Friday, February 28, 2014

Sticks & Carrots

We got Bonnie when she was 5 months old. I have always dreamed of having a dog that we could take for a walk without a lead and she’s that dream dog.

That is not without any work although her good nature and temperament have made it a bit easier to train her. The fact that she is so food driven has worked and still works so well with the reward system (preferably with real treats more than carrots). We took her to puppy school to let her socialise with other puppies. She was the only puppy in her class to be able to rollover on command back then.

After that, we took her to obedience class and basic agility classes. All of these pay off and we can take her places with us without trouble. In the park, we cannot help feeling sorry for other dogs that are on leash as we can let Bonnie off leash to run. We will only put her on leash when she is naughty and trying to push the boundary  – something like lagging behind too far or not coming to us at first command – and she knows it. We have been teaching her that freedom comes with responsibility to obey us at all time we are outside our own home.

More than 4 years on and we still keep checking with her to make sure that she still obeys – it’s an on-going process. I think she’s happy that way to have us a leader of the pack and she knows where she stands. And she still likes chewing on a piece of carrot (which is better than nothing!)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Texas Style Sheet-ish Cake

I honestly cannot remember if I had ever eaten this cake when I was in Uni in Texas while the memory of having my first pumpkin pie and first spoon of Haagen Dazs is still vivid. However, I just tried making this cake last weekend – put together form many recipes on the net but somewhat astray (as usual).

110 grams butter
½ cup hot water
2 tablespoons of good quality Cocoa powder (Dutch ones are best)
1 cup high-grade flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup caster sugar
1 egg
¼ cup sour cream

20 grams butter
¼ cup cream
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
50 grams dark chocolate
50 grams milk chocolate (I used Whitaker’s for both for its high content of cocoa)
1 teaspoon+ espresso coffee (1/2 teaspoon espresso coffee granule dissolved in 1 teaspoon boiling water)
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted and crushed.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Grease 20X20 square tin and line with baking paper.

Sift flour with salt and baking soda and set aside. Place putter, cocoa powder and hot water in a saucepan on low heat until butter just melt. Stir to combine and transfer to a clean mixing bowl. Leave to cool a little bit and then beat (with electric beater) in sugar, egg and sour cream. Add flour and beat until combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and bake for half an hour.

While the cake is be baked, prepare the frosting by chopping chocolate. Place cream, butter, salt and sugar in a glass jug and microwave on high for about 20-30 seconds. Add chocolate to the warm cream mixture and stir to combine. If the chocolate is not all melted put n the microwave for another 5 seconds.

Wait until the cake and the ganache cool down a little bit about 20 minutes or so before pouring the ganache on top of the cake (do not remove cake from the pan). Sprinkle with crushed pine nuts and leave to set. Cut into squares or triangles and enjoy!

Monday, February 24, 2014


My Dad passed away three weeks ago and I had to grab a seat to fly back to Thailand at short notice. That’s why Wokarella has been out of action for a wee while.

He was an amazing Dad. When he had not yet been ill he was very witty and very funny and most of all – family was his number one priority in life. Dad catered to our needs before his own. He had helped a lot of people in his life and was much loved by the relatives – many of them had attended the funeral and mourned for him – I have never realized we have that many.

Before retiring, he worked in forestry industry and was away from home very often. For years when we were growing up he stationed in the country but he tried to come home as much as possible at weekends (imagine those long coach rides or those long drives and those hours spent at the airports before flights). We the children, my brother and I, stayed with him on and off in the provinces he was being posted but mostly spent our school holidays with him.

Dad made sure that we did OK at school. Dad always told us that he did not have much money for us to inherit but he would provide for our education for as long as we needed – when we were in Uni.

When he retired, he and Mum travelled to stay with me in Holland where I was working at the time and spent a few years there. It was their happy time together – just like a couple of Honeymooners in their 60’s. My first apartment was on the top floor of a small shopping plaza and the baker and shopkeepers seemed to know my parents – these Asian Opa and Oma - a lot more than they knew me.

In his mid 70’s, Dad was diagnosed with voice box cancer and had to undergo an operation and numerous radio-therapy sessions but sadly, the cancer kept coming back and the only treatment his oncologist recommended was a major operation to remove his voice box altogether. He also had Emphysema, although not yet severe, as a result of being a heavy smoker for so many years when he was younger. I worked in Australia at the time so didn’t have a chance to talk to the doctor. He had that operation – the cancer was gone but his health deteriorated from that point onwards. I flew home when his health (both physically and mentally) was at its low after the surgery. I learnt that the oncologist recommended speech therapy so that he could learn to speak by swallowing air. He had to be at the hospital every week for this. I was so appalled – I might have agreed with this for him to try if he was 10-20 years younger – but at 76, it was too difficult for him to learn this then new-ish technique (and the therapist admitted a lot of much younger patients had failed). Honestly, they should have recommended a psychologist to help him cope with speechlessness to start with. I suspected the hospital just had started this speech department and needed funding based on the number of patients! Not only that, with limited means to communicate Dad had also developed a delirium and was very confused. I ordered a handheld Electrolarynx on spot before lecturing the therapist on how to discriminate patients for this kind of therapy (couldn't help it). I also got him to see a neurologist about his symptoms of dementia.

With his Electrolarynx and medication from the neurologist, Dad got better and could function well with everyday routine by himself. He had been quite lucid for a few years and could enjoy going out again. He made jokes and told stories like he did, although not as good. Dad took to bed when his Emphysema got worse about 5 years ago. We had installed an oxygen machine in his room and he also had a 24 hour care giver for his comfort and convenience. Dementia also got a firm grip on him as well over this time. I was visiting in 2011 and he did not even recognize me when I bid farewell – for me it was much sadder than the farewell itself. For the past two years, Dad was bedbound – never to get up again.

On quiet Monday morning, the 3rd of February, Mum sat by his bedside and noticed later on that his chest no longer moved. Dad passed away peacefully in his sleep – at home that he built and loved. He was finally set free from his illness and all that fuzzy cloud that marred his cognitive ability.

I flew home in time for the last few days of his funeral. My darling big brother had arranged a much respectable 7-night Buddhist funeral service for Dad. We cremated him on the following Tuesday and on Wednesday we took his ashes to the Naval Base in Sattahip, 2 hours southeast of Bangkok. Out in the boat, with a beautiful and peaceful ceremony we laid his ashes to rest in the nice blue sea, along with roses and jasmines. Dad loved beaches and seas – he would be happy and smiling down at us from somewhere in heaven. 

Dad, if there were such thing as next life, I would definitely want to be your child again.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Prawn Star – Prawn Stirfry with Butter and Garlic

It is a very easy meal for 1 and you will need:

10 prawns, headed and deveined (about 140 grams of prawn meat), patted dry with paper towel
3-4 big cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 spring onion, only green part, chopped finely
1-2 tablespoons of butter
A bit of canola oil for frying
Salt & Black Pepper
A splash of Thai Sri Racha Chilli Sauce

In a wok over medium high heat, add oil and a half the butter. Add prawns when the butter starts to colour. When the prawns are nearly cooked, add garlic, salt and pepper. Fry a bit further (but try not to overcook the prawns) until garlic pieces are golden, add amore butter, chilli sauce and spring onion. Remove from heat. Serve warm with rice.

This is my favourite dish. I tend to have mild allergy to undercooked prawns but overcooked prawns are not that delectable so sometimes I have to take anti-histamine after the dish.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Soy Sauce for Beginners

No, I ‘m not introducing any soy sauce into my recipe in this post. I am going to talk about the book “Soy Sauce for Beginners“ by Kirstin Chen – a piece of  life of a self-searching modern Singaporean girl and of course, artisan soy sauce that is her family business.

If you are growing up in south-east Asian countries or have intimate knowledge about the countries, from The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia to Singapore or even Hong Kong, you will understand the protagonist’s situation in this book. I, for one, feel that I could connect with this girl, growing up in one of those countries myself.

I bought this book from kindle bookstore after sampling the first chapter for free. I tend to sample the books before buying now if they are from authors I don’t know. It is Chen’s first novel released late last year. The book is not big and on an easy reading side but interesting with very smooth style of writing that is not very far from that of the more accomplished Amy Tan. I am definitely looking forward to her second book supposed to be released this year.

Note: The picture above is from Amazon.