Saturday, December 25, 2010

do yourself a favour, get a quality knife

3 weeks to go before cold storage puts this promotion to... cold storage.

i have used really good knifes before and the quality is just amazing! this is a much appreciated gift especially for spouse who cook. 

cold storage's promotion has been a while and we bought this a month back. you only need to get one here, get the 7" as it's great as a multi purpose knife.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


This is a truly decadent, rich, sinful snack... but we love it!

it's so easy to make. takes about half an hour. learned this from the king arthur flour's blog where you could learn a lot from every post.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar (i used 1 cup brown sugar)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (forego this!)
2 cups pecan or almonds, crunched and toasted
about 2 2/3 cups chocolate chip

pecans are expensive here so i added some hazelnut which is about half the price of pecan.

toasting the nuts is easy. 170C in the oven for about 10 minutes. you'll see them turn brown. dont wait too long here!

the rest of the steps and photos, visit this link here.’s-crunch-time–make-buttercrunch/

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

slow food foundation - ark of taste

From this site,

The Ark of Taste aims to rediscover, catalog, describe and publicize forgotten flavors. It is a metaphorical recipient of excellent gastronomic products that are threatened by industrial standardization, hygiene laws, the regulations of large-scale distribution and environmental damage.

Ark products range from the Italian Valchiavenna goat to the American Navajo-Churro sheep, from the last indigenous Irish cattle breed, the Kerry, to a unique variety of Greek fava beans grown only on the island of Santorini. All are endangered products that have real economic viability and commercial potential.

and in this list, from malaysia, we have 2 entries. bario rice and rimbas black pepper.

i don't know anything about rimbas black pepper but i'm lucky to be able to find bario rice being sold in the oug wet market!

at rm13/kg, it isn't cheap but think for a moment, how could such rice be cheap? it's a highland rice cultivated manually, without aid of modern machineries, fertilizers nor pesticides. and the kelabit tribe has a current population of only 5000 of which you can bet your dollar the young is slowly shunning away from such laborious activity.

in other words, in a generation or two, we may lose this valuable tradition forever. so at rm13/kg, savour it while you can!

we have cooked this rice. it has soft sticky texture, very unlike other types of rice. we tried the white, red and black variety. the red and black doesn't require additional water to cook, very unlike the normal brown rice.

if you are a malaysian, you may want to try this rice first before we lose it forever.

anyone know anything about rimbas black pepper?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another snack for tonto...

... pig ears!

Why not?

It's cheap, flavourful and all natural!

Easy to make as well. Slice it, cook in hot water, then dry it via the dehydrator aka biltong.

And tonto absolutely loves it!
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Make you own food dehydrator and biltong!

I was browsing ikeahacker ( when I came across a post about making your own biltong.

wait. ikea hacker? yup, it's a site where folks submit their ikea hacks, basically hacking their ikea furniture to something else! the site is run by jules, a Malaysian who was once interviewed on bfm. way to go girl!

biltong? it's like beef jerky but thicker and supposedly tastes better. a favourite among South Africans and carnivores.

and biltong is made simply by drying marinated meat. well, wanted to make some treats for tonto and this is just the ticker! meat snack treats are very expensive, around rm20 for a 150g pack. so why not make your own?

first you need to make a biltong box. various schemes are available on the net and I hacked my own version using some thrown away planks I found in the neighbourhood during my daily walks with tonto.

built a very crude looking box, held together via furniture bracket and screws, the construction shouldn't take more than an hour, using only hand tools. chopsticks are placed at the top to hold good old paper clips (use the bigger sized ones) which hangs the meat strips.

near the base of the box, fit a light bulb socket (I use E27 type here) and the necessary wiring to light it up. I considered a dimmer as well as a timer but opted out for a "very quick" hack.

the biggest trouble I had was sourcing for a thermometer. dang! the easily available ones are all body thermometers, good to only 42c but we need good heat in the range of 60 to 70c. I finally found a few good ones at an instrument specialist store for rm75. I later found i could get the same thing from another store for half the price! @#%#!!

anyway using a 60w light bulb, I could only get around 50c so this isn't sufficient. a 100w bulb is perfect as I got 60 to 70c with it. now don't use energy saving bulbs here as we want the heat here. you can put on your green cap later.

last item to get is beef. bought half kg of Indian beef sliced thinly of course. you know our Hindu brothers don't consume beef hence cows live to an old age in India. the old cows are then slaughtered and the frozen meat imported here. these are about half the price of local beef. now you understand why your local nasi kandar stall sells beef curry cheaper than chicken curry?

as this experimental jerky is meant for tonto, we forego marinating the meat and only washed it with a little vinegar. the vinegar will darken the meat as well as soften the sinews inside. you need to soak in vinegar for a few hours as this is an old cow!

and about 8 hours later... we have jerky!

tonto absolutely loves it! the aroma got him running around in circles. he followed me wherever I went, well until I put the jerky away.

the pictures explain the rest.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Our impoverished taste buds...

Isn't it amazing that despite all the tastes our taste bud could experience, we limit ourselves to just a few?

Consider a trip to a fast food joint. You'll be assailed with just 3 types of taste : salty, sweet and fats. Lots of salt in your fries, burger patty; teaspoons of sugar in your soft drink; blobs of fat in your burger/salad dressing...

It's understandable. Inferior ingredients are usually masked with strong flavours and by making it savoury, you'll "think" it tastes "good".

Now in M'sia, the same observation applies to hawker food. Out of 10th stalls I sample, 9 would be guilty of too much salt in the servings. The tenth, unfortunately, suffers from poor business! It seems to me that this is what the public wants.

Many a times, we are recommended to check out some great restaurants. Again, we usually find their cooking to use too much salt. And these restaurants are highly recommended! Also, have seen those foodie shows on TV where the reviewer comments "the food is salty enough". Arghhhhhhh!

So what is this fascination with salty food? Seems like it is a requisite for "good taste".

I long for the fresh taste of a choy sum stalk, the inherent sweetness of a carrot, the subtle nuances of herbs. With quality ingredients, just a dash of seasoning is all you need. A dash of pepper, a sprinkling of sea salt, few leaves of rosemary, few drops of mustard..

Is this too much to ask for?
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Monday, August 9, 2010

easy chicken liver treat for tonto

we love to give treats to tonto but quality treats are so expensive! and many of those in the market are pure junk food. and the better ones also contain preservatives and flavouring, hardly suitable for dogs. so we are left to... make our own!

and making your own is soooo cheap. since people have developed an aversion to all things liver these days, you could buy 10 pieces of chicken liver (kampung chicken! - or free range chicken) for only rm1. sigh... you can't even get a can of poisonous coke for this amount!

so here is this recipe, adapted from this site.

  • 10 pieces of raw chicken liver
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour (i just use our regular wholemeal bread flour)
  • 2 cups of instant oat
  • 2 eggs
just 4 ingredients! so easy! 

now comes the squeamish part. you need to "puree" the liver... it's like a gob of blood and oh... it smells awful!

then mix everything together, including the 2 raw eggs. believe me, it's all a gooey mess! the original recipe calls for half the flour and half the oats but i went double as that's even worse.

we shape them up in little strips and balls so that it's more interesting for tonto.

bake at 160c for 30-40 minutes. it smells quite good after baking. and tastes good too!

Monday, August 2, 2010

malaysian consumer blog

i have been reading utusan konsumer for years now. my dad subscribes this mag and has been doing so since... i started to read or before that. so i know how valuable a source of info this is.

and now that they have a website. this is even better!

not only you learn about your rights as a consumer here in malaysia (do you know that your liability for losing your credit card is limited to only rm250?), you also learn about the environment (and our horrible impact on it), you learn about personal finance, what goes inside our food etc etc etc...

an oft heard remark i get from people about this mag is that "if you read it long enough, there's nothing left to eat!"   what ignorance! as they say, ignorance is bliss. if you want to continue to be ignorant, go ahead!

be informed. learn. don't lament when things go wrong later when you have all the opportunity to start off right.

the latest issue talk about high fructose corn syrup. i learned about this recently when watching "food, inc" (a must watch!) and it's scary that corn "products" can be found everywhere! in coca cola, in your bread spread...

read and learn!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

country farm organics warehouse sale

who doesn't like a good bargain? what more with organic food?

and unlike some of the sales you encounter, this is not a sale of food products close to its expiry date. yeah, i hate that too, so credit goes to country organics for this.

klang valley folks never have it so good. just a week after hari organik and we now have this warehouse sale. i guess this is one of the advantages of living in klang valley. spare me those stupid boring shopping malls!

and don't forget that from time to time we have lots of book fairs, pet show etc. sure, traffic can be horrendous at times but the pros of living in klang valley still outweigh the cons, imho.

Monday, July 5, 2010

hari organik

CETDEM (Center of Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia) recently organized another edition of its popular Hari Organik.

this is the second we have attended, the first just a few months ago. the last trip we bought lots of veggies as well as a sampling of herb plants - pegaga, spearmint, sweet basil and a grafted mulberry sampling.

this trip, we bought more veggies and fruits, as well as a nice cranberry sour dough bread! yes! the lady manning her counter told me she baked till 1am. dang! i forgot to jot down her name.

we also bought some nice chocolate biscotti from another organic-themed cafe. good stuff! don't think they'll want to share the recipe but it's good to know more organic-themed cafe and restaurants around town.

so this is another great way to market your wares!

Monday, June 21, 2010

why i've been busy the past few weeks

the past few weeks have been really busy for me.

ahem, went to hanoi for a week. nice place but vietnamese aren't as tourist friendly as thais. anyway, the baguettes there are marvellous!

but this doesn't mean i have not been baking bread. still do and been experimenting as well.

instead of spraying water into the oven, i now place ice in the oven just before placing in the dough for baking. this ensures a steady rate of steam for at least a few minutes. the resultant crust is softer.

also, i score the dough before placing into the oven. scoring a very wet dough looks really messy but don't worry about it. just do it! cut deep say 1cm into the dough. do it just before you place the dough into the oven.

okay, enough about that. the reason we have been busy the past few weeks is that we have an addition to the family. and he's a blonde.

he's a golden retirever/local breed mix. 9 months old, err 9 and a half now actually. we adopted tonto (he was initially named coco but that's not right for a boy!) from "save a stray", an non-profit organization that exists mainly for the love of our canine friends.

tonto's right hind leg was involved in a car accident and the resultant medical bill was deemed too high, so he was abandoned by his owner at the vet. the vet fixed his leg, then passed him to jacqueline from "save a stray" and it is jacqueline who recommended tonto to us.

he's quite playful but very gentle. he's at that age where he wants to chew everything in sight so he is leashed all the time now until he outgrows this.

when getting food for him, only i realised the pet food industry is like our food - full of junk. take a peek at the contents of kibbles and you'll be shocked there's all kind of rubbish inside. the canned versions are even worst with a protein content <10% but coloured to look like meat so that its human owners are fooled into thinking they are really paying for premium dog food. sigh...

we make dog cake for him. it's really easy. all you need is good ingredients and a food processor!

why adopt? well, since we work all day, we can't take care of a puppy. we need an older dog so tonto at 9 months old is more suitable. he's toilet trained and quite independent but of course, asks for our attention all the time!

also, when you adopt a pet, you actually save a life. malaysia isn't the best place for dogs. the government bodies couldn't care less for man's best friend thus strays and abandoned dogs, if not for organisations like "save a stray", don't have much chance of living to an old age.

you could also check out pet they do organize pet adoption drive from time to time too.

i'll add a permanent link on my sidebar.

you could also contact jacqueline at 012-2070436

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

sharpen your axe

i like this article a lot. especially this line.

Two weeks ago, I interviewed Harvard Prof Ellen Langer, who reminded me of our natural inclination to be mindless. Mindlessness is our human tendency to operate on autopilot, whether by stereotyping, performing mechanically or simply not paying attention.

this is so true!

Saturday May 15, 2010
Sharpen your axe

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have laboured hard for.” - Socrates

A few years ago, while at Lawas in Sarawak, I was told this story of a very strong and skilled Kayan woodcutter who asked for a job with a timber merchant.

He got the job with a good salary and decent work conditions. And so, the woodcutter was determined to do his best for the boss. His boss gave him an axe and on his first day, the woodcutter cut down 15 trees. The boss was pleased and said: “Well done, good work!”

Highly motivated, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but could only fell 13 trees. The third day, he tried even harder, but only 11 trees were chopped down.

Day after day, he tried harder but he cut down fewer trees. “I must be losing my strength,” the Kayan woodcutter thought. He apologised to the boss, claiming he could not understand why.

Great leaders like (from left) Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela have a continuous appetite for learning and growth.

“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been too busy cutting down trees,” said the woodcutter.

He sharpened his axe and immediately was back to 15 trees a day. Since then, he begins the day by sharpening his axe.

Most leaders are too busy doing and trying to achieve, that they never take time to learn and grow. Most of us don't have the time or patience to update skills, knowledge, and beliefs about an industry, or to take time to think and reflect. Many assume that learning ends at school and so sharpening our axe is not a priority.

So, what exactly is sharpening the axe? Dr Steven Covey, who popularised the term, believes it means “increasing your personal production capacity by daily self care and self-maintenance.”

Most people fail to understand what it means and mistake it for taking a break or vacation. If you're overworking yourself and your productivity drops off, take a break.

However, that isn't sharpening the axe; that's putting the axe down. When you put down a dull blade and rest, the blade will still be dull when you pick it up.

The woodcutter does need downtime to rest, but it is not “sharpening the axe.” The woodcutter only becomes more productive by sharpening his blade, analysing new woodcutting techniques, exercising to become stronger, and learning from other woodcutters.

Sharpening the axe is an activity. You too can sharpen the axe of your life. Here are 10 ways:

· Read a book every day;

· Get out of your comfort zone by changing jobs. A new job forces you to learn;

· Have a deep conversation with someone you find interesting. Sharpen your axe through that interaction;

· Pick up a new hobby. Stretch yourself physically, mentally or emotionally;

· Study something new;

· Overcome a specific fear you have or quit a bad habit;

· Have a daily exercise routine or take part in some competition;

· Identify your blind spots. Understand, acknowledge, and address it;

· Ask for feedback and get a mentor; and

· Learn from people who inspire you. Subscribe to YouTube/leaderonomicsmedia and watch interviews of great leaders.

You have to do it as often as possible. But if you're so focused on your task at hand with no time for discussion, introspection, or study, you're not really moving forward. Just as a car needs to be refuelled to keep going, we too need refuelling through learning.

The Management Mythbuster author David Axson believes most organisations still rely on outdated management strategies. Unless we are sharpening our axe daily by observing the changing world and changing ourselves accordingly, we risk becoming irrelevant.

Andrew Grove reinvented Intel and oversaw a 4,500 times increase in market capitalisation by his daily habitual “axe-sharpening” ritual of understanding global changes and taking advantage of these to ensure Intel remained relevant.

Employees at Japanese organisations like Toyota believe it's a crisis if they do not create improvement each day. The “Kaizen mindset” means that every day, whether you're a line worker or executive, you find ways to learn something new and apply it to what you're doing. This forces employees to be alert, mindful and constantly improving.

Great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs have a continuous appetite for learning and growth. They always listen and watch in the hope of learning new ideas and discovering new truths and realities.

Many of us do just the opposite. By staying in the same job for many years, although we become experts and our roles become easy, our learning flattens.

We don't like changing jobs as there is pain and struggle in taking on new roles. But the more we struggle, the more we learn.

When a new boss with new expectations takes over, we sometimes find ourselves struggling even though we have been in the same role for years. We try harder but still fail to impress. Why does this happen?

Much like the woodcutter, trying harder will not yield results. This is because we did not upgrade ourselves nor grow in the “easy” years. Our years of experience count for nothing as we did not keep up with the world around us and were ignorant and mindless of things that were evolving daily around us.

Two weeks ago, I interviewed Harvard Prof Ellen Langer, who reminded me of our natural inclination to be mindless. Mindlessness is our human tendency to operate on autopilot, whether by stereotyping, performing mechanically or simply not paying attention.

We are all victims of being mindless at times. By sharpening our axe, we move from a mindless state to a mindful state; from “blindly going with the flow” to thinking and “breaking boundaries.”

Why then do so many people fail to sharpen their axe? Well, axe sharpening isn't as fun as whacking away at the tree. And it is painful and tedious work.

Religious leader David O. McKay once said: “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”

Sharpening the axe is a daily inner battle. Research reveals that self-educated presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln sharpened their axe daily by cultivating the discipline of reading.

In a number of Asian organisations, when there is a crisis or financial situation, the first thing that gets slashed is training programmes for employees. Yet, in a crisis, there is a greater need for employees to have sharpened axes to deal with issues.

Crises often helps companies to become great because they finally take time to sharpen their axe by re-looking at their current strategies and reinventing their industries, sometimes through painful reforms.

Before the 1998 Asian financial crisis, the Korean auto industry were jaguh kampung and known for low-quality cars with strong domestic car sales.

The crisis forced them to take a step back, sharpen their axe, become mindful to the world and move to sell the majority of their cars outside South Korea.

Of course, too much or aimless axe sharpening can become another form of procrastination. Many like to attend training courses and classes but end up never using the axe. After sharpening the axe, use it or all is in vain.

How are your various blades doing? Your skills, your knowledge, your mind, your physical body, your relationships, your motivation, your commitment to succeed, your capacity for growth, your emotions - are all of them still sharp? If not, which ones are dull, and what can you do to sharpen them?

Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I'll spend the first four sharpening my axe.” What are you doing to sharpen your axe? Take a step back this weekend and start sharpening your axe.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

planting more greens

still happily baking bread every weekend. it's like a routine now and i really couldn't stand commercialized bread anymore. baked walnut bread the past few weeks. you could get 250gm of walnut for rm8+ from bake with yen.

but this doesn't mean i'm not doing anything else!

been planting a lot. don't have a garden so everything will go into pots.

this is a local herb called "pegaga". haven't eaten any yet. have to wait...

thai basil. love it! i need to grow more of this. as you can see, we have been eating a lot of it. poor fella.

this is one plant that's growing too well! spearmint is really hardy, grows/spreads very quickly. and the smell the taste!

before martin left malaysia, he gave me this plant which he grew from the fruit. avocado! still a long way to go but it's growing slow and steady. thx a lot martin!

martin also gave me a branch of mulberry but it didn't grow. managed to buy couple weeks back and as you can see, it's growing very well. it started from just a few leaves!

there you have it. we don't really have green fingers here but we are trying and learning along the way. the compost which we have been doing is put to great use.

if you have any gardening tips, do share with me!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

hit girl kicks ass!

i love comics and have been devouring those movie adaptations religiously. unfortunately there are more bad than good adaptations. the bad ones... don't even worth wasting electrons typing here. the best so far, i would think is watchmen which i have watched again and again and again and again...

but here's one which i totally adore! really kick ass!

you can read about the comic book here, courtesy of wikipedia.

the movie doesn't follow the comic book 100% but the essence is there. i prefer the comic, the story line, the ending... ha ha! classic! "with no power, comes no responsibility".

in a way, its' a parody on other comic books. it's like a movie about how a super hero movie shouldn't be. it really widens your horizon! (never thought a comic book could do this to you?)

but my favourite character isn't kick ass. it's the 11 year old, foul mouted, bloody, deadly but so damn cute hit girl! and what an attitude! [she's so foul mouthed i admit she kicks my ass.]

needless to say, the concept of an 11 year old, knife wielding, gun totting, foul mouthed, punky vigilante is too much for most folks. do a google on hit girl controversy and see how much has been written about this.

folks, take a break. leave comicdom as a last bastion for the average human being's fertile imagination to go where no laws, no code, no ethics, no religion, no norms etc allows it to go.

but if you have kids, i don't recommend letting your kids watch this movie!

hit girl in the comic

hit girl played by chloe grace moretz

Chinese poor and lower class in M’sia: How well off are they?

living in malaysia, very seldom we come across the mainstream media analyzing the plight of the lower income group of malaysian chinese. in fact, if you are a tourist who only reads/watches/listens to the mainstream media, seems like the chinese are the only rich ones around town.

what nonsense. there are many poor chinese folks who don't have the means to lift themselves out of their social economical level.

this article from "center for policy initiatives" by dr lim teck ghee analyzes what has gone wrong. government policies affect us profoundly. due to "selective" implementation of policies, a generation (possibly two) of malaysians had to suffer unneccessarily. sigh...

Chinese poor and lower class in M’sia: How well off are they?

bread baking blues? a simple troubleshooting guide --- part 1

so you tried bread baking but instead of finding yourself in bakers' bliss, you are now having bakers' blues?

fret not my friend! how many among us have not got detoured by minor setbacks like this? and it is minor as we shall triumph over it with renewed zeal, zest, enthusiasm and much better bread!

ok, ok, enough passion. let's begin.

q. did the dough rise?
this is the most most important question you need to ask. did the dough rise? if it did, you could skip this whole section. if not, there's lots to do.

most of the time, the likeliest culprit is compromised yeast. yeast which has been exposed to moisture and thus doesn't have any more potency like before. if this is the case, fret not as you could still salvage your dough by feeding it fresh yeast but the old yeast needs to be chucked. usually it's a storage problem.

i have tried mauripan and saf brands with good results. these are instant yeast. mauripan sells in small sachets but also available in 1kg packs. i have so far only seen saf brand in 1kg pack. (both brands 1kg pack sell for around rm10-14.) take out some and fill in half of a jam bottle. this will be kept in the fridge and will be used each time you bake bread. store the rest (the bulk) in a big container and keep in the freezer. from time to time, if you find your jam bottle yeast is lacking potency, throw this away and refill from the container in the freezer.

i do this and my 1kg yeast i could bake for more than a year's consumption of bread and hey, i bake 2 loaves every week.

if there's nothing wrong with your yeast, then did you mix salt and yeast together? as yeast is a living organism, exposing it to salt could kill it instantly. when mixing the dough, i usually mix the salt last.

then there's the issue of the other ingredients. you only need flour, water, yeast and salt to start with.

as i use only organic flour, i don't know much about the normal flour you buy out there. how much preservative does it contain? how will the preservative interact with yeast? how will the bleaching agent interact with yeast?  [now now organic flour can contain some amount of preservative but this is usually very minimal. otherwise it can't quality as "organic".]

do you use filtered water? straight off the tap, does your water smell of chlorine? will this chlorine affect the yeast? i don't know but you should think about it.

lastly, is your ratio correct? a recipe using 100% white flour needs way less water compared to a recipe using 100% wholemeal flour. wholemeal, like brown rice, needs a lot more water.

did you go overboard and have too much of other ingredients? so much so that the dough can't form enough gluten networks? let's say you want to bake a multi seed bread but if you mix like 2 cups of seeds into 3 cups of flour, you won't get good rise from such a heavy dough.

does the recipe call for kneading? call for overnight ferment ala biga? even though no-knead bread is easy, kneading and using biga yields much better bread.

okay, these are just some possibilities you need to think of. write to me if you have more specific questions.

today is earth day

... but i didn't do anything out of my usual routine just for this day. duh...

but i enjoyed listening to bfm interviewing matthias gelber - greenest man on earth. listen to not only how he lives his life but also what action he takes to inspire others to be part of the green revolution.

In Conversation with Matthias Gelber - Greenest Man on the Planet 2008 and Co-founder of MALEKI Green Building Products

for you unfortunate folks who can't have access to bfm, be glad you have the podcast!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

fantastic mr fox

i'm a sucker for roald dahl stories. this man is one heck of a story teller and boy, what an imagination he has!

watched "charlie and the chocolate factory" and read his book "mathilda". now, why would i buy a kiddie's book? actually i bought the book for adelyn, a very special girl, for her birthday and i just had to read it first! adelyn, if you are reading this, sorry...

ok, the wonderful theme about roald dahl's story is that adults are always the bad folks while children are the protagonist. in this movie, fantastic mr fox, the animals are the good guys while the human beings (mostly adults) are the bad hats.

you just got to watch this movie! totally love it. it's... dare i say it... cute!

boggis bunce and bean
one fat, one short, one lean
these horrible crooks
so different in looks
but nonetheless equally mean.

dang, can't get this rhyme out of my head!

Monday, April 12, 2010

wholemeal bread

i always pride myself that i'm baking 100% wholemeal bread, and not that wholemeal flour mixed with white flour nonsense you see people peddling and passing it off as wholemeal bread.

you see, baking wholemeal bread is quite challenging. it's so wet you need different way of handling it. and there aren't that many wholemeal recipes out there. i can't even think of any bakery doing wholemeal bread the purist way.

until one day....

i was late to work as just collected my old car (from the best car air con man in kuala lumpur!) and was rushing to work when i caught "open for business" on, the thinking man's radio station. this episode features madam june lim, "spreading the message of a macrobiotics diet". click on the link for the podcast.

[i wish other radio stations would feature more intelligent and useful shows rather than those "what would you do if zombies rule the world" nonsense.]

and madam lim mentioned about her bakery employing slow fermentation whole wheat flour... hey! that got me interested!

a day later, went to their outlet, woods macrobiotics, in bangsar and managed to try out their 100% wholemeal flour bread.

hmm... not bad. i like it!

they use 100% organic wholemeal flour and sourdough fermentation. great!

now i'm tempted to have another go at sourdough again. previous attempts yielded "funny" results. a friend, mark, tried and asked, "did you put banana in it? it tastes like banana.". my sourdough attempt results in banana flavoured bread!

corrections for daniel leader's "local breads"

refering to my previous post about the bargain of buying daniel leader's "local breads" at rm25, reader chan bought the book and pointed me to the various mistakes in the book.

here are 2 relevant links.

Here's some URLs on the book
1) Discussions on the wrong measurements

2) The corrections for the book

print out the later and staple it in your book.

thx a lot for the hard work chan!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

local breads. what a bargain!

when i first started bread baking, i was constantly on the search for good bread baking books.

there are those "containing lots of recipes but precious few thoughts" books and there are those "full of philosophy but not much on the whys and hows" type. and then there are some books which almost everyone recommends again and again.

one of those, and i had the privilege to browse it, is daniel leader's "local breads".

unfortunately only borders have it, at an obscene price of ~rm120. of course you could buy from amazon for usd23 +  freight but it's still quite a large sum of money. dang.... we malaysians have to pay so much for books. books is truly is luxury here.

so imagine my surprise when i visted book excess, amcorp mall, over the weekend and found this book, in hardcover, selling for only rm25! my jaws almost dropped!

so whether you want to learn about bread baking or not, if you enjoy books, book excess is THE place to go.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

grissini - breadstick

i've been an advocate for 100% wholemeal (whole wheat) flour all this while and every loaf of bread i bake these days are all 100% wholemeal.

however, some breads just don't work well with 100% wholemeal. or is it i guess i haven't found the right tweak yet. a recipe meant for white flour will need slight tweaking (usually just more water) to work with 100% wholemeal.

anyway, tried this breadstick (italians call it grissini. some stores sell grissini for rm12!) recipe before using wholemeal. it didn't work well. still too moist, too chewy rather than crispy.

with white flour, it worked fine.

  • 225 gm or 2 cups white flour - best is the organic variety which comes unbleached as well
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 135 gm or 2/3 cup water
  • some olive oil, sesame seeds, cut olives or whatever you desire
mix flour, yeast, water and salt in this order. knead a few minutes. let it rise for an hour.

divide into eights. stretch and roll until long, thin and slender. roll on a plate of sesame seeds and cut olives. then drizzle with olive oil and place on an oiled baking sheet.

the recipe says you should get 20 grissinis but i got 12 i think. guess they are long but fat. hey, looks like me! okay, i'm not that tall if you are wondering.

bake at 200c for 15-20 minutes. or till golden brown. if need to, turn over the breadsticks at the last few minutes so that they brown evenly. nah, i didn't bother.

one last tip : don't stinge on the ingredients. it shows in the final product.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

julie & julia

i couldn't stand nora ephron movies. those meg ryan vehicles always make me puke!

but this is one i could stand. and all credit goes to the "joie de vivre" of julia childs.

i don't know much about julia childs until this movie. essentially 2 movies in one but the julia portion is the hell lot more interesting one. if you like cooking, if you love food, you got to watch this!

meryl streep... last watched her so serious in "doubt", but an absolute blast here. watch these 2 movies back to back and see how she could really act!

amy adams... she's just so adorable!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

my wooden peel

a reader asked how does my peel look like? well, it's so simple! it's just a pc of 2mm plywood, sanded and oiled.

shown above with copious amount of rice flour and a very wet wholemeal multi seed dough. the rice flour prevents the dough from sticking to the wooden peel and also allows the dough to slide easily. so it's really easy to slide the dough into the oven.

and here are the finished loaves cooling on a wire rack.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

french women don't get fat

read this book - french women don't get fat, by mireille guiliano and i absolutely love it!

by far, i'll rate this book superior to "why japanese women don't grow old or fat".

there are some recipes but what's more important is the philosophy. here are a few :
  • french women eat smaller portions of more things. elsewhere, women eat larger portions of fewer things.
  • french women eat more vegetables.
  • french women eat a lot more fruit.
  • french women love bread and would never consider a life without carbs.
  • french women don't eat "fat free", "sugar free" or anything artificially stripped of natural flavour. they go for the real thing in moderation.
  • french women love chocolate, especially the dark, slightly bitter, silky stuff with its nutty aroma.
and a lot more!

so there's not a list of foods not to eat, but the emphasis is on eating what's fresh, in season, good quality and variety. there's also emphasis on exercise and drinking lots of water.

eating quality over quantity is so important. i have a weakness of chocolate but good chocolates are so expensive and cheap chocolates are so bad. [i'll share with you a current chocolate favourite later.]

so if you settle for just a few bites of a good quality dark chocolate (this is the good stuff!), this anytime beats many bars of lousy chocolates. lousy chocolates are typically low in cocoa and high in sugar. thus you need to eat more to satisfy the chocolatey craving. but with dark chocolate, just a bite goes a longgggggg wayyyyyyy... get it?

it's like eating bread! if you eat only white bread, you are never satisfied. 4 slices and i still need a packet of nasi lemak but 3 slices of whole wheat bread, plus some matured cheese... hmm... heavenly... this beats nasi lemak any time!

i never find what's the bad deal about carbs. whenever i hear of people wanting to reduce weight, they'll start off by saying reducing carbohydrate. i don't agree with this at all!

you reduce simple carbohydrate. you increase complex carbohydrate.

out goes white bread, rice, potatoes, beer.
in comes whole wheat bread, brown rice.

also the prevailing theme of her book is... balance. you just need to balance whatever you eat with whatever you exert. if you had the extra bit of chocolate, reduce the bread, exercise more etc. she doesn't say you should enroll in gyms. she advocates climbing stairs for starters and it's definitely the easiest, most accessible form of physical exertion.

all in all, i thorough enjoy this book. you should too, if you want to learn more about eating well and eating healthily.

screw dieting!

ps: i had so much fun with this book, i took my colleague out for lunch. we went to a french restaurant!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the paradox of our time - cheese!

you should have come across "the paradox of our time" wrongly attributed to george carlin when it was written by a dr moorehead, a minister, author and former pastor of overlake christian church, redmond washington.

it goes something like this...

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,
but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and
smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees
but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more
problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

and so on...

over the past few year, my interest in bread has slowly led to more discoveries.

we have bread, but it's not real bread.  just a load of simple carbohydrates and lots of chemicals!

we have soap, but it's actually just detergent.

and now i learned something new.

we have cheese but it's not really cheese...

go to any supermarket or hypermarket in malaysia and the most common cheese you could buy is cheddar. what's not apparent to all is that most are PROCESSED CHEESE.

read the label. if you want to buy some, buy those described as NATURAL CHEESE.

there is a world of difference between processed and natural cheese. processed is found everywhere! in your burger, in your sandwich, pizza etc. most restaurants nor shops use natural cheese due to the higher cost.

of course, there are better cheese out there but i haven't tried that many. they cost too much! thank god this cheese i'm going to recommend here only cost a few more rm than the typical processed cheese.

bega's strong and bitey vintage cheese has already got us glowing cheek to cheek.

not too salty but a strong rich cheddar cheese flavour. texture is a bit brittle though. i was at hock choon and they sell this plus the Tasty and Extra Tasty variety too. the difference is in how long the cheese is stored as it develops its flavour. the longer you store, the stronger it gets. this Strong & Bitey Vintage variety is stored for 15 months for the flavours to fully mature.

like a match made in heaven, it goes extremely well with the whole wheat ciabatta with sunflower and pumpkin seeds. just bite into it and as your saliva interacts with the cheese and bread... it makes you go... hmmm.... immense satisfaction.

try it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

let's trade

i'm quite happy with my bread baking journey so far. and i'm proud to say that my 100% wholemeal bread is very tender and delicious! could bake this right every time now. as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

been meaning to explore other interests/hobbies. one particularly attracts me is making my own soap. i did ask around. one person wanted rm150 to teach me how to do it. i actually know how to do it but i just need to know where to source for lye (or sodium hydroxide). anyway, i'm not that keen to part with rm150.

that said, why not do a trade?

anyone interested in learning how to bake bread, can visit me at my place in taman oug, kuala lumpur as i bake bread every sunday. see how i do it and i'll share where i buy my supplies. actually everything is on this site but nothing beats seeing the process unfold in front of your eyes.

all i ask for is... you share a hobby with me too. i'm interested in making my own soap but if you have something else to share, that's fine with me too. as long as it strikes my fancy. it's all about learning new things, new experience and opening up new horizons. i'm interested in lots of stuffs but a lifetime is just too short to learn everything.

i'm serious about this and i've posted an ad in to spread the word.

so do contact me if you are interested!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

the ornish diet

seeing my recent (well not that recent) diet changes, my dad sent me this link about this ornish diet.

"To summarize, the Ornish diet excludes cholesterol and saturated fat, including all animal products (except egg whites and nonfat dairy products), nuts, seeds, avocados, chocolate, olives, and coconuts. Oils are eliminated except a small amount of canola oil for cooking, and oil that supplies omega-3 essential fatty acids. The Ornish diet also prohibits caffeine, but allows a moderate intake of alchohol, sugar, and salt."

this is interesting. so a study has been done on this! and i find it to be so true.

that said, i'll modify the diet a little. we still consume meat but in reduced quantities. no one can dispute that we still need some protein and fats in our diet and if meat is a good source of this, by all means, consume some.

i'll also modify the ornish diet by taking in more "good cholesterol" oils like olive oil. you just need more of the good cholesterol and less of the bad cholesterol. so eat more foods with good cholesterol but reduce food with bad cholesterol. the latter is easy --- less meat, less eggs etc.

even if you don't care much about your cholesterol level, for general health, i can see more benefits of this diet compared to those high protein/low carbohydrate diets in fashion these days.

now that's food for thought!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

digi malaysia's e-billing campaign

this is so easy. the easiest way to go green!

take the first step here, if you haven't done so.

and frankly, i prefer digi over maxis.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

i have been itching to try my hand on vermi-composting. yes, using worms to compost your organic waste. however, purchasing these wiggly fellas is quite a task by itself!

so hard to find around here and when i do find some, the price the quote borders on scandalous. i simply can't justify paying rm300 for a kilogram of worms! yes, yes, yes, these worms may be very special etc and every worm breeder tells me you can make back the amount easily by selling off the worms, but that's not what i'm interested in. i'm interested in breeding them, then giving away. what better way to promote vermi-composting than by giving the worms away for free?

anyway, that idea didn't even take off. it was wiggled along!

then i was surprised to find on maya kirana's blog this super easy way to compost your organic waste. no worms required, no special bin required, no special care required. let mother nature and father time do all the work. you just need to chuck your organic waste into these pots, and bury with soil. that's it!

it's so easy... you just got to try it. remember, if everyone could just reduce the amount of waste he/she puts out, the world will just be a cleaner place. it's that easy folks!

just started a few days ago and currently on second pot. like krista said, you'll be surprised how much waste we throw away is actually of the organic type. we throw away so little rubbish these days!

go ahead. give it a try. spread the word. action really speaks louder. once i get the momentum going, i'll be teaching/showing my friends/family this method. and it all begins with the first step ---- YOU!