Words of Wisdom

In life, we have to choose between the jeans and the cookie jar. Liz Hurley chose the jeans and I chose the cookie jar

~ Nigella Lawson....(on women's body image and her own voluptuous body)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nostalgia and memories of 30 years ago

I was made the driver today as my family went to visit my father's elder siblings.

Couldn't help feeling all nostalgic as 30 years ago, the trips to their houses were the some of the highlights of my childhood. We all did not have a lot of money back then but we were rich when it came to family ties.

A lot has changed of course.

We used to be able to run around on the wooden floor. Now we have to tip-toe around and still feel worried that the house might collapse. A lot have been renovated especially the kitchen. But their houses are still beautiful to me.

Old Malay house 2
I couldn't capture the natural light coming through the windows. This picture had been retouched but still the soft light I wanted wouldn't come through. Well, I'm no pro.

I fired the flash for this one. That's my nephew btw.

Old Malay house
Now this is what I wanted to capture!
This is another section of the old living room though. The natural light beautifully brings out the colours.

The gathering we did not really ..........(I can't find words)

There was a 'gathering' at my grandmother's house yesterday.

For some reason that nobody can fathom, someone in the family had chosen to have her engagement ceremony at our matriarch house instead of her family's very large house.

Well, if you ask me, I'd say, it was to save on cost as it's the holidays and the rest of the family are here. So, free labour. It so happened that we have more males in the family. Imagine the money that can be saved from having to pay caterers to do the works. Oh, btw, the cooks are our close relatives too, from my mother's side.

The 'throne' where she got her ring.

The 'floweries'.

The pot pourri which they didn't perfume.......surprisingly.
(Truth is we were not bothered to make the 'pandan leaves' pot pourri for her)

Enough about the ceremony. I want to talk about the food.

I thought I had seen 'decadence' at all the hotels I went to during Ramadhan. I never thought that I would see abundance of food like that now that the Ramadhan is over.

rival buffet 100_2955
The ones I faced when I went to the kitchen to help out

The trays and trays of food for the guests

rival buffet 100_2957
So, what were in the trays?
Asam pedas, Javanese beef ungkep, Percik grilled chickens, stir-fried veges, Javanese 'sambal goreng' which is a dish of savoury hot and rich tofu and tempeh combo with chillies and certain parts of cows.....he....he....

The Javanese 'ungkep' beef

32 chickens in the giant pot!
I can't believe it myself.

Would I want something like this for my ceremony someday (though highly unlikely to happen)? Hmm....maybe not. Most of the family members were NOT smiling. They were tired. It's the holidays and we wanted to chill out. Not working our asses off for some 'ceremonies'.


In the end, I was grateful for just one thing. My auntie's Tako. She makes the best Takos in the world. So, any family gathering would normally mean I get to devour these lovelies. Yumm! Yumm!

My fav Eid Mubarak treat this year

The month of Shawal is here according to the Islamic calendar.

Now we're talking :-)

As usual, all I want to do every year is to go to my maternal grandmother's place and see what delicacies that my aunties have brought home to the village.

This year, my favourite is this. A delicate tasting cookie the Samperit. It's the Spritz if you're European. However, I'm so sure that we Malaysians make the best version.

The princess of all Samperit cookies I've ever tasted.

Not that I never tasted or baked Samperit before but the ones at my grandmother's house this year has got to be the princess of all the ones I've tasted. The texture is so delicate and fragile. The colour is so light almost like uncooked newly spritzed dough. The taste is only lightly sweet but still with the hint of rich 'undertone' as a result of mixture of custard powder and regular flour.

I am so going to make some soon. I have found a recipe I think would be close to this one at my grandmother's. Well, judging from the picture anyway.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kek Lapis (Layer Cake) 'Misadventure'

I was determined to try making layer cakes on Sunday. My old school buddy was on her 5-day break from work and she kind of challenged me into making one so she can have a taste.

So, there I was. No experience. No hands-on knowledge. Just a couple of layer Cake recipe books as my guideline. I chose to make the ones with cream cheese.

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I got all the necessary gears. The 8"x8" cake tins. The cheese. The butter (real butter!). Grade A eggs. The Hong Kong flour. The caster sugar. The colourings and the flavourings. My Kenwood Patissier.....wink...wink.... . This would be her 'maiden voyage' on my mother's new portable kitchen island handmade by my father.

The one with the Lemon Flavour.............

I tried the first recipe which originally required 14 egg yolks and 7 egg whites. I changed it to only 10 whole eggs. I'm pretty hopeless at separating eggs so as long as the weight of the eggs added up, I'd changed the recipe.

Basically layer cakes are done in two mixtures. The egg mixture and the butter mixture which are then joined together. So, that's what I did.

I was a bit worried about beating the flour together with the eggs as I remember what happened to a cake batter I beat for 12mins once. It was all-purpose flour which had enough gluten and made the cake tough like a badly cut badly cooked piece of beef. But this time it was Hong Kong flour which was low-protein and the mixture was fantastic.

kek lapis (layer cake) 100_2917

Then, the cheese and the butter mixture. It looked curdled. My sister theorized that it could be because we kept our cheese in the freezer instead of a normal fridge. Whatever the cause was, my batter looked curdly and runny. Nothing like the pictures in the book. Now THAT was worrying.

The book also included instruction to make the 'layer adhesive' which is a thick mixture brushed on each cooked layer before pouring another one. For this particular recipe, it was a mixture of margarine and condensed milk. I felt that the combo was too rich but I persevered (BIG MISTAKE!).

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Easy to tell when the basic uncoloured batter is cooked.

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How to know when the coloured batter is cooked?

I ran into a snag with the purple layer. This cake had yellow and purple layers with lemon flavour. I really couldn't tell how cooked is the purple layer because the colour is dark enough not to be able to tell the browning. I 'marched on' and diligently brush each layer with the condensed milk/margarine mixture.

kek lapis (layer cake) 100_2925

It was strange how the cake didn't layer as high as I thought it would. I already dubbed the cake as a failure before even finishing it. It looked awful.

The TWO recipes baking in the oven.
I don't have the proper picture for the 'lemon' recipe as it turned out so bad that I had to throw it out to the chickens in the backyard.

The one with the Chocolate Rice.........

Being impatient as I am, I was determined to go for the next recipe. It was still cream cheese and no different coloured layers this time. Just sprinkles of chocolate rice on each layer.

So, off I went beating two basic mixtures. I beat the egg mixture with the Patissier and the butter/cream cheese mixture with my hand-held mixer. The Patissier worked fine except I thought the mixture was not as fluffy high as the first recipe. Maybe it was because this second recipe had more flour.

My butter/cream cheese looked curdled at first but this time I continued beating till the curdles were gone finally. So, you DO have to beat the butter/cream cheese THAT long, huh?

kek lapis (layer cake) 100_2923
Now this is what it should look like. No curdles. Just fluffy.

AT LAST! My batter looked like the one in the book. Smooth and fluffy.

kek lapis (layer cake) 100_2926

kek lapis (layer cake) 100_2932

I had a good feeling as I layered the cake. I went overboard with the chocolate rice as I'm a chocoholic. I still diligently brushed each layer with the margarine/condensed milk mixture. A LOT.

kek lapis (layer cake) 100_2936
The cake looked OK till I turned it over.

Then the cakes were finished and when I turned them over, I didn't like what I saw. I couldn't see the layers and they were way too soft/fragile. What was wrong? It was supposed to be firm, dense but soft to cut. Certainly not fragile and crumbly.

They were oily. I guessed it must have been the 'adhesive' mixture. As for the invisible layering, did I need more time to heat the cake to make each layer browner? How brown should it be?

I tasted the cakes and they did taste rich. Cream Cheese, condensed milk, pure butter and blobs of margarine. Yes, lots of eggs too. It was a bit too sweet for my taste. Maybe I need to reduce the sugar next time because obviously the condensed milk made them sweeter.

So, I decided to re-bake the cakes. Then, I went off to do some ironing while the cakes were heated. BIG MISTAKE!

When I returned, the cakes were overbaked and the outer sides were all crusty. OMG. The cakes were tough and seemed to be missing out the milky rich taste this time. All I got was sweet and too sweet. It was a disaster. It was embarrassing as the whole family saw me slaving over the cakes for the better part of the day and I failed BIG.

The lessons learned were:

1. Don't bother brushing the 'adhesive' on every layer. The cake becomes too sweet. ONLY use the 'adhesive' when I need to make the patterns (similar to the sugar candy in Blackpool, UK).

2. Beat the butter mixture thoroughly till the curdles are gone or else you will not get the smooth and fluffy cake batter.

3. Don't be afraid to beat low-protein flour on high speed for a long time.

4. If you still feel the need to re-bake your cakes, 5 minutes will do. 10 minutes max and that is with watchful eyes. BTW, I was using a gas oven which did not have a temperature indicator. Assuming your baking temperature as 180°C or 350°F or Gas Mark 4.

5. If it's a first-time recipe, always always always halve it at the very least. I had successfully put 1/2kg of cream cheese and 1/2kg of butter to waste. These items are not cheap. Yes, I also wasted 20 Grade A eggs.

6. Don't go overboard with the chocolate rice. Ha...ha...! My cake was kinda crumbly and very fragile because the chocolate melted in speckles.

7. Layer Cakes need to be left to cool first before cutting. THIS IS A MUST. Only proper cooling down could firm it up. Or just put it in the fridge. No wonder I saw stacks and stacks of filled baking trays being cooled off in a video of a Layer Cake House. I was way too impatient and dived into it not long after taking the cakes out of the oven....ha...ha...

Ok. So, at the moment, I certainly do not see myself making money out of selling Layer Cakes. Certainly not AFTER the mess I had made.

Anyway, I haven't given up. I certainly will try again. Yes, I'll remember to halve the recipe next time....ha...ha...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The buffet, the 'shower', the ex and the fart

Went to another Ramadhan buffet yesterday at a nearby resort. The Everly.

Everly 100_2937

Everly 100_2939

Everly 100_2938

Everly 100_2941

I'm quite partial to this particular resort as the have a pretty wide variety of food everyday. The space and the layout are nice too. Good parking space. Enough shady trees and well-maintained bougainvilleas for the splashes of colours against the mainly light-coloured buildings.

So, the fact that they seated us outside this time (grrr....) was not a big problem. I even jokingly said to my colleague that if she still wanted us to be moved inside, there was still an ample space right in front of the main door at the lobby. Guess what? My words were a prophecy. Read on.

They had the grilled stuff (satay, beef and lambs), rice and accompaniments, desserts, pasta, fruits, ice-creams, snow ice, salads and seafood (mussels, crabs, fish).

Everly 100_2943

Everly 100_2947

Everly 100_2950

Everly 100_2948

What I had :-)

So, everything was fine until......


Ok. I usually refer to this ex-bf as No.4. He's gained weight whereas he used to be super skinny when we met. He's a father now too. I don't know whom he married and honestly, I don't f***ing care. He dumped me saying I was old for him. The jerk didn't even have the guts to say it to my face and told a friend instead.

Seeing his face again yesterday, I'm glad he dumped me. Sure, I was crushed. No, I was broken to smithereens. At the time anyway. By the time No.5 came along, he was history. Ok. No.5 dumped me too but that was expected as our age gap was still unacceptable by our society's standard. Besides, he already had someone when we met whom he conveniently forgot to tell me. Duh!

Back to the meal, I had a blast. My colleague and I sat with the guys at my insistence. Guys don't gossip much. When they're out, they just like to have a good time, share jokes and devour as much food/drinks as they can afford to. Precisely the reason I prefer to hang out with the guys.

Then, amidst our laughter, we were shocked by the sudden "shower" from a top balcony. We were seated outside yesterday. Yikes! What water was that? Cleaning water? Eewww.

The fun started when a colleague complained to the F&B Manager. He jokingly said we were going to sue for negligence. He also thanked another colleague for sending him away to the dessert buffet at the time of occurrence as his seat was the worst hit by the "shower".

Then I saw the Manager instructing his staff to set up another table inside RIGHT AT THE FRONT OF THE MAIN DOOR AT THE LOBBY. my words really were a prophecy. Just like when I said to my buddy during Ramadhan Tarawih prayer back in our college days to imagine the little son of our hostel warden farting. The little boy was busy teasing people around and I just imagined what more could he do to really take away our concentration from God? So, I turned to my buddy and said, 'Imagine what if the boy suddenly farts". Then he DID. DURING our last prayer verse no less. Like a grand FINALE to our prayer. My buddy and I had to stifle our laughter till the prayer ended that it hurt our stomachs. Right after the last salaam, my buddy dropped to the floor laughing hysterically. It was so frigging hilarious.

Wouldn't it be great if ALL my words become prophecies?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's 09.09.09 today and my day started quite gloomy.....



I'm sure somewhere on Planet Earth, somebody is getting married or celebrating something to that effect. What is it about humans and their fascination with dates and numbers?

My day started gloomy not because something bad happened but rather I felt the absence of my sister and my younger brother at home. They're both in the capital city. One working temporarily and one had to send her thesis. Btw, my sis has not even graduated and already she has a job offer in our home state. She was kind of 'head-hunted' as the company apparently contacted her college to offer employment and they gave them her name. I was unemployed and hopping from one miserable job to another for TWO years before landing my current job. Lady Luck doesn't smile at me much.

At the dining table before dawn, it was just me and my parents. The nephews were sleeping.

It was quiet. Just an elderly married couple with their spinster stubborn-headed daughter who doesn't have that much money. I feel like a loser.

I hate to imagine the day my elder brother moves out someday. I will so miss the little ones. My nephews and new baby niece. Their laughter and the way they would look at me adoringly.

My head keeps on flashing me images of the things I dreamed of doing, the men (the rock/metal musicians I mean...ha...ha) I wanted to meet and the places I wanted to go. Will my feet ever step on the ground of Berlin and Hamburg? Will I take a walk along Brooklyn Bridge in New York? Will I watch the performances on Broadway? Will I go to Seattle and witness for myself the seemingly close-knit musical community? Will I go back to the country I once dubbed my second home, the UK?

Only I can make it all happen.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

When a Japanese wants a pet cat........

My Japanese boss had a rather strange question to me yesterday.

He inquired whether there is any centre where his pet cat can stay temporarily should he want to go on holidays. Me, thinking that he's Japanese and how they are famous for coming up with all kinds of weird inventions, immediately assumed that he was thinking a 'cat hotel'.

Now, we Malaysians are not THAT nutty.

I tried to think of a possible alternative for a 'cat hotel'. How about an animal shelter? I told him that I had seen the SPCA signboard somewhere at Bukit China area. Sorry fellow Malaysians, I'm not sure what SPCA stands for. Never bothered to find out because I live in a village and even monkeys come to our backyards, not just cats. I assumed it is a Shelter for Protection against Cruelty to Animals. Hmm.....that made sense.

It turned out that the boss doesn't even have a cat. He was just making inquiries IN CASE he wants to keep a cat. Oh, dear. SO that's why the Japanese are so inventive. They think ' case we need this...', ' case we need that...', ' case we want to do this....', ' case we want to do that....' and all the '...what ifs....'. Make something exist first. Then, somebody might use it.

We asked him whether he was thinking of getting a cat. He said yes. He was also very specific about the cat that he wants. He's looking for a cat that.......

  • silver-coloured
  • ........has long upwards tail
  • ........has white whiskers
  • ........has to be male
  • ........costs MYR50 only

Just when I was trying to decipher what he meant by 'silver colour', it was the price he asked that made my jaw drop. MYR50?! That's like USD14. Nobody will sell a 'pedigree' cat for that price!

Back to the 'silver colour'. Knowing how our products are described in our drawings in this factory, I assumed he meant 'grey-coloured' and it would be a 'pedigree cat grey' like a Siamese, a Persian or a Birman. The competition standard kitties. Be prepared to fork out MYR1000+ for one, we told him. Seriously, when I was still in school, a 3-month-old Birman could easily fetch MYR300 minimum. Imagine the price after 20 years.

The kitten my nephew named Henry.

He won't sit still.

I doubt Henry knows he has been named Henry.

I half-jokingly told my Japanese boss that my Malaysian cats are all 'multi-coloured'. Just like us.

Then, a colleague told him that it could be possible to get one for that price over in the capital city or its surrounding districts and it has to be only the SPCA. Somebody rich in the city might have sent over unwanted extra pedigree kittens to the shelter. The SPCA people would be very happy to give a kitty a home for as low as MYR15 I heard.

Now, anyone sees a silver-haired, white-whiskered cat with an upward long tail? And are you desperate for MYR50?