LMAshton's Profile

Title Last Reply

When you were starting out in the kitchen what did you make?

Well, I was five years old. I was following my mother's instructions - she was sick in bed and she yelled out instructions for me from the bedroom.

I made cooked-to-death hamburger patties, fried; gravy from the hamburger fat and whatnot; boiled to death potatoes; boiled to death veggie that might be peas or carrots or rarely corn. That was six days a week. On the seventh, roast chicken with everything else I mentioned above minus the hamburger patties. It certainly wasn't good food, but it was what my father wanted, so that's what we ate.

I started baking around the same time with my sister, two years older. We did cakes, cookies, and bread pudding mostly. Pluma moos and other foods from our Mennonite heritage. And they mostly came out good. We used a family cookbook that was reliable.

And we helped my mother with her canning and bread baking from when I was around 5 years old as well.

When I was older - say, 12 - my sister and I started branching out into other foods. Pizza, lasagna, other pastas.

Jul 26, 2014
LMAshton in Home Cooking

Can I use white organic bazmati rice past its expiration date?

It has an expiry date? What on earth for?

As long as it's not completely bug eaten, I'd use it. I'd wash it first, but I live in the tropics where bugs get in the rice, so that's just what I do.

Jul 26, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

What is this and how do I use it? (Add yours)

LOL! Thanks. :)

Jul 24, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

What oil do you use to sauté with?

I use ready-made ghee all the time. I buy it in 1 liter cans. It's fantastic!

Jul 24, 2014
LMAshton in Home Cooking

Almost half of the world prefers instant coffee

This.

I've lived in Sri Lanka, Singapore, and now Malaysia. Also, I don't drink coffee at all, so I'm no expert on coffee.

In Sri Lanka, there were people with carts selling Nescafe coffee. Nescafe seems to be really popular there, although it is possible to buy ground coffee - it just doesn't occupy very much shelf space at the grocery store. Keep in mind that, in Sri Lanka, tea is the more common beverage. Added to that that a fairly significant portion of the population still doesn't have water or electricity to their homes, so coffee makers aren't going to be common. Not that I've seen coffee makers for sale there. When my mother in law (Sri Lankan) makes coffee (rarely), she does it in a mug, coffee grounds and water go in, and a while later, she filters out the grounds. No French press or coffee maker or whatever.

In Singapore, it's very common to flat share just because property prices are so high. And it's common, when you flat share, that only the primary renters/owners will have access to the kitchen and the others do not or only have limited access, ie kettle and microwave only, absolutely nothing else. So coffee at home? Not so much. At the grocery stores, it's VERY common to see individual serving packets of everything - cookies, yoghurt, cake, coffee, milo, and so on. You buy bags of 30 packets of coffee, three in one, so it includes milk and sugar. That seems to be the most common form of "homemade" coffee judging by shelf space.

Jul 23, 2014
LMAshton in Food Media & News

Domestically Disabled

Staples - that's a wildly personal thing. What you will want to keep in your pantry is not going to be the same as everyone else.

To give you some ideas, here's what I find necessary:

Salt & pepper
chilli powder (lots of it since I go through this faster than anything else - probably use about 1/2 pound a month for two of us)
turmeric
cardamoms
coriander seeds
cumin seeds
fenugreek
dried chillies, chilli flakes
tamarind block
Maldive fish flakes
belacan (fermented fish paste)
kejap manis
coconut oil
basmati rice
lentils
chickpeas
kidney beans
mung beans (aka moong beans, green gram)
jaggery & treacle
five or ten varieties of hot sauces - sambal oelik, tabasco sauces, Louisiana hot sauce, sriracha, peri peri sauce
potatoes, onions, shallots
dried pasta
flour, sugar
cocoa
coconut milk/cream
molasses
canned tomatoes
canned fish

...and it goes on from there. It's a bit of an eclectic mess.

In this house, I cook a lot of curries, mostly Sri Lankan (the husband is Sri Lankan), but also I cook Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai food. Hey, I live in the region (Malaysia currently), so it makes sense to take advantage of what's available locally. I also cook a fair bit of European food - Italian, German, whatnot - as well as Middle Eastern. I'm also old and have been cooking from scratch since I was, I kid you not, five years old.

You will want to adapt your pantry to suit your cooking preferences. You'll sort that out over time as you figure out what you like to cook and eat.

As for starting to learn how to cook... My suggestion is to always start with the kind of food you like to eat. So pick one of your favourite dishes, the simpler and easier the better, get a recipe, and attack.

Jul 23, 2014
LMAshton in Home Cooking

Domestically Disabled

Absolutely nothing wrong with pans that look like they've been used. And that egg casserole looks fantastic!

Jul 23, 2014
LMAshton in Home Cooking

What is this and how do I use it? (Add yours)

This sounds interesting. I might just have to try it out... :)

Jul 23, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

What is this and how do I use it? (Add yours)

I've never thought that belacan smells nice. It's pretty rank. The smell dies down when cooking, thankfully, though.

Jul 23, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

Gateway Foods(dishes) to introduce foreign / ethnic flavours

I give a basic orientation into what each dish is and what they can expect from it.

For Sri Lankan food, a not too spicy chicken curry, perhaps chilli potatoes, bitter gourd sambol, capsicum with pickled lime, pumpkin curry. The bitter gourd sambol is the most surprising thing in there - it's bitter, but it's also so very addictive and goooood! I've served these to quite a few new-to-Sri Lankan food and it's all been pretty much universally loved.

Now, if we're talking breakfast... string hoppers with bittera hodi (boiled egg in a coconut gravy), pol sambol (freshly shredded coconut with chilli powder, onions, Maldive fish ground in - and my most favourite food of all time), and perhaps a seeni sambol (caramelized and spiced up onions). Oh. My. This kind of breakfast is just spectacular, really. I blame my mother in law - she's a fantastic cook.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

Gateway Foods(dishes) to introduce foreign / ethnic flavours

Samosas and pakoras were my first introduction to Indian food when I was 16. I was hooked from that moment! :)

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics
1

Is it just me, or is my wall oven cooling down? Is it time to go to gas oven?

Yeah, my oven absolutely doesn't have features that can be modified.

In Sri Lanka, ovens are uncommon - only the rich have them - and they tend to be very plain Jane. I accidentally bought one that didn't have the upper flame - I didn't even know that was a possibility so I didn't know to check. All the ovens I've used in Sri Lanka were gas, all were on gas marks, not temperatures, so you set it to how much of a flame you want and you have to know what temperature it translates to (usually in the manual - but really, it's guesswork on their part, too) and you wait until you think it's ready. No light indicators of any kind.

In Singapore, our built-in electric oven had a ready light. In Malaysia, our counter top electric oven has a ready light.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

What do you think about restaurants charging for bread and butter at dinner?

If they stated that there was a charge and how much the charge was upfront, no problem. If the charge is a surprise after the fact, not cool at all. And I would refuse to pay.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Not About Food

Is this tacky?

No. I would be happy that you had the time to spend with me and I would enjoy your company. I wouldn't care if you ordered pizza or Chinese and did none of the cooking yourself.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics
2

"Cooking Block" What Do You Do?

Yup.

A lot of times, for me, it's caused by my fluctuating ability to taste/smell things. Sometimes, I can't taste/smell anything, sometimes it's all too strong and/or repulsive, other times fairly normal.

I cooked a fried rice yesterday evening. I thought it tasted blah. The husband loved it and thought it contained enough spice (we like spicy foods) whereas I couldn't taste the spice at all.

And sometimes I'm too clumsy to be let into the kitchen. And sometimes I just have no interest in cooking at all.

It happens. Perhaps try a new-to-you cuisine? Perhaps take a break and order out or go out?

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

The Great Bay Leaf Hoax

I'm fairly certain I'm also one of those who just can't detect its flavour. I've had bay leaf in dishes plenty of times but just couldn't ever really taste it. But then, my ability to sense smells and tastes fluctuates a fair bit from time to time, so I'm just weird anyway.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

What is this and how do I use it? (Add yours)

I haven't used it, but my first guess was belacan, which I've used in Malaysian/Indonesian food. We lived in Singapore for a couple of years and we're now in Malaysia, so, you know how that goes - cook the local stuff to find out what it's like.

How does this stuff smell different from belacan?

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics

Is it just me, or is my wall oven cooling down? Is it time to go to gas oven?

This is the first time I've heard of a beeping preheat button. I had no idea.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

Is it just me, or is my wall oven cooling down? Is it time to go to gas oven?

If I had a choice, probably gas. Much more responsive. But I've had gas stoves that also gradually cooled down.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

Lid with hole: OK TO COOK RICE?

Heh. In the tropics, you rinse off the bugs. :D

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

Lid with hole: OK TO COOK RICE?

Yeah, absolutely. Most of my rice cookers have had holes in them to let steam escape. This is no different.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

Poll -- do you have an electric, ceramic, gas or induction cooktop?

Induction cooker (single burner) - 75%
Gas - the other 25% (Pretty much only for the double-ring wok burner)

If/when I remodel this kitchen, I'll probably go from a four-burner gas stovetop to two burners (NEED that double-ring wok burner), which is really all I would need. The induction cooker is portable, but since I use it every day, it stays on the counter - and I LOVE my induction cooker and would not trade it in for anything. And it was the cheapest induction cooker we found - about USD30 in Singapore (SGD32) There are days when I'd love a second one. I'm usually only cooking for the two of us, but his parents come to visit, and my mil uses gas almost exclusively - it's what she's more comfortable with.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

Induction burner warning.

I dunno. My cheapo unit - single burner induction cooker cost me about USD30 - works great after two years, even with a massive oil spill all over it. Cheap isn't necessarily bad or more likely to go bellyup.

Jul 22, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

Bread Baking

Yes.

By the way, I don't do the whole knead for five or ten minutes thing. After I mix the dough (I use a fairly high hydration dough, so it's a shaggy mix. I then let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes so that the flour absorbs the water (it's called autolyse). Then I knead ten strokes, let it sit 20-30 minutes, and repeat three times. At the end of the knead, sit, knead sit bit, it's done its first rise and the gluten is developed. Then I do the shaping and second rise or shaping and freezing.

I make a batch of bread once every six days. When it's done it's first rise, I divide it into six portions, shape it, and freeze it. I then take out one piece every night, let it thaw and rise overnight and bake it the next morning for the husband's breakfast bun. I've been doing this for a few years - works great.

I know others who retard the dough overnight in the fridge. I've done that a few times and that worked great, too.

Jul 18, 2014
LMAshton in Home Cooking
1

Oh no another tipping thread! When is no tip justified?

In my experience, absolutely nothing.

Been there, done that. Had some really lousy food, ie rotten brown lettuce in a salad. Waitstaff and management didn't care and charged us anyway for the food that could not be eaten. Another time, had a hair in my food - waitstaff didn't care, neither did management and no discount on the food I could not eat.

Jul 17, 2014
LMAshton in Not About Food

Pressure Cookers: Stovetop vs. Electric

I've used both. While the electronic one is probably easier to use, from everything that I've read, it seems that their high pressure is not as high as the stove top model. Additionally, the electronic ones tend to fail in a few years whereas the stovetop ones last for decades.

The stove top one is not that difficult to use. I was scared of using it because of my mother and one blowing up when I was a kid. But my mother in law uses hers all the time without any problems, so watching her use hers fearlessly really helped me get over my fear. Now you couldn't pry my pressure cooker out of my cold dead hands. I use it daily.

Jul 17, 2014
LMAshton in Cookware

Questions about sourdough starter and bread

You feed the starter with water and flour so it's nice and alive and has lots of active yeasts. You then add that active starter to the rest of your ingredients, ie flour, water or some other liquid, salt, and possibly some other ingredients like oil, eggs, whatever. The flour and water in the recipe ingredients provides further food for the yeasts to feed on, and it's during that feeding process that the yeasts give off gas that causes the dough to rise.

If you didn't feed the starter and allow it to at least double in size before adding it to the bread ingredients, then the bread dough would take much, much longer to rise since there would be far fewer active yeasts in the starter.

If you want to go that route, by all means, do. You'll likely end up with something that resembles a hockey puck.

Jul 16, 2014
LMAshton in Home Cooking

Restaurant week dispute

Seriously? Order what you want. What's the big deal to them?

Jul 15, 2014
LMAshton in Not About Food

Questions about sourdough starter and bread

Yep, my starter is that active as well. I feed my starter, and when it's all bubbly and happy, that's when I use it.

Jul 15, 2014
LMAshton in Home Cooking

Cafeteria Food - Universities and Hospitals

There was one hospital cafeteria we ate at a lot when I was a kid - sick family member. They had the best french fries I've ever had.

Jul 15, 2014
LMAshton in General Topics