Sunday, 17 April 2011

Cooking Frenzy: Lontong (no pics, sorry!)

I found some succulent 'Solo' seawater prawns at my local market, and remembered I had some grated coconut in my freezer, and so, what better than to use the prawns and fresh coconut milk to make Sayur Lodeh, to be eaten as Lontong. I bought a few more ingredients to go with it, and made the following recipe, which is adapted from this Sayur Lodeh recipe. Mine has much less ingredients and is much simpler, because I think the freshness of the ingredients makes the dish a real winner. Plus I am just too lazy, okay? :-)

This is what Lontong looks like: rice cubes in coconut milk gravy topped with spicy anchovies.
Hmm.. sorry no suitable picture, most people put bean sprouts and eggs in their lontong, which I consider strange. And somewhat off-putting. Whyyyy sprouts and hard-boiled eggs in absolutely everything??????

Mama Pongkey's Sayur Lodeh (serves 6)

To be finely chopped/minced:
  • 10 dried chillis
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cm old ginger
  • 2 cm galangal (lengkuas)
  • 2 tbsp dried shrimp (udang kering)
  • 2 tbsp dried anchovies (ikan bilis)

  • 2 stalks lemongrass - crushed
  • 400 gms prawns (I used large 'Solo' prawns ~ yummy!)
  • 1 carrot - sliced
  • 10 French beans - cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 100 gm cauliflower - diced
  • 1 firm tofu - diced
  • 3 packets of tempeh (the ones that come wrapped in banana leaves, they taste much better) - diced
  • 1 large piece of dried fermented soy 'pucuk' - broken up into squares
  • 1 handful of suhun (dried vermicelli)
  • 1 tablespoon organic powdered turmeric (the nonorganic variety usually has added cornflour, and much less taste)
  • 1/2 cup prawn stock (I boiled the shells and heads of the prawns to make the stock)
  • 1 liter coconut milk (mine is rather thin, so if you are using creamed coconut you might want to thin it down)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Heat up the oil in a pot and saute all the minced ingredients until fragrant.
  • Dump in the lemongrass and asam keping and stir for 2 minutes.
  • Dump in the coconut milk, turmeric powder, carrot, cauliflower, suhun, pucuk, tofu and tempeh. Turn the heat to low. The trick to cooking with coconut milk is not to overboil it, as it then starts to curdle and loses its flavour. Low temperatures are key.
  • When the mixture has been gently bubbling for a few minutes, it is time to dump in the rest of the ingredients. Watch the prawns, and turn off the heat when the prawns are just nicely cooked. Overcooked prawns taste like rubber, yucks.

Ta-da! Sayur Lodeh is traditionally eaten with compacted rice cubes boiled in coconut shoots (ketupat) and spicy dried anchovies cooked in chili (sambal tumis ikan bilis) or peanut sauce.

Mama Pongkey's Sambal Tumis Ikan Bilis Bertempe

  • 1 cup dried anchovies
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup cili boh (boiled dried chillies ground into a paste)
  • 1 pack tempeh, diced
  • 2 pieces of asam keping/asam gelugor for its sour taste.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • oil for frying (1/2 cup, depends on the anchovies the oil needs to immerse)
  • Salt to taste
  • Brown sugar (optional)
  • Heat the oil, then dump in the rinsed anchovies. Make sure the anchovies are dry, or things could get real ugly!
  • Turn down the heat and saute the anchovies crisp.
  • Add in the chopped onion, garlic and tempeh. Continue saute-ing.
  • When the onions are soft, and the tempeh has firmed up a bit, add in the chilli paste and water, and continue stirring.
  • You'll know it's ready when the chilli paste darkens. If the dish is too hot, just add a tablespoon of brown sugar.

Didn't I tell you I was lazy? I had mine with rice, not rice cubes. I am not about to hunt for coconut shoots, and I plain forgot to buy the banana leaves which could also be used to make rice cubes.

I was too busy wolfing down the whole thing to take pictures. I only remembered when it was all gone. Hahaha. Papa Pongkey didn't mind eating the whole thing with rice instead of rice cubes. He loved the Sayur Lodeh, he said the taste was spot-on. :-) Alhamdulillah... burpp! (It's not considered rude for us to burp after a meal.. hehehe.)

In a future entry, I will describe how I use the leftover spicy anchovies for another favourite dish, Nasi Lemak.

Adventures in Kitty Waste Composting

Picture from Do You Know? BlogNot good enough to compost, but good enough to drink, eh? :-)

Common wisdom (from trawling the internet) states that you shouldn't compost dog or cat faeces. Or if you do, make a separate composting system for it, make sure you compost is for more than 18 months, and even then, only use the compost for ornamental, not edible plants.

Common local wisdom (from speaking to nursery owners here) say they absolutely hate it when cats defecate or urinate on their plants/plant beds, as their waste is considered 'too heaty' and will make the plants die. Since my little bonsai pink frangipani did die after a rescued kitten pooped on it, I must somehow agree with that. But then again, that bonsai was the last of a long line of plants that I had successfully killed, so perhaps it wasn't healthy enough to survive the kitty assault. LOL.

But I came across these cat breeders, who claim they have successfully composted kitty litter for use on their potted plants and veggies (!) Man, those plants are thriving!

So, based on that, I stacked two 'bald' tyres I saved from my previous car tyre change, and started a compost heap. In the heap, I put:
  • coconut husk
  • cat poop
  • cat litter waste (I used pine pellets, this was when I had the cats indoors)
  • kitchen waste (veggie peelings, spent grated coconut, crushed egg shells)
  • shredded paper (unbleached, used to wrap my veggie purchases)
Bubu on the runway.. er makeshift compost heap. She also uses it as a scratching post.

I turn the pile once in a while (once every few days). And since this heap is in the cat enclosure, some of my cats have helpfully started to poop there instead of in their outdoor kitty sandbox. I am not worrying too much about ratios here, since I figure our hot and humid climate will help anything decompose. Eventually. *grin* Since mosquito breeding is a problem here (dengue cases are frequent) I made sure to fill the inside edges of the tyres that might collect rainwater (and thus provide a breeding ground for mosquitos) with the ground coconut husk. The system has been in place for about two weeks now, and there seem to be no pools of mosquito-friendly still water with the tyres.

There are some worries that one might inadvertantly get some Toxoplasma gondii oocytes (which cause toxoplasmosis, a well-known disease from cats) from the kitty waste onto your leafy greens, and ultimately into your dinner plate. According to Fox (quoting Dubey, 1998) in 'The Mouse in Biomedical Diseases' in the section on the sterilising of mice bedding (because mice can get toxoplasmosis too), T. gondii oocytes lose infectivity at temperatures above 40 degrees Celcius. Now, since compost heap temperatures have been known to be between 40-70 degrees Celcius, I guess if I make sure the compost matures properly, at the right temperatures, toxoplasmosis should not be a problem.

Toshi looking for a good spot in the kitty sandbox. In the far corner is the wild 'bunga telang' plant.

The kitty sandbox measures roughly 3 by 3 feet, and is filled with sand. I also turn the contents with a shovel once in a while, and am going to add some compost I purchased on it to cut down on the stink. A plant has also started to grow in there, Clitoria ternatea, or commonly known in English as the butterfly pea. We call them 'bunga telang'. A neighbour gave me the dried pods a couple of years back, and since then they have taken over my garden in a weed-like fashion. I planted them for their pretty flowers, which can also be made to colour the rice blue (yeah, blue food~ imagine that!) in one of my favourite dishes, Nasi Kerabu. Hmm.. googling for more info on this plant let me know that the more tender, young pods are actually edible. I had masses of these plants cleared to make way for the cat enclosure a while back, and some of it is being composted right now.
Some bunga telang growing back. 2 weeks ago this area was cleared. Everything grows crazily in the Tropics.

Would I actually eat the peas from the plant growing in my kitty sandbox? I haven't actually decided yet, although I have heard the urban legend that mung bean sprouts are grown on sheets of woven sacks fertilised with human pee. And I have definitely eaten commercially grown bean sprouts and survived to tell the tale. Would I eat veggies fertilised with my kitty compost? I think I would. All manner of animals have pooped/peed in kitchen backyards for ages now, I think the composted version would be safe(er). But I will wash my veggies thoroughly though, just in case!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Trawlings, Readings and Gastronomic Delights

Homemade Condiments - check out the fish stock recipe... mmm must try, but omit the wine.

Pickles via Lacto Fermentation - the salsa looks yummy! I have some extra cucumbers.. hmm..

Losing Weight Naturally from Wellness Mama - I am exploring this new-found blog. It is nicely laid out and organised, and she writes really well. She is also a Nutritional Consultant to boot, successfully helping clients lose weight and conceive.

Life as Mom's 5 Favourite Low-Cost Meals
- how to make meal planning work for you, and avoid food wastage.

Australia's National Sustainable Food Summit 2010
- some interesting points of view here. 7.5 million tonnes of food is wasted very year, yet 1.2 million people are regularly at risk of not having enough food.

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book - I finished this yesterday. I just love the way he writes, quite spooky and yet with great economy of words. The flow is just amazing. Another favourite is Neverwhere.

Made Wild Mushroom Soup for the first time, which turned out pretty well. I got the recipe off of French Food and Cooking by Clements & Wolf-Cohen, a book we grabbed for a bargain last week. I made a huge pot, and froze them in smaller containers. I find that I use these quite a lot for my soups and stews. Previously I have depended on good ol' Campbell's. There are still some cans left in my pantry, which I will use up anyway but hopefully after this will be able to depend on my own homemade version. If I don't get lazy, that is.

The mushrooms I used consisted mainly of grey oysters (900gm) , dried black chinese mushrooms (4 flowers) and about 300gm of wild 'tawun' mushrooms (pic above) which I stumbled across at the local market. 'Tawun' is a corruption of 'tahun' (meaning 'year') because this species grows only once a year. On rotting palm oil trunks. I tried googling for other names for this fungus, and found that it is apparently cultivated in Sarawak, on palm oil waste (spent fruit and kernels, perhaps?). Anyway, the results are goooood. Sorry I forgot to take some pics.. heheheh. Instead I'll leave you with a pic of one of my meals this week, Boiled Beef with Vegetables, from Food Lovers One Pot. Oh yum. I did omit the parsley and marjoram because I didn't have any. Instead, I added 4 cardamom pods, 1 star anise and a cinnamon stick.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Crisis Cleaning!!!

I hate housework. I can imagine a million things I'd rather be doing. Hubby says it's okay to get some people to help clean the house, but I don't really want to. Unless I really have to. Which I do now.

I have a guest this weekend.



Whew. That felt really good. Actually having guests is okay, but having a born-organised guest who also loves to clean calls for extra special measures.

At the moment, I am decluttering the kitchen. I would love to say it feels good, but it doesn't. I am hating every minute of it. For every little chore that I do, I see a thousand more that needs doing.

My consolation is that Chunky and Googy are behaving right now, cuddled up fast asleep and not making any extra messes.

I still have no clue which room will my guest be staying in.
Computer room? Nah - we like to hang out here too much. Plus it has direct access (windows) to my cats in their enclosure.
Sewing room - hmm might have dropped needles, sewing machine, serging machine, fabric, not suitable for Guest Toddler. Plus air-cond is Out-To. (See Gaki no Tsukai - no laughing allowed! - best bit is at 07:00 onwards - on Youtube to understand this one)
My bedroom - hmm messy, needs some cleaning but otherwise a-okay. But Papa Pongkey Will Not Be Pleased.
Living room - hehehehehehe. Would do this but guest is a girl.

I will survive this weekend. I have to.

Update: By the way, due to unforseen circumstances, guest has postponed her visit to June. WalhamduliLlahi Rabb il alamiin.... now the decluttering and reorganising can go on at a much less frantic pace :-)

Monday, 4 April 2011

My Furry Bunch Part 2

These two gorgeous girls are Yuyu's legacy: Hakusho (right) & Jimmy. Hakusho is named after a Japanese anime called Yu-Yu Hakusho, and Jimmy is named after a friend of ours. Too late we discovered Jimmy is a girl, so I guess she is Jimmy short for Jemima, or something.

In this picture we were taking a photo of Hakusho, when suddenly Jimmy jumped onto the chair so we could take her pic too. As a tiny kitty, Jimmy fell down and injured her brain. At one time, she couldn't walk forwards, she just kept moving in circles, with her head nodding at an alarming rate. Alhamdulillah she was cured. Yuyu was a first-time mum, and so didn't realise she had given birth to two live kitties; she was feeding Hakusho but not Jimmy in the first few moments after birth. So Jimmy to this day is a very nervy and jumpy kitty. She hates any change, and is totally dependant on her sister Hakusho for companionship. Hakusho has always been a confident kitty, and will get the both of them into trouble. Although their mum is a semi-long haired cat, both of them are short hairs, but their coats are extra thick than the usual strays. Their dad was an orange stray whom Yuyu ran away from home to rendezvous with. Luckily we found her that night, amid rain and thunder. The second time she escaped we never found her.

Here are 3 little kitties I found a few months back in a drain near my home. I had driven a little ways from my house, when I remembered I had left something at home. So I parked by the kerb a few houses away from mine, and was walking home when I heard loud mewing. The owner of the loud voice is the solid creamy-orange cat above, whom we named Ichigo. A few feet away, lying on her side was a pretty little calico, now named Yoruichi, and yet further away, in a very weakened state was Toshirou, the white and orange van. I immediately got a box, scooped them all up and went to the vet's to get them checked out. They still smelled of milk, and were still wobbly on their feet.

We got them soft food, and set up a cage so that they won't be bullied by the other, bigger cats. To my relief they were pretty much ok, just dehydrated. The other cats weren't too happy at first, but gradually came around. As they grew older, 2 of them turned out to be semi-long hairs.

Ichigo is the most affectionate of the lot. He just flops in my arms whenever I hold him, and nuzzles my hand, feet, skirt... you get the idea. Those big soft eyes are just full of love. He sometimes likes to spend time outdoors, but whenever I appear at the door, he runs up asking to be let in.

Toshirou had me worried for a while, because he seemed to be rather weak. But he soon caught up to the others, and is now a happy, rambunctious little cat. He loves to carry things and leave them all over the house. Thank goodness he's no Klepto-Kitty!

Yoruichi is such a girly little kitty. She loves lounging around in pretty little poses. She hates being outdoors too long, and enjoys her little creature comforts: my pillow, my duvet, my clothes.. you get the idea. We call her our little Cindy Crawford for her beauty mark on the top of her mouth. Her demeanour and expressions remind us a lot of Yuyu, leading us to speculate that these kitties are either hers, or her grandchildren. Sigh.

So there you have it, 9 little kitties (10 if you count the missing Yuyu) altogether. They occasionally hiss and spit at each other, but so far no serious scrapes. Jang Jang Boy is the one who holds the peace, for some reason all the other cats love and respect him. I suspect it is the same reason why the cats next door disappear whenever he comes out into the garden. I am trying to integrate them all into their new cat enclosure, where they have plenty of room to run and play.

My Furry Bunch

Okay UmmS, these are for you! :-)
First up is Bubu with.. hmm.. I think it is Rodimus Prime in car form. She loves air-conditioning and is a camera hog. She can be quite standoffish at times, but quite affectionate when she feels like it.

Next with big ears and gorgeous heartfelt eyes is a rescue we found on the second day of Eid, Chunky Lafungga. She is deeply possessive and has been known to use the human loo. Her favourite spot to nap is next to my computer monitor. She has abandonment issues, and refuses to stay in the cat enclosure, insisting on staying indoors with us.

Below her, hugging a pole is handsome Jang Jang Boy. We suspect he is part Norwegian Forest. He is very friendly and loves the outdoors. Good thing too, coz he sheds a LOT. He once placed second in a cat show, and won enough cat food for 3 months. He loves fish, especially salmon (the canned variety of course! on occasion)

Pongkey and Lulu (but we call her Yuyu) are hanging out in the cat carrier. Yuyu has been missing for the past 2 years :'-(. She is my hubby's favourite, and is also sister to Jang Jang & Bubu. She is a true queenly cat, and keeps all the other cats in order. Miss her loads.

The pretty calico with the smiling face is Pongkey. She is the eldest of our cats, the last surviving kitten out of a litter of 5. She can climb coconut trees, is also deeply jealous and is currently very tubby. She once caught a frog and tried to gift it to me. Yikes!

In other developments, our cat enclosure is finally built. But there is still lots to do.. I am still planting trees in it, and am trying to compost the poo. I am looking for sweet-smelling flowers to plant all round to cover any unpleasant smell wafting to the neighbours'. Bushes for them to play hide and seek in would be fun. So far there is the camellia and breadflower, and limes. Maybe some ginger too. Lemon grass I fear might have sharp edges... perhaps when it is all prettied up I will post some pictures.

Link to Part 2 of My Furry Bunch. Yes. I have more cats!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Weekend Going-Ons

What I have been reading over the weekend:

This Garden is Illegal: Neem for Garden Pests
~ time to get rid of the malathion

Gardening by the Moon
~whoever knew planting by the lunar calendar would be effective?

Ten Steps to an Organic No-Dig Permaculture Garden

Cheeseslave: Fermented Salsa Recipe

Food Renegade: What is Real Food and How to Tell

Food Renegade: How to Cure Tooth Decay
"If you want the healthiest teeth possible, eat:
  • whole foods freshly prepared,
  • yellow butter,
  • organs and glands like bone marrow and liver,
  • mineral rich bone broths,
  • raw dairy, and
  • a variety of sea foods."
GNOWFGLINS eCourse: How to Cook Real Food (how to prepare foods to optimise their nutrients and yet are tasty too!)

Eat Fat to Lose Fat: the Lowdown on Fats that are good for you (that includes coconut oil, y'all!)

What I have been doing over the weekend so far:
  • sent hubby to his all-day strategic planning thingy (yes!!! how dare they do this on weekends!)
  • popped by the organic shop to purchase some veggies
  • stopped by parents' for lunch with sisters
  • went out to get birthday cake
  • picked hubby up
  • went to birthday dinner for the twins (my nephews)
  • went to weekend 'farmers market'. Got these plants: camellia, breadflower, lime & kaffir lime. Planted the flowers in the cat enclosure by the back fence, have yet to decide where to place the limes.
  • had lunch.. it was beef bone broth. Yummy.
  • made onion & celery fritters.
  • messing around on this blog!