A few weeks back, I told you about some of the things that I’m still not used to about Singapore. I can be a bit of a glass half empty kind of person, but don’t worry, today I have a whole bunch of things to tell you about Singapore that I love! Fair warning, many of my favourite things about Singapore are food related. Not surprising really, this is a food blog after all :)
Some of My Favourite Things About Singapore
My blog. I would have never been able to start this blog if I was working full time like I was in Aus. I’m now starting to slowly realise that when we do move back to Australia, I will be back to working full time in a job that won’t have anything to do with food and I won’t have much time for this blog anymore. That makes me a sad panda. Wait, this is meant to be a positive post though, so more on that another time.
I get called Miss here instead of Mam like I do in Aus. I really don’t know why, but people are just much more likely to refer to me as Miss instead of the much more frumpy (in my opinion) sounding Mam. Being called Miss makes me feel all young and spritely and I like it.
The shopping. Oh man the shopping. There are still some frustrating things that I find about shopping here and some things that are harder to get (or much more expensive) than I am used to, but shops like Sephora and Daiso go such a long way in making up for that. Seriously everything in Daiso is $2.00SGD, it’s amazing. And Sephora, oh Sephora, you are make up heaven…if only everything in you was two dollars.
The food. Chicken rice, popiah, cendol. How will I ever live without these things again?
Asian chives (sometimes also called Koo chives). Please tell me major Australian supermarkets have started selling these since I’ve been gone. They are like normal chives and the green parts of spring onions combined into a chivey, oniony goodness. I’m not sure how my cooking will fare without them.
You can get pretty much any type of food home delivered. My personal favourite is a Japanese place that Key and I love. We often get sushi, and chicken or pork katsu curry rice delivered for dinner. Oh and Maccas, we have totally taken advantage of Maccas home delivery many times. I know…it’s disgusting. I am not ashamed.
The internet speed. How I will go back to Australia’s (unnecessarily) crapola speeds, I do not know.
Buying cut orchids for $3.00SGD at the supermarkets. I love orchids and they are so cheap here. So cheap.
Fresh fruit and juice vendors. Pretty much every shopping centre and hawker centre have these little vendors that just sell pre cut fresh fruit and freshly made juices. Why don’t we do that in Australia? It’s so healthy and tasty.
The ease at which people can pronounce and spell our names. Both Key and I have fairly unusual names, which we are used to repeating and then spelling out for people in Australia. The ease at which our names are understood, spelt and pronounced in a country that is predominantly made up of people that don’t even speak English as a first language surprises me every time.
Our new friends! Awww…shucks. No, but truly, they have made us feel so welcomed and that has meant an awful lot to both of us.
One of the biggest things that I love about Singapore is the wide and multicultural range of food and ingredients that I have access to. I can easily buy a wide range of American brands and iconic products like canned pumpkin. South East Asian ingredients like pandan, kaffir lime leaves and fresh young coconuts are abundant and cheap dried fruits, like the dried Iranian figs that I used in this lamb and fig casserole, are commonplace.
The inspiration for this dish came from one of my cook books. I don’t know which one though because when I flicked through the masses of them that I had stacked on my desk, I had no luck finding it again. All I could remember was that it was slow cooked and had dried figs and lamb in it. I did a quick search online and came across some recipes which I borrowed bits and pieces from. The cinnamon and allspice was from one recipe, the saffron was from somewhere else and the honey from yet another source. It turned out to be a delicious casserole that satisfied my lamb craving.
These Iranian dried figs (aka common figs) are really quite hard and chewy looking when they are dried. As they cook in the casserole juices though, they rehydrate and puff back up to a gloriously sweet fruit. Any dried fig will do and if you can’t find any dried figs, then dates or prunes would also be fantastic.
Lamb is super expensive in Singapore, even more so than beef. In Aus, I would have made this with lamb shanks, so by all means try that. Lamb shanks are just so expensive here that if I’m buying them by weight, I don’t want to be paying for any bones. I haven’t had lamb cutlets in almost a year. Seeing the price of them here makes my eyes bleed (dramatic much?)
Saffron is notoriously hard to measure. You can see I tried for you. I’ve left the measurements in the recipe for any sticklers, but honestly, just use a pinch of the stuff.
I always like to add ground spices to an onion base first and then cook them off a little until you can smell them. It only takes a minute or two for them to become aromatic and it just really helps toast them and get the best flavour out of them.
The stock turns a gorgeous golden yellow colour after a quick infuse with the saffron.
Once the liquid has come up to a boil on the stovetop, place the lid on and then slow cook it in the oven for about 1.5 hours.
This simple tomato salad pairs so well with spiced meats and it was a great side for this casserole. Sumac was the hardest spice for me to find in Singapore. I looked for it everywhere for months and finally found it in a supermarket only one train station away from where we live.
I also served this with the Middle Eastern rice with nuts that I made a few weeks back. It was a perfect pairing.
Slow Cooked Lamb and Fig Casserole
Ingredients – Serves 2-3
- 400g of roughly diced casserole or stewing lamb or 2 large lamb shanks
- 2 cups of salt free (or salt reduced) chicken stock
- ½ tsp of saffron
- 1 large brown onion, roughly diced
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 tbs of dried ground cumin
- 1/3 tsp of dried ground allspice
- ½ tbs of honey
- 1 tbs of red wine vinegar
- 1 can of salt free chopped tomatoes
- ¾ cup of dried, whole Iranian figs alternatively use any type of dried fig, dates or prunes
- 1 whole cinnamon quill
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- Preheat the oven to 150°C.
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper and heat an enamel casserole dish or heavy based oven-proof saucepan over a medium low heat. Add a splash of olive oil and then brown the meat on all sides in batches. As the lamb browns, remove it and set aside.
- While the batches of lamb are browning, heat the stock in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is simmering. Once it reaches a simmer, remove from the heat and add the saffron fronds to it. Let the saffron steep in the hot stock for at least 5 minutes.
- Once all of the lamb has been browned and set aside, add the onions and garlic to the casserole dish and cook until they are starting to soften or around 3 minutes.
- Next, add the cumin, allspice and honey and cook, stirring until the spices are aromatic or about 1 minute.
- Deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scuff up as much of the brown bits on the base with the small amount of vinegar before adding the can of tomatoes and its juice and scraping up the rest of any caramelized bits on the bottom of the casserole.
- Add the lamb and any resting juices back to the casserole dish with the infused stock and saffron mix, the cinnamon, star anise, rosemary sprig and figs.
- Bring up to a boil, then place the lid on and place in the oven.
- Slow cook in the oven until the lamb is very tender. If using lamb pieces, that should take around 1½ hours. If using lamb shanks, it will take closer to 2½ hours.
- Season with salt and pepper and remove the woody rosemary stalk, cinnamon quill and star anise before serving.
- Serve with rice or mashed potato and the sumac salad. Leftovers keep well in the fridge or freezer.
Ingredients – Serves 2-3 as a side salad
- ½ a red onion, peeled and finely sliced
- 1½ cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ tsp of sumac
- Place all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, with a small pinch of sea salt flakes.
- Let sit unrefrigerated for at least 10 minutes before serving. Pairs excellently with spiced meats and Middle Eastern dishes.