Friday, May 25, 2007

Waiter, there's something in my...aubergine!

Jeanne is hosting this month's edition of Waiter, there's something in my stuffed fruit/vegetable. I opted for the veggie option by using these thai aubergines and stuffing then with a mix for nem nuong. Nem nuong are vietnamese pork balls that you grill and then assemble into wraps with salad etither in big lettuce leafs or rice paper. The first time I ate them was in Vientiane (Laos) when I was traveling with my friend Lisa. The owner of the small sandwich shop we were eating at recommended us this dish and we were very happy we took her up on her offer. She explained to us how to make the rolls and the ingredients so I could recreate it at home. The only distraction during this lunch was a Canadian girl eating outside and sharing her adventures with some friends. She was fairly loud and we were nosey so we listened in on the coversation. Little did we know that we would meet this girl, Sharon, the following day as we flew to Vietnam and would get on so well that we'd travel together for the next three months!

Last weekend I went to London for the long weekend and Lisa, Sharon and I met up (post to follow). We had a lovely time with lots of chatting and eating. It's amazing how you can not see each other for a year and then get right into the swing of things again. One of the highlights was a great Vietnamese meal which brought back lots of memories and stories. I'd however forgotton about the Nem nuong and when I got home and was flicking through this book, I ran into them again and WTSIM was the perfect event to recreate them in a different format. I like the thai eggplant as they have a slightly more bitter taste and love their small and dinky appearance. The combination worked well, the pork was moist and sweet and the slight bitter eggplant balanced this nicely. We ate it with rice cakes (from the chinese supermarket), stirfried veg and a Vietnamese dipping sauce. On the down side the aubergines were a bit fidley to hollow out and I had way too much filling. I filled 6 and could have probably done 24 at least! We decided to just grill the left over pork mince as little balls and have them with rice and salad tomorrow.

Aubergines filled with Vietnamese pork mince
24 thai
225 g lean pork
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper
30g minced pork fat
1 tbsp roasted rice powder*

Slice the pork and place it into a bowl with the shallots, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and pepper. leave to marinade between 1-24 hr. Before proceeding, transfer this mix to the freezer for roughly 30 min. In the mean time slice the top off the aubergines and hollow them out, cut the flesh into small chuncks. In a food processor, wizz the fat to a paste, then add the chilled slices of pork and process till it forms a ball of rubbery paste. Add the rice powder and the scooped out flesh of the aubergines and process this in very briefly. Scoop a ball of this into the aubergines, place the top back on and bake 30 min at 180°C.

* roast 1/4 cup of thai sticky or jasmine rice until golden brown. Grind down in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle till a fine powder. This will keep well in a jar. Alternatively, I've cheated and just roasted some rice flower instead.

Vietnamese dipping sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 minced garlic clove
1 minced small chili
shredded carrot

Goodmorning yellow!

When we moved into our apartment in Basel, one of my (very) slight dissapointments was the size of the balcony. After having a garden in our last flat in Dundee where I enjoyed growing some vegetables I'd been looking forward to growing some more here. But we decided that is was still very possible so installed some herb pots (sage, rosemary,thyme, parsley, chives, basil, mint, thai basil and shiso) and planted some seeds. We picked tomatoes, as I love making green tomato chutney and don't know if you can buy them here, and courgettes as I'd read somewhere they were very easy to grow in pot. They've been so much fun! Aspecially the courgettes just grow before your eyes. A few weeks ago they were moved to the balcony into big pots and have been growing ever since. So as we pulled up the shutters this morning there was a vibrant splash of yellow on our balcony as the first courgette flowers have opened up....what a site to wake up to!! They were like little suns sitting within the plants and I think they are enjoying the 25-30°C were having at the moment.....let's hope the weather holds so we can enjoy the new crop soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Coffee and biscotti

Last weekend, I finally got to relive one of my favourite childhood shopping moments! When we were living in Thoiry, we did our big shop over the border in Meyrin (Switzerland) where they had a huge Migros! I rememeber isles of chocolate, loads of fishtanks with a vast array of fish and crustaceans and a checkout as far as the eye coud see (probably slightly exaggerated due to my little size at the time).

But the real treat would come after the checkout if mum had bought coffee. This was bought in beans and then either my brother or I would get to put the beans into the machine, place the bag into the hold and move the lever...then after a few seconds a loud bbbzzzrrr would sound and out came wonderful ground coffee. Even though it still took me a long time to drink coffee, I always loved this smell. So as my parents bought me a lovely coffeemaker for my birthday and my first jar of pre-ground coffee was empty I went to the shop. After selecting this lovely yellow bag, I went through the checkout and walked over to the machine. There, I started the familiar procedure and a few bbbzzzrrrs later I had my bag of lovely smelling coffee. To enjoy this to the fullest, I baked some biscotti to go with it from a recipe I got from my Norwegian friend Anne. She is an amazing baker and this recipe was no different as it delivered on all fronts. The biscotti were very easy to make, crunchy and packed lots of flavours that came out even more when dunked into the fresh coffee. I can't wait for the next bag (of both!!)

Biscotti Toscani
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond essence
2tsp grated orange zest
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Roast the almonds at 160°C for 8-10 min, leave to cool. Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs, vanilla and almond extract and the orange zest. Combine the dry ingredients and add this to the wet mix. Finally, cut the almonds in half and fold them in. The dough is quite sticky but divide it in half and shape it into logs on floured baking trays. Bake at 160°C for 25 min or until golden brown. Place on a rack to cool for 5 min, cut them at a 45 degree angle about 2.5 cm thick. Lay slices flat on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 10 min turning them over midway. Cool on a rack or eat while still warm.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Barry went to Barcelona last weekend for his friends stagdo. But although his memories are pretty hazy of the whole thing, he did remember to bring me back a selection of nice meats including Chorizo, Jamon and Salchichon. So with the weather being nice again this weekend, we had a tapas style dinner on our balcony last night. We had some of the meats, some cheeses (Tomme de Savoie and Comte), Membrillo, marinated bell pepers, pickled onions. To go with this, we had spicy potatoes and I coated some baby squid and sardines in flour mixed freshly ground pepper and briefly fried these. A great meal and so simple, I think we shall be eating like this a lot this summer!

Spicy potatoes
500 g boiled potaoes
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
2 green chilies
handfull parsley
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt and pepper

Dice the potatoes into smallish chunks and finely chop the rest of the ingredient. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic till golden. Add the rest of the ingredients, season to taste and fry for 10 minutes. If the mixture starts to get a bit dry or burning you can add some water or red wine. These potatoes taste great both hot or cold.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Taste of Yellow

Having lost my grandparents and family friends to cancer I figured this was a very worthwhile event to take part in. I have so much respect for people who have to deal with this every day. For this occasion I made a passion fruit tart based on a recipe from this book. Very simple to make and with a sweet zingy taste this beautiful yellow tart would brighten anybody's day!

Passion fruit tart serves 8
*for the pastry
200g plain flour
100g butter
75g sugar
pinch of salt

*for the filling
150 ml double cream
100g caster sugar
200 ml passion fruit pulp (about 9 fruits)
4 eggs
icing sugar, for caramelizing

Mix together flour, butter, sugar and salt till you have a crumbly mixture. Then add water until it comes together into a firm dough. Wrap this in cling film and place in the fridge for about 30 min-1 hour. Preheat the over to 190C, grease a 20cm tart tin and cover with the rolled out pastry. Prick the base with a fork, cover with baking paper and fill with beans. Bake 10 min, then remove the beans and bake another 5 min or until golden. Take out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 140C. Warm the cream in a small pan. In a large bowl, whisk the butter, sugar and passion fruit pulp , then whisk in the eggs. Finally, add the pre-warmed cream and pass everything through a sieve to get rid of the seeds (press these down well to get as much juice from them). Pour the mixture into the tray and bake 50-55 min or until the filling is just firm at the edge but still wobbly in the centre. Leave to cool completely, remove from the tin and chill for several hours to allow the centre to firm. Just before serving, dust the surface with icing sugar and place it under a hot grill to caramelize and make a thin, golden glaze.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

When the cat's away...

....the mice can play :-) I don't mean this is in a bad way, but with Barry away for the weekend in Barcelona with his friends I had a chance to eat everything I wanted this weekend!! As lucky as I am with his willingness to try most things, in his heart he's a true Irishman and just likes his meat and potatoes. Whereas I prefer fish and so I'm making the most of his trip away. I started with trout and eggplant last night, followed by a lovely sushi lunch this afternoon.

Then tonight I finally got a chance to cook from my new book. I'd had my eye on it for ages and received it as a Christmas present this year...and even though I've been reading it lots, reminiscing of my trip down the Mekong river and through these countries two years ago. There was somehow so much to choose from and I just couldn't decide where to start. In the end it was an easy choice as I'd bought some squid and the book only had one recipe. I fell in love with this fish whilst travelling in Asia, I liked it before but I think often we get bad quality here. Over there everything was so fresh, prepared very simply but so well that it has now become one of my favourites. I think for the month we were in VIetnam that was all I ate! And this recipe delivered exactly the same, fresh tasty squid with crispy salad and fresh, spicy flavours. I think after this one, I shall keep cooking from this book as this dish was so simple yet rewarding to make!!

Squid with ginger-garlic sauce

2 pounds cleaned squid or 3 pounds small or medium whole squid
2-3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup coriander leaves
crunchy sald (I used oak leaf with chopped celery and fennel)
1 lime cut in wedges
salt and pepper

ginger garlic sauce
* 2 tbsp minced ginger
* 2 cloves garlic minced
* 1 bird or serrano chili, finelly chopped
* 1 tsp sugar
*3 tbsp fish sauce
* 3 tbsp fesh lime juice
* 1-2 tbsp water

First, prepare the ginger garlic sauce by crushing garlic, ginger, chili and sugar together in a pestle and mortar or by chopping it up finely. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and water to taste and blend well. Next, prepare the salad by cleaning all the veg and chopping it to whatever size you prefer. Finally, clean the squid and cut into rings or pieces, leave the tentacles whole or cut in half. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the squid in this for 4-6 minuted. Drain well, coat with lime juice and add coriander leaves. Serve with the salad and the sauce, either drizzle the sauce over or dip the pieces of squid in it with some veg.