Sunday, July 29, 2007

Old-fashioned Bryani

In my first year at University, there was a girl living on the same floor at my Hall of Residence who was called Bryony. I could never get her name right and to our mutual embarassment, used to call her bryani. Oh well, we were never destined to be friends.

Anyway, today I decided to make a bryani and consulted my Mum's faithful Ellice Handy cookbook. I think this cookbook is the same age as me, and dates back to the time when you couldn't get fresh dairy products in Brunei. Retro is cool, man.

One of the main ingredients is evaporated milk. Now that's something you don't see celebrity chefs using on TV, hahaha.

There's something so relaxing and fulfilling about pounding and grinding. I ground up all the spices fresh, and the smells permeated the kitchen even before I started cooking.

For added richness, the recipe also calls for ground almonds.

OK, rubbish photo - but trust me, it was delicious. It was a lamb bryani, by the way. *licks lips*

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love soft chewy cookies.

I've looked online for American-style chewy cookie recipes but as they are mostly American recipes, the ingredients are all in imperial units. Butter measured in cups?? Some of them have automatic metric conversion, but then they get coverted to ml.

Aarrgghhh..I can only cope with ingredients by weights, or at a pinch, level tablespoon/teaspoon. It's not so bad with savoury recipes, but baking is essentially chemistry - so you can't mess around with the quantities.

But yesterday, I found this recipe online. And it was good.

I used a combination of milk, dark and white chocolate.

Even the dough looked good enough to eat.

Mr K-E said it tasted like Millie's Cookies. That's high praise indeed :)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Planet Fungus

There's been a weird smell in our living room recently. I've been accusing Mr K-E of being responsible, and he has been denying it innocently.

This morning we discovered the source. Tucked behind the coffee table, we found this ....

Closer inspection revealed this. Mr K-E has named it Planet Fungus.

It's a whole new ecosystem!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

There are shoes for every occasion.

Where there's a will... by Matthew Beaumont

Adequate but not outstanding. Some parts were really funny but the story starts to sag in the middle.

Alvin Lee is a nice guy. He works as a "Learning Mentor" in a rough London school, helping the rejects and drop-outs to acquire "life skills" eg how to fill in a form or read a map. The kids are the bottom of the barrel, the ones you cross the street to avoid. Not intelligent enough to be successful criminals; these kids are on the verge of being kicked out of the education system altogether.

Anyway, Alvin loves his family but as he is so badly paid, lives perilously close to bankruptcy. Does that bother him? No! Not noble, kind-hearted Alvin! The kids are a bunch of losers, but hey Alvin can see the good in them, even if they are like feral dogs.

(Yes, about 50 pages in, I was getting really sick of "good" Alvin)

The kids are part of the Inclusive Learning Department (ILD), a dumping grounds for teenagers who would have been expelled in the old days. The teachers in the school refer to it as the I Love Delinquents section, but Alvin is not fazed by this. Afterall, he has had some success in turning around the "no-hopers" : his star delinquent Kelly Rowlands managed to get 7 GCSEs, proving that encouragement can overcome the attraction of petty crime.

So Alvin is distressed to hear that Kelly (instead of going to college) is working at a brothel thinly disguised as a massage parlour. Suddenly all his good work seems to be for naught. In a fit of righteousness, he goes to the massage parlour to try and talk her out of her new job.

Well, you can guess what happens next.

Alvin, despite his good intentions, lurches from one well-meaning misunderstanding to another. Till finally, he's lost his job and his family and his life is in ruins.....

It sounds more like a tragedy than a comedy but it does have some very funny bits - like the description of the teenagers that Alvin tries to help. However, I did get annoyed by "good guy" Alvin. Surely no one is that nice? My favourite character was Alvin's partner Karen; I really liked her no-nonsense attitude.

Unfortunately, I thought the book sagged in the middle. It started off really well, but then I started to lose interest and never really recovered. If I had to give it a grade, I would say C+. It did make me laugh, but some parts lacked that spark that makes you want to read on. Adequate but not outstanding.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mr K-E's Curry (Version 1.0)

Mr K-E saw an Australian TV chef making a curry on TV and thought it looked delicious, but more important - easy. He can't remember the name of the chef, who is apparently Australia's number one celebrity chef.

For Fragrant Chicken and Spinach Curry, the recipe is:

(I won't bother with quantities, you'll see why later)
  1. Fry onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander seeds, turmeric and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  2. Then add chicken.
  3. Then add a tin of tomatoes and salt.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Add soft brown sugar, lime juice and spinach.
  6. Once the spinach has wilted, serve on top of rice garnished with some fresh coriander.
It tasted OK, but it is a "European" curry as far as I am concerned. Tinned tomatoes in a curry? Hmmm. Very dubious.

We followed the recipe exactly, but I thought it was bit bland. Mr K-E agrees. I was suspicious when I saw the recipe - 2 cloves of garlic /pinch of cayenne pepper? We are going to try again with double the amount of spices. And fry it in half butter/half oil.

(And add Thai fish sauce, but don't tell Mr K-E)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Latin American Festival

There was a Latin American festival in one of our local parks today. I was expecting a half-hearted affair, similar to the recent Irish Fair, but it was surprisingly well organised with lots to see.

There was a main stage set up with live music but individual countries also had their own tents for cultural performances. The food was also good, not just your usual burgers-from-a-van. To sum up the South American food available in one word, I would say - MEAT. And lots of it.

Before we explored the food stalls, we watched some of the cultural performances.

This interesting fellow was in the Bolivia tent. He came out with four women wearing colourful costumes who danced around the stage.

There was an MC but all the commentary was in Spanish, so it was all wasted on me and Mr K-E.

Here you can see the women dancers too. They were wearing cool costumes with short ruffled skirts and cute boots.

It does look interesting though, I wonder what the cultural background is.

This was at the Chile tent. Looks almost Hawaiian, doesn't it? That woman sure knew how to wiggle her hips. Her partner wasn't bad either!

Anyway, after a demonstration, there was a "workshop" and people from the audience were invited to come up and learn how to do the traditional dance.

Mr K-E took lots of photos of this performance for some reason :)

Here's some of the food that was available.

The stalls were set up like the gerai in Brunei, with the cooking going on behind the stall-holders.

From left to right, fried chicken (just seen), barbequed beef, fried belly pork and a kind of South American croquette.

I felt a real pang of homesickness *sniff sniff* when I walked around the stalls. Mr K-E said it smelt like the Brunei food stalls; it was the smell of kerosene, frying oil and barbeque-ing meat.

More food - I didn't like the look of those sausages though. They look kind of gross.

Here's another thing that really reminded me of home.

There were iced drinks for sale made from shaved ice and syrup.

The stall holders had hand operated ice-shavers like we have back home.

Vegetarians and other sensitive souls, please look away .....

Yep, these guys love their meat!

This is the plate that Mr K-E and I shared.

Barbequed beef (partially covered), barbequed plaintain, rice, salad (grated carrot and lettuce) and a "Croquette" (I don't know what the name is but it was mashed potato and spicy meat, covered in polenta and deepfried)

It was delicious. This has made me really interested in South American food, I've already had a quick search for some recipes to try.

After that we went in search of sweets.

We found these picarones, which were yummy. They are pumpkin fritters with syrup.

I found out later that they are from Peru.

We also had some churros and chocolate. Sweet strips of fried dough sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, then covered with dark chocolate sauce.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I've been trying out my new muffin pans. White chocolate chip muffins.

Queuing with the other weirdos.

So, we were in town on Friday night and the Harry Potter fans were queuing up outside bookstores. The book was released at midnight - and frankly I can't understand the queuing. Why queue for hours? It's not as if the bookshops are going to run out of books! There is an unlimited supply! Just turn up at midnight, if you are that desperate.

Anyway, we wandered around Charing Cross road where the biggest queue was in the Borders. Mainly because it was actually open and people could sit inside the store instead of on the pavement outside. By this time it was 11:20 and the people camped out in a long snake around the bookshelves were starting to get excited. How amusing, I thought. I would never do this. Besides, I am so over Harry Potter.

When suddenly, Mr K-E says .... lets go to Foyles. They have a much shorter queue.

Me : Uh, why are we queuing? I thought the plan was to laugh at the people who were queuing. (thinking *oh God, I hope no one from work sees me queuing up with these weirdos*)

Foyles and Borders are on opposite sides of Charing Cross Road, but Foyles didn't open their doors till 11:30. Unbelievably, Borders staff came round to the Foyles queue and tried to get us to go to Borders instead, saying you can sit inside, have a coffee etc. When Mr K-E pointed out that there were about 800 people queuing inside Borders, the guy said optimistically, "but we've got more tills...".

Then while we were waiting inside Foyles, at about 11:45, two teenage kids with a loudhailer came in and announced ATTENTION SHOPPERS! XXXX KILLS XXXX ON PAGE 405! XXXX, XXX AND XXXX DIE IN THE END!

The crowds inside boo-ed and hissed at them and they retreated when a security guard approached. I thought it was really amusing. Not sure if they actually knew or were just making it up (there has been a leak due to cock-up in America) but Mr K-E was a bit upset.

Awww never mind, honey.

We still managed to get the book at seven minutes past twelve, which Mr K-E thought was impressive considering we had only queued for half an hour.

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

In the words of Professor Snape, I may vomit.

Mr K-E and I went to watch this last night after a brainwave. Hey, why not watch The Order of the Phoenix and then buy the final book when it goes on sale at midnight. Yes, a Harry Potter themed Friday night!

OK, I wasn't completely convinced but Mr K-E is a fan, so we went to watch the HP movie at the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road.

Boring. Yawn. Yawn.

While I was watching the movie, it occurred to me that The Order the Phoenix was the book that finally killed the Harry Potter fan in me. Firstly, the book was too long and should have had about 200 pages ripped out to make it more interesting. More importantly, JK Rowling killed off Sirius Black and I couldn't forgive her for that.

The acting is crap and the some of scenes are just painful to watch. Katie Leung as Cho Chang - Christ, they had auditions up and down the country and they couldn't find a Chinese teenager with at least some acting ability? As for the others. the producers cast these kids 4 years ago in the hope that their acting ability would develop and they would grow into their roles. Uh, they didn't.

OK, it wasn't the worst movie ever but I can't recommend it either. Go if you are really into Harry Potter (in which case you have probably seen it by now), otherwise don't bother.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

We got our copy at 7 minutes past 12 last night. I'll tell you more later.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Look what a very nice person sent to me and Mr K-E today.

Two boxes of lovely Godiva chocolates. Mmmmm.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mid Year Review

Just for a laugh, I had a quick look at my new year resolutions. Let's review shall we?

To go to the gym. I think I've been to the gym about 6 times this year. I don't think that counts as a success hahahaha

To pack my work lunch everyday. No. But I am trying.

To throw away food when it's bad. So far so good.

To get to work on time.
I'm still 9:30 to 7:00 regular. Very bad behavior.

To focus my mind completely at work.
Hmmm. I'd say this one is a 50-50.

Not so good, huh?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Food : a pleasure to be enjoyed.

There's no doubt that I would look better if I lost a few pounds. That's pounds of fat I mean, not money hahaha. But compared to most women I know, I think I have a healthy relationship with my body image. Of course, I go through cycles of "I'm only eating raw celery and dust from now on" versus "who cares, extra fries with extra mayonaise please".

But the last few weeks, I have just resolved to eat whatever I want. Really. No holding back. If I want to eat fillet steak I'll eat it. If I want to eat potato chips, croissants, lamb chops and ice cream, I'll just dig in.

The weird thing is I haven't put on any weight and I've eaten everything I really want. To tell the truth, if you really ask yourself - what do I really want to eat, it's often not junk food. Junk food is usually just convenient and cheap. Why eat steak flavoured potato chips when what you want is a real steak?? And sometimes when I eat my typical lunch of supermarket sandwich and crisps, I ask myself, why am I eating this when the food I cook at home is much much nicer?

Of course, it's hard work because it's easier to buy crap food than cook from scratch. But you can eat so much better and amazingly, I haven't ballooned like a whale either!

Interestly, a few days ago, I read about Paul McKenna's Weight Loss programme which echoes this thinking. Paul McKenna is a hypnotist, more famous for entertainment shows than healthy eating. His rules are (in a nutshell) -
  1. eat when you are hungry
  2. eat what you want to eat, not what you think you should eat
  3. eat consciously, savour every bite
  4. stop when you think you are full
The theory is that many women have such a screwed up attitude towards food that they consider it a punishment-reward thing, rather than a pleasure to be enjoyed. The guilt associated with eating is so strong, that when they "fail" they hate themselves and think that it's not worth it anyway. So they eat some more.

Makes sense in a twisted way, doesn't it? This is where the hypnosis and mind-training comes in, to "change the way you think about food".

I read a quote from Anne Barone, who wrote the book Chic and Slim: How Those French Women Eat all that Rich Food and Still Stay Slim. She says:

"The French woman sees herself as a beautiful woman despite her physical flaws. She is worth the effort of eating well, taking care of herself. She deserves to be slim and healthy."

(Read the whole article here)

Everybody, repeat after me : I am beautiful. I am sexy. I deserve to wear beautiful clothes and look stunning. I deserve to eat well and take care of my body.

Die Hard 4.0

Overall verdict : Oh this movie was sooo good! Pow! Pow! Pow!

I've watched the other Die Hard movies but they were all unmemorable really. Was the first one in an office block during the Christmas holidays? With a stereotypical European villain?

On other hand 4.0 was so good that Mr K-E and I were still excited about it after we left the cinema, discussing our favourite bits on the bus ride home. I was still hyped up and talking about it at breakfast time. Obviously there's not a lot of excitement in my life.

I love action movies - high speed car chases, evil henchmen, hot kung-fu fighting women, ludicrous government plots .... the sillier the better. The only problem is that these movies sometimes drag when the action is not "on". For example, the Mexico sequence in the middle of Terminator 2, which is has some of my favourite action scenes. When the terminator and gang head out to Mexico for some bonding and character development, that's my cue to lie down on the sofa and doze off.

Happily, that's not the case in this movie. You hardly have time to catch your breath; there's no lame character development and Bruce Willis can still do the business. Watch this movie.

My favourite bit: After Bruce Willis is beaten up by the evil Asian woman and he says enough of this kung fu shit, or something like that. Yeah!

Mr K-E's favourite bit: The hamster man.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


When I lived in Brunei, I never gave our resident cicaks much thought. A cicak is a type of gecko. They live inside houses all over SE Asia, eating insects and walking on walls with their sticky feet. They also make a clicking sound, which is one of the most familiar sounds of my childhood.

*sniff sniff*

You know you are homesick when you even miss the sounds of home.

Anyway, in my flat in London I also have a resident cicak.

Look, here he is, looking at my latest Amazon delivery.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Five things that I hate about London

  1. Eating out is really expensive.
  2. Oxford Circus on a Saturday. I avoid it like the plague.
  3. It's far away from Brunei where my Mummy and Daddy live :(
  4. The crazies at the bus stop. But I guess you get them in every city.
  5. You do get sucked into a materialistic shopping spiral. Hmmm, not sure whether that's a love or hate thing for me?

Five things I love about London

  1. No one knows or cares about my family background. In tiny Brunei, people would often ask me who my father was. Then look disappointed because I wasn't from one of the "rich and famous" Brunei-Chinese families.
  2. Public transport
  3. The work opportunities are great. No, really, they are. Despite my complaints.
  4. Crossing the river Thames.
  5. The bookshops. It's lovely to be in a city full of bookworms. I fit in!

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I need to praise Mr K-E on my blog because he has been so good and hardworking. Today I met a friend for lunch and went shopping while he painted our living room; walls and ceiling. Yes, I was meant for a life of leisure :)

What I did this weekend:

Swear at the organisers of the Tour de France. All my buses were messed up because Trafalgar Square was blocked-off for the race start. I mean, it's not the Tour de England, is it? Hummpphh.

Went to the gym.

Cooked a roast chicken dinner. Mmmm.

Met N for dim sum lunch at New World. Had a wander down Charing Cross Road and up to Covent Garden. I bought another pair of shoes *hangs head in shame* this time from Russell and Bromley. Right, this is it. The retail ban is firmly back in place. No more buying shoes. Heard that? No more.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Good but a bit too much like being back at university and trying to get my head around hard ideas. Slightly too educational to be enjoyable.

I got this book because I read Freakonomics about two years ago and I thought it was soooo good. (By the way, if you haven't read Freakonomics, you should! It's really interesting and thought-provoking. Plus, it's dead easy to read.)

Anyway, back to The Undercover Economist. The ideas in the book are certainly very intriguing. Tim Harford explains complex ideas clearly and uses really good examples to illustrate his point.

When I read about price-targeting, which is practised by big companies (he uses coffee companies as an example) - it made me smile because it's also practised by fake handbag/watch sellers all over Asia.

In summary - if you are "seller", you want to sell as many items as possible while still making a profit. The last thing you want to do is to turn away any potential buyers. Afterall, a profit is a profit, right? But how can you maximise the profit from your buyers?

What you really need is a magic sign that senses how much people are willing to pay.

For example -
for people who have lots of money and are willing to pay £2.50 for a coffee - Price £2.50
for people who have less money and only want to spend £1.00 for a coffee- Price £1.00

But these magic signs don't exist, so how can you get people to pay different prices for essentially the same product?

Well, as Tim Harford explains, companies cunningly make products slightly different so that "price-insensitive" consumers will tend to spend more money.

For example

Cappuccino - £1.00
Cappuccino with chocolate sprinkles - £1.20
Hot chocolate - £1.30
Mocha - £1.45

In reality, the actual cost of the product in the cup is the same or only varies slightly. The main costs to the coffee company are rent, staff costs, advertising etc. However, by providing an option for customers to spend more money, they make more money. At the same time, they are not "turning away" the customers who are more stingy and only want to spend £1.00.

Back to the fake handbag/watch sellers in KL or Beijing - they practise the same thing! In general, the customer sets the price - as long as the vendor makes a profit, they will sell. No vendor will ever sell at a loss, no matter what kind of story he tells you.

When my in-laws went to China, they didn't like the idea of bargaining at all. They always felt that they were being ripped off.

I said to them - yes, but surely, when you see something you like, you must have some idea of what you want to pay for it? Whether it is £5 or £500, you know yourself how much you prepared to pay. It's just a question of whether the seller will do the deal. Or else you could argue that Marks and Spencer are ripping you off too. Who is to say whether that flowery blouse is worth £50 or £5?

My in-laws are still not convinced. They like a fixed price!

Anyway, he describes other ideas like this in the book so if you found that interesting, you will probably enjoy this book. If there are any proper economists out there who have read this book, I would love to hear your opinion of it. As for me, it took me ages to read because often after a hard day at work I couldn't face more "facts" and "explanations". Back to light reading!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More work.

I had to show two people around today and talk to them about my work. Normally this is not really blogging material, but these were guys were judges....and they will be deciding whether or not my work gets an award. Of course, they didn't give anything away so I'll have to wait and see.

We are encouraged to enter competitions at work - good publicity for the firm, impresses Clients etc etc. So earlier this year I entered my latest "product" for three different awards, woohoo!

To be honest, I'm not that bothered about winning although it would be nice :) if only because I get to go to a fancy dinner. But you have to at least try, don't you?

Anyway, back to proper work.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sunday night dinner

After the walk around the park my hayfever was very bad - itchy eyes, streaming nose, stuffy head... etc. I couldn't bring myself to cook anything.

So our Sunday night dinner was cooked by Messrs Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer.

I hoped that a curry dinner would help my stuffy nose and head. *sniff sniff*

Sunday : The Irish Fair

We went for a walk and stumbled across the Irish Fair in one of our local parks. It's on every year, but after a disappointing visit six years ago, we've never bothered to return.

Free events are never going to be that good, but this seemed to be quite well organised with lots of stalls, two main stages and a big fun fair.

We saw some Irish Dancing.

There were also "casual sets", i.e. sets of 6 people (or 3 couples) go up and dance together in groups with lots of changing, swinging etc. It looked a bit like American square dancing.

Look at that blue sky! It's been very wet lately, which is why we went out for a walk as soon as the skies cleared. This was taken in a quieter section of the fair, away from the main stages.

More sky. You can see the fairground rides in this photo.

Mr K-E liked the look of the "cheese pullapart" bread. The name tells you everything you need to know.

I was amused by this sign. Is it that hard to spell?

Unfortunately, my hayfever reared it's ugly head and I spent most of the time rubbing my eyes and blowing my nose. Please, someone, develop a miracle cure soon!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Birthday dinner and show

Diabetics, dentists and healthy-eaters, please look away now.

I made Nigella's Chocolate Malteser cake for Mr K-E's birthday. Baking is fun but it makes you realise how much sugar there is in cake. There is more than 600g of sugar altogether in this little baby - more than half a kilo hahahaha.

(Note that Mr K-E and I are perfectly capable of eating this cake between the two of us, over a few days)

We went out for dinner before going to watch the new Lord of the Rings show at the Drury Lane theatre in Covent Garden.

The Bank restaurant in Aldwych. It is closing on July 20th, which is a shame because it's lovely inside. Mr K-E likes the glass sheets hanging over your head while you eat.

My starter. Roast beef salad.

Mr K-E's main course. Codling fillet with pea risotto.

My main course. Mushroom encroute with spinach veloute. I looked up veloute when I got home. Apparently it is one of the classic "mother" sauces of French cooking. It's like a bechamel sauce, but made with stock instead of milk.

Mr K-E's pudding. Apple tart with vanilla ice cream.

Then we went to watch the show. My verdict : Too long. Too many ballads. Not enough big musical-style set pieces with formation dancing. A bit boring.

We were right at the top and the theatre was unbearably hot. Two women who were sitting next to me left during the interval. Why can't theatres in London invest in some Brunei super air-con? It wasn't even that hot outside; I can't imagine what it must be like when it's high summer.