Friday, 24 July 2009

Just wanted to let you know

that I am quite busy these days. My dad is very attached to my laptop so I haven't had much chance to update (don't feel like finger typing entries with my phone).

I ended up not taking them out for dinner because they were so tired. We did eat out quite a few times though- nothing amazing (Indonesian, Chinese and American). The oldies are gallivanting away in Paris with relatives now but once they're back, I'll be busy again;)

In the oven: Mocha Walnut Marble Cake

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Need Suggestions

The oldies will be here soon and I'd like to take them out for dinner on the day they arrive.

I don't want to take them to an Asian place for obvious reasons. That said, my parents aren't exactly open to new tastes (they're fine with steaks and typical 'Western' stuff). In addition, I do have a budget of only 100 euro (for 4) so that limits what's available.

Would you pick:

i) a Greek restaurant (meat-y, casual)


ii) a nice restaurant along the river with affordable OK western food(thing is, I've been there about 20 times in the last 3 years so it's starting to get boring)? By Western food, I mean steak or fish, an appetizer and dessert.

I can be so indecisive sometimes so I would really appreciate the feedback!

P/S: Any other suggestions would be great as well

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

My Quest For The Perfect Chicken Curry

I enjoyed my childhood in Malaysia very much. Like so many things in my life, it revolves around food. I remember making mini 'palm trees' out of dough for the pineapple tarts with all my relatives before Chinese New Year, pounding shallots with tears streaming down my face, the many meals we had as a family, the BBQs on New Year's Eve, the late-night suppers at Mamak (Indian Muslim) stalls, how we always had breakfast at Indian restaurants during the weekends...

I like spicy food very much. Back in school, I was the girl who drowned her food in sambal. My father is the same (he eats bird's eye chillis for fun). Mind you, it's not all about something being spicy without any taste- it has to be balanced! It has to taste good!

Moving here has definitely changed my diet. I eat plenty of western food (more than Asian food for sure). I no longer turn up at a restaurant to pick what I want from the wide array of dishes like in Malaysia. I also have no clue what the dishes were as we never ordered from a menu but would simply point and pick at the various curries. When we cooked curry at home, we'd buy a spice mix from the Indian spice man at the market (unless we specifically wanted to make Chinese or Malay curry...).

I bought a few different Patak pastes but something was missing. I probably need to play around with that. Anyhow, I bought Climbing The Mango Tree by Madhur Jaffrey a few months ago and finally made Bimla's Chicken Curry. It was fragrant and tasty but it certainly wasn't the curry I was looking for. The colour was wrong (it was pale), there was no coconut milk (there was yoghurt though) and I don't know what else. That said, I would make it again because it was very simple and it was tasty in a non-curry sense ^^

I guess I'll have to look further!

Dessert (Summer Pudding)

Tea(Mon Chou/ Cream Cheese cake from a box). Very yum.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Italian Candy Bars

I work as a babysitter for a wonderful Dutch-Italian family. They eat very healthily except when Italian Grandpa comes to visit! Italian Grandpa learnt to cook when his wife passed away a few years ago. I thought he loved cooking because he's constantly making tomato sauces, gelati, bread and the Italian Candy Bars pictured above(I apologise for the lousy picture) but he says that he almost never cooks when he's home (as he lives alone). He enjoys cooking for his son and daughter- I guess that's one of the ways he shows he cares.

I don't have a lot of experience with Italian food- I only know the typical pastas, risotos, desserts, meats and so on which you find at Italian restaurants. Eating with this family made me realize that home cooked Italian food (of course, every family is different) is simple and most of all, fresh. The vegetables used are always in season and in its prime- the tomatoes are almost bursting out of their skins with tomato-ey goodness, the red peppers are sweet and juicy...

These bars are a staple at their home. While walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and whatever other nuts you can find can be used, Italian Grandpa usually utilizes almonds (I believe it's my boss' favourite!). It's VERY easy to make.

Recipe (Francesco G.)

300g almonds, chopped in larg-ish chunks using a food processor
150g raw cane sugar
1 egg

Mix everything together. Leave in 200 degrees celscious oven for about an hour (or until done.). It should be hard like a crunchy candy bars. Please take note that it WILL stick to the pan- I'm not sure if baking paper will help (I'm worried it might get stuck?) as I forgot and had to pry the bars off the pan;) Italian Grandpa uses a porcelain deep plate.


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Blueberry Yoghurt Cake

I bake quite often these days. As I write this, rustic Italian almond bars (so easy, even my cat could make this) are in the oven.

Last night, I baked a blueberry yoghurt cake with a lemon glaze. The blueberries I bought were quite large so as you can see from the picture above, they sunk a little! The cake was absolutely beautiful though, amazing texture- very soft and fluffy. Perfect for thick slices and a cup of coffee. There are only 2 slices left. Dutchman and I polished off the rest!


For the cake
1.5 cups plain flour
1 cup plain full fat yoghurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
zest of one lemon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt
About 300g of blueberries (dusted with flour to prevent sinking)

For the glaze
juice of one lemon
powdered/icing/confectioner's sugar

1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder.
2. In another bowl, beat everything else needed for the cake. Then, whisk the flour mixture gently into the wet ingredients (only until incorporated).
3. Fold blueberries in (again, do it gently).
4. Bake at 180 degrees celscius until done (about 50 minutes). If it browns too much, you can cover the cake with some foil while it bakes.
5. When cake is done and cool, pour glaze onto cake. To make glaze, mix icing sugar with lemon juice until thick.

Espresso Sablés. Nice, rather delicate things (confectioners' sugar instead of normal sugar) but I'll probably add more coffee and decrease the chocolate chunks next time.

Dutchman can cook a total of 3 things well. His specialities are spaghetti with meat sauce, stampot and bobotie (incidently a South African dish with Malaysian influence. Did you know that Malays were brought to S. Africa as slaves? I had NO clue but S. Africans will tell you this- about how the cuisine and language of these slaves have influenced them).

Last night, he made bobotie. This usually lasts us 2 dinners but that horrible cat of ours jumped on the counter and ate from the dish so we threw it out and sent the cat to her room!

Tonight, Dutchman is taking me out for dinner:-) I got my propadeuse (first year) in one year which is no big deal back home but it's a big thing here (60% fail). Can't wait!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

When the Dutchman is away

the Malaysian girl will play...

Frambeien (Strawberry- Raspberry Hybrid) I bought from the market

I'll be the first to admit that I am not very good at cleaning after myself. After baking or cooking, I tend to just throw the non-durables into the dustbin and leave the dishes til tomorrow. This annoys the Dutchman senseless but really, after an hour or more cooking/baking, all I want to do is watch TV or read a book ^^ He always cleans after dinner but insists that it's only fair that I should clean after I bake as that is something I do for fun. I agree, I do! I just prefer to do it later :D

Sometimes, I feel guilty when I bake so I'll try to do it quietly (while he's out or when he's playing a game with headphones on haha) but he always finds out (cheap mixing gadget will wake up any sleeping beast). He's usually really nice about it though and even thinks it's 'cute' 0_0

Anyhow, Dutchman went out for drinks with friends today. I didn't feel like going out so I stayed home, went online, ate Indian leftovers (I LOVE INDIAN! I MISS NASI KANDAR AND BANANA LEAF RICE!!!!!!!!! Sorry, had to scream a little there), watched TV, read "The Host" by Stefanie Meyer and baked Espresso Sablés (in the freezer now).

Will let you know how it tastes!

It crossed my mind today that I wouldn't want to uproot myself to a foreign country with a foreign language anymore. I found it really surprising because I've always enjoyed and wanted to do that. I lived in Japan for a year and was MUCH more isolated than in The Netherlands. In Japan, I lived in a small town, attended Japanese high school (where I was the ONLY foreign student) and lived with Japanese families for a whole year. It's not the same as The Netherlands because an end was in sight. I was smothered and didn't have much freedom but I was also sheltered from anything bad as I had gone under an organization. I knew that once my year was up, I could leave- not to mention, as an exchange student, I didn't have any real responsibilities (didn't have to work, no worries about money, didn't have to study and so on).

I can't say I feel AT HOME in The Netherlands but I am content. I feel comfortable, I'm used to how things work, I've slowly built my life here, I have made new friends and acquired a new 'family' (in-laws). I can sort of understand Dutch (enough to read almost everything, understand conversations, participate a little, fill in tax papers etc.), I am familiar with the culture- I know how it works, how I should act and react, what should be said to achieve what.

I had to struggle to get to this point. I wasn't very happy the first 1.5-2 years. I hated feeling like that so perhaps you can understand why I don't want to move again. I'm still very open to a country where English is widely spoken but I don't think I want to live in France, Switzerland, Turkey, Germany, Spain, China, Korea get my point! Not for a long period anyway (internships, study abroads, 1-year assignments abroad no problem!).

Some meals we had since my last post (as usual, have been eating out a lot)

One of my favourite pastas in the whole world- Crab spaghetti (I usually use linguine but I ran out)

Steak, potatoes with yoghurt dressing, leafy salad from a bag

Mee Goreng! Very yum. Almost as good as the Mamak Mee Goreng back home. I have to figure out what's missing. Bought the Asian Home Gourmet spice mix from the Asian store.