Make It Good

Air pollution in Paris : Eiffel tower through a haze of pollution in Paris

Photo source: AFP, via Le Monde

The past few weeks, Paris has seen very sunny winter: weather hitting 19-20 C during the day while it dipped to 3-5 C in the coldest mornings. We were overjoyed, obviously. We started to ditch the heavy cloaks, queuing for ice creams & sorbets during the day. The parks were full of people strolling and picnicking. It was the mildest winter, no snow to date and we were happy. We had enough of the cold weather. Then the smog happens. The Tour Eiffel disappeared. All public transports were free for 3 days. And today, only odd plate number vehicules can roam within Paris & its immediate surrounding.

Having lived the Indonesian forest fire and been to Shanghai on numerous occasions, there’s no comparison or reason to complain. The current pollution is bad, but it is still below their levels.

On the good side of things, I have been enjoying what the doctor calls high metabolism rate. Every girl’s dream: to be able to eat everything without putting on weight. I can see the finish line, starting to get the hospital bag ready and washing the tiny clothes. Ready or not, this little baby is coming! The only damper in my mood is the nightly leg cramps.
Baked Chicken Curry Puff 3
Curry Puff filling
Anyway, here’s one of my favorite snack, curry puffs : the cousin of samosa. Sometimes I also add boiled eggs. I usually make the dough myself, but this time round I use the ready made puff pastry. You can fry them or bake them, they are equally good. (more…)


A Woman of Her Own

Times Haiku

This year’s Eid, I don’t know why I kept on thinking about my maternal grandmother. She usually made ketupat (rice cake in woven palm leaves), chicken curry, mutton curry, sayur lodeh and few other side dishes like sambal telur goreng (spicy deep fried egg) to celebrate the day. Occasionally she would send them by courier to us in Jakarta while other times she would come to visit us. She never wanted to leave her home, deep in Sumatra island, even when she needed to be taken care of. She was always an independent woman, one who wore a bright red lipstick. I used to savor her lipstick mark on my cheeks until my mom reached over and rubbed it off.

I got a lipstick mark, I was kissed, I was loved and nothing else matters.

When she was still alive, she never could stay still. She would wake up at 4am to run (even when her knees couldn’t support her anymore). She drove a boxy 4WD Daihatsu Taft when a woman driving a car was unheard of. She had a pretty successful restaurant and later a hair salon during the time men still expect women to stay at home. Many said she was a sharp business woman, but her business acumen never was passed down to the following generations. It wasn’t up till the morning of my wedding day, I was clued in to the “family secret”. That she was a mother and a grandmother to us in every sense of the word, except in DNA. Quelle horreur! Imagine the kind of scandal this was back in 1950s.

Yeah, that’s my mama. A woman of her own.

So, in memory of my beloved grandmother, the one who always told me to study hard, to go further, who left her small town to check out my university, and who always cooked all our favorites whenever we visited her, here’s Lontong with Sayur Lodeh and Sambal Telur Goreng. I miss you mama, selamat Idul Fitri!

Sayur Lodeh
Sambal Telur Goreng
Telur Goreng LontongLontong Sayur Lodeh Telur Goreng


One Cheer For Jerusalem

‘Fess up! Who has not heard about Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi? Bad, bad you, though to be honest, I am still holding out from ordering a copy. I don’t think the french version exists yet (I’m partial to buying a cook book in the language of country I live in, that makes ingredient hunting much, much easier). Few days ago, NY Times published a recipe from Jerusalem that piqued my curiosity. It is one of the “simpler” recipe from the book that I have seen. No unheard of ingredients. Umm, hang on, yeah there is.. barberries, the Persian currants.

Chicken Cardamom Rice Jerusalem

This dish reminds me so much of the Indian Pulao. Cloves? Check. Cinnamon stick? Check. Cardamom? Check. Plain yogurt? Check. One pot wonder? Check check check!! I keep on waiting the turmeric or saffron, anything to color the dish. But nope, it wasn’t meant to be coloured, except from the red barberries.

If your curiosity is also piqued, one note: do not hold back the herbs nor the seasoning.. Also watch out for the rice and your fire/stove setting. I followed the timing indicated in the recipe, but I found the rice is overcooked – probably need to cook on even lower fire. I also wonder what would happen if chicken stock is used, instead of water. Hmmm.. 😉

Chicken Cardamom Rice Jerusalem 2

I really like the dish. A little greasy but hey, it’s practically still weekend! I’ll just do an extra kilometer tomorrow.

Pasta Of My Day

I can almost foresee my menu for the next 7 days, it will be pasta, pasta and pasta. It’s something quick and I can prepare in the morning to be reheated when H returns for lunch. Not to mention, I have few more packets to finish. Have I told you I “collect” pasta shapes?

Anyway, those who cook for me (my mom, my dad, my mother in law, my husband) know my predilection towards acidity. I am forever adding lemon and tabasco to a dish that tastes perfect to everyone but me. I’ve been told off by the Italians not once, not twice, but five times that I ruined their dishes (twice in Singapore at a separate restaurants, once in Sienna, once in Rome and once in Toulouse). I blame this on my grandma who raised my mom, then me, beside a big pot of Sayur Asem, an Indonesian tamarind-base (spicy) vegetable soup.

Lemon Pepper Mafalda Capers Chicken

So for me, the hero of this dish is the lemon. Not from the lemon juice, but from sauteing the lemon zest together with garlic. I also like that the cream-broth mixture tones down the saltiness of the capers. H still picks out his capers, but when the dish is this delicious and simple, I don’t mind at all. Besides, my capers are going down, down and down.

Time To Stand Still

These days I wish time would stand still so that I could soak all the perfectness in my life right this second. Not perfect as in dictionary-definition perfect sans glitch or that I have it all. But the mind-heart balance I have right now, like I have no doubt, no fear about tomorrow. It is as if I’m back to my childhood, knowing only the goodness in life exists. This everyday-is-thanksgiving doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, every moment needs to be savoured.

I also suspect I have a hairline crack in my ring finger, as a result of wrestling with H on our sofa. Typing needs to be done slowly. I couldn’t lift up things that require all five fingers. But I want to give it few more days before I visit the nice doctor, just to confirm. Besides, it’s been nice exploiting H’s remorse and guilt. I have bigger ice cream portion, and extra Kit Kat. Ha! Who needs doctor?

Cardamom Yogurt Grill ChickenI don’t feel like cooking recently. Ever since we have our flights confirmed, I have been looking at the calendar every other hour, wishing the snow is waiting for me to arrive. But I made this cardamom yogurt chicken over the weekend, something simple and fuss free. It can be prepped the night before and takes minimum effort. There is no lack of flavor from the spices, and because I’m not supposed to, I poured the juices from the pan onto the rice.

Cardamom Yogurt Chicken 02

We Celebrate: The Night is For Us

I take my cooking (& food) very personally, especially since I’m still finding my way in the kitchen. But H always tells me not to take it to heart when people ignore my food. “But sayang, they didn’t even try it. It’s different ..” blablabla. “How do you teach your children to eat vegetables then?” blablabla.. You get my drift. This is something that I’m trying to work harder on, not to take offense. Not everybody is born with such abandon to embrace every thing different. Some are more cautius, some have very dead-set definition on what tastes good (my parents are good examples). Besides, everyone can do with a bit more freedom to be themselves, right? They aren’t my clowns.

Anyway, last night I had the opportunity to play with not-your-regular-comfort-food. So I made this deep fried chicken cake.

Thai Chicken Cake 02
I know, this probably sound a little strange to your ears. But Thai food lovers would know when I say Thai Fish Cake (Tod Man Pla), yes? Well, this is the chicken version, Tod Man Kai.

Same method of preparation. Just that I cheated using Thai red curry paste. I know, right? You don’t have to do only chicken or beef thai curry. You can make something like this. It’s fairly easy, just very messy. The slap back and forth, though comforting in a weird way, caused nightmare in my already messy kitchen.

Before you start, turn on your favourite music. I kinda like Emeli Sande these days.



Summer Bouquet

Since we’re spending Christmas Day outdoor, under the sun at 35 degree C, I thought this summer bouquet will be an appropriate appetizer.

Fresh Summer Rolls 3

It’s not difficult to make, but it does take quite some time. A couple spring rolls until you get the hang of it, until you can roll one nicely and tightly. Until you know how to cheat a little.

Summer Rolls Collage 2H insisted that I broadcasted to everyone that it was he who made most of these summer bouquets.

Fresh Summer Rolls 5

  • I used small version of Vietnamese (rice) spring roll wrapper, about 16 cm in diameter. Soaked in warm water until soft, about 10 seconds or so.
  • The glass noodle is soaked in hot water for about 10 mins till soft, then drained.
  • Bell peppers are sliced.
  • Carrots are julienned.
  • I boiled the chicken breast. Then sliced about the same size as the bell peppers, then browned with garlic — I do this because I like garlic chicken, but you don’t have to.
  • Use the freshest lettuce you can find.
  • To assemble: lay all your ingredients in the top half, fold up the bottom to create half moon. Wrap the sides around, snugly.

For the dipping sauce, I didn’t make the usual Nuoc Cham, too fishy for non-Asian palates. So this is the sweeter version with just a tinge of umami.

(adapted from Thai Fresh)

1/4 C (60 ml) water
1/2 C (113 gr) sugar
1/2 C (120 ml) white vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fish sauce
a pinch of grated carrots
a pinch red pepper flakes

  • Mix everything in a pot. Boil until the sugars have melted.
  • Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed.