Sunday, January 29, 2012
Kaya means rich

That's kaya, a Malaysian coconut spread. Like lemon butter/curd, it's like a custard, made with eggs and sugar. My grandmother and mother used to make it when I was growing up, and since moving out, I have had to put up with the thin commercial stuff thickened with starches. It's simply not the same!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try this. I make lemon butter all the time and don't end up with scrambled eggs..heck, I have made hollandaise sauce and not ended up with scrambled eggs, so why can't I make kaya? I looked up recipes online and found one that sounded "authentic". Well.. no, didn't work. The recipe used 10 eggs to 1 can of coconut cream and it turned out eggy in flavour and really sweet. I also overcooked it and it turned out like... yup, you guessed it! SCRAMBLED EGGS!

So, back to the drawing board. That's where mum came in (thanks, mum!) with her recipe:
the cream of one coconut
7 eggs
600g sugar
pandan/screwpine leaves
1 tablespoon sugar for caramelisation (optional)

Now, I live in Sydney and don't have easy access to fresh coconut. I use the canned stuff. So I tweaked the recipe and this is my version of mum's recipe
1 400ml can of Ayam brand premium coconut cream
7 eggs
5-6 pandan/screwpine leaves
550g sugar

Crack all 7 eggs into a large bowl. Mix gently with a fork to break the yolks (don't whip air into it). Shake the can of coconut cream and add to eggs. Stir with for to combine. Scoop up 1/2 a cup of sugar from the 550g. Add the remaining sugar to the egg and coconut cream mixture. Mix gently to combine.

Wash the pandan leaves and tear length wise. Knot every 4 or 5 strips together and place in a double boiler. I do not have a double boiler so I perched a bowl over pot. Strain the egg mixture over the knotted pandan leaves into the double boiler to remove impurities. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Make sure you scrape the sides and bottom. Keep stirring till the mixture is as thick as pouring custard.

Now, put the 1/2 cup of sugar that you had set aside into a small pot. Add a tablespoon of sugar and heat. The sugar will dissolve and then caramelise. Do not stir the caramel. Keep stirring the custard. When the colour of the caramel is a lovely golden brown, turn off the heat and pour the caramel into the custard mixture. the darker your caramel, the darker your kaya will be. Keep stirring the custard.

At this point, mum leaves the custard to steam for another 30-45 minutes. I am not so trusting after my scrambled eggs experience, and so I stand and I stir the custard till it is the consistency of a thick spread. All up this takes about another 30 minutes. So if you have a bar stool, it will be handy!

Remove the pandan leaves before storing in an airtight container in the fridge.

Enjoy spread on thick toast with lashings of butter, or if you're like us, spread some on toast, add matured cheddar cheese and grill. Yum!

Friday, January 27, 2012
A taste of home

Tonight I made nasi lemak for dinner. For those unfamiliar, it is a Malaysian dish comprising of coconut flavoured rice and some accompaniments.

First, the rice. I used Ayam brand coconut cream. If you're able to get it, the "premium" stuff in the green can is best. It has no additives, no water, nothing but good old "santan". I threw in 4 or 5 pieces of screwpine (pandan) leaves, torn lengthwise and knotted.

When cooked, the rice is nice and fluffy with the fragrance of pandan and coconut. Oh, and don't forget to add a pinch of salt (like I did!). It makes all the difference!

I also made beef rendang using cubes of gravy beef, coconut cream (yes, the Ayam brand premium stuff - it is the only coconut cream I use now), water and Jackie M's rendang paste. It's the first time I am using her rendang paste. I have used her laksa paste before, which is delicious, and so I had high hopes for the rendang. It turned out very well. I did not follow her instructions, though. I used about 1/2 a tub of paste, 800g of beef, 3/4 of a 270ml can of coconut cream and who knows how much water. I thought using the whole tub of paste for 1kg of meat seemed like overkill. I now have enough for another serve of rendang.. perhaps chicken or lamb rendang?

That's the rendang in the large bowl on the left. In the front is a bowl of fried anchovies (ikan bilis) and roasted peanuts. At the back, on the right, is a bowl of sambal. No, I did not cook it. My mum gave me a pack of sambal when she last visited. Up the back, oiled eggs.the green that you see, is sliced cucumber and halved hard b

I nearly forgot the turmeric fried chicken. I was not sure that Alex would eat the rendang (turns out that he did have some) and so I thought I should cook some chicken that everyone would enjoy. The next time I cook this, I will use chicken thigh fillets and cut them into smaller pieces. The drumsticks were very difficult to fry.

This dish is inspired by my late grandmother (Ah Mah). She used to make turmeric fried chicken all the time, and I think hers is far tastier than mine is. I don't know why I thought of cooking this today. Perhaps it is because the anniversary of her passing is coming up soon. Anyway, the chicken was appreciated by the boys (since they have never eaten my grandmother's turmeric fried chicken), and I'm glad I made it.

So there you go.. a taste of home!

Saturday, January 07, 2012
A belated happy new year, the year that was and the year to come

Hello, readers.

Happy new year!

Yes, I do realise that I am about a week late with my greetings, and that I have totally missed the Christmas greetings. This year (or should I say, "last year") we decided to spend the 2011 Christmas holidays on the road. We spent the last 2 and a half weeks on the road, but more of that later.

We now welcome 2012 with open arms, and I, in particular, am looking forward to a better year than 2011 as 2011 was a mixed bag, and I hope this year's bag of surprises holds more pleasant than unpleasant ones.

Celia's Basket saw more pattern activity than hand-dyed yarn in 2011. I am coming to terms with the reality of trying to run a hand-dyed yarn business without a proper workshop or studio. It is just too hard. My focus has moved to pattern-writing, something that I can do in small chunks that gives me great pleasure. I fit pattern writing into my evenings, a few minutes or a couple of hours after work daily, and I can manage to complete my patterns without too much stress. Hand-dyeing, on the other hand, requires me to set up, do the dyeing, clean up, wait for the yarn to dry (rainy weather is not your friend here) and then check the yarn for faults before photographing and listing in the store. I simply do not have the time for that anymore. Our weekends are too precious.

In 2012, you will see more patterns from me. There will be a few store stock updates, but I am planning to dye in large batches or to allow pre-ordering so that I don't have to photograph and list each skein separately. If you're after semi-solid colours in adult garment quantities, you'll be happy to hear that I will be working on that this year. My plan is to dye up a small selection of semi-solid colours from which you can order larger quantities - dyed to order.

I have about 6 incomplete patterns that require testing. That will probably be the first cab off the rank this year as they are mostly complete. I have another dozen or so less complete patterns that require editing, tweaking and testing. There some scare are some scarves, hats, shawls and children's garments. The adult garments.. well, there are two but not in any shape to be released in the near future! If I work hard, perhaps they will be done by the end of the year.

This poor neglected blog... ever since the birth of Alex, it hasn't seen that much activity, has it? Certainly not enough to keep the readership up. I suppose the erratic posts and unpredictability of it has not really helped. In 2012, there will be at least 1 post a month. I am committing to that for now. If you are on Facebook, you can follow the blog using the Networked Blogs app.

You will also see more food-related posts. I am a foodie at heart, and I married one, and as it turns out, I am raising one too! I enjoy cooking for the family. I have two willing "testers" who happily sample my experiments. We also enjoy trying out new eateries and I want to share that with you. In 2012, I am looking forward to widening my cooking repertoire and trying a few new restaurants.

In 2011, Alex moved for a daycare with a preschool program to a preschool and he thrived. He had a great time there and we were sorry when the year ended. We watched him grow and mature. In 2012, he starts primary school. On February 1st, he will be a "big school boy" as he calls himself. Perhaps I will shed a tear watching him enter the school gates, as my little baby is now all grown up, or perhaps I won't. The past few years have gone by quickly, and I can't believe he is the same baby we met 5 years ago. It has not always been easy, but the good times have made the harder times all worth while. I am sure all you parents out there will agree. We're all set for school. Aside from sports shoes, all uniform items have been purchased and we're ready to go!

In terms of personal crafting, I have big aims for this year. A few months ago, I upgraded my small Ashford knitters loom to a larger rigid heddle loom. It is still sitting under the guest bed, and has not been used yet. I intend to weave a couple of shawls and a few scarves on it. Weaving is such a calming activity. Passing the shuttle back and forth is almost like meditation. The action is automatic and soothing. I need more meditation in my life. 2012 is, I hope, a year of less stress and more contentment.

During the Christmas trip. I also started a Nuvem using a 300g ball of Wollmeise lacegarn in the colour Taube. I weighed it today, and I have barely knitted 50g!! So, with that in mind, Nuvem is going to be a long term project. I intend to complete by my birthday which is in June. I want to wear it this winter! I also have a couple of unfinished projects which need to be finished. Aside from that I am not committing to any more. I will just "go with flow".

So.. that is the year that was.. and who knows what the year that will be holds. Let's just go with it and see what happens.

Happy new year, everyone!!


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