Baby Drop

I know, I know, I’m a year late. Last year, I promised that I would write a post about an incident relating to a baby drop. Not the kind of baby drop where you leave a baby at the doorsteps of an orphanage and that kid grows up to become a hero/heroine (they always do). It’s more about the physical act of dropping a baby – or a toddler to be more exact. I actually wrote the post last year, but never got around to editing and posting it. So since this incident took place during last year’s Lunar New Year, and with the 2015 Lunar New Year a couple of days away, I’ve decided to post the entry (edited and recut).

So let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

It was a couple of days into the Lunar New Year when I attended a lunch outing with the extended family on my father’s side. I was the sole representative of my branch of the family tree as my immediate family was scattered across the four corners of the world. If I wasn’t alone, my dad would have probably went: “Zareth, put the baby down, now.”

Well, unfortunately I was alone.

Anyway, lunch was good and we celebrated it with yusheng or lo hei, also known as the ‘Prosperity Toss’. It’s one of the customary dish of Lunar New Year that is popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and some parts of China. Consisting of a number of raw ingredients, the aim of lo hei is to toss the ingredients as high as possible while screaming lo hei, lo hei, lo hei. The result is often a great big mess and a dish where the ingredients never really get mixed properly. Still, it’s quite fun.

Before the toss. Excuse the horrible drawing. It actually looks quite appetizing in real life.

 

After the toss. Three quarters of the ingredients usually end up on the table. And you end up apologizing to the waiters for the mess.

 

So what’s the point of tossing the ingredients apart from the sanctioned mess? Well, the height of your toss is proportional to the growth of your fortune. So if you want to get rich quick, you better fling that piece of raw salmon into the air and hope that it doesn’t land on your grandparents’ heads.

Lately I’ve also come to realized that most of the messes are due to the fact that each diner is trying to toss their way up to prosperity until the whole thing denigrates into a chopsticks battlefield. This is made worse when you consider the fact that each person is using a pair of extra-long chopsticks. Extra-long chopsticks = extra ammunition and rage.

The thing about lo hei is that if you attempt to sit and toss at the same time, you’re already cannon fodder.

 

So we lo hei-ed and hei lo-ed and ate and drank the whole afternoon long. After feeling sated, we decided to leave the restaurant (this decision was expedited by the restaurant closing for the afternoon). My relatives and I stumbled out of the air-conditioned interior and into the hot haze of afternoon drowsiness.

We ended up standing in the heat for about 15 minutes while everyone had a lengthy debate on whose house we should retire to for the afternoon siesta. The contenders had quickly come down to two of my aunts but the general consensus was still lo hei-ing back and forth without any conclusion. So while I waited for my relatives to settle on a decision, I surfed through Facebook.

“Is that a museum?” one of my uncles interrupted my mindless Facebook surfing.

“Eh?” I said.

“That building. It looks like a Chinese museum.”

I was a bit puzzled because we were in Clarke Quay, Singapore’s clubbing and pubbing nightspot. Granted, there might be a few museums in the general vicinity. But we were standing right in the heart of clubland and even with Singapore’s addiction to constant change, I don’t think a museum would have just drunkenly danced its way into Clarke Quay.

I turned to the general direction where my uncle was looking at and immediately said: “Oh, no, that’s a club.”

“Really?” He was incredulous.

I nodded with the accumulated wisdom of spending too much time in Clarke Quay during my younger days. “Yeah, it’s a club.”

“Oh,” he said and laughed, “it looks so much like a museum.”

Not a museum. (Taken from Linbery’s Panoramio account).

 

The impasse was finally broken and an agreement was reached. We were heading to one of my aunt’s house – a decision that was to be reversed barely 10 minutes later. Since my relatives had parked their cars at different areas of Clarke Quay, we decided to split into groups (that took another 5 minutes of deciding). I was tagging along with the uncle who asked if the club was a museum.

I was about to walk away when I saw my 18-months-old first cousin once removed (who’s also the grandson of abovementioned uncle) staring at a plastic container filled with dirty cutlery from a nearby restaurant. He was staring at the cutlery with rapt fascination. Apparently the cutlery represented an art form that spoke right to the heart of an 18-months-old toddler.

Nothing like an aquamarine background to complete the drawing.

 

So I walked up to him and said, “Hey M___, let’s go. Your parents are waiting for you.”

He kind of ignored me and continued to be fascinated with the plastic container. Maybe he was waiting for Finn and Jake from Adventure Time or Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick. Or whatever cartoons that toddlers watched nowadays. I took M___’s hand and sort of encouraged him to walk. It didn’t worked. He was still waiting for the wonders of the plastic container to reveal itself while my relatives had started walking away to their cars. So I decided to take advantage of my considerable strength and picked up M___.

M____ had no idea the fate that was going to befall on me. But mostly on him.

 

I had my left arm wrapped around M___’s chest while my right arm sort of hooked underneath his diaper-clad bottoms. In a way, M___ was sitting on my right arm with my left arm securing him to my chest. Everything was fine and dandy as I walked towards his parents.

About two seconds later, M___ realized that I was neither his mother nor his father. He glanced back and gave me a “who da hell are you?” look. Granted, neither his mother nor his father had facial hair so I guessed I failed the facial recognition test.

M___ decides that I shall not be his carrier

 

M___ was not happy. He wanted out of my arms. And he figured that the best way was to start wiggling around. I thought I had him secured in my arms but you know, toddlers. So somehow M____ was starting to break free of my bonds and was on the way sweet freedom.

I reacted by holding on to M___ tighter.

M___ continued to struggle.

I struggled to balance M____.

M____ continued to wiggle around.

It went back and forth and by then, I was losing both my balance and my grip on M___. I mean, try holding a toddler who does not want to be held while trying to maintain your balance. It’s apparently a much better core workout compared to standing on an exercise ball while lifting a pair of 20kg dumbbells.

So while I was focused on maintaining my balance, M___ broke free to freedom.

But M___ miscalculated. Instead of pitching himself forward so that he’ll land on his feet (but with a chance of landing on his face too), he decided to throw himself backwards. And across my body. With the full strength of an enraged 18-months-old. Up till today, I have no idea how the hell he executed that maneuver.

I think M___ actually flew over my shoulder and not across my body as depicted in the picture.

 

So the only thing I could do was to twist my body around and follow his trajectory while trying to break his fall as much as possible.

Of course I failed to do that. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this.

baby-drop

 

The gif above kind of accurately depicts the fall – but remove the rugby player, the sportscaster, the football and the playing field.

There was split second of silence while both M___ and I stared at each other in shock.

The first thought that went through my head was:

“Oh fuck, I broke my cousin’s baby.”

Then an ear-splitting wail filled the entire empty quay. My relatives turned around and saw me half kneeling and squatting, trying to comfort M____ who was looking very, very distressed.

Apparently no one saw the entire incident since they were already walking away. So they only heard and saw the aftermath.

My cousin came up to me and asked what happened.

What else could I say? I couldn’t say, “M____ was practicing his flying triple kick but missed. He has potential though.”

So I said, “I, er, I dropped M____. It was an accident.”

Fortunately the facts of the case were established and my cousin told me there was nothing to worry about*. On the way to their house, my uncle and aunt told me not to feel bad and that kids had the tendency of falling off people arms. I also think my uncle made a passing remark that I fell out of people’s arms one too many times when I was a toddler.

Huh, so this is karma, I guess?

A couple of days later, over Skype, I told my father about the incident. There was a long pause as he contemplated on what to say. Then he gave me this advice:

“In future, you shouldn’t carry other people’s kids, wait till you have your own kids and then you can carry them.”

Thanks.

Oh, and M____ turned out to be fine. So all’s good. He still needs to work on that flying triple kick though.

 

*My cousin told me he trained M____ how to fall properly. Basically that consists of putting his arms out to break his fall. I guess that’s why M____ didn’t faceplant the ground when he tumbled from my arms.


I think the lyrics is quite apropos for this post.

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Banana Bread in a Pan

I’ve been neglecting my blog for a long time.

It’s not because I’ve ran out of ideas and stuff to blog on, it’s just that I’ve been bloody busy with university life this semester. Running a society is much, much, much harder than I thought. Especially if you have events every week and your members are all International or Exchange students who have high expectations of you to create the best Australian/ USYD experience for them.

On top of that, I’ve to make sure the society is running smoothly so that the Clubs and Societies Office don’t come down on our asses with the ferocity of Cerberus.

Luckily, I have a great Treasurer and Secretary who help me to keep track of things.

I have to admit though, as a lazy perfectionist, the majority of the pressure came from myself. I was determined to create the most fun environment conducive to the international student body n USYD. With almost 10,000 international and exchange students in USYD, it’s a tall, tall order. Certainly not something I can accomplish within my university academic career. But at least I can set the foundation. I hope.

And let’s not mention my academic career. Not too stellar as I wished it would be. I still try to keep up with my work, but it’s quite difficult to be honest. Doing three English Literature subjects as a third-year Uni student is terribly draining. The amount of novels and plays I have to read almost every week is more than my current personal monthly reading quota (1 book a month, to be exact). This does not include the articles and journals that the lecturers assigns every week for each seminar.

There’s this English Lit course that I took. It’s called Fantastical Women and it’s about how women characters are portrayed in Literature and how women writers attempt to break away from the traditional, patriarchal forms of literature.

Interesting, I know.

But some of the novels and most of the articles are complicated at best and confounding at worst.

Most of the time, I turn up for the Fantastical Women seminar without doing any of the readings. Under the eyes of all English Literature majors and professors, this is the worst insult you can ever hurl. As an English Lit major myself, I feel very insulted too.

Anyway, there’s this girl in my seminar who sits near the back of the lecture room with me. Because of our seating arrangement, we always end up in the same discussion group. After being in the same group with me for a number of times, the first question she’ll ask me is this:

“Have you done the readings/ read the novel?”

And my answer to her, age-old and ever unchanging as a rock:

“Nope.”

Sometimes, she’ll subtly change her method, in hopes that my answer will come out different.

The girl will pick up my copy of whatever novel we’re covering in the seminar and her first comment will be:

“It’s so new!”

Of course it’s new. I just bought the novel a few days ago and I haven’t even read it. To be honest, I don’t even know why I bother buying the novel. Probably keeping up with the appearance.

Then she’ll ask me, “So… you haven’t read the novel, have you?”

“Nope.”

I must have broke that poor damsel’s heart a million times.

Yesterday, it was our last seminar. We were waiting for the lecturer. So a bunch of people sitting near me was talking about the current novel. It was Jeanette Winterson’s The PowerBook. The girl, half turned in her seat (she’s always sitting in front of me), reached out and took my copy of the novel.

Holding the book, she hesitated, not sure if she could withstand another heartbreak.

Willing what must be the last vestige of her hope, she flipped through my copy.

She paused.

She glanced at my sleep deprived face.

“Hey, you’ve read the book.” The dog-eared pages betrayed my rough handling.

I just smiled.

She smiled, a glimmer of hope shone through. Maybe I wasn’t so hopeless after all.

Half an hour later, she found out the reason why I read the novel.

My partner and I had to give a seminar presentation on the novel. I think her hopes might have deflated a little.

But I have to say that she had such unwavering faith for a traitorous English Lit major like me. I would have asked her out if only I wasn’t so preoccupied with another girl.

Oh well. Life goes on.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on for almost 742 words without even reaching to the main part of my topic.

BANANA BREAD.

I love bananas.

I fucking love banana bread.

I seriously could orgasm when I eat banana bread with Nutella.

Since I love banana bread so much, I decided to bake it. I mean, why not? I have all the baking equipment and ingredients in my kitchen and banana bread is pretty simple to make.

So last week, I went out and bought bananas, some butter, eggs and a loaf pan.

After waiting for a week for the bananas to become nicely ripe, I decided I couldn’t wait anymore and burst out my baking hat and apron this afternoon (I don’t have a baking hat and apron).

It’s on.

BANANA BREAD!

Okay, ingredients.

You need:

  • 2 1/3 cups (525g) of mashed, overripe bananas
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (115g) butter
  • 3/4 cup (110g) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) BAKING SODA
  • 1/3 teaspoon (2g) salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten.

 

Pretty simple, really.

Now, what you do is this:

Take out bananas. The apple is there to speed up the ripening process:

 

 

 

 

 

Lay them out in a row on a baking tray. Adieu my good soldiers:

 

 

 

 

 

Then roast the shit out of them in the oven at 230 degree Celsius for 5-7 minutes. (You did preheat your oven, did you?):

 

They won’t explode. Trust me.

 

 

 

Take the roasted bananas and squeeze the gooey banana nectar into a cup and mashed them up. Mash them good:

 

I had to prevent myself from drinking that sweet, sweet nectar.

 

 

 

Now prepare the batter. You still remember the other ingredients, don’t you? Let’s have a recap:

 

Ignore the weighing scale. You won’t be needing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a few things I would like to point out. First, use BAKING SODA. Not baking powder. BAKING SODA is also known as bicarbonate soda or bicarbonate of soda. Baking soda IS NOT the same as baking powder. Don’t screw this up.

Second, don’t buy raw sugar just because it’s brown. Raw sugar IS NOT brown sugar. This is how brown sugar is supposed to look:

 

Brown sugar has the consistency and feel of dark, wet earth.

Don’t fuck this up.

 

 

 

Oops, almost forgot the eggs:

 

 

 

 

 

Now, in a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt together:

 

 

 

 

 

Melt butter in a saucepan:

 

Here’s a tip, don’t just leave the butter burning in the saucepan. You’ll only get burned butter. That’s not what you want. You just want to melt the butter. So remove the saucepan from the heat and constantly swirl the butter around. Get it? Good.

 

 

 

Once butter have melted, in a SEPARATE BOWL, mix butter and brown sugar together:

 

 

 

 

 

Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended:

 

Oh boy…..

 

 

 

Stir banana mixture into flour mixture:

 

Hmmm….. come to papa.

 

 

 

Now, when you stir the mixture, DO NOT OVER MIX. You’re not entering some ‘best-human-blender-arm’ competition. Just stir to moisten to the mixture and make sure there’s no more white flour specks left.

DO NOT OVER MIX. JUST STIR TO MOISTEN THE MIXTURE AND MAKE SURE THERE’S NO MORE WHITE FLOUR SPECKS LEFT.

Get it? Good.

 

 

 

Lightly grease the loaf pan with butter. Use a brush to spread the butter around:

 

 

 

 

 

Now pour that sweet, sweet-looking mixture into the loaf pan:

 

I… cannot… wait… any… longer….

 

 

 

Now pop that into the oven (YOU DID PREHEAT YOUR OVEN, DID YOU?). Bake the banana bread for 60 to 65 minutes at 175 degrees Celsius.

Do not touch the oven. Do not open the oven to ‘speed up’ the baking process. Unless you have those ancient oven that doesn’t have a glass window on the oven door, just leave that fucker alone.

Go do the dishes. They’re not going to clean themselves.

After 60 to 65 minutes, open the oven and insert toothpick into banana bread. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s baked. If not, bake for 5 more minutes and test it again.

The result is this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sob. So… beautiful.

 

 

 

Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack. I don’t have a wire rack, so I turned it out onto a cutting board:

 

Our banana bread in heaven, nourished be thy name.

Your bananas come, your bananas be done,

In our stomaches as it is everywhere else on earth.

GIve us this day, our daily banana bread,

And forgive us our hunger,

As we also have forgiven our hungerers,

And lead us not into over-bingeing,

But deliver us from our guilty snacking.

For thine is the banana, and the bread, and the banana bread, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Thou shall now feast on the fruits of your labour.

As it was my first time making banana bread, it came out okay. Both my housemates said it was not bad for my first time. But there are improvements to be made:

  1. Let bananas ripen more. I was too impatient
  2. Get MORE bananas. 8 medium sized bananas were only enough to yield 2 cups. I probably need to use 10 or 11 bananas.
  3. Use slightly more brown sugar.
  4. Use slightly more flour, salt and baking soda.
  5. Bake it for 5 minutes longer. You can see the base is still slightly wet.

 

The banana wasn’t that sweet enough (due to the lack of overripe bananas), so NUTELLA came and saved the day!

Hmm…. chocolate and banana, the best of both worlds.

Now go bake your banana bread. May Banana bread bless you, my child.

I got the recipe here.

 

 

_______________________________________________________________

 

I wanted to use this song for my rally video for the Singapore Blog Awards 2011, but then decided not to because of copyright reasons.

Anyway, here it is. Fantastic, simple song.

 

Eating Prawns

This week has been a pretty hectic week for me. So apologies for the lack of updates.

I had two exams in this week. One was a take-home exam for an English Lit subject and another was an in-class exam for an International Security subject.

Each exam is worth 40%.

But it doesn’t end there. My take home-exam was due on Tuesday and my in-class exam was on Wednesday. So after submitting my take home-exam 10 minutes shy of the deadline, I flashed back home, took out my well-used midnight oil lamp and crammed for the in-class exam.

Stressful week indeed.

But… it hasn’t end yet.

This week is the last week of school and I’m currently on STUVAC, which means study vacation. It’s just a nice way of saying cram week. So during this one week, I’ll have to prepare for another take-home exam and an open book exam. At least I’ve got two exams out of the way already.

Anyway, enough of sidetracking. This post is not about exams or assignments or cramming or burning midnight oil.

This post is about eating prawns. Or more specifically, how I eat prawns.

But first, I would like you to meet Cooked Prawny:





Delicious, no?

Anyway, there’s a short back story to this post. Last night, I was at Star City (an integrated resort in Sydney) with a group of friends. The event was actually a society dinner but only a handful of people turn up, so it became a dinner with friends. Anyway, this restaurant, called Buffet Garden (what else?), was apparently famous for their all-you-can-eat prawns.

Their entire menu is all-you-can-eat by the way. I don’t know why the emphasis was on prawns.

Since I wanted to get my money’s worth, I grabbed some prawns and slices of lemon and settled down for a second round of feasting.

As I was chomping down on my prawns, the Secretary-elect of Unimates was tediously peeling the shells off her prawns. The outgoing President, a Chinese Filipino and a true blue, born-and-bred man of the sea (who happens to be doing his Masters in Information Technology), glanced at her and said, “Do you know the best way for peeling prawns?”

The Secretary-elect and I stared at the IT Man of the Sea. There was a best way to peel prawns?

The best way to peel prawns?

“First, you bite off the head,” the IT Man of the Sea said, “and you suck the head.”

The prawn’s head. Not a blowjob.





The Secretary-elect stared at the IT Man of the Sea and said, “Oh, I don’t really like the head.” Then she went back to peeling the shell of her prawns.

Meanwhile, I popped another prawn into my mouth, shell and all.

Yep, that’s how I eat prawns.

On the other hand, everyone at my table was peeling the shells of their prawns. I guess the majority of people eat prawns this way too:





Say hello to naked prawn.

Looks disgusting, right? When I was young, I always thought de-shelled prawns looked like orange-coloured, crescent-shaped testicles. Moving on.

So yes, I eat prawns in its entirety. I believe this is the second best way to eat prawns.

Why second best? 

Well, one of my cousin has the talent of eating a prawn with its shell and after a few quick seconds, he’ll spit out the shell.





I tried doing that but I always get jaw and tongue cramps after a while. So I reverted back to my method.

So why do I eat the entire prawn with the shell?

Well, basically, I’m a lazy person. When I was a young kiddydums, I was taught to remove both head and tail, peel the prawn and then devour it. But after a few frustrated attempts with prawn juice splattering on me, I gave up and popped a prawn into my mouth.

It was… not that bad. Definitely crunchy.

Since then, I have been eating prawns this way.

Some people balked when they see me eating prawns this way. Questions range from: “Don’t you get pricked in the mouth?” to “Is it disgusting?” and to “Do you get hepatitis and food poisoning?”

Do I get pricked in the mouth? Yes, in the beginning. But now I’m pretty skilled enough to not get pricked in the mouth.

Is it disgusting? Not really, and the shell doesn’t dull the taste of the prawns (for me, apparently).

Do I get hepatitis and food poisoning? So far I have been given a clean bill of health. I know correlation does not imply causation, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that eat prawns this way. As long as the prawns are cooked properly, I’m fine, you’re fine, everybody’s fine. This also applies to cooked food in general.

However, eating prawns with shell does have one drawback, especially when I was a kid.

You see, when I first started eating prawns that way, my family and relatives had no idea about my new prawn-eating method. Being a Singaporean Chinese, we would get prawns one way or the other when we had a large family gatherings. At that stage in my life, I was a skinny, little runt, so my parents and relatives like to force-feed me. Every time they see my empty plate, they’ll pile food on it. Prawns included.

During the first round, I’ll polish off every single prawn. Of course, I ate the shells too:





 

Unfortunately, since my plate was devoid of prawn shells, one of my parent or relative would take pity on me, thinking I didn’t have any prawn, so they pile a second helping on my plate:





I would finish off the prawns, albeit at a much slower pace.

Once again, my parents or relative would see my plate empty of prawn shells, so they’ll pile a third heap onto my plate. By now, I’m protesting that I’m too full. But no one actually listens to a small kid’s protestations, do they?

So I have to eat the third heap of prawns:





After what seemed like an eternity, I managed to fill my little stomach with more prawns. But… another relative walks by, glances at my plate and goes, “Oh, you haven’t had prawns yet.”

Another fourth helping. Motherfuc…..





This time, I wised up. I leave the prawns’ heads behind as an incriminating evidence:





Since then, I’ve been eating prawns this way. I’ll make sure to leave some heads rolling so that people know I’ve eaten prawns.

So how do you eat prawns?

P.S. I googled “prawns in Australia” and got this. It’s the top result.



______________________________________________



I found this hilarious music video by nigahiga about two days ago. Make sure you watch the entire thing:





This is KevJumba’s version:





And the acoustic version by Chester See:




But I like this song best:




Brownies

The first quarter of this year has been filled with events, both for me and the world at large.

And some are not really good events either.

Jan 2011: Revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern and North African countries.

Feb 2011: Earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

March 2011: 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan. Civil war in Libya.

Late March 2011: Earthquake in Burma. Civil unrest in Bahrain. NSW Labor Party lost power for the first time in 16 years to the Coalition. NSW Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell becomes NSW Premier.

A very busy first quarter.

For the media, this is a perfect field day for them. The perfect mix of politics, civil unrest and large-scale natural disasters. And since I’m a media politics student, it’s my duty to keep abreast with the news. But I’m reaching the point where I’m sick and tired of the news.

So fuck the news.

For approximately another 10 minutes.

 

Besides being updated on world news and checking if any of my Japanese friends were doing okay, I was busy feeding the masses of the Unimates society.

What’s Unimates? Basically we’re a society that brings together most of the international students in USyd and bring them around Sydney, New South Wales and Australia. More accurately, we are sort of like an international network, where people can meet and make friends with everyone from everywhere.

For this semester, I’m the Coffee and Cakes officer. Basically, this girl and I are the unofficial caterers.

We have Coffee and Cakes every Tuesday morning and the two of us are in charge of organizing, preparing the food and drinks, making sure that the members are kept sated and satisfied. It’s not an easy job, but we have people helping out, so it’s doable.

The only problem is that everyone keep asking for my brownies.

See, the problem was that I baked brownies for my friend’s Christmas party last year. It was my first time but it turned out to be a huge success. Unfortunately, 80% of the people at the party were or still are, Unimates committee members. So they recommended me to make brownies for Coffee and Cakes.

It was a great idea and at least I could bring something homemade for the event. So for the first C+C (Coffee and Cakes), I brought the brownies.

They were gone within 30 minutes and there were still at least 40 to 50 people who had not got the brownies yet.

Considering it was my second time making brownies, the response was pretty good.

The only problem was that the people (aka the people at the Christmas party) came too late and didn’t have the chance to try my brownies. The vice-president of the society, had heard wonders about my brownies but he was too busy helping out and didn’t have a chance to try it out.

So I promised that I would make brownies again.

For the next two weeks I didn’t make brownies cause I wanted to try something else for Week 2 (chili jam meatballs and vegan mashed potatoes) and was too fucking lazy and tired for Week 3.

Week 4 came and I decided to bake brownies.

Some people would usually bake the brownies the night before. But not me. I demand fresh-out-of -the-oven brownies. So I got up at 7am, baked two batch of brownies (after baking brownies for so goddamn many times, it only takes me about an hour) and brought them to C+C.

Good times were had by all.

But it’s tiring waking up so early or staying up all night just to bake brownies. So I’ve decided to put the recipe. I actually got it from this website and follow it closely. But you can make some tweaks to it. Be creative. Just don’t blow up the oven.

__________________________________

 

The Recipe

Note: The original recipe calls for 16 servings of brownies. But I double the ingredients to make 32 servings (I have mouths to feed after all). If you want to bake 16 servings of brownies, use a 8 x 8 inches baking tray. If you want 32 servings, use a 9 x 13 inches baking tray. The recipe below is for 32 servings.

 

Brownies:

  • 225 g (1 cup) butter
  • 400 g (2 cups) white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
  • 55 g (2/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 125 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3 g (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 2 g (1/2 teaspoon) baking powder

You might want to ease up on the vanilla extract cause if you put too much, your brownies might have a slightly bitter taste. Also, I use Cadbury’s Baking Cocoa Powder (I think that’s the name).

 

Baking time:

 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 9 x 13 inch pan.
  • In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
  •  

    Seems pretty simple right? That’s because it is. But there’s some things you need to take note first. Always, always preheat the oven first. That’s the first thing you have to do. My oven is some brand-new, fan-forced, Italian-made oven, so I can turn it on and know that it’ll be hot and toasty within a few minutes. If you have an old one, it might take longer. As a rule, I preheat the oven while I’m preparing the batter. Rule one: Know your oven.

    Rule 2: Shift the cocoa powder. Especially when you are greasing the pan. What I do is that I grease the pan with some butter (using a brush makes things easier) and shift a mixture of cocoa powder and flour over the pan. This prevents the brownies from sticking to the pan during the baking process. I usually use one part flour and one part cocoa powder. You don’t have to use a lot. The most you should use is about 1/2 cup. Also, when you are making the batter, I recommend to shift the cocoa powder. It makes the brownies much more ‘smoother’. But it’s up to you to decide.

    Rule 3: Don’t over mix! Just mix the batter enough to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed together. You want to retain the thick, fudgey taste.

    Rule 4: Don’t overcook. Seriously, I can stress this enough. I usually bake my brownies for 25 minutes and then I take it out and let it cool. While it’s cooling, the brownies are still baking due to residue heat. The last thing you want is burnt brownies. So don’t overcook.

     

    As for the frosting:

    • 85 g (1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons) butter, softened
    • 30 g (1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) honey
    • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
    • 240 g (2 cups) confectioners’ sugar

    To make:

    • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat it. Remove from heat and stir. Pour onto warm brownies. Wait for frosting to set.

    I can’t find confectioners’ sugar in Sydney. So I got chocolate icing sugar from Coles. If you use chocolate icing sugar, I suggest using 1 cup. Oh, and shift the cocoa powder.

    The frosting is optional. The brownie is already quite sweet by itself. But if you have a huge sweet tooth like me, then go ahead, make the frosting.

    That’s it! Brownies for all!

    Sorry no pictures.

    Now will people please stop hounding me for brownies.

    ________________________________________________________


     

    The Leaning Tower of Kimchi Fried Rice, Great Balls of Potatoes and Brownies (the pastry, not the magical folks)

    I was supposed to post this last week but somehow never around to it. I drafted, edited but somehow the entry was never to my liking. So I just let it stewed in the dark halls where incomplete stories lay in repose.

    Anyway, I added more content to the original draft.

    But first, we need to backtrack to last week.

    In my previous post, I wrote about last Monday dessert, last Wednesday breakfast and dinner.

    This will be about last Thursday’s and last Friday’s dinner.

    I’ve always like fried rice and it’s a comfort food for me. Making fried rice is easy as the dish is very versatile. Just throw in any leftovers, add some oil and fry everything.

    For such a simple dish, it’s also very easy to get it wrong.

    The most important thing is leftovers.

    Fresh ingredients are not completely banned. You can use fresh veggies and eggs (I hope your eggs are fresh) and any kind of meat (but I prefer to use Spam). But your rice strictly needs to be leftover.

    I cannot stress that part. Your. Rice. Need. To. Be. Leftover. The first time I made fried rice, I made the rookie’s mistake of using freshly steamed rice.

    I spent the next one hour suffocating on sticky, hard-to-swallow fried rice.

    When you eat fried rice, you can feel the individual grains on your tongue. This texture is achieved by using steamed rice that has been left overnight in the refrigerator. This helps the rice to become dry and making it easier to separate the grains. Rice left in the refrigerator for two to three days is the best, although you don’t want to leave the rice in there for too long or you’ll have tough, crunchy rice grains.

    You’re not eating fried rice cereals.

    There’s a fine balance to strike, too much moisture or too little moisture in the rice can sink your dish

    Anyway, I love fried rice and I love Korean cuisine and one of my favourite Korean dish is kimchi: the spicy, fermented vegetable dish.

    So I decided to combine the two and had this for yesterday’s dinner:

     


     

     

     


    The Leaning Tower of Kimchi Fried Rice. The tilt was accidental.

    The kimchi fried rice tasted great, although I wanted it to have a more “kimchi” kick. I went over to the wikipedia site and it stated that using over-ripened kimchi is better than using fresh kimchi. Hmph, didn’t know that. Probably that’s why my fried rice didn’t have that intense kick I was going after. The drink of the meal was plain water.

    I had a surplus of mashed potatoes after last Wednesday’s dinner so I decided to do something special to them for last Friday’s dinner:

     


     

     

     


    Deep-fried mashed potatoes with pan-fried pork sausages seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Drink of the meal was Ribena.

    I haven’t had sausages in a long while and they went nicely with the deep fried potato balls. I don’t have a griller so pan-frying was the way to go. However I didn’t expect so much smoke and even with the exhaust fan on and the balcony window open, the smell of fried sausages still lingered in my apartment for a good few hours. But other than the smoky atmosphere, the sausages were a success. They were a bit dry, but still juicy nonetheless.

    The deep-fried mashed potatoes, on the other hand… was a near disaster. Well, they did come out edible but I almost screwed it up right from the start.

    I made the mistakes of putting the mashed potato balls in a bowl before leaving them in the freezer for two hours so they could set. After two hours, they potato balls did set, but instead of the perfect balls that I wanted, they set into a mass of unrecognizable shape.

    According to the law of gravity, the potato balls at the top compressed the potato balls at the bottom. So while I still had some spherical potato balls at the top, I had to remake the potatoes balls once I got to the bottom of the bowl.

    That was the first mistake.

    The second mistake was the size of the balls. I decided to ignore the recipe and made my potato balls palm sized when it called for the balls to be golf ball sized. A minor error that resulted in a grave consequence. The batter that covered the potato balls was too thin due to the large size of the balls.

    The third mistake was the temperature of the oil. As I don’t have a deep fryer, I used a large wok with a liberal amount of canola oil in it. The first batch of potato balls took a long time to cook because the oil was not hot enough and even after I removed them from the wok, some were slightly undercook. The second batch was just perfect (they are featured in the pictures above) while the last batch was almost burned.

    This is my first time deep frying food and I’ve always thought it was easy since my grandma makes it look easy. But I’ve forgotten that she has years and years of experience. Controlling the heat, the amount of oil in the wok and the amount of time deep frying the oil is no easy task.

    But overall, the potato balls tasted okay and at least it was not inedible. So my leftover mashed potatoes did not go to waste.

    So that concludes last week entry.

     


    I went to a Christmas Eve party last night at a friend’s place. It was a gathering of friends with food, drinks and presents (I mean, what’s Christmas without the gifts?). For the party, most of us brought food along to share. I brought my mashed potatoes, with some slight changes. I added a lot more Italian Parsley, five gloves of garlic and two large handful of Parmesan cheese. It gave the mashed potatoes some kick.

    And being the chocoholic, I baked brownies from scratch, which means, instead of using those box brownies, I measured out every ingredients, hand mixed and baked them.

     


     


    Unfortunately, that’s the only picture I took. The frosting didn’t really turn out what I wanted it to be, but I managed to spread it across most of the brownie.

    It got rave reviews and I was asked for the recipe. I wanted to say it was just some age-old secret recipe handed from generation to generation but I decided to tell the truth. I got it off from the Internet. The brownies were really easy to bake and taste much, much better than store bought brownies.

    All in all, last night dinner party was very enjoyable and although it was the first time spending Christmas Eve alone without my family, I still had fun.

    After the dinner, the host gave out the presents from the secret Santas. I got the coolest present from my Secret Santa:

     


    An old book with parts of the front cover torn off

     


    But wait for it…

     


     


    That’s right, people, Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage II. But the best thing about the book? It’s the 1987, first edition book. My very first Isaac Asimov book and I get a hardcover first edition. I mean, how fucking awesome is that?

    This is the note from my Secret Santa:

     


     


    It says:

    Hey Zareth,

    Since you knew that scifi about the names of god (referring to the Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke. I told this story to a couple of friends, so I kind of figured out my Secret Santa), I figured you’re a fan of old scifi. I hope you like this.

    Guess who?

    I do enjoy classic science fiction like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke but most of the stories I read were either from books I’ve borrowed from the libraries or from websites. So the fact that my very first science fiction book is this hardcover first edition makes it more awesome.

    Thanks mate.

    Merry Christmas everyone.