Truths and half truths

And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: “To us our deeds, and to you yours; peace be to you: we seek not the ignorant.”

-Qur’an, Al-Qasas, Surah 28:55

If I have chosen to remain silent, it is because I am seeking His blessings. If I have treated you with respect, it is because this is what is expected of us as sisters in Islam. If I have kept our issues to myself, it is because I believe that this is the right thing to do. If you choose to speak openly of others’ weaknesses and lie about things – May Allah have mercy on you. In this, my conscience is clear. 

Allah maha besar dan Dia lebih tahu pekerjaan yang dikerjakan samada melalui tangan dan kaki, mahupun melalui mulut yang berbisik. Subhanallah. Dalam erti kata lain – “Si Luncai terjun dengan labu-labunya, biarkan, biarkan.”

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What Actually Happened…

Today is Sunday. Mr Right took the cub to the Zoo. Since I have boycotted zoos since the day I turned 10, they had to go without my company. Actually, I didnt mind it. It gave me some time to sleep in and recuperate. This morning, we had more Roti Jala or Lacy Pancakes for breakfast. The cub can never have enough of it. I have pictures, but have not had the inclination to upload it yet. I am still sleepy.

It has been a wonderful couple of days of entertaining. The menu that I planned didn’t totally go exactly the way it was supposed to. Mum arrived at our house in the afternoon, so, we had a minor cake and samosa tea party. For dinner, we had Chicken Rice, followed by more chocolate cakes and cut fruits for dessert.

The following day, we had Nasi Lemak – rice in coconut milk served with sambal and other condiments for a brunch of sorts, and Apple Pie with Custard made from scratch.

Then our guests left to visit relatives and I got to spend some time with mum before sending her to elder brother’s house and mum spent the night there.

The next morning, I prepared breakfast at home for mum and my brother and his family. We had chicken curry with Lacy Pancakes. Then a very late lunch or rice, chicken curry, beef in soy sauce, fried fish, stir fried veggies, sambal belacan etc, etc. When our guests arrived, we served Lacy Pancakes and Chicken Curry to go with the tea. (In case it didn’t cross your mind before, yes, I made a BIG pot of chicken cury!)

Then mum and everyone left at about 5pm.

The house felt very quiet after that. I was left wandering around from room to room with the cub. Just looking at stuff and not knowing what to do with ourselves. I am sure we did something as a family last night…. but, I just cannot remember what it was.

Today was the dad and cub Day at the Zoo thing and for dinner, we went to Pizza Uno. Cub had chicken parmigiana, hubby had his usual Lamb Shank. I tried the Baccalao (salted cod made into little croquettes — looooovely!!) then shared a REALLY, REALLY spicy Pizza Mexicana with the cub and hubby. It was sooo spicy that both of them had a nice time laughing at my red nose.

So, today was really a very relaxed day for us. But, somehow, I wish my guests were back! It was fun cooking for everyone and made me realise that I really miss all the entertaining that we used to do when we were abroad during hubby’s tour of duty.

Sigh. OK, I will post the photos and more recipes when time permits… :o)

Frozen Meatballs for Hungry Cub

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The cub has been on school holidays for the past few weeks. Hubby keeps him busy with swimming, cycling and Quran lessons (yeay for extremely involved parenting from my Mr. Right! He is sooooo the best!!) We have taken him to every newly released movie every weekend, and took him to visit both sets of grandparents who live in different states!

The cub is also going through some sort of growth spurt as he is hungry very often, so he has been eating a lot of impromptu stuff like Mac & Cheese (from a box, gasp!) or Sausages and Mashed Potatoes for snacks in the afternoon.  The good thing is, the Mash is made from potatoes (as opposed to those horrible just add milk type found in supermarkets!)

So, I thought I better make some stuff to freeze, so that the fawn can just re-heat when the cub wants something hot to eat in the afternoon. (Yes, yes, he has yoghurt and fresh fruit and carrot sticks available, but when the cub wants meat, he wants meat…!)

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So, a family trip to Cold Storage was undertaken last night. And there they were… beautiful, fresh, topside as well as lean minced beef, all staring at me from the meat section. I had a day of holidays left, I could do a lot of things – frozen things with mince. Earlier in the day, we had been busy marketing, so plenty of fresh stuff in the fridge to support my preparation work.

The meatball recipe is a variation from the original Swedish Meatball that my best friend Linda Holst had taught me when we were both living in Warsaw. The recipe is as follows:

Meatballs (makes about 80 small meatballs)

500gm mince (mix topside and lean mince)

1 onion (cubed) and a pinch of sugar

1 garlic (pound fine) – optional

1/4 cup freshly made bread crumbs

1/4 cup milk

1 fresh egg

salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg

Method:

Heat a pan with half a teaspoon of oil and half a teaspoon of butter

saute the onion and garlic, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar to help with caramelisation.

When onion is soft, with just a hint of brown, take it off the heat and cool

Mix milk, egg, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper and add this mixture to the mince beef

Add the onions and mix well.

Form small balls till meat mixture is finished ( I use a small teaspoon fulls of the meat mixture to form balls. Wet hands make this balling work easier)

Heat a teaspoon of butter and oil – add the meatballs 1 by 1 ( be very gentle) and let it brown. Do not cook the balls till dry, just brown the outer parts, let the balls be a little pink inside.

Take the balls out and cool – repeat frying till all balls are done.

Once the balls are cool – put them in freezer bags by batches.

When you want to use the meatballs, just heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius and heat the meatballs for 10 minutes.

Good to be eaten with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots and broccoli.

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In Search of the Traditional Spiced Layer Cake Recipe…

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So.. it has been a while since I updated this blog. The reason being that I have been nuts with this layer cake thing, as well as fulfilling orders and Eid-Adha baking etc. Between cake orders and kitchen tests.. it has been one long slog since November.

 When I was a child, the Spiced Layer Cake was a delicacy that both my elder brother and I looked forward to once a year. Nope. Our Mum didn’t make this cake. However, a relative in Singapore used to make these cakes to supplement her income and we used to really look forward to visiting her house during Eid.

This is not a cheap cake to make. It uses 30 egg yolks, half a kilo of butter, a LOT of spices to make the spice mix, including the dried peel of a kaffir lime, which is almost impossible to obtain outside South East Asia. I got a little nostalgic about this during the fasting month and decided to ask a friend for the recipe. She actually sells the cake, but as I had once given her the recipe to my signature Prune Cake, I thought she would return the favour.

It took me 4 hours, 30 eggs, 680gms butter, a lot of sugar, and a bottle of spices, well almost a whole weekend (when you count the effort of buying the stuff needed for the cake and looking high and low for the spice mix in shops.) It would have been worth it had the cake been a success.

Unfortunately, the cake came out inedible- so I guess I must have either missed a step or missed out a few ingredients by mistake. The cake that I made that weekend tasted really horrid, with a bitter after taste. A Far Cry from the pleasantly spiced, melt-in-your-mouth, rich cake that I was used to eating when growing up.

That was when I went nuts! The following week was filled with my search around the internet for the cake recipe, but all did not seem credible, (maybe I was paranoid too!) Then on to bookshops weekend after weekend, in my quest for the recipe. Finally, a few weeks later, I came across a book by a Singaporean veteran cook – Asmah Laili. It had a recipe of the spiced layer cake and when I skimmed through the recipe, voila! – even the spice mixture recipe was included! The book was a little costly, but as it contained a few other recipes from my childhood, I ran to the counter to pay for it.

I spent a cool part of one day washing, drying the spices in the sun, dry-frying the spices in the wok with very little heat, cooling and then grinding and re-grinding the spices to ensure that it is as fine as possible. The spices? Cloves, Cardamoms, Star Anise, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Nutmeg, and Kaffir Lime peel.

The following day, I made the cake, in addition to the normal items that we use for this cake, there was also the addition of ground almonds, I guess to add to the dense texture of the cake. This time, the cake came out wonderful… Just like the cake made by that wonderful auntie in Singapore. How long did it take for me to cook all those layers??? A cool 4 hours.. Believe It or Not? But, yes, I will make the cake again. You can see from the photos above, just how lovely and moist the cake was… :o)

Quality Engagement

So, there I was, sitting in class again for a 3 day course on Leadership. I expected to be bored. I expected to doze off. I expected to be worrying about work left in the office and deadlines that I was missing. The normal stuff I usually feel when attending day-long courses (have not attended 3 day course for a looooong time!) Being 30 storeys above the ground is again, not a very pleasant thought.

However, the subjects that we were looking at proved to be really interesting, giving me food for thought in terms of the mental models that I operate on at home and in the office. It’s amazing to think that all this while, all my reactions towards everything have been based on assumptions and beliefs, and have little to do with data. My modus operandi has always been “you gotta do things my way coz its the best way, end of story!” Yes, I am guilty of assuming that people do things to irritate me on purpose! When things go wrong, it is due to the fact that the rest of the world is ganging up against me. It is so much more fun to operate in victim mode.

What I have learned in the past few days are  as follows:

If I choose to be the victim, I will be.

If I go with the approach that I am always in the right, and my way is the best way – I will miss out on potentially better way of doing things.

By not engaging people in high quality discussion through asking high quality questions, I will end up misunderstanding everyone and being misunderstood.

It is important to understand my own bias and perception in the statements that I make, and either, think to get to the real data which will give me a clearer picture of the situation, or make the reasons for my belief known to get better understanding.

Well, there are more that I have learnt, but when all is said and done, what I got was a clearer perspective of my manner of communicating and relating to others and why in some situations (both at work and at home,) I fail to obtain the buy-in or end-up arguing with people.

So… I shall be more careful of what I say, and put some thinking process before opening my gob – at least not wear my heart on the sleeve at all times.

Insomnia Strikes!

It’s going to be a long day in the office tomorrow – deadlines to meet, meetings to attend throughout the afternoon (some in the calendar, others not!) culminating in a video conference with team members across several oceans at night, finishing late. It’s part of the job that I have taken on and this is not a rant. Just a statement of fact.

However, today has been one of those off days. Nothing went right, everything went horribly wrong and I just ended up with more on my plate than I started, with more problems to solve than when I stepped into the office. For all the planning that I do at work, it has all  gone, sadly, to the dogs! And I hate it.

So, what do I do? Came home and did the whole bedtime routine with the cub, spoke a few sentences with hubby, and retreated. Withdrew into myself, praying for silence, (which was thankfully granted tonight.) It’s not something I can talk to anyone about, it’s not something that I wish to confide in anyone.  I just need the understanding so that I can be left alone to work things out for myself. It does not help that from Wednesday onwards I will be away from office. So it is imperative that whatever that needs sorting out in the office gets.done.on.Tuesday.

It is hard for me to make this need to withdraw and go internal be understood- Must be hard to understand for people who only see the self-preservation facade of sociability that is put on my face on a daily basis. The cold grip in my brain is strongly saying, “do away with all distractions, stop all the incessant chatter, from and around me, and just go silent.” Operate in a vacuum. Cut the unnecessary. Balancing this strong desire with the need to be warm and human is excruciatingly painful. Hence the insomnia. Hence the tension. I. just. need. silence.