In The Days of Our Lives we meet some fascinating and creative folk and take a look at what their typical day holds. Far from being about the mundane, it is a celebration of what it takes to juggle the day-to-day with big ideas, a successful business and a full home life. It’s about keeping all the balls in the air – what is important and what isn’t. It’s about (extra)ordinary moments that fill our every day.
This week, I want to introduce you to Alvin Quah. Since being a finalist on Masterchef in 2010, he has been on a culinary mission to increase awareness of Chinese Malaysian cuisine in Australia – in his usual quick-witted manner of course! This has seen him make regular TV appearances, write for various foodie mags and start his own blog.
From walks with his pooch to good yolk-porn, this is a day in Alvin’s life!
This is a great time to be up – peace and quiet. Which suits me fine, as I am not a morning person, at least not before breakfast and coffee.
I pour myself a glass of cranberry and pomegranate juice. Breakfast is a standard fare of thinly sliced leg ham, egg poached in its shell, multigrain toast with Pepe Saya butter. Egg has to be cooked perfectly. Nothing like good yolk-porn in the morning! I have that with my cup of coffee and I scan through the media pages – Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Return home to my fury little man, Remy, gagging for a walk, so I comply.
From this point, everyday is different. I usually start by doing some research work on the computer, looking at what is topical, seasonal or controversial in the food world. It’s also a good time to be sorting out my schedule for the next day for things like cooking demonstrations, appearances, private catering functions, article pieces or recipe deadlines.
Remy sits next to me, exasperated that I refuse to play fetch with him.
A lot of what I cook involves making stocks and pastes so it is always a good start to cook fresh batches, whether it is oxtail broth, XO sauce or chicken stock. Alternatively, I would work on a new dessert recipe for my website. Whatever the case, I usually make excessive amounts so my neighbours very often benefit from surplus creations from my kitchen.
I get to my local village grocer and shop for the day’s necessities, very often chilli, garlic and onions. I would drive to Craig Cook’s butcher in Rhodes for quality meat and Sydney fish market for some fresh seafood.
My best lunchtime meal is a soup of some kind. For instance, I would get some oxtails from the butcher and make an oxtail broth.
While the oxtail is simmering for a good 2 hours and getting acquainted the spices in the broth, I start making my own batch of XO sauce. When I am time poor or just plain lazy, I would use the food processor but nothing beats the therapeutic appeal of pounding chilli and garlic using a mortar and pestle.
The chilli and garlic is fried together with some dried shrimp, dried scallops and onions. This is done under low heat. While the stock and the paste are simmering away, it is a good time to scribble the quantities of each ingredient and methods on paper.
XO sauce has been cooling for the last half hour and it’s time to prepare lunch. Some rice noodles will go well with the oxtail broth. There’s usually some set up required to photograph the dish so out come the various props.
Sitting down to lunch after the dish has been photographed, posted, tagged and ‘checked in’ in all the social pages.
Another quick walk with the dog, as he too, ‘checks in’ with every tree.
Writing or editing the next blog for my website. Alternatively, can be editing recipes for upcoming cookbook with AYAM or meeting with sponsors to talk about the cookbook or upcoming commitments.
Touching base with social media. Usually checking twitter feeds and responding to comments from recent posts.
Back in the kitchen, starting dinner preparations. I will usually make use of the sauce I made earlier, in the case of XO sauce; I may combine it with some pipis, mix it in with fried rice or use it for a quick stir-fry. Sometimes, for a quick meal, I would make pizza out of Lebanese bread, tomato passata, chorizo salami and cherry bocconcini.
Dinner is usually done and dusted by now. Kitchen is cleaned and bins are emptied.
When the sweet cravings set in, I’ll raid my pantry (not dissimilar to a Mystery Box) and whip out either a cheat’s chocolate mousse, individual bread and butter pudding or just plain berries and cream. This is usually consumed in front of the TV, with Remy draping over my lap, watching Dexter, True Blood or The Walking Dead.
Bed time, ready for another delicious day tomorrow.