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Cha ca 9 September 2014

Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, food, Happiness, Vietnam.
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Since living in Hanoi, one of the foods I miss is cha ca – or grilled fish. The best grilled fish is to be had in the old quarter in Hanoi, of course. Nothing beats the scenery and the atmosphere of being at Cha Ca La Vong, the most famous (and possibly the most expensive) restaurant. When we first arrived in Hanoi, they were still cooking the fish on coals at the table, and the spluttering heat from the frying pan would invariably end up being a health and safety hazard. This is as close as I have managed to get with my recipe, I am sure it’s still not 100%. I have used and adapted several online versions to get as near to authentic as possible.

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Cha ca

This recipe is for two people, but I suggest you always make too much, as it is so delicious.

Ingredients:

– 500 g of firm, white fish. Ling fish is the best, but cod has worked for me in the past.
– 3-4 spring onions (echalottes will work, too, but are a bit firmer)
– 1 tsp of curry powder
– 1 tbs of tumeric
– 2 tbs fish sauce
– 1 tbs yogurt
– 1 tsp crushed garlic
– 4 tbs vegetable oil
– 1 large bunch of scallion/spring onions, cut on an angle
– 1 large handful of dill, roughly chopped
– Fresh rice noodles (or rice vermicelli, if noodles are not available)

Garnish:

– 1 cup of peanuts, slightly roasted
– 1 cup of bean sprouts
– lime wedges
– fish sauce
– 2-3 cups of Vietnamese mint, basil, coriander and other fresh herbs

Method:

– Cut the fish into cubes of about 2cm/ 1inch and set aside in a bowl.
– Cut the spring onion into very small pieces, as small as you can.
– Mix the cut onion, spices, half of the oil, fish sauce, and yogurt together, and add to the fish – make sure the fish is completely covered.
– Place a non-stick pan over high heat and add the peanuts. Move the nuts around until they start to brown. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside.
– Place the pan back on the heat, add the remaining oil, and fry the fish until just cooked.
– While the fish is cooking, add the noodles to boiling water and cook briefly until tender and warm.
– Add the scallion and dill and cook a little longer, then serve.

To serve, use small bowls. Half-fill a bowl with noodles, add a couple of spoonfulls of fish and greenery on top. Add any combination of the ganishes that you wish/like. Eat with chopsticks.

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Marble cake 16 May 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking, food, Happiness, Life.
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Marble cake

It’s been a while since I have been baking, but last night I brushed off the old skills. I had no idea that I had become so rusty, and was making rookie mistake after rookie mistake! The result was still tasty, but I think I will have to relearn my old tricks by getting back into baking!

An oldie but a goodie – marble cake

Ingredients:
200g butter (room temperature) (mistake number 1: the butter I used was too cold. It needs to be soft, but not melted).
250g sugar
3 eggs
vanilla (1 tsp of essence, 2 tsp of vanilla sugar, OR 1 vanilla bean)
250g plain white flour
2 tsp baking powder
100ml butter milk
2 tsp cocoa

Bread tin, 175 degrees, 45-50 minutes

Method:
– Take all the ingredients out of the fridge and measure out the necessary amounts.
– Make sure the butter and all the other ingredients are at room temperature.
– Butter a bread tin and line the bottom with baking paper (mistake number 2: I forgot the lining, meaning the cake is still in the tim now.)
– Turn the oven on so it pre-heats to the correct temperature.
– Whisk the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Make sure it becomes a fluffy texture.
– Add an egg at the time, whisk until just combined between eggs.
– Add the vanilla, combine.
– Sift the flour and the baking powder into the mixture.
– FOLD the flour through the eggs to maintain as much of the air in it as you can.
– Fold the buttermilk through.
– Separate about 1/3 of the mixture into a separate mixing bowl, and sift the cocoa into it. Fold through gently.
– Pour another third of the vanilla mixture into the baking tin, then the cocoa mixture, then the remaining vanilla.
– Use a skewer to gently draw a line through the mixture (ziggzag about 2.5 cm apart one way, then the long way). Don’t overdo this.
– Place in oven, and leave to bake.

Enjoy with coffee!

This cake also freezes well.

Beef risotto 6 January 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, food, Happiness.
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I have been travelling lately, and have found that there is a real craving for risotto in Norway at the moment. Everyone wants to make it, but not everyone dares to give it a shot.

To be fair, risotto is not hard to make. Only time consuming, as you should not leave the pan or stop stirring. But it’s also easy to eat – traditionally there are no spices and overwhelming herbs used in them.

I normally make mine with chicken, but was cooking for someone allergic to fowl, so had to adapt and try with minced meat. So here is a little adaptation of a beef risotto! If, like my dad, you find it needs a bit more kick, you can add some cayenne pepper or chilli, but I like it this way.

Beef risotto

Ingredients

4 persons

1 tbs butter (or oil, but butter tastes better)
500 g minced beef

1 large onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 beef stock cubes
Water

1 glass of white cooking wine (omit if you so choose)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400 g)
2 tbs tomato paste

2 cups arborio rice (other rice is possible, but not as nice)
1/2 cup frozen peas

Handful of shredded basil
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (get a block of cheese and grate it yourself for best results)

Sour cream and basil leaves to serve

Method

– brown the butter or heat the oil in a deep heavy based pan, and cook the minced meat. Remove the meat until further notice.
– add some more butter if necessary to the pan, and brown the onion and garlic.
– add the rice. Make sure you turn the heat down, and completely coat the rice with the remaining fat in the pan. Add the wine, and keep stirring. If not using wine, add the tomato here.
– pour water (about 0.5 litres initially) to a small separate pan to make stock. Add the stock cubes and bring to a simmer.
– when the wine is almost absorbed, add the cooked meat, tinned tomato and tomato paste to the pan. Again, wait to simmer and reduce, constantly stirring.
– every time the liquid reduces in the pan, add another bit of stock. Make sure the stock is warm, otherwise the cooking process of the rice will be halted and thus prolonging the time it takes to cook.
– test the rice by biting on a grain before adding more liquid, but watch out, it will be hot.
– keep adding hot liquid until soft. Note that you may need more than the stock, if so, boil some water to add at the end.
– add the peas.
– the risotto is done when the rice is cooked and a dollop of the risotto placed on a flat plate will sink slightly, without being runny.
– remove from the heat, add the basil and most of the cheese.
– serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese and a basil leaf. And maybe a glass of wine.

Bon apetit!

Macademia and white chocolate chip cookies 29 November 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking, Happiness.
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I loathe to admit that I still haven’t got the hang of the oven in our house – for the first time since finishing Home Education classes at the age of 13, I am dealing with an oven which has a temperamental heating element and not is not fan forced. The results, to say the least, are variable.

For these cookies, I had to fashion a ‘deflector gadget’ (call me McGyver if you are so inclined, or Inspector Gadget?) out of aluminium foil to ensure that the bottom tray of biscuits did not overheat and the top tray had a chance to cook. Still, the resulting cookies were good, if not perfect. The recipe was delicious.

Ingedients
250 g butter (room temperature, not melted)
330 g sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
375 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150 g macademia nuts (unsalted, roughly chopped)
200 g white chocolate chips

180C degrees, 12-15 minutes.

Method
– Cut the butter into chunks with two knives.
– Add the sugar, and beat with a mixer until combined.
– Add vanilla essence and one egg, beat some more until combined.
– Add the other egg, beat until smooth.
– Add the flower and the baking powder (sift if needed) and beat until combined.
– Add the nuts and the choc chips, and combine with a wooden spoon until the chunks are relatively evenly ditributed through the dough.
– Place heaped teaspoons of batter on baking paper.
– Bake.

Serve with cold milk.

Enjoy!

Stew with choriso 8 November 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, Happiness.
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I made a delicious stew the other day, thought I should share the recipe with you.

This turned out the be enough for 4.

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 onion, diced small
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 cm of fresh ginger (large chunks, should be removed again before serving)
1 can of diced tomatoes
Lots of vegies, at least 7 different ones (I used broad beans pealed twice, cauliflower, carrot, potato, asparagus, pumpkin with skin, cherry tomatoes)
Handful of dried apricots, whole
2 chorizo saucages, sliced about 1/2 cm thick
Fresh coriander
Couscous

Method
– Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over high heat
– Fry the garlic and onion until fragrant
– Add the chunks of ginger, fry briefly while stirring
– Add the entire can of tomatoes
– Fill the can to the brim with clean water, add to the pan
– Recycle can 😉
– Add all the vegies starting with the ones that need the longest to boil
– When the tomatoes start bubbling, turn heat right down
– When all the vegies are in, add the apricots and saucage, place lid on pan, and leave to simmer.
– Leave for ages if you can/ care to. The longer you leave it, the plumper the apricots.
– Make the couscous.
– Remove the ginger chunks before serving.
– Serve with roughly chopped fresh coriander.

Enjoy!

Snake on the menu 8 February 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, Travelling, Vietnam.
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My dearest brother and his lovely girlfriend came to visit recently, and as he has been here once before, I did not end up entertaining him much this time around. Luckily, they are both quite able to entertain themselves!

However, for our last full day together in Hanoi, I decided to take them out to something special, something I meant to do with him last time he came, but which we never did, and which we had not done without him, either.

Namely going to Snake Village to eat Snake.

We found a wonderful restaurant which was perched on stilts above a pond, with lots of locals eating and drinking away. Snake is supposed to increase virility, and thus mainly men tend to go to these restaurants. But they assured us all that it was delicious, and definitely worth a try!

So, we sit down after discussing the cost of the snake.

They bring us a long, skinny one, which we are supposed to inspect like a good bottle of wine, but just like with wine, I just look at it, and nod, without any idea about what it should look like.

They then proceed to cut the snake open while still alive, and cut the heart into a shot glass. Quickly, they drain the blood, and mix it with rice wine which looked more like moon shine than good, upstanding liquor.

They then cut a small slit into another part of the belly of the snake, to remove a small sack of green liquid. Some told me it was the venom, others told me it was gall. Either way, it also went into rice wine, and we were served two shots of delicious looking alcohol with snake blood and venom before lunch had even started!

We made sure that the “Guest of Honour” (my brother) was served the glass with the still-beating heart, out of respect and slight mischief.

We decided to quickly order some beer to wash things down with, as none of us were entirely convinced by the guys on the table next to ours who claimed it was delicious.

We then took the shots, and my brother’s girlfriend’s face was priceless, as it contorted into an expression ranging from apprehension, fear, disgust and dislike. We had a good laugh at ourselves, as the dishes started coming out.

So what they manage to make out of one snake is an amazing range of food: we had a total of nine dishes, some of which I cannot even recall. We had fried snake, baked snake, snake mince on crackling, snake wrapped in vine leaves, snake soup, fried snake skin. None of which was really anywhere near my favourite dishes of all time.

But the setting, and the adventure, made for a very pleasurable afternoon indeed. I am not sure if I would recommend the experience, and certainly not for the food itself, but I had a good time.

The Dream Combo 13 July 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking, Life, Travelling.
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Recently, the building I live in upgraded our TV reception from a ‘mere’ 20 something channels to 54 channels. I wasn’t excited about this until I realised that the new package also comes with Discovery Travel and Living.

Think about that for a second. Just think about it.

An entire channel devoted to travelling, food and baking… I’m in heaven!

Pavlova 5 July 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking, Happiness, Life.
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After my recent baking adventure making custard buns, I still had a whole lot of egg whites in the fridge. Being Dutch at heart, I really dislike throwing away food, so I thought I should attempt to make that fantastic cake Australians call their own (although the origins of the ‘Pav’ is sometimes disputed).

It turned out to be far easier than I had expected, and the result was divine. I even have a plan on how to make a cake derived from the Pavlova (although the Aussies might find this sacrilege…), but more on that in due time. First, here is the Pavlova.

Pavlova

Ingredients:
6 egg whites (the original recipe called for 4, but I had 6 left, so I increased all the amounts by half)
1.5 cups of castor sugar
0.75 tsp corn flower
1.5 tsp white vinegar

Whipped cream (300 mL), sugar and fruit to decorate.

Oven at 130 C, 75 minutes.

Method:
– Firstly, it is essential that there is no grease that comes into contact with the egg whites, or they will not stiffen! So use a clean bowl and make sure the beater is clean, too. I always wipe everything down with some extra vinegar, just to make sure, because there is nothing worse than eggs that won’t go hard.
– Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to form. Add the sugar one tablespoon at the time, continually beating.
– When all the sugar is in, beat until stiff. You should be able to hold the bowl upside down without the egg falling out at this point. Be careful, though, if you fail at this stage, you will have a very messy kitchen, and no more egg whites.
– Sprinkle the vinegar and corn starch over the lot, and carefully fold into the egg. Make sure not to deflate the egg too much.
– Spoon onto baking paper on a baking tray in a circular shape.  Make it about 4-5 cm thick, with a slight indentation in the middle.
– Place in a hot oven, and bake.
– When it is finished, leave the Pavlova in the oven to cool slowly. It will crack and sink a little, not too worry.

– When you are ready to eat it, decorate with cream and fruit.
– I used mango and strawberries (the latter of which I threw through a food processor, because they were frozen) with great dollops of cream.

Enjoy!

Custard buns 26 June 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking.
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There is something very relaxing about kneading, flour up to your elbows, knowing that what you are creating will be delicious. I am currently waiting for the dough to rise, so decided to blog about it in the mean time.

I first made these custard buns in Home Ed at junior high. Loved them then, love them now.

Note to self; when this recipe says ‘whisk’ it means combine, not beat with an electric beater. I ended up with extremely frothy custard!

Custard buns

Ingedients:
50 g margerine or butter
3.5 dL milk
4 g (half a packet) dry yeast
50 g sugar
0.5 tsp salt
~500 g flour

For custard:
3 egg yolks
50 g sugar
2.5 tbs corn flour
2.5 dL milk
1 drop vanilla extract
40 g unsalted butter

Method:
– Make the custard. Note that you will have left overs with these amounts. I adapted the above from a different recipe, but I like home made custard for desert, so I never decreased the amount. I reckon about half would be enough, too.
– So, make the custard by ‘whisking’ the egg yolks, sugar and corn flour together.
– Add 2 tablespoons of the milk to the egg mixture. Heat the remaining milk and vanilla in a saucepan.
– When boiled, slowly pour the milk into the egg, mixing all the while to prevent the egg from cooking.
– Pour the lot back into the pan, and bring it to a boil over medium heat, while continuously stirring.
– Remove from the heat when it thickens, add the butter, combine, then leave to cool.
– Make the dough.
– Rise it to about twice the size (in hot, humid climes, you can place it outside under a wet teatowel).
– Divide the dough into about 10-12 equal parts. Lightly knead each part, then flatten to a piece of dough about 10 by 10 centimetres.
– Place the dough flap on your palm, then cup your hand to make a little bowl.
– Place one teaspoon of custard in the bowl, then close the dough around it. Make sure not to overstuff, because it will just leak out.
– Place the bun with the joint down onto baking paper, then cover with a wet teatowel again, and leave to rise 15 minutes.
– Bake in a preheated oven at 225 degrees for 15 minutes.

Enjoy.

Breakfast Muesli 17 June 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking, Happiness, Vietnam.
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I love me a bit of cereal in the morning. But growing up on Kellogg’s Cornflakes has now made me less appreciative of it. Too much of a good thing, I suppose. So my ideal breakfast now (when I have time) is a big bowl of fruit, fresh yoghurt on top, sprinkled with chunkey, healthy Muesli, and lightly criss crossed with honey.

In Vietnam, though, I have learnt that Muesli is not a commodity, but a luxury. A small bag of the stuff will easily cost in the range of 15-20 dollars. Fruit, on the other hand, is plentiful and cheap. And the local yoghurt! My goodness, you cannot pass up on Cafe 252 (also known as Catherine Deneuve’s regular hangout when she was here filming ‘Indochine’, and can be found in 252 Hang Bong, Hanoi) homemade yoghurt. It is fresh, tangy, and with no added sugar!

And honey is sold everywhere here.

Which brings me back to the Muesli. I now make my own. A point to make, though, is that a lot of Muesli calls for oil to bind the ingredients together, to get that clumping effect. Luckily, I have learnt from the Baking Bites blog that you can often replace oil with apple sauce (in cakes, you can replace about half, in Muesli, you can replace all) and it will still give you the same desired effect. But slighly healthier.

So here’s my recipe (modified from Baking Bites, but ingredients change depending on what I can find)

Apple-tastic Muesli

Ingredients:
4 cups of rolled oats (or, if in a pinch, porridge oats)
2 cups bran
1 cup of dessicated coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar (brown if you have)
3/4 cup of plain apple sauce (home made is ok)
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp of vanilla or almond extract

chopped nuts or seeds, like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, +++ (at least one cup)
chopped, dried fruit, like dried pineapple, sultanas, paw paw, star fruit, +++ (at least one cup)

Method:
– Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl (except for the dry fruit, which should only be added after baking).
– Mix all the wet ingredients in another bowl (count sugar as a wet ingredient).
– Combine the two, stir well to wet all the dry ingredients.
– Place mixture in a baking dish, and place in an oven at 200 C.
– When the mixture starts going slightly brown (10 minutes), spoon it over to do the other side. Do this until the mixture is quite dry and roasted.
– Cool the mixture, mix in the chopped fruit, and voila!

Enjoy!