[Review] "A Helping Hand: Delicious Recipes in English and Tagalog" by Frog Michaels

November 20, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

Have I mentioned before that my first word was "milk" in Tagalog? I came from a dual income family where the domestic helper was a very important part of my life. 

In today's context, most of us Singaporeans have sophisticated palates. Apart from having basic childcaring capabilities, I am sure most of us would be more than happy if our helpers could cook more yummy dishes such as Roast Chicken, Victorian Sponge Cake or even authentic Nyonya Kueh Pie Tee.

A Helping Hand: Delicious Recipes in English and Tagalog is Singapore’s only cookbook written in both English and Tagalog.

The brainchild of British author Frog Michaels, a previous food and society columnist for Singapore Tatler and currently a regular contributor to Singapore Airlines’ magazine SilverKris, this fully-coloured cookbook was lovingly developed over 3 years and covers more than 80 Western and Asian recipes that can be replicated in the home kitchen.

This 314-page hardcover also aims to bridge cultures and provide a much needed recipe book to help the household's "helping hand" and the families they work for. The Tagalog translation for every recipe on the next page means that it can be an easy self-help cookbook for those with Filipino helpers at home.

Think: blind bake, blanche, braise, roast. Have you ever tried explaining such terms to them?

Personally, I simply adore this cookbook for these reasons:

1) Easy to Understand Instructions in English and Tagalog.

As someone who enjoys reading recipes (as much as I enjoy penning my own down), I have to commend how well Frog explains each step so succinctly. I especially love all the cool little tips too (Tagalog translation included). 

Photographs are aplenty. No instructions can ever be better than visual presentations. (That's why I always include step-by-step pictorial illustrations for all my own recipes!)

2) Easy Recipes.

For the basic home cook, there are simpler dishes such as Bircher Muesli, Chilli Chicken and good old Engish Breakfast.

Btw, the recipes have been well tried-and-tested. I noticed a really long list of names under the Acknowledgements section.

3) Wide Range of Recipes. 

Whilst the cookbook covers mainly Western dishes such as Poached Eggs, Roast Chicken, Macaroni Cheese and Victorian Sponge Cake, there are also local favourites like Aachi's Chicken Curry, Peranakan Kueh Pie Tee and Mama's Mee Goreng. 

In case you are curious how Frog got hold of these Asian recipes, they were actually passed down by her husband's Nyonya grandmother, Mrs Molly Ong (wife of Dr Ong Swee Law who was Chairman of the PUB and founded the Singapore Zoo). Her own beautiful handwritten recipe book dates back to recipes learnt in 1942.

4) Pictorial Glossary of Local Ingredients.

I have to say that this cookbook was really well thought through. 40 pages in full photo and colour are dedicated to listing and describing key ingredients/ food items found in Singapore - in both English and Tagalog. These range from fruits & vegetables, meat, fish to baking products and many more. To enable the helper to recognise the correct food item, some of them are even photographed in packaging/ brands that are commonly seen in local supermarkets.

5) Do Good.

A donation from each book sold goes to Humanitariam Organisation for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E.) – a  Singapore charity dedicated to upholding the rights of migrant workers.

It is an independent charity dependent on donations from the public to run its programs and services. As  a registered Institution of a Public Character, it is held to higher standards in terms of regulatory compliance and governance.

So let's do something meaningful this Christmas! Get your hands on this beautiful book to give away or for ourselves.

"A Helping Hand: Delicious Recipes in English and Tagalog" (S$39.90, excluding GST) is available from Kinokuniya, Books Actually, Da Paolo Gastronomia etc. For a full list of stockists or online orders, visit: www.helpinghandseries.com.

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