There are pieces of my heart all over the world.
In some countries, there are tiny pieces, and in others, large blocks of my heart, and while it means that home is never just in one location only, it also means that I feel a belonging to many distinct cities, sites and places, all at once.
Because Singapore is where I spent my childhood, and because it is my birth country, where my dear family and many cherished friends reside, a large part of my heart will inevitably and undeniably always be there.
I’m a Singaporean first, and an international resident second, and a huge part of who I am, and how I think and feel is attributable to my life in Singapore.
The Southeast Asian nation’s short history since its independence in August 1965; its cosmopolitan landscape and mish-mash of a culture; and the people, whose stories are as intertwined with mine as the roots of Spanish moss – these are the things that I cling onto, the memories which I keep alive, and the reason why Singapore will always, always be so incredibly special to me.
And then, naturally, because four years in any foreign country makes it more familiar than foreign, another large piece of my heart is also here in Argentina, and specifically, Buenos Aires, sometimes also known as the “Paris of South America”.
In this land where passion rules over logic; where strikes are as rampant as empanadas; where football unites the country as one, particularly as seen in the recent World Cup; where the average Argentine is so proud to be Argentine – I feel a sense of belonging that’s also almost as strong as the sense of being on the outside looking in.
I’ve created a life here with Juan, I’ve made friendships from scratch, and I’ve shared tears of joy and sadness with girlfriends whom I wouldn’t have met if I never lived here, and for that I am grateful, and my heart will always sing with gratitude.
And then, there is Italy – the boot-shaped country whose Tuscan landscape captured my heart in the August of 2007, and truth be told, has never let it go.
Two weeks of the Italian summer – spent basking in the glorious sunshine on large stones in Cinque Terre; savoring fresh seafood pasta in a restaurant perched on a cliff and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea; walking across the bridges of romatic Florence, then navigating between the canals in Venice – and I had fallen deeply, profoundly in love with a country I had only just come to know.
Italy for me, is like my first love – and since that trip almost seven years ago, I’ve always dreamt about returning to this land so beautiful and abundant.
If I close my eyes long enough, I can still smell the salty sea air from that carefree summer; I can remember us four students beginning the adventure of our young lives; and I can feel my heart, beating hard enough as the memories come rushing right back.
And the food, my goodness, the food! Mamma, mia!
I remember eating pasta, from a trattoria along the slope of a village in Cinque Terre, my sunglasses propped above my head, and then pasta from a ristorante somewhere in Venice, staring at the pouring rain outside; and I was utterly fascinated by the existence of pasta in so many shapes, sizes and colors. I recall stuffing myself with pizza slathered with tomato sauce and generous portions of mozarella cheese – the strands of melted cheese in threads as I bit into the pizza, my awkward mouth full of heavenly Italian cuisine.
And then, you know what else comes to mind? The four of us buying a large bottle of Nutella, and eating it spread on toast in our hostel patio, overdosing so much on Nutella that I had a sore throat that lasted me one whole week.
There might be a possibility that my long-awaited wish to visit Italy again might just come true (sometime very soon!). And so I must celebrate! I must, I must, I must!
I’m taking the two flavors that make up Nutella – chocolate and hazelnut – to create these cookies that are absolutely, decadently divine.
These are cookies made with a melted butter and dark chocolate base, with chopped hazelnuts spread all over the batter. What you get is a soft, brownie-like cookie interlaced with crunchy hazelnut bits – doesn’t that sound like heaven on earth, just like Italy?
Oh….Italia! I hope to see you very soon!
GRAIN-FREE CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT COOKIES (Makes 12 large cookies)
Barely adapted from: London Bakes
1) 150g of dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2) 60g of butter
3) 2 medium eggs
4) 120g of dark brown sugar
5) Slightly less than 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
6) 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
7) 1/2 cup of roughly chopped hazelnuts
1) Gently melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan, just until it turns liquid, then remove pan from the heat.
2) In a large bowl, place the chopped chocolate pieces, and pour the melted butter over the chocolate, stirring with a whisk until chocolate is completely melted. If need be, place in the microwave for 10-second intervals until completely melted. Set aside.
3) In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy and then mix that into the melted chocolate. Finally, mix in the cocoa powder, baking powder and chopped hazelnuts.
4) Chill the dough for at least an hour and pre-heat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit (175 deg Cel)
5) Line a baking tray with non-stick paper or a silpat
6) Scoop a tablespoon of dough onto prepared baking tray and flatten slightly, repeating until all the dough is used up. Make sure to leave about 2 fingers’ worth of space between each cookie.
7) Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until firm and shiny (this baking time will vary depending on the size of your cookies).
8) Allow cookies to set a little before removing them from the tray and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.