Have you heard through the grapevine that the Lunar New Year is near? It will be on the 16 February this year, only one week from now. In Vietnam, this occasion is called Tet which is a celebration that lasts more than 2 weeks (1 week before the New Year and 10 days after it). These days whenever I call my parents in Vietnam, they’re always busy preparing for this big yearly event. People usually have to prepare for it one month in advance, sometimes even 2 months. Why all the fuss, you may ask? Well, imagine for 10 days straight, at least 10 guests, adults and children alike, will visit your house each day. Won’t you need to clean every corner of your house? Won’t you need to buy enough food (more food than your guests can eat, that is) to be a good host? And that’s just a part of the preparation. So 1 month may not be enough for you to do all the much needed work. I will write about this Vietnamese special occasion in my next article. Today I want to present to you a recipe, a Southern Vietnamese traditional food for the New Year: stuffing meatballs bitter melon soup.
The traditional dishes of Tet often have a special meaning. For bitter melon soup, the meaning lies in its name. The Southern Vietnamese name for bitter melon is ‘kho qua’ which sounds like ‘burden shall pass’. And so the dish represents a wish for last year’s difficulties to pass and hope for a new positive beginning. Furthermore, bitter melon soup happens to have a delicious yet light taste which will lift up our spirit after savoring other heavy Tet dishes. Meaning and taste asides, bitter melon soup is too healthy a dish to not incorporate it into the food fest.
About bitter melon: You may have heard about the many benefits of bitter melon (or bitter squash/gourd/cucumber). It is not a vegetable but a fruit actually. The ripper it is the more bitter the taste and the less crunchy the texture, thus people often eat bitter melon when it’s still young. Bitter melon is quite nutritious with lots of vitamin C (much more than cucumber), A, K and dietary fiber. Not to mention Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc and Manganese. It is anti-inflammatory (yoohoo!), antioxidant (yoohoo bis!) and antibacterial. Among the many benefits of bitter melon, it is best known to lower blood sugar level and thus is good to treat diabetes. It strengthens the liver, aids the body in releasing toxins. That of course leads to glowing, beautiful skin. Not only that, it is especially beneficial for people who have skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis. The only caution when consuming bitter melon is for pregnant ladies: it can cause bleeding so consult with doctor first. Also, the laxative component in bitter melon can cause headache and diarrhea if you’re not used to it. I’ve never known anyone who suffered from these effects but everyone’s different, so if you try bitter melon for the first time, consume a small portion just to be sure then gradually grow the portion. Once you get used to it, you can consume 2 bitter melons a day without any problem.
Now that we know how beneficial bitter melon is, let’s incorporate it into our meals. It won’t be a chore, really, as bitter melon is quite delicious once you get used to it. How does it taste like? When eaten fresh, bitter melon is a bit bitter but also watery and crunchy. When cooked, the bitter taste is more highlighted and the texture turns soft, like squash, but not mushy. Bitter melon is the kind of food that grows on you. You may not like it at first, but over time you get addicted to it.
If you try bitter melon for the first time, I recommend you to make this stuffing meatballs bitter melon soup. This is a great way to get children to try bitter melon too. Here’s a way: The stuffing meatballs are just too delicious for children to turn away from, so when they are busy munching on those meatballs, just gobble down the bitter melon and tell them how delicious and nutritious it is. Make it really convincing. If they ask for a taste, give them a spoonful of meatball with a small chunk of bitter melon. Do you get the gist of it? Over time the taste will grow on you and your children. You may then want to try other recipes with bitter melon. It can be made into salad or it can be stir-fried. I once tried wild bitter melon pickled and it’s one of the best pickles I’ve ever tasted. I digressed a bit here but just so you know, bitter melon is not intimidating.
Back to the traditional soup, stuffed bitter melon soup has the sweetness from meatballs, the fresh and slightly bitter taste of bitter melon. Unlike other squash soup, this one really needs the garnish herbs which are spring onion and cilantro to be complete. The soup is meant to be eaten with rice and a main dish. Here is pork cutlets recipe and lemongrass chili chicken as ideas for your main dish. Now let’s get to the recipe, shall we?
Ingredients: (for 3 servings)
200 gr ground pork
1,2 l water or chicken stock
2 bitter melons of 250 gr (fresh or frozen)
50 gr Vietnamese glass noodle/vermicelli (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes then minced)
20 gr dried wood ear mushrooms (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes then minced)
2 tsps of salt
1 pinch of ground black pepper
4 spring onions (heads and green parts separated, heads are minced while the green parts are then sliced thinly)
1 shallot (minced)
10 gr or a handful of cilantro (sliced thinly)
For the bitter melons, if you use the frozen ones, they’re already well prepared so just defrost, wash and dry then cut them into portions of 3 cm long.
If you use fresh bitter melons, remove both ends then cut them into portions of 3 cm long. Next use a spoon to scoop out all the white parts along with the seeds. Keep only the green portions/cylinders.
To prepare the stuffing, mix the ground pork with minced wood ear mushrooms and vermicelli, minced spring onion heads, minced shallot, ½ tsp of salt, 1 pinch of ground black pepper. Mix them well by hand. When it’s done, stuff the bitter melon cylinders with this mixture. Push the stuffing tightly, make sure to leave no air in the stuffing. When you finish stuffing the bitter melons, you will still have stuffing left, make them into meatballs and set aside.
In a pot, pour in 1,2 l of water or chicken stock, add 1 1/2 tsp of salt and bring to a boil. Lightly drop the stuffed bitter melons into the boiling water, set the heat to medium-high. Cook for 10 minutes then drop the meatballs into the boiling soup and cook for another 10 minutes. During this cooking process, the nutrition from the stuffed melon is infused into the soup. The liquid soup will eventually turn a slight brown color too. You can then turn off the heat and add spring onion and cilantro garnish directly into the pot or put the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle garnish on top.
There are versions where people use whole bitter melon without cutting it into cylinders. The whole bitter melon looks great but you will of course need to cut it once served. I also see versions where people use fish sauce instead of salt to cook the soup. I don’t use fish sauce to cook this soup because then the bitter melons have a sour taste.
The point of making more stuffing than bitter melons is to make the soup sweeter and to prevent the case where children eat all the stuffing meatballs and you’re left with all the hollow bitter melons :D. When you make more stuffing than bitter melons, everyone gets their fill, yay!
To bring the soup to another level, serve it with dipping fish sauce. If you cook bitter melon soup with fish sauce, the bitter melon turns a bit sour but dipping fish sauce, on the other hand, elevates the dish. Nothing is as satisfying as dipping those meatballs into the sweet and sour fish sauce. So make the dipping fish sauce with the ratio of 1 fish sauce : 1 sugar : 4 water : ¾ lemon juice, add minced garlic and chili to your taste. Now enjoy the soup that is as healthy as it is delicious!
by Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
Hot and cheesy, Bouyourdi is a traditional Greek appetizer (meze), so perfect for the last cold winter days and a marvelous dish for tasting a fine quality olive oil. Fast and easy, it will make you discover a new comfort food that is likely to become a classic, allowing you to savor the very bricks of Greek cuisine: feta cheese, oregano and fresh tomatoes and peppers.
INGREDIENTS (for 2-4 servings)
1 medium red pepper
6-7 cherry tomatoes
1 chili pepper
100g melting cheese of your liking (or Kefalotyri)
extra virgin olive oil
grilled bread slices sprinkled with oregano and extra virgin olive oil
a few basil leaves for decoration (optional)
Traditionally, you need a clay cooking pot for this dish, with a lid, but you may use any ovenproof pot that you can cover.
All you need to do is to break the feta in pieces and slice the tomatoes, pepper and the chili and to form layers in the clay pot. Start with some olive oil, then add a layer of feta, then a layer of tomatoes, sliced pepper and chili, onto which you sprinkle black pepper, oregano and chili flakes, and another dash of olive oil. I like this dish hot, both ways (as temperature and spiciness) but you may adjust it to your taste by choosing a medium spicy chili or drop the chili flakes altogether.
Normally, you will have 2 layers of cheese and 2 layers of veggies, for this quantity, each one dressed with oregano and olive oil. The top layer is the melting cheese.
Cover the pot and cook at 220°C for 25-30 minutes, until the cheeses melt together with the sweet tomato and pepper juices.
Grill the bread and when hot, sprinkle it with delicious olive oil and more oregano.
To be served hot (careful with the fingers!) with the crispy, perfumed bread.
Too easy! :-) But extra delicious!
This recipe is inspired by my grandma’s purple yam dessert. I don’t often eat dessert, but if I must have one, this is always my go-to dish. I remember as a kid, whenever I came to visit my grandparents, my grandma always gave me purple yam dessert. Needless to say, it’s on top of my favorite desserts list (when it comes to food, I find it hard to just pick a favorite dish :D).
Purple yam dessert originates from Hue, ancient capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 under the Nguyen dynasty. You may by now notice that my last name is Nguyen but no I don’t come from a royal bloodline, much to my dreamy 8 year-old self’s disappointment. I always find the difference with last name between Western and Eastern cultures interesting. In Western culture, the last name is different from one family to another and if two people have the same last name, often time it’s because they’re related. Whereas in Eastern culture, lots of people have the same last name and they’re not related at all even if you try to trace back the family line to their ancestors. This widespread common last name phenomenal leads to some funny (and not funny) confusion about who is who as occasionally 2 or more persons can have the same last name, first and middle name. In France, I once had a colleague with the same last name as mine and at first meeting people always ask me: “Are you related?” which always leads to a fun discussion about how many Nguyen there are. So next time you meet two Vietnamese with the same last name, just assume they’re not related ;). Now, let’s get back to our sweet dessert.
As I was saying the purple yam dessert comes from Hue. My grandma was born and raised there, so no wonder she made such wonderful dessert. The purple yam dessert is one variation of che, a Vietnamese sweet dessert which is made from all kinds of vegetables, fruits, beans and even seeds. Depends on the ingredients, che can have the consistency of soup, honey or even pudding. The purple yam dessert has the thick consistency of pudding and takes the shape of the mold when it’s cooled down.
It’s the same for this purple sweet potato dessert. It may look like your pumpkin soup at first, albeit a bit thicker, but when it has time to cool down, it becomes creamy thick and goes so well with the coconut milk garnish.
The dessert is quite simple with few ingredients. There won’t be much cooking time either as the sweet potatoes don't take long to be cooked. The dish is built in layers: you get a thick layer of creamy seductive purple sweet potato and then condensed sweet and salty coconut milk as garnish. To finish off the dessert, you can sprinkle on roasted sesame seeds or just stir tapioca pearls in coconut milk before garnishing.
The sweet potato dessert has a creamy texture from sweet potato and coconut milk. Take advantage of the natural sweetness of purple sweet potato and you don’t even need to add sugar. The coconut milk has a consistency of ganache because of kudzu root starch (hello secret ingredient!). It should taste salty sweet. Have you ever had a dessert so sweet that the aftertaste just stuck to the root of your tongue and can’t be washed away with water? Avoid that by adding a little bit of salt when you make this coconut milk garnish. Coconut milk for che must not taste too sweet but a bit salty to provide contrast to the main component. This dessert can be enjoyed in winter as well as summer. I will explain how you can alter the taste just by adding 1 component. Now without any further delay, let’s get to our recipe!
Ingredients: (4 servings)
- 430 gr purple sweet potatoes
- 250 ml coconut milk
- 2 tblspoons of white sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tblspoon of kudzu root starch (or 1 ½ tblspoons of corn starch/tapioca powder)
Optional ingredients: roasted sesame seeds or tapioca pearls which you can find at Asian stores
Peel and wash the sweet potatoes then steam them for 15 minutes or until cooked through. You can steam the sweet potatoes and peel them after. I find it a bit messy so I prefer to peel them first. To test if the sweet potatoes are cooked, you can thrust a chopstick through them. If the chopstick comes through easily, it means they’re ready for the next step.
In a blender, pour in 100 ml coconut milk and add the cooked sweet potatoes. Blend well until you obtain a thick creamy mixture. Transfer it into a pot and stir constantly on medium – low heat for 5 minutes.
Pour the mixture into small serving bowls or molds. Leave them to cool down in room temperature then serve with coconut milk or keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To make the coconut milk garnish, put the rest of it in a pot, add 150 ml of water, 1 pinch of salt and 2 tblspoons of sugar to stir on medium – high heat until boiling. When it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and keep stirring until the sugar completely dissolves.
At the same time use 50 ml of water to dissolve 1 tblspoon of kudzu root starch or corn starch/tapioca powder. Gently pour this milky mixture into the coconut milk and stir. The heat will thicken the starch and that’s why you need to stir well to distribute the starch evenly. Now the work is done, take the coconut milk off the heat.
To serve the dessert in cold weather, garnish the warm coconut milk on top of the cooled down sweet potato purée, sprinkle on roasted sesame seeds and enjoy when it’s still warm. It is quite hearty and a small portion can keep you full for a long time.
In summer, you can still eat the sweet potatoes dessert with coconut milk. However we will make it fresher by keeping the small bowls/molds into the fridge to enjoy at leisure, you can keep the coconut milk in the fridge too or just make it before you need to serve the dish. When it’s time to serve, take the sweet potato purée out the bowl and put it in a big glass. Next add coconut milk then a generous amount of grated ice. You may want to substitute the roasted sesame seeds for tapioca pearls as sesame seeds are better served with warm desserts. To eat this layered dessert, use a spoon to mix all the components together and smash the thick purée until everything is well mixed. Your spoonful should contain all the tastes from sweet potato to coconut milk and fresh grated ice. In summer the dessert is made so that it’s less sweet but if you prefer a sweeter version, you can adjust the amount of water in the purée or add sugar to your taste.
Enjoy the week-end!
Crumble...crumble...my little winter star...One cannot imagine a wind-howling winter evening by the fire and a cup of tea without at least a crumble....per winter month. Here I am proposing my secret bloody crumble recipe, taking merely 10 minutes to prepare and the rest...is oven magic and a symphony of sweet, sour, crispy, juicy.
What you need:
450g red berries, frozen (or canned or fresh). I used a mixture of: strawberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries, blueberries.
225g brown sugar
100g muesli (with oat, dried fruits and seeds)
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven at 220C.
In a bowl, mix 125g brown sugar with the flour, salt and sliced butter, with your fingers, until achieving a breadcrumb texture (see above photo).
Add the muesli and mix it in.
Layer the fruits in a deep ovenproof dish (around 5 cm deep), to cover 2/3 of the dish. Make a dense layer, for the crumble dough to not reach the bottom. This particular crumble will produce more liquid and during cooking, the juice will come to the surface of the crumble. I don't mind this, on the contrary, I like its juiciness, but if you want to prevent that, use just half of the berry quantity.
Sprinkle the fruits with the rest of the sugar, evenly.
Flatten the crumble dough over the berries. You can use a fork to carve the surface slightly, for a crispier result.
Bake in the oven at 220C for about 50 minutes, until crispy golden.
Serve with ricotta.
Enjoy your winter evenings, wherever you are!
Today let’s do a vegetable dish, shall we? For the new year’s resolution list, I did remind myself to eat more vegetables as I often forget to do a vegetable side-dish to go with my meaty main course. Sometimes I do remember but am too lazy to prepare them. Well, no more excuses. This year will be all about healthy dishes.
To incorporate more vegetables, I think stir-fry is the best approach. Firstly, it doesn’t take much time to prepare and to cook which is a must for busy folks and secondly it preserves most of the vegetables’ flavor and nutrition to make the dish so tasty. I prefer leafy greens soup too but to savor the natural sweetness of vegetables, I’d opt for stir-fry dish any day.
This stir-fry dish is inspired by Vietnamese vegetarian stir-fried rice noodles dish which is a street food of Hochiminh city. It is sold mostly in the morning to serve as breakfast for students as it isn’t costly yet keeps the stomach full for hours. And since Hochiminh city’s weather is warm throughout the year, there’s no need for heavy hearty breakfasts but a refreshing, delicately flavored dish like this one is optimal. And that’s what we’re aiming for with this dish. I make some twerks with the ingredients by adding more healthy ingredients and ditching the deep-fried tofu. We also will replace the rice noodles with sweet potato noodles. If you read my stir-fried beef noodles recipe, you’d know I’m obsessed with sweet potato noodles. They’re so easy to cook, so healthy to eat that I choose these noodles to begin the new year with. Alright, enough with the rambling, let’s get to the recipe then.
Ingredients (2 light dinner servings):
For the main dish
- 150 gr sweet potato noodles (soaked in cold water for 10 minutes or not)
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in warm water for 15 minutes or more until softened, dried off excess water and sliced thinly)
- 80 gr carrot or 2/3 of a medium carrot (cut into long stripes of 5 cm)
- 100 gr mung bean sprouts
- 150 gr choi sum or bok choy or any leafy green of your choice (cut into long stripes of 5 cm)
- 2 eggs (egg yolk and egg white separated)
- 3 spring onion’s heads (diced) OR ¼ of an onion (sliced thinly)
- 1 handful of roasted peanuts or cashew nuts, slightly grounded
- 50 gr mushrooms of your choice, I use straw mushrooms this time (cut in half)
- 1 handful of coriander (roughly chopped / optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Soy sauce
For the sauce (to serve with the dish if needed)
- Soy sauce
- Lime juice or apple cider vinegar
- Half of a red chili (optional)
To make the sauce, combine 3 tblspoons of soy sauce, 3 tblspoons of water, 1 tblspoon of sugar and 1 tblspoon of lime juice or 1 and 1/2 tblspoons of apple cider vinegar. Add thin slices of chili for a pop of spiciness.
You can find my notes for stir-fried dish with my beef stir-fried noodles here.
The purpose of my stir-fried vegetables dish is to be creative. So you can experiment with different vegetables to discover which texture, flavor and color speak to you. And above all, stay healthy and eat lots of veggies!
Greetings friends! We’re here, at the beginning of 2018!!! I don’t know about you but to me 2017 flew pass so fast I didn’t even have time to settle in. It feels like I just closed my eyes and then the year was gone. No matter how unnerved or excited I am about this challenging/exciting year of 2018, let’s celebrate it with fruit jelly! This is an easy and colorful dessert that is perfect for the holiday or any celebration. Last week Zazulete bravely showcased a fruit pavlova recipe, if you haven’t seen her recipe, check it out here.
Today we also use lots of colorful fruits to fill our party plates but with an Asian flair from agar agar powder. Agar agar powder is made from algae seaweed and used in cooking will give a thickening, jelly-like effect similar to gelatin. It has no color, no taste and no smell which make it one of the most versatile ingredients for desserts. It is also free from calories, sugar and carbohydrate, THAT sounds seductive right? Vietnamese use agar agar powder to make jelly in the summer as it is reputed to reduce inflammation. I know we’re about to enter deep winter not summer, but with all those heavy dishes that we consumed in the past days, this dessert will be extremely beneficial to restore your inflamed organs :).
To make this dessert, it is quite simple. Choose the fruits that you like, I recommend a combination of sweet and sour fruits with different colors to make this dish shine. As for the agar agar powder, we only need fruit juice to dissolve it with. For this recipe, I also add a layer of coconut milk jelly and another one from rooibos and hibiscus tea. I use rooibos tea for its headaches and insomnia relief, hibiscus for its effect on inflammation and digestive problems. Yes we go all out on blasting inflammation. Also these two teas have a beautiful clear red color that I love to add to this recipe. As for coconut milk, why do I use it? Well when it comes to agar agar jelly, coconut milk is the best. The jelly will have a white color with rich flavor, to contrast with the fruitdies. We’ll make some experiments with this so stay tuned!
- 1 sachet of agar agar powder
- Half of 1 ripe mango, about 50 gr (cut into small cubes)
- 1 handful of cranberries
- 1 kiwi (cut into small cubes)
- 1 part of Korean pear, about 50 gr (cut into small cubes)
- Half of 1 kaki/persimmon, about 50 gr (cut into small cubes)
- 50 gr coconut milk
- 1 tblspoon of condensed milk
- 200 ml rooibos and hibiscus tea
- 400 ml pear juice
Prepare the red tea in advance, warm up water and infuse rooibos and hibiscus to make red tea. When the tea cools down to room temperature we can start making fruits agar agar jelly.
- First layer: the fruits jelly
First in a small pot, dissolve 3 teaspoons of agar agar powder with 100 ml of water and 400 ml of pear juice, stir to dissolve the powder well. Put the pot on medium heat and keep stirring until the powder is completely dissolved. That means you no longer see any powder molecule left on your stirring spoon. Add 2 full teaspoons sugar and stir again. (We do a lot of stirring for this recipe). Let the mixture boil for 2 minutes, keep stirring all this time, then take off the heat. Now pour a bit of the mixture into a mold that you like (a round mold will have a cake effect, a square mold will produce cute cubes).
Now wait for the first layer to cool off a bit before placing the fruit cubes into the mold. Distribute all the fruits and mix the color well. When your art work is done, pour in the rest of the agar agar mixture and set the mold aside. (You can put it in the fridge for it to set faster).
- Second layer: red tea
Stir in 1 tspoon of agar agar powder into 250 ml of red tea that we prepared in advance. Repeat the former step we did for the fruit jelly, only that this time we just pour the mixture into the mold without adding any fruit in it. Use 2 tspoons of sugar or more because the hibiscus tea is quite sour.
- Third layer: coconut milk
Again we do a similar step as above, but the coconut milk is quite thick, so add 100 ml of water to lighten it with a pinch of salt. Also add the condensed milk and stir on medium heat. Repeat the first step and pour the mixture into the mold when the second layer is set and firm.
And that’s that. This jelly can be stored for up to 3 days in fridge so you can make it in advance without stressing. When it's time to serve the dessert, put the whole mold in a bit of hot water, run the point of the knife through the edges of the jelly to separate it from the mold. Turn the mold over the serving dish, knock gently on the mold if needed for the jelly to slide down. Cut the jelly into cubes or slices.
The amount of fruits and sugar is subjective, so use more or less to suit your taste.
Let the first layer set in the fridge for 20 minutes, the 2nd and 3rd layers only need 10 minutes each.
The red tea jelly takes like fruit syrup jelly. The sourness of hibiscus tea couples with the red fruits taste of rooibos give this jelly a unique flavor.
The agar agar powder doesn’t have the consistency of gelatin and so the jelly is quite thick, not creamy. It has a fresh taste with busty flavors from sweet and sour fruits. Doesn’t it look uplifting and exciting?
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 ;).
Cover photo: Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!