Saturday, 31 May 2008


I was going to put Mr G’s pork roast on the web yesterday but unfortunately, Mr G had carved up the meat before I had time to take a picture. The next time we have a roast, I’ll put the recipe up.

I have just finished watering my house plants today and I have to admit sometimes my plants do frustrate me that I have to spend time on its maintenance. However, when I see how beautiful they look, it is worth the effort. I have to say that I have gone a bit overboard with my house plants. I don’t have as many as I used to (mind you I still have quite a few) as at one stage, I had 300 plants indoor… I am not kidding.

Actually, plants are easy to take care if you buy the right types. Once your confidence levels have increased, you can always try growing more exotic plants. The only problem with having houseplants is when you go away – you need someone to come and water the plants if you are away for prolonged periods of time. However you can leave your plants unattended for up to two weeks if you use these methods:
· by using water retention crystals in your soil;
· using self watering pots;
· sitting your plants on a plate full of pebbles and filling up the plate with water. You should do this for ferns regardless as it creates humidity which is essential for healthy ferns;
· Getting a used soft drink bottle, cut out its base, attach a spike to the mouth of the bottle (you can get this from Bunnings) and spike this into your pot plant. Fill up the bottle from the cut out bottom. This will slowly release water into your soil; or
· Find a good mate who will water your plants for you!

In coming blogs, I’ll write about plants that are easy to grow that you can use to spice up your home. In the meantime, these are some of my plants that I have in my home.

Thursday, 29 May 2008


The first time I truly sampled Nyonya food is when my family used to live in Kluang, Johore in Malaysia. My father was in the army, so we travelled a lot and that I think has contributed to my very diverse palate. Our neighbours were ‘peranakans’ (see link below) and Auntie Lek used to cook the most divine dishes. Her jam tarts in particular were to die for. Pity I was young then or I would have asked her for the recipe.

I can feel my arteries hardening after this meal but you gotta have some nice rich food once in a while or life ain’t worth living, I reckon. However to compensate, we had fried bean sprouts and Chinese chives (aka taugeh and kucai in malay) as our veg today to accompany the dish. Below is how I made the chicken.

FYI: Nyonya or Peranakan food is a fusion between Chinese and Malay food. You can find out more about the Peranakans at this site and Malaysian Food, incorporating an article on Nyonya Food, here.

1 chicken (around 2 kg)
1 tin coconut milk
1 cm fresh or 1 tsp powdered turmeric (I used fresh as I have it growing in the garden)
5 cm fresh ginger*
8 large shallots (not spring onions) or 2 large red onions*
6 cloves garlic*
3 stalks lemon grass*
10 fresh red chillies* (de-seeded if you can’t take hot food)
2 thick slices galangal* (lengkuas in Malay)
3 tbsp oil
1 pandan leaf (can be found fresh or frozen at Asian grocery stores) – cut into four
Salt to taste…..start at 1 tsp and add more if needed

Cut chicken into pieces. Pound turmeric to make a paste or mix turmeric powder with a few tbsp of water to make a paste. Rub all over the chicken pieces and set aside. Hint: Wear gloves when working with the turmeric as it will stain your fingers and hands. Not a nice sight!

Grind * ingredients with sufficient water until fine. Heat a large pot and gently fry the * ingredients for 10 mins or more. You need to evaporate the water and let the spice form into a blob (I don’t know how else to describe it). Add chicken and fry for 5 mins, stirring frequently so the chicken is coated with the spices.

Add coconut milk, pandan leaf and salt. Stir constantly until the coconut milk comes to the boil, then simmered uncovered, until the chicken is tender and the gravy has thickened.

Note: Initially the colour will be yellowish (because of the turmeric) but as you render the gravy, the colour will turn to a rich golden brown.


This dish is so easy to make that I feel quite embarrassed to put it on the web. But to those who think that sprouts are only used for salads, here’s a chance to try cooked bean sprouts.

1 bag of sprouts – tailed (the tails look ugly and really spoils the presentation of the dish, so make an effort and tail them)
1 bunch of Chinese chives – cut into 4 cm lengths (optional)
2-3 cloves garlic – minced
1 small onion – sliced (optional)
2-3 tbsp oyster sauce
2-3 tbsp light chinese soy sauce
Some prawns, chicken or fish balls/cake if you want to make it a main meal – I did not put anything as it was to accompany a chicken dish.
Semi hard tofu - drained and cut into cubes
Few drops of sesame oil
1 tbsp oil

Heat oil in work on high and add garlic. If you are using seafood or meat, add it to this stage and fry till the meat is cooked. Add tofu. If not using seafood, fry the garlic for 15 secs, add onion and fry another 15 secs. Add in the tofu and fry till slightly golden or till heated through.

Add in sprouts, mix well and add in the chives. Mix well again. Add in both sauces, stir throughout and cook for only 1 min or so as you want the sprouts to remain crunchy. Add in sesame oil, remove from heat and serve with rice. Easy peasy!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


What I did yesterday and today was watch ‘The Thorn Birds’ miniseries DVD (adapted from Colleen McCullough’s book of the same title) with my eldest daughter. I had forgotten how good the miniseries is, for I first watched it when it was released on TV3 in Malaysia in 1983. Richard Chamberlain and Bryan Brown are sooo cute in the show (although they are looking quite over the hill now). And the best thing of all, all the juicy bits are intact! There is no censorship. Both mother and daughter balled their eyes out.

Anyway the DVD went for 8 hours but it was worth it. However, I do have one complaint. Initially I was upset with the American accent as it did not seem right that an aussie book and an aussie backdrop had American actors playing the lead roles. When I first watched the show in Malaysia, I did not know any better. But watching it the second time, I felt ripped off. But I soon got over it. So, if you are interested in watching the show again, you can buy the DVD from Dick Smith’s for AUD$19.95 (I bought it last Sunday).

I am now on the quest to find another of Colleen’s stories that has been made into a movie – Tim - which I believe stars Mel Gibson in the title role. Wish me luck in my endeavour!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


I am home again, sick, with every (well nearly – I am exaggerating to get some sympathy) imaginable infection – chest, sinus, throat and ears. The medication that I am on makes me feel like c_ _ p; it leaves a very metalicky taste in my mouth. Mr G very kindly volunteered to make me (I have to admit that I passed enough hints that it would be lovely to have something nice to take the foul taste away!) a cake. I opted for the orange poppy seed.

This recipe is from a colleague, Sue T. She baked it for morning tea one Friday and it was a hit. Trust me, you’d like it too. Have a go.

250g butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 whole oranges, blended
185g yoghurt
½ cup milk
(I substituted the yoghurt and milk with a 300ml carton of sour cream)
4 Tablespoons poppy seeds
3 cups SR flour

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time.
Blend oranges (whole in a blender, yes skin and all) then mix in sour cream and poppy seeds.
Combine oranges with creamed mixture then stir in flour until well combined.
Bake at 160 degrees (Fan forced oven) for about 1 hour.
(Ice with lemon icing – icing mixture, butter, lemon juice and water)

Monday, 26 May 2008


There are many different types of dhal and dhal recipes. This is an easy and quick to cook recipe, so I am sharing it with all you time poor people like me. This is my version of the dish. I cannot remember what this is called in Hindi/Punjabi, not surprising since my Punjabi was never any good! I can still remember my grandpa getting upset with me as I would only answer him back in either English or Malay when he spoke to me in Punjabi.

Anyway, back to my dhal. I’ll just call it split pea dhal for convenience.

If I had a choice, I would have been happy eating dhal with some Indian mango or lime pickles and chapattis. But Mr G and the kids, being raised on meat and 5 veg , have to have their daily quota of some kind of meat with their meal. So I compromised and made TINNED MACKEREL IN TOMATO SAUCE MASALA FRIED (ground spices is called 'masala' in Hindi).

Here tis’.


2 cups of split pea – soaked for ½ hour if possible – this will quicken the cooking time
1 heaped tsp chicken stock (optional)
1 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
1 large onion – diced
1 tomato – diced
4 cloves garlic – minced
2 cm fresh ginger – minced
6 dried chillies – torn into half
Veg of choice such as carrots, potatoes, eggplant – cut into big chunks
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp brown mustard
2 spring onions and a sprig of coriander – chopped for garnishing
Veg oil or ghee

Wash dhal, put into a pot with 10 cups of water and bring to the boil. Add in turmeric, dried chillies, salt and chicken stock and simmer on medium heat. Skim off any scum that develops.

When peas have split, add in vegetables and adjust water if needed. It is up to you if you like a thick or runny dhal. Cook until veg is done and peas have split completely. It would normally take about 30 mins in total to come to this stage. Turn heat to low.

In a pan, heat 2 tbsp oil and put in mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the seeds start popping, add in onion, garlic and ginger. Fry till golden brown and lastly add in tomatoes. Fry for a minute and then add this mixture to the dhal. Turn up the dhal heat, bring to the boil and add the garnish. Mix well and the dish is ready to serve with rice, CHAPATTIS or even crusty bread.

Sunday, 25 May 2008


This is one of my favourite stir fries. The best one I have ever had (apart from mine, of course, wink, wink) is from this restaurant on Penang Road in Penang, Malaysia called Wing Lok (?).

Mind you, it has been 16 years since Mr G and I ate there and I am not sure if it is still in existence. If anyone out there can tell us, it would be much appreciated. Anyway, here is my version of the dish.
Sorry about the photo, it turned out fuzzy. By the time I checked it, the meal was eaten and I could not take another pic, could I??? Next time I make the dish, I will put a new photo.


800 g chicken breast or thighs – diced
4 whole star anise*
3 tsp black whole peppercorns*
12 dried chillies – torn into two
1 tsp sugar#
6 tbsp light chinese soy sauce#
1 tbsp dark chinese soy sauce#
2 tbsp white vinegar#
1 tbsp chinese rice wine#
2 tsp corn flour#
4 tbsp water#
4 to 5 garlic – minced
½ thumb size ginger – minced
3 spring onions – cut into 3 cm length
1 cup or more salted cashew nuts
Vegetable oil for frying
Few drops of sesame oil

Ingredients from L to R clockwise: cashews, pounded pepper and star anise, garlic (I used only 1/4 of it), dried chillies, spring onions, sauce ingredients, cornflour mixture (which I then blended into the sauce mix) and in the middle, ginger.

Prepare ingredients by:
· cutting chicken into cubes
· pounding * together until fine and set aside
· blending # together and set aside
· mincing garlic and ginger
· tearing chillies into half and discarding seeds if you can’t take hot food

Heat oil in wok till very hot and fry chicken in batches for 2 mins, stirring constantly.

In the same oil, fry the dried chillies, stirring constantly until dark and crispy. Remove from wok. Turn off the heat.

Allow oil to cool for a few minutes, then gently fry * ingredients, garlic and ginger for 1 min. Add blended ingredients (#) and cook for 30 secs. Put chicken and chillies back into the wok and stir for about 2-3 mins to coat and heat the chicken again. Add in the spring onions and cashews, stir well, sprinkle with sesame oil and serve immediately with side dish of veg and rice.

We had stir fried wombok with soy sauce and chinese rice wine.


Nothing much happened in the kitchen yesterday (Saturday) as it is a tradition that the kids have Maccas or Chinese takeaway.

I did however buy some books yesterday - they are not new titles but I have always wanted to read them and I finally found them in the book store near home. The books that I bought were 'Brick Lane' by Monica Ali (now a movie which I am going to watch), 'Anita and Me' by Meera Syal (She also wrote 'Life is not all ha, ha, hee, hee' which was a mini series on BBC) and 'Rice' by Su Tong. Tong also wrote 'Raise the red lantern' which was made into a movie with the so lovely Gong Li in the lead. I'll write about the books when I have finished them.

However, Sunday is baking day …..for stuff to go into the kids lunch boxes for the week. And Mr G does (mostly) the Sunday baking. As he made cornflake cookies last week, today he made Coffee and Ginger Cookies. Another big hit in the house and the dog goes mad (I am not kidding) when it comes out of the oven. When he gets his first bickie, he runs and finds a spot where no one can annoy him (usually under the coffee or dining table) to enjoy it. Well here is the recipe. I believe I got this from one of the Sunday newspaper magazines.

Coffee and Ginger Biscuits
80 g butter
2/3 cup castor sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp baking soda
1 egg
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp instant coffee
2 tsp boiling water
1 ½ cup plain flour
Demerara sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 180°c. Line baking tray with baking paper.

Using electric beaters, beat butter, sugar, and ginger until light and creamy. Add egg and beat well.

Place baking soda, golden syrup, coffee and water into a small bowl and stir until foamy. Add this mixture and flour to the butter mixture and beat until a smooth dough forms. Place dough in fridge for 30 mins.

After 30 mins, place 1 tbsp of dough, rolled into a ball on palm. Slightly flatten the ball, press into the Demerara sugar (top side only) and place onto tray, sugared side up and bake for 10 to 12 mins.

Makes around 35 to 40. We normally make twice the amount to last for a week.

Hint: if dough sticks to fingers, moisten with some water.

Saturday, 24 May 2008


This recipe was given to me by my friend HYL from PJ Malaysia (now married and living in Penang) when we were studying at Ballarat Uni. This is really yummy and not sour like some cheesecakes (why would it be when there is a whole tin of condensed milk in it!).

One tip. Don't be impatient like me and try to beat the cream cheese whilst it is still actually makes more work and takes more time. So remember to soften it at room temp. before attempting to cream it. Enjoy!



250g Arnott’s Granita Biscuits or any type of digestive biscuits
150g butter – melted

250g cream cheese
395g can sweetened condensed milk (normal size of an Aussie Nestlé can)
3 tsp gelatine
1/3 cup cold water
440g tin Golden Circle (the best!) crushed pineapple – drained
1/4 cup pineapple juice (from the crushed pineapple tin)
(Tip: don’t throw away any left over juice from fruit cans. Freeze it in ice trays for later use or to have as icy poles. Yum!)


To make the base:
Brush a 20 cm round springform tin with melted butter.
Place biscuits in a food processor and process until finely crushed. Add butter and process for 15 secs.
Press mixture into base and side of the tin. Use the base of a glass to smooth the mixture. Refrigerate.

To make the filling:
Put the 1/3 cup of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine on it. Place the bowl to stand in boiling water and mix until the gelatine dissolves.

Using electric beaters, beat cheese until light and creamy. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue beating until smooth.

Add pineapple, juice and gelatine to the cheese mixture. Beat until combined.

Pour into prepared base mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set. Decorate if desired with cream and sliced glace pineapple.

Friday, 23 May 2008


I know, I know I went overboard. Two hot dishes in a night. But you can't have sambal without with some sort of spicy vege so pak choy belacan it is. It is a bit runny as I added a bit of extra water so that there was something to 'wet' the rice down a bit. So here's my version of pak choy belacan!


2 bundles of pak choy – cut into half diagonally, separating the vegetable between the leafy part and the stalk.
Thumb size belacan – wrap in a bit of foil and heat 180°c oven for 5 to 10 mins
4 to 5 cloves garlic
2 to 3 shallots (not spring onion) – you can substitute with half a brown or red onion
3 to 4 tsp ‘Galiko’ or ‘John West’ crushed chilli or 3 to 4 fresh red chilli (deseeded if you can’t take the heat). I used Galiko today.
2 tsp dried prawns – soaked in hot water for 10 mins and drained
2 tbsp or more of light soy sauce (use Chinese soy sauce and not Japanese such as Kikkoman as it is too salty for this type of cooking)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Few drops of sesame oil (optional) and salt to taste


In a mortar and pestle (or food processor) pound garlic, shallots/onion, chillies, dried prawns and belacan.

Heat oil in wok and fry pounded ingredients for 1 min. If mixture is dying up too soon, lower heat and moisten with a few splashes of soy sauce.

Add in the stalk part of the pak choy. Blend with the paste and cover the wok for 30 sec.

Add in the leafy part and if the mixture is too dry, add a bit of water or more soy sauce. Check salt and add some if required.

When the leaves have changed colour (you don’t want to over cook the vegetable. The stalk should still be crunchy when it is eaten), remove from heat. Add in few drops of sesame oil.

Serve as a side dish with rice.

By the way, there is a Pineapple Cheesecake setting in the fridge right now. But that is, after all, another story! Till tomorrow then.

PS: Hopefully it is still there when I visit tomorrow!


I am sick and tired of eating 'soft food' cos I have been crook for the past few days. Well, I could not take it anymore and if it plays havoc with my tummy, so be it! I need some heat in my food. But as I am still not 100% well, I was not going to make sambal from scratch today. So, it's time to raid the pantry and pounce on the ever faithful jar of sambal chilli nyonya. Below is how I use it. Do you use it any other way????


1 jar ‘Glory’ brand ‘Anchovy Sambal Chilli Nyonya’ or plain ‘Sambal Chilli Nyonya’. [Don’t get the prawn version….in our opinion, it does not taste nice….unless someone can tell us how to spice it up]

2 to 3 tbsp (or more if you can’t take hot food) tomato sauce but don’t add too much as it will be too sweet and defeats the purpose of having sambal in the first place!

3 tbsp Chinese light soy sauce

Seafood of your choice such as prawns, squid or dried ikan bilis (Asian dried anchovies). I used 500g fresh green prawns, tail and head left intact.

1 red onion – sliced neither too thin nor thick

1 small tomato – cut into wedges (optional)

4 to 5 cloves garlic – minced.

Petai (a type of Malaysian bean that looks similar to broad beans but with very different after effects and taste, wink! wink!) – Optional, of course. I used frozen petai this time. You can buy it in brine (‘Ayam’ brand) from Asian supermarkets. The ‘Hub Asian Supermarket’ in Canberra (Gungahlin and Tuggeranong) sells frozen petai.

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat oil in a wok. Add in garlic and fry for 30 secs.

Add in sambal paste, tomato sauce and soy sauce. Mix well and stir fry over medium heat for 1 minute.

Add seafood and petai. Cook for 3 to 5 mins, depending on what medium you are using. You don’t want to cook seafood for too long as it will get rubbery and tough.

Before lifting, add in onions and tomato. Turn off heat.
Serve with plain rice or coconut rice (we were being health conscious today, so only plain rice with the sambal) hard boil egg, peanuts (or cashews) and sliced cucumber with onion. Could not be bothered going to the Asian grocer to get kangkong, so I made pak choy belacan instead as an accompaniment to the sambal.


I thought for my second post I'd share an easy recipe that is also the kids' favourite and school lunch box topper. Not sure where I got this recipe from but it is a keeper. I have to admit that it has been a long time since I actually baked these cookies because Mr G bakes them now! So, give it a go and let me know what you think!


125 g butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg – lightly beaten
1 cup cornflakes
1 - 2 cup cornflakes – lightly crushed – for coating
1 cup self raising flour
1 to 1 ½ cups sultanas*
Pinch of salt*

Lightly grease baking trays and preheat oven to 180°c.

Sift flour and add * ingredients.

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy. Add flour mix and egg and blend thoroughly. Now add 1 cup of cornflakes. Lightly combine the mixture as you don’t want the cornflakes to dissolve.

Roll 2 tsp of dough into small balls and coat with cornflakes. Flatten slightly and place on greased trays.

Bake for around 15 mins, in a 180°c oven. Remove from tray and cool on wire rack/s.

Note: we always make double the amounts because they don’t last long enough! Makes around 30 cookies.

Thursday, 22 May 2008


Well, this is it! I have always wanted to have my own blog but kept putting it off as I thought it would be too hard, I would not have the time, nobody would read it (there is still that chance!), blah, blah, blah but there is no holding back now. So here we go, let the trumpets blare......tan very first blog.

For my first blog, I had this vision of grandeur of posting a really detailed recipe that I was going to whip up in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I am sick today (seems to be an occurance recently)and Mr G has volunteered to cook tonight (for a male, he is an excellent cook....oops, I am going to get into trouble for this). He has decided to make Sichuan Braised Shin of Beef with Chinese Cabbage. I am impressed. Even with my degraded taste buds, it is yummy. So here it is.

1 kg beef shin (in one piece)
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/2 chinese cabbage or wombok
3 tbsp rice wine (omit for any muslim readers)
5 - 6 cups water (enough to cover the meat in the pot)
3 tbsp chilli bean paste
1/2 cup light soy sauce (add more if needed)
1 tsp chinese sesame oil
1 tbsp corn flour dissolved in 2 tbsp water

Cut the shin into pieces (about 5 cm wide and 2 cm thick). Do not cut it too small as it would dry the meat up in the lenghty cooking process (2 hours).

Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry the beef over high heat until it is well browned on both sides.

Wash the wombok, place in a large saucepan of hot water and boil till just tender. Refresh in cold water and cut lenghtways into two strips per leaf. Squeeze gently to get rid of excess water.

Place the meat in a large deep frying pan, add the wine, water and bean paste. Bring to boil quickly on high heat, uncovered.

As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low, remove any scum from the surface. Cover the pan and simmer slowly for 1.5 hours (yes, 1.5 hours)

When the beef is quite tender, place the wombok strips on top of the beef and add half the soy sauce while stirring (actually swirling).

Cook for another 30 minutes. Add remainder of the soy sauce, adjusting the amount to your own preference. Add the sesame oil.

Dissolve the corn flour, draw the cabbage in the pot aside and pour in the corn flour (thickening mixture). Stir in and once the sauce has thickened, lift from heat and serve hot with rice. Viola!

Let me know what you think.