Crime Novels by Barclay Linwood

Barclay Linwood

Like any Mother. I’m on call 24 hours with no days off or sick leave. So my friends assumed that I never have time for reading because looking after my children takes up literally all of my time. But actually, I do read. I didn’t know Crimes books are so addictive until I discovered them. I’ve been reading a lot of them for the last three years.

One of my favorite authors is Barclay Linwood – a Canadian writer.  The reason why I love his books is because the main characters in his books are not necessarily a superhero, an FBI agent, or a detective in the Police force. They are just very ordinary people like an English teacher, a gardener…. but they all have amazing stories. So, basically, crime novels can also be very interesting with characters that are just ordinary people who are not aligned with law enforcement in any manner.

The first book I read was No time for goodbye, which I bought on Amazon.com. It was really a page-turning novel, and I only put it down after reading the first 300 pages. And one after another, I finished all of his books in 2 weeks. And now, I’m on his latest book in the series, Promise Fall Trilogy: The Twenty-Three. And it’s gonna be a late night for me again because Barclay Linwood’s books are simply too addictive!

Raisin cupcake with cream cheese frosting

Normally, the cupcake was not my cup of tea. But with this recipe, cupcake never tastes better. It is so moist and super delicious, and the fragrance of the orange makes the cupcake so special. I guarantee you will love it after trying.

Here are the ingredients for the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup of golden raisin
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup of  granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3⁄4 cup half-and-half or 3⁄4 cup milk

Instructions:

Set oven to 325 degrees F. Line 16 standard-size muffin cups. In a saucepan, bring raisins and rum just to a simmer over medium heat; remove from heat. In a small bowl combine the flour with baking powder and cinnamon. In another bowl beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Alternately stir in flour mixture and milk into butter mixture beginning and ending with flour mixture. Drain raisins and discard soaking liquid, then stir raisins into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan filling three-quarters full. Bake cupcakes about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and cupcakes test done. Cool then transfer to a rack.

This is how the cupcakes look like before frosting:

Cream cheese frosting:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened (113g)
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened (brick-style, not spreadable) (226g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar* (500g)

Instructions

  • Combine butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or you may use an electric mixer) and beat until creamy, well-combined, and lump-free.
  • Add vanilla extract and salt and stir well to combine.
  • With the mixer on low, gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined.
  • Use to frost completely cooled cake or cupcakes.

You can find out more about making cream cheese frosting as this link :https://sugarspunrun.com/cream-cheese-frosting/

Melt – in – mouth pineapple tarts

Pineapple tarts are very popular during Chinese New Year and other festive holidays in Malaysia. It takes a lot of time and effort to make but a very short time to consume. It’s all gone at the blink of an eye; but it’s worth the effort as it makes a great gift to friends and relatives. If you really love somebody, give them your homemade pineapple tarts. I noticed that pineapple tarts has become very popular on the internet recently; some refer to it as Taiwanese Pinenapple Tarts.  So, today I would like to share the recipe which has been circulated in my family for many years. It is quite similar to this recipe but with just a few minor differences in the ingredients. All my friends and relatives who were given my pineapple tarts said they are seriously delicious. 

To make these pineapple tarts, you’ll need pineapple jam and the pastry.

STEP #1:  Making the pineapple jam.

I think this recipe from Huang Kitchen gives you the best pineapple jam ever; right texture with a delicious taste. Here is the link: http://www.huangkitchen.com/pineapple-jam

  • This are the ingredients you’re going to need:
    pineapples, large (2 ripe pineapples, 3 half-ripe pineapples)
  • 350 grams of granulated sugar to taste
  • lemon – squeezed for the juice
  • cinnamon sticks
  • star anise
  • cloves
  • pandan leaves tied into a knot
     Please follow the steps below:
  • Cut the pineapple into four pieces, lengthwise.
  • Grate the pineapples, piece by piece using the largest holes on the box grater and discard the core (the tough part). It is recommended to wear plastic gloves to protect your hands from the acidity of the pineapples.
  • When finished grating, remove the box grater and drain the grated pineapples in the colander. Safe the pineapple juice in the large mixing bowl for later use.
  • Add in the knotted pandan leaves, about 130 g of the sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves.
  • Start adding the pineapple juice, a little at a time until all the juice has boiled away. (or you can substitute it with 100 ml of golden syrup)
  • The pineapple juice will start to evaporate and the pineapple mixture will start to look dry and its colour should be darker.
  • Then, turn the heat to LOW and continue cooking until the mixture looks dry and sticky. Add in the rest of the sugar and adjust the sweetness towards the end of the cooking.
  • Mix and stir well until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pineapple jam turns golden brown in colour. Stir the mixture, preferably every 5 minutes especially towards the end of the cooking. Stirring constantly and continuously using a wooden spoon is important to avoid burning the jam. And we’re done!
  • After the jam has cooled completely, discard the spices and pandan leaves.
  • This recipe will yield 1kg of jam
  • Roll the pineapple jam into a small ball 10 g; keep refrigerated until ready to use.

 

STEP #2: Making the dough

  • 500 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100 g Confectioner Sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
  • 3 Large egg yolks + 1 egg white + 4 tbsp of water (*1)
  • 700 g all purpose flour, sifted
  • 100 g corn flour, sifted
  • 3 large eggs + 3 tbsp of milk,  lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 50 g of cloves for decorating

Please follow these steps below:

  • In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar, salt and mix well until they are well combined.
  • Add in the egg yolks + egg white (*1), mix well, then add vanilla extract / vanilla bean paste and continue mixing until well combined.
  • Then sift in the flour, corn flour, and mix well. Then knead lightly with your hand to form a soft dough. and then keep refrigerated for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. and line baking tray with parchment paper
  • Get ready to roll the dough. Divide the dough into small balls 15 g each
  • Flatten the ball with your palm, place the pineapple jam ball in the center of the dough. Wrap and seal well. Lightly roll the dough into a  small ball, then shape the dough into an oval shape. (If you’re not up to shaping the tarts, then just roll it up, flatten the dough slightly, egg-wash them and bake until golden in color )
  • Snip the surface of the pastry with a small scissors to form a spiky look , then insert a clove into one end.
  • Continue the whole process with the rest of the dough and pineapple jam.
  • Brush the pastry with the egg wash.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-22 mins or until they are light golden.
  • Let them cool down completely on a cooling rack.

Place the cool pineapple tarts in small baking cup and store it in an airtight cookies jar.

Bon appetite!

Note: please use a good quality butter for better taste. 

 

The Taaras Resort – a Hidden Gem!

If anyone asked me what’s my favorite type of holiday destination, I would, without any hesitation whatsoever say “somewhere where there’s a beach!” I just love resorts where I can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and the feeling of soft white sand under my feet as I stroll along the beach. With the heat of the sun beating down on my skin and the cool sea breeze blowing on my face and through my hair, I always feel like I am in paradise as I listen to the sound of glittering waves gently crashing onto the shoreline. I have been to many beach resorts, but the beach at The Taaras Resort is just truly magnificent!  No matter how I describe it, I can never really capture the spellbound beauty which The Taaras Resort really holds. I loved it. My husband loved it. And my kids were crazy about it.

So where is the Taaras?

‘The Taaras’ is a bespoke Private Beach Resort, tucked away and hidden from the outside world on a small Island found just off the unspoilt East Coast of tropical Malaysia. Considered to be one of the most beautiful island locations in the South China Sea, the resort found on one of the most spectacular bays in Redang island, surrounded by one of the bluest oceans on earth.  Redang is located 45 km off the coast of Kuala Terengganu and is the largest among a group of Islands dotting the north east coast of Malaysia and surrounded by the South China Sea.

And how to get there ?

  1. By Land: Getting to Redang Island from Kuala Lumpur by bus and coaches is one of the convenient way. All express bus and coaches are available daily via the central bus terminal for eastern region (Hentian Putra Station) located nearby PWTC. The journey will take about 7-8 hours with few stops and the final stop will be at the Kuala Terengganu Terminal (MPKT). The Kuala Terengganu Shah Bandar Jetty will be 5 minutes away if you opt for public ferry transfer to the Redang Island.
  2. By air: You can book a charter flight with Berjaya Airlines www.berjaya-air.com flying directly from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur to Redang Island. Or flying with local airlines such as MAS or Air Asia.
  3. By private boat transfer: TheTaaras offers private boat transfer (chargeable) to  shorten  your travel time to Redang Island. They also has their own lounge at the airport for their customer to refresh while waiting for transportation to the island.

We had a good deal booking with Agoda www.agoda.com. Our villa was big and nice with sea view, easily access to the beach, the pool and restaurants. If you prefer to book directly with The Taaras I think you can do so. And don’t forget to check with them for their closing period. It is closed from November to February every year.

Everything has its pros and cons. The food is a minus point for the whole trip. If you want to enjoy good food there I’m afraid that’s the thing that the resort can’t provide. I’m not saying it was bad but it just doesn’t meet the 5 stars standards. The only good meal in a day was breakfast. Every lunch and dinner we had to wait at least 1 hour, sometimes 1 and half hour for the food to arrive. After 2 days we got fed up, we looked up on the internet and found a local restaurant which is just 5 minutes walk distance from the hotel with much nicer and cheaper food. Since then, that local restaurant became our favorite.

Over all, it was a very memorable trip. The experience was fantastic. We love the place, the beach and we definitely be back there again soon.

 

My Secret Chicken Stew Recipe

secret chicken stew recipe

This is actually my family’s recipe which is extremely nice to eat on a cold day, but of course, is equally good to have any day! You can either eat it with French loaf or rice. This is a stew, full of not only chicken and potatoes but with carrots, onions, mushrooms, and mixed herbs. It is perfectly fine to substitute chicken broth for chicken stock, and beef shin for chicken if you prefer a beef stew!

Here’s what you need…

  • 1.5 kg of chicken thigh (or breast meat)
  • 200 grams of sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chop into small cubes
  • 2 carrots, chop into 1 inch thick pieces
  • 3 medium sized potatoes, cut into 4 quarters
  • 1 can of chicken broth
  • 2 cans of stew diced tomatoes (10 ounces)
  • 10 grams of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp of dried thyme)
  • 10 grams of fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp of dried rosemary)
  • 100 grams chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 4 small chopped shallots
  • 5 tablespoons of ketchup
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt, pepper, and sugar
  • 100ml of red wine (optional)

And this is how you cook it…

  1. Wash the chicken thighs with salt or lemon juice to get rid of the smell. Cut the thighs into 2 pieces.
  2. Season the chicken with chopped garlic, chopped shallots, a pinch of salt, sugar and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Fry the potatoes separately in a frying pan with oil until slightly brown. Set aside.
  4. In a large pot, add in oil and saute the chopped onions, thyme, rosemary and carrots together until slightly brown. Add in the seasoned chicken and keep stirring for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add in diced tomatoes, chicken broth, red wine, ketchup. Stir well and bring it to the boil.  You can add in 1 cup of water to make sure everything in the pot is covered with water.
  6. Add in the potatoes.
  7. Let it simmer on low fire for 1 to 2 hours and finally, add in the sliced mushrooms and chopped celery and let it simmer for another 15 mins.
  8. Mix the cornstarch with water and pour it into the pot and stir well to increase the thickness of the sauce. You can skip this step if you don’t want it too viscous. Let it come to the boil and it is just about ready for serving.
  9. Add additional salt or sugar to suit your taste and you’re good to go.
  10. Serve hot with French loaf or white rice.

Bon appetite!