Tuesday, August 29, 2006

So, Do You Like My Chicken?

Yet another person has given me a certain ‘look’ when I told them about my situation. We were standing in the middle of a shopping mall in one of East London's towns.

“So, you’re working?” asked A.
“He he…no. Staying at home,” I replied. “Taking care of my kids.”

(A pause - as A pretended to look around for a while and then ended up looking at my shoes)

“Why?” asked A with a familiar ‘look’ on her face. Disapproving. Unimpressed. Curious.
“ I just want to take care of them. Plus, I don’t want to go to work!” I said, trying to sound cheerful – face to face with that look she gave me, it was a wonder I could do anything else but sweat.
“OK…” she answered, her tone unsatisfied, as if my answer was the most ridiculous thing that she has ever heard in her whole life.

And that probably wont be the last time I get these looks from my fellow Malaysians. It seems that when you have a degree, especially a degree from here (the UK) and you’re not taking advantage of it by working – you’re an oddity. You’re downright weird. You’re absolutely bonkers!

Funny how throughout my life, I’ve always felt pressured to prove myself. No matter what happens, I must get number 1 in class because I’M CLEVERER than everyone else. No matter what, I am going to do better than that person because hey, even though her dad drives a BMW and she's got the latest SWATCH (it was quite a craze when I was at school aeons ago), I am better because I’M CLEVERER. What? She did that?! OK, now I’m going to do better than that because I’M CLEVERER than her, surely? And then at work it was always, What? She got that project? Hey, I’m more competent than she is so I think I’m going to ask for something even better than that. What? She’s got that post??
And it goes on and on and on…

But that’s not the case anymore. At least not in matters of intelligence or career. After all, I'm just a housewife now - I simply don’t feel the need to prove myself to anyone anymore.

Or so I thought.

I didn’t even realise that the ‘urge to prove myself’ has really been deeply ingrained in me and has really 'passed the point of no return' until during my son’s birthday party a few months ago. We decided to cook nasi ayam as the main dish, spaghetti marinara as an alternative, tiramisu and jelly and of course the birthday cake. This is more than an armful for me alone, so I had to ‘delegate’ a few simple chores to my dear husband, who readily agreed to help, provided I tell him exactly what to do. And by 'exactly', I mean EXACTLY.

It was the chicken. He was supposed to marinate the chicken. And a host of other minial things that I could have done myself except that there was the cake that needed to be frosted, and the decorations, and the tiramisu, and the cleaning..and the list goes on. So the deal was: I take care of the major stuff and instruct him on the minor stuff. The ingredients and measurements of the marinade were clearly written on my little recipe book and he did not have any problems to follow that. Only he had to spoil it all by rubbing the chicken with the marinade by tumbling the chicken so roughly that the cooked chicken skin came off and accumulated at the bottom of the large bowl. So that when I finally got on to fry the chicken pieces in the morning, I found all the skin at the bottom – the chicken skin which I have purposely left on so that the chicken wont easily dry and harden when it was time for me to fry them. It would have turned nice and dark and crispy and the chicken flesh would still be soft and juicy.

You’d think it was a trivial matter and of no real importance at all but I was horrified! Horrified enough to yak and yak and yak until my husband - already defensive and proclaiming that he didn’t get any ‘instructions’ from me to be 'gentle with the chicken' and so he did as he liked!
And who was the person who didn’t give exact instructions to do the chicken?
But isn’t that common sense? – the chicken skin was left on exactly for THAT – for it to be ON the chicken! Well, how would I know that? - lost his patience and we started a war of the beaks.

That’s right, to quarrel in the morning of that party, just a few hours before our guests were supposed to arrive, when there were still so much to be done and readied. Of course, our hands were busy doing this and that but we were quarrelling nonetheless - that was, until both of us slipped into the ‘silent mode’ – which was always the way for us after a heated discussion or a quarrel. Time to make each other suffer by simply ignoring each other. At least it was, until he murmured, “ Orang nak party ni nak happy- happy – dia nak gaduh-gaduh pulak!” (We’re having this party to have fun – but you’re spoiling it with this quarrel.)

Obviously, that made me feel guilty and so we made up – I hugged him and said sorry, you’re right, let’s not quarrel BUT..

But what?

But you must tell all our guests that YOU are responsible for the 'hard' chicken. Fine, he said, that wouldn’t be a problem. And we laughed. I laughed happily with some relief. He laughed sarcastically, also with some relief.

And so my husband announced with a smile on his face to all and each of our guest - who did not come all at the same time, so he had to repeat his 'announcement' a few times - apologising for the ‘hard’ chicken and telling them that he was the one who ‘spoiled’ it, adding, of course, had 'my wife' prepared the chicken, they would have turned out a lot better bla bla bla. And a friend sitting next to me reassured, “No lah, the chicken is fine – very nice!” And I said, Thanks, but it was supposed to be etc. etc. etc. And she said, don’t worry about it! It’s not like it’s an exam! The chicken is fine! And then I said; But to me this IS an exam! – What else do I have to show for all the time I have staying at home?

And then it hit me. (Actually it hit me a little later when I was thinking about that conversation.)

I was out to prove myself again, it seems. This time in the skills of the housewife. All my friends here are either doing their PhD or working so I had to show them that I’m better than them at cooking because apparently, that’s what a housewife does everyday - so shouldn’t she be damn brilliant at it? It doesn’t really matter if I really do enjoy cooking, even if it is something that I HAVE to do everyday. What mattered was that people know that I excel at it. Oh, she’s just a housewife? But at least she’s a brilliant cook!

I suppose I do feel a little intimidated by all the people around me – they work, they pursue their PhDs, they make money, they’re doing something for themselves, they’re going somewhere, they’re grabbing opportunities – while I’m just staying at home, being so very sedentary - in everything. So I had to go and prove myself again. Try to outdo myself yet again. But is that so wrong? I don’t think so. So what if I take cooking and preparing my food to guests seriously? It only works to the benefit of all.

Except that sometimes I work myself up over silly things like chicken skin.
Except that it lead to a ridiculous quarrel with my husband.
Except that I find it a little pathetic.

It’s pathetic because I’m 30 years old and I have yet to find something I’m really good at. And I keep trying to prove myself in little things such as this when others are already sailing solo around the world. Have I ever told you that THAT is my dream? To be able to sail my own boat and travel the seas? When will I ever get to do the things that I want and really prove myself to myself, most importantly, and then to everyone else?

I'm still waiting for my chance.

Merdeka Carnival at Hertford

The Merdeka Carnival, a celebration of Malaysia’s 49 years of independence, was held at the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre in Brickendonbury, Hertford last Saturday. My husband and I with our two boys in tow arrived there at around 11 in the morning when there were not yet too many people, the queue for the satay at the satay stalls were still short and there were still plenty of good spots available to lay down our mats for our picnic. Many people started to arrive around noon and the area was filled with Malaysians, British and other nationals alike, all there to experience a 'Malaysian Day', from the Malaysian food and products sold at the various stalls set up there for the event, to watching the Malaysian performances which will be performed during the event. A stage was erected in front of a large white building next to the carnival spot which had the look of a country manor, and that’s where the Indian dancers wiggled their 'stuff' to the Bollywood music, the lion dancers leaped and danced to the rythm of the drums and cymbals, the Malay dancers tried to tackle the zapin and some other traditional dances from Sabah and Sarawak.

The weather was dull and the clouds looked like it was at the verge of falling down on us the whole day and indeed, it did drizzle for about 15 minutes just before noon. The sun, in true British fashion peeked at us in its full glory for a few minutes before going into hiding again until later in the day, when again it played hide and seek with all in attendance at the outdoor event.

The place itself, the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre was beautiful - with its tall trees that are still lush and green at the end of August and the serene pond with the pink lotuses not 30 metres from the stage. A big field right in front of the building, across the pond, was used well as both car park and footie pitch for the football competitions that were held during the course of the day, also part of the carnival's programmes. The grass was fresh and green due to the rainy week prior to the day of the event but was not wet nor muddy because the Almighty was kind to let the rain from previous days seep through the grass the previous night before it rained again, to nourish and lend life to the trees and grass instead of allowing the many feet on that Saturday to trample and destroy the scene.

My family, together with 2 other families laid down our mats and the food we brought for our ‘picnic’ very near the stage so that we can see the performances later. There were roti jala, cup cakes, fajitas, and my own contribution; nasi lemak and peach pudding. The food was far too much – because everybody also wanted to buy and taste the mouth watering array of Malaysian food sold in the many stalls there - indeed, we had to offer the nasi and pudding to whoever that came to our ‘port’ so that our nasi lemak leftover to be taken home was a manageable amount that my husband and I can finish off later.

The location brought pleasure to my naturally green senses and was worth that 1 trip and more. Plus, the performances and the food were fine and the company was good – it’s always good to spend time with friends – I’m so very hungry for company (other than my own family, that is) these days. If my friends did not invite us to come along, I dare say, my husband and I would never dream of going to that carnival. It was our first time going there and I’m glad we decided to join them.

More Pics:

Never ever leave the bottle at home.

Can I join the troupe?

Towards the end there were still a lot to go around.

There's the kuih koci stall. 50p a piece!

I love to eat yummy karipap!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Peach Pudding

Tried this recipe from memory today - somebody gave me this recipe or something similar to it years ago but I seem to have lost it - and the result was (thank goodness) yummy!!

Simple and lovely. Try it!

Best eaten with some light cream or evaporated milk.

1 pack agar-agar (20g)
3 1/4 cups of water
2 small cans of evaporated milk (170g each)
2 Tbsp custard powder, mixed with a little cold water
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 loaf butter/ madeira cake
1 can peaches, drained, diced, syrup set aside

Cook the agar-agar strips in water until strips dissolve completely. Reduce heat. Add sugar and evaporated milk and stir. Pour in the custard mixture. Stir and mix well. Leave on reduced heat for a while, stirring occassionally until mixture reaches boiling point just for a few seconds. Set aside.

Line bowl with cake slices/ cubes and drizzle with the syrup from canned peaches. Arrange a layer of peaches on cake and pour agar-agar mixture to fill the bowl. Refrigerate.

Tip: If you can't find a 20g pack agar-agar and don't know how to measure the water, go by this rule of thumb: 1 cup (full and packed with) agar-agar strips requires 3 cups of water. Obviously, you need to adjust the rest of the ingredients as well. For agar-agar to be nice and sweet, the sugar must be a little excessive (too sweet) before the agar-agar sets - once set, the agar-agar will be 'just nice' - hopefully!

Monday, August 21, 2006

BA. Greed and Unscrupulous Means (Hons)

bush graduateIs there no Honour anymore in this world?

At this moment my husband is sitting with our landlord who came to the house with a new contract for us. Previously we were the subtenants of this house but since that man (the main tenant) has gone back to Malaysia, we are taking over this house and so the landlord is here to seal the deal.

The thing is, just before we moved into this house 4 months ago as the subtenants, the landlord informed us personally that if we decide to stay on in this house and take over as the main tenants after the current main tenant leaves, he will maintain the then current rent rate for another year - he was desperate at that time to retain a tenant in the house for another year. But today, he is here with a new contract that states the rent is to be increased by £30. And we were struggling with the initial rent in the first place! And when reminded about his ‘promise’ to maintain the rent – his only answer was, ‘Did I say that? I don’t remember.’

But we remember. And we also remember what he bragged to my husband a few months ago - that he earns £100k+ a year from his engineering job. I'm sure he doesn't remember telling us that either. He doesn't even need that extra £30. But we do.

I ask again, is there no honour anymore in this world?

I mean, I’m not asking for men to fight wars and kill themselves to prove their honour. I just need for people to honour their WORD. Isn’t that the least one could do to show one’s integrity and to show that we are civilised and honourable human beings living in the 21st century?

Ini tidak. Selagi tak tulis atas kertas, selagi tu lah takda binding contract.

But I know the answer to my own question, albeit a roundabout one. The answer is; while the question of whether there is still honour in this world remains, there is, certainly, a greater force that controls people nowadays – and that stronger force is GREED.

You will want the highest income you can get from your investments – even if it means lying through your teeth for it – that’s probably my landlord’s motto taught in the school of greed and unscrupulous means.

See, that’s why I love those historical romance books I read (apparently everything comes back to why it's good for me to read these romances, you’re thinking – I can read your minds, see.) The men in these romance books are honourable men, no matter how hamsap or how ‘tormented’ they are at first with some guilt or some memory that they have from their past. These are good men, who knows what’s right and what’s wrong (even if it takes until the end of the book for them to learn it) and will go the extra length to do the right thing. These are men who do not exist in this world anymore, it seems - present bed partner the exception, of course, and these are the men that are sadly, fictional. But why should I read about reality: about deaths and evil men and dead children and poverty and rape and murder and liquid bombs and starvation and problematic families and divorce and hate when I can get a healthy (or should I say unhealthy) dose of it every time I turn on the TV?

Oh well. My poor husband will have to get some part time job soon if we want to stay on living in this nice house. Or maybe I can sell something…my books, perhaps (not!)… Or maybe we can find a Malaysian who would like to rent one of our rooms. Anyone out there who’s looking for a room to rent in a nice house in London?

And now, to read that new contract the landlord passed us – to make sure he didn’t add anything else in there that may surprise us in the future – before we resign ourselves to paying that extra amount of rent...

P/S: My landlord is NOT Mr Bush.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Nice and Easy Brownies

Tried this recipe yesterday - was looking for a non cakey type of brownies recipe. This one tastes nice - very, very easy to make and mine was ready in the oven after 20 minutes (make sure never to overcook your brownies!) Nice and not too cakey - but still not the kind I'm looking for. Anybody out there with a good non cakey brownie recipe, feel free to contact me!

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8x8 or 9x9 inch
baking pan. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, and mix well. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the vanilla and stir in walnuts if desired. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are firm. Cool before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Proof Is In The Cake

Aha! Proof that I act my age!

You Are 30 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

P/s: All the men I know who tried this test got a younger number than their actual age (my husband got 25!) I guess its true what they say - men mature late...:)

Baby Mind Map

I was pregnant when I sat for my 2nd level CFA exam. I only studied 3 months for that exam and I passed it, a lucky thing really – since I could hardly sit on that exam chair without wiping under my knees every few minutes because I was sweating so much (pregnant women tend to feel very hot!) and with the nausea I felt later in the exam when somebody had the gall to vomit in the hall during the exam – as if she had the time to do that with all the writing we had to do in that exam!

My eldest son, who was then in my womb, and now 5 years old, (Alhamdulillah) was actually affected by those 3 months of my studying, memorising notes and drawing mind maps until the wee hours of morning. The reason I know this is because; he likes to memorise things and he likes to learn. And, I just found out – he can draw mind maps!

He was studying the London Underground (Tube) map the other day, in fact he has been studying the map everyday this last week and suddenly came out with this diagram, using the correct colour code of the map; H: Hammersmith & City (Pink line), D: District (Green line), C: Circle (Yellow line) J: Jubilee (Grey line). P: Picadilly (Dark Blue line).

And the rest?

‘What’s this abang?’ I said, pointing at the 2 circles, on the leftside of the smiley face.
‘A 'spotted' spaceship!’ he said proudly.
‘Okay….what about this one?’ I said, pointing at the ‘123’ below the smiley face.


Well, obviously those 2 branches of the mind map have nothing to do with the London Underground. But what the heck.

I guess it’s true what my friend, (who sat for that exam with me but unfortunately did not pass) told me: ‘It’s not fair! You had two heads answering those questions – it’s no wonder you passed!’ Well, I guess she was right. My baby was studying those mind maps with me and helped me with my exams – how else could I have passed that crazy exam?

Simply amazing.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My Literary Journey

I used to read a lot of books when I was little. There was just no stopping me. I would just lie down with my book on my bed until the sun sets and the room turns dark and still I will be there on the bed – not even bothering to stand up for 2 seconds to switch on the lights, so engrossed was I in my books. I would simply enlarge my eyes (or squint them?) so that I can read the words with whatever meagre light that comes through the window or from the light already switched on outside my room. I remember many times when my father or mother looked inside my room while I was reading and switched the light on for me. If I did not finish the book during the night before I go to sleep, I would reach for my book first thing the next day while still lying in bed and I will stay there for hours more until I eventually finish that book or was called for lunch. It was that bad.

I remember reading my first Enid Blyton when I just entered standard 2. I was 8 and my 2 older sisters kept bragging about the wonderful stories they had read in a book called The Faraway Tree. I guess they said it too many times that they made the young me curious enough to take the book, open to the first page and tried reading it. Of course, I was already reading fairly well at the time – not storybooks though – just those gawd awful Peter and Jane books with illustrations of dull and very British looking creatures. And not even many of those – come to think of it, I just read the occasional book in class and that was really it. Until that Faraway Tree book.

It was that book, and then The Enchanted Wood. And then there were those Mr Pink Whistle books. The list goes on and looking back, I think they certainly affected my childhood. The Naughtiest Girl books which I truly loved made me want to be a little rebellious and a prefect at school (book: The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor), and some of the Malory Towers and St Clare books I read made me want to go to boarding school. (Of course, my experiences in a Malaysian boarding school later disillusioned me from the wonderment that is boarding school although I have to say that my truly brilliant experience after that in a Scottish boarding school quite made up for it.) And I do remember being crazy about the Five Find Outers and Dog books which were truly, truly fabulous and made me want to try and disguise myself just like Fatty in that book (ah, Fatty, you were indeed my childhood hero!). And then came the Famous Five books, which I enjoyed tremendously and made me want to become a tomboy just like Georgina. Yeah, laugh all you want but at that age, I was very impressionable and idolized a lot of the characters in the books I read and dreamed to be just like them. If Harry Potter was born in the 1980s I would have idolized Hermione without a doubt and would definitely have made it my purpose in life to learn more about wizards and witches and things like that. Yes, now you know that I do revel in reading the Harry Potter series, although this, is only after I watched the 3rd movie which absolutely changed my perception of the books and I realised that maybe, maybe this new author was a worthy competition for Enid Blyton after all. (Wonder if Enid Blyton could have been a billionaire like J.K. Rowling if she lived now, in these commercial times?)

A natural progression for me after the Enid Blyton’s mysteries is the Nancy Drew mysteries as there were quite a few of those at home. I enjoyed those and bought quite a number of the series but from the age of 11 onwards, I was also reading children’s fantasy. Again, I was introduced to these books by one of my sisters who I think was introduced to them by my brother. What a marvellous, marvellous experience it was at the time, reading about all those imaginary children who can go across worlds and travel through time. And they usually have a mission – to find their parents, to help a friend, to overthrow an evil ruler or simply to find their way home. I remember I had no favourite authors – simply because I just read what was available to me at home and so I was introduced to authors like Susan Cooper and John Bellairs. Oh yes, I read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books too (I can’t remember when, exactly) but somehow I wasn’t really impressed by that talking lion and children who do not have as much character as Fatty or Georgina. As for Tolkien, I only started on those when I was in secondary school, when I bought a brand new copy of the Lord of The Rings in an MPH during one of those outings I had when my parents came to visit me at boarding school. I have to say that earlier on, I did look for any of Tolkien’s books in the bookstores of my hometown but sadly I couldn’t find any copies. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about Tolkien too much because I did not really finish his books – the whole thing was too tedious for me, although (I’m ashamed to admit) I absolutely enjoyed the three movies.

Believe it or not, I started reading Sidney Sheldon when I was in Standard 6. God knows what those books did to my hormones at that age. I blame it all on my very good friend who passed me a well read copy of Windmills of The Gods during one of the holidays. And then I discovered that there was also one copy at home and there were many other Sidney Sheldon books belonging to my dad on the top shelf of that tall bookcase in what used to be our library cum praying room. That’s when I discovered other authors like Eric Van Lustbader and Robert Ludlum. I remember my wonderful late father, who never stopped me from reading those ‘forbidden’ thick books, actually recommended that I read The Icarus Agenda even when my mother would say things like “Sudah-sudah lah asyik baca buku pasal seks aje.” (Enough reading those books about sex!) Obviously, there were sexual scenes in many of those books and sometimes I do wonder why my father was so liberal about it. But one thing for sure about my father, he never stopped his children from making our own choices and his encouragement to read these books goes to show that he prefers us to discover things for ourselves and be open minded about them. That, and the fact that he probably thought it was just a good story – sex scenes aside (indeed, those were good too!) We even discussed about what happened in that book after I finished it. How truly wonderful was my father?

However, I would not be grateful to my mother if I just mention about her effect on my reading journey in that one sentence above. She was the one who encouraged me to read before my school years and even set aside a short period of time after her Maghrib prayers to teach me English from a children’s book with a character called ‘Farmer Fred’. I remember reading 1 page of the book per night and discovering new words like ‘chicken’ and ‘sheep’ and then confusing them with ‘kitchen’ and ‘ship’. What a wonderful, wonderful journey Farmer Fred and I had – I still remember Farmer Fred’s smiling face and the wonderful things he did at the village fair when he wasn’t tending to his sheep. Looking back, I think, that experience instilled in me the love that I have for books and the English language.

I remember there was a period of time when there was a draught of books in my life. Believe it or not, the only books that were available in abundance at my old school were those Mills & Boon’s books (and by abundance I mean rows and rows and rows of them in the library) and the ‘class reader’ which were books given out during our English lessons and were ‘compulsory’ for us to read. I remember consoling myself that at least I’m reading these class readers, so it’s not a complete draught. In fact, the only source of good books I had in school was my friends. It was through friends I discovered authors like George Orwell, Jane Austen, and Ken Follet and I thank the generous souls who used to pass story books around at school, without caring (or realising) that the books will definitely come back to them worse for wear and a particular friend who used to bring and recommend books to me every time she came back from the school holidays.

And so it was really at home that I got the interesting books to read and even then, I discovered that I could not just read anything and everything under the sun. And my tastes have evolved since then too. And I still feel that I’m not reading enough, for I know at least 4 people who read a lot more than I do. However, I feel at the least, I MUST try to read all the books in THIS LIST. At the moment I’m stuck with the romance genre for a while (it has been 1 year now) and I have a TBR (to be read) list in this genre as long as the hair of the medieval heroines in these books. But I know I will eventually tire of them and then, I will be staring and staring at the book shelves of book shops like 'Books etc.' and 'Borders' to find the perfect book to read. Until then, I have 3 books coming through the post (Amazon and ebay) and 2 already at home and not finished.

My literary journey continues on...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ilford Malaysian Fest

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I went to the Ilford Malaysian Fest a few weekends ago - just wanted to share these 2 pics with you.

There was a cultural show during the fest - with some dancers dancing makyong or some other traditional dances. I think there were some male dancers too, with kuda kepang but I didn't wait to see them because I was really there for the food stalls.

But imagine my amusement went I saw the musicians. NOT ONE of them were Malaysian. They were instead dodgy looking mat salehs wearing songkok and baju Melayu - some even looking very much like some rocker melayu in a raya edition URTV with their long curly locks, sun glasses and open necked baju!

It was a funny sight although they played well enough. I suppose they couldn't find any traditional Malay music clubs/ groups here in the UK.

A pity. I should have liked to play that gamelan myself..if only I had known how to.

(as usual, I apologise if the pics are not very sharp - as my normal readers know, I take my pics with my Nokia N70. With enough light, they can turn out quite good, but a slight movement when clicking can reduce the pics to a blur..)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sweet Red Chicken

(Ayam masak merah)

As usual, my recipes are really for people like me who are living overseas and want a taste of home using whatever ingredients that are available here. Enjoy cooking!

A. 4 pieces of chicken, with skin
Some turmeric powder
Salt to taste

B. 1 bombay onion
2-3 cloves garlic

Basic Malay aromatic spices:
1”-2” cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves
1 star anise
2-3 cardamon seeds

1.5 tsp chilli powder or more if preferred
1.5 ” ginger, sliced into strips
3 - 4 tsp tomato puree
2 Tbs tomato ketchup
3-4 tbs fresh milk
½ Bombay onion sliced into strips
¼ cup frozen peas
Oil for frying
Pinch of sugar - optional

Mix ingredients A together and fry in hot oil until chicken is cooked and crispy on the outside – but not too hard to bite into. Set aside. Blend (in a blender) ingredients B. Fry the spices in hot oil for 1-2 minutes and pour in the blended mixture, ginger strips and chilli powder - cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until mixture turns into a darker colour. Stir occasionally. Add tomato puree, milk, tomato ketchup and stir. If mixture looks a little dry – add a few tbs oil used to fry the chicken. Add the fried chicken together with the onion strips. Stir. Add the peas once the onions are cooked/ 2-3 minutes later. Add salt and sugar. Leave for a while (5 mins), on very low heat before removing.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Back To Active Mode

What a brilliant week I had with my husband at home and spending time with the children. And he was in a generous mood too throughout the whole week because he had passed some exams and somehow he decided, in order to give himself a treat, he will treat the family instead!

And so I got to buy lots of new clothes for myself – and NOT at car boot sales either! So, to my family and friends who have been reading about my despair of not getting to buy new clothes – you may now throw away your tissue papers and rest assured that I have had the pleasure to indulge in my repressed addiction and...I am happy. Alhamdulillah.

So where exactly did we go this last week? We went to a lot of shops obviously, because the summer sale started last week and so there were a lot of shops to visit and mountains of clothes under £5 to rummage through. I bought a few items at the Next sale – only to return half of them the next day- they close the changing rooms during these sales you see, so customers just horde in and get whatever they can and return whatever they don’t want the next day. At that point, I was actually cursing British fashion because of their current (and forever ongoing) shabby trend – has anybody noticed that we Asians dress better than these Brits? But I still managed to get from that shop and various others, a decent skirt, trousers, some blouses and a (really unnecessary) dress.

car boot saleAlas, after being given the freedom to buy 'whatever I want' in clothes and going in and out of several changing rooms, I have decided that my love for buying new clothes has deserted me somewhere in between buying that dress and that skirt and I will not buy anymore in these high street shops (at least in the very near future). However, I still find buying cheap used clothes that still have plenty of wear in them at car boot sales irresistible.

And so we also went to a car boot sale in Chingford near the reservoir. The weather was fine – sun was shining but it was not too hot for there were plenty of clouds and it was very breezy walking down that sloping field where the sale took place. We came near closing time - the boot sale started at 6am and was supposed to end at noon - so some Mercedes and BMW driving sellers were already selling their goods very, very cheap – imagine 3 pieces of good quality adult clothing for 50p! (Yes, now you get it - these car boot sellers are rich people who just want to get richer by selling their own used stuff.) Now, that’s better than any summer sale in any high street shop. My children as usual got plenty of clothes and a few toys for themselves and they ended up playing with one on the grass, oblivious to all the people who passed by.

And was it on Thursday that we went to get some Malaysian food at Oriental City on the other side of London, in Colindale? The place is quite far from where we live but we didn’t have anything else planned so when I suggested the place, my husband simply shrugged, ‘Why not?’ There were some Malaysian faces there too. But the smiles exchanged went no further than just that as the food and drinks arrived. The children had their – ‘at home also got’ - nasi goreng, and we had kuey teow and roti canai. The first two dishes were cooked by our friend, a Takaful man turned chef, who's working part time there while his wife, a medical doctor is pursuing something or other in a university here in London. The roti canai came from a separate stall and was absolutely glorious. And I really have to say here, even better than some that I’ve tasted back home! And the drinks, THE DRINKS were fabulous! We had Fresh Orange Blended (£2.50) and Watermelon pearl drink (£3.00) – such thirst quenchers because it was a very hot day and there’s no air conditioning in the food court of Oriental City (beware if you plan to go in the summer!) And of course, my eldest son had to throw up in the last few drops of my watermelon juice – I nearly cried!

ilford parkAnd there was a trip to the park at Ilford, a town nearby. The park is much better than any I’ve been to in central London, in my opinion – there was a large field where some people were flying their kites and kicking some balls – there were lots of shady trees, and a playground and a lake u can row boats in. It is a very large and nice place, indeed. My sons chased after a squirrel and played with their ‘magic sticks’ while my husband and I ate the nasi dagang we bought at a Malaysian Fest in the town centre – that was why we were there in Ilford, in the first place, you see.

In between these were of course shops, shops and more shops. We even went as far as Kent to go to the large and modern Bluewater shopping mall. Shoot me but I still feel that car boot sales are best.

Overall I had a very, very good time this last week but I pity my husband who just successfully jumped over another hurdle in his professional course but did not spare more than £5 for himself. Thank you, my darling, for the good time you showed us - I will repay you in the ways I know how.

Now, better get into the kitchen to cook something nice for his dinner...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Old School Shoe

I was walking along Oxford Street with my husband and the boys in central London and saw this shoe in the window of one of the many shoe shops along the crowded high street.

Look at the price tag!

And they paid good money to those shoe designers for that?