Saturday, 27 December 2014

Desserts made easy and healthy by Philips

After my successful attempt at making the first two recipes, ayam percik and chicken risotto, at The Christmas Cooking with Philips and Chef Zam, I share with you Recipe three and four; Cretan Kalitsounia (a Greek dessert) and Banana Nutella Spring Rolls.

These were made using Philips Airfyer which allows frying (although not a recommended method of cooking) with 80% less oil, compared to the traditional deep frying way of cooking. To see other healthy and vegetarian recipes using Philips Airfryer, please head over to my Recipe Page.

Recipe Three & Four
Cretan Kalitsounia & Banana Nutella Spring Rolls

Ingredients for Cretan Kalitsounia:

For Wrap
5-6 sheets of filo pastry – cut to a width of 2 – 3 inches
200g melted butter

For Filling
500g of ricotta or mizithra cheese
2 eggs

Topping (sugar syrup)
1 cup of coarse sugar
½ cup of water
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp of baked sesame

Ingredients for Banana Nutella Spring Rolls:
5-6 sheets of filo pastry
6 small bananas (pisang emas) - peeled and sliced lenght-wise into half

1/2 cup Nutella
¼ cup melted butter


Boil sugar and cinnamon stick in water until thick. Set aside to chill.

To make filling, blend cheese with egg until thoroughly mixed. Set aside. Note: Although the recipe does not call for honey, you may 2 tablespoon to give it a sweetish flavour.

Spread 1 layer of filo pastry on a board and brush with melted butter. Put another layer on top of it and repeat the process until 5 or 6 layers.Cut into four equal squares for Cretan Kalitsounia and into eight equal squares for the Banana Nutella Spring Rolls.

Place one table spoon of Ricotta Cheese filling on each sheet and fold into a triangle. Spread some egg white at the corners to help it stick and not open up while frying. Brush with melted butter and repeat until finish.

Place one peeled banana on it & top with 1 teaspoon Nutella (& peanut butter if you like). Fold the sides and roll it securely. Brush with melted butter and repeat until done.

Heat up Philips Air Fryer at 185°C and fry the kalitsounia and Banana Spring rolls for
8 minutes or until golden brown and flaky.
The Kalitsounia are best served when sprinkled with sesame and a drizzle of sugar syrup made in the beginning. 
Serve Banana Nutella Spring Rolls as it is or serve it warm with some vanilla ice cream.

For more recipes head over to my Recipes Page
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Cooking with Chef Zam and Philips

It indeed was a wonderful morning, spending my time with other food enthusiasts and learning (hands-on) from a Chef. Not only does he cook for a living but he also has his own culinary school to share his knowledge with other hopeful and budding chefs in the making. I am glad I agreed to attend this course because it truly was a cook off with a twist.
We made four delectable dishes, Ayam Percik (Asian sweet coconut sauce chicken), chicken risotto, Cretan Kalitsounia (a Greek dessert) and Banana Nutella Spring Rolls. If you are interested to learn how to make a healthier version of these dishes, head over to my Recipes Page.

Chicken Risotto

Ingredients you'll need to make this creamy risotto:
2 cups arborio rice or any short grain rice
2 chicken thigh pieces (sliced)
1.1 litre vegetable stock/chicken stock/water
2 tbsp olive oil
80g unsalted butter
2 cups baby spinach leaves
Basil leaves (for garnishing)
2 cloves garlic (finely crushed)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
700g Swiss brown mushrooms (sliced)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 ½ tbsp cumin powder

Salt to taste
You may make this is on stove top but for this particular cook-off we had to make it in Philips pressure cooker. The benefit, there was no need to keep stirring the risotto as you slowly add ladles of water, when made the traditional way.
Pictorial Instruction: 
Browning of garlic, onion and cumin 
The Chef used a vegetable stock cube but it is encouraged to use fresh stock to get a creamier taste 
 In goes the rice (washed and drained)
 Water ratio is 1:2 (rice:water)
 The rice is not grainy and soft to touch
 The risotto is almost done, once the vegetable is wilted and the cheese has melted.

You start by heating up the pressure cooker. Then add the oil and butter, followed by the chopped garlic, onions and cumin powder. Cover and cook it for a couple of minutes or till you get the fragrant.
Add and brown the chicken, add mushrooms, then the rice and stir well.

the vegetable stock, salt to taste and bring to boil. Cover the pressure cooker and select Beans/Tendons (30 minutes) and let it cook for about 23 minutes.

Since the risotto was safely cooking on its own without any supervision from us for the next 23 minutes, we decided to work on the final dishes, the scrumptious and delicious;

Cretan Kalitsounia & Banana Nutella Spring Rolls
Once the 23 minutes were up, switch off and release the pressure from the pressure cooker. Once the pressure knob is down, open the lid and add baby spinach, basil leaves and sprinkle some parmesan cheese. Cover and let it cook for another 7 minutes. Creamy Risotto is ready to serve! 
For more recipes head over to my Recipes Page
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A cook-off with a twist (Philips)

Glorious food.
Food is one of the basic needs for human survival but over time, especially in the presentation of food, it has turned into an art. Preparing food is no longer about filling an empty tummy. It has evolved and ways to cook, while maintaining its nutrients has became an integral part in the art of preparing food. 

Just a couple of weeks back, I was invited to join Philips and their ambassador Chef Zam, at his culinary school in Klang Valley. A crash course on Christmas/holiday Cooking with Philips & Chef Zam, was a wonderful experience that taught me some useful tricks in whipping up a gourmet meal in a fraction of time and effort.

Chef Zamzani Abdul Wahab, a Malaysian celebrity chef together with Philips, have been working closely over the last 5 years to come up with uncomplicated, easy to follow and budget recipes. With one objective, to prepare healthy food conveniently so households can reduce their reliance from takeaways, dining out or boxed meals. They truly are advocating that Anyone Can Cook.

The (four) recipes, daunting at the beginning, proved to be simple and manageable. I am not a big fan of long lists of ingredients because of the work involved in prepping them but with the help of some ingenious kitchen gadgets, a full course meal that had not one but two scrumptious desserts was ready within two hours! Now that's a bargain and wait till you see what I dished out.

Whenever I prepare for feast, I like to start with the dessert, so that I can forget about it until just minutes before serving it. But for this cook-off, we started off with the main course under the watchful eyes of Chef Zam. He gave valuable inputs while he was demonstrating how to prepare the recipes. After which, I was teamed up with another participant and we had to replicate his recipes.

Recipe One 
Ayam Percik,
hails from Kelantan (East Malaysia) and the chicken is traditionally grilled over wood-fire while being basted in a sweet coconut gravy (the sauce). It's usually served with white rice during family feasts.

Although ayam percik is not something you would normally see for Christmas, Chef Zam thought it would be fitting to make ayam percik because a whole turkey can't possibly fit into an Airfryer.

For sauce (Ingredients A):
5 cloves of red garlic
1 clove of white garlic
½ inch ginger
(above ingredients to be blended)
2 cups of thick coconut cream (santan)
¼ tbsp of fenugreek (halba)
1 piece of dried tamarind (asam keping)
1" cube of shrimp paste (Belacan)
Salt to taste
½ cup of water
Cooking oil for sauté

Marinating the Chicken (Ingredients B):
1 whole chicken (about 1-1 1/2 kg, any bigger may not fit the Airfryer
4 cloves of red onions
1 clove of white onion
1 inch ginger
2-3 lemongrass (serai) stalk
(above ingredients to be blended)
2-3 tbsp red chili paste 
½ tbsp coriander powder
½ tbsp cumin powder
1-2 tbsp. turmeric powder
Salt and sugar for taste
Instructions for the marinate:

Blend all ingredients that's marked to be blended, from list A & B together
For the longevity of your blender and to get a smoother marinate paste, it is best to chop up the lemongrass stalks

Add just a dash of water to blend it into a smooth and thick paste.

Then transfer the blended ingredients into a bowl of red chili paste and add the rest of the ingredients from list B. Mix well and season with salt and sugar for taste. If you like heat, you may add more red chili paste at this point.

Use half to three quarters of the marinate to massage the chicken well, cling wrap it and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. According to Chef Zam, 20 minutes is the maximum time needed for a marinate to work its magic.

Instructions for the sauce:

Coconut cream (santan)
Shrimp paste (Belacan)
Fenugreek (halba)

To prepare the sweet coconut sauce, start by transferring the remainder of the marinate into a heavy bottomed pan, add coconut cream, water and the rest of the ingredients listed in list A. Heat over low heat until it thickens or reduces in amount. It might take about 20 minutes.

While waiting for the sauce to thicken, heat up Philips Air Fryer with the Double-Layer Tray for 5 minutes at 180'C. Transfer the chicken into the fryer and bake it for 10-15 minutes

Once the sauce has thickened, baste the chicken, a couple of times with until the chicken turns golden brown and thoroughly cooked.
To serve, you may want to pour the remaining sauce over the chicken or save in a serving bowl and let you guess take as much sauce as they like.

This dish took about 30 minutes to prepare.
The next dish made was Chicken Risotto, Cretan Kalitsounia and Banana Nutella Spring Rolls. For full recipe and picture tutorial on how to make these wonderful and very Christmas-y dishes, go to my recipe page.
Creamy Chicken Risotto

Yummy hard to resist Cretan Kalitsounia and Banana Nutella Spring Rolls
Disclousure: I was not paid to write this review but did receive a small gift from Philips for attending it.

For more recipes head over to my Recipes Page
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and stay connected

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Selfless vs. Selfish

(Day 4, Samelan 2014)
These two words may sound similar but when used as a verb, produce two completely different actions and reactions.
The true essence of these words can be seen, daily, at Samelan, through many acts performed by many, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Such as when queuing up for meals, at bath time, at bed time and every time they step out of the darbar or halls, in search of their shoes/sandals.
Like many, I was guilty of taking shoes that didn't belong to me whenever my shoes went missing. I would make up many excuses in my head, to console my heart that disagreed with the decision made and feed it false information like, 'I'm sure everyone's taking the next person's shoe, so no one will be shoeless', in order to silence the good vs bad debate.
All attempts and reasoning to silence it was futile because it knew I was committing a crime. To know something is wrong and still do it is far worse than doing it ignorantly.
Every step I took in those shoes, I swear I heard the shoes scrKam ing accusingly at me "NOT YOURS! NOT YOURS! NOT YOURS!" Call it bad luck or karma but whichever shoes I took to replace my stolen shoes, never stayed loyal to me. They would vanish as soon I removed them.
However all that changed when I saw a group of young Mighties running barefooted on hot tar road that was full of tiny sharp pebbles. They were all barefooted because one of their friend lost her shoes so they all decided to be barefooted. They made a collective decision so the friend without her shoes would not feel left out.
I was awed at their sacrifice to put away their shoes instead of taking another person's shoes.
So pure, innocent and un-polutted their thoughts were. The thought of taking another person's shoe was not something that even crossed their minds. So what went wrong to my innocence? I pondered. That's when the Jatha's learning modules (LM) for the day made so much sense to me.
It was about the 5 vices that can erode a person's character - Kam (lust), Krodth (anger), Lobh (greed), Moh (emotional attachment) & Ahaankar (ego). These are the 5 vices that cause many people to cut queues, take more than they need - be it food from the langgar or extra mattresses/pillows, not being sympathetic to another's need, right down to taking another person's shoes.
What's your thoughts on this?

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

The King of kings is here

Day 1, Samelan 2014

"Ready, steady go!" That's how we started our journey at 8 am today, after filling our bellies with as much meaty food as possible at a local Chinese stall. Then it was an hour scenic drive up to the mountainy parts of Malaysia.

Registration booths were clearly marked with ample volunteers helping out with the registration work. Then it was off to hot cha and parathas with sholey in the langgar hall at 11am, followed by another dose of great Punjabi food for lunch. Not long after that it was hot cha, again, with fried noodles and curry puffs.

The opening ceremony was simple, beautiful and very apt, fitting for a king but not overly done.
By nightfall we had our first encounter with cold shower which surprisingly was rather refreshing. Even the toddler, after her initial refusal, enjoyed her quick shower. Day 1 has proven to be a success and I have been reduced from a mother of three to mother of a toddler because my girls have already found their circle of friends, which is a blessing.

The next cold shower test would be tomorrow morning at 6am. Stay tuned.

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Samelan 2014, Bentong

"Brrrr, it's too cold." "Click!" the water heater is switched on and wonderful warm water replaces the previously cold water.
Suddenly, bathing with warm water, at a click of a button, began to seem like a luxury. The ability to walk in and out of the shower at anytime, too seemed precious. Have I taken all these simple pleasures of life for granted? 
A sudden loud knock and excited chattering snapped me out of my day dream state and I remembered my little bet with my girls about not using the water heater for a week. I dreaded leaving the comfort of my bathroom and face them, because nothing good could come out of this. So I had to come up with a good argument for what I did. 

"I will deal with the cold water situation once I am at Samelan. No need for any training now." I said bashfully to my girls, who had been showering without the water heater for almost a week! I must admit, I was more than just a little shy. I was embarrassed they caught me showering with warm water and my arguments had no back bone in it.
My children cared not one bit for my explanation. In their eyes, I failed and sucked all the fun out of the build up to Samelan.
Ready, steady, Go!

The girls could not stop talking about Samelan from the second they were registered as participants. They even sat patiently and watched their names being logged in for the annual big event. Once it was a success, they began making plans and packed their own bags with no assistance from me.
So let's wait and watch, what's in store for us at Samelan 2014, Bentong Pahang.
Stay tuned for daily updates from the Samelan grounds, if I manage to obtain WiFi.

Thank you for stopping by at A cuppa for my thoughts

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Lights, Camera, Action!

These were the words I anticipated to hear before going for a live talk show.
I envisioned it to be like the scenes I have grown accustomed to watching on television. I was psyched at the idea of being able to came face to face with director, producers, screenwriter, costume supervisor and make-up artist but the reality was much less glamorous and toned down, compared to what I had build up in my head.

Firstly, I was comparing apples with oranges by not knowing there was a difference between a film crew and television crew. There were far more less personnel on the set and those three words, lights, camera and action, were not heard once throughout the entire show. I learned about floor manager, a.k.a the director and she gave instructions and directions to the crew (3 camera operators and an invisible team working behind the scenes), cast and guests.

On the set

We (my kids and I) were the earliest guests to arrive on set and were given a brief tour of the studio which ended when we reached the make-up room. It was everything I had imagined - brightly lit room with many mirrors that had light bulbs all around them, trays of makeup palette in more colours than I can name, different types of brushes, sponges and hair accessories!

The girls were ecstatic, speechless even when they were invited to sit in the soft cushioned leather recliner, so the make-up artist could transform each one of them into a dolled up Barbie. No matter how rugged and boisterous my girls are, all that changed in an instant. The big mirrors with light bulbs, beaconed my girls and guided them like a lost ship at sea towards the right direction.


How to deal with competitive parents? (When winning is not everything)

Was the topic for this talk show, aired on Bella NTV7 (episode 242) and hosted by lovely Lisa Wong. It was aired live on 8 December 2014 but you can still catch the rerun on Tonton's website (only registered members are allowed to watch it but registration is open to all and this -direct- link only works on desktop. If you are using other devices, you will need to search for it under 'Latest' tab).

Initially, it took some form of convincing to get me to studio 3 and I am glad I went for it. I wasn't worried much about what I was going to say, it was what my kids would say worried me. My kids are born with the gift of gab and have proven their ability to say stuff that had me in uncomfortable situations, over and over again. Letting them appear on live TV, was a tad bit nerve wrecking and gut wrenching for my kids say the darnest things!

Alas, it was all put to ease and they proved me wrong once more. They were simply brilliant and appeared much wiser than I gave them credit for.
As I gathered my thoughts of the event that took place 4 days ago, I am glad I did it. It was truly a learning experience for my girls and I. The true star of being on this talk show wasn't so much the opportunity to appear on air but what we took along with us, as we walked out of that studio 3.

The girls had first hand experience and know now, what it takes to get a show on air. They saw the dedication of the producing team, the preparation work and efforts involved for a live TV show. They even had a chance to chat with the host before and after the show.
I am very grateful and believe I must have done something right to gain this opportunity to share a glimpse of TV life, no matter how short, with my children and you!

Thank you all for the lovely wishes, encouraging words and the many likes. Thank you for reading my thoughts.

The whole team:
Lisa Wong (the host),
Zaid Mohamad (family counsellor and book author)
Mimi Johari with her children (a mother of six), and
myself with my girls.

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