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Archive for August, 2009

 

 

Selamat Hari Merdeka dear Malaysia. I love you and I am proud to be Malaysian. I pray that our leaders will lead the country with justice and fairness, and bring you to greater heights where you rightfully belong.

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Portuguese Egg Tart

Portuguese Egg Tart

 

Delightful little things these are. I never could resist them whenever I see them at bakeries back home. I do love all things eggy (apart from chawanmushi), and egg tarts have to be high up on the list. There’s the usual egg tart with the short-crust pastry and smooth yellow custard filling. And then there’s the Portuguese egg tart with it’s puff pastry and bumpy brown surface. *Loves*

 

Yesterday, I had a crazy craving for these, and when I looked it up online, woot, the recipe seemed simple enough. I went to bed thinking of these tarts. And guess what. Me and my crazy, vivid dreams. I dreamt that my house caught fire coz my egg tarts were in the oven, and the oven somehow caught fire. So when I woke up today, I just HAD to make these, you know, to sorta negate the dream 😛

 

The recipe I got was from Rasa Malaysia and it worked really well. The only thing I should improve on is the puff pastry. I never have had any luck with pastry, even if it’s store bought.

 

Ingredients

 

1 package store bought puff pastry

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup whipping cream

3 drops vanilla extract

 

 

Method

 

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

 

2. Mix all ingredients (except pastry) in a bowl with electric beater for about 3 minutes. (I don’t have one and hence used a fork to beat for about 5 minutes)

 

3. Strain mixture through a strainer.

 

4. Cut pastry into circles to fit into your muffin pan/aluminium foil cups. I used the latter.

 

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until there are golden brown spots at the top.

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I don’t know how the foodies do it. But I can honestly say that I make an awful food blogger. When I cook, I usually forget to take pictures. Or when I do remember, I am usually so caught up with making sure I’m not late with our meals that I rush and end up taking horrible pictures.

 

And don’t even get me started on taking pictures of the finished product. Once the food is ready, all I can think of is E-A-T! So much for garnishing the food, taking pictures of food with good lighting, good angles, and not to forget that all important little details like a placemat perhaps, or a spoon artistically resting by the side of the plate. Nahhh ahh. Doesn’t work for me. I just wanna TUCK IN 😛 I guess that explains why I am no famous food blogger, or even famous blogger for that matter 😉

 

It was a little different a few weeks back. I was all gung-ho about preparing a really decadent meal. I had me some fresh sambal, so naturally, I made Nasi Lemak with My Mum’s Best Sambal Udang with a side serving of fried chicken.

 

Nasi Lemak & Sambal Udang

Nasi Lemak & Sambal Udang

 

Ingredients

Rice

1 cup rice

Thumb-sized ginger

2 screwpine leaves (pandan leaves)

5-6 fenugreek seeds (biji halba)

70-80ml coconut milk (about half a can)

 

Sambal

1 big onion, sliced into thick rings (optional)

500 grams prawns, cleaned

Sambal tumis (refer to my recipe HERE)

 

Other ingredients

2 boiled eggs, halved

1/2 cup ikan bilis (dried anchovies)

1 small cucumber (cut as desired; whole slices, halved or quartered)

 

Method

1. Wash rice as usual. Add coconut milk, some water, fenugreek, ginger and screwpine leaves. (I cannot find screwpine leaves here, so I substituted with 2 shallots, sliced for aroma). Cook rice.

 

2. Cook the sambal as instructed in my previous post HERE on a SLOW fire. The trick to a good sambal is to keep eyeballing (agak-agak) and watch that it does not dry out or burn. If it is too dry, add a little water at a time. Let it simmer on low heat.

 

3. Add in onion slices.

 

4. Taste as you go along. Sambal should turn a deep, dark red and the oil should separate from the paste at the sides.

 

5. When sambal has turned a dark red, and onion slices are soft, add in prawns and stir to incorporate.

 

6. Cook for another few minutes till prawns are fully cooked. Switch off fire.

 

7. Fry anchovies, boil eggs, slice cucumbers.

 

8. Scoop up rice and serve with sambal udang, anchovies, egg and cucumber.

 

Tips I learnt from my mum

1. Low heat is your best friend. Patience is the key. Cook this over a small fire for a long time and you will come up with an awesome sambal. FYI, I cooked this sambal for about 1.5 hours over low heat to get that deep red colour. My mum calls it “masak sampai tua” :D, if I remember correctly, that is. Translated, it means “cooked till old” 🙂

 

2. Always, always taste as you go along, and use your instincts. If paste is too dry, add water. If too wet, turn up the heat a little so that the water evaporates.

 

3. A little extra sugar won’t hurt. You’d be amazed by the difference in taste.

 

Frankly, I have made nasi lemak a few times now, and this is the first time that I am truly pleased with the outcome, hence this blog post. Am especially pleased with the sambal. In my humble opinion, good sambal is always a dark red and thick in consistency. Just the way I like it. Not fun cleaning up all the sambal splatters on the stove though. It’s quite a bit of work, nasi lemak is, but SO worth the while 😉

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It was a quiet birthday for me yesterday. The HB wasn’t feeling too well and it was sweltering hot outside, prompting us to remain at home where it is relatively cooler.

 

The HB had just gotten back from his business trip to Morocco, and he got me a load of stuff from there as a pressie.

 

Argan oil, Natural Shampoo, Natural Soap, Saffron

 

Left to right: Saffron, clay powder, rose water, turmeric in plastic bag (!!!), natural soap, natural shampoo, 15 bottles of Argan Oil

 

You should have seen how the HB stuffed those bottles in his suitcase. Some of them went into his shoes (!!!) so as to prevent breakage. 😀

 

Have you ever heard of Argan Oil? Prior to HB’s trip to Morocco, I’d never heard of it. Click here to read an interesting write-up about Argan Oil. So, Argan Oil is said to be exceptionally good for the skin. It is edible even. I was a little skeptical when HB called me from Morocco and told me about this oil, and I did a quick Googling. To my surprise, I read numerous good reviews about the oil, and even Kiehl’s sells them, although lots more expensive.

 

I thought the HB would buy me 2-3 bottles, but naaaaahhhh, he got me 15 bottles, the funny fellow. But I’m so glad he did. I tried the oil, and it absorbs like a miracle. My bumpy rough upper arms feels smoother after the first application! I hope it does wonders for wrinkles as reported.  The HB is a smart one, getting me this oil for my birthday. Maybe he sees more age spots and wrinkles on me. Darn it. >____< But oh, thanks love! I ain’t complaining 😉

 

I also asked the HB to get me saffron, the most expensive spice in the world 😛 so that I can make some nice Biryani. Morocco is one of the producers of saffron, and thus, he got it for cheap, I’m so happy. You see those four little containers stacked on the left most? Those are my precious saffron. 😀

 

The rose water and clay are supposed to form some kind of paste for a facial mask. And oh, the shampoo (with the red cover) looks strange but smells divine; like a whole bunch of roses.

 

At night, we drove to our favourite gelateria/torteria and I got to pick out my own birthday cake. Now this gelateria called Slurp is usually SO PACKED that it’s hard to move about in there, and you’ve to take a number and queue. My favourite After Eight and Straciatella gelato comes from there.

 

Ice cream cake

Ice cream cake - Two candles coz I'm only 20! 😉

 

It is absolutely scrumptious I tell you. I especially liked the fondant like top, except it’s not fondant but white chocolate methinks.

 

Top layer: Straciatella, Middle Layer: Cake, Bottom Layer: Chocolate, Bottom Most Layer: Cake

Top layer: Straciatella, Middle Layer: Cake, Bottom Layer: Chocolate, Bottom Most Layer: Cake

 

I *heart* ice-cream gelato cake!

 

We have half a cake left in the freezer. Yums. Can’t wait for dessert tonight 😉

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When I was little, I loved it when the postman arrived. We would be able to hear the drone of the postman’s motorbike from afar, and waited for his BEEP-BEEPs indicating that we had mail.

 

Now, I dread it when the postman buzzes the house. I would have to answer the intercom with a “Si?”, and 90% of the time, someone would say a curt “Posta!” and I would open the main door downstairs by pressing the intercom button, usually feeling a little relieved that the person was not rattling on in lightning speed Italian.

 

Over here, the Polizia (Police) or Carabinieri (Military Police, sort of) may pay you a visit, especially if you’re a foreigner. When I registered my Stay of Permit with the local council, I was told that the local police may drop by within the week and see whether it was indeed me living in the house, and not some bunch of illegal immigrants. So two days later, at 7.30am, there was a LONG LOUD buzz at the door. When I answered the intercom, the dude went “Buon giorno, *insert incomprehensible mega speed Italian here* Polizia Municipale,……XXX(my name). Immediately, I went “Si, si!” and pressed the button to allow the dude to come up to the house. But he went “No, no Grazie…bla bla bla….Ok! Buon Giorno!” And that was my “visit” from the local police. >________<

 

About a week ago, there was another loud buzzer at the door. The postman’s buzz is usually short buzz. This one was a double buzz. And I picked up, and this guy said “…..consegna pacco XXX(my name)” Note how I’m catching a little more words over time 😛 He meant that there was a package delivery for me. And woot! I perked up. Who would be sending little ol’ ME  a package? And I opened the entrance door downstairs and skipped downstairs. Yes, over here, you would have to go downstairs to sign for registered letters or packages. They don’t come upstairs. And so I signed for my package, and immediately recognized the neat handwriting on the package. Mama.  \(^_^)/  (Man that was hard to type :P)

 

I ran upstairs and ripped  opened the package. And these were inside.

 

Card, dried longan and pyjamas

Card, dried longan and pyjamas

 

Yes. It was a birthday care-package. I’m a year older today.

 

I received a packet of longan (LOVE em in chilled desserts), cutesy pyjamas that’s a little too cute to wear to sleep; I’m gonna wear it out, and a card. I gotta give credit to my sis for this card, it hit the spot, for I burst out in tears smiled and giggled at those dogs. I’m such a doggie freak. You see that doggie in the middle? The one standing atop the other dog saying “You’re never too old to learn a few new tricks”. That dog, I tell you, is EXACTLY like my naughty, crazy, greedy, lazy, adorable Boo at home. And under that caption, the sis had written “like high five, up and roll”. Coz those are the three frequent commands/tricks that I taught Boo. I miss the little “lelert” sooo much. I saw him on webcam today and while on speaker, I called his name, asking him to go “walk-walk” and “jalan-jalan” and gosh, the way he stared at the laptop and cocked his head, left to right. So adorable can die. Sigh. If only things were more conducive around here, I would have definitely brought Boo with me to Italy. But it’s too expensive, and too much of a hassle, not to mention risky. I’ve heard countless number of stories of pets that have died while under quarantine at the airport.

 

Also, I’ve not seen a single groomer around here. That diva high maintenance dog of mine needs constant grooming as his hair grows out so quickly. Groomers are aplenty back home, and Boo can get all the pampering he needs. Also, I would have to think of my (hopefully)yearly trip back home to Malaysia. If Boo was here, what do I do with him? I can’t bring him back to Malaysia each time I travel. And no one  here is gonna dog-sit Boo for months. Ah well, though I miss him, I know that my family back home is giving him royal treatment. He sleeps in air-cond (heck, even *I* don’t have air-cond here), eats premium food, and goes for regular grooming sessions. Boo has to get a haircut about once a month. The last time *I* had a haircut was MONTHS ago. >_____< And though mama may not admit it, Boo has captured her heart 😉 She wasn’t so Boo-loving a few years ago. Rightttttt ma? 😉

 

So yes. It’s my birthday (and Madonna’s!). I arrived in Italy 15th August last year and spent my birthday in a daze, jetlagged as heck. I’m a year older today, don’t know if I’m any wiser. A lot has happened in my life, sad and painful. But at this stage in my life, I daresay that for once, I am truly happy. 🙂

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You know you’re a true blue Malaysian when you go all out and try to replicate the food from home, notwithstanding the dire lack of ingredients. Unlike the lucky Malaysians in London and US, it is much, MUCHHHH harder to get Asian food and ingredients in Italy. I turn green whenever I read blogs like RasaMalaysia , in her case, a Malaysian living in US. Whenever she feels a craving for food such as Mee Goreng (Fried Yellow Noodles) or Loh Bak or Assam Laksa, all she needs to do is go to the Asian Store, presumably in China Town, and she can get her yellow noodles, tofu, daun kesum (polygonum leaves), lemongrass etc.

 

Poor ol’ me does not have a China Town to go to 😦 I cannot get tofu, lemongrass, yellow noodles, belacan, curry powder etc here. The nearest relatively well-stocked Asian store is in Bologna, about 45 minutes away by car, and even then, they do not have most of the things I need/crave for.

 

So what does a girl like me do?

 

I hoard. 😛

 

When I flew back from Malaysia in May, I bought and packed two BIG packs of dried chili to be made into chili boh for sambal tumis. I absolutely love my sambal. My suitcase was 30% clothes and 70% food.

 

And the past few days were spent deseeding, soaking, blending, packing the chili. I packed them into little freezer bags so that I can easily defrost each bag (small quantity) as and when I need it.

 

Chili Boh - to be made into Sambal Tumis

Chili Boh - to be made into Sambal Tumis

 

Ingredients

About 200grams dried chili, deseeded before soaking for about an hour

4 garlic cloves

6 shallots

1 big onion

2-3 tbsp oil

Tamarind, the size of a small ping-pong ball, soaked in half a cup of water and macerated with fingers

Salt, to taste

Sugar, to taste

Belacan, to taste

 

Method

1. Blend the chili, shallots, garlic and onion. Add a tiny bit of water just to get the blender going. Not too much!

2. Heat oil in wok or pan. When hot, add in the blended paste.

3. On small fire, fry till fragrant and chili paste turns a dark red. This usually takes quite a long time.

4. When you see that the oil has separated from the paste, add in the belacan. (I use belacan powder. If you use belacan paste, dry roast it on a pan for 2-3 minutes first before using). Stir to integrate.

5. Add in tamarind water without the pulp. Continue frying to get the desired consistency. I like mine thick, so I usually stir a little longer. Be careful not to burn the base.

6. Add salt and sugar to taste.

 

I usually make Sambal Udang with this sambal tumis recipe, and I add in the prawns right at the end and cook for another 3-4 minutes till prawns are cooked.

 

Chili boh is basically the blended ingredients before it’s cooked. Once cooked, it becomes sambal tumis.

 

My mum who makes the best sambal udang in the world usually cooks the sambal tumis for agesss on the stove, sometimes about 2 hours, depending on quantity, till it turns a beautiful dark red.

 

This recipe works well for me; one who has been spoilt by my mum’ sambal. It’s THAT good. It will be ages till I learn to tweak things here and there and get the sambal to be EXACTLY how my mum makes it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Picture credit - Museumvictoria.com.au

Picture credit - Museumvictoria.com.au

 

Oh my. Did you catch the awesome Perseid Meteor Shower? I was pottering about in the kitchen yesterday and I had the TV on. BBC had a feature on it, and it caught my attention. What is Perseid, you say?

 

From Wikipedia:

 

The Perseids (pronounced /ˈpɜrsiː.ɨdz/) is the name of a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so-called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus and it’s a translation of the Greek word wich is also refered as Perseides (greek : Περσείδες) . The stream of debris is called the Perseid cloud and stretches along the orbit of the comet Swift-Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it travels on its 130-year orbit. Most of the dust in the cloud today is around a thousand years old. However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that was pulled off the comet in 1862. The rate of meteors originating from this filament is much higher than for the older part of the stream.

The Perseid meteor shower has been observed for about 2000 years, with the earliest information on this meteor shower coming from the Far East.[1] Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the “tears of St. Lawrence”, since August 10 is the date of that saint’s martyrdom.[2]

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity being between August 9 and 14, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. As with all meteor showers, the rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space.

 

So last night, I thought I would just try my luck and gaze at the sky from our little balcony.  I stared and stared, doubting I would see any; at the same time swatting away about a dozen giant mosquitos. Yes we have those darned things here too, except they’re not Aedes, but still, an irritating specimen.

 

And woohoo! I saw a meteor whizz by. I was gobsmacked! I stood there for another five minutes or so, and holy moly! Another one! Heh. Of course I had to call the HB up and I excitedly jabbered on for a few minutes before he could understand why I was being such an excited big little kid. I made him stand at the window of his hotel and stare at the sky. But he later told me that he couldn’t see anything. I think he didn’t wait long enough. *Harrrrrumph*

 

Then I went inside and did nothing some other stuff before deciding to take a shower. I grabbed my towel near the window and decided to look out into the sky again. This time it was about ONE minute before I saw another one 😀 This was a really bright one. Good gosh, it’s amazing, these meteor showers. Apparently, the best time to view Perseids was last night, but it will continue for the rest of this week, decreasing in frequency though. It’s amazing to think that it’s happening as I type, only that its bright out, and one can’t see the meteors in bright daylight. I wish the HB was home. If he was, I’d pack a blanket, a sandwich, some mosquito repellant and drag him to the nearest hill/mountain where we would definitely get a much better view of the meteors.

 

I’m gonna be staring out my window tonight too 😉 I mean, how often do you get to wish upon a shooting star a couple of times in one night? 😉

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