Monday, 31 August 2009

Today my Blog is Black



Today, the 31st of August, is Merdeka Day (Independence Day). As a Nation, we are 52 years old having obtained Independence from the British back in 1957.

52 years as a Nation means we are relatively young but there is a rot that has been allowed to set and fester and as a Loyal Citizen of this country, Malaysia, I need to know that I have at least tried to make a change for the better.

I love my country and I am proud to be a Malaysian. Because that is what I am. I am not Malay, not Chinese nor Indian nor Others - the way the Government has been classifying Malaysians of diverse background all these years. I refuse to be classified by my ethnic background. I was BORN in Malaysia and that makes me MALAYSIAN.

There have been many injustices and wrongs propagated over the years but I have always put that down to 'growing pains' and 'teething problems' and rationalised that forms of corruption and injustice happen Everywhere and Anywhere in this world.

However, just on Friday, I was sickened. Sickened that such a thing could
happen and even more sickened to see that the powers that be LET this happen.

i firmly beleive that all religions point to the same God. I prefer to look at the similarities in all religions rather than the differences. So if anyone insults or demeans, ANY religion, I take offence.

This is what happened on Friday. A religion was insulted and all those that profess that religion, by default, were also insulted. Is this not seditious? Is this not more serious than what Karpal is alleged to have said or what RPK is alleged to have said? Do acts like this not threaten the very fabric of society? Is this not a
mockery of 1Malaysia? Is this not a mockery of this nation that we all love and claim as our own?

I was even more distressed to learn about the inaction. According to some reports, police were at the 'scene of the crime' but they did nothing. Our PM has called for action but thus far there has only been talk. When a certain MP was alleged to have made statements about another religion, she was picked up under the ISA (Internal Security Act). I am totally against the ISA and do not want anyone, anytime to be
picked up under the ISA, but the silence and inaction this time is really troubling. This is definitely a case of Double Standards.

What is more troubling is the question of WHO is behind this. Is it truly a protest by a few unhappy citizens or is it something that has been orchestrated to cause unrest. The fact that this happens during the holy month of Ramadan is even more cause for concern.

I worry for my country more than I have ever worried about it before. It appears that we have not progressed in 52 years of independence but rather that we have regressed. I am disturbed that people can make such racial statements, such
provocative statements and even threats and still be allowed to get away with it. While some others are arrested and charged for stating facts.

I pray for change to come. I pray for strength to face these challenges. I pray for respect and understanding from my fellow Malaysians. We have to unite and not let a few radicals cause unrest in this beloved nation of ours. The darkness must one day turn to brightness...

I am disturbed that the voice of the people is not being fully listened to. I am disturbed that the mass media does not report fairly and without fear or favour. I am disturbed by so many more things. There is so much more to say, so much that can be done but I believe an SMS that is making its rounds sums it up pretty damn well. It goes like this...

It's your country. You deserve health, not H1N1 deaths.
Blue Sky, not yearly haze.
Safety, not police violence
Prosperity, not corruption
Freedom, Not ISA
Truth, not Utusan Malaysia
Justice, not Kangaroo Courts
Democracy, not coups
Love, not racism
Stop taking the wrongs lying down
Stop your silence
It's your country.
You have a say.
Your say is BLACK
Wear Black this Merdeka.

This is part of my say. I will wear BLACK this Merdeka and likewise, my Blog will wear BLACK too.

This is not the only thing I do, have done or will continue to do to try and make a difference. Happy Merdeka, Malaysia and I pray there will be many more - but with most of the wrongs finally righted and Power FULLY restored to the RAKYAT (people).

As the banner on the top of this blog reads, I remain, as always,

ANAK BANGSA MALAYSIA.



Thursday, 27 August 2009

My Daring Bakers Grade...and some escargot

Alright, I’m coming right out and saying it. I didn’t do the challenge this month! So if you came to this blog looking for the challenge, then it isn’t here. Sorry. I wanted to do the challenge, I really did, but I just couldn’t find the time to fit it in.

I’m actually very sorry I didn’t do the challenge. This marks only the Second Challenge that I have missed since joining the Daring Bakers back in July 2007. So… including my first challenge, this should have been challenge number 26 for me. So having done 24/26 gives me a percentage score of 92.3.

If you include the extra credit for the Pretzel Challenge (this was the very first challenge that kick started this group) then my ‘Grade’ would be higher yet! Aaaahh.. if only I had scored this well when I was studying for my Engineering Degree in Uni many years ago…

So anyway.. I didn't get to do the Dobos Torta, that was the challenge for this month hosted by by Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella and Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar.





I leave you anyway with pictures of my two children trying Escargot or snails when we celebrated The Lovely Wife's birthday at the beginning of the month. I feel it is very important to expose them to different kinds of food and so when we saw Escargot on the menu, we decided to order half a dozen. Not the best I've had but exposure for the kids nonetheless!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Chocolate Mousse - my all time favourite dessert - with an interesting story too!



What do you do when your son looks at you sadly and asks if there is anything nice to eat?

That's exactly what happened last weekend. It was about 5 in the evening and both my son and daughter were playing while The Lovely Wife and I were watching a movie. My son suddenly looked up from his Lego's and asked.

"Is there anything nice to eat?"

The Lovely Wife told him that there was some pasta left over from lunch but that didnt seem to interest him. I then asked him if he would like some biscuits and milk but that didnt interest him either. Realising that there was still some cream that I needed to use up I offered to make him some Chocolate Mousse.

His eyes lit up and he nodded a quick "Yes Please!"







So while The Lovely Wife took the kids out to the park, I separated the eggs, melted the chocolate, whisked in the egg yolks, beat up the egg whites, whipped the cream and then folded everything together before putting it in the fridge to chill.

I have to say that I have become pretty adept at making my chocolate mousse nowadays, even though I don't make it that often. I think that has a lot to do with how far I have progressed in the kithcen. Whipping cream and beating egg whites dont frazzle me anymore nor does melting chocolate. I know what to do and what to expect so the Choc Mousse was made rather quickly - impressing The Lovely Wife as well who came back home soon after as the skies had opened and both she and the kids had to quickly come in from the rain!



I made a big tub of mousse and I also put the mousse into 4 shot glasses for the purposes of taking photos for this blog. My son couldn't wait to eat the mousse and he had a large helping immediately after dinner on Saturday night.



The next afternoon, I arranged the mousse shot glasses with some strawberries and got my son to pose for more shots. You can tell how eager he was to start eating the mousse.



We had mousse for dessert that whole weekend as well as for a morning snack, teatime and each time the kids felt like having some - and again on Monday evening!

This is my recipe that may be a little tedious to make but the result is a light, rich chocolate mousse that provides a delectable dessert after any meal! Now that I make my own, I find that the ones in restaurtants are too gelatinous, too rubbery or not chocolatey enough.


Ingredients

250 g Good Quality Dark Chocolate
300 ml Thickened Cream (Unsweetened)
1/3 cup Icing Sugar
4 eggs
1-2 tsp Rum, Brandy or Kahlua (optional)

Method
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Take care to ensure that no water gets into the chocolate or it will seize. Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Again, make sure that no water gets into the egg whites. Also make sure that no egg yolk gets into the separated whites.
Once chocolate is melted and smooth, leave on heat and quickly add in lightly beaten egg yolks a little at a time. Stir well to incorporate the eggs into the chocolate. Mixture will become slightly thick and lumpy. Remove from heat and keep stirring or beat till smooth. Let Cool
Whip cream with sugar until stiff and fluffy. If using liqueur, add into the chocolate now. Fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream.
Whisk egg whites until stiff. Fold in egg whites to the chocolate cream mixture. Ensure egg whites are well incorporated. Pour into a mould or a large bowl and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours





I have always been a sucker for Chocolate Mousse and would always order it at restaurants that served it. When I was about 8 or 9, my parents took us to the Equatorial Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, which used to serve these great High Teas. The dessert spread was huge and they had Chocolate Mousse served in martini glasses. That was my idea of heaven at that age!

Chocolate Mousse has remained a firm favourite for me and is probably one of my favourite desserts of all time. I played around with many different recipes and improvisations and finally achieved my own version - what I think is the perfect Mousse.


There was once, about 12 years ago (when I was still single), that I was invited for a pot luck dinner by these two gorgeous sisters. I decided to make chocolate mousse for dessert. The chocolate mousse was a great hit and as a matter of fact, both sisters described it as ‘orgasmic’! The Lovely Wife rolls her eyes every time I tell this story...but after a compliment like that, you sort of understand why I rate it as my favourite dessert - and one of my favourite stories too!




Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Lovely Wife deserves a lovely cake...



The Lovely Wife celebrated her 30-something birthday on Monday, 10th August. I still haven't figured out what it is about women and their ages. I mean, I have no issue announcing to all and sundry that I am 42 - although my birthday is in November and that means I am still 41 but for all intents and purposes, I am 42. With women, and here I apologise to all the women in the world that are NOT 'afraid' of their ages, they are always hiding their ages with early 30's, mid 40s, late 20's or something or other. I just dont understand it and I guess I never will...but I digress as usual.

For The Lovely Wife, who is not only lovely but also wondeful - not just for putting up with me but simply because she is - this cake was specially made for her birthday. Although The Lovely Wife loves chocolate, I wanted to make something light and fruity that would tickle her taste buds more than chocolate would. To put it simply, I wanted to make her something that she would really like and so after thinking hard for a few weeks, I came up with this - Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Cake!


The Lovely Wife had hinted at an Ice Cream cake but I had just stared at her rather grumpily. How dare she read my mind and figure out what I was trying to do for her. I had already decided I was going to use Dory Greenspans Perfect Party Cake for the base and I surfed around for a Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream recipe. I found one that I liked on Joy of Baking by Stephanie Jaworski and I based my recipe on that.

For the ice cream, I used my kenwood ice cream maker that produced a lovely thick, creamy ice cream. I made some mini cakes with the leftovers that The Lovely Wife sampled on Sunday as she didn't want to cut her cake before her actual birthday!


For the actual Birthday Cake, I grated some chocolate over the top of the cake for garnishing/decoration.




After spending more than 24 hours in the freezer, the cake was really frozen solid and I had to let it thaw a bit before we attempted to cut it. Even with the thawing, the cake was a little hard to cut but nothing that a firm hand and a sharp serrated knife coulnd't overcome!



To say that she loved the cake would be a little bit of an understatement! I was rather surprised with how well it turned out too although the strawberry chunks I added in at the churning stage seemed to be a little frozen and icy. Still, there was the nice subtle taste of cream cheese that went really nicely with the strawberry ice cream. My little princess loved the cake too although my son was a little disappointed. He wasn't too keen on the strawberry ice cream although he did like the cake. He commented that he would have preferred something with chocolate in it but I told him the cake was for Mummy and not for him!

All in all a very succesful birthday cake and what really matters is that The Lovely Wife really, really enjoyed it! Happy Birthday!






Strawberry Cheesecake Icecream Cake

1 recipe Perfect Party Cake
1 recipe Strawberry Cheesecake Icecream

Bake the cakes and set aside. Place one layer into a springform pan and cover with half the ice cream. Place another layer over the ice cream and cover with remaining ice cream. Freeze overnight. Allow to thaw about 10 mins before serving.

Perfect Party Cake
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).
For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
Based on http://www.joyofbaking.com/StrawberryCheesecakeIceCream.html by Stephanie Jaworski. I added an egg yolk and used fresh strawberries for the puree rather than sauce.
Recipe:
2 cups (500 ml) cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
125 grams cream cheese, room temperature
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
250g fresh strawberries - processed into puree
250g fresh strawberries, chopped coarsely in food processor

In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the cream and vanilla extract to the scalding point (the milk begins to foam up). Remove from heat
Meanwhile in a stainless steel bowl beat the cream cheese, egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Gradually pour a little of the cream into the whipped egg yolk mixture to temper it, making sure you keep whisking constantly so the eggs dont curdle. Pour the tempered mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Return pan to the heat to and stirring constantly with a whisk cook until the custard becomes thick.
Immediately remove the custard from the heat and continue to stir the custard for a few minutes so it does not overcook. At this point stir in the vanilla extract, if using, and the strawberry puree. Cover and let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate the custard until it is completely cold (several hours but preferably overnight).
Transfer the cold custard to the chilled container of your ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once made, stir in the cut up fresh strawberries and transfer the ice cream to a chilled container and store in the freezer.





Saturday, 8 August 2009

Preparing for TLW's birthday

Yes, it's that time of the year again where The Lovely Wife has a birthday! That means trouble for me because other than having to figure out a nice pressie or two for her, I also have to figure out a nice cake to bake for her!

The Lovely Wife's Birthday is on Monday but I've already started with her cake. A little early I hear you say? Well, that was the SAME thing that my little princess Sarah asked - "Why are you making Mummy's cake so early?" She nodded her head in understanding when I pulled her aside and told her I was making Mummy an Ice Cream Cake. To be precise, I am making a Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Cake - or at least that's what I have planned...

The sponge cake base has been made as has the custard base for the ice cream. All that is left is to let the custard base get really cold, churn it into ice cream and then assemble the cake. Stay tuned for the results...and in the meantime, wish me luck!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

My connection is bust...

I've come to realise just how hooked we are to the Internet these days...

Not so long ago, I was extremely happy with my dial-up connection. Then I moved to Broadband and although the service wasn't all that great, it was still a damned sight faster than dial-up.

Just yesterday morning, my son was on the computer, happily playing some game. The connection was fine. Later in the evening, just before going out for dinner, I tried to gain access to the internet but realised that the PPP light on my modem wasn't working. I called Streamyx - my ISP provider.

As usual, they treated me like a techno-moron, someone that wouldn't have done any troubleshooting on my end before calling in to get help. Of course I had tried everything on my end first and called them only when I figured there was something wrong on their end.

I guess procedure is still procedure though coz the call centre guy said he'd have to reset my connection and then send a new signal down or something like that so please try again after 15 minutes. I didn't have 20 minutes so I tried it again this morning. What do you know - it STILL didnt work.

I called up again and this time they kept me waiting for a good 20 minutes while they tried to troubleshoot before they told me they would have to raise a trouble ticket and let their technical team look at it.

I'm currently posting this using my mobile phone as a modem. While I am amazed that I CAN actually use my mobile phone as a modem, I am not terribly impressed with the connection speed. Its also possible because I have an unlimited data package with my mobile service provider so cost wise, it shouldnt make a difference - I hope anyway!!

Maybe it's also time I thought about changing broadband service providers. Although this thought has crossed my mind before, currently my existing provider is the best there is - in my location anyway. Let's see how quick they fix my problem before I decide...

Maybe it's also time I tried to be less dependent on the Internet as well...

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