Zazutele Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
I can't think of a better way to start the year other than with this decadently amazing sweet wonder. A divinely elegant dessert that still keeps a "war" going, between New Zealand and Australia, when it comes to its origins.
It is said that in the 1920s, during a tour in either Australia or New Zealand, the legendary ballerina was acclaimed not only with applause, but also with the creation of the popular meringue cake which has remained a favorite holidays dish since then, and disputed by both countries as a national dessert. Do try it, my lovelies! Its crispy-soft-sweet-milky-fruity taste explosion will magnificently accompany the fireworks for 2018's New Year's Eve and make your whole year sweet and full of grace!
FOR THE MERINGUE
8 egg whites
500g icing sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
3 tsp white wine vinegar
1 vanilla bean, the seeds (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
a pinch of salt
FOR THE TOPPING
1. 600ml double cream whipped with 300g icing sugar (or to your taste)
2. Fresh fruits of your liking, cut in smaller chunks. I used pineapple, bananas, kiwis, blueberries, raspberries, tangerines (it is best to use mostly sweet-sour, tangy fruits, to complement the sweet meringue)
3. For the lemon curd recipe, click here.
Preheat the oven. Mix the egg whites in the mixer first with the salt, until the egg whites foam turns glossy and thick. Gradually add the icing sugar, while mixing (don't add more until the sugar melts; it takes about 10 minutes). Add the vinegar, the cornstarch and the vanilla and continue to mix for another 10 minutes. The meringue turns thick and sticks to the bowl when you turn it upside down, and that's when it is ready.
Line the baking tray with baking paper and put in the meringue. Give it the form you like, but you should keep it 3 to 4 cm thick, no matter the shape. I made a circle here, for the new year circle we are entering.
Turn the heated oven to minimum. In my case, using a rather old school gas oven, I need to also leave the door open for the meringue to not brown. The idea is to dry the meringue, rather than cook it. Each one of you knows their oven when it comes to meringues, so use the already tried method. If you have an electric oven, it is easier to maintain a 120°C which is the ideal temperature to bake the meringue for this recipe, for 90 minutes. If not, just put the tray at the upper level and leave the door open on minimum heat. It takes 2h and so for the meringue to cook in my oven.
While the meringue cooks, you can prepare the lemon curd.
You will know the meringue is ready by following these signs: 1. it has a hard, crispy crust 2. even when the surface turns crispy, it may still not be ready, that's why you keep en eye on the second: it will start to "weep" little sugary drops at the button, if they are still clear, it is not yet cooked inside, but watch them closely until they begin to color, this is when the sugar inside begins to caramelize and it is time to turn off the heat. What we want in the end is a white meringue, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.
Let it cool in the oven.
Only a short time before you are ready to serve, cut the fruits and whip the cream (keep the whipped cream in the fridge, before and after whipping). Putting the whipped cream on top of the meringue will soften it, so put it all together before serving: a layer of fresh, soft whipped cream, a rich layer of fresh fruits and when serving, drizzle with the lemon curd.
Happy New 2018!
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
For lemon lovers, the lemon curd is comfort food, a piece of heaven. It is an easy, delightful recipe that you can enjoy in a variety of combinations, as filling for pies and pastry, for a special cake, or just as sitting alone in a corner, with your nose and spoon in the jar, as a selfish guilty pleasure. One of my favorite way to taste it is with salted crackers or even cured meats and aged cheese.
We are going to make this recipe in combination with the majestic Pavlova here, as topping, with the egg yolks we are putting aside, sprinkled with a little salt, after separating the whites.
If not for this combination, it is however best to cook the curd 24 hours before using or serving.
INGREDIENTS (for 400g lemon curd)
8 egg yolks
4 large lemons (or 5 medium): we need 250g lemon juice and the zest of 2 large lemons
a pinch of salt
Cut the butter in cubes.
Grate the lemon zest and squeeze them sunny babies for their juice. Put the sugar, the lemon juice and the egg yolks in a saucepan and whisk continuously on low heat for about 13 minutes, until it thickens. When bubbles are forming, remove from heat and continue whisking, then heat it again. It should have the consistency of cream when ready and this is when you add the lemon zest and whisk it for another minute.
Put aside and when hot, add the butter cubes and whisk them in until they melt.
Let cool and then refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. The curd will continue to thicken when cooling and sitting.
No matter what you use it for, tasting it with salted crackers or dried mini bagels is a must try.
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion and Thao Uyen
1. Traditional foie gras with a twist
This one is not much an idea as just a way to play with traditional canapés for Christmas. I’m living in the South West part of France and they have this tradition of eating foie gras - goose’s liver - with onion confit. So stack up one layer of foie gras with a layer of onion confit and some basil seeds like this:
Remember to put the basil seeds in a generous amount of water for 15 minutes before use. Basil seeds have as much benefits as chia seeds, they taste fresh and are a bit crunchy, a very interesting flavor. While you’re at it, put on a generous amount of basil seeds on each canapé, they definitely lighten that heavy load.
2. Color cubes on a bed of cheese
Well this one looks as tempting as it tastes. Use cream cheese, parsley, mango and red bell pepper to make this canapé.
Mince the parsley and mix with cream cheese, cut the mango and red bell pepper into small cubes. Next put on a layer of herbal cream cheese, sprinkle on the red and yellow cubes and some minced parsley. You can add a dash of cayenne pepper powder on top for a pop of color and spiciness.
3. Chestnut purée canapé
This one requires a bit of cooking. Use chestnut, wild mushrooms, double cream and butter to make a sort of purée. To shorten the cooking time, use bottled chestnuts and ground them. Cut the wild mushrooms into small cubes (like the mango and red bell pepper cubes earlier). In a hot pan, put in a small chunk of butter and sauté the mushrooms with a dash of salt. When it’s cooked, put in the grounded chestnut and double cream and stir. Season it to your taste. When it’s boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer for 3 minutes. It’s very fast. Let the purée cool down while you prepare other canapés.
You can add minced parsley to this purée when it’s cooled down. I stack this purée with another carrot purée made with cumin powder that I found in the supermarket and squeeze on a few drops of lemon juice. You can substitute them with tomato cubes and croutons.
4. Green Ears: smoked salmon with sweet waffle, salted cheese cream, quail eggs and baby spinach
You are sure to impress your guests with this sweet-salted-and-smoked mélange. In case you are not a fan of sweet-salted, you can use the recipe with a different canapé base (such as crackers, small toast, biscuits). I made a cream cheese with cottage cheese, sour cream, telemea and minced pickled cucumbers. Let the salmon rest for a few minutes after having been sprinkled with lemon juice (and zest). Cut a fresh, large cucumber in rounds and place a round on top of the sweet, fresh, cut waffle. Add a teaspoon of cream cheese on top of the cucumber and arrange the half quail egg, the salmon and the baby spinach leaf according to your creativity. Splash some freshly ground dried chili or pepper to enhance the combination.
5. Mini-salads in baked mushroom nests
A refreshing vegan treat! Cut out the mushroom legs, you will mince and sauté them for about 5 minutes in olive oil, with salt and pepper. Bake the mushroom hats in the oven, after having sprinkled them with olive oil, for about 20 minutes at 220°C. Finely mince and chop: cherry tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, shallot and ruccola and mix them with the minced and cooked mushroom legs. Add balsamic vinegar (I used a fig-macerated balsamic vinegar) and olive oil to season your salad. Fill the mushroom hats (after cooling) with the delicious veggie mix and try to form a cone with carefully arranging the cubes on top of each other.
You may also vary the recipe by adding Gouda (or other yellow cheese) small cubes to your salad.
6. Soft Crunch: shrimp, avocado and pink grapefruit tortilla bites
This is going to be a simple, yet so efficient appetizer when it comes to experimenting a dance of flavors, where crunchiness meets the freshness of the sea and the earth. Sauté the shrimps (it is best to use completely unshelled shrimps) in a touch of olive oil, soy sauce and orange juice (my special recipe to get sweetened, delicate, soft shrimps). Let them cool. Remove the white skin off the grapefruit and expose the large cells. Add a flake of fresh avocado on the tortilla chips (I used chili tortilla chips, for extra flavor and color) and a grapefruit bite, and arrange them all with the shrimp. If you prefer, you can also try the recipe with minced shrimp. Enjoy!
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
Happy Holidays, darlings!
Time to get really cozy with the kitchen, and I mean really really cozy. What I want to mention is that one bowl meal with hot broth that just the smell alone can make you feel wonderful. It’s winter already so I cook a lot with ginger root, not only that it is delicious, it’s also very beneficial when it gets cold. Remember the natural remedies for cold and flu that always have ginger in them? Today we don’t have to drink the cold/flu concoction but still get the benefits from it while having a delicious Vietnamese street food. Does that sound tempting?
This dish is not exactly a street food, since lots of folks still cook it at home for special occasions. But because it’s one of those Vietnamese dishes that you most often see and taste on the street, let’s put it in the street food category. For this dish, there are Northern and Southern versions and the ingredients are practically the same for both versions. The difference here lies in the veggies for garnish. Since this dish originates from the North, I will do it the Northern way.
Yes you may wonder, we Vietnamese eat bamboo. Do you use kitchen utensils made from bamboo? This is the same bamboo, only that it’s the young one. The more bamboo grows the harder it gets so only the bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts are edible. A word of caution here: fresh bamboo shoots contain toxins that should be removed through a thorough cooking process. Don’t let this deter the food spirit in you though. It is pretty easy to remove the toxins by the way. You need to repeatedly boil the fresh bamboo sprouts 3 to 5 times. This process won’t change the texture or the color of the bamboo shoots themselves and afterward they are safe to eat. You may wonder how do bamboo shoots taste, right? Being cooked, they’re soft yet not mush, the part near the root can be a bit crunchy even. They taste a bit sweet and are kind of smooth and ‘slippery’: they’re so easy to eat that they’ll slip right into your stomach!
This dish is one of those Vietnamese one bowl meals that are very easy to make, and it’s quite a festive food I must say. If you have guests come over, this is quite the dish to impress, that is, if they can use chopsticks :D. For this dish we will break it down into parts for easy understanding. So let’s dive right in with the recipe then!
Ingredients: (for 2 servings)
- 180 gr of Vietnamese vermicelli noodles
- 800 gr duck (choose the part with bones, duck thighs are perfect for this, the whole duck is even better)
- 400 gr fresh bamboo shoots (you can find these in batches at the Asian stores, either already sliced thinly or whole bamboo shoots. If you buy the whole ones, you can cut vertically each sprout in half and tear them into long thin stripes as they’re very soft)
- 2 l of water
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 small chunk of ginger root (cut out 4 thin slices to put in the broth and peel the rest to make dipping fish sauce)
- Salt, grounded black pepper
- 5 spring onions, cut thinly for garnish
- 5 bushes of culantro, cut thinly for garnish
- 3 cloves of garlic (cut and mince 2 cloves of garlic and mince the last one)
- 1 red chili
- Fish sauce
- Lemon (optional)
How to cook it:
- Make the broth:
As with all Vietnamese one bowl meals where there is broth, we build it up with animal bones and slow heat to create a clear consistency. You don’t need to chop the duck at all, put it all in 2l of water along with the whole peeled onion, 4 slices of ginger and 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the pot on medium-high heat, when the liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat to a soft boil and skim off the foams and duck fat.
I use big duck thighs so I let it simmer for 40 minutes, if you use the whole duck, you may need to extend the boiling part to 1 hour or more. If the water evaporates a lot, you can add hot water. The amount of broth, in my opinion, should double the amount of vermicelli so adjust to your liking.
After the duck is cooked, take it out of the broth and let it cool down. You can remove the onion too, we don’t need it anymore. As for the ginger slices, you can eat them if you want. Keep the broth simmering and adjust the taste, add more water if too salty or salt if it’s bland. We will eat the broth with vermicelli in it, so it’s okay if it tastes saltier than your usual soup.
- Prepare the bamboo shoots:
Boil the fresh bamboo stripes in water for 3 minutes then remove from heat and change the water. Repeat this step 3 times or more.
On a hot pan, saute the crushed and minced garlic for 1 minute or until fragrant, put in the bamboo stripes, 3 tblspoons of fish sauce and half of the cut spring onion and culantro (we keep half of it for garnish). Toss them well for 3 minutes. You can skip this step and put the boiled bamboo stripes directly into the broth that we made earlier. However, saute the bamboo stripes like this make them more flavorful, they’ll shine with a delicate salty - sweet taste when you assemble the dish in the end.
Now you should put the bamboo stripes in the broth that we keep simmering on the stove and let them dance in harmony :D for 5 minutes more. And that’s it, we finish the broth! You should keep the broth hot to assemble the dish. As for the duck thighs, cut out the meat and cut into slices.
- Boil the vermicelli noodles:
Boil the vermicelli for 3 to 5 minutes. The more you boil it the softer it gets so adjust to your liking. After that remove the hot water, take out the vermicelli and wash it thoroughly under cold water to break down the cooking process. This step also prevents the vermicelli to stick like glue together.
- Make the ginger dipping fish sauce:
Use pestle and mortar to ground the ginger chunk and 2 tblspoons of sugar with red chili until you obtain a thick paste. Add 2 and ½ tblspoons of fish sauce with 4 tblspoons of water. You can add lemon juice for a slight sour taste but it’s not necessary. Lastly put in the minced garlic and we’re done!
To assemble the dish, in a big bowl put in a handful of vermicelli and a pinch of grounded black pepper, pour the hot broth over it with bamboo stripes. The best ratio, I think, is 1/3 vermicelli and 2/3 broth. Put the duck slices on top, add the sliced fresh spring onion and culantro for garnish. Serve the bowl with dipping fish sauce and a wedge of lemon if you skipped the lemon juice in the dipping sauce earlier. When you dive in, squeeze the lemon juice on top of the bowl, dip the duck meat, and even the bamboo stripes too if you feel like it, into the ginger fish sauce. I must admit, the fragrantly salty and spicy dipping fish sauce is quite addictive. The dish is warm, smells so cozy with ginger and culantro and has a delicate light taste.
I hope you’ll enjoy this dish for holiday season. May Santa treat you this year ;).
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
Pickles are here! oh yeeeahhh. It means Santa Claus is close. Time to taste everything with pickles! Let's honor them since breakfast with a simple, delicious omelette. The supporting actor is green pepper in peppercorns, young pepper with a fresher, greener taste that happens to be one of my favorite ways to enjoy pepper. It is often used in pickles as well, it generally has a more delicate, herb-like flavor and I must say, one of the fine moments in life is smelling the pinched air coming out of the pepper oil when you crush peppercorns. Try it in at least one recipe with green peppercorns during the holidays marathon, don't overlook its anti-bacterial and fat burning properties, on top of its youthful aroma.
No time to concern ourselves with diets et all, we have an omelette to make. You need, for one serving:
1 slice of ham
1 cube of melting cheese (mozzarella, cascaval, Gouda etc) (50g)
8-10 green peppercorns
Beat your eggs. Break with your hands the ham slice and the cheese and add it in the beaten eggs. Crush half of your peppercorns in a spice grinder mmm the flavor will wake you up, sleepyhead! Add half of the crushed pepper in the omelette, plus 2-3 whole green peppercorns.
Heat some olive oil in your omelette pan. When hot, add the rest of your whole peppercorns in the oil, but only for a few seconds, for them to release another version of their flavor, and then quickly toss the omelette in there.
Cover and let cook for a few minutes on low-medium heat. You don't have to flip your omelette, fold it, cover again and let cook for another 3 minutes. Now flip it with a spatula and give it another 3-4 minutes. It will be crispy outside, soft and melting inside.
Serve with the rest of the crushed pepper, chopped parsley and a ton of pickles!
That's a fine way to taste both green pepper, and pickles.
Enjoy your holidays preparations!
French mulled wine - Vin chaud
As Christmas isn't a big tradition in Vietnam, I don't have much experiences with the food there. So I turn to French dishes and what a treasure I found! Plenty of rich and flavorful dishes to choose from, and there’s something that I made a point to taste each December: mulled wine.
I seldom try red wine as I don't tolerate alcohol well but this one is a must! The wine is infused slowly with Christmas spices and sugar. The end result is a slightly sweet red wine with heavenly smell and low level of alcohol as it evaporates over low heat. The recipe is pretty simple and leaves space for creativity: you can choose the Christmas spices that you like.
Ingredients: (for 4 – 6 persons)
1 bottle of red wine of 75 cl (no need to choose the best quality, the taste of the wine will be modify anyway)
200 gr sugar (more or less to satisfy your sweet tooth)
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
The zest of 1 lemon
2 slices of ginger root
1 pinch of grated nutmeg
- To make "vin chaud", combine the wine with all the ingredients (use the juice of the orange and its zest for this recipe) and put on low heat.
- When it starts to boil, let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- Always serve it warm, decorate to your liking.
Spiced corn bread
Traditional "vin chaud" is to be savored with spiced bread. I make a variation of spiced bread though: spiced corn bread. It turns out fluffier than the traditional spiced bread, just what I like.
Ingredients: (for 4 persons)
300 ml milk
4 tblspoons of honey
1 tblspoon of sugar
1 pinch of salt
300 gr corn meal
1 ½ tspoons of baking powder
1 ½ tspoons of cinnamon powder
1 pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tspoon of vegetable oil
1 small cube of soft butter
- Preheat the oven at 160 degree.
- Warm up the milk in the microwave for 1 minute then mix in honey, sugar and salt. Wait for the mixture to cool a bit then incorporate the corn meal, vegetable oil and the egg (you don’t want the egg to be cooked in warm milk). Mix them until well combined and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, add in the cinnamon powder, grated nutmeg and baking powder. Mix again.
- Prepare the baking mold by rubbing the soft butter around it. Pour in the mixture and bake for 35 minutes.
- Serve the spiced corn bread with mulled wine.
- The spiced bread, true to its name, is about adding spices and honey to your bread. You can get as creative as you want with the spices. The traditional way is to use cinnamon powder, some versions even add ginger root powder, nuts as hazelnuts or pistachios.
- Warm milk helps to dissolve honey faster but if you’re not impatient like me, just use ordinary milk and stir really, really well :) .
- You may think that the corn meal makes the corn smell overwhelming, but when you cut into the bread, the cinnamon and nutmeg smell comes out. The bread is fluffy and spongy, much lighter than the traditional spiced bread. It also has a yellow color, unlike the brown color of the traditional version. You can substitute corn meal with any kind of flour that you like.
- As you can see the mulled wine and the spiced corn bread both have a sweet taste, so if you don’t want to taste two layers of sweet on sweet, adjust the sugar in one of the recipes. From my experience, less sugar in the mulled wine will be just the thing: sweet bread, tangy fragrant mulled wine and sour berries.
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!