My Favourite Recipes
By Ellice Handy


I was at the Kinokuniya bookshop in Singapore when this book's retro cover caught my eye. I'd never heard of Ellice Handy, but in Malaysia and Singapore she's a big name. Her book, which was published in 1952, has taught many a housewife how to cook. It's gone through a number of editions, but only two in the past 20 years - one in 1990 and this latest version, from 2012.

Handy was the first Singaporean principal of the state's Methodist Girls' School when she wrote My Favourite Recipes and proceeds from its sales were donated to the school's building fund. In the foreword to the first edition, she wrote: "In this book are a few recipes, not for those who know everything about cooking, but for those who have a desire to learn … I ask all who buy this book to use their imagination and make changes to my recipes, especially to local dishes, to suit their taste. No two people cook in the same way, and yet both can produce equally good results. In time, you will be able to cook your favourite dishes without using a recipe book."

The book has chapters on European, Chinese, Malayan and Indonesian, and Indian cuisines, as well as cakes, pastries, desserts and snacks. Today, the European dishes seem rather old-fashioned - when did you last see a recipe for chicken a la king made with evaporated milk, fish with white sauce, or pea soup with curry flavour that starts with opening a can of pea soup? The Asian dishes hold up much better, with recipes for sweet and sour pork, steamed fish, fresh popiah (including a recipe for the popiah skins), satay, rendang, gado gado, otak otak, soto ayam, laksa, fish curry and biriyani.