Turkish coffee

Don’t ask me why but I’ve always had this fascination to taste coffees from around the world. I’m no coffee sommelier and don’t have an in-depth knowledge about it but probably runs in my veins.

I’ve been chasing Turkish coffee for the longest time and the way its prepared, is an art. So when I landed at Istanbul airport, I simply had to satisfy my curiosity.

I enquired for a traditionally prepared Turkish coffee. Instead I got a young hasty barrister who just wanted to be done with my order.

“Any sugar?” she asked and looked at me a little longer than necessary when I said no.

Finally, in a tiny paper cup was my overly priced coffee. It was a huge let down. It felt like I was drinking burnt ash water. Probably because I didn’t have any looqum or sugar with it but I’m glad I got that striked out of my list.

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Just do it.

For the longest time, I believed I had amounted to nothing. That I was nothing but just a mother and a housewife. My daily routine, as exhausting as it is, was beginning to gnaw at me. Whispering at me, “I’m useless.”I had reached a point where I no longer believed in myself. I had turned into the awkward kid that stood at a corner, trying to blend in with the furniture. I watched and listened.If I spoke, it’s usually almost inaudible and people quickly moved on to another.That was never me. I was a chatter box. Always with something clever on my mind to eradicate the uncomfortable silence.After kids, my views changed. My ideas and interest went through an overhaul. Not many in my circle were thrilled to listen to it though. So I got comfortable staying home. It was a better deal than having empty banter.What’s better way to stay connected but still be in your pyjama and in the comfort of your home? The internet of course!I’ve got to give myself more credit. I got to start believing in myself again. How else can to explain my recent trip Jaipur and today to France.I’ve got to stop second guessing every bloody thing I do and not do it because I didn’t have the guts.

Jaipur day 1

A sleeping city. A place where life begins late morning, great for brunch enthusiasts like me. The right concoction for a sleep deprived traveler.

Located just 5 hours, by flight, from Kuala Lumpur, Jaipur can be fresh of breath air (minus the dust) for travelers that have punched card too often in Delhi and Amritsar.

It’s not as chaotic as most famous routes of likes of Amritsar, Delhi and Mumbai. Yet the familiarities of these towns can be felt in Jaipur.

It’s a town of Maharajas, forget about mainstream hotels and opt for a haveli.

Breeze

Maybe not.

I see a young eager tween, barely 11, excited to get on a stick, tied to rope, hanging of a branch by the sea.

But she hesitated, taking a step closer and then looking away for approval from her mom.

She’s not scared of getting injured. She’s worried of the looks people around her would give when she spreads her legs and clutch the rope between her thighs to swing.

She walks away.

Another girl, barely 7 runs towards the same swing and jumps on it. No fear. No worry. She swings away loudly as her sister pushes her higher.

The tween comes back. Admiring the you girl and her tenacity. Walks up to the same swing, grips the thick rope and looks at everyone around her.

Puts one leg on the makeshift seat. Takes a quick glance and saddles up.

Why are we always in a hurry?

I’ve got three adorable girls. Like every parent, I feel they are special. That they’re god’s gift to me.

I’ve learned to love unconditionally and understand what to love without boundaries is because of them.

However I forget to appreciate what I have each time I’m in a rush, and lately I’m always in a hurry.

In this frenzy mode, I’ve turned into a monster. Always screaming, begging and even threatening to get things done ASAP.

I’m not sure why am I rushing but I’m constantly saying “hurry up, we are already late”

Even at bedtime I’m saying it.

There is a dangerous devil in rushing. It blinds you and gives you the fake clarity that you can beat the clock by rushing.

It gives you false confidence that everyone is on board with your need to rush and are working in tandem.

Time and time again, we hear of so many avoidable tragic stories that happened because someone was rushing.

I know it well. When I rush, my mind is preoccupied with too many things. We can’t really multi task, no matter what experts say. We think we’re multi tasking but in reality we just shifting tasks according to their importance. Compartmentalizing it based on their priorities. It’s not working simultaneously.

So why am I suddenly talking about rushing and tragedy?

A 5 year old girl was killed after being run over by her school bus. Sadly this isn’t a first.

It’s sad that someone had to die for me to realise how dangerous rushing is.

I always cringe each time I hear the sound of car screeching its tyres to make up for time lost because one daughter took extra two minutes getting out of the house today. Sounds innocent but that screeching tyre, added with another rushing vehicle and another delayed person only spells disaster.

I pray I find the strength and clarity not to rush. Especially with my youngest who still believes in taking her time and enjoying her every waking moment to be for now, and not get caught in the chase for something later.

Only you will love you best.

Will Smith said a very profound thing that got me assessing my whole involuntary lifestyle change. “When Jada and I first got together, we thought we had to merge and become one. Only now I’ve realized that we aren’t supposed to be one. We are two different people with two different path”. This strongly correlates with my upbringing, all the sermons I used to hear at my weekly prayers; “in the end, we leave this world the way we came; alone” hmmm wonder if it applies to twins too.

Anyway, it took a good four decades for me to realise that in the end nothing really matters.

My involuntary lifestyle change began halfway through my mid thirties. I had slowly moved away from being surrounded by people not related to me, towards my family.

Once in my forties it came to an abrupt end. Being unemployed meant I had to put in extra effort for friendship time, or girls time or whatever it is called.

I believed I was doomed because everywhere I looked, every article I read, kept pounding the importance of ladies to stick together. About girl power and how these girlies friendship would be my saving grace when I’m old and alone. How important it is to have an outlet other than the family circle. A sisterhood group.

So I tried striking up new friendship with people like me; with young children, but that didn’t last. See people like me have a lot going on and trying to plan for child free meet up was close to impossible.

Instead of breathing hard into a paper bag at my failure living up to this ideology, I’ve grown accustomed to getting to know me better.

I’m able sit alone in a crowded restaurant. I don’t need a phone or a book to distract me from the fact I’m alone. I just sit and enjoy my time here.

At times, I’m bound to come across young girl, holding an empty seat across her for a friend that’s on her way and later pretending to be disappointed over a phone call because her mate could not join her for lunch. Why? Because this was a better than giving away the fact that she’s eating alone. I was that young girl not too long ago.

With age comes wisdom and liberation not to give shit. When I started caring less about what people thought about me, I began to love being with me more. I became my best company.

I might regret this involuntary lifestyle once my girls won’t need me anymore. But by then I’m pretty sure I’d find lonely ladies just like me to connect with. In the meantime I’ll just go with the flow and learn to love myself more so when I’m ready to allow a stranger in, I’d be able to introduce her to a loveable me.

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Heart of gold.

“Go and rest. Don’t worry about dinner, it will be sorted. Just go” my two little ones instructed.

With no energy left to argue, I walked, slowly with slumped shoulders to my living room. I couldn’t even go to my room because it was out of bound.

Switching channels came automatically as I sat, slouched on my couch, looking like a seasoned coach potato, I played today’s event in my head. Over and over again.

It has been an emotional rollercoaster ride which ended today with a lot of tears. I thought I had kept these emotions private and away from my little ones but I guessed wrong.

My middle child sensed something amiss and immediately came up with a wonderful way of cheering me up. She, the one with the golden heart along with her little sister did so much to cheer me up.

They remade my bed and labeled some random numbers on my bedroom door so that it would resemble a hotel room. They even lit my favourite scented candles in my bedroom and bathroom.

I was even told to just toss my clothes outside my bathroom and to lie down on my bed after my shower.

Then walked in my next spa experience, massage. My youngest walked in and introduced herself as my masseuse. She even learned Thai greetings to give me a proper Thai massage experience.

She leathered me with a lot of cream on my feet and hands. Then she walked all over my back. I didn’t know she was this good. I felt so pampered and refreshed afterwards.

Then my presence was requested downstairs for dinner. I was served soft paratha with scrambled eggs and raita. After dinner I was told to go straight to bed. They cleaned up after dinner.

I can’t believe how lucky I am to have children that are so in tune with the way I feel.

When at bed time, while I cuddled and thanked them for the wonderful evening, they just smiled and were happy to have me back, smiling and joking instead of being sulky and stressed.

I don’t know how they come up with these ideas but it really lit up my day. It gave me hope and reason to listen to my heart, and to stay as close as possible to my children for as long as it takes.

It gave me the affirmation I needed that I was doing okay caring for my children. I may not always serve up the best, but what I give is enough for us to navigate through. Because they care and sometimes surprise me in ways I could have never imagined. Like they did today.

I’m truly blessed to have them.

Always

“Mama, will you always be with us?” asked my five year old in her sleep.

Always…

I’ll be here for you as long as always is by my side.

Always…

I’ll hug you and tickle you to bed for as long as I can.

Always…

I’d kiss you and let you sleep on my extended left arm; your favourite position, for as long as it takes for you to fall asleep.

Always…

I’d get you ready for school the way you like it; whilst still in bed, under the warm cosy blanket and your arms wrapped around my neck.

Always…

I’d spoil you as much as I can but say my piece when I have to.

I promise to do it always as long as always is with us.

How to get your teens to cook

I still remember how difficult it was for my mom to get me to cook a decent meal. I never saw the need because she was always around to cook us a feast. I took her for granted.

After many failed attempts, she figured it was better this way. Getting me into the kitchen meant a lot of headache for her. So she tasked me with the cleaning up after cooking. It was a good arrangement. We were both happy.

But she was smart. She let me think I won the battle but in reality it was her winning the war.

She’d get me to wash up alongside her cooking. While cooking, she used to get me to stir or add in the ingredients and watch over the food while she quickly grabbed something important.

My brain was unconsciously absorbing all this details.

Or at other times she’d get me to translate an English chef. Which meant I had to sit and watch the cooking shows.

Once again my brain was unconsciously absorbing all the details.

It took a long while to unlock what had been stored, unconsciously. But when I did manage to, it was as if I had been cooking for years.

I’m still not as good cook as my mom but I’m able to tell when a dish is coming together. I’ve learned a few important tricks in ensuring I’m able to serve a decent meal.

Over time, my cooking skills grew. It was an easy start because unknowingly, I somehow knew what to do when I cooked something. It almost felt familiar.

So now I’m doing the same with my daughters. Just like me, they despise being told what to do. It has to be their idea for anything to succeed.

Today, my twean decided to make mac and cheese. Something she saw on Instagram.

I’m glad she’s beginning to find joy in cooking. For a start, she’s doing so much better than I was at her age.

Whenever my mom wasn’t around, I’d had to depend on Maggi (instant noodles). It wasn’t a bad choice but everyone knows how unhealthy Maggi can be, if eaten regularly.

I’m glad her cooking vocabulary is much larger than mine and has more words than just Maggi.

To showcase her food vocabulary let’s check out today’s recipe. It was a simple feat.

It’s something young kids can whip up in less than half hour. It may not get 5 stars on taste but sure as hell beats eating instant noodles. And the best part, it can be made in one pot. So less cleaning and washing up.

To make this one-pot Mac and cheese;

Ingredients: serves 4

  • 2 tablespoon of butter
  • 3 tablespoon of plain flour
  • 1 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon each of Cayenne/paprika powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard paste or turmeric powder
  • 2 cups of water
  • Enough elbow pasta for 4 serving
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh/dried parsley

Method

In a deep pan, heat butter and add in the flour. Cook on low heat for a couple of minutes. Then add half the milk and stir with a whisk to remove lumps. Add the rest of the milk and keep stirring the mixture. (She struggled because the flour tends to clump up together and required some elbow grease and prior cooking skills to turn it lump free).

Add in the powders and mustard, and stir to combine. Add water and throw in the uncooked pasta. Over low heat, gently cook the pasta, continuously stirring, for 8-10 minutes.

Once the pasta is cooked, put in the shredded cheese and parsley. Give it a good stir and serve immediately.

Any leftover should be immediately refrigerated. To heat this up, you’ll need to cook over low heat and add some water or milk to loosen the pasta.

Hope you’ll find this as useful as it has been for me. Seriously, this simple plain dish is so much better, nutrients wise, than instant noodles that comes in a packet.

This dish a definitely a hit among young kids. So let your little ones try this and share with us how did it turn out for you.

Happy cooking with the kids.

For more recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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Scones

It’s hard to find good scones. I don’t like them if they’re overly crumbly or too dense.

Scones must be buttery, slightly salty and not too sweet, so they’d taste really good when you pair them with some sweet strawberry jam and cream.

Scones are a combination of biscuits and cake. Crumbly yet soft. Crispy yet moist.

After a couple of failed attempts, I think I have finally found a recipe that churns good scones. This original recipe is from Jamie Oliver

Don’t these look luscious? These were made by my tween. Easy to make and taste good too.

Ingredients

  • 150gm mixed fruits and peel.
  • 500gm self rising flour, sifted
  • 150gm cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • Some milk (about 1/2cup)
  • Some orange juice (about 1/4 cup)

Method

Soak the fruits in some orange juice (1/2 hour) to hydrate the fruits.

Start by combining all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and gently crumble the butter into flour. Its ok if you find some pieces of butter. DO NOT to overwork the dough.

Squeeze out the juice from the fruits and throw it into the flour. Slowly add milk to combine the flour. Do not knead the dough. Just press it with both your hands to form into a ball. You’ll find some dry flour, that’s fine. Just leave it. Cover dough with cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes or more. (Mine stayed in the fridge for almost an hour because my kids got sidetracked by some TV series.

Preheat oven to 180’C. Roll out dough into 3cm thickness. Find a round cookie cutter and cut out as many as you can. Arrange these onto a greased baking pan. Brush it with some beaten egg and bake it for 15 minutes or until it doubles in size and turns golden brown. Your house will start smelling like scones. That’s a good cue to remove it from the oven.

Quickly transfer these onto a cake rack and let them cool before putting it in an airtight container.

Best served, slightly toasted and with jam and cream.

For more recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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