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Summertime

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With recent temperatures peaking at below 30 degrees, the blustery winds can only mean that autumn is heading our way. A mere few weeks ago, I was complaining incessantly about the heat and humidity of Shanghai summers, but now that it’s coming to an end, I find myself rather sorry to see it go. Soon, the summery days where we sat outside in short shorts and skirts, enjoying the rays of the sun and licking candy coloured popsicles and chocolate Cornettos will be gone. Instead, they’ll be replaced with cardigans and light autumn scarves, and a hope that perhaps this year, autumn will last longer than a week.

Whilst going to Australia for university does give me a relaxing extra six months of holiday, the pitfalls include having to watch my friends leave one by one. Some I may see again next year, while others, perhaps never. It’s impossible not to be affected by this, and already, I miss my friends so much that I feel like my heart might explode. Regardless, there is nothing left to do but hold onto the vestiges of summer and happy memories of the past five years.

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One blistering summer week (in the perpetually summery Thailand) was spent on the party island of Koh Samui. Where…well, we didn’t quite party. Nevertheless, it was fantastic fun, patched together by consecutive sleepless nights of Italian Bridge and countless shots (after enough of them, you really do forget how to count). Many mornings, afternoons and evenings were spent in the cool presence of the infinity pool, where we were successfully lulled into a false security – that is, until we were tossed into the pool by nameless individuals (Luke and Francis). The highlight of which was when Francis finally got revenge on Luke by Sparta-kicking him into the pool. Ahh, sweet vengeance.

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Then there was the joint birthday brunch between Gabriel and I. Between the hours of 12 and 6, we partied, feasted, drank and watched Winnie the Pooh. Stuffed full from the tableful of pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs, bacon, salad, cold platter and freshly home baked bread, we then continued to gorge ourselves upon the dessert end of the table. Laden with fifty odd chocolate banana and vanilla cupcakes, accompanied by whipped chocolate frosting and whipped cream and caramel banana bread, I don’t think my stomach has ever been so close to Winnie the Pooh’s. Luckily for him, the look is adorable on the bear. On me? Not so much. Lastly, we brought out a four layered tiramisu cake that we could barely eat after stuffing ourselves with so many goodies. But we did it anyway. What can I say? There’s always room for dessert.

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On that day, I received not only a ridiculously comfortable, humongous leopard print beanbag (placed next to my laptop for size comparison), but also the best card I have ever seen and received.

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The sangria that we served at this birthday brunch captures the very essence of summer – it’s the kind of drink that unmistakeably builds the vision of tropical fruits ripening on luscious green vines, and is downright delicious. Being a brunch party, it would hardly have been appropriate to serve alcoholic sangria when it had barely hit noon. Instead, I added more fruit juices to make up for the wine, which did make the sangria much sweeter than it would have been, but saved me the effort of boiling simple syrup.

The wonderful things about tiggers  sangria are that it is deceivingly easy to make, and will taste wonderful no matter what combination of juices you use. While I started with the recipe below, it was all gone in neck breaking speed, so I had to whip up an extra two batches with whatever juices I had left (read: poured in random juices and grenadine syrup that I had lying around).

To keep the sangria cool, half fill a bundt pan with water and freeze. If you, like me, don’t have the freezer room for an entire bundt pan because your fridge is too full of frozen cakes and goodies, then don’t fret! Just fill up a lock&lock box with water, or even more juice and freeze. This will keep the sangria consistently cool without diluting it much.

As for the club soda or soda water, while Pellegrino and San Benedetto are more economical since you can buy them in 1.5L bottles, Schweppes’ club soda has twice the carbonated goodness. I used a mixture of both, since that’s what I had on hand.

When serving the sangria, pour it into a humongous, but pretty bowl (regretfully, I only had my metal mixing bowl. Sad, I know), and furnish with a stack of glasses and a ladle, so that you can sit back and let everyone serve themselves. Not everyone can hire cater waiters like Dan Humphrey. If you do serve some sangria, be sure to ladle a few slices of lemon or lime, or any other fruit into the glasses. It makes a simple drink look effortlessly tropical and classy.

Lastly, I would just like to raise a glass to my friends for being so utterly amazing.

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Virgin Sangria

Adapted from A Sweet Pea Chef

  • 750ml grape juice
  • 250ml apple juice
  • 250ml orange juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 plum, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 500-750ml sparkling water or club soda (to taste)
  1. The night before, put sliced fruits and fruit juices into a jug and let them marinate overnight. Half fill a bundt pan or a lock&lock box with water and freeze.
  2. Just before serving, transfer sangria into a large punch bowl. Add ice and club soda to taste. Stir.
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Mango Madness

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Honestly, summer is no time for baking. With the already scorching temperatures outside, the most we can do is lie on the floor, trying to forget the blaze of the sun. Only a masochist would want to open an oven to 180 degrees and undo the fruits of our air conditioner’s labour.

It’s rather a shame, actually, because besides loving to bake cakes, I am one serious tropaholic. Pineapple, mangoes, bananas…I love them all! Right down to each little passionfruit and mangosteen. There’s something so blatantly summery, and happy about tropical fruits, which is why we shouldn’t let the heat get us down. Instead of baking them into delicious carbolicious snacks, we should embrace desserts (and foods) that use other methods to obtain our tastebud’s delight.

So, how about some mousse? Mango mousse, to be specific. It’s deliciously creamy, and easy to make – at the most requiring a quick stir on the stove, which heats up your kitchen considerably less than an oven.

This recipe is actually more of a bavarian cream, but it’s still light and fluffy, while maintaining an explosive burst of mango flavour. This simplistic, but rich dessert can be served at both casual and formal tables, and the fact that it can be pre-made only makes it an easier choice when it comes to serving at events.

Also, I really like mangoes.

Back when I lived in Australia, we had a tree in our backyard. It seemed rather uninteresting, so when we moved in, we never paid it much mind. Then one day, our neighbour came over to see the new house and exclaimed how lucky we were to have a mango tree.

Wait. What?!?!

Before we knew it, my dad returned home with a bulging bag of fertiliser. Unfortunately, no one told him that adding too much fertiliser to a plant will burn its roots. Oops. However, the tree was hardy and survived the burned roots, living for many, many more years and bearing hundreds of mango for me to eat.

In some countries, you can buy canned mango puree, which makes this dessert even easier. Alas, Shanghai is lacking in the canned goods aisle, but using fresh mangoes is hardly a downside. I actually prefer to use fresh fruit, rather than their syruped counterparts. For this recipe, you will need 2 medium mangoes. Peel and cut the flesh off, then blend in a blender. Just remember to be careful of your fingers!

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Mango Mousse

  • 2 1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 250g mango puree (approximately 2 large mangoes)
  • 100g or 1/2 cup sugar
  • 227g/8 oz whipping cream.
  1. Pour the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water, and set aside until it the gelatine has swollen and sunk.
  2. Heat the sugar and half of the mango puree in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Do not boil. Stir in gelatine until  completely dissolved, then stir in remaining mango puree.
  3. In a large, chilled bowl, whip cream to soft peaks. Gently fold in cooled mango puree mixture, then continue whipping until well incorporated.
  4. Pour mousse into moulds and refrigerate until set.

The dessert picture is actually a combination of lemon cheesecake and mango mousse that was served with an afternoon tea a while back. Whilst the mango mousse was perfect, I found the lemon cheesecake not lemony enough, and too cheesy by far. More on that once I improve the recipe (: