? You can expect the cheesecake to crack on cooling but it's no biggie....the taste more than compensates for the minor cracks on the surface. 

Okay then....I have to rush back to mommy duty now. Try this recipe and I'm sure you will love it!