Friday, January 25, 2008

Tobogganing down Rigi + Ripping Rendang!

Downhill skiing seems dangerous and too fast, and requires clunky equipment. Whereas snow-shoe walking would involve a lot of uphill trudging -- my heart will not go on and on (unlike Celine Dion's).

Now how about sledding? It looks relatively safe and fun. I had always thought tobogganing was a tame sport for lily-livered wussies like me.

How wrong I was.

The tobogganing path on Mount Rigi, near where I live in Switzerland, was twisty with requisite speed bumps, which meant bumping along at hair-raising speeds while my other half tried to steer us away from the steep precipice on the left of the lane. There was no railing, just an itty-bitty bit of a snow bank, between us and the blankety-blank yonder way below. 'Braking' meant putting your heels in, and 'steering' was merely putting down your right heel if you wanted to go right.

After one particularly vicious bump, both of us fell off and my right shoulder joint was dislocated (old tennis injury, happens once in a while). After it clicked back in, we rested at the side for a bit before we continued our slip-sliding journey down the mountain.

I'm amazed Swiss parents let their wee children go down on their own toboggans. No doubt their light weight meant less momentum (unlike the hefty combined weight of my other half and me, ahem! Maybe we shouldn't have shared a toboggan, but the rental ain't cheap) but the steep bank on the left is always threatening to swallow up a few delicious, winter-fattened mortals.

Here are lovely diamonds. Bet you didn't know they grew on twigs, huh? ;-)

Anyhow, after coming down a snowy mountain, what's a welcome sight and taste is Rip-roaring Rendang. I've adapted Rohani Jelani's recipe in her 'Homestyle Malay Cooking' booklet to what's available here:

Had no dried chillies, so this Rendang Veal looks less reddish-brown (aside from unsuitable kitchen lighting).

500g lamb, veal, duck or chicken, sliced into bite-size pieces (I found beef too tough or took too long to soften)
3 tbs dessicated coconut, dry-fried on medium-low heat till golden brown
3-8 shallots (depending how big they are; they're HUGE here!), sliced (substitute: 2 onions)
2cm ginger root, sliced
2 (or more if you like it hot!) big red chillies, seeded and sliced
4 dried chillies, softened in hot water for 10 minutes (substitute: 1 tsp chilli powder)
150ml coconut cream
1 tbs sunflower seed oil or corn oil
2/3 tsp turmeric powder
3 stalks lemongrass, the fat part sliced, the remaining stalk trimmed and smashed lightly
1 small fennel, sliced or julienned (this is untraditional - for added flavour, bulk and texture)
3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 tbs dark brown sugar
sea salt to taste (about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp)

1. Pulse the shallots, ginger, chillies and sliced lemongrass, adding enough of coconut cream to make a thick paste.
2. Heat oil in a thick-bottomed non-stick saucepan till medium hot. Stirfry the shallot paste for 2 minutes. Add turmeric and smashed lemongrass stalks. Cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add sliced meat. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add sliced fennel.
4. Add rest of coconut cream. Cook on medium-low heat till meat is done and quite tender, and curry sauce is very thick (you're lucky if the timing of both coincide!). If curry is getting dry before meat is tender, add a bit of water.
5. When curry is thick and almost dry, add fried dessicated coconut, brown sugar, salt and kaffir lime leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve hot with plain white rice. Mmmm!


Monday, January 7, 2008

A jolly good 2008 to you!

Hope the new year has begun well for you. We were near Munich over the new year and went walking up Wallberg as the queue for the sleds and chairlifts was too long.

The collected snow between branches and twigs reminded me of the Malaysian ice-kacang, one of my favourite desserts.

The night before, we went with friends to the heart of Munich. I experienced for the first time the lighting of many, many fireworks by private individuals at Odeonplatz. It amazed me that people would spend so much on pyrotechnics. It was also a bit scary as 'rockets' whooshed past quite nearby, and there were lots of broken bottles in the
Marienplatz after the fireworks. 'Collective irresponsibility' I called it, as normally people would not break glass in the streets or leave so much litter for the street cleaners the next day.

Here's a toast to a year in which we achieve more than we felt we could. May your days be full of love, discernment and peace.

May everything you do and say be measured if not positively spontaneous. Be true to yourself!

P.S. There is still no snow on the ground in Cham, Switzerland, where we live. Is it going to snow in February or March?! It's six degrees Celsius today - so 'warm' for winter, no?

For lovers of Pannacotta, that smooth and creamy but not-so-calorie-laden Italian dessert, here's a recipe I adapted from German chef Schubeck:

400ml milk (can be low-fat)
4 leaves of gelatine
1 tsp of vanilla sugar with bits of real vanilla in it
4 tbs sugar
100ml cream

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. Gently heat the milk with the vanilla and sugar till simmering. Remove from heat. Stir in the softened gelatine leaves till dissolved. Leave to cool.

Whip the cream till thick but not too stiff. When milk-gelatine mixture is cool and starting to gel, stir the whipped cream into it. Scoop into 6 bowls. Place in refrigerator to cool and completely gel for an hour or more.

Note: You can increase the milk amount by 80ml without adding more gel leaves. Lessen the sugar if you prefer Pannacotta less sweet.

For topping, choose your fav: caramelised sugar syrup, poached peaches, rhubarb in sweet ginger sauce, thawed blueberries or raspberries.

You can also vary the flavour of the Pannacotta. I've substituted the vanilla flavour with ginger, stirring in a packet of ginger tea granules. Adding half a teaspoon of fresh ginger juice would strengthen the 'heat' deliciously. This reminded me of my late mum's steamed egg custard flavoured with ginger. Mmm...


My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)