Monday, April 19, 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

... try and try again"

Today, I managed to do a roll-over* at my Pilates mat class. I've been struggling with this exercise in past classes and have never managed to do a successful roll over on my own. So, when my Pilates instructor told us to do the roll over exercise three-quarters way through the class, I mentally groaned and thought to myself "Oh no...". Anyway, I gave it a go. To my utmost surprise, I actually managed to perform this exercise on my first attempt. I could not believe it. It was probably not the most graceful roll over, and yes, I needed to use my hands to support my buttocks to assist the roll over - but I did it! I still have to keep working on it to refine my technique and learn to roll down properly but after a taste of success today, I am confident that I will be able to master this exercise not too far in the future.

The key to success is to keep trying, keep practicing, keep going. And when success finally comes, it will taste so much sweeter because of all the sweat (literally, in this case) and tears (for all the aching muscles after each class).

So whether it's trying out a Pilates exercise, or learning to ride a bike, or sitting for a test, or going for a job interview, or securing a business deal, if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Don't give up. Success comes to those who work at it!

* Generally, a roll over exercise involves lying on your back with your hands by your side and extending your legs upwards at a 90 degree angle. Using your abdominal muscles, you then draw your hips and legs over your head until your legs are parallel to your chest. Deepening your abdominal muscles, roll onto the broad part of your shoulder. Slowly roll down, using abdominal control to peel down one vertebrae at a time.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Risotto with Prawn and Bacon

It's been a while since I experimented with new recipes. I've always been a big fan of paella and risotto. Maybe it's the Asian in me - rice is such a big part of my life. I've been wanting to cook a paella or risotto dish for a while but was not able to find the medium grain Arborio rice in Malaysian supermarkets. The Arborio rice has a high level of starch which absorbs many times its weight in liquid, resulting in a soft and creamy texture. So, on my last trip to Australia, I bought a pack of Riviana Arborio rice. To be honest, I was quite surprised at how easy it is to cook risotto. However, if you're looking for a quick dish, then this is not it as it requires a fairly long cooking time and constant stirring. If you have the time and patience, this dish is worth it. As with all recipes, you can substitute the ingredients according to your fancy.

Ingredients (serves 4-5)
2 tablespoon olive oil
30 gm butter
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
600 grams streaky bacon (or as much or as little as you want)
600 grams prawns, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper (again, as much or as little as you want)
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups stock, simmered (you can use chicken or a combination of stock. Since I was cooking fresh prawns, I used the prawn shell and head to boil into about 1.5-2 cups of stock. I used chicken stock for the rest)
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Basil or Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large heavy based saucepan. Fry about 1/3 of the bacon until crispy and set aside. Note, since I used streaky bacon, it was not necessary to add oil as the bacon will ooze its own fat. Add a little olive oil and stir fry the prawns until it's pink. Remove and set aside.

Heat the rest of the olive oil and butter in the pan. Add the onions and stir fry for a few seconds. Then add the garlic and the remaining bacon and fry for about 3 minutes. Stir in the Arborio rice and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or so, until the rice slightly colours, stirring regularly. Add the white wine and simmer to absorb the liquid, again, stirring frequently (Note: this is a constant theme when cooking risotto!).

Begin adding stock, one cup at a time. I found it best to add the stock slowly, stirring well and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid, before continuing adding the stock. So, for one cup, it may take about 2-3 pours. Continue to do so until the you have finished adding all 4 cups of stock, making sure that you stir dilligently! You will see the arborio grow plumper as the rice grains absorb the flavourful liquid. After you have added all 4 cups of stock, taste the risotto. If the rice is still crunchy, you may need to add a little more water or stock until the rice is fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and basil/parsley. Dish out the risotto and add the crispy bacon and prawn. Enjoy the fruit of your labour!

I've eaten risotto at restaurants where the risotto is way too mushy and is served in a bed of starchy liquid. Personally, I prefer my risotto like this - you can see each plump and juicy individual grain.

Rice is born in water and must die in wine.
Italian Proverb

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen!

This morning as we took Kess for a morning walk, we were greeted by the sight of a rainbow. Now, in the days of Noah (Genesis 9:13) the rainbow was given as a sign of God's covenant with His people after the great flood that destroyed the whole earth, all except for the people and creatures on Noah's ark. The rainbow was God's covenant that a flood would never again destroy the earth.

On this Easter morning, the rainbow reminded me of more than just God's promise not to destroy the earth. The rainbow was a symbol of God's redemption for mankind through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus, who bore no sin died on the cross for mankind's sin. Yet the story does not end there. If it did, there is no redemption for us. Jesus is risen! Death could not hold the Son of God in its grip. So, we have eternal life because our Saviour conquered sin and death on that Easter Sunday.