Malaysian cooking class with Zaida & Chef Liza

The longer I reside in New Zealand, the more I yearn for traditional food from my childhood. We can get Malaysian food here, but the lack of certain ingredients and the still somewhat conservative palate of the general populous mean we don’t get the truly authentic range of foods I used to take for granted back home.

That’s why I get excited when chance arise to learn how to recreate some of these authentic dishes. I  might be hard-pressed to whip these up on a weekly basis; but these are perfect when you want to surprise and impress family and friends with your culinary prowess.

A few weekends ago, Zaida Ahmad (Auckland Malaysia Society‘s Food Programme Co-ordinator), with her guest, Chef Liza, held a special cooking class. It is clear that a culinary gene runs in Zaida’s family. Liza Zainol, Zaida’s aunt, is a celebrity chef in Malaysia. On top of running her own Culinary Academy and jetting around the world advocating Malaysian cuisine, Chef Liza also manages her own television production company making her cookery series.

‘Sedapnya!’ (It’s delicious) – Chef Liza

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A Melbourne interlude

A sample of murals around Melbourne CBD

It has been a very long time since Bren and I went away on holiday together. 15 years in fact. Before Christian, her oldest child (my godson) was born. Christian is now 14-and-a-half and towers over us. Time has not only flown, it installed supersonic jet engines. Since then, we have not lived in the same town, and in the last few years, or even the same country. We’ve talked about having a proper catch up for a while. The opportunity finally came up when Iwan, Bren’s husband gallantly volunteered to take care of the kids for a long weekend in exchange for his boys’ week. The date was set (Labour weekend), the place picked and a girls’ weekend was on!

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Roast salmon with fennel, parsley and cherry tomatoes

After my previous cooking madness, I was more than ready to get back into my hacking stride. I had offered to cook dinner for my family (which includes some little people, – meaning I had to cook food that kids will happily eat) plus I wanted to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.

hardly any time to prepare and tastes fantastic. Roasted fennel’s herbaceous aromatics lifts the silky salmon flesh. If that wasn’t lazy enough, I served this straight from the roasting pan. This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie cookbook, and I’ve made it even simpler. The original recipe uses a whole salmon, but salmon fillet is easier to find, and serve up. Whole fish is surprisingly difficult to obtain in my necks of the woods. Continue reading