Our traditional fish pie for New Year’s Eve dinner

Fish Pie

I wanted to have a traditional British fish pie for New Year’s Eve dinner so I used ½ fresh salmon and ½ smoked salmon with snow crab meat for a pie. I actually modified Jamie Oliver’s fish pie recipe which used half smoked haddock and half fresh salmon for a “smokier” dish than all fresh fish.

Salmon Fillet Steak

The salmon I got were nice fillets meant for pan-frying that costs RM 79.90 per kg. There was another batch of salmon steaks going for half the price but I didn’t like the look of the sad pieces of fish lying about so I paid premium for the fresher salmon.

You will need:

Fish Pie Recipe

  • 300 grams salmon fillets
  • 150 grams smoked salmon
  • 250 grams snow crab claw legs
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 bunches of spinach
  • 3-4 Brussels sprouts
  • 800 grams of red potatoes
  • 200 grams freshly grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 lemon

Curly Parsley Flat Leaf Parsley

I bought a packet of parsley and you can see the difference between flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley. There are equal amounts of each in the pack, I just used the flat-leaf ones, also known as Italian parsley.

Fish Pie Cheese

I chopped up all the vegetables into small pieces and lined the bottom of the baking trays with it before adding the grated Cheddar cheese on top. I used two, and that was a mistake, you can’t split a recipe in half like that, will show you why later.

Red Pontiac Potato

Meanwhile, I peeled the Red Pontiac potatoes for chopping into 2 cm chunks. Red potatoes are perfect for baking but due to it’s starch content, is not so suitable for frying. These aren’t the potatoes for French fries, but it’s good as mash.

Dicing Red Tomatoes

The red potatoes are then dumped into a pot of salted water and boiled for 15 minutes until soft.

Skinning Salmon

I started on the fresh salmon fillet after that – you need to skin it since the recipe calls for the fish to be skinned so the easiest way is to de-skin it is to run a sharp knife under it.

Cutting Fish

I chopped up the fresh salmon fillet into bite sized pieces and did the same for the smoked salmon and snow crab claw legs…

Fish Crab Pie

…before dumping everything into the baking trays.

Mixed Fish Pie

You just need to give it a good dousing of extra virgin olive oil and add some salt and black pepper before mixing *everything* thoroughly.

Fish Pie Topping

The red potatoes are mashed and then put on top of the fish pie as a topping. This is where I went wrong coz I used two baking trays and the potatoes were barely enough to cover both!

Potato Topping

I actually needed a deeper baking tray which would provide the same surface area for the potatoes but I really had to stretch the potatoes to cover both trays.

Baked Salmon Pie

I put both of the fish pies into the oven for 40 minutes and they came out perfect!

Fish Pie Baked

The kids both tried it but declared it to be too salty as I had forgotten smoked salmon is already seasoned and added too much salt to the recipe.

Baked Fish Pie

My better half also thought the same, and I had a huge thirst after eating all that due to the sodium.

Fish Pie Cooked

I think I’ll use cod next time instead of salmon, and hold back on the liberal handfuls pinches of salt. smirk

New Year Eve Dinner

Nevertheless, it was a great New Year’s Eve dinner together with the family. :)

Our Pandoro Party!

Kid Eating Pandoro

We’ve been eating a lot of panettone this year so I got a large pandoro this time. I love eating panettone and pandoro but I’m usually the only one who ends up finishing it. I can snack on it all night long – that’s how much I love the stuff.

Pandoro Verona

However, I opened a 1 kg pandoro last night and the kids loved it! smirk

Pandoro Mountain

There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between a pandoro and a panettone – even Jamie Oliver got it wrong. He referred to a pandoro as a panettone in his program “Jamie’s Cracking Christmas” and no one in the production crew thought to correct it. Panettone is from Milan and it’s a brioche like bread filled with pieces of fruit while pandoro is from Verona (popular in Venice too) and very distinctively shaped. There are six different types of Christmas cakes in Italy!

Pandoro Sugar

A pandoro is very different from a panettone – it’s a frustum shaped soft sponge like cake, very light, with a heaping of powdered icing sugar on top. There’s a packet of icing sugar included in the box for you to dust the top. You can either dump it right on top or roll the pandoro around it and I chose the former. The 8 pointed star of pandoro makes it look like a snow covered mountain!

Slicing Pandoro

The kids loved pulling pieces of the pandoro and eating it with the powdered vanilla icing sugar! :)

Pandoro Icing Sugar

It was a lot of fun and it’s delicious too! Some people don’t like the bits of fruit in panettone and I’ve seen pandoro grow in popularity this year – it’s plain, but that doesn’t mean it tastes simple. The texture of pandoro is softer than panettone and it’s great when you eat it with ice cream or gelato! It has a different texture altogether and it’s perfect for a Christmas centrepiece.

Pandoro Party

I think we ate 1/3 of the 1 kg pandoro within 30 minutes! It’s supposed to look like the Italian Alps during Christmas and it sure is a wonderful sight to behold! We’ll be getting another one next year, in addition to a pandolce (a Genova classic) or a panforte from Sienna.

8 fun things we did for our Christmas Eve celebrations!

Christmas Photo 2014

It’s Christmas Eve today! We actually celebrated this year’s Christmas dinner earlier since the kids have tuition and other Christmas party commitments later in the week. Here’s 8 things we did this festive season:

1. Christmas crackers

Pulling Christmas Cracker

This was the first order of the night! We each had a Christmas cracker (the kids had two) and everyone pulled theirs with a partner.

Christmas Cracker Toys

I got a mini basketball game but the bigger one was looking at it with more than a little bit of envy. Haha. I could see it in her eyes but she was too polite to ask me for it so I exchanged mine with hers (a small deck of Mystery Calculator cards – the least popular one).

Christmas Crackers Kids

The smallest one got a purple hairband and a really cute pair of badminton rackets (complete with shuttlecock) which you can actually play with. The party favor my better half got was a pirate eyepiece. The biggest one also got a deck of cards – tiny ones but a complete 52 card deck. There were also selfie props in the box, which we used for our family Christmas photo.

2. Turkey dinner

Christmas Eve Turkey

I had roasted a turkey with cornbread stuffing and demi-glace earlier in the day and we all ate till we were fit to burst. It’s such a huge bird that I think I’ll be eating leftovers for at least a week!

Turkey Demi Glace

It’s all good though and the demi-glace was delicious!

3. Chocolate Monopoly

Chocolate Monopoly Kids

Dinner done, the kids couldn’t wait to break open the Chocolate Monopoly set so we all played a complete round. You’re actually supposed to eat the chocolates in the middle if you land on a particular color which is already taken but the kids unanimously decided to “keep the chocolate Monopoly pieces forever” so they can play with them next time.

Playing Chocolate Monopoly

I thought that was funny and adorable so that’s the way we played it. No one has ate even a single piece of the Chocolate Monopoly up to now. smirk

4. Eggnog

Borden Eggnog

I bought a quart of Borden Eggnog and doled it out while we were finishing the Chocolate Monopoly game. The bigger one liked it but no one else did except me – I *loved* it. Borden makes a really good eggnog – if you like *ultra thick* custard-like consistency. It’s like drinking crème caramel without the caramel.

It’s so thick you can hear the “glug glug glug” as it attempts to pour out:

The eggnog is more custard than liquid and spiced nicely with cinnamon too and it’s delicious when mixed with a little cognac (none for the kids, of course). Lovely stuff that you see on the shelves once a year.

5. Pandoro

Pandoro

We ate a lot of panettone last year and this year and we decided to get a 1 kg pandoro for Christmas Eve dinner instead. Pandoro is the speciality Christmas cake for Verona (it’s also popular in Venice) and tastes completely different from panettone (which is from Milan). There are actually six (!!!) different regional Christmas cakes in Italy.

Pandoro Classico

I thought I wanted to expose the kids to different foods and since we already ate panettone, it was pandoro for the after-dinner dessert. Pandoro is also a sweet leavened product that’s dusted with sugar and shaped like a frustum. I love pandoro, you can scoop out the middle and add gelato inside and it’s meant to look like an 8-sided snow mountain.

6. Christmas tree

Christmas Tree

I wanted to get a large real Christmas tree (it’s about RM 600) but my better half forbade it. The trees actually shed a lot of needles every day so it can be a chore to clean up after it. We settled for a fake miniature Christmas tree instead.

7. LEGO time

LEGO City

This was the part which the kids were most looking forward to. They have been huge fans of LEGO since the LEGO movie came out and we encouraged their creativity – it’s good for them. The collection that we’re getting for the kids is the LEGO CITY range and I bought them a large set with a large police set-up with boats.

Building LEGO

It basically involves a generic LEGO bad guy escaping with pilfered cash and jewels in a boat while the police goes after him. The amazing thing is that the boats actually float in water! We each assembled a section and I finished up the most difficult part where a thread had to be tied into a hook to attach to the LEGO police boat – it actually has working parts that moves to winch the boat up!

LEGO Floating Boats

We had a lot of quality time together with the kids on this one – various scenarios were enacted and played out. I role-played the lazy LEGO police who would not move out with the truck containing the boat until the kids got the police lingo right. Haha.

LEGO Working Winch

We actually have a new site dedicated to LEGO minis now, it’s primarily done by my awesome better half, who takes amazing posed photos with our growing collection of LEGO minifigures – the site is called tumblingminis.com

8. Family photo

Christmas Photo

This is our Christmas 2014 family photo! It was taken with the selfie props from the Christmas crackers and I thought it made for a nice photo. It serves as a digital Christmas card too – I sent it to my dad and my sister and they both loved it to bits.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us! May the festive season bring you joy, peace and love. :)

Roasting our Christmas turkey with corn bread stuffing and demi-glace

Christmas Turkey

I got a beast of a bird this year for the annual Christmas roast turkey dinner!

Huge Frozen Turkey

It’s a huge 6.5 kg (14 pound) young turkey for RM 192.71. This is over twice as big as the turkey we roasted last year. I was actually torn between getting this and a capon (castrated rooster) so I asked the kids what they wanted.

Turkey Breast

It was a resounding vote for turkey coz they liked the turkey that I roasted last year for Christmas. smirk

Turkey Cuts

There’s no shortages for non-halal turkey this year so that’s a good thing for us. I have no idea what makes a turkey halal or non-halal (probably due to the way it’s slaughtered) but this was a different brand called Norbest from the US and there were large signs warning of it’s haram (forbidden) status to Muslims which I always found a little strange since Christmas is a Christian (or at least secular) holiday.

Defrosting Turkey

I’ve actually cooked with this particular brand of turkey before and since I had just 24 hours to get it right, I used the Fast Defrost method by dunking the entire turkey into water and changing the water every 4 hours.

Trussed Turkey

It was what I did last year too but on a more urgent time scale since this was a heavier bird. Haha.

Cornbread Turkey Stuffing

We also got a pack of demi-glace and corn bread stuffing for a more expedient roast (plus, these two taste really good).

Chopping Vegetables

I chopped up a cup of yellow onions and celery

Onion Celery

…and sautéed them in butter,

Turkey Stuffing

…before adding it to the corn bread stuffing and gravy.

Giblets Bag

Next it was time to clean the bird, take out the bag of giblets (this is arguably where the old school gamer term gibs originated from for those of us who played shooters like Doom, Quake and Unreal back in the days) and pat it dry.

Stuffing Turkey

I stuffed the cavity of the turkey with my newly made corn bread stuffing mix and (with some difficulty) got it into the preheated oven at 200 Celsius.

Turkey Stuffed

I covered the turkey with aluminium foil and took it off after 3 ½ hours to brown the top and here’s what my turkey looks like after 4 hours!

Turkey Oven

This turkey has a built-in meat thermometer that pops out when it’s done, although we used our own to check too:

Turkey Pop Out Device

I started the demi-glace while the turkey was resting and it was lovely – this is restaurant quality demi-glace, RM 14.95 for ½ cup but it’s awesome! It has reduced white wine inside and you can add your own wine in lieu of water for a tastier demi-glace (make sure to cook off the raw alcohol).

Demi Glace

My better half and the kids loved it!

Carving Turkey

The young but large turkey was carved up according to everyone’s preference – the smallest one wanted a drum while I had an entire leg, the biggest one wanted the huge wing and my better half got a slice of prime breast meat.

Little Kid Eating Huge Turkey

Christmas dinner is always my responsibility and I’m glad we had so much fun with our celebrations – it took me quite a bit of planning and shopping to get enough activities to keep the kids entertained. There’s Christmas crackers, eggnog, presents, and more – Christmas is definitely not over yet!

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

A very LEGO x Pandora Essence anniversary

Emmet

We just had our latest anniversary and I surprised my better half by going to the official LEGO shop in Malaysia and getting something for her. I wanted to get the Emmet figure from The LEGO Movie but you can’t get it now. You have to get it in one of the official LEGO movie sets.

lord business evil lair

I got the Lord Business Evil Lair (RM 349.90) from the end scene in the movie coz it has all the LEGO characters that she likes. We plan to build it together with the kids…and GLUE IT ALL UP WHEN IT’S DONE!

That’s a joke from the movie, BTW. Haha.

LEGO Minifigures Pack

I also got the collectible LEGO Minifigures (RM 14.90 each) which are all the rage now. I picked three – one for my dear and one each for the kids and let them choose. The big one managed to get the one that she wanted (a spaceman with spacesuit) and the little one got a cowboy. My better half got a princess with a dog frog.

I didn’t get one for myself since the big one has two Player 1 LEGO minifigures (you don’t know what is inside until you open it) so I’ll select one as my own avatar. smirk

LEGO Store Malaysia

I also got an official LEGO ice cube maker (RM 30) which makes the red brick sized LEGO ice cubes. I thought my dear would appreciate it in her overnight oats endeavours – I suggested freezing bricks of LEGO milk or using it as a mould to make see-through raspberries suspended in clear gelatin LEGO bricks as a food decoration.

Lego Shop

My better half has always been very thoughtful with her gifts and I love that she keeps me in her heart and always thinks of me in everything she does. She got me a very nice pair of flip flops coz my favorite pair I bought from Club Med Bali has literally been worn to rags. She also got me lots of imported chocolates!

ling food

She always keeps me fed with her delicious home cooked food and writes thoughtful and loving cards for me too.

one i love

I’ve been keeping our story with Pandora charms and the last one I got her was a Princess heart with zirconium and gold crown. I also wanted to get her a new Pandora bangle style bracelet last month since her bracelet is so full now that it’s impossible to fit any more charms!

pandora princess charm

I had casually asked her what she thought about the Pandora Essence line (which is a new line meant for a more mature audience) and I remember her telling me that it’s nice but it’s a bit unfortunate that it’s not compatible with the regular line.

pandora essence collection

Well, since her Pandora bracelet has already been filled to capacity (we’ve been together for almost two years) I thought I’ll bring her out and surprise her with a visit to Pandora to get her fitted with the new Pandora Essence bracelet!

love essence charm

I also got one Pandora Essence charm to go with the bracelet – these charms are not interchangeable with the regular line but it’s nice coz it won’t move around – there’s an inner coating of some kind which prevents it from shifting. The first charm I got to start is aptly called Love.

pandora essence

Pandora Essence has many different charms named after characteristics e.g. Caring, Determination etc and I thought it’ll be nice for her to wear a new bracelet while I get her old one cleaned since I can get that done free of charge (due to my almost monthly patronage of Pandora). I plan to build our stories on Pandora Essence for the time being and get *another* regular Pandora bracelet for her after it’s filled…

LEGO purchases

…so we can continue creating more new stories in the future on a brand new bracelet! <3

Angry Birds Board Game Review: Playing real life Angry Birds with the kids over the weekend!

playing angry birds board game

We brought the kids to Kidzania over the long weekend and after that we went to Borders to get some stationary for them. The big one needed some color pencils for school and while we were browsing, I saw an Angry Birds board game for RM 99.90 and thought it would be fun to play with the kids.

angry birds the board game

I was actually quite curious and looking forward to playing the game too. smirk

angry birds board game

This is called Angry Birds: On Thin Ice. There’s also Angry Birds: Birds in Space and Angry Birds Happy Holidays Edition. We brought it back and opened it up – there’s two Angry Birds inside, the most recognizable big red one and the more streamlined yellow one. I know they have names, the kids told me but I totally forgot what the names of the birds are.

angry birds card game

It’s a lot of fun! There’s 3 levels of difficulty represented by 3 different stacks of cards and a “free building” deck of cards. Your mission is the same as the game – to knock down the green pigs!

game of angry birds

There are three (3) pigs included with the game and each stage will incorporate them. The level is built according to the card you draw and it also states which Angry Bird you can use, the order you use them, and how many times e.g. Yellow Bird, Yellow Bird, Red Bird. You need to knock down all the pigs to clear the stage and you get 100 points for each pig, plus 100 bonus points if the pig is wearing a helmet (*and* you manage to bump it off their porcine heads).

You also get extra points if you’re the one to clear the stage e.g. “kill” the last green pig. It’s 100-300 points, depending on the level. The fourth card deck is a method to keep track of scores – each card is 100 points and the first person to reach 1,000 points wins!

building angry birds

It turns out that building the set is the hardest part – the blocks are all very wobbly and prone to falling down if you even breath hard on them. It’s designed that way so that you can easily break the tiles and destroy the level, just like the game, when the bird launches.

angry birds board game card

I thought it was quite ingenious! It’s also very realistic and faithful to the original game – the “ice blocks” can be *cracked* and split in half, since it’s actually two pieces fitted together. The most interesting block is the TNT crate – it functions in the same way as the game!

angry birds launcher

The TNT crate actually has strong springs inside so when you close it up, there’s tension and potential energy. This energy is released when you either:

1. Hit the TNT crate with a bird
2. Make the TNT crate fall down

angry birds board game complete

When one of the above two criteria is met, the TNT crate will actually “explode” and send pigs and blocks flying around. Haha!

Here’s how the TNT crate looks like when it went off. This is a video I took of me and the kids playing the Angry Birds: On Thin Ice board game.

angry birds on thin ice

Board games nowadays are so canggih and innovative – I’ve never seen stuff like this as a kid. It really jacks up the kids imagination and they all had a lot of fun launching the Angry Birds at the “levels” (which are sets that you build according to the cards).

angry birds launching

It made for a fun Sunday afternoon playing together with my better half and the kids! :D

Your body is your amusement park temple

dialysis

I have treated my body (and mind) as more of a amusement park instead of a temple. I have done that for almost half my life, searching for the next hedonistic experience and by the time I realized that you can’t just do that and expect to live forever, it was too late.

kidney damage

You see, I used to have nothing to live for (or thought I didn’t). In my short sightedness, I have taken various interesting pharmacological agents to excess, damaging my kidneys in the process. I even needed an emergency dialysis and nearly didn’t make it – the doctor fully expected me to die and I was obstinate enough to recover.

home funeral

I have so much to live for now. My mom has passed but my dad is still around and I want to take care of him. I also have the best partner ever, which I’m very lucky to have. My better half is the best thing that has happened to me and she really set my life on the straight and narrow. I have two kids that I love to bits and I like to be there for them too!

jacuzzi

I am starting to live a very healthy lifestyle now and part of that includes exercise. You really can’t have a healthy lifestyle without exercise. I run, swim and play badminton with the kids (and sometimes my better half, who is, naturally, better than me).

family dinner

We Malaysians like to eat (a lot) and most of the time, the food that we eat is superbly unhealthy. That’s all fine and good but it needs to be balanced out by having an active lifestyle.

mooncake family 2013

The 1 thing that matters to me is being healthy enough to take care of all my dependants and to give them a happy life.

happy us

#matterstomeMY

kids

I can’t very well do that if I die of obesity related complications like heart disease or diabetes and I don’t want to give up eating well so I have to exercise a lot. It’s the best way to have a healthy lifestyle.

morib goldcoast us

I swim…

riding bicycles

I cycle…

run

I run…

bicycles

It doesn’t really matter what kind of exercise you do as long as you do it – but if you run, you might want to download the Allianz Pacer app from Google Play or iTunes.

setting sun

Allianz’s priority is to help Malaysians to start taking care of what matters to them most, with a special focus on your health. They’ve set up Allianz Pacer – which is a social running community. It’s really quite interesting.

swimming with kids

Go and Like the Allianz Malaysia Facebook and participate in the sharing now!

family trip morib

#matters2meMY

How to make a tea bag rocket

This is a perfectly safe and *fun* indoor science activity for kids (and the young at heart, like me). smirk The teabag rocket works due to the principles of thermodynamics – you can read up on the science behind how it works if you’re so inclined, but basically it’s a regular tea bag which achieves lift-off and flies off suddenly like a rocket when lit.

It’s a lot of fun and the kids really loved it! I wanted to show this to the little girls and their cousins were there during the weekend too, which makes it all the merrier. I can see that they enjoyed the show. I got them to catch the expired tea bag rocket too, which is surprisingly intact, like a discarded snake skin.

You just need tea bags, a pair of scissors and a lighter!

Instructions:

cut teabag

1. Cut the tea bag at the very top so that the tag/staples are removed

empty teabag

2. Pour out the tea leaves

lighting

3. Use your fingers to make the tea bag into a square tower and light the top

teabag rocket

4. The tea bag will burn down to the end and suddenly take off like a rocket

Pro tip: Make sure that you’re indoors, turn off your fan and close any open windows to prevent a draft from blowing the tea bag rocket over.

I’ve wanted to show this to the kids for a long time. It’s a lot of fun if you have young kids. I like to think of interesting things to do which will entertain them and make them laugh – it reminds me of the projects my late mom did with when I was their age, like growing sugar crystals.

It instils curiosity and makes for a fun interlude during the weekend – although my poor dear had to clean up after us coz the tea bag rockets produces a lot of ash! :)

The Best Day of My Life

riding bicycles

Greetings everyone! I am back after a short hiatus – major stuff to sort out and everything is peachy now. In fact, I just had one of the best days of my life with my dear and the kids. It was actually quite a simple thing, I wonder why we didn’t do it earlier.

bicycles

We got a bicycle for the little one (second hand, person is moving out of the country) for just RM 40 and the big one got a new (and larger) bike for RM 200. There’s one bicycle at home, which is for adults and one day after work we just took the kids to the park!

happy us

It actually started out with me trying to ride the new bicycle with the little one while the big one is finishing her school. She had a quick dinner after that and we all cycled to the park. The kids kept wanting rides so it was the most exercise I did for to date! I also had to cycle with my dear at the back – we tried it the other way round, but she couldn’t even start cycling coz I was too heavy. smirk

setting sun

I gave so much rides and raced with the big one so much that I felt like puking. It didn’t help that I was still wearing my work clothes so I overheated and was nauseous for a good hour! I had fun though, and so did my dear and the kids. It’s the wholesome family fun that I’ve always wanted to have and I’m glad we did that!

elise dustbin

The funniest thing was watching the little one run with her short legs chasing after her sister. Haha! Too cute. The simple pleasures in life are the best.

It was nice that I could take a lot of awesome photos with just my phone too, which reminds me…

Short mention:

tranfering smartphone data

I’m using my Sony Xperia Z1 [link to my review] now and I’m constantly amazed at the new things that it can do. My previous phone is a Sony Xperia S and I used the Xperia Transfer app to sync everything on my old phone to the new one so it’s up and running.

xperia transfer app

The Xperia Transfer app can be downloaded from Google Play and it works for *all* Android devices. What if you have a Windows or iOS phone? Sony PC Companion and Sony Bridge for Mac (it’s an executable on your new Sony Zperia Z1 smartphone – just connect the microUSB) performs the same function.

how to use xperia transfer

Thus, whatever platform you’re using right now, you can do a direct transfer of your data, contacts, photos etc into your new Sony Xperia Z1 so you’ll be ready to go! :)

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