Mum’s cookbook: Festive pineapple tarts [recipe below]

Food has typically played a central role in my family, particularly by the womenfolk, who make it a point to whip up piping hot dishes on the table for at least one meal per day. It still blows my mind to think of the amount of effort and fuss that has been placed on serving those plates.

My mum making pineapple tarts 2013
My family’s pineapple-tart production factory line

So when reading food books, particularly those that share theirs or their family’s cooking experience, I wanted to write a similar story for my mum. As a towering figure in the kitchen, she could conjure up drool-worthy Chinese dishes in no time with her knack for picking out the freshest ingredients. I came to realize it would be a pity if these recipes were not properly documented.

My mum’s best dishes (read: rich, artery clogging treats) would usually be served during Chinese New Year, a festival equivalent to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Amongst the yearly feasting, an annual staple for most Singaporean/Malaysian families would be this buttery, sweet pastry called pineapple tarts.

Hail the golden, glorious pineapple tarts!
Hail the golden, glorious pineapple tarts!

These pastries have been mentioned on my blog both this year and last year as a testament to my love and adoration for these lovely golden goodies. If made well, these buttery tarts would melt in the mouth and dissolve into a sweet and sour fruity jam.

Be warned though the process to make them is sheer tedious and laborious. This year, with the help from five of my family members, who were involved with rolling the pineapple jams and sealing it with a thin layer of shortbread skin, we still took more than six hours to finish about 300-ish tarts.

Yet the rich buttery smell wafting from the oven as the pineapple tarts are baked is probably one of the most comforting scent that defines a large part of my festive experience. So without adieu, here is the recipe:
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Happy Chinese New Year! [PICS]

Chinese New Year greeting[MANY PICS BELOW UNDER FOLD]
Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year would be coming round this weekend and I am absolutely excited to usher in the new snake year.

My family has bought new pots of flowers, red glittery decorations and gave the house a good scrub. Most importantly, we have started baking festive delicacies, many of which are finger licking good and drool worthy.

This will be the starting point of my new project this year where I will spend the year writing and snapping pictures of my mum’s cooking. At the end of it all, I hope to be able to produce a family recipe book that records not only recipes but also kitchen larder tales.
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My grandma’s stories: Finale

(This is the final post of my year-long series recounting stories from my grandmother about her life and the old days in Singapore. For past entries, links could be found at the end of the post. Scroll down to view more pictures.)

After a whole year of recording down bits and bobs of my grandmother’s stories, I am a little sad to announce the end of the series.

‘My grandma’s stories’ documents Ah Ma’s, a name my family members call her, lifetime worth of experiences,  If you are interested to read previous stories, scroll down to the bottom for links to individual postsAh Ma and her grandchildrenIn this final entry, I would like to share some personal memories of Ah Ma, who spent her twilight years bringing my siblings and I up.
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My grandma’s stories: Grandpa and life’s greatest hatred

(This is part 10 of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. For past entries, links could be found at the end of the post.)

“Even if I die, I do not want my ashes to be placed right beside him,” grandma said calmly of grandpa, a man whom she was destined to marry since being sold to his family at a tender age.

My grandparents got married in the postwar year of 1947 (Click here for my previous blog post about their marriage) and about two decades later, family life took a turn when grandpa became mentally unstable.

“He became crazy and would hit me with a shoulder pole (a yoke used to carry water buckets front and back),” grandma said. “He hurt my back very badly and up till now, I still cannot bend my hands to scratch my back.”

His acts became increasingly incomprehensible where he would at times buy baskets of vegetables like eggplants and spinach only to leave them in a room at home to rot.

I grew up having never met grandpa before nor saw a single picture of him. In my mind, the image of grandpa is simply a blank slate. So it came as a rude shock to hear from grandma about his insanity, the beatings and her unforgiving anger.
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My grandma’s stories: A roof over our heads

(This is part nine of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. For past entries, links could be found at the end of the post.)Grandma recalled with a sense of excitement the first time she laid her hands on the pair of keys to her first home.

It was a two-bedroom, corner apartment on the 11th floor in Telok Blangah, southwestern part of Singapore.

“I was excited to finally get my own place which is registered under my own name even though there was barely anything in the house apart from water and electricity,” she said.

Ah Ma scrapped together $3000 (USD 2,440) from her threadbare savings to pay for the housing deposit, but with three children in tow, she had little money left to furnish her Spartan flat.

“I was turning to tontines to borrow money to buy the furniture,” grandma said. “If I didn’t join a tontine, I would have never dared to borrow money from elsewhere.”

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