Monday, August 29, 2011

A Day In Taginambur

I had promised Yo months ago that I'll go with her the next time she sends goodies to the Catholic orphanage/hostel in Kota Belud Marudu, a town 1 1/2 hours north of KK but when she reminded me in an e-mail from Milan about the trip, I wasn't in the mood to go because Hub had work to finish and Wey had plans to go out with his friends as it was the start of the term holiday. However, Su and her hub C were keeping their promise to go even though all their three daughters couldn't/wouldn't go either. With a bit of reluctance at leaving Hub and Wey at home, I hopped into Su's car yesterday. Only Yo had her husband and daughter with her, a sign of how different things are now that the kids have grown up. I felt more than a tinge of sadness at how quickly time has passed and wished we have had done more outings, especially with Wey because by the time he came along, we had been here and there and done this and that with the first two kids. When our kids were younger, the three families used to go for long weekend stays out of town (usually planned by Su, who couldn't and still can't sit still) and we had lots of fun and always tons of food. Once, on a trip to Pitas, Yo's car got stuck in the mud and Su was way ahead of us.We were completely isolated on some coastal dirt road. I had images of tigers (though there are none in Borneo) and pythons flashing through my mind and wondered if we could get out before nightfall. Luckily we did.
As with most roads into the interior, there are roadside stalls where you can buy local produce and handicraft. We off-loaded the used clothing, new curtains, milk powder, rice, anything the home can use. 5 Aussies had arrived to stay two weeks to teach the kids from hygiene to gardening to English. Since the home was in good hands, we left soon after our drop off.

We drove another hour to reach a village called Taginambur near the cowboy town of Kota Belud to stay in the house of a lady named Delia. Delia's father was an Englishman named Trevor White ('Asang' was the name given to him by the locals), who first came to Borneo in 1939. He evangelized to the animistic locals and married a Dusun and lived in the village all his life.

Delia is a friendly and unpretentious lady and I feel like I've known her forever. Although she was educated in Australia and has raised a family there, she comes back for a  couple of weeks every two or three months to run her care program for the needy people in her village. On this trip she's back with her 8 year-old granddaughter Zoe. Delia's wooden bungalow was built by her father in 1956 on a small hill that overlooks the village. It is spacious, cosy and rustic although termites are gnawing through the house which is made entirely of wood. The balcony in front of the house faces Mt Kinabalu which unfortunately was veiled by forest haze. Rambutans, bananas, pineapples, durians, local limes and many other fruit trees are scattered on the property.

Dinner was whatever food that Su had bought with our coupons for the Montford Boys' School's bazaar that morning. When Su's in charge of food, I know I better be prepared to eat. And eat. And eat.

BBQ corn we bought on the way up.

Since it's the month of Ramadan, lemang (glutinous rice and coconut milk stuffed into bamboo tubes and cooked over wood fire) were plentiful.

We had the lemang (soft yet chewy, full of coconut flavor--yum!) with sambal, a thick chili and onion sauce.

I think this was beef rendang with ketupat (compressed rice).

A delicious roasted chicken from the Montford Boys' School bazaar.

Grilled whole baby sting ray with chili paste. Very fresh, tender and yummy!

Nasi lemak, one of my top 3 favorite Malay dishes.

I forgot to take a before photo of our dinner but here's an after photo. We ate from the leaves and paper wrappings, too lazy to bother with finery. It was like a picnic on the balcony. We were washing up when Delia found that she had lot of seafood that she had bought in the tamu that morning. The crabs were steamed so that they can be frozen but we couldn't resist the beautiful red crustaceans and even though we were full, we sat down again and ate all the crabs. Unbelievable.


These swimmer crabs were super umami-sweet and salty.

And would you believe it, right after the crabs, we ate the two durians from Yo's trees. Durians are late this year. This was my first durian of the year.


And as if to test our bottomless stomachs, Yo brought out a bottle of wine (the most full-bodied wine any of us had tasted; great stuff) and two kinds of cheese she brought from Milan. One was a smoked provolone I think. Both were gorgeous.

We sat on the balcony, half-drunk with wine and food. It was drizzling and the slight breeze made us shiver. Some of us had to boil water for our shower. I showered straight from the tap. Refreshing.

The next day, we had a lovely brunch: insalata caprese (cheese and tomatoes from Milan), prosciutto (also from Milan) and hami melon from Xinjiang. China.

So good I drank whatever was left on the plate: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, liquid from the mozz and the tomatoes. It was GOOD. 

Su boiled, flaked and fried the fresh tuna with olive oil, chilies and lime. Awesome. I've never cooked fresh tuna before and from now on, canned tuna is a thing of the past.

Tuna with fragrant pandan rice grown by one of Delia's sisters.  I wished I was thin so that I could eat as much as my stomach wanted.

Our plan was to swim in the river but we got up late and it was too hot. Plan B was shopping in Delia's store. Delia has brought in household items--pots, glasses, everything--from Brisbane and the proceeds go to help the poor in her village. She has a couple of BBQ grills (I bought mine from her years ago) for sale and if you want to buy one, e-mail me and I'll get her in touch with you.


The durians and rambutans in Delia's garden will ripen in October. October is 31 days from today, 30 from tomorrow. October, October, gotta get to Taginambur in October, October.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spiral Mooncakes With Taro & Salted Egg Filling




Four in a box, RM30/USD10 per box, delivered. Home made, no preservatives or coloring. Low sugar and the crust is crisp and very thin. 

A friend gave me one of these mooncakes to try and the whole family loved it so much that I ordered 2 boxes from Doris (012 802 1388/088 387 338) straightaway. I found the recipe for these mooncakes here but the whole town is out of taro so I'll just have to keep ordering the cakes from Doris until I find some taro. I think people are making kiew nyuk for the Mid-Autumn Festival in 2 week's time and the vendors are hoarding taro so that they can hike the price up before the festival. At RM7.50 per mooncake, it's better to order than to make the cakes myself especially since the cakes are not made with any preservatives or coloring. I know Doris and she makes quality home-made cakes so you can ask her about birthday cakes and stuff. The mooncakes are also very low-sugar and oil so you can taste the real flavor of the taro. If you love taro (and I do), you'll love these mooncakes.

Doris makes them when she gets the orders so the mooncakes are always fresh. Pop them in the oven to crisp the crust. Enjoy with a light Chinese tea while gazing at the moon. Wish I have some now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Okra & Belly Pork Rolls


This started out as yakitori, after a comment today from Camemberu about my post on Nanbentai, Singapore. However, the butcher spoilt it by slicing the belly pork too thick and it was too late to freeze and slice the pork again. Since things were not going according to plan, I didn't bother to fire up the grill and so pan-fried these rolls instead.

But what a surprise. The rolls were very tasty and Wey ate like a wolf tonight. Our appetites have been rather poor recently so I bought 40 meat and chives suijiao dumplings from Mrs Lee in Old Foh San (I forget the name of the coffee shop but it's in the middle) and together with the rolls, a cold spicy mushroom dish and a light watercress soup, Wey announced that dinner was "One of the best yet, mom." That boy. I live to please his stomach.

I added this and that as I cooked, putting in whatever I thought the rolls would need. If the pork belly were cut thinner, it would've been easier to wrap the rolls neatly. Ah well. You get the idea. You'd think that the rolls would taste like gyuniku negimaki but they don't. If looks are important, trim the ends off the okras and cut each into half after they are done. Very good with plain rice and a glass of wine.


Okra & Belly Pork Rolls (serves 4 to 6 as an appetiser)
12 medium okras (use thick asparagus if you can afford them)
6 long thin slices (not paper thin but more like regular bacon rashers) of fresh belly pork, no skin
1 T mirin
1 T light soy sauce
2 t caster sugar
1. Mix the mirin, soy sauce and sugar until sugar is dissolved and marinade the pork with it for 1 hour.
2. Blanch the okra until just cooked. Let cool.
3. Cut each slice of belly pork into 2 and wrap a slice of pork around each okra. I forgot that meat will shrink when cooked but you've been informed so do wrap the okra from tip to tail generously.
4. Heat a frying pan and add 1 T veggie oil. Fry the rolls in high heat, turning once. If there's any marinade liquid left in the bowl, pour that onto the rolls too.
5. Mix 1 t dark soy sauce, 1 T mirin, 1/2t dashi granules and 2 T hot water and pour over the rolls, moving the rolls so that they are covered with the sauce. Heat is at high. Sauce will thicken and darken the rolls. Plate up and serve immediately. If like, trim the ends of the okras and slice each okra into half.

Monday, August 22, 2011

STAR'S Cocoa & Co Promotion


Accompanied by STAR's communications manager Samantha and her assistant Iris, digital consultant/blogger Jackie and her assistant, a reporter from the Borneo Post and another from Utusan Borneo, my Hub and I had an enjoyable evening at Peppino, Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa last Friday evening.

As you know, I am an old schooler when it comes to reviewing restaurants: I like to pay my own meals so that I don't have to be nice. No, I don't have to go incognito because I am incognito, unlike Francois Simon or those powerful food critics who wear a sauce pot to restaurants so that they aren't recognized. On the few occasions that I was invited to taste new products and menu, if I have not blogged about them, it's because I didn't want to. So when Samantha asked for a sincere review of the latest promotion in their award-winning Italian restaurant, Peppino, I accepted her invitation. Besides, Peppino is among the top 3 fine dining restaurants in KK and STAR, well, it's consistently voted as the best resort hotel every year. Or so. STAR was where Hub and I had our wedding reception, among the few first couples to do so because the hotel had just opened, so it has a very special place in my heart.

Chef Coco Salvatore is Sicilian and has worked in 5-star hotels around the world so what a great idea it is to create some dishes that can literally live up to his name. Chef Coco's latest creation, Cocoa & Co, consists of a soup, two starters, four pasta dishes and three main dishes, all of which feature cocoa, tea and coffee.

My starter was unusual, a little cake flavored with porcini:


Porcini mushroom cake with white chocolate sauce, RM48/USD16.

The cake was warm, soft, fine and delicious and the porcini flavor was subtle which was perfect for a cake. The white chocolate sauce went well with it but also made it seemed more like a savory dessert, which kind of confused me. I enjoyed it but it was only the size of a small cupcake--I can easily scarf 3 of these in one or two mouthfuls. I think that this cake would be better as part of a main or maybe paired with something so that the tiny cake is not so lonely looking and tasting.

Cocoa pasta roll filled with ricotta cheese and eggplant mousse with pecorino sauce, RM38/UDS13. 

Hub's starter. This was seriously good, with all my favorite ingredients. The pasta was faintly flavored with cocoa and all the ingredients had an equal chance to shine.

Fine dining requires patience and good company because the courses are prepared individually and that means a long wait. I misunderstood the menu and thought that we were to order either a pasta or a main so  Hub and I ended up eating a lot of bread (which were not outstanding) while the others ate their pasta dishes before the main.


Not exactly pretty as all brown food are except chocolate cakes but this risotto was creamy and tasty (based on a spoonful I took from Jackie), flavored by the cheese and the dark chocolate, RM58/USD19.

Cocoa ribbons with porcini and pumpkin got the thumbs up from other diners, RM59/USD19.

Sea bass with coffee powder & ginger enhanced bread, RM58/USD19.

My main was not impressive. The two medallions of sea bass were fresh but overdone and the flavor was rather insipid. I didn't quite taste the coffee powder or the ginger either but I liked the tangy sauce, what little bit there was, and the mung beans paired beautifully with the fish.

Baked duck croiset with Kenyan beans& orange tea enhanced lasagna, RM48/USD16.  

Now I have no idea what a croiset is but this quarter of a duck was terrific: full of flavor and aroma and the leg was so tender ("Like 8-jewelled duck" Hub said) that the meat could be flaked off the bone yet was not dry. The breast though would've been better slightly less done. I forgot to taste the orange-flavored lasagna but this is a dish I wish I can cook.

Chocolate fondue and ice cream.

For such a fine dinner, the chocolate fondue was a let-down because really, even my Hub can pull that off. However, it's complimentary during this promotion period for diners spending RM100 and above per table.

Unlike top food critics who detest the presence of chefs when they dine (so as not to cloud their judgement), I love to chat with chefs so when Chef Coco appeared at our table, we talked about truffles and the sourcing of western food ingredients in China (his previous posting was a hotel in Qingtao, China). Did you know that Yunnan province in China produces tons of exotic wild mushrooms and truffles? And that they have porcini mushrooms in China too? Instead of dried porcini from Italy, Chef Coco uses fresh frozen porcini from France. That could explain why the flavor is not so pronounced, we agreed.

Chef Coco's dishes are cooked with real skills, creativity and attention to ingredients and presentation. The inventive idea of using coffee and cocoa gave the pasta an interesting and fun element but the flavorings were too subtle to make a big difference to food that's already good. Although the portions for fine dining is always 'less is more' and all that but if I was paying, I'd think less is still less. Unless I'm paying in Aussie dollars but in ringgit, ouch.

Peppino is a chic and swanky restaurant that serves modern Italian fare. I haven't been there for quite a while and forgot to look at their regular menu but I assume that you can get classic Italian dishes, with a strong touch of Italian nouvelle. I like that the tables are not too near each other and the music is not intrusive. The service is excellent, a bit slow on busy days. If Donovan is attending to you, his affable attention and efficiency will make make your dinner even more enjoyable.

Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa,
20 Jalan Aru, Tanjung Aru
Kota Kinabalu
Tel: (6088) 327 888
Fax: (6088) 327 878

Cocoa & Co promotion menu is available from 15th August to 15th September 2011.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scrambled Eggs With Shao Xing Wine


The salient thing about this dish is that the eggs must be soft, fluffy and tender. To be so, the eggs must be underdone and you can tell that they are if liquid seeps from the scrambled eggs upon cooling. The other important thing of course is that the eggs must have the aroma of that key Chinese ingredient, Shao Xing wine. Actually Shao Xing is the name of the region where the wine is made, such as Burgundy in France, and the type of wine is hua tiao jiu but I guess it's too confusing and choppy to say "Shao Xing hua tiao jiu". Shao Xing hua tiao wine and rice wine are the two most essential cooking wines for Chinese cooking, hua tiao being used mostly in mid-China (Shanghai, Nanjing etc) and rice wine in Southern China.

I caught the end of a Taiwanese cooking show on TV last week so this recipe is a guesstimate. Wey wouldn't stop eating the eggs I fried for dinner and then, later in the night, he cooked the same thing himself but omitted the prawns because he's not a seafood person. The next day, straight after school, he cooked it twice, each time using two eggs. Then the next day, he did it again, adjusting the amount of wine and the doneness of the eggs. I couldn't believe it when the next day, he cooked the same thing again, but this time only once. That's still less than the 4 dozen eggs that Gaston ate daily but I was concerned that Wey will turn into a barge since he's already large (I know, it's called plagarism, somebody just reminded me). Wey thinks that one teaspoon of wine to two eggs is just nice but I like the flavor more subtle. This is a humble home dish but it does take a bit of practice to get it right. The eggs, according to the chef, must be beaten just before frying or they won't be as tender. Control of the heat is crucial. Cook with a very hot wok and stir the eggs for only a couple of seconds. Plate up when eggs are still underdone. There shouldn't be any brown bits. Be prepared to eat lots of eggs if you don't get it right.

Scrambled Eggs With Shao Xing Wine
3 medium-sized eggs
3 or 4 medium to large prawns 
2 T spring onions/scallions, sliced finely
3/4 to 1 t Shao Xing hua tiao wine (or more, to your liking)
salt & white pepper to taste
veg oil

1. Peel the prawns, remove dirt vein, slit into half lengthwise and season with a slight pinch of salt and some white pepper.
2. Put a drizzle of oil into a heated wok and fry the prawns for about 30 to 40 seconds, until just cooked. Remove onto plate.
3. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the wine, a tiny pinch of salt and some white pepper and beat with a fork or pair of chopsticks (about 12 strokes; do not overbeat). Add 1 heaped spoonful of chopped scallions and the cooked prawns, stir.


4. Put 3 T oil (more if you dare) into a hot wok and when smoke begins to rise, pour all the egg mixture into the center of the wok. The sides of the egg will bubble and puff. Stir the eggs quickly in big circles around the wok and plate up before the eggs are fully set. The eggs should be in large pieces and underdone with no sign of browning or burning. Sprinkle remaining scallions over and serve immediately. Goes with rice.



Monday, August 15, 2011

No Manners

I was googling images of my red lentils and barley soup and found it but it was linked to another website, not mine! This is not the first website that copied my posts. Your posts might be stolen too. I find it so irritating and downright rude of people who copy other people's work and get the credit for it.  I cooked, took photos and spent time posting my recipes. I feel robbed. I wanted to close this blog.

Apparently the reason people steal other people's work is to make money from the advertisements. They usually maintain many websites using material from other people. You can tell they intentionally copy for their gain because they will not have personal info and contact on their blogs. (whatever that means), shame on you.

fazzoletti di seta al pesto


Silk handkerchiefs with pesto, something I've always wanted to make but never did because making my own pasta seems like a lot of work. But it really isn't, once you get past the kneading. Passing the dough through the pasta machine is fun. I enjoy holding the smooth pasta that rolls out of the machine. I feel sort of triumphant now because I've only ever made pasta twice before in all these years. As you know, my son Wey is the pasta guy in the family while son Ming is the risotto guy so I don't bother with these two dishes.

But I have 12 egg yolks in my fridge from my pavlova experiments and I made a jar of pesto last week with my last bit of pecorino cheese (love it!) from Rome (and here). Pasta with pesto is a dish we often eat at home because there's always a jar of home-made pesto (there's always basil in my backyard) and Wey loves pesto. I thought pesto is the same with any pasta but I was wrong. Fazzoletti pesto is very delicious. I'm surprised. One handkerchief is a silky mouthful and I prefer fazzoletti pasta to trofie because trofie is too fine in the mouth. I don't like things that are too fine and give a 'loose' mouthfeel, such as quinoa and couscous. Rice is different. Long grain rice sticks together although not as much as short grain or glutinous rice. Dutch rice is bad, tastes totally 'loose' and impossible to pick up with chopsticks.

When cooking the fazzoletti pasta, it's best to put them into the boiling water piece by piece, not in a handful like I did. If you grabbed a handful, the hankies'll end up crumpled and looking like used hankies. Also, make sure your pot is big so that the hankies don't get squashed. I served the fazzoletti with thyme-flavored pork schnitzel, a green salad and a beautiful inexpensive Chenin blanc and we were blissfully contented.

This dish is best served immediately because the pasta is so thin it dries and hardens quickly.



Fazzoletti Di Seta Al Pesto
300 gm fine ordinary flour, sifted
2 medium eggs + 3 yolks (or 3 large eggs)
basil leaves & toasted pine nuts for garnish
1. Knead (machine or hand) until smooth. The dough will be very firm. If you find it hard to knead, you can add a spoonful of water or 1 teaspoon of olive oil like I did.
2. Cover and rest the dough for 1/2 to 1 hour.
3. Dust the work surface with some flour, break 1/4 of the dough and pass it throught a pasta machine using the largest setting and gradually proceed to the smaller settings. I ended with No. 5 on my machine but I think No. 6 is better, thinner. The pasta sheets should be thin or they'll not live up to their name. They also should be small or they'll be too much of a mouthful. Coaster size is good.
4. Boil a large pot of water, add salt (quite a bit) and drop the pasta in, making sure they are flat and not crumpled. They need just a couple of minutes; cook them until just el dente.
5. Pour away the water, leaving about 4 tablespoon (or reserve some in a bowl) and add about 5 tablespoons or more pesto, using more pasta water or EVOO to toss if necessary. Toss well, plate up and garnish with fresh basil and pine nuts. Serve hot/warm.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sweet Success: Pavlova


I put this pav into the oven and heard myself say: Please don't fall and please please don't weep. When 30 minutes had passed and there were no signs of weeping, I was quite hopeful that this time the pav would be a success. I was still prepared for it to deflate though. But the pav held its shape and did not spread out like my previous attempts and I knew the chance was good that I finally nailed my first successful pavlova.

It was a joyous moment when I took the pav out of the oven. It didn't sink and the crust was crispy so I was running around like I won the lottery. If I have to fault it, I think it tasted a bit too eggy at first bite.  The crust could be thicker. I also wish that I had made two pavs instead of one for the same amount of ingredients so that there's more crust and so that I can stack the pavs with more fruits in each layer. The pav went so fast--it was my sister's birthday and my nieces loved the pav--that I couldn't get enough shots (photos) of it.


I'm not sure exactly what I did right but I did make a couple of big tweaks:

1) It is impossible to beat the sugar in by the spoonful slowly without over beating the whites because there was so much sugar to incorporate. By the time all the sugar is in, the egg whites are already beaten very stiff.

When Hub got me my Kenwood Major mixer 23 years ago, I spent one Saturday afternoon making about 6 sponge cakes. I WAS possessed. I just couldn't get the sponge right. Each cake went into the oven looking puffed and light but came out flat and hard. Our dog turned its head the other way when the failed cakes were thrown in his direction. And then the light bulb in my head suddenly lighted: the Major is a much more powerful machine than the Chef which I had been using prior to that. Could it be that the whites were over-beaten?

The answer was yes, and the next sponge cake I made was a success.

I figured that maybe it's the same thing with my pavs. So instead of beating the whites at full speed, I had the machine at half speed (4 on the dial) and that gave me more time to add the sugar by the spoonful. I stopped the machine when the whites looked like they had just reached the stiff peaks stage.

2) I have a cool oven so this time, it was preheated to 200 C and reduced to 130 C when the pav was put inside. It baked at that temperature for 1 hour after which the heat was reduced to 120 C for another hour, just to be sure the inside was dried out.

3) I added cream of tartar, just to help the egg whites rise and stay stiff. I also added twice the amount of corn starch to help stabilise the whites. I don't think that these two ingredients made much difference because most recipes do not call for cream of tartar and that much corn starch.

I think that my previous attempts failed because the egg whites were over beaten and couldn't hold their shape for the duration of the baking time. The weeping, I think, was the result of a cool oven as some of you have pointed out. I think the pav needs a hot temperature initially to set the sugar and stop it from seeping out of the meringue.

Into the oven at 200 C.

After 1/2 hour, tiny cracks appeared but no weeping.

1 1/2 hours later, still no weeping but there's a drop of sugar syrup bottom left.

Decorating the pav. Phew. Btw, do not rest your spatula on the meringue when taking photos. The meringue is very delicate and will be compressed.

I was very encouraged by this post by Wendy who lives in Malaysia too. Her pav looks beautiful and crusty, so humidity is not the problem. All pav recipes are nearly the same but I like Wendy's recipe which calls for slightly less sugar, 50 gm for each egg white. Here's my recipe adapted from Wendy's:

4 large egg whites, room temperature
200 gm castor sugar
2 T cornstarch (Wendy used 1 T)
1/2 t cream of tartar (optional)
1 t white vinegar
1 t pure vanilla extract

Topping: 1 1/2 to 2 cups dairy cream and tart fruits such as berries.

1. Oven at 200 C (each oven is different; adjust accordingly). Put a piece of baking paper on a tray. You can draw a circle of about 8"/20 cm on the paper but I didn't bother.

2. Beat the egg whites until very foamy. Add sugar by the spoonful. If you are using the Kenwood Major mixer, use speed 4 on the dial.

3. When all the sugar is added, the whites should be quite stiff. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the whites, beat for 5 seconds, add the vinegar and the vanilla, beat another 5 seconds or fold with a rubber spatula.

4. Working quickly, shape the meringue on the baking paper, making a slight rim around the pav*.

5. Put the tray with the pav into the oven, close the oven door and decrease the temp to 130 C (I would use 140 C next time to get a thicker crust). Bake 1 hour then lower the temp to 120 C and bake another hour.

6. Switch off the heat, leave the oven door slightly ajar and let the pav cool thoroughly before removing from the oven. I cut the baking paper around the pav; didn't try to remove it.

7. Whip the dairy cream, spread it on top of the pav and decorate with fruits, preferably berries. When serving, remember to slice the base between the pav and the paper so that you don't serve the paper along with the pav.

*What I'll do differently next time is make two thinner layers of meringue because then I'll get more crust and more fruits can be added to cut the sweetness.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weepy Pavs

Hi. I'm Terri, a food blogger and a self-appointed food writer but I am NOT able to make a pavlova. That's right, I can make a 4-tier wedding cake and pizzas so good that you think only a pizzaiola can make but I can't make a silly pavlova.

Years ago, I tried making pavs and both times they collapsed dramatically towards the end of the baking time.  One hour after baking, right on the dot, the pavs sank in the oven right before my eyes. Twice. Those attempts traumatized me enough to not try making macarons, another meringue dessert. A couple of months ago, at the request of my niece, I made my third pav. Like the first two, the third pav was also dramatic to the end. Instead of collapsing, it wept a ring of sugar syrup around itself. It was also 1/2 the original height. I told myself that I'll never make a pav again. I don't like meringue in the first place and how good can a pav taste anyway. It's just egg whites, sugar and air.

Then a few days ago I had lunch at a friend's house and L brought out a kiwi pav. I was unconvinced at first look because it was rather flat and the color was tan, not white. I shoved a spoonful of the pav into my mouth. Light crusty bite. Soft center. I liked it. No, I loved it. I begged L for the recipe but unfortunately she couldn't recall which recipe she used out of the hundreds that are on the Net. I understand because it happens to me too. I copy recipes and forget to note the source and loose them. At our age, my friends and I are at the point where we often stop mid-sentence "Now what was I saying??" Usually somebody else answers before I do. Sometimes I suspect that my friends are testing me.

With the humidity myth dispelled (it has been extra humid the last 2 weeks) by L, I knew I had to make a pav again. I typed "Why does my pavlova weep?" on my computer and spent an afternoon reading all the comments, including those on forums. Fully informed, I set to work with my newly-repaired mixer (yes, thanks to Yi's friend Kimmei who brought the parts back last week) and the meringue was beautiful.

Satiny. Glossy. Stiff. Higher, puffier and more dramatic than Rosmah's bouffant.

Half an hour into the baking (170 C preheat, down to 130 C during baking), the same thing happened again. Tell me about the sinking feeling! I baked the pavs on wire racks because I wanted the hot air to circulate. Big mistake because the melted sugar made a mess.

I wanted to make a layered pav, two layers of meringue and two layers of fruit and cream. Could I still use this sticky mess?

NO. The pavs were heavy and sticky and yukky.

Why do meringues weep? Based on what I read, a meringue weeps because:

1. It is overbaked. But I baked my pavs for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 130 C, then switched off the heat and let them cool in the oven. The recommended time is 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours in all the recipes.

2. It is underbaked. I suspect this is the answer because my pav was heavy and sticky inside. But I stuck to the instructions!

3. The sugar must be fine, added to the whites by the spoonful and fully dissolved. I did use castor sugar, added the sugar one spoonful at a time and tested the meringue with my fingers.

4. Too much sugar. I did reduce sugar the first 3 times but this time I didn't.

5. Too little sugar. No way. I used 1/4 cup per egg white, as recommended by every successful pavlova maker.

6. Eggs are too fresh; best results are with eggs 1 week old. Huh?  As long as the egg whites are beaten to the stiff peaks stage they should be good?

I am going crazy. I know I am because I'm going to make my 5th attempt. And I'll keep attempting until I get a perfect pavlova. It has to be high, light creamy not tan color, crusty outside and tender not soft and sticky or hard and dry inside. Wish me luck. If I don't get it right, this blog'll never move on.

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