After agonising over which ham and turkey to order for Christmas lunch, I take some perverse pleasure in watching all the side dishes, which I cook myself, disappear more quickly than the store-bought centrepieces of the meal.
This makes me wonder if I should just have Christmas lunch with only side dishes and do away with the huge joints of meat.
As in previous years, the roast potatoes are the first to go.
They are very easy to make. Just get a 2kg bag of Russet potatoes and a jar of duck fat. Supermarkets always stock them at Christmas. I use the Rougie brand, available in glass jars in the refrigerated section.
Peel the potatoes, cut in half and cover with water. Add 1 Tbs of salt, bring to the boil and let the potatoes boil for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and place the potatoes in a large colander or two smaller ones and shake them. What you want to do is rough up the surface. They become delightfully crisp in the oven.
In the mean time, preheat oven to 240 deg C. Pour one third of the duck fat into a sturdy roasting tin and stick it in the oven to heat up. Heat the rest of the duck fat in a small pan on the stove top.
When the fat is hot, take the tin out of the oven and place the potatoes in the pan in one single layer. Spoon more hot fat over the potatoes and sprinkle some salt over the spuds. Return the tray to the oven, fitting it as close to the top heating element as your pan will allow.
Roast for 15 minutes, remove, turn the potatoes and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Take them out again, turn and roast another 15 minutes.
They'll come out golden brown all over. The outer layer will be crisp, the rest of it will be fluffy and moist.
Don't wait for Christmas to make them. They are good with weekend roasts too.
On Boxing Day, a bunch of us have lunch at a friend's place and instead of the usual turkey and ham, I am so glad that the meal is filled with dishes that are very Singaporean.
I mean, what can be more nostalgic than fried beehoon and chicken curry right? These are staples that have fuelled us during chalet stays, and at beach outings and home parties for decades.
One thoughtful friend does a massive takeaway of roast duck, roast pork and char siew from Fatty Cheong at ABC Brickworks Market, and the char siew is outstanding.
I lap up the spicy curry, mopping up the gravy with baguette, and also relish the Heng Hwa beehoon.
The host has rice noodles from Xiamen and another friend turns up with flower clams and prawns from Chinatown market.
He disappears into the kitchen and emerges with a huge platter of beehoon, the noodles so light and fluffy. The flavour of the clams and prawns permeate the dish, and crunchy pieces of seaweed are a textural delight.
Happy food my friend calls it. And he is right.
LOTS OF TLC
When I get any time off, I like to spend it sleeping or watching TV. In other words, I am a sloth whenever I can get away with it.
A friend of mine, however, is an Energizer bunny that never stops.
Where people see opportunities to chill out, she is busy in the kitchen. Not that I am complaining, since I get some of the lovely things she makes.
There is always a jar of anchovies, peanuts and fried shallots in my fridge and I use them as a topping for congee or steel cut oats.
After Christmas, she decides to make hae bee hiam, a spicy dried shrimp condiment.
It is arduous work - seeding the dried chillies, washing and drying the prawns, making the spice paste and then frying everything for 55 minutes over low heat.
The result is delicious sprinkled on buttered bread. I'm going to use some for fried rice too, and while wolfing it down, give thanks for all the Energizer bunnies in my life.
There are days when I cannot bear to look at pork belly done any way. The layers of fat put me off. But there are times when thick slices of soya sauce braised pork is what I crave, either stuffed into steamed buns or eaten with rice.
Recently, at lunch in House (8D Dempsey Road, tel: 6475-7787), braised pork belly with taro fries ($27) on the menu catches my attention.
I like everything about the dish. The thick, dark soya sauce gives the pork plenty of umami and the slices are very generous. More fresh coriander would be good, because they give a burst of freshness to every bite of the rich pork.
The super thin taro fries are very moreish too, but I wish they'd do away with the truffle oil.
Although I am a conscientious note taker who jots down everything from components in a dish to best and worst dish contenders, I have to admit that I sometimes don't remember everything I post on social media.
So I go to the website 2015bestnine.com, which churns out a composite of nine of the best liked photos on my Instagram account, @msposhnosh.
Looking at the choices, I'd say roast meats really struck a chord with people on Instagram. London Fat Duck's char siew and char siew bun are among the nine, as are the roast suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice from Kimberley Chinese Restaurant and roast goose from Yat Lok, both in Hong Kong.
I am also glad to see two dishes cooked by my friend Lawrence, who fed me so well in 2015. His crab rice and pork stew on rice with a sous vide egg made it to the collage too.
Rounding off the nine are a burger from Wildfire, laksa that a colleague treated us to in the office and the ever-so-luscious kueh salat from Chalk Farm.
Today is the start of a new year and whatever happens, I will be eating well. I hope you'll join me on my adventures.
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