Saturday, 16 June 2012

Gardening Going Ons..

I bought this galangal or lengkuas for a tomyum dish, but then decided to plant the rest.

This is where I planted it, next to one of ny compost heaps. I really need to get more used tyres. I wonder if those tyre shops will give them to me for free? :-)

This is what it looks like, buried.

I am also giving the mobile version of Blogger a trial run. This post is composed and posted from Blogger Mobile. I hope it comes out all right.

In other news, this is what Toshirou has been up to lately:

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Karahi Chicken

Mama Pongkey's Karahi Chicken
This post was inspired by some comments in a post by Encik Iskandar of fame:

ShahRose said: Coriander leaves (also known as cilantro) are great in murghi karai, a Pakistani dish.

Encik Iskandar replied: I am not yet familiar with Pakistani cuisine.

Karai... karahi... Karahi Chicken...

Karahi (Urdu for wok) chicken was one of my go-to recipes while I was a student in the UK. I usually had most of the ingredients readily stocked in my kitchen, especially since most of them are flavours I already love: tomatoes, coriander, onion, ginger and garlic. The original recipe was from one of those thick cooking tomes, bought for cheap at a discount book store, most likely this one:

I misplaced this huge book. Yes, how is that possible? Image taken from
Blessed, good memories of love, friendship, neighbourliness surround this dish. But for some reason I hadn't made this dish in a long, long while. Partly because we went low-carb, and any curried dishes just increased my cravings for piping hot, steamed white basmathi rice. But since now I have reintroduced some rice into my diet this dish is a go.

So here I am reconstructing this recipe from the cobwebs of my mind. The dominant flavours are onion, tomato, and coriander. The amounts are approximate/guesstimate, because I don't really measure as I cook. Here it goes:

Mama Pongkey's Karahi Chicken

  • 1 kg chicken, cut into small pieces so it will cook quickly 
  • 3 large onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger & garlic paste
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 5 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped
  • 4-5 green chillies, sliced in an attractive manner
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the onions properly, this is a key step in most Pakistani and Indian dishes
  • Heat up coconut oil and ghee in a wok (okay I am in the process of replacing my non-stick wok, so I am using a claypot instead. :-P)
  • Add in diced onions, and stir fry these until they are oh-so-slightly burnt. Or brown, if you prefer.
  • Add in ginger-garlic paste, cardamom pods and star anise.
  • When the whole thing starts to be a bit sticky, add in the chicken.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes when the chicken pieces have browned sufficiently.
  • When the chicken is halfway cooked, add the powdered spices, and stir, stir away! 

  • Add some water, I added about 1 cup, and the bay leaf. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes.

  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • As a last ditch effort, dump in the chillies, stir for a minute and switch off the heat.
  • Just before serving, garnish with cilantro.
And here is our dinner, served with white rice and chilled raita:

Karahi Chicken with Raita and White Ponni Rice

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Glorious Gutter Garden Update, among others

(I drafted this entry on another device, but it wouldn't post to Blogger. So I emailed to myself, copied-pasted here and inserted the photos again. Sigh)

Growth seems to have slowed down a bit, with not much height difference but with more new shoots. I had been away for 6 days and pretty much left the garden to the whims of nature. I hoped that the previous weather pattern of hot sunny days followed by heavy rains at night would sustain growth. Above left are some Paris Market carrot shoots, an unidentified small shoot, and towards the middle an unidentified big shoot. Can anyone help identify it for me at this early stage? Potential candidates are bitter gourd (peria katak) or pot marigold (calendula). I wonder if I can make tea out of these calendula? :-)

Above are yellow pear cherry tomato shoots, with 2 holy basil plants as companions. I might move these into my cat enclosure once they are big enough to need support. Quite excited about these babies.

Remember my sowing plot in a previous entry? Here is a pic of the layout:

The empty pot now has sunflower shoots! Woohoo!

And below are the plants today:

Chinese forget-me-nots, roselle and Siamese hot chilis have yet to grace us with their appearance. But yellow pear cherry tomatos, sweet red cherry tomatos, pak choy, cherrytime capsicum (in polybag), mixed colours sunflower and lemon basil have broken the soil surface. I suspect that the 'chrysanthemum shoots' are actually some ivy-like weed that has made a home in my garden. But I'll let them grow a bit more to be really sure. In the brown plastic pot on the right is my precious loofa gourd (petola sarang). Precious because its' predecessor became a hungry slug's dinner. Which is a pity because I only got that seedling after a wait of almost 2 months. But today it seems a bit wilted. Maybe it is sad because it has no place to climb? So I placed it next to my cat enclosure, and hung some of the tendrils on the wires.

Surprise, surprise, above are another 2 loofah gourd seedlings that popped out of the blue :-) Alhamdulillah.

Above are my 2 surviving purple chili plants after the virus epidemic a few months ago. I have only eaten 1 fruit from these, the rest I am keeping for seed. The brown pot in the middle has the tuber of a daffodil.

Beautiful while it lasted.

 The picture above shows the daffodils in full bloom, when I first obtained the plant with 5 tubers. I gave away 3 tubers to a gardening enthusiast I know for safekeeping (so in case I kill my daffodils I may be able to get some from him). The daffodils survived 3 weeks indoors. But unfortunately about a month after moving them outside, they started to show signs of unhappiness, and the leaves finally died away. I was a bit upset, but kept the tubers anyway just in case they might 'wake up'. This tuber seems a bit happy, doesn't it? A bit fresh-looking, not all dried-up like its poor friend (not pictured, poor thing!)

My kangkong (water convolvulus) that is threatening to take over the plot :-) I must eat these more. I don't really mind the neighbourhood insect-pests getting some snacks from these, because really I have plenty to share.

These are kacang panjang renek or snake bush beans (I am making my own translation at the moment, LOL). This is after about a week. I plan to move them to a permanent sunny spot, and give away one of the plants to an old lady I know.. I have repotted 2 of them now.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Bone-y Affair aka Ain't No Use Eatin' It if Ye Can't Absorb It

Oh yeah my cat loves to clean her teeth with the miswak :-)

A simple bone mineral density test about 6 months ago gave me a scare, because it said I was osteoporotic(!) While my MD friends pooh-poohed the idea due to my age and dietary intake, (plus those portable machines aren't really that well known for their accuracy either); I thought it would be a good idea to make a conscious effort to adapt a more bone-building lifestyle. So some pals who are into clean, healthy eating gave me some references and ideas, and I formulated a simple plan.

I increased intake of:
  • Gouda cheese, which is said to be high in vitamin K2, an essential bone-building nutrient
  • Vitamin D3 supplements at least 400 IU per day, which helps with mineral absorption
  • Magnesium
  • Homemade yoghurt almost daily, for both the probiotic properties (balanced gut flora helps with digestion and absorption of food) and bone-building nutrients within
  • Ghee and butter, used liberally in cooking and taken raw
  • Kampung chicken eggs, 2 whole eggs daily
  • Tapai (fermented glutinous rice) a few times a week to help with gut flora

I really like the changes I made, because seriously fat makes food taste so much better, and it satiates away the hunger pangs. I did notice cravings for fat when I started the vitamin D3 supplement, to which I responded by having some cheese, butter or eggs. Also I noticed feeling less cranky/irritable when I get enough fat. One of my favourite quickie dishes are bullseye eggs with sauteed onions and chillies in butter and coconut oil. Mmm hmm the aroma is amazing. Also butter with stir-fried veggies not only tastes luxuriant, they are also extremely good for you. And Gouda cheese in scrambled eggs with butter and coconut oil, and fresh veg from the garden, taste so satisfyingly good. Oh, and about the vitamin D3, although I live in a land of perpetual summer, it is good to supplement because apparently even Hawaiian surfer dudes (at least I assume they are) are found to have low vitamin D status.

Mmm. Soft boiled eggs with butter is good too. Look at the deep rich colour of the yolk, indicating high nutrient content.

I also started doing some kettlebell exercises a few times a week, using a 10kg kettlebell. To be honest I am not really one for exercise (lazy!) so I prefer really, really short workouts. So some sample workouts would be:
  • 20-30 kettlebell swings
  • 20 wall pushups
  • Tabata sprints involving jumping jacks 
Or I'd garden or take a walk instead. A few weeks ago some people organised a 3-hour Zumba workout at my husband's place of work. I thought I would be wasted during the 1st hour. To my surprise, I lasted almost the full 3 hours, but I had to cut it short and go home a bit early.

Some friends measure success by looking at their teeth and watching for more density. I became concerned that glycerine in toothpaste might block mineral absorption by teeth, not to mention the purported evils of fluoride. So I gave up both toothpaste and toothbrushes. Especially since my hubby read a book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, which details the story of the development of toothpaste as a consumer product. What toothpaste makers are actually marketing is the 'cool, tingly sensation', so that people associate the minty taste with cleaned teeth. Marketing ploy alert! You can read the story of Pepsodent here, which is an excerpt from Charles Duhigg's book. Quote from the book: "Even today, almost all toothpastes contain additives with the sole job of making your mouth tingle after you brush."

Instead I am using the miswak, or kayu sugi as it is known in Malay. I challenged myself to 1 week without toothpaste, then a week became 2, and now it has been about 6 weeks. I do feel my gums getting stronger, and somehow because there is no foam from the toothpaste, I became a bit more diligent about brushing in the most awkward of corners of my mouth. So far so good. I cut off the used portion of the stick once or twice a week, so it is like getting a new toothbrush each time I do that. Plus the great thing is that it is SUNNAH. I could definitely use the free pahala :-)

Another cat photo: Chunkey looking extremely annoyed because she senses Yinkey enroaching into her sacred territory: the worktop.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Glory in the Gutter...

In a previous post I showed the beginnings of my Glorious Gutter Garden(C).

I sowed some seeds on the 28th of May and 30st of May, as laid out in the diagrams below:

Rain gutter, divided into 2 parts. The bitter gourd in bold purple text was sowed 2 days later, when I learned from Tukang Kebun about suitable companions for carrots.

Some pots I rescued from inside my cat enclosure, and turned into sowing beds. There is still a pot without any seeds in it because I can't decide what to sow. It is a wide and shallow pot. Maybe more cabbages and spring onions? The square shapes denote either polybags or square plastic pots. Again, bold purple text denotes seeds sown on 30 May.
UPDATE: the empty pot has been sown with mixed colour sunflower seeds on 2nd June. :-)
Lets see what has happened since then:

I think these are baby daikon radishes. Woo hoo!

And these, might be the purple cabbage or purple kohlrabi, not sure which.

C'mon tell me this looks like pot marigold? Yes? That looks like the seed, right?

I honestly am not sure what these are. These are sprouting in other spots too along the rain gutter.
Sorry for the poor quality pic. From the prickly shape of the seeds, I believe these are rainbow chards. They have been washed further right down the gutter by the heavy rains which hit my area almost every night lately.

Yellow pear cherry tomato seedlings, they are tiny, can you spot them? The bigger plant on top is a holy basil I placed there in the pot as a ready companion for the tomato plants.
Sweet red cherry tomatoes, insha Allah. :-)

I am quite excited by these seedlings. Thank you to TukangKebun at Kebun Bahagia Bersama from whom I obtained most of the seeds, and En Iskandar at for the chrysanthemum, forget-me-not, mixed colour sunflower, bitter gourd and Siamese hot chilli seeds. :-)