Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tea Towels

I am 100% sure I am not the only one who likes tea towels. They add colour as well as distract the prying eyes from a multitude of sins in your kitchen (I’ll tell you the secret of keeping your kitchen clean – don’t cook in it - simple!)

They are ideal as gift too for kitchenistas (the kind who like spending some of their time cooking in the kitchen, that is!) I use three at a time in my kitchen – one or two will never be enough especially when you have your other half using the same kitchen but not necessarily at the same time. Quite often, I found my poor tea towel in the pot and pan or utensil drawer – and once or twice in the rubbish bin – I take it as a hint to go out and buy more tea towels:)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Downside Up

Bob is a big fan of Peter Gabriel and owns many of his CDs, VDOs and DVDs. His music, however, has grown on me over the years. I have never seen PG live in concert but from the DVDs and VDOs I can tell you that he always has his audience in his palm. He does not only have a great voice but also a brilliant showmanship.
I just cannot help thinking about one of my favourites “Downside Up” from his OVO album when I see Bonnie like this...

And Pipi....

And Bonnie again......

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thai Spicy Chicken and Galangal Soup - Tom Kha Kai

This is Bob’s favourite but he likes Zap’s version much more than mine. But never mind, for the time being he has to put up with my home cooking. There are a million and one recipes of this Tom Kha Kai – my version is likely to be similar to nine hundred thousand of them as basic ingredients are roughly the same. I use dried chillies – as they are easy to come by and give the soup some colour.
250 grams Chicken meat, sliced
100 grams Mushrooms, I use Portobello as they are firmer and don’t disintegrate if you cook them a bit too long
1-2 Lemon Grass stalks, cut into 5 cm long, bruised with the flat of your big knife or rolling pin
4-5 Kaffir Lime leaves, torn by hand
3-4 slices of Galangal (you can buy frozen or dried from Asian groceries)
1 small Red Shallot (or 1/4 Red Onion if you cannot find shallots)
1 1/2 cup of good quality Coconut Cream with high fat content otherwise your soup will be too thin
2 1/2cups of Chicken Stock (guess what - I use my magic chicken stock powder to make up the stock)
Chilli Flakes
Chilli Oil (optional)
Toasted whole Dried Chillies to garnish (optional)
Lime juice (one lime should do but cannot tell how many limes exactly – it depends on the limes – you have to taste as you go)
Fish sauce to taste – start with a little bit first
Coriander leaves to garnish
Boil the stock with shallot, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal.
Add coconut cream and chicken, reduce the heat and boil gently until the chicken is cooked. We don’t want the coconut cream to split too much (unlike green or red curry – which you want it to split until the oil surfaces).
Add mushrooms. You can season the soup with fish sauce and chilli flakes at this stage but do not add lime juice until the soup is removed from heat and ready to serve.
Season to taste with more fish sauce, lime juice and more chilli flakes and/or chilli oil. Chilli oil will add colour to the soup and a bit more heat too - so use your judgement when adding the chilli thingies. Tasting as you go is the key for happy tongue and tummy.
Break a couple of toasted dried chillies (if you can handle the heat) and sprinkle on top of the soup along with coriander leaves.
If you cannot stand the heat, you can substitute chilli flakes with capsicum (bell pepper) flakes.
Chilli Oil: Heat 2-3 tablespoons of canola oil in the saucepan (with thick bottom), add 1/2 tablespoon of chilli flakes. Fry quickly until fragrant – take care not to burn them. Remove from heat. Wait until cool then pour into a small glass jar. This chilli oil will keep well in the fridge and will be very useful for many dishes.
Be warned - If you chilli flakes are very hot, please make sure that you have your extractor/rangehood fan on high and/or open the kitchen windows.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coconut Cup Cakes

Dee is my neighbour from the other side of the road. She used to be an instructor at the gym I am the member of. We get on nicely both inside and outside the gym.
Dee has three children, the eldest of which is autistic. I have a lot of respect for her as with all the responsibilities she always remains calm, positive and soldiers on. She is one of the nicest and hardest working people I have known.
Early this week she dropped in for a cup of coffee. I made these coconut cupcakes using Lynn Cole’s basic Cinnamon Teacake recipe (without topping - so no cinnamon involved) and added 2 Tbs fine desiccated coconut to the cake mixture. I also substituted half of the milk with coconut milk (you can use any basic butter cake recipe and add those two ingredients). For frosting, I followed shesimmer’s recipe. Toasted coconut chips are optional but you should try – they add texture and a wonderful nutty flavour to the cakes.
Dee liked the cakes - maybe she was polite but never mind! Most of all we enjoyed each other's company and it was a beautiful afternoon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It’s a Hard Life

It’s a hard life being a dog...

Man.... it’s even harder being a cat- believe me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meet Poppy

This is Poppy. She is my baby (her mother allows me to say so). She was born prematurely early this month. Anita came to our place one afternoon and the next morning she went into labour. Poppy did not turn her head down so they had to perform Caesarean-section on Anita. They also had to put Poppy in the incubator for a week until she was strong enough to come home. She is now thriving and growing fast – such a little darling.

Bonnie says hello to Poppy –Hello, Poppy. Your nappy smells so delectable!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Szechuan Style Green Beans

We also like Szechuan green bean stir fry. It is one of our favourite dishes at Happy Time in Balmoral.

I had been trying in vain for months to cook this dish and the end result was not anywhere near Happy Time’s.

Google is my best friend and I eventually have found something quite close without having to go out of my way to find dry shrimps and Szechuan pickles or chilli paste. I have adapted Rhonda Parkinson’s recipe to suit our taste.


250 grms Green Beans

1 Teaspoon finely chopped garlic (about 2-3 big cloves)

1 Teaspoon minced ginger

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 Tbs oyster sauce (Thai’s MaeKrua is best)

Salt or stock powder to taste

Dried chilli flakes (or capsicum flakes for colour and texture if you cannot stand the heat)

Canola Oil for frying


1. Wash and trim both ends of the beans, cut in half

2.Cook the beans in a little bit of water in microwave for 2-3 minutes (or longer if you like your beans well cooked), drain and dry the beans with paper towel

3. Mix soy sauce, oyster sauce, stock powder (or salt) and chilli flake

4. Heat oil in the wok on medium high, cook garlic and ginger until they start to colour

5. Add beans and stir fry a bit longer until garlic and ginger are well brown then add the sauce mixture. Stir thoroughly until the beans are well coated with sauce.

6. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

This is supposed to be a side dish. We will have it with our Szechuan Chilli Chicken and use only a smidgen of chilli flakes. If you want to have it as main, you can add pork mince when garlic and ginger start to colour. You might need to increase the amount of soy sauce and oyster sauce though. Serve with rice. Yum!