Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A week of dogmumhood + Corn Veggie Fritters

The day we brought home the pup, it was snowing flurries. This morning it has been dropping big globs of snow. The white stuff is coming down again willy-nilly and the balcony railing has collected 17cm of it. It looks iced and ready to be served like creme cake (snow always reminds me of ice-kacang, a colourful Malaysian shaved-ice dessert).

Umbria, our black Labrador ward, was happy to romp on the sidewalk, plowing the snow with her inquisitive nose. At least, she is not tempted by the discarded cigarette butts and other trash (Swiss residents can be so slack!) on a usually snowless kerb.

When I took the pup out at 7am, a janitor was already shovelling a path up the ramp to our apartment building. Later, another man beat down some snow caught up in a fir tree -- so as not to surprise (shock, likelier!) passers-by with a heavy shower of dislodged snow every so often. A motorised snow plough was driven up and down the main street, pushing the powder to the sides. Well, at least it was easy to pick up Umbria's solid production with a plastic-bagged hand. Voila! No traces. (Potential Seeing-Eye dogs are only allowed to do their business in the gutter between kerb and street and by isolated walls.)

If I sit on the floor, Umbria would climb into my lap. Here is her favourite 'manja' position -- between my knees.

Before coming back into the apartment house, I stomped away the snow covering my shoes and brushed off the snow from my beanie and shoulders. Inside the front door, we do a little dance on the big doormat to get rid of the remaining moisture.

It's good to counter such white weather with something hot and crisp. Let's find a gentle reminder of an equatorial childhood while nursing a cup of hot tea and looking out at the snowy scenes. How about some Corn Veggie Fritters eaten with homemade chilli sauce?

Corn Veggie Fritters

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup rice flour
2 tbs chives, chopped
3 tbs spring onions, sliced
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fine sugar
3/4 cup corn, drained of brine
2 tsp red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced (optional)
1/2 cup small shrimp, shelled (optional)
2 tbs cooking oil or butter

1. Mix the flours with the salt and sugar.
2. Mix the egg and the veggies (and shrimp, if using) into it.
3. Heat to medium-hot a bit of the oil or butter in a large frying pan.
4. Drop patties of the mixture and fry on both sides till gently browned.
5. Serve cold or warm with tomato ketchup or homemade chilli sauce (blend together 3 chopped/deseeded chillies, a tsp of sugar, 3 tsp lime juice, 2 tbs water and a clove of chopped garlic if you like).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Umbria Day and Orange Chiffon Cake

Dec 10 from now on will be known to us as Umbria Day. That was the day my other half and I brought home Umbria, a black Labrador pup from the Guide Dog School of Switzerland at Allschwil, about 1.3 hours' drive from here. She will stay with us for 12 to 15 months and I will be her 'dogmum' or Puppy Walker.

As she has been only two days in our flat, she doesn't like being alone in the living-room. If she's snoozing (often against my foot) and I tiptoe away into the kitchen to make tea, soon enough she would pad quietly into the kitchen looking up 'smiling' at me with a few wags of her funny tapered tail. Taking her outside is no mean feat - putting on her collar and leash, making her stay seated while I put on my coat and shoes, pressing the lift buttons while carrying her in my arms (that prevents accidental peeing) and opening the heavy front door of the apartment building.

Juggling taking care of the pup's needs and my usual baking and cooking is dicey. Imagine my having to take her out to wee (she's sniffing around for a spot - red alert!) when a chiffon cake is about to be ready in the oven. Dicey doesn't even begin to describe the narrow juggling of time, activity and their coordination.

Baking and cooking will have to take a backseat for at least a couple of weeks.

Nevertheless, as Umbria is the runt of her litter, here's a mini-chiffon cake recipe which I've adjusted to suit my tastes. You can use a Gugglhupf pan or a detachable chiffon pan.

Orange Chiffon Cake

3 eggs, whites separated from yolks
1/3 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup mixture of vegetable oil and half-melted butter (more butter means more flavour while veg oil makes a lighter cake but has less flavour)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence or 1 tsp vanilla sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, preferably sifted
1 tbs cornflour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
small pat of softened butter, for painting cake pan with

grated rind (avoiding white pith) of 2 oranges
3 tbs half-fat yoghurt
80ml orange juice
bits of sugared orange rind (optional; storebought)

1. Heat oven to 175 degrees C. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar till almost stiff.
2. Whisk oil/butter with sugar for 2 minutes at medium-high speed. Add yolks and vanilla and whisk for 1 minute.
3. Mix flours with baking soda, baking powder and salt.
4. Alternate adding the flour mix, the orange juice and yoghurt. Fold grated orange rind gently in till just combined.
5. Fold whisked egg whites into the mixture carefully. Pour batter into buttered cake form. Strew orange rind bits on top (if using).
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Insert a skewer or thin knife in the middle of dough to see if it comes out clean. Invert cake pan on a wire rack so cake retains maximum height. Carefully remove cake from pan only when cool.
(This cake gives 4 servings. Double the recipe if you're making a big cake and increase time in the oven to 40-50 minutes.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas market in Bremgarten and CKT-style stir-fried spaghetti

It was two degrees Celsius on the half hour's drive to Bremgarten in Aargau. At the outskirts of the town, there were already signs to direct us to the 'park n ride'. It was very well organised - we parked for free in the huge lot and paid CHF4 each for a round trip by bus into the historical part of the town. The buses were very frequent indeed. Sitting in a bus holding hands to keep warm is quite romantic, I must admit.

On this outing, the 'official' photographer was the other half. My hands were kept deep in my coat pocket so as to keep warm; I hadn't bothered to bring my little snappy Nikon.

It was like a 'pasar malam' (night market) in Malaysia except that there were fewer varieties of food and a lot of cheese and Gluehwein (spiced sweetened red wine) in the tradition of Christmas here.

There were stalls hawking sweets and cookies (Lebkuchen) and others selling clothing, lamps, candles and costume jewellery. A 30m-high old-fashioned-style ferris wheel, boasting a substantial queue, soared above the crowds.

The market was situated next to a winding river, with a bridge and outdoor Christmas trees to colour the night scene. The buildings in this old part of town are well maintained and lovely indeed.

For this post, I would like to feature a 'char kway teow'-style stir-fried spaghetti for when I'm hankering for a taste of Malaysia on a cold winter's evening.

Malaysian-style Stir-fried Spaghetti

2 servings medium-soft boiled spaghetti, stirred with a bit of oil to prevent sticking
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots or 1 medium-size red onion, sliced thinly
1 tbs corn oil or sunflower seed oil
1/2 cup fennel or spring onions, sliced
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp chicken or veggie stock powder
1 tsp red chillies, chopped (optional or sub with sambal oelek)
1/2 shelled prawns or clams or cockles (precooked or raw)
80g mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 egg
salt and ground white pepper to taste

1. Heat 1/2 tbs oil in a big frying pan or wok. Fry the onions and garlic on medium heat for a minute.
2. Add fennel or spring onions. Stir-fry for a minute.
3. Turn up heat and add cooked spaghetti. Stir-fry occasionally for 3 minutes.
4. Turn down heat to medium and add seasonings and chilli (if using).
5. Add bean sprouts and prawns/clams/cockles (add these in Step 4 if raw) and fry for 30 seconds.

6. Make a well in the centre. Add the remaining 1/2 tbs oil. Break egg into it and sprinkle it with pepper and salt. Scramble till almost gelled.
7. Stir noodles into the egg. Add chives. Raise heat and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Turn out of pan and serve immediately. Serves two.

This has been submitted to Presto Pasta Nights ( ) and this week's host is Mary of Baking Delights

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.)