29 November 2011

Thai Prawns & Pumpkin Curry

A special thanks to my friend, Ruth, for sharing with me this delightfully yummy, quick and easy recipe.  My husband promptly advised me that he wants a return visit of this dish, next week is soon enough and my daughter added a slight twist to this curry by adding a tablespoon of live yoghurt to it.  Trini may have confused the dish with the Chicken & Potato Curry that has an Indian slant to it but we followed suit, added a tablespoon to the curry ourselves and quite surprisingly it added another dimension to the flavour of the dish, so it is now added as an optional extra to the recipe.

My first exposure to Thai food was a result of our 2001 holiday in Thailand.  I especially remember ordering my first curry on Phi Phi Island.  Starting with a milder version, in order to train my taste buds, over the years I have grown to appreciate the lovely flavours and aromas of Thailand.  I still don't eat extremely spicy dishes making this recipe perfect.  Take the fresh chilli out of the equation and it is easily enjoyed by non-spicy enthusiasts.

If you are a super spicy enthusiast and you are not sweating profusely enough then grab the chilli flakes from the cupboard and you should be right as well. 

A nice crisp white wine complements the dish beautifully.  

Thai Prawns & Pumpkin Curry

1T oil
1 large brown onion, sliced
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 pkt Thai red curry paste or 2T if using a jar of paste
400g pumpkin, peeled, cut into 3cm pieces
1T fish sauce
270ml can light coconut milk
1 long red chili, deseeded, thinly sliced (omit if children are eating the curry)
500g frozen prawns (fresh use 800g green king prawns peeled and cleaned [1kg in shell])
1 bunch of young asparagus cut in half (fresh beans can be used)
steamed rice, to serve


Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high heat.

Cook onion and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is softened. Add curry paste. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add pumpkin, fish sauce, coconut milk, half the chili and 3/4 cup cold water. Simmer for 12 minutes or until pumpkin is just tender and sauce has thickened slightly.

Add prawns and asparagus/beans. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until prawns are cooked through and asparagus/beans tender.

Top with remaining chili.

Serve with rice.

Thai Prawns & Pumpkin Curry
PS: Thank you Ruth for the recipe.  Look forward to testing out a new one.
PPS: Bec, if you haven't made the Chicken & Potato Curry yet, then do this one first.  It is positively yummier.

26 November 2011

Saturday Morning in Singapore

I live on the east coast of Singapore, surrounded by park to the south, condos to the east and west and some more condos to the north.  What makes this location spectacular is the scenic view I have from my lounge room of the condos' facilities (five swimming pools for starters), East Coast Park and the Strait of Singapore sprinkled with maritime vessels.

East Coast Park (ECP) is a 15km stretch of tree-lined walking and cycling paths.  Particularly popular on the weekends with west and north coast residents sojourning here for a day trip, the ECP is a fitness fanatic's paradise.

Singapore may at times come across as a sleepy city with little happening during the day, of course discounting the shopping sprees taking place at nights, however, what a person like myself (I am not a morning person) may not see is the vibrant and bustling early hours of ECP.  It starts around 6.30am when walkers, cyclists, inline skaters or runners hit the pavement.  The fishermen are already at it on the nearby pier and the photographers are taking advantage of the morning light.

During one of those rare sleepless nights, I hit the pavement myself at 6.30am, camera in hand, water in the bag and the pier as my destination.  The pier is bustling with athletes, walkers and fishermen.  The sun is slowly rising on the horizon, the air is mildly fresh and every two minutes a plane is preparing to land at the nearby Changi Airport.

It's 6.30am with the sun rising on the horizon,
Singapore Airlines preparing for landing and the vessels still resting.

My favorite views are the maritime vessels.
Maybe because it conjures images of adventure on high seas.
7.00am on the East Coast Park.
Half hour later I leave the pier and as I walk along the ECP I come across a group practicing Tai Chi and preparations for a charity walk underway.  Hundreds of people of all ages patiently wait for the walk to commence and help raise funds for the Home Nursing Foundation.  The 3km walk may not seem like much but given that a large proportion of the walkers are senior citizens, it is certainly a great way to start the morning, whilst doing something for the community.

They were very smooth in their practice
Volunteers arriving to the event.
Having fun whilst waiting for the event to start.

Ready, set, go....
...and off they walk.
As the morning awakens, the sand castle beach is empty and the hawkers market is a ghost town till late afternoon. Yet the runners are out, the cyclists are pedalling whilst trying to work around the throng of people gathered for the charity walk and the carpark is full.

Each weekend grand sand castles are built here
for all to enjoy and participate in.
East Coast Lagoon Food Centre (aka hawkers market).
Hard to imagine that by 7.30pm this is not just bustling but usually
the several hundred seats are fully occupied.
Looking good.

Pedal away sweetheart...

So the streets may be quiet during the day as locals stay out of the heat and humidity but come the morning and many are out and about exercising, photographing, fishing and generally enjoying the early morning tropical weather. 

Bayshore Park Condos seen from the ECP.

25 November 2011

Chicken & Potato Curry

Most of us procure an image of Indian cuisine when the word curry powder is mentioned in a recipe but according to Wikipedia curry powder is actually a Western invention.  Popularised in the 19th-20th century, original blends of curry were largely available until the 1960s-70s.  The increasing demand for Indian cuisine made it uneconomical to maintain original blends and so a standardized version was born.  Typical ingredients are: coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, cumin and red pepper.  The McCormick brand in my pantry also includes: black pepper, bay leaves, celery seed, nutmeg, cloves, onion and ginger.

I have never cooked much with curry powder but an unfortunate purchase of 1kg of chicken fillets that were already thawed (an unusual practice I was not aware of until my shopping was delivered home) meant that I could not freeze the chicken as I intended and it needed to be cooked.  Scrambling around my kitchen to see what I could make with it, I came across a Chicken & Potato Curry recipe amongst my collection and all I was missing was the curry powder which I picked up at my local mini-mart.

We were pleasantly surprised with the end result, especially since we wound down the curry so Trinity could eat it as well.  Needless to say, the food was polished off the plates and we had a rare experience of eating a home cooked meal.

Chicken & Potato Curry

1T olive oil
4 large coliban (washed) potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks
1 large brown onion, halved and thinly sliced
1T curry powder (1 tsp if kids are eating or people who don't like spicy food)
500g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed of excess fat, cubed
1C vegetable stock
½C water
1C frozen green beans
1C frozen peas or mixed veggies (whatever is in your freezer)
Live yoghurt
Roti or naan bread to serve


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add potatoes, onions and curry powder and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. (A non-stick pot is easier to cook in as the curry powder won't stick to the pot.)

Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add stock and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the beans and peas/mixed veggies and cook for a further 5 minutes. (Add a little more water if the curry gets too thick.)

Prepare roti/naan bread following packet directions and serve with the curry and yoghurt.

Enjoy the meal with a cold and crisp white wine.

09 November 2011

Lego Hero Factory Rookies' mission to save Hammer (aka Julian Kallis)


This short story was written for my nephew's 10 birthday. A huge Lego Hero Factory fan, Julian, creates and recreates characters and stories between his Hero Factory and Ninjago collection.

Lego Hero Factory Collection

The Short Story

In the grand city of Makuhero a small team of Hero Factory Heroes, namely Breez, Surge and Furno are dispatched to undertake a most dangerous mission. Leaving their beloved home, they hyper-jump through space into a new galaxy, blazing fiercely towards planet Earth to save a young rookie known as Hammer (aka Julian Kallis) from excruciating torture and possible elimination by a mysterious, fierce and powerful villain.

You see Hammer has talents distinct from the other Heroes. He is a black belt in Taekwondo, master swordsman as taught by Spinjitzu Master, expert in multiple weaponry, lightning fast and a shapeshifter. His extraordinary talents are desperately wanted by many but even more so by the mysterious villain Black Phantom.

Unfortunately for Hammer he was tricked into a trap by Black Phantom and was captured and imprisoned. Black Phantom is wanting to force slimy green and sludgy power stealing liquid into Hammer to extract all of Hammer's talents for his own use. This will give him phenomenal cosmic powers across all known star systems and will wreak havoc upon anyone who stands in his way.

However, Hammer is a tough rookie and has been able to withstand all sorts of tortures inflicted by the Phantom but the question is how much longer can he take it? The moment Hammer was captured, a distress signal was transmitted back to home base. Each Hero also has a proximity alert device built into their armour and the moment that Breez, Furno and Surge entered into the atmosphere the Hammer was alerted to their presence and then he knew.... he had to last just that little bit longer.

In the meantime the trio Heroes were preparing their shuttle for landing procedures as they entered Earth's atmosphere. As they honed in on Hammer's distress signal the trio launched their individual pods and zeroed in on Phantom's evil lair in assault formation.

Not to be outdone the Phantom instantly alerted by the oncoming attack dispatched his own team of villains. SplitFace, Thornraxx and RawJaw geared up with their weaponry and plenty of bad attitude charge towards the entrance of the lair and ensue into a battle of ginormous proportions.

A blaze of fire with bullets flying, swords clanging and robots wrestling, the villains and the good guys give it all their might fighting to the last breath. Breez is hurled against the rocks, as Surge and Furno struggle to hold off the fierce and powerful villains. But good must prevail because losing is not an option.

So Surge and Furno lay down some covering fire forcing the villains to leap for cover, buying the precious time that Breez needed to recover and act on her next strategic move. Stealthily creeping around the rear of the villains, with her mighty sword drawn above her head Breez came crashing upon them slashing left and right. She knocked out Thronraxx with her sword and as RawJaw was distracted by Breez’s sudden attack Furno took that moment to unleash a fury of silver bullets upon him and destroy him forever. As the battle comes to an end with the Heroes winning, SplitFace becomes more and more enraged, so much so that he short circuits himself and crumbles into a heap of Lego bricks.

Sensing that the trio are nearby to save him, Hammer summons all of his will, all of his power and all the knowledge that he gained through his years of training and breaks free of his restraints, smashes through the iron gates of his prison cell and charges towards the control centre where Phantom is watching his henchmen’s downfall.

Finally Phantom and Hammer face-off, circling each other. And here the final battle begins...

No weapons, no trickery, just good old fashioned hand to hand combat. Well almost. Hammer is a Master of Taekwondo and Phantom is a Master of Jujitsu. A roundhouse kick to Phantom's head is delivered with lightning speed that catches the villain off-guard but only slightly disorients him. In retaliation Phantom grapples Hammer to the floor and hooks his legs around Hammer's neck in a stranglehold. As they are grappling on the floor, Hammer executes a jumping, spinning, special extraction move, landing on top of Phantom in a classic death from above strike, forcing the Phantom to crash heavily into the ground. Phantom realizing that he can't possibly beat the Hammer, resorts to his tiny whipper-snapper pistol hidden under his cloak of darkness and shoots Hammer in his torso, dazing Hammer long enough for Phantom to make a dash for his escape pod.

Just as Phantom makes his escape, Breez, Surge and Furno barge through the doors of the control centre finding Hammer slightly wounded and a little dazed but otherwise in good spirits. Together they return to their shuttle and make their way into outer space, returning home to Makuhero.

Upon their arrival they are greeted by the High Council of Makuhero congratulating them on their successful mission. Hammer is then taken to a private Taekwondo party, just in time to celebrate his 10th birthday.


Over and out....

Col. John, Lt. Silv and Corp. TJ

Hammer (aka Julian Kallis)