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Can you believe it’s nearly March? My final year in Penang is flying by faster than a young man breaking the speed limit on his plastic scooter. I have lots of lists of things I want to do, things I have to do, things I want to shop for, where I want to go and where I want to eat (that’s a very important list) but for now, here’s my Penang bucket list for 2012. There’s a few carry over items from the previous year, and a few new ones as well. It’s not by any means a definitive list, and it is subject to evolution, but it’s a list nevertheless:

PENANG BUCKET LIST FOR 2012

Hike to the top of Penang Hill (finally)

Hike to Monkey Beach and have a picnic

Visit Penang’s national park for some hiking (and maybe a swim on a clean beach)

Do another lap of the island, one last time

Go on the funicular railway to the top of Penang Hill (yes, I want to go up twice, the easy way and the hard way!)

Eat dinner at David Brown’s restaurant

Go for a Peking duck lunch with friends

Eat more local food and try different dishes

Take photos around Georgetown at sunrise

Do a Nyonya cooking class

Do a few more cooking classes with Nazlina

Do more batik paintings (and try and develop a better technique)

Make another pair of smaller beaded shoes

Learn how to make roti canai, and Indian sweets

Take photos at my local wet markets

Take a photo of the funny driving school

Stay at either the E&O or the Rasa Sayang for a night

Get some tailor made clothes made

Eat at the Thai restaurant at Bukit Genting on sunset

Cross over to Butterworth on the ferry another time and get some photos

Go to the top of the Komtar building to take some photos

Browse around in Penang’s antique stores and pick up some furniture pieces

Visit the Penang Museum

 Photo taken in January 2012 at the Penang Butterfly Farm – one of the activities I was able to tick off my previous bucket list.

For those of you on Pinterest, have you been making any pins? Even though I haven’t been posting any Make a Pin Monday posts, I’ve still been doing lots of Pin-related creating, on the culinary front at least.

New here and curious for some MAPM background? Go here. The basic philosophy of MAPM – don’t just pin it, do it!

Today I’m going to share some savoury recipes I’ve pinned, cooked and loved. A lot of these have been dinners at night, hence there’s no photos (and they would be some pretty ugly photos if there were any!) But enough inane chatter, let’s talk recipes:

I’ve made these apple sage chickpea burgers and chickpea hummus burgers in bulk and stashed them all in the freezer. Come lunch time, I pull one (or two) out, defrost in the microwave and pair them with a big salad, and either a lemon vinaigrette or some Greek yoghurt dressing. Both of them are really good recipes but I think the apple sage ones are my favourite – the earthy, herby sage takes the taste of these veggie burgers to a whole other level.

This pearl barley and Puy lentil salad was fabulous – as is the photography for this recipe (and in fact, all the recipes on this woman’s blog.) I can’t wait to play around with the pearl barley/Puy lentil combination and add some different ingredients.

This quick corn cake was the perfect vessel for a snatched lunch involving leftover chili, some avocado and a dollop of Greek yoghurt (are you getting the feeling I like Greek yoghurt? Obsessed may be a better description right now.)

I love the flavours of this twice baked sweet potato, though it does take a little time to cook in the oven.

And I haven’t made these little pies, but I ate them at a friend’s party and could not stop shovelling them into my mouth. Pastry, soft mash potato and meaty, minty, satisfyingly savoury lamb? These are absolutely addictive.

I just did a count and I have made just over 20 of the 200+ recipes I have pinned. Some of the photos I’ve pinned are purely because I like the food photography, so all in all, it’s not bad going. Plus, trying new things from articles I’ve pinned is inspiring me to try new recipes sitting in my cookbooks, my folder of tear outs…you get the idea.

As for how many pins I’ve made from my Crafty Inspiration folder…umm *cue crickets chirping*. Get on it Jane!

Until next Monday (one hopes!) happy pinning and happy creating!

Today is Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Tuesday. What was originally known as the day for purging the pantry before the beginning of Lent is now known to many as a day to stuff as many pancakes into your face as you can.

But why are pancakes the food of choice? Pancakes are made out of sugar, fat, flour and eggs – the foods traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting of Lent. The forty days of fasting begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday but for today, we feast on pancakes.

I try to always cook up a batch of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, as I love any excuse to eat a pancake. I’d eat them on a weekly basis if my waistline could get away with it (alas, it can’t.) One of my favourite things about pancakes is just how versatile they are – pancakes are equally delicious served sweet with lemon and sugar, or savory with cheese and ham.

I have so many great food memories associated with pancakes – pancake dinners as a child, indulgent pancake breakfasts with friends in my uni days – but today, I’m sharing a story about Mr B, the man who created one of my most used pancake recipes. Many years ago I was on a camping trip with friends and Mr B was part of the camping party (no, we weren’t dating then.) After a barbecue dinner we were sitting around a campfire and Mr B just casually started whipping up these pancakes for everyone, using just a little pan and a small gas cooker. Served with a little butter and golden syrup, these pancakes were light and thin, with crispy golden edges, and utterly moreish. And Mr B was able to flip them over using just the pan, just like they do in the movies. Let’s just say I took notice (and was a teeny bit impressed)… though at the time I would have never guessed I would end up marrying the guy three years later…

The title of this post is what we call Mr B’s pancake recipe at Casa B. Some people would label Mr B’s pancakes as crepes, he firmly adheres to calling them pancakes. Whatever you call them, they are super simple to make and super easy to eat. They are now my go-to recipe for pancake making, and I’ve even learnt how to flip them in the pan, just like Mr B. Sweet or savory, we’ll be scoffing these lovely pancakes down this Shrove Tuesday.

MR B’S PANCAKES, CREPES…WHATEVER.

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • About 1 cup milk (be prepared to add more)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (a pinch)
  • 1 egg
  • Butter, to melt in your pan
  • Your favourite pancake condiments, to serve

METHOD

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until you get a smooth, runny batter. You may need to add more milk if it’s still a bit chunky – you don’t want it to be lumpy. Let the mixture stand while you get your pan nice and hot, hot enough to have a little knob of butter sizzle and melt once it hits the pan. Once the pan is hot, ladle some of your mixture into the hot, buttered pan and swirl around in the pan to make the pancake nice and thin. When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, flip the pancake over, either using an egg flip or some fancy pan-flipping skills. Allow the uncooked side to brown (it should take about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on the heat of your pan) and then serve with your favourite pancake condiments. We both love lemon juice and sugar, or either maple syrup or golden syrup as a sweet option. But really, what you top your pancakes with is only limited by your imagination.

Strawberry cupcakes. The idea for these has been percolating in my mind for months, but I finally bit the bullet and baked these babies just in time for Valentine’s Day this week (hence the hearts, I just couldn’t resist the kitsch.)

My thinking was if I was going to make a strawberry cupcake, I didn’t want it to just be a vanilla cupcake with strawberry essence subbed in. No, I wanted these cupcakes to be pink and bold and bursting with strawberry flavour.

These chocolate blueberry cupcakes were my inspiration for the idea of roasting the strawberries. I was hoping the roasted strawberry juices would naturally colour the batter pink, just like the blueberries turned the cake batter a vivid purple. It worked, but the end result was, not surprisingly, nowhere near as vivid. The roasted berries turned the cake batter a soft pink, and the taste…like the best strawberry jam you’ve ever eaten. Smooth, subtle, elegant strawberry flavour.

I paired these pastel pink cakes with a buttercream swirled with my favourite strawberry sauce. A brilliant idea on my part, if I do say so myself. This icing meets the “bursting with strawberry flavour” requirement to a tee. Even Mr B was impressed with this buttercream – one taste and he was trying to steal the bowl, and I hadn’t even iced the cupcakes yet…

If you love cupcakes, make these. If you love strawberries, make these. If you have a glut of strawberries, make these (and lots of that fresh strawberry sauce!) Oh, and you should also make the roasted strawberries on their own and put them on top of some ice cream or yoghurt. Absolutely divine.

ROASTED STRAWBERRY CUPCAKES WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE BUTTERCREAM

Makes between 12 to 18 cupcakes (depending on how much you fill your cupcake cases.) Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is

For the roasted strawberries:

  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • A few grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quantity roasted strawberries (see above)
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, if needed (I used two)
For the strawberry sauce buttercream:
  • 180g butter
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2/3 cup strawberry sauce, pureed in the blender
  • Sprinkles or extra strawberries for garnish, if desired.
For the roasted strawberries, preheat oven to 200C. Mix the cut strawberries with the sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and spread out on a lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the strawberries are soft, the sugar has dissolved and the sheet is covered with strawberry juice. Take out and put aside to cool.

For the cupcakes, drop the oven temperature to 180C, and line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy (about three minutes.) Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until combined, another two to three minutes. Add your flour, baking powder and salt to the bowl, turn the mixer onto low speed and gradually increase the speed as the mixture comes together. Scrape in the roasted strawberries and beat on medium speed until the berries break down, about two minutes. You will still have a few strawberry pieces, but as long as the batter is a pale pink colour you’ll know all the berries and juice have been distributed through the batter. You want the mixture to have a smooth cake batter consistency, so if it’s still a little stiff, begin adding 1 tablespoon of milk at a time and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the cupcake liners, filling two thirds of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until cake is set – test with a skewer; if the skewer comes out clean, they’re ready. Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing.

For the strawberry sauce buttercream, put the butter in the bowl of your mixer and beat until smooth. Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer on low, increasing to medium-high speed once the sugar has been added. Add in the strawberry sauce, and mix until combined, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time. It’s meant to be a soft buttercream but if it seems a little too soft, add extra icing sugar. Place the icing in a piping bag and pipe swirls onto the top of your cupcakes. Garnish with sprinkles or even place a strawberry atop each cupcake, if desired.

Last year I came up with a list of things I wanted to do around Penang in the next two years. I have to say, I’ve done a pretty good job at crossing items off this list (having visitors really helps a lot with checking off some of the tourist stuff.)

There’s a few things left uncrossed on the list, and there’s a lot of things I want to add to the list. Hopefully I’ll get around to making a new list and doing a “year in review” list soon – the last few weeks months have been busy with moving across town, unpacking all our stuff, spending quality time with a visiting friend and Penang friends about to move back to Oz, you get the idea…

Anyway, let’s take a look at that list, shall we?

Things to do around Penang (as listed on January 2011)

Drive a lap of the whole island, more than once – We drove around the island while my family was here last year. I enjoyed the trip and was amazed at how different the “vibe” was on the other side of Penang Island – very laid back and rural. I hope to do another drive or two in 2012.

Take a day trip to the Thai border – I was able to do this back in October 2011 with some visiting friends of Mr B. While I enjoyed the experience of crossing over to Thailand for the day, Hat Yai wasn’t as awesome shopping wise as I’d been led to believe. Mind you, I wouldn’t knock back a chance to do it again.

Visit Penang’s national park – Not yet.

Visit the Butterfly farm- Done! Absolutely loved it, as did my visiting friend. I think Mr B may have enjoyed using his camera to get some cool snaps too. Must do a blog post about this soon.

Visit the Blue Mansion – Did this when my family was in town. I have to say, the mansion is a beautiful building but the tour is somewhat lame (lots of talk, not much moving around the place) and was, in my opinion, over priced. I think I prefer the Green Mansion for showing visitors a glimpse of Penang’s Peranakan past.

Get my Indian sari made up – Wore it to a ball, in fact. Needed an Indian amah to help me get into the thing, but the end result was pretty glamorous.

Hike to the very top of Penang Hill – Not yet. I must do it at least once in 2012, I must!

Eat dinner at the top of Penang Hill – When my family was here we had lunch at David Brown’s restaurant on the top of the hill. The views were stunning (even with the haze) and we had the place to ourselves. Food was delicious, if expensive. Definitely worth a repeat visit.

Get some good photos of someone making teh tarik – Done!

Visit Kek Lok Si properly (I haven’t had a decent explore of the place yet!) – I’ve been to see the 10,000 Lantern display twice and took my friend up to Kek Lok Si in the daytime during her visit. I think I’ve covered that Buddhist temple pretty comprehensively!

See Kek Lok Si lit up for Chinese New Year  - Here’s the proof for that one – we even went twice!

Go on a Thaipusam tour – Done. Check it out here.

Go on a group tour of the Clan Jetties – Another one done. I’ve had a blog draft sitting around for AGES about this tour, I’ll have to post it up sometime before leaving Penang!

Eat a duck lunch at Kristal (I have a feeling I’ll want to do this more than once!) – I have yet to do this, believe it or not. Please believe me when I say I’ve tried out plenty of other places though. Next year I will be in walking distance of this place, and I intend to do that walk.

Have high tea at Suffolk House (and also dinner!) – I’m yet to have high tea at Suffolk House but last year we went there for a group dinner for Mr B’s work. The food was divine and I’d love to go back. I had high tea at the E&O a few times this year, and as usual, it was delicious.

Take some photos around Georgetown in the early morning, when the light is at its best – I’ve taken some great pics around Georgetown, but not in the early morning. Can I get up the motivation this year? Time will tell.

Go on a rickshaw ride around Georgetown – Done! Did this while the family was here, sharing a rickshaw with Mr B. A lovely, leisurely way to see the sights in Georgetown.

Spend a day exploring the streets of Georgetown on foot – Not a day, but I’ve definitely done a morning or two. Too hot for all day, lah! I even walked into town from my new home, then walked back home again and loved finding all sorts of interesting streets I miss when I’m in a car.

Visit Tua Pek Kong temple, Yap Khongsi and Cheah Kongsi – Done, during visits from family and friends and also as part of a tour.

Take more cooking classes at the Spice Gardens – I did a cooking class with the same woman who ran the cooking classes at the Spice Gardens last year, but it wasn’t at the Spice Gardens. I hope to do at least one more this year, and also have ideas for a few others as well.

Do more batik painting – Did this once with my mum last year and with my friend this year; definitely something to do with the visitors heading our way in 2012.

Learn how to make rotis – Still dying to learn how to do this, as well as make Indian sweets, recreate hawker food favourites, etc…Help!

Try and make at least one pair of handmade beaded shoes – I’ve just recently finished beading my first pair and need to take them to the shoe maker. Not bad for a project I’ve worked on in very short spurts for…a year. Oops.

Treat myself to more hair washes at Sunbean – I had a few, until Sunbean closed down. RIP Sunbean, I will miss those fabulous massaging hair washes.

Start getting regular massages – No. Note to self: You’re mad to not be getting regular massages. Rectify this ASAP!

Get some portrait photos taken of Mr B and I around Georgetown – This would require the cooperation of Mr B. Mr B has been somewhat elusive on this subject…

Do a walking tour of Pulau Tikus – Nah. But easy enough to do  in our new location. I could even do it on my bike!

Try foot reflexology – Not yet. I’ve had plenty of pedicures though, does that count?

Try and attend some sort of Chinese New Year celebrations – Not really. Would have been fun to crash someone’s open house but it didn’t eventuate. But this year we had a lot of fun watching the fireworks and hearing the celebrations from the windows of our new home.

Take photos of my local wet markets – Surprisingly I have a few photos taken from when my folks were here, but I want to go there and do a proper job of it.

Stay at the E & O again (or perhaps Rasa Sayang, or Hard Rock) for a night as a treat – Nope. Got to do it at least once before we go though.

See the lighting of the E & O Christmas Tree – Too busy travelling.

Get a photo of the funny driving school – Driven past plenty of times, no pics yet.

Eat at the Thai restaurant at Bukit Genting on sunset – Nope.

Get some tailor made clothes made – Kept using the “I’m going to wait until I’ve lost some weight” excuse. But if I get them made, Murphy’s Law dictates I will then lose weight. Hmm, food for thought…

Now that I’ve got this post out of the way, I hope to be back soon with a “year in review” post and a new bucket list for 2012.

Photo taken on October 22, 2011, on a gorgeously clear afternoon on Penang Hill. A hill I hope to reach the top of, on foot, in 2012… 

(Note: This list has been sitting in my draft folder for ages, and I was reminded of the existence of this list while having lunch with a friend today. Thanks for the reminder Em!)

Even though it’s been a while since I posted about my Make a Pin Monday progress, I’ve still been making an effort to make those “pins” more than just a good idea.

Mind you, a whole heap of new pins have joined my boards in recent weeks; it’s just way too easy to lay down on the couch in front of the TV with the laptop and pin…

I don’t have photos for any of the things I’ve made (they’ve been eaten too quickly, or given away before I could take a photo) but allow me to present a virtual smorgasboard of what I’ve been doing:

  • I made cranberry curd, inspired by this pin. I used a Nigella recipe for cranberry curd instead of the recipe listed though. Must say I love the idea of a cranberry curd (as well as the vivid magenta colour of the curd) but the end result…I must admit I’m not totally in love with it. One to work on, perhaps.
  • I made these gingerbread cookies as Christmas treats. Not bad, but not really what I was hoping they’d be. A soft, spicy, light golden gingerbread like my sister-in-law’s eludes me yet. And she won’t give me the secret recipe…
  • These were made for my card making class and also sent with Mr B into work. Chocolate chip cookie bars with a cheesecake filling – I liked the idea, and these bars were quite moreish. But they didn’t really set my taste buds on fire with strong desire. Not in the way Caramel Loaded Brownies do, or the way the double deckers do, for that matter. Give them a try though – they may float your boat.
  • And for a little balance on all the sugar, I made these for the thousandth time. I could eat a kilo of these on their own, but Mr B doesn’t get as excited about them as I do. They are definitely worth trying for yourself, you may find them as addictively scoffable as I do.

On a crafty note, we made these cards at my card making class in November. But in all seriousness, next year I just need to bite the bullet and sew some pretty bags and clothes. The thing that scares me though is “wasting” some nice fabric by making a mistake – or ten. In other words, I just needs to harden up, take the plunge and learn from MY mistakes. I’ll keep you posted, because putting it in writing makes me accountable.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this Make a Pin Monday post – and remember, don’t just pin it – do it!

This was the year…

…I climbed a mountain. A mountain 4095.2m above sea level, to be exact. In mid-November Mr B, myself and a small band of fellow crazy people hikers tackled Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest mountain (not the tallest in South East Asia as many are led to believe; a range of mountains in Myanmar hold that honour). I’d done lots of practice on Penang Hill, so I started the hike well prepared mentally. Reaching that summit just after sunrise was magical, and the sense of accomplishment was worth every ache of soreness.

I also completed the world’s largest Via Ferrata at Kinabalu, climbing and navigating a vertical drop from 3776m. Let’s just say I wasn’t as mentally prepared for that part of the adventure. I was fine until I went over the edge of the cliff and saw the sheer couple of hundred metre drop below. Cue the panic. I think of myself as fairly good with heights but doing that climb scared the crap out of me. There were plenty of tears shed, obscenities uttered and quite a few “I can’t do this anymore” moments…but we completed the trail. The guide said I wasn’t the worst person ever to do the trail, but I think I came pretty close. And I think Mr B was pretty close to filing for a divorce (I think I really pushed that “for better or worse” part of the marital vows to the limit on that mountain.) In short, I’m glad I did the Via Ferrata, but I will never do it again. I’d tackle the summit again though…

…I became an Advanced Open Water Diver. Mr B and I visited Koh Tao in mid-December to get our qualifications. For Mr B, all he had to do was move from Open Water Diver to AOW. I on the other hand had to get the Open Water qualifications before we could even start on the AOW. My last scuba diving experience in the Perhentians in Malaysia wasn’t the best of experiences, so I went into my Open Water training with plenty of nerves. This time around there were still a few tears and moments of panic, but mostly it was just lots of fun, thanks to Mr B and my awesome instructor, Fabio (seriously, that’s his name!) Swimming amongst the fishes, exploring shipwrecks and “finding Nemo” is the most amazing experience. I hope we can do lots more diving in 2011.

…We did shedloads of travel. There was the big trip around Morocco, Spain, France (well, Paris), England and Scotland; girls trips to Bali and the East Malaysian state of Sarawak; a visit to Hong Kong to watch Mr B play cricket; a few trips to Thailand; a few visits to KL and of course the Kota Kinabalu visit in the east at Sabah. Sabah, Bali, Hong Kong and Thailand (Koh Samui and Koh Tao) were all within the last six weeks or so, hence why this blog has been a little quiet…

So, so blessed to have this rare opportunity to travel so much and I’m loving every minute I can cram into an itinerary. I plan to continue this pattern in 2012 – if I can get away with it.

…I didn’t cook a Christmas dinner. We went out with friends for a buffet lunch at one of Penang’s nicest hotels, the G. I bought cupcakes and gingerbread along to the poolside supper, which was the extent of my holiday baking this year. As much as I loved the all-you-can-eat smoked salmon and prawns (and the roast buffet, and the chocolate fountain…) I sure did miss my Boxing Day leftovers sandwich and snatching mouthfuls of Buche de Noel out of the fridge.

…I did lots of exploring in Penang. I love to drive into Georgetown, attempt to park my car (it can take a while to find a park) and then explore the streets on foot. Happy to say I’ve crossed a few things off the “to do” list I made up, and have quite a few more things to add. That’s a whole other post though.

… I swapped volunteer secretary work for volunteer editorial work, and am so happy with the change. This new role suits me to a tee, much more than the former did. I really need to share some of the pieces I’ve written on here; I don’t see any harm in doing so.

…I celebrated four years of marriage with Mr B. I’m hoping that adorable man will allow me to celebrate at least 40 more years with him ;-)

…I had my parents and two of my brothers visit us in Penang. It was very cool to see my folks enjoy Penang as much as I do, but especially my two brothers. With both of them being autistic and intellectually handicapped, I was doing my share of “big sister” worrying before they arrived about how they would cope with the different climate, customs, food, etc. But both of them did brilliantly and enjoyed their visit. One of them, who isn’t known for his huge appetite, even developed an affinity for the local food and would specifically ask for us to go for makan. Awesome.

…Enjoyed a lot more time with friends. Being an introvert, it takes me a while to build up friendships with people but this year, new people have arrived who are now good friends, and friendships started last year have strengthened. I’m so thankful for that. I’ve done a lot more socialising this year, and am definitely happier for it. I hope to savour those friendships more in 2012, as well as build some new ones.

…I gained some of the weight I lost last year. Yeah, I’ve spent quite a few hours berating myself for that. Yeah, I know how it happened – I wasn’t as much of a gym junkie (for various reasons), I did a lot of foodie indulgences on my travels and a few sad moments in the year meant I ate a lot of feelings. But next year I’ll be living spitting distance from the gym and I plan to cycle to the wet markets for my fresh produce. Let’s see how that goes. I don’t want to be focused on a weight measurement or a dress size, I just want to feel strong and healthy. And right now, I don’t feel like that.

…I saw some of my hopes and dreams disappear, and I’ve experienced plenty of sadness because of that. I guess you could say I’ve had to climb a few mountains metaphorically, as well as the physical mountain in Kinabalu. I’ve had to adjust my approach to these particular mountains, and imagine a different summit to the one I initially expected. But life is, as John Lennon famously said, what happens when you’re busy making other plans, and I can’t wait for 2012 and the promise it holds. It’ll be my final year in Penang, and I want to enjoy every moment of it, however I can.

Apologies for the long and photoless post; trying to work out how this new photo uploader on WordPress works. Some days I feel tech savvy, others I feel like a Luddite…

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