Sunday, 30 May 2010

The best cookie dough recipe (so far)

Everyone's got their own definition of the perfect cookie, so I would qualify the title of the post by saying that this is the perfect cookie dough recipe for me.

Five cookies sitting on my windowsill

I also don't think I've found THE recipe yet, and so am still experimenting. This is the basic dough to which you can add whatever you want, toffee chips, chocolate chips, raisins, swirls of espresso, nuts, blueberries - go wild!

Crunchy cookie = good

To me, the perfect cookie is:
1. Crunchy (think Famous Amos); and
2. Possibly just ever so slightly chewy right in the middle...

I do not like big soft chewy cookies (think Millie's) or worse, powdery crumbly cookies (think shortbreads). Yech at the powdery floury aftertaste. Yech Yuck Bleruch.

Walnut, cashew nut, peanut...and a swirl of coffee

I'd like to share this latest recipe. It's work-in-progress, but I think it's pretty close to what I'm looking for.

     1 and 1/2 sticks of butter
     1/2 cup brown sugar
     2/3 cup granulated sugar
     1 egg
     1 tsp vanilla essence
     1/2 tsp salt
     2 cups of plain flour
     1 tsp baking soda
  1. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Add egg and vanilla essence. Mix well
  3. Add the dry ingredients - plain flour, salt and baking soda, and form into a dough. At this stage you can add your nuts, raisins, chocolate chips etc.
  4. Next, roll the dough into a cylinder and place it in the fridge for at least 30 min. YOU MUST DO THIS. Especially if you live in the tropics. Lukewarm cookie dough makes bad cookies. Don't ask me why, just trust me. I'm yet to figure out why myself. Maybe one day, if I ever do a baking 101 class, my p√Ętisserie teacher will tell me. Until then, I do this on the basis that my refrigerated cookie dough always yields better cookies than room temperature ones.
  5. Preheat the oven to 175 deg celcius.
  6. Cut out your cookies into discs and place them on a greased, non-stick baking tray, 2 inches apart. Greasing is mandatory.
  7. Bake in pre-heated oven for 12 minutes, and keep a close watch on them as the bubble deliciously.
  8. Remove tray from the oven, and let the cookies cool completely before transferring them. Do not attempt to touch/move your cookies when they're even remotely warm as they are very soft at this stage and will fall apart. I leave mine to cool and harden for at least 2 hours.
Enjoy your crunchy cookies!

The photos are of the most recent batch I made. They are wonderfully crunchy with a slight chewy centre. I put raisins, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts and swirls of espresso in them. I love the chewiness of caramelised raisins and crunchiness of the nuts which have roasted in the cookies. Yup - definitely a chew/crunch fan :)

What type of cookie are you?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Photo-prayer


LORD, you have searched me and known me!
 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting

I took the above photo with an old little Fuji Finepix on a family trip on the Yorkshire Dales. It's not a fancy widelens - just three photos taken side by side and stitched together.

Lord Jesus, it's been a tough day. My mind was discouraged, but You already know that. You know my thoughts. I just want to declare Your goodness in all situations. Your faithfulness reaches to the heavens. Your righteousness is like the mountains. Your wisdom is deeper than the ocean's depths. You are my strength and my joy. And Your love! Your love! Your love is indescribable. Thank you Lord.

EZ

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

McDonalds Seaweed Shaker Fries - How to?

When it comes to food, we Asians love taking things to the next level. Localisation, adaptation, call it whatever you want. Welcome to our world of wasabi Filet-O'-Fish, tom yum KFC, Teriyaki McBurgers and Starbucks green tea (matcha) frappucinos. Oishi!

In my last visit to Singapore, one favourite night-time snack with the girls after a long Saturday of doing not very much is McDonald's Seaweed Shaker fries. Words fail me when describing the novelty of it all, and so my beautiful friend, P, will demonstrate:

At the counter, you will be given:
1. A brown paper bag (shown below), 
2. Fries and 
3. The all-important seaweed shaker seasoning.


So you open up your brown paper bag, like so. 
Eurgh, flash photography is so unflattering. Think I'll turn it off 


There, much better without flash. P is lovely regardless. 
Next, pour your calorie-laden, hot, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, shoestring fries into said bag, like so.


This is what they'll look like. As you can see, there's a good fries to airspace ratio in the paper bag to optimise shaking and even distribution of the seasoning. There's such a science to this.

Why does P always look so glamourous? It's like gusts of modelling breeze follow her wherever she goes and whips her hair into a perfect wind-swept look.


Now you take your seaweed shaker seasoning. It's a tiny packet but it packs a punch. From what I can remember, the ingredients are nori (seaweed), salt and various other mystery ingredients. Does anyone know what the complete list of ingredients is? Is there MSG in this stuff, because it's very more-ish!


Add your seasoning to the fries in your brown paper bag.


Then shake it to your right.


Shake it to your left


All done! Fold the sides of the paper bag down (as you would with, uh, sleeves and socks) and enjoy! See the dark green bits of seaweed clinging to the crispy fries? Yummy!

From memory, the photos might have been taken with a phone so excuse the grainy-ness

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Confessions

I have to admit...

Sometimes I feel self-conscious about being taller than you.
I feel like we're being judged as a couple, even if it's not out of malice.
People just react to unconventional-looking situations.

I've noticed people staring, and it used to make me sad. I used to worry about how funny we look in photos, and how we'll look standing at the alter on our wedding day.

But then God teaches me to not conform to how the world thinks. 
I'm no longer the shallow person I used to be 6 years ago. 

You have the stature of the fullness of Christ.


And that's what matters.

I love you <3

Friday, 21 May 2010

Rustica - Italian restaurant in Manchester (Review)

Italian restaurants are ubiquitous in Manchester because they just work. Italian cuisine is a crowd-pleaser - safe for the fussy / vegan / vegetarian / pescatarian / heat-wuss (no curry please!) / unadventurous (black bean chicken feet??) dinner companion.

So when my friend suggested Rustica for a nice Thursday evening dinner, it didn't provoke any passionate reaction either way. Truth be told, I am ambivalent to popular "Italian" cuisine available in Manchester. They aren't great, but nice enough for dinner with good company. The only Italian restaurant to every get me excited is San Carlo, my personal favourite Italian joint in Manchester. I'm sure there are nicer (pricier) ones to be explored, but not on my budget.

This was my first time in Rustica and I must say off the bat, the service is very attentive. Our glasses were never left empty and the waiter was incredibly accommodating to our multiple requests. We noticed a long table next to us, fully set for a party of 12. Moments later, a giggly gaggle of ladies on a hen party bounded in. Our waiter was waiting on the hen party, us as well as quite a few other table, so a big thumbs up to him for juggling so well.

We ordered some garlic bread as starters (sorry, no photos as we were too hungry!). They were lovely. My perfect garlic bread would be lightly crusty on the outside and soft, fluffy and chewy on the inside. The worst thing someone could do to my garlic bread would be to toast it to death, such that the crust hardens or dries out. Eugh. Rustica's garlic bread was just nice.

Linguine con Gamberoni - King prawns, chilli and tomato sauce. 
Where I come from, those are NOT king prawns, but regular prawns but oh well, when in Rome...

Fettucine Salmone e Gamberetti - Pasta in a smoked salmon, prawns & cream sauce. 
My favourite of the lot. This wasn't my order but T generously let me have a taste. I'm partial to seafood but I think what made this yummy was the texture of the pasta ribbons. I love flat ribbon pasta!

Spaghetti Bolognese - Thin Pasta with Minced Beef and Tomato
Meh, I could make this in my kitchen. S ordered this and I think she just wanted some good old comfort food. Incidentally, S is half-Italian, with a robust Italian grandmama with high standards of Italian cooking. It didn't bowl her over, but she liked it enough to polish it off.

Pizza Mare e Monte - Tomato, Mozzarella, Prawns and Mushrooms
I didn't try this but it smelt lovely. Bubbly cheese and fluffy risen bread is truly a lovely sight.


Risotto Rustica - Risotto with strips of chicken, peppers and tomato sauce
This was my order. It was delicious to start with but became quite cloying towards the end - not the fault of the restaurant. Risottos are always on the heavy side anyway. This was well seasoned, the chicken was slightly dry but it didn't stop me from enjoying it. I love tomato based sauces, so this was right up my alley.

Overall, our Rustica experience was nice, and that might be more to do with the excellent company and service than the actual food. I don't feel compelled to return. The food wasn't memorably bad but it wasn't memorably fantastic either, which in these times, isn't good enough to get patrons to part with their hard-earned cash.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

This summer in cinemas near you


Definitely not to be missed!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Episode 3 with Bond and Shamu

Shin and Wan Phing are back! In our third episode, find out what Shamu the killer whale in San Diego's Seaworld has in common with James Bond.

Along with more important topics like British chocolates and British suntans. Click here to listen.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Shin & Wan Phing's second show

In our second podcast, Shin & Wan Phing are back with more niceties as they look for sponsors to replace their laopok (old) mic and promote the award-winning Arndale toilets.

Other very important topics include toilet phobias, Tyra vs. Oprah and why you should never Google your illness.

Click here to listen. Leave us any comments and suggestions, as we would love to hear from you!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Shin and Wan Phing Show! Our first ever podcast.






Hello!

Welcome to the Shin and Wan Phing Show, otherwise known as SAWP in short. Why? Because we are Malaysians, and Malaysians love to abbreviate things, such as KL for Kuala Lumpur, or JB for Johor Bahru.

Or even KH for Kemahiran Hidup and many many more lovely short forms like BKT (bak kut teh) and CKT (char koay teow).

Shin and Wan Phing are two Malaysians living in Manchester, and in our podcasts we talk about anything and everything that is interesting to the Malaysian abroad.


In our debut show, Shin and Wan Phing talk about eating nasi lemak and how the belacan smell will cause us to fall out with our English neighbours, what we love about Stylist magazine and why we cried during Disney's Brother Bear and Pixar's Up.



Click here to listen. Do leave us any comments and suggestions!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Soldier-boy shoe shopping

I don't shop very often at all but when I do, I spend ages hunting for the perfect bargain. I really like fashion but don't believe in spending more than I have, which at the moment is not very much.

I like looking at the latest fashion trends but don't normally follow them. Classic, evergreen trends are definitely my kind of thing. I only buy shoes when the old pair has worn out and is beyond repair. Even then, I will wait until a sale is on.

And nothing beats the post-Christmas sales, with reductions as much as 90% off the original retail price. The downside to this is that Christmas and New Year is normally spent with my favourite man D. D really dislikes coming shopping with me. As it is, he finds shopping a pain, but coupled with my 3-hour deliberations over 10 different pairs only to decide none of them are discounted enough to buy, I think I push the boundaries of his patience.

I've tried all kinds of tactics to make the experience tolerable:

Approach 1:
Get him involved in the selection process.
Advantages: This works really well if he's interested in women's fashion
Disadvantages: Guys tend to decide too quickly, not taking into account the full breadth of options available.
Road-test report: 4/5 stars - D has, once upon a time, helped me pick out the most amazing, durable, affordable (£40), expensive-looking coat. However, this doesn't always happen!



Approach 2:
Give him something to play with whilst you shop.
Advantages: He can watch your bags for you.
Disadvantages: If he's particularly good at the game you give him, he might beat the game prematurely, run out of levels and get bored again.
Road-test report: 3/5 stars - he does indeed run out of levels in that tennis game on my phone.







Approach 3:
Don't take him with you. Leave him with your brother in the arcade.
Advantages: He bonds with your brother and you get to shop without the time pressure.
Disadvantages: They might not want to leave when you return to meet up with them for dinner.
Road test report: 5/5 stars - everyone's happy. He's up-ed his Guitar Hero skillz, I've found the perfect pair of shoes to replace the boots with a hole in the sole (yikes!)