Friday, July 15, 2011

I want to ride my bicycle


I never got the saying : It's like riding a bike.

I don't know how to ride a bike. The truth is I'd forgotten how to. Maybe I never knew how to. But I remember quite distinctly being taught by big bro and how I was rather happy with myself for pedaling on two wheels.


I blame my lapse of memory on many factors : the main one being fear (of falling and of bleeding profusely from a deep gash on the knee or elbow), and the fact that I have not biked for many many years. I did attempt to re-learn in my teens to no avail. I had several cracks at it throughout early adulthood but all were in vain. So I just gave up.


Then last weekend, I suggested to A that perhaps I should give it another go since my nephew owned a bike that was just the right height for me. I psyched myself for a full week. When the weekend arrived and I climbed onto that yellow two-wheeler, lo and behold - I was riding (again). As opposed to all the other times (when I lifted both feet off the ground to start pedaling only to lose my balance and quickly put my feet back on the ground before I fell), I can't say how it was different this time round but somehow I kept at that one extra push of the pedal before I put my foot down.



It is rather exhilarating to be back on the saddle again. Amongst other maneuvers, I'm still learning not to panic when I see a dog/car/person/tree how to make U-turns. After so many years of failed attempts, I am hopefully finally committing to memory the motions of steering a bicycle and relishing every moment of re-acquaintance with a few long lost derriere muscles.

Get on your bikes and ride!



Saturday, July 9, 2011

Booba Fett

I've sorta started doodling again. Meet Booba the Bounty-ful Hunter.


...and Tatooine by Jeremy Messersmith is beyond words. You can hear it in this ridiculously awesome paper-animation video by Eric Power :

Friday, July 8, 2011

"(Just Like) Starting Over"

If you follow my facebook page, you would have heard that I'm no longer based in Kuching. I've upped and moved to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. I'm slowly at turtle pace but surely getting use to the place. Have yet to set up the kitchen for baking nor am I taking orders. Yet. By Rob Gordon definition yet means you're gonna do it, and I will do it.

Yes yes, I know I've been lousy with updating the blog and for that I apologise. It has been 2 months today since I left my hometown. For the first month we stayed at a hotel strategically located in the middle of everything. The convenience was pretty swell – I could walk to most of the shopping and eating places. Each morning as I drew the curtains on the tenth-floor suite, we were greeted with the spectacular view of the blue ocean dotted with ships and fishing boats. The evenings were even better, them sunsets here are really something else *cue Berlin’s Take My Breath Away*


Before we were through with the first month, we found an apartment not too far from (and not too close to) the city. It was actually the very first apartment we viewed, which we both really liked but I wanted to view a few other locations before we settled on one (actually it was more like 7 other apartments). We moved into the unit the first week of June in the midst of a heat wave. Phew, I have never in my life sweat as much as those 3 weeks (the heatwave lasted 3 weeks not the moving in).

I'm so loving all that light streaming into the living room

Besides our most treasured possessions, ie. A’s copy of Full Metal Jacket, and other personal effects that are of high sentimental value (erm, my highschool diary?), we decided to only ship one car over (mine). Between the two of us, guess who has a proper day job thus dominates use of the only car for an average of 12 hours every weekday? Hint : it’s not me.

For the past month, I’m isolated at the apartment. I’m not exactly complaining. Whining, perhaps. Rearranging furniture every few hours, perhaps. But never complaining *innocent Puss in Boots eyes*  I’ve been spending a lot of time online, looking at things that make me happy. For instance, in my mind I have a top 5 list of faves. Sometimes it’s top 10, other days it’s 22 and on good days it's... ok, you get the picture. Categories range from films to music, and from animated heroines to friends' facial responses. My choices can fluctuate by the week (ok ok, so it’s more like daily). So imagine my joy when I discovered by chance a group of people who take sounds and dialog from some of my favourite films and make them into music! (In my imaginary list, Reservoir Dogs pushed Return to Oz out of fifth place the moment I saw Michael Madsen stuck in the middle between a knife and Officer Marvin Nash.). I am so crushing on these clever musical ensembles.



I almost shrieked from the adorableness of this one called UPular. I still grin like a dork each time I watch this :


Can you say Aaaawwwwww...some???


I won't be caking so soon, please bear with me. In the meantime, I promise my darndest to keep posts frequent with what I've been up to  :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Princess Bride

 

After her eldest grandson's royal church wedding, Queen Elizabeth II hosted a reception for 650 guests consisting of friends and family. Guests snacked on British-themed specialities such as *takes a deep breath* pressed duck terrine with fruit chutney, roulade of goat's cheese with caramelised walnuts, quails eggs with celery salt, bubble and squeak with confit shoulder of lamb, grain mustard and honey-glazed chipolatas and miniature Yorkshire pudding with roast fillet of beef, horseradish mousse and 10,000 canapes *phew*gasps*


For dessert, apart from the cake there was blood orange pate de fruit, rhubarb creme brulee tartlet, passionfruit praline and dark chocolate ganache truffle.


But it was the magnificent 8 tiered wedding cake that took centre stage as Prince William and Kate Middleton celebrated their marriage at Buckingham Palace.



Fiona Cairns was selected to make the wedding cake for the royal couple. Her company supplies more than 750,000 cakes (mostly fairy cakes) a year to shops including Fortnum & Mason, and Waitrose.


Former Beatle Paul McCartney orders one of Cairn's cakes for Christmas every year, and she has made creations for U2's Bono, Pink Floyd and Simply Red. How awesome is that?


Cairns, who started baking from her kitchen table for neighbours 25 years ago, says that the royal wedding cake took five weeks to complete and has 8 tiers made from 17 fruit cakes - twelve of these form the base! There are 900 individually iced flowers and 17 varieties of leaves.

 
Mixing the ingredients for her traditional English fruitcake.


The cake is decorated with cream and white icing using the Joseph Lambeth technique, a popular English style that relies on intricate piping and three dimensional scrollwork to create leaves, flowers and other decorative elements. The middle of the cake has a garland design matching the architectural garlands that decorate the top of the Picture Gallery in Buckingham Palace, the room in which the cake was displayed.

While adding the finishing touches to the cake Cairns said, "The picture gallery has high ceilings and is an imposing room so I wanted the cake to have presence but not to be imposing and I think it worked. Catherine did not want it to be seven feet tall, she didn't want it to be towering and thin, and I think we succeeded.".


Cairns, who lives in Leicestershire (about 110 miles/180 kilometers north of London) where her factory is based, had to set up the ensemble for two days at the palace. She has said that the hardest part was transporting the cakes from Leicestershire to the palace (worrying that the cakes would get damaged) and upon arrival she and her team still had to assemble the cakes. "It was tough work but I really enjoyed it. It's been an extraordinary commission", she said. Uh-huh, I can only imagine!


Along the cake's base ran ivy leaves (symbolising marriage) and the bottom three tiers are decorated with piped lace work and daisies (meaning innocence) sweet William - grant me one smile - and lavender.

 

There are infill features of cascading orange and apple blossom, honeysuckle, acorns with oak leaves (meaning strength and endurance) - bridal rose, which symbolises happiness, and myrtle.

The fourth tier reflected the architectural details in the room so the garlands on the walls were reproduced loosely on the fourth tier with roses, acorns, ivy leaves, apple blossom and bridal rose. Above this was the fifth tier that was covered with lattice work and piped leaf detail.



Lily of the valley (representing sweetness and humility) decorated the sixth tier which also had an artistic interpretation of the couple's cipher - their initials intertwined below a coronet.

The four flowers of the home nations - English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock - were featured on the penultimate tier. The 6" diameter top tier was covered with lace details with a garland of lily of the valley and heather to top if all off.

When questioned on the recipe, Cairns would only say that the traditional English fruitcake was made with dried fruits, raisins and sultanas, walnuts, cherries, grated oranges and lemon, French brandy, free-range eggs and flour. The cakes were baked a month in advance since Cairn's secret recipe required four weeks for the cakes to mature.

I totally agree with Cairns when she says that it makes the process of cake designing much easier when a bride knows what she wants compared to a bride who has absolutely no idea whatsoever. Kate so knew what she wanted that she brought mood boards and informed her cake designer of the influences she would like to use on the cake. Heck, with a ceiling-less budget, she can have all the influences she can dream up. I like her already.




 
In 2008, at the request of environmentally-friendly Charles, this Aston Martin 
Volante DB6 MKII was converted to run on E85 Bio-ethanol which 
is made from English wine wastage.




Friday, April 1, 2011

Palak paneer

This entry is long overdue. Since receiving news of the relocation, I've been packing like a madwoman and organising the stuff that needs organising for the major move. Finally found some time tonight to post this, hope you guys try it out and let me know how it turns out for you.

Some weeks ago, my bro asked that I make an Indian dish to compliment his nasi briyani, and he suggested I try my hand at palak paneer. It's a pretty straight forward recipe, with pretty fantastic results. The only thing you need to make a day ahead is the paneer (here for the how-to).



INGREDIENTS
~ 5 bundles of Spinach ~
~ 2 small Cinnamon Sticks ~
~ 2 Cardamom Seeds ~
~ 2 - 3 Big Onions ~
~ 4 - 6 Garlic Cloves ~
~ 1 Tbs Ginger Root, shredded ~
~ 2 Tbs Coriander Powder ~
~ 1 Tbs Cumin Powder ~
~ 3 Tomatoes, diced ~
~ Paneer ~
~ Salt, to taste ~
~ Yoghurt, optional ~


Step 1 : Fry the paneer until golden brown. Set aside.
Step 2 : Clean/Wash the spinach.
Step 3 : Boil water over stove. Cook spinach in boiling water for 2 minutes.


Step 4 : Blend the cooked spinach in a blender with a small quantity of water. Set aside.
Step 5 : Heat oil in wok.


Step 6 : Add cinnamon and cardamom seeds into hot oil and stirfry until fragrant.
Step 7 : Add onions, stirfry until golden translucent.
Step 8 : Add a bit of salt to the onions.


Step 9 :    Add garlic and ginger, stirfry until fragrant.
Step 10 :  Sprinkle liberally coriander and cumin - more may be added, to taste.


Step 11 : Add tomatoes, fry until soft.


Step 12 : Pour in the spinach. Cook until the spinach oozes oil.
Step 13 : Add in the paneer.


Step 14 : Mix in yogurt if using.
Step 15 : Add salt to taste.


... and serve!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Enzyme Drink


After stuffing our faces with Christmas and Chinese New Year grub, I think tis the perfect season to stop the binge-ing. The same time last year, I made me some orange enzyme from the overabundance of Chinese New Year oranges and ever since then, I was determined to make some edible enzymes.

This week, I went by the supermarket to get some lemons and organic sugar after daddio and mumsy bequeathed grateful me with some gorgeous super sweet Sarikei pineapples. I now share the how-to with you guys  :)

Ingredients
3 Lemons
2 Pineapples  
(I used 3 Sarikei pineapples as they are rather small)
300g Organic Crystal Brown Rock Sugar

Things You'll Need :
An airtight large-ish glass canister

Prepare :
  1. Wash your glass canister with soap and boiling hot water. Set it out to air-dry.
  2. Remove skin and eyes from pineapple - use a clean and dry chopping board.
  3. Cut the pineapples into small pieces.
  4. Slice the lemons into rings.

Layering :
* Ensure that your hands are clean and the canister is dry.
  1. Place the pineapples in a single layer onto the base of the canister.
  2. Arrange some lemons on top the pineapples.
  3. Distribute some rock sugar onto the lemons.
  4. Repeat these layering steps until all ingredients are used up (I repeated this layering process 4 times).
  5. The fruits should not exceed 3/4 of the canister (this is to leave some space for the release of gases during the fermentation process).
  6. Shut the lid tight.

* Store at room temperature in a cool dry place.

* For the first week, shake the canister on a daily basis to mix the contents. Untighten the lid each time after shaking contents to release the fermentation gases.

* After the first week, keep the lid shut and only release the gases on a weekly basis.

The Pineapple and Lemon Enzyme can be consumed after 30 - 40 days. Into glass bottles, sieve the contents through a funnel to separate the liquid from the fruit. Once bottled, the enzyme can be stored at room temperature.

To Drink : Before each meal, consume 1 tablespoon of Enzyme, with or without water.


Pineapple Enzyme Health Benefits :

Low in fat and cholesterol, pineapple enzymes are loaded with vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. Here's some additional health benefits :

It helps to build healthy bones. Pineapple enzymes are rich in manganese, a trace mineral that is needed for your body to build bone and connective tissues.

Strenghtens gums to make it through the years .

Pineapple enzymes contain a magnitude of beta-carotene that is good for the eyes and vision. Studies show that drinking a cup of pineapple enzymes a day may lower your chance of getting age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of vision loss in older folks.

Aids in relieving painful osteoarthritis : Bromelain is considered an effective anti-inflammatory.

Coughs and Colds: Loaded with Vitamin C, the bromelain present in pineapples helps in suppressing coughs and loosen mucus.

Digestion: The bromelain aids in digestion. Eating one slice of pineapple after each meal will reduce gas, bloating, nausea, constipation and the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Fresh pineapple juice also aids in removing intestinal worms.

Sinusitis and Bronchitis: Bromelain has been shown helpful for upper respiratory tract infections such as Sinusitis and Bronchitis. Bromelain helps in reducing nasal inflammation and break up the mucus in the nasal, sinus and respiratory area.

Blood Clots: Reduces the risk of blood clots due to the bromelain present in the fruit enzymes and thereby preventing heart problems.

[source for health benefits: www.enzyme.com.my]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

sPANEER in the works

 

I found myself home alone last night and thought, hey I can make paneer!. Since I never seem to remember to buy muslin when I'm near a textile store, I rummaged through my kitchen drawers and found a brand new loosely-woven cotton towel  :)

I thought it would be interesting to show how easy it is to make your very own homemade cheese. With camera hung from neck, I made a small batch of cheesy goodness from only 2 ingredients. Seeing that it was my first time making paneer, I thought it safer to make a small quantity. So here goes...

Ingredients
1 litre Full Cream Milk 
1/2 cup Rice Vinegar (or lemon juice)


  1. Line a colander with a loosely woven cotton cloth. Set colander on top of a large bowl.
  2. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottom stainless steel pot.
  3. Bring the milk to a rolling boil. Turn heat off and add in the vinegar to coagulate. Stir.
  4. Once removed from heat, the curd settles.


5.  Pour the coagulated milk onto the colander lined with cloth. The cloth filters the curd and the bowl
     underneath collects the whey.


6.  Wrap the cloth tightly on itself and squeeze the whey out (some people use the hanging
     method, I just squeeze the life out of mine). To remove any remaining liquid, put
     something heavy and flat on top of the paneer for an hour or two.

That's it! As opposed to my post title, there was no chaos, just easy peasy lemon squeezy the whole way. I cut my paneer into tiny chunks and added it to curry. It is not a flavorsome cheese (similar to cottage cheese) but the texture added a whole new dimension to the curry, which was nice. As 1 litre of milk only makes a palmful of paneer, I used it all up and will definitely make another batch very soon.

There are so many ways to use paneer, see here. My next batch is for a walnut salad!

Let me know if you try this out and what you'll be adding your paneer to.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Year, New Project

Some of you might have noticed that the blog has been mighty quiet for a while since Christmas (I hope you've noticed). The new year has brought a brand new project for me. By "new" I mean something totally not related to baking or cake decorating, a stint which requires 9 hours of daily grind.

I've taken the plunge and returned to the work force. No, not really. Well, I am holding down a job but it isn't long term. What I've done is committed my days to working for a publishing house that is in Kuching for a couple of months so it's only temporary.

It's rather refreshing to be working normal hours again  :)  After the prolonged mental freeze over Christmas (I swear my brain morphed into a piece of coal then), I am relishing in activities that bring on some form of mental stimulation. And one of the best things about this job is the view...



This is the view I look out to when I'm seated at the desk on the computer. I find it really nice to watch the cars go by, sneak a peek at people crossing the street and on some days my concentration is arrested by policemen zooming pass with sirens blaring. Can't explain why exactly I luxuriate in the view, maybe it's the voyeur in me eating up on this tiny slice of life?


From a different perspective, I can see the baruk Khatulistiwa, the river, the jetty, and the DUN building hovering over the always lovely Fort Margherita. This here is a much more superior landscape compared to the former view but not much activity takes place here apart from the passing cars, and river boats. I prefer watching people honking and fighting over a parking spot, tourists posing with the sculpture of the cats, pedestrians waiting for their turn to cross the road, or even a mother and her seven hungry kids scrambling into McDonalds for happy meals.

While I'm on this stint, I won't be taking cake orders. Here's pictures of an order I received for 3 year old Chloe. Her father emailed me pictures of the adorable tot clasping on to her hanky with pacifier in pouted lips. She apparently won't go anywhere without these two items so they were incorporated into the cake along with some pigs (Chloe's Chinese animal) and random outfits (she adores dressing up!). All decor in fondant.

 Chloe's colorful outfits are hung on a clothesline that encircles the cake.


A pink-striped handkerchief is spread out on top of the cake. Two folded hankies, a casually strewn hanky and a red pacifier tops the ensemble. A couple of chubby piggies sit at each end of Chloe's name.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Seasons Greetings

This is a Christmas post for my friends and family in far away lands (it still astonishes me that you guys actually read my blog!). Seeing that tis the season to share, I thought I'd share some pictures from our Christmas Eve dinner.



This year's turkey was moist and so succulent and tender... yummers! Side dishes were saute potatoes, buttered garlic mushrooms, ham, cock-a-leekie soup, and a tomato and feta salad with basil and balsamic dressing.


As I do every year, I over indulged myself with the heavenly stuffing...


We had too huge a variety of desserts that we chose to put some away (the ones that didn't make it for the dinner tonight are mince pies, and pudding - these will of course be gone by tomorrow evening, eh).


Five desserts : Chocolate Yule Log; Black Cherries; Chocolate and Strawberry Cheesecake; Mixed Fruit Trifle; and the R2D2 Cake. Do note that what you see in the above picture was to feed 14 people only.

The R2 cake is a Ginger and Spice Cake, an adaptation of ye ol' English gingerbread cake. Mixed with a smorgasbord of Christmas-tasting spices, the alteration lies in the addition of fresh ginger, crystallised ginger and bits of orange rind that were inexorably thrown into this sweet droid (along with some minor adjustments for a more dense, pudding-like texture of course). The tweaking was well worth it and it totally brings this traditional cake to a whole new level of YUM  ;)



Merry Christmas all!


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