Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The lobby of The Garden Residence at Mid Valley was calm, quiet and almost empty with just one or two souls hanging about. Waiting. Just like me. 

I had arrived 5 minutes before the appointed time so I waited very patiently and was relieved that I had made it in time. I had rushed dressing up and I really didn't want to be there huffing and puffing and breaking out into beads of sweat. So I was glad for the breather.

I took a seat on a milk chocolaty couch from where I would be able to spy Ju, The Little Teochew, and her family from a distance as soon as they entered the lobby.

Within minutes I spotted that familiar nymphlike figure, then a smaller version of Ju slightly behind her and then a husband and two lovely little boys and their maid. Having arrived all the way from Singapore a few days back they were leaving for home that very afternoon.

I stood up and exhibited my widest grin from about 30 meters away. Ju, The Little Teochew, saw me. We crossed the lobby and met halfway. We sort of looked at each other, grinning, a little dazed and then stretched out our arms for a real life hug. 

Her adorable little girl, her two sweet young men and her most kind and considerate husband left us to ourselves.

We yakked..... about ourselves, each other, her, me, our goslings, our mothers, our husbands, some blogger friends we had in common and a little about food. Punctuated only by laughter. It seemed like we were simply catching up from where we had left off. We were just being what we were, first and foremost. Women.

It's hard to believe that I have come to know Ju and her little family only months ago. And merely through our blogs. Yet her warmth, her desire to reach out beyond that is unmistakable. Which has led to some (funny) email exchanges between us.

Ju looked as gorgeous as she does in her photographs. It seemed that all that was done were some whisperings of life into those images and there you had Ju, young, beautiful, bubbly and warm. And ever so interested in getting to know you better. 

It was a brief meeting, fleeting almost, but so meaningful and immensely satisfying. 

I am so blessed to know and so lucky to have been able to meet with Ju.

And...... we pried our ages from each other. But I'm not telling;)

PS : The pictures above were taken at the beautiful Scotio River in Ohio, USA, 2007 when I visited my eldest daughter and her family.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


There comes a time in your life when age doesn't matter anymore. 

I really don't care how old I am... 'honest';) So there is no need to ask for my age.... because it matters not.

You see...and I'm sure you will agree with me...that at my or our or your age.....it is not how old I or we or you am or are that bothers me or us or you but how old I or we or you appear to be that matters. Agree ? Yes? No?

I assume that is what they mean when they say "Age is just a number".

But when you reach a certain age...where once you took a year to age a year you now take a day to equal that. Unless you were born just 'yesterday'.

Think about it....at what age would you start to check the mirror for a new line on your face? At what age would you start to check the firmness of your assets?  At what age would you start to measure the size of your pores? Or to count the strands of hair that gravitate to the ground? Everyday. At what age.... I ask you....at what age would you begin to measure and to count?

And/Or......At what age.... would you start to scrutinize the lines and fats of others in order to provide yourself with some comfort. I ask you.

 'At my age?'. 

But who cares........ 'Age is just a number'.

I wish a very happy birthday to my dearie and wonderful second daughter who is not quite counting nor scrutinizing. Yet. 

We celebrated her __th birthday this very evening.

This picture was taken some light years ago. She's a totally grown up young woman now. 

This is an ice cream cake. A nice creamy chocolate ice cream sandwiched between 2 layers of a very lovely,moist and fluffy Rose Levy's American sponge Cake. Covered with whipped cream, scrolled on and accented with some pink chrysanthemums. The ice cream part requested by hers truly. The rest is history.

It was quite stressful working with whipped cream and ice cream in my warm/hot little kitchen. So the slathering of the cream on the cake and the scrolling was done in quite a rush for fear of the ice cream melting within. 

I used a Wilton no. 6 plain round nozzle for the piping. I wished I had used a no. 4 which would have created a finer line.

Full credit for the design goes to Deeba of Passionate about Baking. Deeba is the Queen of Desserts and the design is her own original creation of which I'm mad about. So simple yet so chic. Thank you Deeba for sharing your Art.

I rushed to the wet market this morning to get those pink chrysanthemums. And I thought they went perfectly well with the pink ribbon that I have had in a corner for ages. 

I also like the fact that art does not equal symmetry. I adore imperfection in art. Deliberate imperfection. Perfectly imbalanced art. 

I hope those are enough excuses for the lopsided ribbon-ing of the cake.

The main dish for the birthday dinner was a spiced shoulder of lamb.

The recipe for the sponge cake.............from Rose Levy Beranbaum's book, The Cake Bible.......

Nancy Blitzer's Classic American Sponge Cake

2 T water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp grated ,emon zest
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs, egg whites and yolks separated
3/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 F or 170 C

In small bowl combine water, vanilla and lemon zest.
Remove 1 T of the sugar and reserve to beat with the whites.

In another small bowl whisk together the flour and 3 tablespoons of the sugar.

In a large mixing bowl beat the yolks and the remaining 3/4 cup ssugar on high speed for 5 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and ribbons when dropped from the beater.Lower the speed and gradually add the water mixture. Increase to high speed and beat for 30 seconds. Sift the flour mixture over the yolk mixture without mixing in and set aside.

Beat the whites until foamy, add the cream of tatar, and beat until sofr peaks form when the batter is raised.

Beat in reserved 1 T sugar and beat until very stiff peaks form.Add 1/3 of the beaten whites to the yolk mixture and fold in gently with a whisk or large skimmer until incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining white in 2 batches.

Pour into pan. Run a knife through the batter to prevent air pockets. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

The recipe recommended  an ungreased  2 piece 10 inch tube pan. I used a 9 inch round cake pan, grease and lined bottom with paper.

I sliced the cake into 2 layers and slathered softened chocolate ice cream on one layer and topped with the other. Then I whipped two cups of whipping cream to cover the cake completely and to pipe the scroll design all over.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Tofu has never been on my favourite food list. I can eat it.....but it doesn't give me that blithely bounce in my step or the fireworks in my head or the squint in my eyeballs kind of feeling that a creamy, rich, dark evil chocolate ganache or a stinky, stingy sambal belacan or the outrageous, soluble humps of a Baskin and Robbins would. 

It is just simply all-the-way-bland. Say what you may. 

But when I saw a picture of these in Divina Pe's beautiful blog Sense and Serendipity I was stunned into a meek silence and it made me swear to make it. My little tastebuds trembled. They did not rest until I had made some.  

I now sheepishly pronounce that these golden tofu nuggets are absolutely beyond wonderful. Dunk them into a spicy-salty soy-vinegar bird chillie bejewelled sauce and you may think that you've died and been granted eternity in tofu heaven.

So sharing this recipe is my good deed for the day.

Bonito flakes or katsuabushi sounded Greek/Japanese to me. But I found them quite easily in the Japanese section of Jusco.  

They are fish flakes made from dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna and are one of the main ingredients of a dashi, a broth that forms the basis of many Japanese soups.  Fishy and smelly heaven. Quite like what anchovies or dried shrimps are to the South East Asian palate. Just more refined.

Tell me, how can anything that is slathered in smelly, wispy, fishy flakes and a million sesame seed bits, fried to a golden, feathery, crust on the outside with a wobbly, silky and creamy inside not be good? 

But remember....dunk them in thoroughly before you let them slither down your throat. If you still find it bland you need not speak to me ever again and/or you may swear and condemn me to tofu heaven. I'd be happy to oblige.

The recipe by Divina Pe from Sense and Serendipity 

The tofu :

1 block semi firm tofu (320 gm)

1 egg
1/4 cup all purpose flour (I used cornflour)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (or a mixture half and half black and white)
1 cup bonito flakes

2 T rice bran oil or untoasted sesame seed oil
(I used a vegetable cooking oil)

Dipping sauce.....

3 T light soy sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar (I used aple cider vinegar)
2 small bird chilies, finely chopped (optional)


1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 green or spring onion, finely sliced

Prepare tofu : Drain the tofu of any liquid. Pat dry with a clean dish cloth or paper towels, pressing down a little with the palm of your hand to make sure the tofu is dry and to remove excess water. Lay on a board and cut into 3/4 or 1 inch cubes. About 8 slices.

Breading the tofu : Place the flour/cornflour into 1 medium bowl. Break and egg into another and beat lightly to mix the white and yolk well and in the last bowl place the combination of bonito flakes and sesame seeds.

Taking one slice of tofu, cover it completely with flour, dip it in the egg and then coat it in the bonito/sesame seed mixture. Place on a plate and do the same for the rest of the sliced tofu.

Frying the tofu : Heat up the oil in a pan on medium high till hot but not smoking. Carefully place the crusted tofu slices in one by one and make sure that they are seperate. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side or until lightly golden. When done remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Make the dipping sauce :

Slice the bird chillies (if using). Place in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and vinegar and mix well. Put in a serving bowl.

Garnish with topping :

Place the ginger paste and sliced spring onions on top of each tofu crust and put on a serving plate.

To serve :

Either let the guests dip the tofu into the dipping sauce or using a teaspoon dribble some sauce over the tofu before eating. 




Sunday, December 20, 2009


Pour kicap (soy sauce) into the milk to turn it into soy milk to feed  it to the chicken that plays with onions and rolls in rolled oats.

Which translates to :

Kicap (soy sauce)
Soy milk
Rolled oats

That was my grocery list memorized according to Kevin Trudeau's mega memorizng method that I learnt years ago when I thought I still had one (a memory).

It took me a good 3 minutes of hard concentration to come up with that useful utter nonsense. It's hard work.

Which translates to :

I have very little willing memory.

So when Terri of Hunger hunger had so generously given me some gingko nuts when we met on her way home from China I thought they would make lovely plugs for all those holes that my brain has been complaining about.

I have made the soup three times since. It is simply chicken broth cooked with some ginger, any kind of vegetable, some tofu and of course the memory enhancing gingko nuts. A simple, light and healthy soup with a slight bitter undertone from the gingko nuts. All in all quite lovely. And I have finished the batch of nuts that Terri had given me.

When I first began cracking the shell, ejecting the nutmeat, blanching the nutmeat in hot boiling water to ease the skinning of the thin brown skin, splitting the nuts length wise to remove the bitter young shoot within, I found it more fiddly then I had expected. But I was determined to make it.

Eventually, as the following batch of nuts sat and waited their turn over the next few days, ejecting and peeling them became much easier. Terri had also told me that it was not necessary to rid it of the bitter shoot within. But being rather bitter intolerant I thought it would be better if I did.

The gingko nuts were very tender when cooked. They were rather creamy and soft and rather bland with a slight bitter edge to it.

The soup was very easy to make. I have adapted it from a recipe for a lovely clear chicken soup with leeks from a Vogue Travel and Entertainment magazine.

Please note that the gingko nut is toxic if eaten raw. It must be cooked.

The recipe................ serves about 4

1 medium free range chicken (kampung chicken), whole
3 slices ginger
leeks, white part trimmed to 1 cm lengths and green part just cut roughly, washed and rinsed well

1 large onion, peeled
1 small carrot

1 cake tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
10 -12 gingko nuts, shell cracked, brown skin peeled and bitter shoot removed, if preferred

Place whole chicken into a pot large enough for it. Cover with water. Put in the ginger, whole onion, and washed green part of the leeks and a carrot.

Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add salt. Remove scum, the green leeks, carrot and onion.

You have basically made a chicken broth.

Remove the chicken, drain well and keep it aside on a board.

Add tofu, the chopped white part of the leeks, prepared gingko nuts and bring the broth to a boil and then simmer very gently for about 10 to 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, the chicken may be deboned and the meat removed in shreds or it may be cut up into its parts with a pair of kitchen scissors at the leg joints, wing joints and the breasts cut into 2 or 3 parts with a knife. Arrange in serving bowls and pour the soup over the chicken to serve, dividing the tofu, leeks and gingko nuts between the individual bowls.

Serve hot. Food for the brain.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Kumquats are citrus fruits that are as deliciously sweet as they are sweetly fragrant.

They look very much like over ripe kalamansi limes. And that's what I thought they were when Terri of Hunger Hunger first introduced them to me.

As soon as I got home from meeting Terri I ate a ripened one and allowed the rest to shed their last tinge of green over the next few days before I turned them into candied fruit. Because, as delicious as they were, I felt they were deserving of being displayed and admired in the form of an elegant dessert.
It was in a beautiful blog by Vera of Baking Obsession where I saw this beautifully elegant cheesecake topped with a kumquat jewelled crown. It sang to me......so I yielded. 

The cheesecake was creamy, dense and rich with only a slight orange flavour since I had omitted using the rind of an orange as stated for in the recipe. But it was delicious nevertheless. And the kumquats? They topped it all.

Candied kumquats are ridiculously easy to make especially since I relented to Simply Recipes' version because it required less boiling time.

Unfortunately, when the 10 minutes of boiling was up the kumquats were not yet as translucent as I had hoped they would be. I faltered. But not trustung my own instincts I took them off the heat and drained them of the syrup. I bottled them and chilled them in the refrigerator while I made the cake.

And when, later, I read Vera's version of candied kumquats it made me wish that I had done as she did. Boiled them for 30 minutes instead of 10 until they turned truly translucent, looked preciously fragile with a sparkling crystal-like quality to it. 

But it was done. So I proceeded and, as you can see, it is not as translucently beautiful as it could have been. But please........ do imagine it to be. 

I may also mention that I halved the recipe, it being very rich, and divided the halved mixture between 2 4 inch pans so that I could give one away to avoid the family consuming too much cake.

The recipe...........by Vera of Baking Obsession

For the candied kumquats

2 cupswater
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
9 oz kumquats, or 25 medium, thinly sliced crosswise and seeds removed (I used a toothpick to push the seeds out)

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean. Add the bean. (I used vanilla extract). Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and then add the kumquats and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 to 35 minutes until the slices are translucent. Drain, place kumquats in a bowl and add 1/4 cup of the syrup to it.Keep aside.

Return the remaining syrup to a medium heat and let it simmer until it reduces to about 1/4 cup. About 8 minutes.

The Crust ......( I had made my own without measurements but this is Vera's recipe.......

2 cups vanilla wafer cookie crumbs (from about 9 oz cookies and finely ground in a food processor)
1/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
7 T butter, melted

Set the oven ad 170 C. Line a 9 inch spring form pan with parchment paper. The pan should have 23/4 inch high sides.

Combine all above ingredient for crust. Mix well with fingers and pat and press into pan and up the sides about an inch. Bake for about 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown and set. 

Wrap the bottom half of the pan well with heavy duty aluminium foil so that water from the water bath does not leak in when baking. 

(I did not use a water bath and the cheesecake turned out perfectly baked).

(I used 2, 4 inch removable bottom pans, unlined and pressed the crumb crust only on the bottom and did not bake them). I may, also, have omitted to mention that lazy is my middle name.

The Cheesecake............

1 cup fresh orange juice 
1 cup sugar, divided
2 T finely grated orange peel (please do add for beter flavour)
4 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
3 T all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs

Combine 1/4 of the sugar and orange peel in the saucepan. Rub with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic. (I wished I had an unwaxed orange so I could have done this. I suggest that you do not omit this step at all)

Add orange juice and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer about 8 minutes until the syrup is reduced to 3/4 cup. Cool completely.

With an electric mixer beat cream cheese, remaining 3/4 cup sugar until creamy and smooth. Add in flour, salt and eggs one at a time. Combine well. Finally add cooled orange syrup/juice. Stir well to combine.


Pour the cheesecake batter over  the crumb bottom. Place the pan in a roasting pan and fill with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until softly set about for 1 to 11/4. When baked leave the cake in the oven for an hour to cool down and to prevent cracking the top. Chill overnight and loosen the edges with a knife the next day and unmould.

Arrange the candied kumquats in circular rows on the top. Serve.


Thursday, December 10, 2009


It was probably like a blind date. I can't say because I had never been on one before. But I imagine that that was how one would feel. Excited, anxious, anticipating, 'imagining', and somewhat unsure. I felt quite silly too. For being excited, anxious, anticipating, 'imagining', and somewhat unsure.

I turned and saw Terri, from Hunger Hunger, an authority on Chinese cooking, stride up to me with a big smile on her face while I had my mobile still glued to my ear. It was all I could do to smile broadly back. I can't quite recall exactly what went through my mind at the time but I knew almost at once what went through Terri's.

"I thought you would be fat!" she beamed and we laughed while I made a mental note to check my blog for possible mis-impressions.

We hugged. She was as lovely as I had imagined her to be because I had seen some photos of her on her blog. Only very much prettier. But as vivacious in person as in writing.

And that was how we met, Terri and I, after almost a year of commenting on each other's blogs as one foodie to another and with some email exchanges in between. And when she arrived in KL, a few calls, some dialing of wrong numbers on my part and some texting we finally met in person. Terri was on transit on her way back to Sabah, The Land Below the Wind, in East Malaysia, after a holiday in Guilin, China.

Without further ado Terri opened up a plastic bag exposing some bright little kumquats, some gingko nuts, a much pined-for-by-me coconut shredder from the Philippines and finally, very unexpectedly, a gorgeous hand-painted miniature glass bottle from China.

We stood in the middle of the hotel lobby, our heads together, leaning over the circumference of a huge marble topped table, Terri giving me instructions on how to cook the gingko nuts and then pointing out the features of the exquisite hand-painted miniature and I, with pleasure, soaking it all in. She felt like an old friend whom I have not met in years.

Then I met her lovely family, a husband, 2 sons and a beautiful daughter and a family friend who was holidaying with them. I felt like I knew them so well because she talks constantly of her family in her blog with a deep and exasperating love that only mothers can understand.

We sat and talked for close to an hour. About our children, our blogging, our photography, our families, our mothers...... woman talk ...... I just wished we had had more time for some coffee and cake. And with each other.

Finally I felt that I couldn't keep her any longer. I knew her family were waiting to have her back. So we parted. Our voices trailing off with blogger chatter until finally I headed towards the towering hotel doors and she towards her family. A final wave and it was over.

For me, it was a great time. I hope we meet again. Thank you Terri for your friendship and warmth. :)

Monday, December 7, 2009


What do people do when they're hungry?

They come down the stairs with dangling arms, purposeful eyes and an expectant look. Then they make that penultimate sign for hunger. One palm flat over abs, moving in a circle. Over the spot within which that bottomless receptacle for food resides. That and a dopey smile.

Another might stomp down and announce his hunger. Sometimes with a guilty look.

All this can and may take place within 1 hour of a heavy meal.

What do I do? I pretend not to see all of this. I stare straight ahead into the computer screen and make a wish. A wish that I could climb into that other world to crouch and hide until all of this ferocious hunger subsides.

Another trick to do would be to pick at my brains and pull something out.

If I was lucky it would be edible, low in fat, simple, healthy, and as much as possible baked not fried, crisp, sugar free yet acceptable to these desperate creatures that I amass in my home.

So it was under all that duress that I came up with these sesame seed crisps. And to make it look a little funky (whatever that means) I made them black and white.

Sometimes miracles do happen.

These crisps were made from a tortilla recipe I had posted a while back. I made the tortillas as per the recipe. Then I snipped each tortilla up into triangles, getting 12 triangular pieces from each tortilla.

I placed them on a baking sheet in one layer, brushed them with egg white and sprinkled black and then white sesame seeds over them. I pushed them into the oven and baked them until they turned a light golden brown and were as crisp and brittle as dried bones.

Really great with the chutney below or any other dipping that you can conjure up.

This is open to endless possible combinations of toppings or seasonings. You could sprinkle salt and cayenne pepper on them or cinnamon and sugar or some cajun spice or even curry powder.

Run wild run free. Thats what I say.

The recipe........................makes 8 tortillas and 96 sesame seed crisps....

2 cups plain flour or whole wheat, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 T butter, softened
1/2 cup warm water

I egg, white only

some black and white sesame seeds

Rb in the butter into flour until like very fine breadcrumbs. Add warm water and stir with a fork to bring the dough together and hten use your fingers to knead until it becomes a smooth dough.

Divide into 8 pieces and let the dough rest covered with a clean dish cloth for at lest 10 to 15 minutes.

Once rested, take 1 piece and roll out into a ver very thin circle with a rolling pin. The circle should be about 8 - 9 inches in diameter. Cook the tortillas in a lightly oiled pan over a medium heat until light brown spots appear and the dough is cooked. Finish off all the 8 pieces of dough in this way.

Then take each piece and cut into half and then quarters and then cut each quarter into 3 pieces. Place in one layer on an ungreased and unlined baking tray.

Break and egg, and taking only the white, whisk teh egg white lightly to loosen it up. Using a brush, brush each triangle with egg white and then sprinkle the pieces with sesame seed, black and white or black OR white. Your choice.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes in 160 C oven. It doesnt take very long to brown so check after 5 minutes just in case your oven is too hot. They should be really nice and crisp!

Enjoy with a chutney or a spicy peanut butter dip or a babaganoush.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The only time I would encounter a chutney as a young girl was when we attended a wedding. And most of the time it would be a pineapple chutney.

Another kind of preserve that we have is called acar (pronounced ah-char). It is very similar to a chutney but it has a bigger proportion of vegetables to fruits. The sauce is made using more oil. Its a little sour and very spicy. Usually it is made up of cucumbers, julienned carrots, whole preserved limes, shallots, garlic cloves, whole bird chillies and sesame seeds or crushed peanuts.

And for the past 10 years or so we have seen the addition of little pieces of dried, salted fish. It became the the avant-garde ingredient for acar and added that oh-where-have-you-been-all-my-life oomph. And an acar without salted fish just wouldn't be right nowadays.

Needless to say acar is the preferred vegetable preserve over chutney in Malaysia simply because it is spicy rather than sweet.

However, I am making a chutney now because I was looking for an accompaniment that was on the sweet side for some black and white sesame seed crisps that I made recently. The recipe for the crisps will follow in my next post.

I had made some lovely Baba Ganoush as a dip at first but it lacked that crazy South East Asian spice factor that is a pre-requisite for my idiosyncratic biological make up.

And chutney seemed perfect because it is 'jammy' in texture, the fruits soft, the sauce thick and syrupy and is a little sweet, almost like a delicious jam. But with that wicked spicy edge to it. A perfect dip for those crunchy sesame seed crisps.

Besides I also get to use those lovely jars that I had bought ages ago but have had no occasion to use quite yet. Until now that is.

The recipe.................

1 small pineapple, peeled and cubed
3 medium mangoes slightly underipe, peeled and cubed
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 white onion, diced
1 inch ginger, grated finely
1 green chillie, cut into chunks
1 sweet red pepper, diced largish pieces
some raisins (optional)
2 T curry powder or less if you prefer mixed with some water into a slurry
1/2 cup pineapple vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T of mustard seeds
The zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)

2 T cooking oil

Heat oil in a medium pan until hot but not smoking. Saute the diced onions and garlic and ginger and mustard seeds until fragrant. Pour in the curry powder slurry and stir to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Saute for about 6 minutes or more until the curry spice turns a darker shade is cooked well and fragrant.

Throw in the fruits, chillies, peppers, raisins and stir to mix well. Add the cider vinegar and brown sugar and mix again.

Let the mixture simmer and allow the the sauce to reduce to a thick and syrupy consistency. Add salt, the lemon zest and juice towards the end and cook a little while more to incorporate. Taste and adjust.

Leave to cool completely before storing.

This chutney is delicious eaten with the sesame crisps that I will be showing in my next post soon as a snack or a cocktail or as an appetizer. YUM...


Related Posts with Thumbnails