4 Morningside Place (Edinburgh): Tasty Beginnings

4 Morningside Place

I’m not generally a big breakfast person in New Yorkon the road, however, that’s an entirely different matter.

If I am to face a new, strange city, a good start to the day is a must. In Edinburgh, a city that’s become less unfamiliar to me in the past year, I recently found a delightful place that offers delicious, healthy breakfasts and much much more.

Now, you know I don’t usually write about places where I’ve stayed on this blog — rather, I tend to do that for places like the Travel section of the New York Times. I’ll make an exception here though for a charming bed and breakfast I just discovered in Edinburgh’s leafy yet fashionable Morningside neighborhood — 4 Morningside Place …

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Portuguese Sweet Bread: True Crack Bread


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There has been no small amount of grumbling in this household recently.

The complaints are rather monotonous — they all go something like this: What happened to the bread baking?

It is true that not too very long ago, there had been great ambition on this front. The idea had been to make a bread every week along with dozens of bakers around the world in a quest to bake our way through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

But then, of course, life intervenes. (In my case, that would be the months spent traveling for research and then writing The Book.)

Gradually, my smoke-filled kitchen (thank you, ciabatta) and bygone bagels were becoming faded adventures in our memory.

During a break in the hubbub, however, I decided this nonsense had gone on long enough. The bread-baking bible was dusted off and my trusty KitchenAid mixer was resuscitated.

On the docket was a bread I’d been curious about: Portuguese sweet bread, a type of loaf, lovely, soft and sweet, that’s popular in Hawaii and New England. (It was introduced to those regions by Portuguese immigrants.)

Now, in the times that I’d tried it, it had always reminded me of the slightly sweet buns and loaves I grew up eating in Hong Kong and Singapore. It was time to see how this recipe would turn out in my own kitchen …

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Pineapple Tarts: The Start Of The Journey


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In the beginning, there were pineapple tarts.

These buttery, crumbly, bite-sized marvels bewitched me as a child in Singapore. My paternal grandmother made the best ones, of course — every Chinese new year, she would hit the kitchen to churn out her tarts, pushing me to eat as many as I wanted as we sat in her living room, unhurriedly passing time.

I never learned to make my grandmother’s tarts as a child, unfortunately.

When I was 11, she died. And the chance for her to teach me anything suddenly vanished.

After many years of mourning this lost opportunity, I traveled back to Singapore in early 2009 to learn how to make these tarts from my aunts. My grandmother had taught them how to bake the tarts when she was alive and they were now the keepers of her prized recipe, which I’ve included below.

The experience was enlightening — but it also generated a spark. I now knew how to make the tarts of my grandmother, a legendary cook in our family and to all she knew.

But still, I wanted more.

Thus began a journey of discovery — one that would take place in the kitchens of my Singapore family. Over the next lunar calendar year, the women of my family would gather over hot stoves to laugh, tell stories, shake our heads and, above all else, cook.

The story of my journey will be shared very soon. (Hyperion’s Voice is publishing “A Tiger In The Kitchen” in January 2011.)

But first, it must be written — and so I must bow out of this blog for a while. Seven weeks, to be exact. (Special thanks to Yaddo, the artists’ colony, for generously offering me a nook in the woods to think and create.)

I hope you’ll forgive this absence, but you must admit, it’s for a rather good reason. 

When I return in late April, I’ll be looking for all of you. My year of cooking in Singapore is over but the journey continues here. And I hope you’ll be coming along with me.

Until then, buon appetito and enjoy …

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Le Perigord, Je T'Adore


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It turns out, my mother was right — church is good for you.

On day 1.5 in Paris, we feel drawn to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. It’s Sunday and the childhood Catholics in us just won’t be silenced. I’m not saying we went to mass — but we did have a holy experience of another sort.

While leaving the church, there it was — tent after tent filled with duck rillettes, honeys, chestnut jams and sweet, sweet strawberries from the Perigord region.

We gawped at the decadent spread and then one another. This street fair — clearly, it had to be a sign. And so we stopped to smell the strawberries.

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