I have three beloved women in my life whom I'd loved to spend time in the kitchen: my late grandmother, my own mother, and my mum-in-law. My grandmother was the first woman who introduced me the fun in the kitchen in my early years. I lived with her for quite a long time. I always loved her Indonesian traditional sweets. She was a Javanese which means she brought her cultures and traditions in the family and it becomes the values I still hold dear until today. I have made a range of traditional Indonesian sweets (Putri Mandi, Bubur Sumsum, Bubur Candil, Bubur Injit) I've ever tried with her. My mother is the woman of two cultures as she was raised as the mixture of Sundanese father and Javanese mother. She focuses mostly on the Indonesian traditional meals, either come from West Java or Central Java kitchens. She likes compiling recipes from any sources and often asks me to try one out with her. My mum-in-law is the produce of Western traditions and she enriches my world with her traditional values of English-New Zealand cooking. She is the best supporter of my cake decorating, baking, and cooking experiences. I guess, I'm just lucky to have these ladies in my life.
My mother had had a stroke 5 years ago and until today she's still way too weak to be involved so much in the kitchen. I am writing this as to celebrate the times I've spent so much with her, in her kitchen. Vanielje has Apples and Thyme event for us to celebrate the love with our beloved one(s) in the kitchen.
My mother and I used to be a team, especially when it's the time to celebrate Eid el Fitr. Every year I would come home (I took my full degree and masters at different universities in Java Island, while my parents live in Sumatra Island) and be the princess of the kitchen while she was the queen. I would make the cookies, my specialty task, and my mother would cook the traditional meals. My father usually helped with making the ketupat (Indonesian traditional rice cakes cooked in woven coconut leaves which are diamond-shapes) cases. Sometimes my mother makes lontong (Indonesian traditional rice cakes cooked in banana leaves wraps) if we can't get any coconut leaves from my grandmother's orchard.
This tradition is still kept in my own family until today. Although it is hard to find any banana leaves in the rural area where I live, I use foil to replace it. To cut the cooking time, I steam the rice first, and then fold them in foil and boil them. It takes time to boil them to the very packed and round shape, but it worths it. Eid el Fitr in October a few weeks ago was only celebrated a simple way while I was still ill with sinusitis in the mourning week after Dad's funeral. I cooked lontong, home-raised free-range chicken curry, eggs with sweet chili sauce, a bowl of steamed greens, and a jug of lemonade. That's it. Yes, we missed the essential ingredients of traditional Indonesian meals: shrimp crackers or melinjo nuts crackers. But, that's alright, as long as we've got the essential meaning of Eid el Fitr itself, I suppose.
As the princess of the kitchen, I often make cookies. The funny thing is that almost every household will make this range of cookies and funnily, nothing tastes the same! Well, like I said about baking is one recipe can produce various results, nothing would exactly be the same as original, depending on how one is doing the process and the choices of freshest and finest ingredients used and the imagination one's kept. It is the beauty of baking I love.
I made Casablanca Pudding last year as to remember my mother because we used to make this pudding together when we tried the recipe for the first time. This pudding became the popular pudding in the family. Another snack I would like to team up with my mother is flaky cheese straw. This snack is also popular amongst my brothers (I don't have sisters). Although this recipe I adapted from Lois Daish book, it is similar to those we tried in my mother's kitchen.
Flaky Cheese Straws
Source: Lois Daish. A Good Year. Listener. A Random House Book, NZ. 2005.
1 cup (all-purposed) flour,
½ tsp baking powder,
¼ tsp salt,
¼ tsp cayenne pepper,
2 Tbs soft butter,
100g (1 cup) grated tasty or vintage cheddar,
¼ cup cold water
Preheat the oven to 190C. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Rub in the butter with your fingertips. Mix in the grated cheese. Sprinkle the water over the mixture and use the back of a knife to mix, forming a crumbly moist mass. You may need another trickle of water, but don't make the dough wet.
Press the dough together with your hands and transfer to a lightly floured bench. Roll out thinly and cut into straws of whatever dimension pleases you. Transfer the straws to a baking tray lined with baking paper or baking cloth and bake for about 12 minutes until crisp and golden, but not brown.
Remove from the oven, cool for a few minutes, and transfer to a rack until cold. Store in an airtight tin.
In Bahasa Indonesia
Cemilan ini enak untuk dimakan bareng teh tapi kalo bareng kopi kok ga sepadan ya. Menurut buku sih enak dimakan bareng bir, barangkali tradisi di sini. Silakan deh kalo temen-temen bisa minum bir, cobain cemil bareng ini, kasih tahu ya enak apa enggak-nya!
Cemilan ini memang seperti cheese-sticks, ya emang nama lainnya begitu. Tapi yang ini ga digoreng, melainkan dipanggang. Menurutku sih lebih enak dipanggang ya, jadi ga berlipat-lipat lemaknya, soalnya udah pake keju. Hanya memang perlu ketelitian dan kecermatan waktu untuk memanggang cemilan ini, sedikit lengah gosong deh!
Flaky Cheese Straws
Sumber: Lois Daish. A Good Year. Listener. A Random House Book, NZ. 2005.
1 cup tepung terigu,
½ sdt baking powder,
¼ sdt garam,
¼ sdt cayenne pepper,
2 sdM mentega lunak (yang sudah di dalam suhu ruangan),
100g (1 cup) keju cheddar yang udah tua dan mantap rasanya,
¼ cup air dingin (pake yang dari kulkas)
Panasi ovennya suhu 190C. Ayak tepung, baking powder, garam dan cayenned. Remas-remas mentega ke dalam campuran terigu tadi pakai ujung jari (sampai jadi remah-remah). Masukkan keju parut (ini pake parutan yang paling halus). Kucurin (dikit-dikit aja) air dinginnya dan pake punggung pisau mencampur adonan sampai rata, sehingga adonan membentuk gumpalan-gumpalan adonan yang lembab (tapi ga basah). Boleh tambahin sedikit air dingin (kalo masih kelihatan butiran-butiran yang belum menyatu), cuma jangan sampai adonan basah atau lembek.
Satukan adonan pakai jari atau kedua tangan (tapi jangan diremas apalagi diuleni, a big no-no!) lalu letakkan ke atas meja yang udah ditawuri tepung. Giling setipis selera masing-masing dan potong-potong tipis sesuai dengan dimensi yang disukai. Pindahkan batang keju ke atas loyang yang sudah dialasi kertas roti atau baking cloth (barangkali sejenis muslin-ga pernah pake) lalu panggang selama kurleb 12 menit (lihat-lihatin nih, tergantung panasnya oven masing-masing deh!) sampai garing dan kekuningan, tapi ga jadi kecoklatan (atau gosong!). Angkat dari oven, dinginkan sebentar di loyang, lalu pindahkan ke atas rak hingga betul-betul dingin. Simpan dalam toples kedap udara.