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 ;).
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.
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
This is an easy fully-flavored recipe for a quick lunch, dinner or a magician's way to impress your surprise guests. You need (for 2 servings):
1 chicken breast
1 red bell pepper
1 medium tomato or 4 cherry tomatoes (or 1 tbsp tomato paste)
2 spring onions
1/2 tsp chili paste or 1 red chili ( you can play with quantities here, depending on how hot you want it to be or how hot your chilies are :D)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp curry or curcuma (turmeric)
2 tbsp parmesan
300g Basmati rice (or other rice of your liking)
-Wash the rice in cold water and add it in a pot with 600 ml water. Bring it to boil with upper medium heat, cover the pot and turn to lower heat for about 8 minutes. My trick for perfect rice: after the 8 minutes pass, turn off the heat and add about 60 ml warm water in the rice, cover it again and let it sit.
-In the meantime, cut the chicken breast in small cubes (about 1,5 cm per side) and put it aside.
-Cut the bell pepper and the tomatoes in similarly sized chunks and the green onion in larger pieces (not minced). If you use fresh chili, mince it.
-Heat olive oil in a pan or a wok (preferably) and throw in the chicken cubes, browning them on each side under high heat, for about 4 minutes. Add 1 tsp soy sauce and 50 ml water and stir. When the water evaporates and the frying restarts, add the cut pepper, tomatoes (or tomato paste), spring onions and chili (or the chili paste).
-Stir fry them all for 3 minutes.
-Add the rest of the soy sauce (1 tsp), the curry or turmeric and 200 ml of water, turn down the heat to medium and let it boil and the gravy to thicken for 6 minutes. Continue to stir.
Serve on top of hot rice, with plenty of parmesan.
I love to eat it with my favorite salad, a simple lettuce-parsley-lemon juice and zest-olive oil salad.
Today is all about comfort food.
When I think back about the food that I often ate in my childhood, this one stands out the most. I remember my mom used to cook this dish a lot, now come to think of it, the reason must be because I, as a child, loved the dish so much. I remember whenever I saw the pork cutlets among the ingredients mom bought from the market, I just knew she’d make this dish.
Whenever I ate this dish, I’d eat it so slow. I’d chew on a piece of meat for dozens of minutes on end to savor every flavor infused in the pork meat. First the sweetness and saltiness of the gravy would come out, then the natural taste of pork and its texture would provide me with a happy chewing session until the piece of meat'd feel like chewing gum, only then I’d swallow. From my experiences with kids, they love to chew on this kind of braised meat more than the grilled one. Maybe it’s a common trait. How about yours?
This pork cutlets dish is also the first Vietnamese food that I cooked when I came here, in France. Back then everything was still new and strange to me. I met a senior of my Vietnamese college who helped me a lot in settling in. At that time he was about to come back to Vietnam after finishing his degree so he and his mates spent a lot of time packing things up that he didn’t have time to cook anything. So I made this dish for them and they loved it. Maybe because it tasted like home. Whenever I cook this dish, I’m always reminded of happy memories and acts of kindness from people who didn’t know me but helped me out anyway. Those moments are so heart-warming and touching that this dish crystallizes in my mind as comfort food all the way.
The Vietnamese name for this dish is “coc lech” or “cot lech” which derives from the French word “côtelettes”. The ways to pronounce the words are similar too. To this day Vietnamese still use lots of French words for everyday things, like “xo” (seau) for buckets or “ghi dong” (guidon) for bicycle’s handlebar among many others. They’re a result of the colonialism from late 1800s to 1945s. The French culture permeates most aspects of Vietnamese culture that sometimes we’re not aware which is French influence and which is Vietnamese culture. Just take the famous Vietnamese “banh mi” for example. Vietnamese learned to make the loaf of bread from French bread, and then incorporated their own ingredients to make it a distinctly outstanding sandwich. Grew up eating this sandwich for most of my breakfasts, I didn't even think about the similarities. These cultural tidbits always fascinate me!
The Vietnamese “cot lech” means a distinct dish cooked in a certain way. Of course we use pork cutlets for this dish for sure, but the cutlets must be first infused in the marinade, then pan-seared for a beautiful caramel color and lastly cooked in the marinade until we obtain a thick golden brown gravy. It is meant to eat as a main dish in ordinary Vietnamese family meal along with soup and vegetables side-dish. Shall we start?
Ingredients: (4 servings)
4 big pork cutlets (about 150 gr each)
2 tblspoons of sugar
4 tblspoons of fish sauce (or substitute with 3 tblspoons of fish sauce and 1 tblspoon of soy sauce)
200 ml water (nearly 1 cup) or broth
1 pinch of salt and black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, slightly mashed
1 small chunk of ginger of about 2 tspoons, slightly mashed (optional)
1 tblspoon of soy sauce (optional)
1 tspoon of chili powder (optional)
Spring onion or cilantro for garnish (optional)
1. Marinate the pork cutlets at least 2 hours before cooking (or even overnight). Combine 3 tblspoons of fish sauce if use 4 tblspoons OR 2 tblspoons of fish sauce and 1 tblspoon of soy sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, 2 tblspoons of water with 1 tblspoon of vegetable oil for the marinade. Let the cutlets be marinated in the fridge.
2. When the cutlets are ready, heat vegetable oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Put in the mashed garlic and ginger to infuse the oil with their flavors. Stir them until they turn brown on the edges then take them out.
3. Now turn the heat on higher, on high heat, and sear the cutlets until they’re brown-seared on both sides in the infused oil (it should take about 4 minutes for each). Remember to store the marinade for later use.
4. When the cutlets are beautifully seared, pour in the marinade and lower the heat. Add the last tblspoon of fish sauce and chili powder and cook the cutlets with the lid on until they become soft. This step takes around 20 - 25 minutes or more, depends on the thickness of the cutlets.
The dish doesn’t need any garnish but you can add cilantro or spring onion to your liking.
Slightly cut through the edge of the cutlet will help it keep the shape when cooked. If not the pieces will have funny looking curves, like they can’t handle the heat.
The reason I reserved the last tblspoon of fish sauce for the last step is because the dish may be too salty for your taste. So you don’t have to add it in the end, just adjust and find the right balance for you. Another reason is that I want to build the flavors in layers, so that the gravy is a bit more salty than the cutlet. Because Vietnamese eat this dish by pouring the gravy over rice, it must be more salty than the meat.
You can add the fried garlic and ginger back in the pan when you add the water or broth and let them be cooked with the cutlets. This way nothing goes to waste.
You don't need to add the chili powder. I just love my cutlets to be a bit spicy, that's why I chose the chili powder. If you don’t like the heat, just leave it out.
If you want to experience a Vietnamese 3 dishes meal, cook this pork cutlet dish with taro soup and pickles or stir-fried veggies and garlic. The different textures and flavors will give you a satisfactory meal.
Most of all, have fun with it and do share with me your favorite comfort food. I'm all ears.
Happy chewing session :D!
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
Dark. Luscious. Fruity. Tipsy. Simple. A royal dessert for holidays that is sure to impress your guests. Or a guilty, secret pleasure for chocolate lovers. Anytime. Anyplace.
INGREDIENTS (serves 10 guests)
400g dark, high -quality chocolate (72%)
400g whipping cream
100g golden raisins
150g dried apricots
100g dried cranberries
150g dried (optional: smoked) plums
2 tbsp cognac
50g cocoa powder
Prepare one day before serving.
You can use a mixture of different dried fruits, but make sure to include at least two sweet&sour fruit types to complement the sweet heaviness of chocolate and cream.
Rehydrate the raisins in warm water or a mixture of water and cognac about 20 minutes before preparation. If necessary, also hydrate the plums (I used soft, smoked and dried plums). Cut and mince all the dried fruits (small chunks the size of a raisin) and put them aside.
Break the chocolate in chunks (by hitting the chocolate bar, in its wrapping, with a meat tenderizer)
Heat the whipping cream in a pan to the point of boiling (without boiling, however), on low heat. After a few minutes, in the process, add the sugar and mix it well until it melts. You will know the whipping cream is ready for our purpose when it starts forming bubbles and when it starts steaming, and this is when you need to put it aside. Place the chocolate chunks in the pan, so that they are covered in cream, but don't mix yet. Let them melt for about 4-5 minutes. At this point, after adding the chocolate, you also add the butter, cut in squares or if softer, separated in several pieces with a spoon (it is best to use it at room temperature). After a few minutes, mix the chocolate and the butter in the whipping cream (preferably with a wooden spoon) until thoroughly uniform.
We just made a ganache.
Add the minced dried fruits and the cognac. Stir and blend. Let cool.
When cool enough, add the ganache into the fridge for 24 hours, covered.
It will become a thick, dark layer of chocolaty promises.
When ready to serve, put the cocoa powder in a bowl, use a small ice cream spoon to form the delightful balls, roll them in cocoa, while evening them with your fingers. Personally, I like to use a larger ice cream spoon for a special effect. For the rugged effect, you just need to avoid evening their surface all around. You can also form them as smooth balls of chocolate if you roll them in your hands before covering them in cocoa. Rolling them in your palm is a sticky business, but if you can move quickly while the ganache is cold, it can be done. But give a try to my rugged beauties and just mess them around in the powder as they come from the ice cream spoon.
Enjoy their soft, creamy, fruity, tipsy chocolate heart.
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!