Friday, November 26, 2010


I really did not want to let go. My life would be empty, meaningless and totally without aim. I came home, alone, an empty bag in hand and a feeling of listlessness accompanied me as I went about my tasks today. Cooking, baking and eating just wouldn't be the same anymore.

My heart desires, my head has the plans but now the body does not cooperate. I stared out the Hyundai at passing cars and dumb buildings and wondered how long it would take before I were whole again, before I feel complete so that life could get clicking again. So that it goes back to it's delightful disarray and funny frustrations.

A week they say before they'd call and tell me what went wrong. A week? That's eternity. And then perhaps another week to make it right. Oh god. That's unthinkable. Unacceptable. Un...un...undesirable. Oh shoot.

What a strange thing. I had bought some yellow chrysanthemums today. I had thought it would brighten things up even more. You know...sunshine yellow....funny flowers, pretty in a glass the dining should have been a sign of pleasure and happiness, a sign of good things. Oh yes, a sign it was, indeed. A sign that today was a day that surely needed some brightening up. Because something was about to malfunction and be gone. 

On the way home today I tried to figure things out and arrange the next two weeks of my life in my head. The way physicists arrange complex equations in theirs. Taking out a minus sign here, replacing a symbol there.  But in this case, the things I could do in it's absence,  images of the past that I could fall on to. Or to contemplate with. Or that I could use without the assurance of its weight around my neck.  Or the things I could perhaps write and blog about while it's away to fill this visual void. Such emptiness. But most of the time we never do find the solutions to our perturbations.

Whatever. I hope it will not cost me too much. Because if it does I might have a fit. It's been only two years. Our relationship. It and I. I and It. Which brings me to the question ...when your Canon 450D malfunctions should you love it more or less? 

PS : This is not a post to garner sympathy...just laughs :P...I'll be posting on inspite of this temporary setback. But with more words than images perhaps. If you care that is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010



Ahhhh so that's how they do it. They pipe the fluffy mixture through long tubes and cut its tubular shape into equal pieces. I have always wondered how they do it. 

And now I need to brush my teeth. And gargle my throat out. With salted water. That was exceedingly sweet. Not the marshmallow itself but from the tons of icing sugar I used to coat it with. To prevent it from sticking to everything it came into contact with ~ fingers, knife, mini paper cases, table, tongue, throat and teeth.

These, my friends, are not to be made in some crazy hot, humid, tropical peninsula that starts with the letter M, that sits right smack on the equator. If anyone around here has been wholly successful in making marshmallows...

that had set perfectly, 
that did not shimmer with wetness as it set, 
that did not require a crazy coating of icing sugar, 
that did not cling and stretch as you pulled your fingers away from it, 
that you could 'lift' out, 
I would like to know. 

In the words of my grandkids these were globby.

I will never make these again unless I relocate to the land of dry and cold, like the North Pole, for example. But buy them I will. Yes ma'am. Because I do so love marshmallows.

This is a recipe I had gotten from the Hungry Mouse. It is a good recipe if you don't live with me. And I am completely envious when I see hers. I was never able to "lift it off " the tray. *sob*

This is also my second attempt at making it. My first attempt was a complete failure because I had failed to whip the fluff for a full twenty minutes. Hence it never firmed up and solidified. At all. Apparently whipping the mixture thickens the marshmallow fluff and firms it up. A lot.

However I am quite convinced that humidity is marshmallow's public enemy number one as well. Marshmallow Making and Malaysia? Uh uh. So not friends. But you know...  maybe its just me. In denial I live not.

The recipe ~ from The Hungry Mouse ~

5 T unflavoured gelatin
2 cups cold water (1 cup for the gelatin and 1 cup for the sugar syrup)
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
4 T vanilla extract
powdered sugar, (TONS) for dusting

Put 1 cup of cold water in the bowl of your mixer. Add the gelatin to the water. Give it a stir to combine the gelatin and water well and let it sit until it turns into a sandy mass. It will have the consistency of soft wet sand. That's perfectly fine.

Let the gelatin sit like that for about 30 minutes while you prepare the pans and boil the syrup.

Prep your pans. I used a 12 by 12 inch pan. Dust it generously with powdered sugar over the sink to alleviate mess on your work top. Set aside.

Pour a cup of cold water into a deep 5 quart pot. you need a deep pot for this because the syrup will boil and bubble at the beginning. Turn on a high heat. Toss in the sugar, corn syrup and salt. Stir the mixture to combine well and to melt the sugar. If sugar crystals form on the side brush them down with a wet brush.

Next clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot with out letting the end of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot but making sure the thermometer is submerged in the sugar syrup. 

Keep the heat on high to bring the mixture to a boil. The mixture will bubble up rapidly at first and then stop. If your pot is deep enough don't worry. 

Boil the sugar until it reaches 244 F or the firm ball stage (which is different from the hard ball stage).  Take it off the heat.

Warning ~ HOT sugar syrup is dangerous. Do be careful when handling. Never let it touch your skin because it will really HURT and burn you. Always use a pair of thick pot holders or oven mitts when handling the pot.

Turn the mixer on with the whisk attachment and beat the gelatin mixture to chunk it up. With the mixer on LOW pour the hot sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture. 
At this point it's going to smell bad because of the gelatin. Don't worry. When all the syrup is in the bowl turn the speed up to medium high. But do this gradually if you do not use a splash guard.

Continue to whip and the mixture will gradually turn opaque and then completely solid white. Beat for a full twenty minutes then add the vanilla extract. Whip for a further 5 minutes. 

The mixture would have increased in volume and thickness and be fluffy and white as snow.

Pour into prepared pan or pans. Dust the tops with powdered sugar (hey! I forgot to do this! Could this perhaps be the cause of all the stickiness?.....Nah I don't think so). Leave the pans uncovered on the counter overnight to set up.

When set cut into squares and roll in more powdered sugar to coat each side. Knock off excess sugar (if you can). Store them in an airtight container.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Sometimes, like a Mr. Bingley, I can be 'an unmitigated and comprehensive ass'.  I should not have been put off by Nigella's recipes and think poorly of them simply because I had read a few bad reviews. I should have tried and given at least one of her recipes a chance.

Well finally I did. Because when I saw the beautiful Nigella throwing one of her sensually composed smiles over this on tv I didn't think there could be anything remotely wrong about whizzed malt chocolate, expresso, ice cold milk and frozen banana chunks in a tumbler. 

This is the first Nigella recipe I have ever tried. Poured into an elegant, statuesque, glass tumbler it makes me feel like lifting it high in sacredness, pacing my steps cautiously, falling onto one knee and paying homage to Nigella, The Domestic Goddess. With the hope of being domestically knighted of course. Divinity in a Daiso tumbler. A domestic goddess indeedee.

The recipe ~ wholly adapted from Nigella Lawson

1 peeled banana, cut into 4 from the freezer
2/3 cups milk
1 T honey
4 tsp malted chocolate powder, like Milo or Ovaltine
1 tsp strong coffee or 1/2 tsp instant expresso powder

Put all ingredients into a blender and whizz until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and drink before rushing out the door.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I defied myself and cooked a chicken breast. I marinated it overnight to let the flavours in and to moisten it. Then I smeared it with the basting paste. Then I seared it in an iron hot pan to keep  the juices in. Then I roasted it in the oven just to let it cook through without it turning dry. Then I broiled it to get it charred in places. Success. 

It came out as moist, as tender and as delicious as a baby's bottom. I was as pleased as punch. Like a new mommy of her newborn babe. 

Chicken breasts aren't bad after all. It's all in the handling. Like children. Some love, some trust and lots of patience and you will be rewarded with more than you bargained for. If only I had known I would have had more chicken breasts. It takes resolve and desire. And a blog.

As they say ...... better late than never. And stubbornness is stupid.

The recipe ~

I had searched through many ayam percik (a very popular Malaysian chicken roast) recipes and found many ways in which to prepare the chicken for the grill. But the ingredients were more or less similar. (I added fish sauce though). So I went ahead and created a slightly different method of preparation. While doing so I thought I heard...the chicken crying out for herbs. Ho yes.

So I relented and chopped a tumeric leaf very finely (it being rather fibrous) and added it into the marinade and basting paste. That did it. The chicken had a fragrance and a flavour which it wouldn't have had otherwise.

The good news is I believe any other herb would do the job just as well. Thyme, coriander, lime leaves to name just a few. Different herbs different delights.

I have to tell you that this recipe makes more than enough basting paste. You could keep the extra to baste another day. 

2 chicken breasts, skin left on

Basting paste and marinade :

3 medium onions
3 garlic
1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
1 lemon grass, sliced thinly
2 red chillies, chunked

1-2 T chopped tumeric leaf
 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 -2 T fish sauce
1 T tamarind pulp mixed with 1/4 cup water and juice and strained
1 cup thick coconut milk or cream

cooking oil

Grind onions, ginger, garlic, chillies and lemon grass in a small food processor until fine. Or pound in a pestle annd mortar.
Add the chopped tumeric leaf or any herb that you are using to the processed paste. 

Use about 2-3 tablespoons of this raw paste to marinate the chicken, add a couple of splashes of fish sauce and maybe a tablespoon of oil to keep the chicken moist. Rub the marinade over the chicken evenly. There is no need for salt as the fish sauce is salty. Place the marinated chicken breasts in a plastic bag and marinate overnight or for a couple of hours. 

Meanwhile heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a small pot and saute the raw paste for about a minute, stirring so that it won't stick too much. Add coconut cream and tamarind juice. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the fish sauce and sugar. Stir and bring it to a simmer and simmer until the sauce reduces to a thickish paste. Add salt to taste. Once done keep aside.

Preheat oven to 190 C. Prepare chicken breast smearing the cooked paste over the top of the breasts evenly (not too thickly).

Heat a thick bottomed pan and then pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil into it. When hot sear the chicken skin side down first. When golden turn over to sear the other side. This takes probably about a minute on each side.

Then place the seared chicken breasts on the rack of a roasting pan. Baste the chicken with more cooked paste on top, this time a little generously and roast in the oven for about 15-17 minutes. For the last 2 or 3 minutes turn on the broiler and broil until the top of the chicken gets slightly charred on the top. 

The chicken should be done when you press it and it doesn't give way. It's important not to over bake the chicken otherwise you will get dry chicken breasts which I so do not like. And you will not too.

Pour the juices collected at the bottom of the pan over the chicken. Then slice and serve with white rice like I always do. 

I have submited this to MMM ~ Malaysian Muhibbah Monday on Test With Skewer by Shaz

Friday, November 12, 2010


Good evening boys and girls !

A tart is shallow, frivolous, fancy, dressed up with an open top. Usually baked in a shallow tin with a removable bottom and served on a pretty serving plate. A pie is down to earth, covered up, substantial and deep. Usually baked in a deep pie dish or bowl and served in it. But both may be sweet or savoury. And both are to be eaten.

And I'm happy to report that in today's unisexual world the word tart is used not only to disparage women but also men who are considered promiscuous and flamboyant ..... "with a fruity lisp and tight clothing" 

Fruithy lispth?  Fruithy listhpth? Gasthp. That soundths adorable.

Clathh dithmithed.

This is a tart recipe I saw a picture of in GoodFood magazine. (I love GoodFood magazine). These tarts could be made ahead, frozen and re-heated when guests arrive. Extremely easy to put together and like all tarts are fancy and playful. And cute. I had a grand time with them.

They are such dear little things I would serve them as part of a casual dinner party as a finger food out on a patio. If only I hadn't burnt them.

The recipe ~ from GoodFood magazine.....

500 bought shortcrust pastry or home made shortcrust pastry

8 oz smoked salmon, cut into strips
2 eggs
2 T fresh chopped dill
284 carton single cream (I used double)
wedges of lime to serve

Heat oven to 180 C. Use 6 4 inch tart pans. I used smaller pans so I got more tarts than I bargained for.

Pastry recipe :

8 oz plain flour
4 oz butter, cold and cubed
2-3 T cold water

Pre-heat oven to 200C. 

Sift flour, put in butter and rub butter into flour with your finger tips until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the cold water and mix first with a spatula and then as it gets lumpy somewhat use your fingers to bring the dough together. 

Do not knead. This is not bread. It is pastry so it needs a light hand otherwise the gluten in the flour will get activated and the pastry will be tough. 

You could use a food processor very successfully but make sure you pulse the butter in the flour until it becomes like fine breadcrumbs and then add the water through the feed tube while the machine is running. Let the machine run until the mixture gathers into a ball. Turn off immediately and take out the dough. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before rolling out.

Roll out the dough and cut into rounds bigger than your tart pans. Line the pans (there is no need to grease the pans because the pastry is already buttery).

Line the pastry with rounds of greaseproof paper (I used foil) and fill to the top with beans (I used rice). Bake blind for 1o minutes. Remove from oven and remove the beans/rice and then bake another 5 minutes until golden. Reduce oven temp to 180C.

Build Tart :

Divide the salmon strips between the tart shells. Beat eggs and dill. Add cream and whisk, add salt and pepper to taste. Pour custard into tartlets. Bake for 15 minutes until the filling is set and top is pale gold.

Cool then wrap in foil and chill or freeze up to a month and defrost before re-heating. 

To re-heat :

Pre-heat oven to 180 C and bake defrosted tarts for 10 minutes. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The photograph above may not be that of the typical tiffin carrier but nevertheless this is a tiffin contest by Don't Call Me Chef of Star Publications in collaboration with Tupperware who will be giving away some juicy prizes. 

To all my fellow Malaysian on ~ cook it ~ take a pic ~ and bring the tiffin lunch back into your lives. 

LONG before there were plastic bags and disposable containers, tiffin carriers were used to store and carry food. Tiffin carriers are stackable, multi-tiered containers that are looped to a handle with latches on the side. The separate containers allowed for the different dishes to be stored separately, and it usually even comes with a plate.
Originally from India, it was invented as the carry-all for workers to pack their lunch to take to the office.
In Mumbai, India, there is a highly efficient service that delivers tiffin lunches to office workers and schoolchildren. Dabbawallas (meaning one who carries a box) collect tiffin boxes from homes, and deliver them to offices, and then return them to the respective homes.

Tiffin carriers are also used here, and elsewhere in Asia. They are usually made of stainless steel, or enamel.

Tiffin carriers are suitable for packing Asian meals, as we can keep our rice, curry or soup, and other dishes separately. We also use them for noodles, packing the noodles, garnishings and gravy in different containers. These tiffin carriers are not only functional but environmentally friendly as well.

Inspired by the tiffin carrier, Tupperware is launching its BYO (Bring Your Own) TaPau multi-tiered containers, which are designed to hold our favourite soup-based noodles and rice dishes. As with all Tupperware Brands products, it is made made from safe, non-toxic, non-carcinogenic and microwaveable materials and do not release harmful chemicals to food or liquid contents. The BYO TaPau Set also reduces plastic waste and garbage. It is toxin-free, and is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags, styrofoam boxes and disposable containers.

In conjunction with the launch of this product, Don't Call Me Chef will be celebrating the tiffin carrier in our next issue. We'd like you to join us, and share your favourite tiffin lunch recipes.

Tupperware is giving away a RM1,000 hamper of its products, including the BYO TaPau containers, to the senders of the three best entries. We'll also be featuring the winning recipes in next month's Don't Call Me Chef.

All you have to do is:

Share with us your tiffin carrier stories; they could be anything from your memories of tiffin lunches, or a favourite dish you packed for school or the office.

Share your recipes with us.

Cook the dishes and snap a clear photograph (it must be high-resolution and at least 1,000KB) of the meal in a tiffin carrier/bento/container (but without the product name being visible).

E-mail us at or snail mail your entries to us at:

Don't Call Me Chef
c/o StarTwo
Star Publications (M) Bhd
Menara Star
15 Jalan 16/11
46350 Petaling Jaya

Closing date: Nov 21

Write up by Ivy Soon of Don' Call Me Chef.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


First, let me assault you.


There was a lot of strategizing in order to make these. I had to be alone. No compromises. 

Chocolate hazelnut wafers that sat in the fridge for about a week or more resulted in interrogations, exclamations and demands. Hazelnuts were roasted while everyone were knocked down and out in their rooms. And 2 bars of dark chocolate I had camouflaged and slipped into the chiller compartment of the refrigerator. Then perfect timing was crucial in the execution of these chocolate gems. So that I wouldn't be defending myself against outstretched fingers and hands, salivating creatures or hair raising grunts and growls throughout the process or while doing the photo shoot. It is hard to believe that this is a houseful of fully formed and developed human beings

It cost me about $60 ringgit to make 60 balls of 'Ferrero Rochers'. Never again shall I be adamant at the price of a box of Ferrero Rochers. But forever I shall be grateful to Ellie of Almost Bourdain for posting this marvelous recipe that duplicated the real thing at every bite. Simply unbelievable. Five out of five humans raised their eyebrows and were successful in vocalizing the word "same' while their mouths were stuffed. Of ferreros and fingers.

Enough said. I would make these again when I am stranded on an unmarked island with all the ingredients. These are not for sharing. I'm a greedy gibbon.

Ellie was right when she said that these could probably be made in any proportion that you think fit.

The task I did not enjoy : Chopping the hazelnuts. This required undesired diligence and some effort partly because I had doubled the recipe. And because they were round they slipped and rolled about easily on the board. I lost hooo. I might give in to the food processor the next time. Maybe you should too (just make sure it doesn't grind to powder).

The Recipe ~  from Ellie's lovely blog  Almost Bourdain

200 gm. chocolate hazelnut wafer buscuits
250 gm skinned and roasted hazelnuts
375 gm Nutella or any chocolate hazelnut spread
300 gm dark or milk chocolate (I used dark)

Crush the wafer biscuits finely in a large bowl. Add roasted and chopped hazelnuts. (The hazelnuts had been roasted for about 10 minutes at 350 and then cooled before chopping).

Add the Nutella and combine with a spatula until the mixture comes together. Refrigerate for about an hour until it firms up. remove from refrigerator and then roll into balls about 1 inch across. Line them up on a tray and refrigerate again until the balls firm up again.

Break chocolate up while the package is still completely sealed by whacking it on the counter top (smaller pieces of chocolate melt faster and more evenly) and breaking it in its package saves washing up.

Melt broken chocolate in a small to medium metal bowl set over  a pot of barely simmering water. Do Not use high heat or rapidly boiling water because the chocolate will seize and become gritty. When all chocolate has melted lift the bowl off heat and allow it to cool completely or until still slightly warm.

Remove the chocolate balls from the refrigerator and dip them one by one into the melted chocolate and using a fork lift them out gently allowing excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl before placing them on a rack placed over a plate or baking tray.

When all are done and coated chill them again in the refrigerator until firm. Serve them in mini paper cases. They'll look awful cute!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I need to break out of this spell of stubbornly cooking the same few chicken dishes each time I face a chicken.

Inspite of having a book of  '365 Easy Chicken Recipes' I find myself with 3 or less ways with the bird when my pan and I take a few moments off to tap our feet and contemplate. Only to come together again, unyielding to the 365 easy chicken recipes. Thus making the same ole' same ole', choreographing the same familiar steps with the same mix of ingredients. Like having an unrelenting faith in a 3 dimensional world when there stands a mathematically proven and plausible existence of a ten dimensional one. 

I'm on a quest. To willingly expand my tried and tested repertoire of chicken recipes. Out of necessity, boredom, familiarity and contempt. And since I am not inclined to chicken breasts I may very well be concentrating on whole chicken legs...very likely... forever. And ever. Until I break out of this other chicken spell.

Spices add such a rich, aromatic and deep flavour to the chicken and combined with honey it gives a crisp crackling skin when roasted. 

Although confusing to the uninitiated the few basic spices and their names aren't all that hard to remember and recognize if you have done your homework :)

In this recipe I used coriander seeds which simply look like little round and brown seeds. And instead of fennel I used cumin which I think are the two spices that caused me some perplexity when I first drowned myself in spice world. Now I know that cumin is the smaller and darker of the two. 

Done . Only two spices are used in this chicken dish. Easy peasy.

The Recipe ~ 

2 chicken thighs, skin on, left whole, cleaned and wiped dry
4-5 T coriander seeds
2 1/2 T fennel OR cumin (I used cumin)
4, 5 or 6 T honey

2-3 T cooking oil 

Pre heat oven to 350.

Roast coriander seeds, fennel OR cumin in a dry pan until fragrant. Pound these until coarsely crushed. Add salt and then stir in the honey adjusting the amount until you get a sticky spreadable paste. You may use the pestle to do this. Or a spoon.

Spread the spice mix over the chickens thighs only on the skin side. Pat mixture into place nice and thickly.

Heat a heavy pan. Add oil and place the spiced chicken thighs, spiced side down first, into the pan. Sear the chicken pieces on both sides until lightly golden.

Transfer to a baking dish and roast in a pre-heated oven at 350 for about 40 -50 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the bone releases a clear liquid.

Place chicken on a platter and scoop up the juices from the roasting pan to dribble over the chicken.  I served it with rice. As always.

Look at that glaze. How can you not be spellbound?


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