Knit: Narnia

FO: Narnia Shawl

Narnia
Pattern | Narnia Shawl by Lily Go
Yarn | PurPle Alpaga in Gris Clair
Needles | 3.25mm and 3.5mm (bind off)

Since my travel project was completed just before I travelled to Penang, I thought I’d take a break and start a new project in Malaysia. But by the time I arrived at Dubai airport, I was itching for something to work on with my hands. Luckily I had enough sense to pack my project necessities (yarn, needles, etc) in my carry-on bag.

Note: If you intend to fly AND knit, be sure to carry only wood-based needles. They’ll show up on the x-ray as pencils or toothpicks or sticks. No metal. Same goes for DPNs and straight needles.

FO: Narnia Shawl

The pattern was pretty easy to follow despite having no rest rows (read: all purl/knit on the wrong side) and I adored the transition between one pattern to the other. This transition is especially obvious when the shawl is being blocked – one must always block lace shawls in order for the pattern to really shine and pop! I wouldn’t mind knitting up another Narnia in another colour…it’s that pretty.

I couldn’t say the same for the yarn. By some oddity, I developed allergies to it. Every time I pick up the shawl to knit, I would end up with itchy hives on only my left hand. If I don’t stop for a day or two in between, it would “spread” to my right hand. I have never had this problem with other alpaca yarns so it couldn’t be alpaca itself that is causing the problem. I have another skein of the same yarn but in a different colour so will see how my skin reacts to handling that yarn.

I’m not too sure if I’ll keep this for myself. While I like the shade – of lately, I’ve been very fascinated with shawls in solid colours – I am not too sure if I’d have a need for it. I still have my Jaali, Melange and other shawls. Maybe I could sell it if I’m tired of stashing so many shawls? Hm. Now back to my other crafts and surfing the Net for a mount for ipad.

Ravelry Project Page Ravelry info available here.

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Mooncake galore! (Part II)

Mooncake Galore: The finished cakes in a few different flavours

The final tally stands at nearly 27 mooncakes – 12 made with pure lotus paste, 10 with mixed nuts & lotus paste surrounded by pandan flavoured lotus paste and 5 made with pandan lotus paste. The mixed nuts mooncake was a play on the traditional salted egg yolk centre mooncakes. I just mixed a handful of walnuts, chopped almonds and pumpkin seeds with the remaining lotus paste and shaped them into balls weight 25 gms. To mimic the outer filling (traditionally lotus paste), I used pandan lotus paste instead and utilised about 50-55 gms of the stuff.

As you can see, the nut-centred mooncake looks pretty decent except for the tiny pockets of air. That portion – the kneading and enveloping of the outer filling requires more work. I haven’t tried this but my hubby and his colleague have tried the lotus paste mooncake and find the filling to be just nice, skin isn’t too thick but because it hasn’t matured (mooncakes need at least 24-48 hours to soften and mature), the skin is a bit tad on the hard side. I’ll have to wait and see if that is the case even after maturing as I encountered some issues with the recipe (I found it to be a bit tad too fluid and tacky so I added in about another 50 gms of flour or so). Hm.

Mixed nuts & pandan mooncake

Traditional mooncakes

Ingredients
Makes about 30 small-medium mooncakes (approx 50-70 gms in weight)

(A) Skin
350 gms cake flour
250 ml golden syrup
100 ml vegetable oil
7 ml lye water

(B) Filling
Approx 1 to 1.5kg filling of your choice (lotus paste, mung bean paste, pandan flavoured paste, etc)

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix the golden syrup, alkaline water and oil well before adding in the flour. Use a spatula to combine all ingredients before kneading into a dough. Do not overknead or over-stir. Cover and set aside to rest for at least 45 minutes or overnight if possible.
  2. Roll and divide your filling into 65-70 gm balls (remember to oil your hands) and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven at 180 C for at least 30 minutes. This is crucial in ensuring a nicely baked crust.
  4. Divide the dough into 20 gm balls (remember to keep your hands and fingers dusted with flour). Depending on your filling and how it’s structured (just filling & skin or two different fillings & skin), wrap the skin around the filling. If you have two fillings (egg yolk/nuts/filling surrounded by another filling), wrap the center portion with the filling before you wrap it with the dough. Roll the finished product into a nice ball.
  5. Dust the ball lightly with flour and placed the stuffed mooncake into the mould. Lightly press down onto the pan and gently remove the mould. Repeat until all the filling & dough is finished.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and allow the mooncakes to cool for 15 minutes before brushing them with egg wash. Continue to bake until the pastry turns golden brown (about 10-12 minutes). Remove and cool on a wire rack before storing in an air tight container.
  7. Allow the mooncake to sit and mature for at least 24-48 hours before serving. To store, keep these in an airtight container in the fridge.
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Mooncake galore!

Mooncake Galore: The final product

Mooncake fever has landed here in Malaysia with bakeries and commercial stores carrying a wide range of traditional (baked) and snowskin (non-baked) mooncakes. I have never really been a true fan of mooncakes – we just eat one and give the rest away to friends or family. This coupled with the fact that I have no love for mooncakes with salted egg or any of those funky flavours like mango or durian. (Perhaps in that sense, I’m a traditionalist.) My mum likes her mooncakes with plenty of mixed nuts and my dad? He stays away from mooncakes – too sweet for his tastebuds!

So yes, whenever mooncake festival hits, we end up buying one or two cakes to satisfy the craving. Looking at the prices a few days back, I was shocked at how pricey mooncakes are, especially snowskin mooncakes. The cheapest was RM14 for a baked mooncake (lotus filling, no salted egg yoke centre) while the contemporary mooncakes (different filling like chocolate, tiramisu, etc, or with egg yolks) retail for anywhere from RM22-25.

I decided there and then to try baking mooncakes instead of buying them. This is a challenge for me because somehow, I have always had the impression that they were tough to make. So I cheated and bought ready-made filling first to get a hang of making the skin and to search around for a good filling recipe. After the kids went to bed, I set about to making the mooncakes. The first batch is still cooling in the kitchen as I’m writing this out but several notes to make:

  • Definitely need more practice getting the ratio of skin to filling right. I used 60gms of pure lotus paste with 30 gms of skin but I reckon I can cut that down to 20 gms since my cakes came out with fat bottoms.
  • I need to get myself an accurate measuring cup for liquids – I think I used too much golden syrup/oil which resulted in a rather wet dough…or maybe it’s supposed to be that wet. Hm.
  • When rolling out the filling into balls, one must oil one’s hands but do not do this with the skin. In fact, flour is the way to go for the skin. Saves you some misery. No rolling pin either – pointless and creates a lot of mess. The skin is soft so it’s very pliable and easy to work with.
  • I let the dough for the skin rest for 45 mins for the first batch. The second batch – which I’ll make tomorrow – will use dough that has rested for an entire night. Lets see if there is a difference in the taste and texture.

As for the taste, I’ll have to comment on that later – freshly baked mooncakes don’t taste as good as ones that have been resting for at least 24-48 hours. Tehehehe.

Mooncake Galore: First attempt in the oven

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Busy, busy.

If I haven’t been updating both blogs, it is only because I have been busy.

Our things arrived from France on Monday and since then, all I have been doing is unpacking and organising them. On top of that, the kids also started playschool on the same day so I have been playing the chauffeur and driving them to & fro school. What has been more knacked out is the unpacking.

One thing is clear.

It was a good idea to have that destash year(s) up and running. We have too many things and I have resorted to closing both eyes and just donating a whole boatload of stuff (clothes, toys, etc) as well as parting with a number of my favourite yarns & fibres. Why part with my favourites? While, I have too many to go through and rather than let it sit as part of my stash, I might as well find them a good home.

Apart from the whole “destash” thing – this rule applies to hobbies, clothes and household items…even food – I’ve been making some time to use up my yarn. I managed to finish a shawl (will block it over the weekend) and started another one using the leftover yarn from my previous pair of socks. I also have a few sewing projects in mind – namely the English Garden quilt for the kids and some cloth pads (just so I can use up the Zorb fabric I have). Hopefully I’ll be able to make some headway and clear off some of my stash.

Still, what the heck was I thinking when I added these things to my stash in the first place?

Gack!

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Oh tempeh!

Tempeh

I have a newfound love and it’s called tempeh. Somewhat like cheese, tempeh is soybeans that have been fermented with a fungus to give it that white cake-like structure. It is often used as a meat substitute and is quite versatile. You can stir fry it, bake it, deep fry it and serve it on its own or as part of a meal. Some people even use it as a veggie burger patty!

While this was hard to find in Europe – I was tempted to buy a tempeh kit and make my own – and only Malay sellers stock these (forget about trying to find them at a Chinese veg stall) in Singapore, wet markets here in Penang sell plenty of these 100 gm cakes…yes, even at the Chinese veggie stall. You can also find them at hypermarkets like Giant and Tesco. They don’t cost much…in fact, a cake goes for about RM1.50 to RM2.

Prepwork is easy with tempeh. There is no need to wash the cake; just remove from the packaging, cut the cake into whatever size you want it to be in and fry it with anything – onions, diced garlic, sambal, chilli…it’s up to you, really. Some people like theirs hard and crunchy (you’ll probably have to shallow fry or deep fry it) but that’s too much work and too much oil so I just stir fry mine with some spicy sambal and four angle beans (also known as winged beans) – another favourite veggie that is common in Malay cuisine but not so much in Chinese cuisine.

Taste-wise, tempeh is a little bit nutty and earthy – somewhat like eating mushrooms with peanuts! If you fry yours like mine and with similar vegetables, you’ll find that the soft texture of the tempeh goes well with an added crunch from the four angle beans. Oh, if your kids are not adverse to this, you can make it kid-friendly and fry up some with some minced garlic and hey presto, a quick and easy side dish!

Sambal tempeh & four angle beans

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Driving in Penang…

…can be a very tiring affair. So much so that at the end of the day, all you want to do is just curl up to a nice comfy anti fatigue mat.

Now why do I say this?

First of all, there is nothing wrong with Penang roads. Sure it has some quirks like how some lanes are just for turning left or right, how it can start off with two lanes and suddenly end up as one or how two-way traffic ends up becoming one way (in other words, no entry signs are plentiful and so are u-turns). Of course there are potholes too but for the most part, it’s normal to have less-than-perfect roads. I attribute this to how the island has been developing – over already existing roads (long story there about how the state government has to find ways to develop the place because it’s opposition-led).

The problem lies with Penang drivers. Here is a list of some things I experienced and noticed so far…

…Penang drivers can’t seem to stick to their own lanes. More often than not, a typical Penangite driver will hog two lanes and stay in the middle. They don’t know how to control their steering wheel and will often end up in another lane when making a turn. The issue with drivers hogging two lanes on a straight road is due to two things – lousy driving skills or other people’s laziness (for an explanation on the latter, please see the next item).

…People here love to just park their cars anywhere and everywhere. Never mind that there is perfectly decent, legal AND empty parking space about 100-200 meters away from their destination. If the roads are wide, this wouldn’t pose to be a problem but trouble is that the roads are often narrow so when you have cars parked on both sides of the road shoulder, it turns traffic from a two-way one to one-way. And if you add a lorry into the equation or a car that is double-parked…well, you get the picture, don’t you?

…They love danger…or just that they are not very patient. People here will overtake uphill on a winding road with a double line just because the guy in front isn’t pressing down on his accelerator hard enough. They will create lanes just because they think that it’ll get them to their destination faster (never mind that it actually has the opposite effect). Breaking the red light, speeding when you should be slowing down (like going downhill), etc.

…I feel sorry for those on motorbikes but sometimes they can be a darn nuisance too. Some motorbike drivers LOVE to hog the road and by this, I mean they love to ride their bike in the middle of a one-lane road or stay in between two lanes. So the only way you can pass them is by heading into the lane meant for oncoming traffic. Haiz.

One thing nice though is this – Penangite drivers are pretty tolerant of their peers. No honking and lots of giving allowances. In KL, there would be plenty of honking, finger showing, lights flashing and who knows what else but here, no such thing. Road rage, it would seem, isn’t part of the driving “lifestyle” here.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m in an alternate universe after having driven in a large city like Lyon and then a small town like Dole and then back in a large city like PJ/KL and now in Penang. Surreal, I tell you…

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