Spinning wheel

Play comes so natural to kids.

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Sandy beaches of Bintan and our sensory connect with nature.

Better blog some stuff down for the kids to remember us by before Facebook steals away my considered thoughts and reflections through inane sharing and likes.  Some of the best moments we have are on holiday by the beach.  This is in Bintan.  It’s difficult to find sand dollars on reclaimed beaches but the original pristine beaches in Bintan’s full of these skeletal remains.  Very pretty.

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Somehow the gentle waves in the cove beckon and it seems to occupy the kids very well.  It must be the sensation of the lapping waves their seeming playfulness that invites a child to play.

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 Matt is always reflective at the beach.  So much better doing this than playing with gadgets.  I think we have a sensory connect with nature.  It is an involved process this.  No wonder we love to go on field trips.

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This is a green crested lizard, very inquisitive but shot away paddling at the sand when we got too close.

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This is another sensation that Josh likes, the tickling of the hermit crabs.  I am glad he has this experience.  Some of my JC students have never seen a hermit crab. 

 

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Josh is a relatively good swimmer so this time, we go kayaking.  We paddled far from the shore and around a promontory.  We witness fish skimming and jumping out of the waters closeby and discovered a fish in the kayak later.  I think this sort of things should be done on a regular basis.  

 

Being kids

This is a real short video I made of my kids playing around with their skateboards.  They seemed to enjoy the sensation of rolling down the slope.  I couldn’t resist making it into a video with iMovie with a song from Starfish Stories.  Ivan thinks we should call the song “On the Longboard”.

The traditional chicken curry at Christmas

On Christmas day, while the children are still asleep, I am already up and dealing with the chicken, curry paste, coconut milk and eggs that I bought the day before.  I like to buy the ingredients from the wet market and the one nearby has a shop run by an Indian lady who sells the curry powder mix, ground onions, garlic and ginger.

She told me to marinate the chicken by massaging the ginger and garlic paste into the thawed chicken for an hour or so.

Another important thing to do is the cook the curry paste in some oil in a wok to bring out the flavors of the spices.  I also realize that if that is not done, then the rawness of the ginger, garlic and onions can still be picked out.  Of course the caramelization of the onions will not occur as fully as it should.

 

Chicken curry

So here it is – marinated chicken in the pot.  What I had missed here is to fry the paste (portion that wasn’t used in the marinating).  So I did that in a separate pan.

 

Chicken curry

The outcome is this.  Notice I also added in hard boiled eggs – a tradition handed down from my family.  But I wonder where it originated from – lots of people are surprised when they scoop up an egg.  Hey, what do you expect from a pot of chicken?

The recipe

Part I – Ingredients

  • Chicken x1 (chopped to smaller parts)
  • Curry paste (For meats).  Preferably buy from a local wet market (if in Singapore).  The paste I buy has the dry curry spices as well as a separate packet of ginger-garlic paste and separate packet of shallot (onion) paste
  • I small packet of coconut milk
  • Spices – cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom
  • Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves
  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • 5 Potatoes, peeled.  Starchy or waxy are fine – both kinds add a different texture when attacking the potatoes.  However the starchy ones tend to break down faster but leave a nice thickness to the gravy.

Part II – method

  • Marinate the chicken with half the ginger-garlic paste for like 1 hour before.
  • Add some oil and brown the marinated chicken for about 10 mins and remove
  • Meantime, heat up some oil and add some whole spices (cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom) and fry till fragrant.
  • Add in the remaining ginger-garlic paste with the onion paste and add the curry powder.  Mix in the wok in a low heat till the fragrant.  I think that would be about 5-10 mins.
  • Add in the chicken and mix well till the curry covers the chicken well.  The chicken at this point would have started to cook and will break apart easily so its time to add in water and the peeled potatoes.
  • Add in water till it has a curry-like consistency of your choice.  I prefer mine like a gravy.
  • Now its time to cover the pot and leave the heat to low.  Slow cooking makes the meat more tender – the faster the protein denatures in the high heat will result in a rubber like consistency with rushed curries.  Open the pot occasionally to stir the curry.  After about an hour of this, the curry is about done.
  • Now stir in the salt to taste and finally add coconut milk.  I usually add about half of the packet but if you like the curry richer, then add the entire packet.  Its all about customizing it to your own taste.  Once all these have been done, you can add in the hard boiled eggs and garnish with a generous bunch of coriander leaves.  I think the ammonia from the eggs do something nice to the taste.
  • Note:  The coconut milk should be added in at the end.  I add salt at the end as the salt can draw out the water from the chicken at the start and leave it less succulent.
  • Coriander leaves top the curry off very well.
  • Now you can eat it.  Best with rice or for me, the french loaf.

For a more complete recipe from scratch, the page at rasamalaysia.com looks quite authentic.  But I think the idea is perhaps to keep this simple and then vary it according to your taste.  I remember meeting Otterman halfway up Gunung Belumut with a pack of curry powder and a packet of chicken so that he could cook chicken curry for his friends when they reached the summit and set up camp.

The curry chicken with hard boiled eggs is something of a memory vessel for me – my parents used to lug a huge pot of curry with hard boiled eggs, armed with several large baguettes (french loaves) and a long day of inspecting rock pools would end with some curry by the sea.

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Bishan Park ride to collect cake

Cycling to collect a cake is a great reason to commute on a bike.  So my mum asked if I wanted half a log cake… why of course.  So Josh and I were off…. swoosh.

Josh with his Polygon

When we reached there, I discovered my sister and Jon were back from their honeymoon in NZ and a what a nice way to catch up over some kway chap.  Noodle boy loves his noodles flat or round.

Breakfast with the honeymooners

She asked me where I would be bringing the kids in the afternoon and I thought Science centre or prawn fishing.  Somehow the cookie crumbled towards fishing.  My sis feeling bored, decided to tag along.  This farm is in Pasir Ris.  It is the least crowded and the atmosphere is pretty laid-back.

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Its pretty fun.  Matt does well sitting there for an hour without whining.

Chocolate cake in a hurry

I got this recipe from this ABC Queensland website.  It’s super fast and easy to do and turns out pretty decent.  Moist enough and no bitter taste from the leavening (must be the sugar and Tudor Gold Cocoa powder.  The kids love to help out in baking and of course eat the cake. Cooking is an excellent way to bond with the kids.  I use a non-stick baking pan and I grease with butter.  I give the icing a miss though.  It takes about 10-15 mins to prepare and 30 mins to bake.

You need:
1 cup self-raising flour
2-3 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
90g. butter, melted
1 teaspoons vanilla essence

Method:
1. Pre-heat oven to 180deg.C. Grease a 20cm ring tin.

2. Sift flour and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire cake rack to cool completely. Dust cake heavily with icing sugar before serving, or if time allows, coat with chocolate icing.

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There is a cake frenzy in the back ground… even the lego characters are flat out on their back.  Cake has a nice crust on top, nice chocolately taste that is not too overwhelming and not dry at all.  I think I didn’t beat this cake enough though.

It’s about those moments we are mindful of – such a moment on Penang Hill

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This moment at Penang Hill melts me.  I remember my parents bringing me and my elder sister up Penang Hill when I was very young – however with a few recollections that are etched in memory somehow.  I remember the tram ride up mostly and also feeding peanuts to the Macaques in Penang Botanic Gardens and the pit viper temple.  And here at this moment are 2 of my own kids looking at the scenery from the top of the hill.   It makes me think of my parents and at the same time my kids in future… strange feeling.  I wonder what Josh and Matt will remember of this moment in future when they decide to visit this place one day again.  Oh well, perhaps they will read this post on this blog (which was partly written for them to reminisce in future) and see how a father looked at them shooting the breeze and reminisced about his childhood and pondered about the future (macam the 2 headed gryphon).