Sunday afternoon’s skies were dark and dreary, as if a blanket of clouds had prematurely descended even before the day had really even begun. In addition to cold winds and single digit temperatures, it started to rain – fine pellets of rain that caught your breath in the cold winter drafts.
Being continents away from my father, he in Singapore and I in Argentina, I didn’t get a chance to celebrate Father’s Day physically with him; I’d called him a day earlier to wish him, and just hearing his contented voice made me happy despite the distance.
My father and I aren’t really “phone-people”, in the sense that we don’t exactly spend hours on the phone catching up with each other.
Sometimes we email, in short, quick sentences, fast and to-the-point. Other times we text over whatsapp, him telling me about his latest stock market investment and asking whether I would also like to invest; other times me asking him how things are back home with his answer almost always being some variation of “I’m good, things are fine, don’t worry.”
Sometimes he reads my blog posts too, and then emails me on how awesome he thinks it is that I’m pursuing what I love, both writing and cooking, and I feel myself swell up with pride and confidence and love.
You see, my dad isn’t the most expressive person I know.
Growing up, I think my dad always feel the need to impress my grandfather with his achievements in life, and when he became a father himself, he rarely praised us when we did well, and at most he would show acknowledgement with a slight nod and a soft “hmm”.
Over the years, my dad has softened alot and is definitely much more expressive; still, I know that he has always been proud of us, his children, and despite our lack of phone communication, I know he loves us very much too.
I’m extremely proud of my dad too.
He was the skinny little boy who had to start working at an early age at my grandfather’s provision shop – my dad worked as the delivery boy, and also served in other odd jobs that the shop required. Later, he went on the study and complete his ACCA course while working full time with a small little family to take care of. He then went on to work for a Dutch tank storage provider where he literally climbed the corporate ladder one rung at a time to eventually become its financial controller.
My father is probably the most hardworking person I’ve ever known; he’s always reading (whether his iPad, or iPhone or the newspapaers), or doing some kind of course, sometimes at the expense of relaxing and just enjoying the act of doing nothing; but I suppose life has instilled so deeply in him the importance of continuous self-improvement, that at 60 years of age, old habits sure die hard.
Because he had to work his way through school and pay for his own further studies, my dad has also always been very conscientious about the way we spend money, and his job as a financial controller makes it second-nature for him. We learnt as kids from a young age that to spend money on something, we had to justify it fully; and later in life, I’ve realized that this was a virtue that I’m extremely grateful for.
Perhaps the one thing my dad allows himself to indulge in is food.
While he doesn’t dine in ridiculously expensive and fancy Michelin-star restaurants, once in a while he enjoys going out to a nice Japanese or Italian restaurant with my mum and siblings, and he also certainty enjoys the very frequent ice cream cone, as well as snacking at the local hawker centers. It’s not uncommon to find him bringing home bags of soybean curd, fried noodles and sometimes vegetable fritters, sitting in little brown paper bags on our kitchen counter, tempting us to eat.
SPRING ONION & SPINACH
When I learnt how to make round vegetable fritters the other day at cooking class, I inevitably thought about my dad, and his love for local Singaporean hawker center food. I knew I wanted make them at home, but instead of shaping them like round balls, I wanted to make them like savory pancakes that were easier to eat and cook.
I’ve taken up quite a liking for spinach these days, because it’s such an easy to use and healthy vegetable, and because one seemingly small bunch of spinach actually amounts to quite a lot of spinach leaves, which can be used both cooked and raw.
To make this snack, all you really need is a bunch of fresh spinach cut into thin shreds and very roughly chopped spring onions, which are mixed in a light batter made of flour, milk, oil and eggs, and then seasoned lightly with powdered nutmeg, and a dash of salt and pepper.
Mixed all together, they create the batter for this incredibly easy but filling snack.
I love the brightness of eggs and their ability to gel things together – in this case fresh spinach and spring onions. Eggs always make me happy, and they have the power to brighten up every kitchen.
A little thing to take note of when making the batter – the batter should have some consistency; if it is too liquid, it might be hard to shape the pancakes into small circles (they might expand too much). But don’t worry, there’s a quick remedy – if you find the batter lacking in consistency, just add in a few more tablespoons of flour and mix well until you get the right consistency.
The easiest part comes after the batter and the vegetables have been mixed together. Scoop a small amount of batter and then pour to form a circle in a pre-heated greased saucepan. Now wait for it to cook, as it turns a light golden brown, eat it warm and enjoy.
SPRING ONION & SPINACH PANCAKES (Makes 10)
Adapted from Pelusa Molina
For the batter:
1) 200g of all-purpose flour
2) 1 teaspoon of salt
3) 1 teaspoon of baking powder
4) Dash of nutmeg powder and pepper
5) 1 tablespoon of oil
6) 150ml of milk
7) 3 large eggs (or 4 small ones)
For the vegetables:
8) 3 cups of shredded spinach
9) 1 cup of chopped spring onions
10) 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
11) Salt & pepper to taste
12) Oil for frying
1) Cut spinach into shreds and roughly chop spring onions into small pieces
2) Sprinkle dried oregano, salt and pepper over the spinach and mix
3) Sift flour, baking powder, nutmeg powder, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl
4) Mix the eggs with the oil and milk
5) Add the egg-mixture to the dry flour mixture, mixing well to get the batter
6) Mix in the cut spinach and spring onions with the batter until spread out evenly
7) Pour about a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and heat up over low heat
8) Using a large spoon scoop, scoop about half a scoop of batter and pour onto the pan, forming a circle slightly smaller than the palm of your hand
9) Let the batter cook for a couple of minutes on one side before flipping it over to the other side, and let it cook until both sides are golden brown
10) Repeat steps 8 and 9 until all the batter has been used up
Sift flour, baking powder, nutmeg powder, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl:
Mix the eggs with the oil and milk, then add the egg-mixture to the dry flour mixture, mixing well to get the batter:
Sprinkle dried oregano, salt and pepper over the spinach and mix:
Mix in the cut spinach and spring onions with the batter until spread out evenly:
Using a large spoon scoop, scoop about half a scoop of batter and pour onto the pan, forming a circle slightly smaller than the palm of your hand:
Let the batter cook for a couple of minutes on one side before flipping it over to the other side, and let it cook until both sides are golden brown:
Serve warm & enjoy!