Monday, 25 March 2013

Mama Pongkey's Seawater Prawns in Garlic Cream Sauce with Salad

We hadn't been eating at home lately, and it has come to the point that even the thought of going out is causing me dread. The weather is very hot and so it seems more pleasant to stay put where we have our fans and air conditioner going on. :-) Also, I posted an article today on eating at home in Facebook. Now I really should follow my own advice, eh? ;-)

So this is a little something I threw together in the wok, using what I had in the fridge. It cooked really fast and I had it with some plain basmati rice. Mmm hmm. Just that peeling the prawns took quite some time, as this time the prawns I bought were pretty small-ish.

Mama Pongkey's Seawater Prawns in Garlic Cream Sauce


0.5 kg seawater prawns (but after deveining and peeling them, probably only 350g left?)
200 ml cream
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
108 g cream cheese (I used one of those Kiri cubes, akin to Laughing Cow)
1 tablespoon palm oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups salad greens (I used iceberg and romaine)
1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (for soaking salad and prawns, separately)


  • Rinse and soak the vegetables in water and apple cider vinegar. Leave to stand. When prawns have finished cooking, give the veggies a final rinse and spin dry in a salad spinner for crispy leaves.
  • Peel prawns except for the tail end. Remove head and take out the main vein on the upper back. Soak in water and a bit of apple cider vinegar to remove possible contamination for 15 minutes. Rinse in water.
  • In a pan, heat the oil and melt the butter. Add in the cream, cheese and garlic, and stir for 3 minutes.
  • Add in prawns and herbs, and stir until lightly pink. I dislike overcooked prawns, so when I judge the prawns are just before the point of being fully cooked, I turn off the heat and add in salt and pepper while I stir. And leave it to stand while I sort out the salad.
  • Arrange the salad in the bottom of a wide dish, then carefully pour the creamy prawns on the salad. Serve with love :-)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

My Home Remedies for Sore Throat and Fever

I have not been well. Yesterday was probably the worst, with blocked nose, reddish eyes, swollen throat, fever and a pounding headache. But alhamdulillah I am getting better. A combination of long-distance travelling, exhaustion, lack of sleep and perhaps walking in the polluted roads of KL (I imagined I was getting some exercise!) plus exposure to hubby who was suffering from a cold, knocked me down for a couple of days.

I would like to try home remedies before opting for some paracetemol, clarityne and antibiotics. So far for the past year and a half I have only had to use antibiotics once. Which is a major improvement for me, as I used to get prescribed antibiotics for a cold every few months.

So here are my tips on tackling a fever, blocked nose/sinuses and sore throat for adults. Please be mindful that this is the result of a lot of reading, other people's personal experiences and self-experimentation.

Ingredients for what I call the Elixir of Health (minus the vitamin C).
I think good old rassam will also do the trick. ;-)

  • Drink plenty of plain water. More than usual. Make a point of drinking a glass of water every 2-3 hours or so if you are the forgetful type (like me!)
  • Rest. Sleep. Plenty. Enough said. 
  • Plenty of vitamin C. My favourite is Calcium C Sandoz, in the form of an effervescent tablet, 1g. But when using this, please remember to increase your plain water intake to cope with the calcium load. I would take a tablet every few hours, alongside with several cups of water. Watch out for soft stools or diarrhea, as that is a sign of Vitamin C overdose. My personal tolerance limit seems to be 3g in 8 hours. For those who tend to have gastritis, it may be worthwhile to invest in a non-acidic or buffered form of vitamin C.
  • Magnesium, once a day. This helps calcium stay in a soluble form so it will be taken up by your body instead of becoming insoluble and end up being deposited where it is not wanted, like in your kidneys. Best form is magnesium citrate, but I make do with whatever I have. Watch out for diarrhea, as excessive magnesium intake can cause this too. You could also soak your feet in Epsom salts and warm water as an alternative magnesium source (Epsom salt is magnesium sulphate). Very soothing.
  • B complex to help your immune system, once a day.
  • Virgin coconut oil, 4 tablespoons a day during the cold.
  • Oil pulling with virgin coconut oil. Basically you swish around 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil in your mouth for a maximum of 20 minutes. I only managed about 5 minutes yesterday before I had to spit it out. Please do not swallow this!
  • Elixir of health, a recipe I obtained from my bestie. A dash of turmeric powder, some Bentong ginger, some honey and lemon juice in a mug of hot water. (See above picture for the ingredients I use). This is so comforting to a sore throat and contains turmeric, a well-known anti-bacterial agent.
  • The above honey contained a small amount of black seed oil mixed in it. I also took a teaspoon a day.
  • Did I mention plenty of fluids? Soups and broth can help too. Easy to digest and so comforting.
My favourite brand of extra virgin coconut oil because it tastes like coconut cookies. 

People who are used to fighting off infections using natural remedies tell me that, in the beginning, your body takes a long time to recover without modern medicine. But with each infection, your body recovers faster as it learns how to deal with illnesses naturally. I would still go for antibiotics if I don't see an improvement after doing all of the above. But the key thing here is still rest and plenty of fluids. This time around I was lax about the amount of plain water I was consuming and vitamin C. I was wondering if it was time to go for conventional meds. Ironically enough it was meeting up with my doctor relative that reminded me of the vitamin C and plenty of water. She was quite concerned, and while she was not pushy, she had already suggested clarityne and paracetemol. But I thought I should give natural remedies one last ditch effort before I succumb to her ministrations ;-)

I had a very good night's sleep last night, and woke up with no headache, my fever has gone down and my throat less sore. My nose is still blocked, so I will continue my regimen until I get better, if God so wills.

Yinkey Pet has been a valued companion. She reminds me to relax and take it easy.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Soliloquy in the Garden of My Mind

There is a beautiful ray of light coming through the lush green canopy overhead. Raindrops from a recent storm cling precariously at the edges of slender tendrils of loofah shoots, and at the ends of their dangling root fronds. The air smelled sharp, and fresh, and new. But there is the unmistakable smell of decay in this lush green paradise. I part the root fronds like a frail curtain, and step through into my tropical domain.

I survey the garden before me. A pruned Malaysian cherry tree, putting forth new leaves stands proudly to my left, behind several pots and polystyrene boxes.

One of the boxes contain a flush of new purple leaves, courtesy of sweet potato cuttings I had staked within scarcely a fortnight ago. The other boxes were bereft of any useful plant, save a few sad-looking Portulaca stems and a single water convolvulus (kangkung) plant, a brave survivor of a spate of weeding done a few weeks ago.

Two dandelion bulbs in a pot, trying to put forth new shoots. A few lillies who have yet to follow in the dandelions' footsteps. Several spent and tired-looking terung pipit plants look bare.

Small, wavy plucks of carrot and parsnip leaves at the border, always in danger of being trod upon by hapless visitors.

At the far right ahead, the gnarled woody bark of the loofah plant tries to sneak its way up the cat enclosure, while trailing its roots in search of water, in its not-so-secret quest for dominion of the garden.

The loofah's loftiest parts threaten to enclose my first floor bedroom windows. Sometime in the near future, I will look forward to waking up in the morning, opening my windows for fresh air and plucking a loofah right out of my window. But for the time being, I look upwards at the black netting just above my head, trying to ascertain whether there are any new loofahs ripe for the plucking. I spy a few, and decide to save them for my parents who will be visiting me this weekend.

A survey of some of the compost tyres, previously home to some tomato plants, reveal the source of the unpleasant odour. A few kittens lay rotting in the tires, the result of unsuccessful birthing by Miss Poogey, a stray who comes round for the excellent gourmet catfood. I sigh in sadness. I knew of these little deaths beforehand, but in the horror of my discovery, I had fled into the safety of my house and tried to process my grief. I kept myself busy reorganising my cluttered, eclectic home, in lieu of relatives descending upon us for a wedding this weekend. A gang of worker kerenggas (large red ants) are already at work, harvesting whatever nutrition they could from the poor kittens. I throw some soil into the tyre, to mask the smell and give the poor kitties a hodge-potch funeral. Rest in peace, little ones.
In the end, we are all dust.

Mission accomplished, I turn my attention towards the polystyrene box filled with sweet potato leaves. A previous harvest turned out to be bountiful by the Grace of Allah, so I am determined to grow more of these polydactyl-like plants.

I spy some tiny sweet potato plants growing out of the ground, not far from their progenitor's box.

I carefully dug them out, with their tiny, sweet potato tuberous roots at their ends. I look around for a better place to home them, and decide on one of the sorry-looking  polystyrene boxes. I manage to dig out 5 miniscule plants in all.

I look again around the polystyrene boxes, and spy several new shoots in the ground near me. I identify these to be young loofah plants. These must have been from the seeds and loofahs I was drying at the wooden pangkin nearby. I touch them gently, and let them be. Perhaps someone would want these precious little plants. I make a mental note to ask my relatives during the upcoming wedding.

I poke about at my sowing tray, and note to my dismay that things are pretty much the same as last week. No sign of any flower seedlings, not cayenne pepper, nor alpine strawberries. The Rouge de Marmande Tomato shoots seem to be doing well so far, and so are the Soarer Cucumbers. I walk over to a shallow pot where I had tossed a dried-up and shrivelled Sweet Red Cherry Tomato I found lurking in a corner of my refridgerator. To my delight, I spy several young tomato seedlings. I crow with happiness to find some bright red Rainbow Chard seedlings in a plastic Baba pot nearby that survived the heavy downpours.

I smile to myself, snap a few pictures, and while humming a tune under my breath, I step back indoors.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

My Sweet (Potato) Love is Purple / Keledek Ungu Idaman Hati

My first-ever sweet potato harvest.

A few months back Aunty Kan, my neighbour from across the road, gave me several cuttings from her sweet potato plant. I don't recall how she came by her plant, it was either from some cuttings or a sweet potato she planted out of curiosity. I stuck them in a styrofoam box filled with potted soil and sort of ignored it. I only fertilised it once, with blended fish guts. It grew and grew, and soon threatened to take over it's corner of my Jung-Den. It got quite difficult for me to go into the cat enclosure because it's vines were sprawling all over the pathway. So I had some of the leaves cleared. Then AFTER that, I suddenly felt I wanted to try some of the sweet potato shoots in a stir-fry. And oh boy, did it taste so gooodd.. and I regretted not eating the leaves before. Better tasting compared to kangkung actually. I hear sweet potato leaves can also be juiced and taken raw.

Another neighbour came by with her daughter, to visit my cats. She got curious about my styrofoam-dwelling sweet potatoes, and started digging with her bare hands. Imagine my delight when she unearthed this sweet bounty below:

Purple sweet potatoes, just the way I like them.

We left most of the plant as it is, and reburied a few smaller sweet potatoes in the hopes that they will grow bigger. This is harvesting technique is called 'bandicooting' according to Diana of Kebun Malay Kadazan Girls. Bandicoots are rat-like marsupials resident in Australia and New Guinea. I guess there is also something to learn from nature, and I am kind of amused by the word 'bandicoot' because it sounds like bandits. Sweet potato bandits, to be exact.

Then I hopped over to my neighbour's house, and she dug about in her raised bed and bequeathed me with her own yellow sweet potato. I got curious and wrapped them up in tin foil, and baked them in the oven at 170-180 degrees Celcius, alongside my gluten-free quiche, for about 40 minutes. And the result is here:
Left: purple sweet potato. Right: yellow sweet potato.
I dug into both sweet potatoes with glee. They were absolutely, fantabulously DELICIOUS!!
How do they taste like?
Well, if you are after a creamier and starchier sweet potato, the purple one ought to meet your requirements. If you prefer a sweeter, smoother texture, then the yellow sweet potato is your pal.

As for me, I love them both for what they are: delicious organic food, home-grown with love.

After that food-tasting, I immediately started 2 more boxes of sweet potatoes. ;-)

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Petola Sarang / Loofah Gourd / Luffa aegyptiaca & Seed Giveaway

Lush petolas hanging down and climbing on windows

Sorry for the long silence, dear friends. I didn't feel like blogging in a long time, and I even stopped visiting all my blog friends here for a while. Right after I posted my last entry, I went to check on my cats and found Yoruichi dead. I was quite sad at her loss, especially after she survived against all the odds. She was a brave, loving girl, and I guess she fought so that she can spend her last days at home with us. Every time I looked at my blog I am reminded of her. Then not long after that we went for Umrah, which was truly a gift from Allah the Most Beneficient. Perhaps I shall write a bit about my experiences there in later entries. And then did some more to-ing and fro-ing due to hubby's work. The heavy monsoon rains derailed a lot of gardening, and my garden began to resemble the Jung-Den (Jungle Garden) it is named after. Haha. And now really I am in the middle of reorganising the house, but that also led to reorganising the garden... and fond memories of my blogging friends... and now I guess here I am.

Current partial view of my Jung-Den. In the background is the cat enclosure,  its roof completely taken over by a single petola plant. Foreground: The same petola plant on black netting. As you can see it is very cool beneath this green canopy :-)
Can you tell that the petola plant is fruiting prolifically? I guess it is pretty happy at its present location, right next to the kitty waste + kitchen waste compost bin *wink wink*

Top view of petola plant interspersed with kacang sepat / lablab beans on top of black netting. They are fighting over dominion of the skies! 
We were quite pleased that the petola plant chose to clamber all over the cat enclosure roof, as we feel the leaves will provide shade and some odour-proofing.
The very first petola gourd I noticed. :-) This was back in early October 2012.
The same baby petola all grown up :-) I gave this baby away.
Freshly cut petola, to be eaten with sambal belacan or enjoyed raw as it is. Surprisingly nice. It took me awhile to learn how to harvest big petolas that have not gone to fiber yet. Leave them too long on the plant and they will have some inedible fibers in them.

What I had for lunch today: petola, kacang sepat, sweet potato leaves and cekur manis leaves stir fried with fermented black beans (taucu) and dried fish (ikan bilis).
Another stir fry: onions, chili, petola and ikan bilis. I have also made soups with petola.
Peeling off the skin of a dried petola. Note the latte colour of the skin. This seems to denote the perfect time to harvest these gourds for loofahs.
Peeled loofah and dried skin next to it. Shake the loofah and you get seeds!

The above is the first loofah I peeled. It was gorgeous. By Allah's graciousness, the first petola my neighbour chose to peel was the perfect one. The others we peeled were at too advanced a state of decomposition, with grey fungus growing on the fibers.

Now for the giveaway bit. If you are interested in growing your own petola, I have a limited amount of seeds to give away. Just drop me an email at homelychaos(at)gmail(dot)com with your name and email address and I will send them to you. Offer stands while stocks last. :-)

Friday, 12 October 2012

How I Grew My Own Wheatgrass at Home (Quick & Dirty Method)

Buy some organic wheatberries. I got mine from the local organic and health food store. About RM10 per kilo. I used about 3 handfuls of wheatberries.

Day 1: Soak overnight in filtered water.

Day 2 and Day 3: For the next 2 days, rinse the wheatberries every 12 hours or so, and keep covered with a moist cloth.

Day 3-4: When you see tiny tails shooting out of the berries, move these to trays containing potting mix. I recycled some food containers that would otherwise be thrown away.
Day 5: These look like little, pale spring onions.

Day 5-12: Place the tray where it will receive some indirect light, for example your kitchen window or front porch, or balcony. Make sure there are no animals that might disturb the tray, or even worse, burrow in it! :-)

Day 7. Looks promising :-)

Water everyday. Either spray/mist lightly, or carefully pour water at the edge of the tray. Don't overwater, unless you have to be away from home for a few days.

Day 12: When you see the beginnings of a second shoot on your wheatgrass sprout, you are ready to harvest!

Day 12: ready to harvest!

I harvest a couple of inches above the roots for safety reasons. Don't want to get any dirt or nasties into my wheatgrass.

I harvested 1 and a half containers today. The slightly longer grass was from when I harvested yesteday. 

Then I juice them using the manual juicer below:

Yield: 1 1/2 tablespoons, according to my measuring cup here.
Smell: Mossy.

Taste: Slightly leafy but overwhelmingly sweet. I drank it neat, no addition of sugar, lemon or water.

Verdict: A bit tedious having to rinse and water but after a while it gets easier. Now I might try having several staggered batches going on at the same time. I might start a new batch every time I get to the point where I move the wheatberries onto potting mix. So fresh wheatgrass everyday.

Warning: If you are new to green juices, it is a good idea to start slow, because excess green juice can cause diarrhea. I started at 1/2 tablespoon, and am slowly working my way up to 2 tablespoons or more. Also drink on an empty stomach so the juice can be digested quickly. I once drank wheatgrass juice after lunch and I had a LOT of flatulence.

Main reference: Wheatgrass Greenhouse