Doin’ fine…

Yes, my mint…

Mint

…is doing fine. I got some from a friend, my ex-students’ mum/mum-in-law and I planted it in a pot. It flourished so I transplanted some in other pots and the new plants are doing just as well too.

I guess I can use the leaves to make some mint sauce to go with lamb but we hardly ever cook the meat ourselves – we would just eat it outside. So all I can do would be to make mint tea and the other day, I made this very delightful and refreshing aloe vera drink…

Mint and pandan flavoured aloe vera drink

…with lots of mint and pandan leaves added and yes, it turned out really well plus it has a whole lot of health benefits too!

I do have a problem with white spots appearing on some of the leaves though but I would just trim them and get rid of them – a lot more where they came from, the leaves. I also planted some…

More mint

…in my herbs circle…

My herbs circle

…where I have my curry leaves, my dill, Thai basil, sawtooth coriander, wild onion, oregano, chilies, daun hempedu bumi and even daun sup (Chinese celery)…

Daun sup

They say that I must not plant this in the open – they will not thrive well in the sun but my herbs circle is not shaded and yet, it is doin’ fine there.

Of course, the ones I have in the shade – a whole lot in the trough that I used to plant the mother plant plus a pot where I have transplanted a bit…

More daun sup

…are growing like crazy. I bought the seedling (the mother plant) for only RM5.00, truly a worthwhile investment, and there has been no looking back since. For a very long time now, I no longer have to buy from the market anymore where you will get only a few sprigs for RM2.00 and because you do not use so much at one go, you end up throwing away the rest when they have withered even when kept in the fridge.

Unfortunately, I have not been so successful with tomatoes – I’ve bought the seedlings twice, RM5.00 each too but they just dried up and died. Never mind! Life goes on…and I’ll just go on doing what I do best.

We didn’t know…

Gosh!!! All my life, I thought we planted kunyit (turmeric) for the tuber for use in our cooking and I had some with very big leaves that I used to wrap fish for cooking what we call pa’is ikan. Eventually, it grew a little bit too crowded so I transplanted some at another place – where my missus planted it a long long time ago and it did not do very well (we were both working then and did not have much time to tend to our plants) – and there, it flourished too.

That day, I decided to trim it a little, more specifically to get rid of the old withered leaves and some of those small ones sprouting out to give the rest more breathing space, so to speak. Imagine my surprise when I spotted, hidden among the leaves, a flower…

Kunyit flower 1

We did not know that the kunyit plant will blossom…and a few days later, I spotted another one…

Kunyit flower 2

…and this looked like another one yet to bloom…

Coming soon

I did share a photograph of it on Facebook and some friends commented that the flowers would be good for ulam, eaten with sambal belacan or used to cook asam prawns. I’ve yet to do anything with them but I did go and google for recipes – it looked like all of them only used it to make kerabu.

I also had to trim my serai (lemon grass)…

Serai

…the other day. I have to do this very often and very regularly as it grows really well. In the past, I would harvest the stalks of serai and send them to my favourite Thai restaurant here but it has since closed down. This time around, I ended up with around 50 big fat stalks (I just threw away the thinner ones) in my freezer.

I used to throw away the leaves but not anymore. These days, I pick the fresher, greener leaves and tie them up nicely to put in my kitchen cabinets. It is believed to keep away lizards and cockroaches and yes, it has been said also that serai scares mosquitoes away.  As for the rest of the leaves, I cut them into short lengths and spread them out under the plant. It will help fertilise the soil and of course, the top cover will prevent unwanted weeds from sprouting out all over.

This is from my current batch of ulam raja – it has started flowering…

Ulam raja flower

They grew out of the seeds from the plants in the previous batch – my missus got a lot of seeds from a friend but they did not grow so well. I think in the end, I only got four or five plants but those produced enough seeds to reproduce so many seedlings. Just like my kunyit, I had to get rid of the smaller and thinner ones to give space to the selected few to grow and flourish…and when I pluck any for our ulam, I would pick the nice young leaves to enjoy and leave the bigger and harder older ones untouched.

Gardening can be so therapeutic – when you see your plants doing so well, you will feel so happy, so satisfied…and all that exercise every morning, all that sweating is good too.

The spirit of Christmas past…

In my younger days, my dad would receive a lot of Christmas cards from his business associates and I think we did get some from family and friends as well. I would stick them onto the walls of our wooden house using cellophane tape, arranging them in the shape of a Christmas tree…and sometimes, I would hang them up on strings tied up using thumb tacks, one thing one would not be able to do today in our concrete homes.

Yes, we had a Christmas tree too, an odd looking thing with branches that resembled those brushes used for cleaning milk bottles…or worse, toilet brushes…but it was a Christmas tree and I found immense joy in taking it out year after year and decorating it…and of course, putting the presents at the foot of the tree, waiting for Christmas to come so I would be able to open them to see what was inside each of them.

Anyway, back to those Christmas cards, I got 3 from the Mouth & Foot Painting Artists (and of course, I sent them a cheque for what I received from them) and I quickly sent them to family and friends residing overseas in the hope that they would receive them in time. At the time of writing, I only know that my friend in Adelaide got hers while a cousin in Melbourne is on holiday in Las Vegas so she would probably get hers after that, and I have yet to get any news of the rest.

In the meantime, I went round the shops in town in search of Christmas cards to send to those within the country, only to be laughed at. “Nobody sends Christmas cards anymore!” they all said. Well, I was quite determined and would not give up and finally, I found these…

Christmas cards

…at the Religious Articles Shop at the Catholic cathedral here, only RM3.60 for 12 – so very cheap, only 30 sen each and they were all so beautiful and I loved the words inside some of them. I remember how my Dad was very particular in choosing his Christmas cards to send to people and they must mention Christmas specifically. No, those with only “Season’s Greetings” would not do, not at all.

It used to cost only 10 sen to send a card within the country, unsealed, 15 sen for a letter but when I went to send them, the guy at the counter said it would be 50 sen each and if I am not wrong, that would be the special for Christmas thing. Letters these days cost 80 sen…or more, depending on the weight. Ah well!!! It’s only once a year…and yes, I did buy a lot to keep for next year and the years to come. My sister remarked that the envelopes would turn yellow but no, that did not deter me. It’s the thought that counts, that’s my fervent belief.

I was thinking I would not be getting any this year as there were none forthcoming when just the other day, out of the blue, the Poslaju van stopped by my gate and I got this lovely Christmas card…

From Uncle Paul and family

…from my dear uncle (my mum’s youngest brother) and auntie and my cousins in Kuching. They had sent it by courier service for fear that it would not reach me in time – isn’t that so sweet and thoughtful of them?

This one came from another auntie in Kuching, my mum’s late brother’s wife, and my cousin and hubby…

From Ah Kim, Tina and Mapphy

…and believe it or not, they got the card…

From Perth

…all the way from Perth, Australia – the children & their families are there! It seemed that they too had difficulty getting hold of Christmas cards in Kuching.

And talking about Perth, this beautiful one…

From cousin Yvette in Perth

…came from my cousin there. I loved the golden reindeer sticker seal…

Sticker

…on the envelope and inside, she wrote this…

P.S.

Indeed, in the good ol’ days, at this time of the year, we would be looking forward the the Christmas Eve dance at the Sibu Recreation Club (SRC) and there would be one on New Year’s Eve too…and another one on Chinese New Year’s Eve and no, we would not miss a single one. We all loved dancing so much, dancing for the sheer fun of it and we sure had a great time when these festive seasons came around.

Well, time sure has changed. For one thing, I am getting fewer and fewer Christmas cards each passing year – I did get quite a few in 2015 but the number dwindled in 2016…and in 2017. I guess the time will come when I will not be getting any anymore and in the event of that happening, I certainly would feel that something has gone missing from the spirit of Christmas, something like in the words in this song
“You know, I don’t know why
I get to feeling sentimental
About this time, every year.
But every time I see a Christmas card,
I somehow can’t help reminiscing…
…I thrill with every word, every line
Guess I’m always sentimental ’round this time
Pardon me if a tear falls among my Christmas cheer
It’s the mem’ry of an old Christmas card…”

Anyway, card or no card, let us give thanks and praise to the Lord above that we are blessed with this opportunity to wish one and all a Holy and Joyous Christmas…

Merry Christmas

…in whichever way we choose. Happy Christmas!

Gotta get it right…

When it comes to fried eggs, I like it done the traditional old-school way…

Wok-fried

…fried in a wok with a bit of the oil splashed onto the yolk so it will not be “bright and sunny” as in a sunny-side-up. I wouldn’t like it flipped…

Flipped

…though as even though the yolk may still be runny, it does not look all that nice.

I certainly am not crazy about those fried using a ring…

Ring-fried

…but they do that at some places where they do everything on a hot plate. At a burger stall, for instance, they will toast the bun, fry the patty and the egg all at one go…and I guess using the ring will ensure that the egg white does not flow far and wide and will fit nicely in the bun.

I do know for a fact that some people use a few rings at a time, also on a hot plate, so they can fry a number at a time and serve them in a tray or plate like what they do at some nasi lemak stalls. However, I am not fond of the thick and rubbery white in eggs fried this way and besides, one will not get the lovely fragrance and taste of the golden frills all along the edges.

For one thing, the one frying must make sure that the plate is clean or else there will be that unsightly layer of “soot” at the bottom like the one in the above photograph or the one I had here

Burnt and uncooked

…even though the boy did not use a ring and even though he was frying one egg at a time, the end result sure did not look all that palatable.  No, they did not burn the egg, just that the plate was dirty and they went on and fried the eggs on it.

In the case of that last one, the white was still uncooked around the egg, something that I encountered at a five-star hotel in Kuching

Uncooked

I would have thought those guys would have gone to some cooking school and would have the credentials to show but the one who fried the eggs for me sure needed a refresher course…but at least, I saw how he fried two eggs at a time and learnt something that morning – he broke them into a bowl first.

The traditional Malaysian breakfast at the old school Chinese coffee shops would include our local coffee in the thick blue and white cup and saucer way back in the good old days but not anymore,  the loti kiap/roti kahwin (sandwich toast) that I blogged about in yesterday’s post and half-boiled/cooked eggs.

However, for me to cook half-boiled eggs the way my mum used to do it, I would need to boil some water and pour it over the eggs, cold from the fridge, and let them stand for 15-20 minutes depending on the size and also how many I am cooking at one time.That is why I would prefer to just fry them using a non-stick pan as it will be faster this way and besides, I am too lazy to take out my extra-heavy wok (7-ply Zebra brand) even though I do prefer my eggs fried that way.

To fry two at a time, following what I saw the aforementioned guy at the egg station at the hotel did, I would break the eggs into a cup…

In a cup

…heat up the pan and grease it with a bit of oil and pour the eggs into it…

In a pan

Move the pan to swirl the egg white in it and spread it all over the pan and if you are thus inclined, before the white gets cooked, you can push the egg yolks to the middle to make your fried eggs look more presentable, not lop-sided like mine.

Turn down the heat and wait till the egg white is completely cooked and the bottom is lightly browned like this…

Bottom, golden brown

You can cook it a little longer if you wish and on low heat, it is not likely that it will end up burnt.

There you have it! My pan-fried eggs…

Pan-fried

…not uncooked around the yolk, not burnt at the bottom – so very easy, absolutely no problem at all. I really wonder why I see so many people in the food business who just can’t seem to get it right!

Do what you like…

Everyone has his or her own likes and dislikes, his or her own preferences and idiosyncrasies and of course, one is free to do what one likes.

I have a toaster…

Toaster

– it was given to me by a dear friend as a wedding gift; he was my best man but sadly, he had passed away not too long ago, may he rest in peace.

Of course that was a long time ago but yes, it is still in very good working condition. For one thing, things made in those days are a lot more durable and lasting than what one can get from the shops these days. We had a sandwich and waffle maker that my missus got from some direct sales agency, using her bonus points – it was working all right but one fine day, when we turned it on, the electricity in the house went kaput! In the end, we just had to throw it away. Thankfully, it came for free and as they say, easy come, easy go!

Going back to the toaster, I am not fond of using it as if the toast is brown enough, the whole slice of bread will be crusty, inside out. Other than that, I am not all that crazy about going through the trouble of taking it out of the cabinet and after using it, when it has cooled, I would need to clean it before putting it back.

I guess it will be the same if I use my oven…

Oven

I got this free using my credit card points and yes, it has its uses, small and convenient so we will not use the big one that is part of our gas stove unless absolutely necessary. I’ve never tried using it to toast bread…

To toast bread

…though so I am not sure how it will turn out.

In the old days in the coffee shops, they would place the bread on the charcoal grill…

Charcoal grill

…to toast it. I had seen them scraping the black surfaces once it was done and they would generously apply their own-made kaya (coconut jam) and place a slice or two of butter on top and serve. Of course, that was so very nice unlike what we will get today. Firstly, nowadays, they will use an electric toaster or an oven toaster and then they will serve it with canned kaya and margarine.

As a matter of fact, they actually had one charcoal grill at a hotel in Kuching for guests to use to toast their bread if they were thus inclined…

Charcoal grill at Grand Margherita Kuching

…and yes, I did toast my bread on it when I was staying there once.

There is one very popular place in Sarikei where people will go for the toast. I think they give butter, not margarine so that is a bonus and other than the kaya, it looks like they add peanut butter as well but I have never been there so I have no idea how they toast the buns. I have also heard a lot of this place in Kuching that is famous for its toast – Rowena goes there sometimes, it seems…but I have never been there either so I do not know how they go about making theirs.

So how do I go about mine? I like to toast the bread on a non-stick pan…

Non-stick pan

…till it is nice and brown on the outside…

Brown on the outside

…but still soft like fresh bread inside.

Once done, I would apply a thick layer of kaya – I like the made-in-Singapore Glory Brand, just like homemade…and slices of butter…

With kaya and butter

That sure beats any loti kiap (sandwich toast) or roti bakar that we can get at the shops here…or if there is any that is better around town, I sure do not know of it.

Something great…

The oregano that I got from my friend/ex-students’ mum/mum-in-law grew really well and was so very productive so I shared a photo on Facebook and asked if anybody would be interested. A friend said that she did not mind some so I repotted a few and sent them over to her house along with a little pot of dill – my dill is flourishing too. She had not got home from work so I passed them to her hubby.

A few days later, when we were in church that night, she passed me this…

Kelulut honey

the kelulut honey from those stingless bees that was the craze at one time – a lot of people were rearing them. It seems that she is keeping those bees as well so she has her own supply of the coveted stuff that is claimed to be even better than the celebrated New Zealand’s manuka honey which does not come cheap…and neither is this kelulut honey – somebody in Singapore said that he bought a 500 ml bottle for SGD50.00! I guess that is why there are people producing it commercially and marketing it now.

I did try a bit – it has its own taste that is not quite like our regular honey and yes, I did like it very much…and I saw in some websites that it has a lot of health benefits, thank you so much to my friend for that big bottle of the coveted stuff – I am sure that would cost a bundle.

In the meantime, one of the seedlings that my neighbour gave me had flowered…

Butterfly pea flower, 1st to bloom 1

the butterfly pea flower (the clitoria ternatea) and of course, that got me real excited and happy…

Butterfly pea flower 1st to bloom 2

It appeared that mine is a single-petal variety and there is also the double-petal one but they say they are the same as far as the health benefits go.

No, I did not pluck it…

Butterfly pea flower 1st to bloom 3

…to make tea right away. I guess I can wait till the plants have grown really big and are flowering in abundance. I noticed that the flower would have withered by the next day but to my delight, another one…

Butterfly pea flower 2nd to bloom

…bloomed.

At the time of writing, another one of the seedlings has flowered as well, just one – the third bloom so far. Fingers crossed, I will be seeing more and more over the next few days…and I can start brewing the tea to drink, great stuff – this flower and also the honey!

Eyes wide open…

I saw on their Facebook page that their new stock had arrived so I quickly made a beeline to the place to grab a couple of bottles of the fresh milk with kurma that my girl enjoys a lot and a couple of this…

Farm Fresh cafe latte

…for me to try.

When I blogged about it the other day, somebody mentioned that she liked the cafe latte very much except that it was too expensive. I did mention in that earlier post how my heart skipped a beat when the cashier keyed in the price for the one with kurma, over RM9.00, I think it was, and the price appeared on the monitor.  Well, if I had not been forewarned, I would probably have had a heart attack in the case of this one – it was priced at over RM11.00 a bottle!!! The yogurt were all over RM6.00…and despite the prices, when I got there that night, there were a whole lot of people and no price for guessing what they were all buying, like they were giving them away for free!

There is enough in one bottle…

100% genuine fresh milk and real coffee

…for two mugs so it works out to less than RM6.00 each – very much cheaper than what you may have to fork out at those coffee places but of course, there is no froth unless you have a hand-held whisk or you shake the bottle vigorously before pouring out the milk and there is no cute artwork for your amusement and admiration.

I had these digestive biscuits…

Gullong digestives

…in the house, bought from that same supermarket – Gullón brand – made in Spain which do not come anywhere near the original that I used to enjoy a lot but these came in value packs of two (tubes) for over RM7-8 and they are sugar free. They did not go too well with black coffee but I thought they were really nice dunked in fresh milk so I tried them with this kopi susu (coffee with milk)…

Cafe latte with digestives

…and yes, they did go quite well together.

This tagline on the bottle…

Eyes wide open

…caught my attention. Yes, it was very rich with the fresh milk and very strong on the coffee fragrance and taste, double expresso, it says there…but unfortunately, it did not manage to keep me awake. I had it for morning tea, around 10 a.m. and after lunch that day, I was no longer able to keep my eyes wide open and had to have my afternoon nap.

I guess it’s purely psychological but we seldom had milk in our younger days, only when we were sick and all we had was tinned condensed milk (Milkmaid) and later, I read somewhere that hot milk and honey would be a sure cure for insomnia so I would have that on nights when I found it difficult to sleep and that did seem to work. Perhaps that is the reason why without fail, at any time of day, milk makes me sleepy…