MADAM Kamachi Govindasamy has hundreds of recipes stored in her head.
Ask her, and the 83-year-old can recite any recipe, ranging from chicken curry and sambal beancurd to pizza and lasagne.
'No need to write down, lah,' she says good-naturedly. 'The way I remember is to keep cooking.'
And she does it three times a day.
She lives with her daughter, a teacher, in Jurong, and takes care of her eight-year-old granddaughter. Her photographer husband died five years ago.
One dish Madam Govindasamy does faultlessly is her nasi briyani. A family recipe learnt from her mother, it uses no orange colouring which most food sellers opt for.
It may look a little plain but boasts a lovely, unmistakable flavour of nuts and spices. It goes with Indian, Malay or Chinese dishes, and is good even on its own.
She cooks it whenever her large family - comprising six children, 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren - gathers for special occasions.
She owes her knowledge of Western dishes and ability to speak English to working as a babysitter for expatriate families for 20 years.
Unlike traditional cooks who believe that everything must be done by hand, she is all for using the blender.
In fact, she encourages you to machine-blend the ingredients in her nasi briyani recipe.
'It's better because it's smoother. And it takes only a few minutes, very fast,' she says.
- 4 cups basmati rice
- 6 cups of water
- 2 Tbs ginger, blended
- 2 Tbs garlic, blended
- 1 Tbs ghee
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 pandan leaves, bundled
- 1 stalk of lemongrass
- 3 cardamom pods
- 10 cashew nuts, ground
- 10 almonds, ground
Fry all ingredients together - except the rice and water - until fragrant. Place rice and water and mixture into the rice cooker and cook.