26 January 2015

Burns Night

As I'm sure many expats feel when living in another country, it's nice to occasionally have a little of something familiar from home no matter how long you've lived abroad. We got to go to a Burns Night at Rabbit, Carrot, Gun on East Coast Road at the weekend which did the trick for me, even if I'm English and not Scottish.

I've written previously about Rabbit, Carrot, Gun and the Trenchard Arms next door to it and since writing this post they've become firm favourites with us when we decide to go out locally.  My husband spotted they were hosting a Burns Night a while back and we decided this sounded like something that could be a lot of fun to go along to.  For anyone who doesn't know Burns Night and suppers are held in honour of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns and are celebrated in Scotland around the 25 January.  They are becoming more common in other parts of the UK too and I've previously been to one or two events but this was the first time I'd been aware of anything happening in Singapore.

At a Burns Night supper the guests are traditionally served haggis with neeps and tatties.  For the unsure, haggis traditionally consists of sheep's heart, liver and lungs with onion and a variety of spices encased in the sheep's stomach, though it is often now in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach.  Neeps is Scots for turnips and tatties Scots for potatoes.  Luckily just because we were in Singapore this didn't stop us enjoying a traditional supper, though I have to admit it was possibly the most posh presentation of a haggis I'd ever had!  That said though it was very good and the haggis had a lovely warming spiciness to it.  The vegetables with the haggis were also a little different in that they were much more crunchy than is perhaps typical (see my photo below) and not as mashed up as neeps and tatties tend to usually be in this dish.  Alongside the haggis there were two other dishes on offer, the haggis, black pudding and poached egg salad which we got to try ahead of the night's events.  This was really interestingly flavoured with the slight spiciness of the haggis complimenting the black pudding and egg really well.  Secondly the Black Watch Scotch egg which was also interesting with the casing for the eggs being a mixture of black pudding, pork sausage meat and breadcrumbs.  The black pudding giving the casing a much darker colour than normal and a bit of a twist on the typical flavour.

haggis, black pudding and poached egg salad - which we got to sample a little of before dinner

The evening kept true to tradition and the haggis, once ready to be served, was piped in by a piper in full regalia.  He looked great but must have been very hot!  There was also a small collection of Scots at the event all looking fabulous in their kilts.  The haggis was then placed on a table in front of everybody and one of the Scots (with a real talent) read out the Address to a Haggis, a poem by Robert Burns.  If you want to read the poem for yourself I've attached it below.  We then all drank a 'wee dram' of whisky to toast the haggis and shortly afterwards the feasting began, and while we dined we were entertained a little more by the piper.  Finally we finished off our meal with a return to England for dessert and a delicious Eton Mess, sweet and incredibly filling!  By the way Rabbit, Carrot, Gun is currently serving black pudding on their regular menu, so if you're a fan and are missing it or fancy trying it for the first time get yourself there asap before it runs out.

Black Watch Scotch egg

It was a really fun night, the food was delicious despite, as I mentioned, it being the poshest haggis, neeps and tatties I've ever eaten.  All the little extra touches, such as the piper made it an even better evening and all the more enjoyable.  Whilst I may not be Scottish it was lovely to have this opportunity to celebrate something close to home.  Hopefully perhaps they'll do the same again next year, and if they do I suggest it will be well worth going along for the evening if you can.

Haggis with neeps and tatties

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race! 
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 
Painch, tripe, or thairm: 
Weel are ye wordy of a grace 
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill, 
Your hurdies like a distant hill, 
Your pin wad help to mend a mill 
In time o need, 
While thro your pores the dews distil 
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight, 
An cut you up wi ready slight, 
Trenching your gushing entrails bright, 
Like onie ditch; 
And then, O what a glorious sight, 
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive: 
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive, 
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve 
Are bent like drums; 
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive, 
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout, 
Or olio that wad staw a sow, 
Or fricassee wad mak her spew 
Wi perfect sconner, 
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view 
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash, 
As feckless as a wither'd rash, 
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash, 
His nieve a nit: 
Thro bloody flood or field to dash, 
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, 
The trembling earth resounds his tread, 
Clap in his walie nieve a blade, 
He'll make it whissle; 
An legs an arms, an heads will sned, 
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care, 
And dish them out their bill o fare, 
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware 
That jaups in luggies: 
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer, 
Gie her a Haggis!

19 January 2015

Red Dot Roaming - Farmway LRT - Sengkang Riverside Park Floating Wetland

I got back on to the Red Dot Roaming train (literally) with my first one of 2015 just recently.  This time heading to Farmway LRT (so OK not the MRT but near enough) to visit the Sengkang Riverside park and specifically the floating wetland within it.

The abundance of green spaces and parks etc. in Singapore is one of the many things I appreciate about living here.  You are never that far away from being able to go and sit or walk around one of them and during the week many of them are pretty much empty.  Many also have unusual features and Sengkang Riverside park is no exception.  When I read about the floating wetland I was intrigued and decided I needed to investigate further.

The morning I had decided to visit started off very wet and was the persistent kind of rain rather than just a passing storm.  I debated whether it was a good idea as I guessed there may not be much shelter but in the end took the plunge.  By the time I arrived there was just a very light drizzle so I'm glad I decided to go in the end.  Getting to the park is incredibly easy from Farmway LRT station, it's just a short walk and pretty much in a straight line.  Locating the wetland was also very simple, just walk past the Sengkang sports centre on Anchorvale Street and down a side path before the bridge towards the Punggol reservoir (Singapore's sixteenth reservoir) which runs through the park.

The floating wetland (a kind of large floating mat) is the first of its kind in Singapore and provides a natural habitat for a variety of fish and birds.  I didn't see any fish but I did see plenty of birds on the floating marshes.  Of course there are also a large variety of wetland plants and throughout there are helpful boards giving you information about the different plants you can see.  These include tube sedge, paper reed, dwarf papyrus, narrow-leafed cattail, water pennywort and many more.

As well as being the first wetland of its kind in Singapore it also serves another important function as the wetland helps to clean the water too.  It has been specifically designed to allow micro-organisms on the plant roots to purify the water.  The micro-organisms absorb the nitrates, phosphates, ammonia and other pollutants in the water which helps to improve the water quality.

You can just seen in the photo above some decking and what looks like a giant mangosteen.  This is a bit of sheltered seating and there are also, what I think are giant oranges which also provide seating as well as more conventional seating.  At the time I was a little perplexed by why giant fruit would be chosen but I've since read about a fruit tree trail also in the park (I didn't investigate that part) consisting of sixteen different fruit trees so I wonder if the design of the seating was done to be in keeping with that.

Whilst the wetland may not be huge if you are in the area it's worth taking a look at.  If nothing else, for an opportunity to observe a little more of the natural side to Singapore right in the heart of the housing in the area. 

Farmway LRT (SW2) is on the Sengkang LRT line.  It can be accessed via Sengkang MRT on the North East line (NE16).  

If you missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming posts check them out here.

UPDATE - April 2015 - this was my second Red Dot Roaming adventure to a section of the larger North Eastern Riverine Loop.  Check out my earlier post on the Punggol Waterway and keep your eyes peeled for more which I already have planned for the future.

This useful link via the National Parks also gives you information on the whole route if you are keen to do some exploring yourself.

14 January 2015

Memories of France

So the final part of our summer trip back to Europe saw us travelling to the South of France for a few days for the wedding of friends also based here in Singapore (though sadly not for much longer).  You can check out her fabulous blog with lots of great food recommendations in Singapore and beyond as well as much more here!

Our base for the few days was a fabulous gite in the pretty village of Cestayrols, possibly the most remote place I've stayed in quite sometime, certainly in terms of a lack of any Internet connection.  Definitely an opportunity to enjoy a break from the connected world for just a few days though.  It felt like you could step outdoors and be in any time period because the village was so sleepy, unchanged and relaxed but it was a welcome and refreshing experience.

The gite was huge, there were ten of us staying there and there was still plenty of room to enjoy it without feeling you were on top of everybody else.  The rooms were also very big and whilst our flat here in Singapore is not the smallest it reminded me again how nice it was to be staying in a house with lots of space.  There were even parts of the gite that were not accessible to us plus the owners home was attached to it so that shows what a huge property it is!  When not at the wedding celebrations, in a nearby chateau, we spent our time eating lots of amazing local produce, visiting the nearby vineyards, playing petanque late into the evening on the village's petanque terrain (I admit I looked up what the correct technical term is for the area you play petanque in) and generally enjoying everybody's company and relaxing.  It was a lovely end to our summer trip back.

Friends who were also there with us, both from Singapore and other parts of the South East Asia region, have already written about some of the wonderful food and other things that we had/did whilst we were there.  If you want to read more check out the following links.

Several posts on the excellent blog, A British Girl Abroad

All the amazing food and wine we got to enjoy at the wedding reception - Living in Sin

Here then, just as for my previous Spain post, are a few photos that remind me of a great few days over in France.

11 January 2015

Oxwell & Co

It was another Sunday where we didn't really have any definite plans but felt like going somewhere different to eat.  We'd also recently celebrated our wedding anniversary but due to my husband's travelling for work had had no opportunity to acknowledge it.  After a bit of thought and checking out suggestions made to us previously we decided to try out Oxwell & Co in Chinatown.  As on other occasions we hadn't made any reservation as it was a completely spur of the moment decision so turned up fully prepared that we might get turned away.  However the staff were more than willing to accommodate us and found us a table without any fuss.  It is fairly small (the restaurant part is upstairs) and obviously a popular place from the number of people who turned up whilst we were there, so I'd recommend making reservations to avoid disappointment.

Oxwell & Co is actually in the spot on Ann Siang Hill where the Emporium used to be and the famous pork pies!  However that's now long gone as is often the case in Singapore, but based on our meal that day I'd say Oxwell & Co is a more than adequate replacement!

As we went on a Sunday it meant we could enjoy a roast dinner, (which was the reason we went) a bit of treat for us.  So we opted for the roast beef with Yorkshire puddings.  In addition we also ordered a side plate of Brussels sprouts with little bits of bacon.  I've never been the biggest Brussels sprouts fan, years of being served them at Christmas and having to disguise them under every other vegetable on my plate so I could force them down I guess.  However I admit in recent years, whilst still not my favourite, I can eat them.  These though were amazing and I found myself heading back for second and third helpings!  In fact so good were they that my husband was inspired when cooking our Christmas dinner to recreate them and yes his were just as good.

Upstairs restaurant interior

As you can see from the interior shots the place has a funky modern feel to it and is bright and airy with all the windows that you can see from my exterior shot above.  As I mentioned the restaurant is upstairs and in the lower part is a bar area which is equally modern in style.  As you can see in the photo below it has some fun, interesting lights as well as some interesting pumps dispensing drinks with some fun ones listed as on tap.  The decor down in the bar area is definitely a little eccentric but a lot of fun nonetheless.  Our afternoon ended with a couple of drinks in the downstairs bar which was a pleasant end to our late anniversary celebrations.

Brussels sprouts with bacon

Downstairs bar area interior

Oxwell & Co is considered as having one of the best roasts in Singapore and I'd definitely agree.  Make sure you book as it was very popular and I think we were just very lucky to get a table with no reservation.  The Sunday roast is served on Sundays from 11.30 - 3pm, check out their Facebook page here.  I believe since we visited the wider menu has been revamped so even more reason for us to make a return at some point.  Have you visited any other spots with good roast dinners in Singapore?  Let me know as I'd love to try them out!

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