Sunday, November 19, 2017

Strawberry Preserve

I love strawberry preserve, especially those made with whole strawberries. I like it slightly runny, I've always wanted to make strawberry preserve with fresh strawberry in Cameron Highlands as strawberries that have been brought down to lowland tends to go off too quickly, and you end up throwing away most of them. 

So when we were in Cameron Highlands last weekend, With freshly plucked strawberries from the night market that's meters away from our place, and some sugar plus lemon juice, we immediately made this scrumptious strawberry preserves with loads of whole strawberries.

Strawberry Preserve

1kg strawberries, hulled 
3 cups of sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Directions :
Place two saucers in the freezer.

In a wide bowl, crush half of the strawberries. In a heavy bottomed pan, mix together the crushed and whole strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.

Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil.

Boil, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, until the mixture looks thick, shiny and darker.

To test if the preserve is ready, put a teaspoonful of the preserve liquid on one of the chilled plates, allow it to cool in the freezer for 3 minutes, then push the mixture with your little finger. If a crinkly skin has formed on the jam and there is no liquid left, then the preserve is set. Otherwise continue to cook for another 5 minutes and repeat the set test until it's ready.

When the preserves is done, skim excess foam from the surface,

If the jam is going to be eaten right away, just place in a dry, clean, oil-free container and refrigerate, otherwise process using your usual canning method.

p/s: Yup, I lugged my cast irons up to Cameron Highlands!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My favorite store on Carnavon Street

My knees go weak, what ever self-restraint I thought I still have remains on the curb of Carnavon Street.

My eyes gets glassy seeing all the colors looks deliciously enticing. Pens, paints, and markers, crayon, watercolors and pencils, if I can't have them all, I must at least have a few, or (when Zz is hovering) just one.

Don't even let me begin on the papers! I get a high running my fingers on the different textures and material, in standard sizes all the way to a giant roll. And the brushes; did you know DaVincci makes sable makeup brushes too?!

Welcome to my Kryptonite, Nanyang Book and Art Supply Store.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Good bye dear Iron Lady

On the last day of Halfest 2017, she visited Athene Spices booth. And for the first time she stayed for quite a bit and then came back to sit and asked me to cook for her. I specially cooked a few dishes for her and she ate them all. As always, she calls me Adik, we joke about our usual topics, weigh loss and politic.

After giving some really great advice on politics, she then said let's not talk politic anymore today, let's talk about you and your business, she keep saying that Athene Spices is really good and should really go places, and she repeatedly asked me how can she help me, reminding me to see her soon so she can take me see a few people.

Before she left to make her round to the other booths, she said, "Adik, jom ikut saya jalan round round, bila lagi kita nak jalan sekali". So I followed her to a few booths, trying out the samples, raving about how delicious the D24 ice cream is.

Before we parted she told me that she wants me to teach her how to make Hyderabadi Biryani and Lamb Mandi like the one in the photo I showed her. I said let's plan something soon. That day I saw glimpses of her I never saw before, I saw beyond the Iron Lady, the politician and the business tycoon I've met and worked with countless of times.

Little did I know that will be the last time I see her.

Early this evening Datuk Wira Dr  Maznah Abdul Hamid passed away at IJN after a short illness.

I will really miss you, Datuk Maznah, thank you for everything, advices, motivation and for being an inspiration. I hope I'll live up to what you are in me.



Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Treasure trove of recipes acquired

Managed to 'kidnap' Khalati Idah home last weekend, and she brought along her treasure trove of recipes in form of three thick handwritten notebooks with recipes collected from all over the world, over a period spanning more than fifty years.

What amazes me more is that each book is complete with index and review of the recipes she's tried. She even has accompaniment suggestions for some recipes! Gems thought long lost forever, those dishes my grandma Zaynab used to cook plus those by others in the extended family who are known to be great cooks are in the books too! You can't imagine how excited I am.

With her help I managed to transcribe about twenty long-wanted recipes that night, the others will be done slowly after this.

I wonder if this is a project that I'd undertake next. The books are all written in the way it was told to her, using old style measurements like kepoi, cupak, tahil and even those 20¢ of this or 10¢ of that (how to translate inflation?) and all in Jawi too, so it's time to brush up on my Jawi. Perhaps Mama would jump onto this project too.

Addendum : Unfortunately, this project will never take off. Apparently certain party are not happy that I wish to  immortalize the memories of our ancestors ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ข

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Grilled Lamb with Caramelized Onion Cream

So the other day, we had an all girls night at home and Zz had to camp out at Iris. To make it up to him, the next day I made this Grilled Lamb with Caramelized Onion Cream. Plate made pretty with baby kale, arugula and cherry tomato salad, and edible flowers.

How I made it :

Lamb shoulders marinated with Athene Spices, Tunisian Harrissa and Garlic Salt. Grill using a grill pan, until done to your preference. Remove lamb from pan, set aside in a covered container so that all the juice will be absorbed back into the meat. Add caramelized onion to the pan, deglaze with milk. Stir until sauce thickens. Serve warm, over grilled lamb with fresh greens and cherry tomatoes.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Teatime at TWG with Rafie & Jamjoom Clan

Tea time with Ammi Kamal, his wife Khalati Maisoon, and his mother in law, Khalati Sooad. 

Ammi Kamal is the son of my grandfather's brother, Abbas Rafie, while Khalati Maisoon is the daughter of Omar Rafie, another brother of my grandfather Hussen Rafie. Khalati Sooad was the foster mother to the Rafie children sent to study in Egypt in the 50's, and my father's one of them. Khalati Sooad is a Jamjoom, whose sister married my father's brother and brother married my father's sister, oh well, going into that will lead to explaining a really complex family tree.

We grew up hearing stories of my father's sea travel along with Ammi Kamal and his elder brother Ammi Abu Bakar from Penang to Makkah via Jeddah when he was barely ten years old. A year later they were sent to Egypt to continue their studies. Among them all, the Rafie cousins sent to Makkah and then Cairo, only my father came back to Malaysia. The rest furthered their studies or begin their careers in Egypt, KSA and the US , a few of them went on to hold very senior posts in Aramco, while there's quite a few doctors among them too.

Someday I must document their stories, and work all the criss-crosses of the marriage between the Rafies ๐Ÿ˜‰

p/s: here's a couple of photos of H & Q drawing while we wait for our guests to arrive.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Belitong in Kamheong Sauce

Belitong or cerithidea obtusa is a species of sea snail. A favorite Asian marine gastropod, it's also commonly known as "Siput Sedut" amongst the Malays.

Spice up your lunch or dinner with this quick and easy yet amazingly delicious spicy Belitong Kamheong recipe.

Belitong in Spicy Kamheong Sauce


·  1kg of belitong, cleaned and shell tip removed ·  100 grams of shallots ·  8 garlic cloves ·  1/2 cup of dried shrimps ·  1 large handful of dried red chilies, or 2 tbsp of chili paste ·  3 stalks of lemongrass, smashed ·  6 fresh red chili padi, smashed ·  3 stalks of curry leaves ·  2 tablespoons of fish curry powder ·  2 tablespoons of oyster sauce ·  Salt and sugar to taste ·  1 tbsp of tamarind paste, soaked in 1tbsp of water, remove seeds.

Steps to prepare: 

• Begin by placing the belitong in a pot, add 2 tbsp of salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil, continue boiling until cooked. Drain and set aside. •  Blend the shallots, garlic, dried shrimps and dried red chili/ chili paste with a small amount of water. • Using a large wok, heat up the oil and fry in the curry leaves for about 5 minutes. Add the smashed lemongrass, fry until golden. • Then add in the blended ingredients till the paste is slightly thick and fragrant. • Next add in curry powder and oyster sauce. Fry it till the oil separates from the paste and later add in the tamarind juice paste. Let it simmer for about 2-3 minutes. • Once that is done, add in the belitong, salt and sugar to taste. • Mix and stir the belitong until the belitong are completely coated with the kamheong sauce. • Serve with hot white rice. 

* The dried chili must be de-seeded, if you can't stand very spicy food, and soaked in water to soften, as well as the dried shrimps.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Roasted Garlic and Eggplant with Chargrilled Peppers

Roasted Garlic and Eggplant with Chargrilled Peppers


  • 2 red bell pepper
  • 4 whole heads of garlic
  • 8 baby eggplant
  • 2 tsp 'Athene Spices' Garlic Salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1tbsp date/balsamic vinegar


1. Chargrill the peppers over open flame until the skin are totally black. Place in a bowl with a tablespoon of water, cover the bowl properly. Let the pepper cool for about 10 minutes, then peel off the blackened skin with your hand. Remove the seeds and inner pith, slice the pepper into long strips.

2. Place 'Athene Spices' Garlic Salt in a bowl, top with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Mix well.

3. Wash whole garlic head, pat dry. Cut of the top part of the garlic head.

4. Cut eggplants lengthwise, then make small slits on the flesh.

5. Arrange the garlic and eggplants in a baking dish, cut side up. Spoon the spices from the olive oil mix on top of the garlic heads and eggplants. Generously drizzle the oil all over.

6. Roast in a 180°C oven for 30 minutes.

7. Once the garlic heads are golden brown and fragrant, remove from the oven. Top with the sliced peppers, return to the oven for further 5 minutes.

8. Serve hot or warm as a side dish.

#athenespices #garlicsalt #garlicrub #athenespices #gourmetspices #athenespicelab #artisanspices #handblended #msgfree #cleaneating #healthycooking #healthyliving #cookingmadeeasy #lazycookdeliciousfood #30minutesmeal #handmixedspices #cooklikeachef #eatwelllivewell #eatwellathome #eatwellatwork #lazycook

Monday, July 17, 2017

Masak Lemak Cili Api Udang & Nenas



Serves 4

·         400g prawns
·         250ml thick coconut milk
·         1 cup water
·         4-6 red chili api (bird’s eye chili), split lengthwise
·         3 asam gelugor
·         2 stalk of lemongrass, smashed
·         2 pineapple slice, cut into bite size
·         1 tumeric leaf
·         3 kaffir lime leaf
·         sugar to taste
·         salt to taste

Spice Paste
·         10 shallots
·         4 garlic cloves
·         ½” slice of young ginger
·         2 stalk of lemongrass, sliced
·         tumeric root, thumb-size

• Trim prawn, devein but leave shell on.

• Combine the spice paste ingredients, pound using a pestle & mortar until forms a fine paste.

• Put coconut milk, water, chili api, smashed lemongrass and spice paste in a pot, bring to a gentle simmer.

• Add prawn, slowly bring to boil. Add asam gelugor and pineapple.

• Add roughly torn tumeric leaves and kaffir lime leaves, reduce heat and cook until fragrant.

• Season with salt and sugar to taste.

• Garnish with finely sliced tumeric & kaffir lime leaves and fresh red chilies.

• Serve with hot white rice.

* Note : This recipe was tweaked to suit the non-spicy palate, feel free to add more chili if you wish.

Thursday, July 13, 2017




Serves 4


·         6 kacang botor (four angle winged bean)
·         1 cup taugeh (beansprout)
·         2 lemongrass
·         1 torch ginger flower
·         6 shallots, sliced
·         ½” slice of  young ginger
·         2 red chili, seeded
·         ½ cup grated coconut, lightly toasted
·         4 calamansi lime, juiced
·         1 tsp sugar

Sauce Paste
·         2 tsp dried shrimp
·         1 lemongrass, sliced
·         4 shallots, sliced
·         2 garlic, sliced
·         2 bird’s eye chili
·         ½ tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
·         ½ cup grated coconut, toasted until golden


·         Slice kacang botor thinly, diagonally. Finely slice seeded red chili and young ginger into strips. Remove the tough outer layer of the lemongrass, slice the inner part finely. Thinly slice the shallot and torch ginger flower.

·         Remove tail and bean skin from taugeh. Put in a bowl, cover with hot water. Leave for 2 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water to stop further cooking.

·         Dry fry all the spice paste ingredients until fragrant. Pound in a pestle & mortar until forms a paste. Thin with calamansi lime juice.

·         To make the salad, place sliced kacang botor, taugeh, red chili, ginger, shallot, torch ginger flower and toasted coconut in a bowl. Add the spice paste and sugar. Toss until well mixed, add salt and more lime juice or sugar if required.

·         Keep cool until serving time.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Of curries, chapatis and biryanis

We braved the traffic jam, ventured through the small lanes of Little India for the sublime curries from Tajudin Hussein's Restaurant that happens to be right smack in the middle of the bazaar Ramadan!

Plenty of the stalls are at least second generation sellers, most are not seasonal hawkers, their usual restaurant or stall are indeed the area selling age old favorites such as the Biryanis and curries of Tajudin Hussein's (you'll be amazed at the number of different fowls they made into a variety of curries), and the fluffy soft capati stall that also sells delicious curries made of various parts of a mutton, the fire roasted mutton limbs are especially scrumptious.

There's also stalls selling 'murtabak', 'putu mayam', 'taukua rendang' and various sweet and savoury snacks, including various halvas, samosas and vadais with a smattering of young faces selling the usual bazaar Ramadan fares.

Sweet and savoury snacks, including various halvas, samosas and vadais.

Murtabak is still RM2.50 here.

Tajudin Hussein opens a stall right outside their restaurant during Ramadan. This is the only place I buy from during Ramadan, as this is one of the places we eat at during regular months.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Behind their mask of meekness

I am very much 'amused' with some people who let people bully them and not stand up for their rights or even attempt to do so even though there's opportunity, time and it's safe enough to do so. When I say bully I mean it in the loosest manner, it could mean being discriminated based on gender, race, religion or social standing; road or parking bullied, treated rudely by service staff, bad service or overcharging at that restaurant. Or it could even be as simple as having people cut in line at that checkout counter. They then come to whine about it on social media, which usually leads to public outcry and shaming and cursing. Chances of the bullies finding out that people are upset with them via social media are almost zilch, especially if the 'crime' are not so big.

And sometimes, the chance arises where someone else is around and the person stands up for them, trying to defend a friend, righting what's not right. After all, friends do fight for friends, don't they?

So here's the funniest part, instead of being grateful, the whiner goes around whining that the friend embarrassed the whiner by defending them, that the friend should have just kept quiet about it. And the whiner goes around to a lot of people to whine about this friend. And this will start a round of bashing and shaming the friend instead. People who fraternize with the whiners aren't usually the kindest kind, they thrive on gossip and shaming. Words they use are cruel at their most charitable The injustice that was stopped is no longer the issue, but the friend who defended the whiner is. The friend's defence embarrass the whiner, that's really a major crime, that friend must be made to look like a major villain!
So what do you say of these people? Are they really the bigger bully hiding behind the mask of meekness? Or do they let themselves be bullied to satisfy their cravings of pure unadulterated meanness?

Yes, this is a whine post, though I am still deeply amused.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Stranger Things

If you grew up in the 80's, mad about Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, Atari and high handlebar bicycles, and wished that they'd put together all your favorite coming of age movies, this is definitely a must watch.

Taking the best of  films, books, and TV shows from the 1980s and mixing them into it's very own sci-fi magic, this Netflix series gives homage to The Goonies, E.T, Stand by Me, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, Gremlin, Indiana Jones as well as a few  Stephen King's thrillers. The sense of dejรกvu you get in almost every other scene, is like going back into the comfort of simpler times.

I'd recommend a marathon of all the 8 episodes from Season 1 over a weekend (or in one night like we did )
Just watch it!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pomegranate & Pistaschio Salsa

Pomegranate & Pistaschio Salsa 

This delicious salad is best served scooped and eaten with chips as appetizer (or snack), on top of a plate of greens for a tasty salad, over grilled meat or fish as relish or a side dish, or tossed with your favorite grain, such as quinoa, barley, couscous or even rice.

1 pomegranate
½ cup pistaschio, shelled
A handful of parsley
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp Hot Chick Spicy Salt


Directions :

1. Gently remove pomegranate arils (or more commonly known as the seeds) from the rind and membrane, place in a bowl.

2. Coarsely chop pistaschio, add to pomegranate arils in the bowl.

3. Coarsely chop parsley, and add grated lemon rind, add to the pomegranate and pistachio mix. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

DIY Denim Knife Roll

Weekend Project #2

An accessory I've always wanted for my tools. My first knife roll, to store and transport all my knives.

Denim Knife Roll by Athene
I made it simple enough just to fit all my current knives (plus a couple of extra slots for my dream knives) with two big additional slots for some other kitchen tools and kitchen towel and a (wonkily) hand-sewn name card slot. 

First I planned on adding a copper rivet ring to hold the lace, but patience is obviously not one of my virtues, I couldn't wait for the shop to open on Monday to get the rivet, so I decided to sew the lace on instead. 

As someone said, that makes it an original design, I can tie the lace anyway I like, I can make it pretty with knots or just slit it in for those professional moments. 
My current favorites neatly tucked in the knife roll

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Moss Garden with Stone Flights of Stairs

First weekend of 2017 project.

Project 1

Glass Terrarium : Moss Garden with Stone Flights of Stairs.

 I used at least four types of moss to create this micro garden, along with some bamboo grass, pebbles and old wood. Plus a couple of pygmy doresera.

I snuck in some carnivorous plant in there, see if you can find it.

Right profile

Left profile

Moss Garden with Stone Flights of Stairs 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

What's your passion?

A friend asked what's my passion these days, as I am one always with something different up my sleeves.

Here's what I told him.

My passion has always been food and all things related to it. No matter what other interest I pick up along the way, I always go back to my original love, food. I guess I'm one of those lucky few who have turned their passion into their life.

Passion is not something you look for, it'll find you, and draw you into a web that you wish not to escape from. When you spend every waking hour thinking about it, turn your life upside down to fit it into your life, waking up in the middle of the night with some ideas or thoughts about it, let your bath water go cold as you follow your trail of thoughts on it, that's passion. 

What ever your passion is/are, make sure you do it with zeal, and hopefully that will be your legacy.

~a foodie who's inspired to be a food connoisseur~

The friend who asked the question, he's one of those really passionate person who holds no bar when he does things. Him, I envy his passions, and at times I hate him because he makes me want to take up those interest too! 

p/s: late last year I started again with them carnivorous plants. But this time I am limiting myself to drosera, pinguicula and dionea. Specifically NO Nepenthes, as we can remember perfectly well how that took over my garden and life the last time. I will not fall to temptation regardless how appealing they are (here's to wishful thinking)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

... of religion & cultural maturity

Bans and regulations are required in Malaysia because most Malaysian aren't mature enough for religious and cultural sensitivities. 

And then there's some who ignore or challenge it to prove that they have no respect nor care for the cultural variances.

you got me, finally

For months I've dodged you
You finally got me good 
Oh the joy of itchy ears 
And runny nose

I hate you, flu bug