Category Archives: Halal

Athene the Spice Girl

I met this purveyor of artisan spices two years ago at her “spice laboratory” in Relau on the island.

The warmth and bubbly personality matched her colourful and aromatic spices as did her passion for cooking and sharing food and recipes.

Faten Rafie (or Athene to family and close friends) is the force behind the ‘Athene Spices’ brand of artisan spice blends and rubs, which are designed and created for home cooks to make easy, yet exciting dishes.

They are all natural, free of artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and MSG-free.

Just staring at the colourful contents of her bottled spices is enough to inspire the foodie in all of us and here’s why:

Her recipes are so easy to follow and end up looking like one has slaved for hours in the kitchen!

Befitting its premium tag, Athene Spices products are targeted at those with greater purchasing power and exposed to international cuisines, and also the health conscious, who do not want oil or sodium in the food they prepare and consume.

For this Ramadhan season, Faten has kindly shared some recipes below which include her famous spices which have found their way into Malaysian kitchens and restaurants at home and abroad.

Together with her businessman husband Azizi Hassan, Faten sources her spices like nutmeg pepper locally, and mix them into their distinct products with labels like Hot Chick Spicy Salt, Lemon Lime Pepper Salt, Mandy Spice Mix, Lebanese Za’atar, Moroccan Ras el Hanout and Hyderabad Biryani… to name a few, for retail and wholesale.

Check out her online spice shop at http://www.athenespices.com

If you are in Penang, her spices at stocked at both the Tropical Spice Garden’s gift shop at Teluk Bahang or The Tropical Spice Garden In the City store in George Town.

They make great gifts for Hari Raya open houses or to pop into a festive hamper.

(Images courtesy of Faten Rafie and NST)

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E&O Iftar

As the holy month of Ramadan descends on us again, our Muslim friends will be preparing to fast (puasa) from dawn to dusk, while they also engage in more prayer and works of charity.

We in Malaysia are blessed to not only enjoy the public holidays for religious and cultural celebrations of our rich and diverse communities, but to also indulge in the food which are associated with each of the festivals.

One of the high points for me during Ramadan since I was a child was to look forward to the wide array of Malay `kuih` (cakes and desserts) sold at the Ramadan bazaars.

In more recent times, Ramadan has also spelt a time for me to catch up with my Muslim friends over the `Buka Puasa’ (iftar) meal.

Here in Malaysia we are spoilt for choice and because most people are working and are unable to get home in time to prepare the evening meal to break fast, they either pack food to take home or sometimes indulge in buffet spreads found in restaurants and hotels.

The heritage Eastern and Oriental Hotel (E&O Hotel) in Penang hasn’t failed to deliver yet again on a sumptuous `buka pausa’ feast this year.

The hotel’s Sarkies Restaurant is featuring the usual suspects of popular traditional Malay fare for its `Jamuan Barbuka Puasa’ buffet, in addition to its intercontinental offerings of Japanese and Italian favourites.

“The perennial Malay salad or `ulam’ to be complemented with an array of `sambal’ and sauces, is the perfect starter to the sumptuous meal for breaking fast,” says the hotel’s communication and public relations manager Eileen Chong.

“Our traditional must-haves like `biryani rice’, `rendang daging’, `ayam masak madu’ and `gulai ketam kampong’ are prepared by our seasoned chefs who have tapped into their familiar family recipes, handed down through generations.”

For the hotel’s international guests, the Ramadan buffet serves as a great introduction to Malaysia and her lip-smacking cuisines. For those who are fasting, what better way to break fast than to enjoy local staples like satay, ikan bakar (grilled fish), `roti canal` and `murtabak’ and to round up the meal with the assortment of Malay `kuih’ and the heart-warming `bubur kacang’ (mung bean porridge with coconut milk). For the rest of us, the meal is one we can share with our Muslim friends as a sign of solidarity and a good opportunity to catch up and bond.

The buffet is available daily from 17 May to 14 June, 2018 from 7.30pm to 10.30pm and priced at RM166 (adults) and RM83 (children).

Early birds take note: bookings made and paid before 23 May 2018 are entitled to a five full paying adults allows one person to dine for free deal (+604-222-2000 extn 3151/3139 or email fbcentral.resv@eohotels.com)

For those wishing to try their hand in cooking at home, below are two recipes courtesy of the E&O Hotel’s chefs …

Chicken Biryani

5 to 6 Persons

Ingredients

• 1 onion, thinly sliced

150ml vegetable oil

2½ tbsp sweet Pepper

1 tbsp each black peppercorns, cumin seeds and coriander seeds

2½ tsp each ground turmeric and ground chilli

¼ tsp finely grated nutmeg

3 cardamom pods

2 cloves

2 star anise

1 cinnamon stick, broken into rough pieces

2 long dried chillies, broken
into rough pieces

1 fresh bay leaf

500g thick natural yogurt

½ cup each finely chopped mint and coriander, plus extra coriander
sprigs to serve

1½ tbsp finely grated ginger

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

6 chicken leg portions, halved
through the joint into thigh and drumstick

400g basmati rice

50g butter, diced

70ml milk

¼ tsp saffron threads

To serve: Fried shallots and fresh coriander

Method

• Fry onion in 120ml oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6-8 mins.

Transfer to a bowl and cool. Dry-roast spices, chilli and bay leaf over medium heat, then pound with a mortar and pestle to a fine powder.

Add to onion along with yogurt, herbs, ginger, garlic and 2 tsp sea salt and mix well.

Add chicken, stir to coat, cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate.

Spread chicken mixture in the base of a heavy-based casserole with a tight-fitting lid.

Bring rice, 20g butter, remaining oil and enough well-salted water to cover by 2cm to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Drain and spread over chicken.

Bring milk, saffron and remaining butter to the simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then pour over rice, cover with foil, then the lid.

Cook over low heat until rice is fluffy and chicken is cooked through (50 minutes-1 hour).

Stand for 15 mins without removing the lid, then serve hot, scattered with fried shallots and coriander sprigs.

Rendang Daging
Preparation time: 1 hour

5 to 6 Persones

Ingredients
1 kg beef Striploin, cut into 3cm chunks

For the beef Marination

2 tbsp coriander seeds (ketumbar)
2 tsp cumin seeds (jintan putih)
2 tsp fennel seeds (jintan manis)
1 tsp black peppercorns (lada hitam)
1 1/2 tsp salt (garam)

For the spice paste
200gr shallots (bawang kecil), peeled
10 garlic cloves (bawang putih), peeled
5 stalks lemongrass (batang serai), cut into segments
1” galangal root (lengkuas/galangal), peeled
1” old ginger (halia),peeled
½” turmeric root ( kunyit hidup), peeled

Other ingredients
1 tbsp red chili powder (serbuk chili)
10 pcs kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut), snipped with scissors
2 tbsp palm sugar (gula Melaka)
8 pcs cardamom (buah pelaga)
5 pcs cloves ( bunga cengkih)
10cm cinnamon stick (kulit kayu manis)

For the coconut milk

1 coconut freshly grated – to yield 250ml thick coconut milk and 250ml thin coconut milk

For the kerisik

100g fresh grated coconut Squized

Salt, to taste

Method

1. Toast the dry spices (cumin, fennel, coriander seeds) in a wok over low heat until fragrant. Using a mortar (or grinder), grind the spices and peppercorn into powder. Marinade the beef with the spices and salt for 2 hours.

2. To make the kerisik, place the freshly grated coconut into a wok over medium heat and toast until it turns to a dark brown. Stir often, this will take about 10 minutes. Once browned, place the toasted Kerisik into a mortar pound oil released from the kerisik.

3. Place the spice paste ingredients into an electric blender with 3 tbsp of water and blend until you get a paste. (Note: The paste is a bright yellow colour)

4. Place all ingredients (marinated beef, coconut milk, kerisik, spice paste + other ingredients) into a large pot. Bring to the boil over medium high heat, and once boiling, reduce to low heat and simmer for 3 hours or until the rendang is dry and meat is tender and dry (Tock )

5. Season with more salt, as necessary, Remove and serve with rice or lemang.

Red, yellow, white & blue (cupcakes)

The bake-off fever continues to rage at Flex Malaysia with a special cupcake wars event to celebrate Malaysia’s 60th birthday.

What better way than to party with the nation and each other, than by baking dainty cupcakes, decorating them meticulously in colours found on the ‘Jalur Gemilang’ and then feeding your colleagues and bosses with these creations?

This is precisely what 36 Flex Johor employees did yesterday at the Senai (medical) facility. The lobby and a portion of the first floor had temporarily morphed into a mini bakery where cupcakes ruled the day! Thank you Alex and Ken for working your magic!

The Flex Merdeka Cupcake Wars was all about colour, creativity, cooperation and consumption (of the cakes!)

Judges Stella, Joe, Rebecca & Ed had the enviable task of eating their way through 18 cupcakes (and fears of going into a sugar coma!) which were lovingly baked and decorated by Flex employees from the Johor sites in Senai, Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Skudai.

Theirs was not an easy task as they had to make a second round among all the baking stations set up to be absolutely certain of their deciding votes for the cupcakes.

Val’s decision to acknowledge a surprise category of bakers with an additional mystery prize, is a reflection of Flex’s care and recognition of employees who go the extra mile.

Following very closely to the chosen theme of ‘Colours of Malaysia”, the teams gave their all in attending to the smallest of details, while staying calm and baking on.

The goodwill and new links forged were so apparent when a team had to turn to the other competitors for some extra eggs when theirs became runny and threatened to affect their cupcakes.

Equally heart-warming was seeing a judge help in assisting a team which was having difficulty using an attachment on their baking appliance, while another judge stepped in to assist with the photography set-up.

And the Pensonic products continue to spark joy among all the participating Flex bakers who now have some new baking goodies to call their own.

Happy Birthday, Malaysia!

Cookie Bake-Off with Flex

They came, they baked and impressed the judges, their colleagues and all cookie monsters present! Forty Flex Penang employees comprising 20 teams rose to the challenge yesterday in displaying their baking prowess at making Hari Raya cookies. 

Left to concoct their own recipes or fall back on traditional festive ones, the teams did Flex proud by displaying so much love, joy and pride in what they were doing while having fun.


Stella, Faten and Joe had a field day sampling the bakers’ delights and Val conceded that every single team and their cheering supporters present were winners. The attention to detail, creativity and taste were amazing while Flex’s generosity in allowing the bakers to take home the Pensonic ovens and cake mixers and a host of other goodies are enough reason for it to remain employer of choice and have more employees asking for more corporate cooking events.


Pensonic’s abilities in organizing cooking events were put to the test and they emerged with flying colours and have proven that their corporate headquarters are more than just a place to view their products and impressive test kitchens, but also a spot to cook and have fun in.

Iftar Ramadan @ E&O

As the ninth month of the Islamic calendar looms on us, Muslims around the world are getting ready to fast daily from sunrise to sundown.


Ahead of this auspicious month, which is just around the corner, the aromas of Ramadan-inspired food have begun wafting from the kitchen of the Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel.


The sweet smells and tastes of fresh lemongrass, garlic, cloves, tumeric and candlenuts cooking slowly in rich coconut oil have been finding their way to some of the hotel’s buffet offerings and yesterday’s sneak preview was not a letdown.

Eileen, JJ and Yvonne continue to be the ever-gracious hosts, this time for an extensive sampling of the month-long ‘Jamuan Berbuka Puasa’ promotion which kicks off on May 27.

Many of my childhood favorites popped up during the feast which was prepared and served at E&O’s Sarkies Annexe Restaurant with great care and love in a display of generous colours, flavours and not lacking in herbs and spices.

Chicken Briyani Rice, Yellow Glutinous Rice or Nasi Kunyit (shaped as discs and sprinkled with “serunding” or chicken floss) and the novel Nasi Lemak “cake” (which seems to be current rage) are great starters along with the aromatic Soto Ayam (chicken spiced soup).

The tender Rendang Daging (beef) and Masak Lemak Ikan Masin (salted fish in a creamy coconut curry) were reminiscent of good Malay fare found in the kitchens of chefs who know what Malay cooking is all about.

These, along with Malay “kuih” or desserts are among an extensive spread of eats laid out in a buffet which will be rotated during the month of Ramadan (RM143.30 nett for adults/RM70.95 nett for a child from 7pm – 10.30pm will be available till 24 June, 2017).


And for those who are not in Penang during the upcoming holy month, a Balik Kampung (homecoming) Buffet Lunch (RM98.30 nett) on June 25 & 26 is available if family members simply want to chill, enjoy (almost close to) home cooking and give their home cooks a break. Children (aged between 6 and 12) are charged RM49.15 nett for this promotion. (The hotel requires that full payment is made one week prior to the dining date for this festive promotion)


Details and reservations, call +604-2222000 ext 3139/3151.

Nicely Nala

Nala which means successful in Swahili is the name which  the multi-talented Lisette Scheers picked for her only child. She subsequently named her business – Nala Designs – after her daughter.

Nala the enterprise is a product line which draws from the wealth of inspiration of Malaysia’s melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures.

The range of merchandise includes stationery, home decorating items, clothing, bags and other accessories.

The items pay tribute to the country’s rich heritage and reflected in some of the design lines which carry names like ‘Pretty in Peranakan’ and ‘My Kuih or Highway.’

Lisette is also the creative force of L.inc (a design and art studio) located along the leafy corner of Old Bangsar’s Jalan Kemuja in Kuala Lumpur.  The space is also home to DR.Inc (pronounced ‘drink’) a little coffee shop where    the L.inc-owned design shop nala is located.

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The design and decor of the cafe (above) carried out by Lisette and her team, has Nala merchandise littered in strategic spots and the decor even includes Nala-inspired wallpaper.

Her past collaborations with Isetan KLCC via pop-up stores, have now resulted in a full store featuring a permanent location for all things Nala (pictured below)

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In Penang, a selection of Nala items is found at Bon Ton, The Shop (Armenian Street) the Eastern & Oriental Hotel’s Bombay Shop (Farqhuar Street) and the Tropical Spice Garden at Teluk Bahang on the island.

Locations of other stores around the world stocking Nala items and an online store are found at naladesigns.com

Photos courtesy of Nala Designs

Time-out in Tambun

Bukit Tambun on mainland Penang is only a 45-minute ride from George Town on a traffic-clear day. The drive to this fishing village is one which is akin to taking a chill pill. Swaying coconut trees, cool breezes and a laid-back way of life greet any stressed out person driving into the village. Defences are let down as one takes in the slip-slap of the waves while fishermen take off or return on their boats. The healthy and green mangroves also lend a sense of calm to the senses as one delves into fresh seafood offerings at the various eateries built on stilts.

The star dish of the day was the Crab Fried Rice recommended by Ed for my crustacean-loving friends.
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