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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

lazy dinner for hungry folks...

I always have a box of 2 kg tiger prawns in my freezer. We don't have a big fridge/freezer because I love to go shopping for grocery but it is always there, next to the bottle of Absolut and 3 tubs of ice cream.

Why do I always have 2 kgs of prawns? Because it makes me HAPPY. It always have and will always do. My favourite way to eat prawn is on the beach, grilling it over open fire and just dipping it in soy sauce, chillies and lime. I miss the sweet taste of fresh prawns from the south china seas.

With frozen prawns, you have to do a little bit more than to grill it over open fire but not that much more. Although I also love it as sambal prawns or kari udang (prawn curry), this is my favourite all time way to cook frozen prawns and it is done in 5 minutes!

Here I served the prawns with fresh tagliatelle with chestnut mushroom, parsley, chives and Parmesan. But you can just eat it as it is. Just make sure you have a loaf of baguette to polish up the sauce. Enjoy!

Garlic Butter Prawns


2 kg tiger prawns

one bulb of garlic - crushed

3 TBSP sunflower oil

50g butter

salt and pepper to taste


1. Thaw the prawns if you're using frozen prawns.

2. Heat up a heavy base cooking pot or pan.

3. Add in oil and make sure it is really really hot.

4. Add in the prawns and stir in quickly.

5. Add in the crushed garlic and stir some more.

6. Add butter. Season to taste. Serve


Friday, April 18, 2008

and it was all... yellow.

I am so happy that I manage to join Barbara's LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow - 2008 this year. I followed the one last year and almost missed the one this year if I didn't read it at the lovely Keiko's blog.

Cancer is something close to my heart. My Dad had cancer about 13 years ago and my parents lived with me for the whole one and a half year that he went through the treatment. I used to drive him for his radiotherapy every morning. The radiotherapy was followed by 3 rounds of chemo. The team of specialists that treated him declared it was in remission a few months later.

Dad then transferred the running of his business to my brother and took my mom on trips around the world, went on more fishing trips, grew a lot more fruit trees on his orchards and played with his grandchildren.

Dad passed away last year, not from cancer but I would like to think from a heartbreak. My mom passed away 4 years ago today and I don't think Dad ever got over it. For the first time after he was declared free of cancer, he was hospitalised 2 weeks after she died. The doctors can't find anything wrong with him except dehydration. To protect his privacy, every time he was hospitalised after that, I used to tell relatives and friends he was in Uruguay, just like Midori's dad in Norwegian Wood.

In some ways, I was quite happy to know that they are now together although I miss him tremendously. I miss his letters and the feeling that I actually had someone to call at 4 AM when I need to talk to someone no matter where I am on this earth.

When dad was undergoing his treatment he abstained from all spices except turmeric. Turmeric was considered the mildest among the spices and has very strong antiseptic and antibacterial properties. In the past years, it has been widely tested for its effect in cancer treatments.

Yellow for me is the colour of hope, of sunshine and of spring which signifies renewal that was why I chose turmeric to represent the colour yellow. It is a very easy spice to cook with. In fact the first spice I learnt to cook with. In Malaysia a very easy way to fry fish, chicken or seafood is to marinate them first in salt, pepper, turmeric and rice vinegar.

Ayam Tumis Kunyit (stir fried chicken in turmeric) is a regular feature in our family. The cooking takes about 15 minutes using less than 10 ingredients. Most spicy dishes are perceived as heavy and not very suitable for spring and summer cooking - but this is very light. The combination of turmeric, tomatoes and onion bring elevates the rather boring chicken breast into something totally gorgeous. Serve with piping hot rice and a salad of your choice.

Ayam tumis kunyit (stir fried chicken in turmeric)

500g chicken - I used skinned breast fillet - sliced
1 onion - sliced
1cm ginger
2 garlic
1 green chili (this can be omitted or increased as you like)
2 tomatoes - diced
half to a teaspoon of turmeric (depending on your taste)
salt and pepper to taste
sunflower oil

1. Slice the onion. Crush the ginger and garlic and cut to dice. Slice the green chili thinly.
2. Heat up the oil in a wok.
3. Fry the onion until translucent and fragrant.
4. Add in the chicken and the turmeric. Stir in for about 10 minutes.
5. Add the chili. Stir for a minute.
6. Add the tomatoes. Stir for 3 minutes or so. Here you can see the dish totally transforms.
7.Season to taste. Serve.
*you can add fresh coriander leaves at the end of the cooking. I just don't happen to have any and it is still lovely without it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

new soul

loving this now. be back this weekend.


Friday, April 11, 2008

The stuff that war is made of

When I was in kindergarten, my best friend was a girl called Lulu. We both had straight long black hair - often braided or in pony tails - and we both loved ribbons and we both often brought home made goodies for reccess. Lulu and I were both the only daughter in a family full of boys so our feet had never touched the ground. We both loved each other and used to share everything and went everywhere together. Then one day, we talked about banana cake.

"My mother's cake is the best in the whole world." She said
"No no. My mom's one is the best. Hers is moist, full of banana, tastes of butter and full of special nuts."
"My mother's cake smells, taste and feels like banana."
"No no my mom's cake is the best. she made it with real butter and real banana. Not banana essence."
"My mother make hers with real banana too and I help to peel them."
I kept quiet when she said this of course. I was never allowed in the kitchen then. And honestly if my Mom had her way, I should never be in her kitchen at all... not even when I was 35.
"Aww Awww" I remember screaming. Lulu was always pinching me blue and black when I seem to be dreamy and not paying attention to her. This is her favourite way to *wake me up*. She inflicted pain on others since she was 4. Maybe that is why she is now a dental surgeon.
"Say something. Stop dreaming. My mom's cake is better. Tomorrow I bring you some."
The next day Lulu came to school with a big white box. She slid into the bench we shared and whispered, conspiringly, "Can you smell it?" Her eyes glittering. I nodded. she slapped my shoulder excitedly.
"I brought you one whole cake. ONE WHOLE CAKE. My mom made it just for you."
The teacher didn't approve of the gift and took it to the staff room. Lulu wouldn't have it.
"Teacher, my mother made the cake for Lisa not for you or other teachers. She made it special for Lisa and Lisa only." The teacher told her she shouldn't bring such a colossal gift for one person and I wouldn't be able to finish the cake on my own. I should share it with the other children. The cake she said will be safe in the staff room and she will cut it to pieces to be distributed to all the children.
"Teacher, my mother made the cake for Lisa. Lisa has to be the one who cut it and eat it. She must see the cake in one piece so she can see it is pretty and full of banana." Can you see she is adamant? Lulu's face was getting redder from anger and frustration.
I raised my hand and stood up next to Lulu.
"Teacher, Lulu said her mom made the best banana cake in the world. She bring it today so I can eat it."
At this time, the teacher was quoting Lao Tze and was telling some ancient chinese stories - yes I went to a chinese kindergarten - something about people being poor, and the lesson in life is to be noble and sharing your food with everyone.
"The children here are not poor," Lulu was stomping her feet by then. "Charles' dad is an engineer and Edith's mother is a doctor."
"Yes their mother can make their own cakes," I stomped my feet along.
Suddenly half the pupil were raising their hands.
"Teacher, my mother makes the best banana cake in the world." and another hand was raised, another child making similar claim.
The room was bustling with claims whose mom makign the best banana cake.
Lulu screamed.
"My mother makes the best banana cake in the world. If you all must try it, you can each have a small piece but the cake belongs to Lisa."
By this time, the head teacher was already inside the room. Having found out we were the ones who started the commotion, we were told to stand in the corner and not allowed to have a piece of cake. We were told to think of what we did and to *repent*.
Lulu and me didn't *repent* that day. We were not allowed to talk to each other or anyone. Being in the corner means you ahve to keep quiet and think of your mistakes and sins. There was a silent bond between us not to cry or cave in for that cake. We were comrades in the war of the rights bring the best banana cake to school. The war to protect her mom's honour. The war for her rights to bring her best friend a whole cake if she wants to. And the war for me to eat a whole cake if I want to. We didn't get a single slice of cake. We didn't see the cake at all. We went home with more home work that the other kids - more words to practise our calligraphy on.
Yes we were both that stubborn. We would rather be hungry than share the cake with anyone else. Maybe we were that greedy.
That afternoon, my mom received a call from the school and from Lulu's mom. She wasn't happy with the call from the teacher but she was laughing with Lulu's mom. And then she told me she is going to make banana cake for Lulu. For the first time, I was allowed in the kitchen to peel the bananas. That was also the first time I saw how a cake is made from start to finish.
My mom was explaining to me that you must cream the sugar and butter until it turned *white*. And the eggs were to be mixed one by one and the flour had to be folded. I was intrigued. My mom promised that when I am bigger I will get to mash the banana.
"Mummy, can I maybe bake the cake one day?"
"When you are bigger of course," she promised.
The next day, I went to school with two cakes. A big one to be cut and shared by all the other children and the teachers. A smaller one - I think around 6 inches - just for Lulu. My dad passed it to Lulu's dad at the school yard before we enter.
The kids were happy to eat a piece of cake at reccess. I told each of them, "Better than your mom's yes?" They nodded, happily eating.

"Your mom's cake is wet and sweet," Lulu said. "My mom's cake is dry. It doesn't stick to my fingers." She was licking her fingers as she say this.
"I told you my mom's cake is the best in the whole world."
"No, your mom's cake is just wet. And why does she put all these nuts in them? It is banana cake." She said.
"Because it makes it yummier. My mom's cake is better than yours."
"No. My mom's cake is the best. She will send you some on Friday so the teachers will not steal it again."
Lulu was right - her mom's cake was drier and crumbly. It was more of a butter cake with banana in it rather than the real banana cake that my mom made. My mom sometimes make the drier version when she made banana cupcakes but usually it is the dense, moist and nutty and full of banana. Just the way I like it.
I have waged other (less fun) wars with other Malaysians and Singaporeans after that all on banana cakes. I remember the last one - I was 29 - was with this woman who made a banana cake with cream cheese frosting just to prove her mom's cake was better than mine. I got so tired of competing with her, I took my brownies once when she invited me to her house for dinner. Everyone there loved it and it made her cry. My brothers christened the brownies *The Brownies that made the CPA cries* after that. I felt bad for stealing her show but I was quite relieve not to have to listen to her "My so and so is better than yours" anymore. I still wonder why each of us with moms who bake will go to war for their banana cake's honour! why not butter cake or chocolate cake?
Lulu now lives in Canada and we call each other once or twice a month. When my mom was still alive, she used to call her too for recipes and such. Once she called me 20 times on the same day to find out how to make chocolate bread pudding. She called my mom in between just to be sure I didn't hold anything on her.
My mom makes the best banana cake in the world.
And the recipe will remain a secret.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Daging Jintan

This is a very simple beef recipe to make on a rainy day when you crave something spicy and your body is longing to be warmed from the inside. The heat arising from the amalgamation of cumin, fennel, black pepper, coriander and tumeric.
My brothers and I used to make this all the time when we were living away from home and sharing a house. All the girls who used to come back to our house for dins used to ask my brother Jack if he learnt to cook this in Morrocco. I bought him a tajine for his 23rd birthday so he can make this dish more authentic for his girlfriends.
We call it Daging Jintan because that is really what it is - beef cooked with two types of jintan - cumin and fennel, with some coriander thrown in. The spices are warmed in a pan then crushed gently and then added to the beef. They are used more to complement or enhance the taste of the beef rather than to overwhelm. You can omit the chilli if you like, it will not affect it too much. You know you are onto a winner when the beef is tender and moist in the outside yet slightly crunchy on the outside.
It's delicious served with couscous or rice, with some roasted vegetable on the side or a salad of your choice. Drizzle some of the oil left in the pan on the couscous or rice for extra oomph!

The recipe:


500g of beef
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 chilli - sliced
1 onion - sliced
1 garlic - crushed
1TBSP coriander (whole)
1 tsp cumin (whole)
1 tsp fennel
2 TBSP vegetable oil
fleur de sel

1. Marinate the beef with tumeric and black pepper and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Slice the onion and chilli and crush the garlic.
3. Warm up a pan and throw in all the whole spices and fry without oil until the kitchen is fragrant. Crush the spices gently or you can blitz it in the blender for a second. The spices shouldn't be too fine.
4. Warm up some oil and fry the onion until it caramelised and translucent.
5. Add the beef in and stir it while all the liquid evaporated. Add the crushed spices and garlic.
6. Stir in the chilli and serve.


Friday, April 04, 2008

de taart van mijn tante

There is a little cake shop in the chi chi area of Amsterdam right on the Ferdinand Bolstraat which we really love. When you walk down the street from the Rijksmuseum to go to Albert Cuyp market or Duikelman, you will have to stop and notice the pink flamingo on the windowsill and the magnificent array of cakes! And trust me, you will stop, peep inside and see all teh beautiful people inside -mostly fresh from shopping at the PC - and drool over the goodies on their tables - oh yes the cakes look absolutely scrummy... especially on a grey afternoon... when you just have to have that pot of Mr Jones tea or a cup of Koffie verkeerd.
The shop is called De Taart van M'n Tante - literally translated from Dutch - the cakes of my auntie - which makes you feel all warm and sludgy inside and transport you back to your aunt's or mom's kitchen and reminded you of all the times when you sneak in to lick the back of her wooden spatula... ah yes to be 5 again!
It is probably the Kitschest ( is there such word?) tearoom/cakeshop that you have been to, decorated in psychadaelic colours with displays of cakes past and present, all ornate and magnificent. There is nothing that is beige or dull - everything is colourful including the owners! and I love love LOVE it!!!

On Wednesday, for our little date, we each got a cake - the fabulous Trufflescake for me and the fantastic Straciatella for Terry - both served with a creme fraiche and raspberry coulis on the side. Our coffee also camewith a home made oh so buttery butter cookie that makes you want to break to song and dance. We were there around 4PM and manage to get a table but be warned that this is a place you have to be prepared to fight for a table, especially on weekends.

Most schools have wednesday afternoon free, so there were some family with children there that day - all choosing their own cakes and quietly enjoying them, knowing they are onto some sort of treasure. the girl sitting next to our table, glaring at her dad who jokingly wanted to try her cupcake.
The tearoom began as a bakery and renowned for their creative works not only for corporate and celebrities clients but have had their cakes featured in award winning films. And thank goodness for that too because when you spy a fabulous cake, you would want to sit down and enjoy it immediately with a great company. You can still order cakes from them and the sky is not the limit as far as decoration is concerned. The best thing about De Taart is all their creations are delicious and beautiful unlike most other cakeshops that make arty creations but come short on taste.

If you find yourself in Amsterdam and want to escape the horrible touristy traps of the Magna Plaza area, for a piece of fabulous cake and a lot of Amsterdam originality and quirkiness, pay Siemon and Noam a visit:
de taart van mijn tante
Ferdinand Bolstraat 10
1072 LJ Amsterdam
they open daily from 10.00 to 18.00.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

For Leen

Vondel Park, Amsterdam on Wednesday afternoon.
who is in Krabi for her birthday
Petikkan matahari
untuk kami yang
diselimut kelabu