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I finished a master in architectural psychology but fell in love with cooking while (accidentally)...

...working as a chef in an Italian restaurant in Melbourne. The title was just given to me when the head chef suddenly quit his post one morning. Mind you, I was waitressing in there. Thank God a replacement chef was found within weeks but it was all too late for me. I had acquired the cooking bug. In short, I’m not working as a psychologist but plan to attend culinary school at some point. For now, I am happy feeding my loved ones and enjoy cooking, eating and sharing food immensely. Of course, blogging has come into the picture as part of sharing one’s love of cooking and one’s journey in the culinary world.

How long have you been a Daring Baker/Daring Cook and what’s your favorite thing about being in the group(s) so far?

I joined late in 2009 and so far I have been away overseas but I’m participating as of this month. I had been watching this group for a while and what I love about it is the camaraderie it fosters, the enjoyment of a challenge and the sharing of ideas amongst the members.

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget? How about your favorite kitchen appliance?

I have two favourites and can’t decide which one takes precedence. I love my very sharp knives for the amount of work they can accomplish in a few minutes. But then my wooden spoons are hard-working as well and they give me immense satisfaction every time I use them … so humble and beautiful.

Are you known for making a certain dish or dessert? If so, what is it?

I guess people love my braises and stews. I just got a natural instinct for them. I’m becoming very adept at making pies and tarts, both sweet and savoury and my orthodontist looks forward to the sourdough bread and brioche I bring each time I visit her!

Is there any recipe and/or technique that we haven’t covered yet that you’d really like to make/learn?

I would love to be able to bone a chicken in three minutes or less. By boning I mean removing the bones and carcass from the chicken while leaving the flesh and the skin mostly intact. For inspiration, in my Iphone I keep a youtube video of an Italian butcher who makes it look like a walk in the park. Yes, better, much better knife skills would be great. And using a pastry bag properly, perhaps being able to plate properly would other skills I would like to learn amongst many.

Do you have a favorite movie? Book? Genre of music? Actor? Actress?

I am loving Edward Sharpe at the moment but am quite fickle musically. I enjoy watching low-budget films as their storylines seem more interesting. Plus you get some brilliant acting (sometimes) by not very well known actors. This is a good thing as I tend to think that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between a famous actor and the character they play. That’s just my brain, though. Nothing wrong with famous actors.

You’ve just won $5000.00!!! What would you spend it on?

This is a cliché, but, a new kitchen would really make me happier. If not that, I would take my husband with me and go to Taipei and eat ourselves silly there. The Taiwanese are food obsessed and good food is everywhere.

What is the ultimate comfort food to you?

Ice cream. Homemade ice cream. Especially when my teeth hurt after my monthly orthodontic adjustment.

Which season (Winter, Summer, Spring, Fall) is your favorite.. why?

Spring and Fall are my favourite. Everyone is in a good mood, unencumbered by weather and clothing. The sun casts a beautiful glow then and both those seasons signify a seasonal start to a particular type of fruit or vegetable and looking forward to making recipes that make the most of the abundance.

Other than cooking and/or baking.. what hobbies do you enjoy?

I love watching films; I was a film major at one point. I also enjoy reading books on psychology, philosophy architecture and design. Playing with my three dogs is great and a lot of fun. Hmmm, I love eating and watching my husband drool over a dish I made.

How long have you been blogging? Do you like it? What’s your favorite post you’ve written?

I have only been blogging for a few months and I am slowly learning how to communicate through a blog. It’s challenging but exciting. Love photographing dishes and food. Trying to be myself through a blog can be difficult but cannot be avoided entirely. My favourite post was the one on the cinnamon rolls as it was a special request from a friend in Taipei who needed the recipe for Chinese New Year’s Eve. It was the first time I’ve made anything for the blog under pressure but I loved it. Sometimes pressure is good to help one do their best.

What’s your favorite cookbook for desserts/baking? What’s your favorite cookbook for savory/cooking?

I have too many books to qualify any one as a favourite. If I must, I would say Regan Daley’s “In the Sweet Kitchen” has been thumbed many times for dessert inspiration. In terms of savoury, all of Pei Mei’s cookbooks are worth their weight in gold. She was a popular Taiwanese TV cook a few decades ago and published a few books with recipes covering most of China and Taiwan. Her recipes are all foolproof, ingredients aren’t too difficult to obtain and the results are always delicious.

Is there one food that you seriously dislike/hate? If so, which is it and why?

I would have to say that I’m still trying to come to terms with Durian and Chinese bitter melon. I’m an omnivore but will have to draw the line at, say, cat, dog, rats and/or bugs. I had bee soup in China once but only because I was tricked into it. Never again.

What’s your favorite flower and/or plant?

I love the scent of jasmines and love magnolias.

Do you have a favorite local restaurant? If so, why is it your favorite and what kind of food is served there?

Yes, it’s called Dumpling King and they serve, very obviously, very good dumplings. My favourite dumplings there are the Xiao Long Bao (soupy, pork dumplings).

Who taught you how to cook and/or bake?

Mum has always been the best Chinese cook I know. She lived in Lima for over 20 years and now has this style of cooking that is a fusion of Peruvian and Cantonese. Everything she makes is delicious, exotic and special. As a child I was always encouraged to help in the kitchen by making dumplings, washing dishes or gutting fish (that was my favourite).

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

I would have to say Christmas. It’s a great holiday if you can avoid the stress. Plus, most people in Australia get a few weeks off (it’s summertime here) and I get to go places!

Reading any good books lately? Which ones?!

Yes, a book by Geri Larkin called “The Chocolate Cake Sutra: Ingredients for a Sweet Life”. It was written by a Buddhist nun who uses chocolate cake as a way to illustrate a Buddhist way of life. It’s very interesting and the author is engaging and down to earth.

You’ve had a rough week. How do you relax after a rough week?

I go for a walk with my dogs. Instant relaxation. I cook and bake, another great way to relax and forget.

Where is your favorite vacation (holiday) destination?

As of January, Taiwan. The food there is just too good. It used to be Italy and San Francisco. I find the Taiwanese to be really friendly and open and their food reflects that.

What is your favorite cooking/food related magazine? Why?

Saveur, most definitely. It is serious about food and its background. Doesn’t follow fads and/or worship celebrity cooks. They will travel anywhere on the planet for good food (street food or fancy) and then write a really good article about it. I like that. Their recipes are mostly doable and very reliable as well. Can’t say that about other food magazines. There is a magazine hailing from New Zealand called Dish. It’s just as good but can’t find it regularly here.

Do you have a food addiction?

Is eating ice cream with brioche for breakfast called an addiction? How about a bowl of noodles or truffled baked eggs? Maybe I have a breakfast addiction. I will eat for breakfast what most people will have for lunch or dinner, just because it’s there.

What did you eat for dinner last night? Did you prepare it or someone else?

We had a Cantonese New Year dish, a stew made with shiitake mushrooms, abalone, fish stomach and sea cucumber. Very delicious. Mum made it, she’s a star!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Fish and Chips. For sure.

What kind of colors do you like? Pastels? Earth tones? Brights? Neons? Etc.

I wear black almost all the time. I like it. I also happen to like red, orange and green. It all depends on the year and the prevailing mood.

If you had the choice of a free kitchen, bathroom, living room or bedroom makeover – which would you choose and why?

A kitchen would be great followed very closely by a bathroom.

The Martha – Angel of Domestication or Minion of Evil? Why?

I tend to both love and hate her. Don’t most people? I find her bland most times yet I always admire her ability to do anything and make anything. I am a bit jealous, actually. Can’t you tell?

Do you watch any competitive cooking shows? Like Top Chef or Hell’s Kitchen? If so, which is your favorite and why?

We have something similar to Top Chef and watched it last year. It was very good. I find very little time for TV most days and tend to miss episodes. I don’t like it very much when people get stupid and/or nasty in these shows. I tend to cringe. I do not enjoy cringing.

What’s your favorite “sweet” spice? How about your favorite “savory” spice?

I love cumin and nutmeg.

If you could eat in any celebrity chef’s restaurant which restaurant would it be, and which chef owns it?

I don’t know. Maybe any of Eric Ripert’s establishments? I love seafood and this guy can cook it to perfection.

What’s your favorite herb to cook or bake with? Do you prefer fresh or dried?

I love coriander (cilantro). Fresh is best.

Is there one recipe on your blog that you would like to share with us? If so, leave the link here.

Yes, my recipe for salmon, scallop and prawn ceviche. Here it is:

Do you have a time saving kitchen tip you’d like to share with us?

Read recipes thoroughly before attempting them or deciding you are going to prepare it. Find out how long it will take to get ready. Read through the ingredient list and prep everything including pots and pans and other equipment before you tackle it. This a stress-free way of cooking for me. And a good way to ensure a good outcome. By the way, sharpen your knives before you start cooking. It will save your fingers

You can visit Milagritos on her blog mothertucka