Monday, February 3, 2014

Combat Price Hike with Packed Lunches.

With the price hike this year, I think it's about time that we start with a little change from home. Don't you think?

I've been doing packed lunch for work since 2006. Safe to say, I'm no longer a rookie at this.
However, this year, it's going to be a bit different. I've set a challenge for myself. I've decided to save up at least RM 50 a week and accumulating that to RM 200 by the end of the month. Why? Simply to prove to myself that I can save and I should save. To achieve this goal, I must first manage my pack lunches. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How I select what cook book to purchase.

Erna: When it comes to purchasing books for the kitchen shelf. How do you select what to buy? 

I'd buy a book that tells me more than just a list of ingredients, it's history or the scientific... ok maybe not scientific, but the mechanics of the cooking methods. The how's and why's.

I find this very important, for me at least. I'm a persistent cook in my own kitchen. If I didn't get it right the first time. I'd try to trouble shoot. I know sounds like I'm fixing a computer, but, really getting the right book to answer or the least lead me to my answers makes me a better cook the next time.

An example of how I select my books for the kitchen. A few months ago I was looking for a book that teaches you on how to actually mix the and prepare the dough. Then eventually baking it. A step by step guide. I've look into forums, YouTube, read articles by renown bakers. Still my results were  the same. Dense ugly wrong made bread! Till I found the book by Ken Forkish "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast" .

When I read the introduction. I knew I just had to buy the book. It was the one. I was comfortable with the way it was done because the author himself, was a novice in bread making with the passion to bake good tasting bread. A corporate man who left his job to go learn to make bread and now a successful owner of his own bakery. A dream I wish to live in someday.

It was also the way he wrote the content of his book. Although the guide of methods in baking seems daunting as it is quite technical. However, clear information such as  written in the book is what I needed.  With it's step-by-step pictures to show you how it's done. Not forgetting his notes on time management. As I am a stickler for organisation and structure his book was perfect. 

Since then I've baked loaves and loaves of breads with his recipe and it all came out exactly how the book had intended. 

As you can see. I do take my books up to a personal level. This may sound bohemian and almost ridiculous, but I do find an emotional attachment to the cook books I read. Stories of real people, doing things they love and strive to achieve the best are the kinda of people I'd like to learn from. And that's what this book did for me.

So there. That's my formula on finding the right book for me. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mee Hoon Goreng Telur Gulung (Fried Rice Vermicelli with Egg Rolls)

September Birthdays!

Mee Hoon Goreng or Fried Rice Vermicelli, is a celebration dish. Really it is. Malaysia as a nation grew on staple meals such as this. Simple, cheap ingredients pounded into the smallest pieces and cooked in batches. 

In the 1940's, during the Japanese Occupation, it was tapioca that kept the peoples spirit to carry on and fight. In the 1950's rice, grasshoppers and exotic leaves became staple meals. 1960's coffee sold at warungs cost not more than a dime became centres for community leaders to talk about independence and freedom. 1990's during Canteen Day or Sports Day, this fried vermicelli would be hot off the counter. They would be served to students as the most cost effective lunch set, costing only about RM 0.50 for a plate. It is food and dishes as simple as these that made the country. 

Think about it, what did you eat when you were growing up? And has it contributed to your life today?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sambal Tumis Ikan Bilis (Fried Chilli Paste with Anchovies)

This week I'm at my in-laws and I've been put into kitchen duty. I now work smack in the city and by the time I leave work - traffic! Ah the thief of time. Cooking for a family of 5 who loves traditional Malay home cooked meals can be daunting. Especially when the head chef is 75 years old, with years of experience in cooking and tasting good food. It is a challenge to make meals perfect. Time is also a factor as this household eats early. I need to arrive home by 6:00 pm and to be ready to eat at 7:00 pm.

Malay cooking need not be such a hassle. Some of us feel that it does take more out of your time. In reality, the key to any success in a kitchen is really time management. Factor in preparing key ingredients well before cooking time and everything else will fall into place. If you've done project management at work or organised an event - even if it is as small as a birthday party. Then you know that planning ahead does help.

Monday, September 2, 2013


For the past year, I've been dreaming and making a to do list. First on my list was to perfect my skills in baking brownies. 

Since the day  I started making my first tray of brownies, I haven't stopped. I have since then read, searched and experimented. I have since baked, brought my goods to the office to share with friends. They would compliment and critic my brownies. They would always wait for me to bring something to work on Monday, because they knew I'd be baking over the weekend. I have also sold at bake sales, some ordered online and Alhamdullillah - I have had returning customers.  

Second on my list, was to start my own bakery that would sell cakes I loved eating. Starting with just brownies. Last weekend, Malaysia celebrated Independence Day. I had friends over and a cake was put out for desserts. Later that night, a friend encouraged me to move into baking and push my products to smaller cafes. See if anyone wants to order trays from me. I looked at her and said, I don't know. Maybe... we shall see.

It only took the introduction of this book to make me change my perspective.The author, Patricia Helding use to work at Wall Street. She too started baking for the office and sharing with friends. In no time, she realised that baking was her true calling. She resigned from her job and started a baking company from her kitchen. She would market her brownies using postcards and by word of mouth. Now her bakery is a legendary brownie shop in NYC. How about that? 

I have yet to try the recipes. This weekend will be the first attempt to baking brownies from the recipe book. Judging from a glance - I foresee that they brownies will be hit with friends. I hope it'll kick out their  mundane Monday office mood. Keep yourself updated to the blog and I'll be posting a review on the recipe. Insya Allah.