Joy Division

These days, we don’t tidy up our homes anymore, we Marie Kondo them. The decluttering guru who literally wrote the book on the subject – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising – has millions of fans all considering which of their belongings to keep or discard by answering the question, “Does it spark joy?“

Kondo apparently applies the same attention and simplicity in organising and cleaning to her cooking – she told TODAY Food, “If time allows, it does spark joy when my food is arranged in a pretty way.”

The Recipe: Storage boxes and cubbies are indispensable in the KonMari method, and they have inspired our cake here. It’s based on the traditional British Battenberg (also spelled Battenburg) cake, which is assembled with two colours of sponge, sandwiched together in a chequered pattern with apricot jam and covered in marzipan.

Now, almond paste is not everyone’s cup of tea, so we went with a vanilla butter-cream cheese icing instead. However, the cakes are flavoured: the green one with edamame beans and the white with haw flakes, the thin dark pink sweet and sour candy wafers that are a favourite of many.

The pattern should have perfect straight edges but as you can see, our cake is a little wonky. It still sparks joy and we’re sure Marie Kondo would have no problem with that.

Serves 6-8

110g butter, softened
110g caster sugar
110g (2 medium) eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp milk
200g fresh edamame in pods
30g haw flakes, cut into strips

Butter-cream cheese icing
75g unsalted butter, soft but still cold
50g cream cheese, soft
285g icing sugar, sifted
2-3 tbsp milk
¾ tsp vanilla extract

Grease and line two 20cm by 10cm loaf tins. Preheat oven to 170°C.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together directly into the batter and fold in. The batter should have a soft dropping consistency. If it is too firm, add a little milk. Divide the mixture equally between two bowls.

To make edamame purée, steam about 200g of edamame bean pods until soft. Shell them and remove the skin from the beans. Place beans in a blender or mini food processor with about ½ tbsp of water. Pulse until smooth, adding a little more water if necessary.

For the edamame cake, add about 1/4 of the batter to the puréed edamame (recipe follows) to loosen it, then combine with the rest of the batter. Scoop into one of the tins. Level the top with a spatula.

To the other portion of batter, fold in the strips of haw flakes. Scoop into the other tin. Level the top with a spatula.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until springy and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from tins and cool completely.

Make the icing
With a stand mixer or electric hand whisk, beat the butter and cream cheese until light, pale and puffy, about 5 minutes. Add half the icing sugar and beat in until well incorporated. Beat in the remaining sugar. The icing should be soft and fluffy but hold its shape. If it is too firm, add a little milk. Fold in the vanilla extract. Use as soon as possible.

Assemble the cake
Trim the edges of the cakes and cut each one in the centre along the length, ending up with four logs. Sandwich two different coloured logs next to each other with the icing. Spread more icing on top. Sandwich the other two logs but with the colours the other way around and place on top of the first pair in a chequered pattern.

Crumb coat the whole cake with the icing. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour, then spread icing all over.

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Spicy

Chrissy Teigen made her name as a model, but she is now as well-known for her bestselling cookbooks and love for food as she is for her Sports Illustrated covers. She is active on Instagram where she documents what she eats and cooks, and her vibrant, witty personality makes her relatable to her fans.

Teigen’s two cookbooks, Cravings and Cravings: Hungry for More, are filled with recipes for carb-filled comfort food, and many are inspired by her Thai mother.

The Recipe: Sweet, sour, salty and spicy are words that perfectly describe Thai dishes – and these adjectives are just as apt for Teigen. Our recipe is based on the north-eastern Thai sausage, sai krok isan, which has big, bold flavours. We serve them with a refreshing dipping sauce that packs some heat as well.

Makes 4 sausages

200g minced beef
70g chilled cooked white rice
10 cloves (about 50g) garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 red bird’s eye chillies
Banana leaf*
Cooking oil for deep-frying

Pineapple-cucumber dipping sauce
5 shallots
5 cloves garlic
100g fresh pineapple
2 red chillies, seeded
100g cucumber, seeded
50ml chilli sauce
1 tsp garam masala
100g sugar
100ml water

Cut the banana leaf into four pieces, each about 25cm x 25cm. Soften the pieces by scalding in boiling water or passing each one briefly over a flame. Set aside.

Stir the minced beef, chilled rice, garlic, salt and pepper together until the mixture becomes sticky. Divide into four portions. Form each one into a patty and press a whole bird’s eye chilli in the centre, then form into a sausage, enclosing the chilli.

Wrap each sausage tightly in a piece of banana leaf. Secure the ends with toothpicks. Let the wrapped patties sit at room temperature for about 6 hours or for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Remove the banana leaves and fry the sausages until cooked through and nicely browned. Slice on the diagonal and serve with the pineapple-cucumber dipping sauce.

Make the pineapple-cucumber dipping sauce
Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and cook the sauce for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Eco-Friendly And Local

Yasmin Rasyid is the founder of EcoKnights, a not-for-profit environmental organisation focused on sustainable development. Its goals are to raise awareness among Malaysians on environmental issues and inspire the adoption of a greener lifestyle.

One of the ways to solve the food problem, says Yasmin, is aquaponics, an organic farming method that marries aquaculture and hydroponics (soil-less growing of plants) – fish are reared in tanks, their wastewater provides food for growing plants, and the plants act as a natural filter for the water which the fish live in. This means fish and plants grow together in one integrated system.

The Recipe: Eco-conscious cooking benefits the environment, and for the most part, it is also healthier and more budget-friendly as it emphasises fresh local produce, which are used in this recipe. Inexpensive fish such as sardine or mackerel is perfect for this dish.

Try to get fresh petai in their pods and once you remove the beans and peel them, be sure to split each one in half to remove the embryo and check for tiny worms – unless you want extra protein…

Serves 4

3 red chillies
3 bird’s eye chillies (cili padi)
2 shallots, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
½ cup roasted peanuts
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 local fresh oily fish, grilled and flaked
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kicap manis)
1 cup petai (stink bean), peeled, split in half and cleaned
3 cups cooked rice
½ tsp sugar
1-2 kalamansi limes, juiced

Blend/pound the red chillies, bird’s eye chillies, shallots, garlic, belacan and roasted peanuts. Heat oil and sauté ¾ of the the ground ingredients until fragrant. Add fish flakes and salt, stirring until well-combined. Add soy sauce and petai. Cook for about a minute and add rice. Mix well until rice is well-coated. Dish out.

To the remaining ¼ of the ground ingredients, add sugar and lime juice to taste. Stir to combine well. Serve with the fried rice.

Long, Cool Refreshment

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman to be elected to the United States Congress (she turns 30 in October). The Democratic representative has been described as the most refreshing face of the American political scene today.

She is a deft user of Twitter (@AOC) and has over 3.5 million followers, which is a lot for a politician. In January, she was asked to teach her Democratic colleagues how to effectively use social media.

One of her big concerns is climate change, and she is pushing for a “New Green Deal” to combat it.

Ocasio-Cortez has an asteroid named after her and has been cast as a comic book heroine in a new publication set to hit shelves in May.

The recipe: Cold brew has become mainstream in the past few years, and it looks like its popularity will continue to grow. This beverage is made from coffee beans that have been steeped in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. The result is a less acidic and smoother coffee flavour.

Our recipe has a Malaysian flavour, with the use of the coconut – it’s sweetened with a toasted coconut-palm sugar syrup and for a white coffee, we use coconut milk.

Remember to serve your coffee in a recycled jar and use a bamboo or metal straw.

Serves 2

¼ cup medium coarse ground dark roast coffee (not instant)
3 cups boiled room-temperature water
1 cup fresh coconut milk

Toasted coconut syrup
¼ cup fresh grated coconut
¾ cup coconut water or plain water
½ cup palm sugar

Place the ground coffee and water in a large jug/French press. Cover and keep in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

Make the coconut syrup
In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the grated coconut until golden. Add the coconut water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. The liquid will have reduced a little.

Pour the coconut water through a sieve placed over a measuring jug. Press out as much liquid from the toasted grated coconut. There should be about ½ cup of coconut water.

Transfer water back to the pan. Add palm sugar. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly, 5-7 minutes.

Make the coffee
Place ice in a glass. Strain the coffee over the ice and add 2-3 teaspoons syrup, or to taste. Pour in coconut milk to taste. Stir before drinking.

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