Category Archives: Mango

Vietnam Part 2 – “Is that cats? Or the band?”

Next stop on our trip was the old Imperial capital of Hue (pronounced Hway). There is an airport at Hüê but it was closed so we caught a bus from Da Nang airport, a journey of around three hours. The bus ride was an event.  Vietnamese roads aren’t great and, as mentioned, the driving is terrible.  It’s sometimes best not to look – seeing a fully laden tourist coach or truck heading straight towards you on the wrong side of the road is both scarily common and just plain scary!

The bus driver had no teeth.  Which I’m sure is an occupational hazard of driving up and down those potholey roads all your life.  After a while, I guess your teeth just jolt out.  I’m surprised he had bones! The only solace from the bumping and the impending doom was that I had a Buddhist monk sitting next to me.  Surely nothing bad would happen to us with a man of God on board.  After one particularly scary near miss he took out an Ipad and began typing away.  I took a peek over his shoulder to see if he was maybe sending a terse email to the guy upstairs but he was just on Facebook.

Minh Mang Tomb - Hue

Minh Mang Tomb – Hue

Hue is a great place to soak up some of the culture and history of Vietnam and the ideal way to do this is via a Monuments Tour.  First stop was the tomb of the Emporer Minh Mang.  This was pretty sensational, consisting of three main areas – the main gate, the temple and the tomb.  The Minh Mang tomb was very elegantly laid out, very orderly and symmetrical. When we were there, these ponds were filled with lotus flowers which was gorgeous.

Minh Mang Tomb - Hue

Minh Mang Tomb – Hue

Minh Mang was  quite the lad; fathering a total of 151 children from his 40 wives. Not so Khai Dihn, whose tomb we visited next.  On his death, one of his concubines  said that Khai was “not interested in sex” and “physically weak”.  This, along with his love of fashion design has  lead to speculation that he may well have been the gay prince of Vietnam.

Emperor Khai Dinh

If the Minh Mang tomb is a model of restraint and orderly design, then the interior designer of the Khai Dinh tomb, was to steal a phrase from the Luxe Guide’s description of the Cao Dai Temple “clearly Liberace or on drugs or possibly both”.  It’s awesome!!!!!  An absolute riot of gold and the most lovely intricate mosaics!

The Khai Dihn Tomb: Hue

The Khai Dinh Tomb: Hue

Mosaics - the Khai Dinh Tomb Hue

Mosaics – the Khai Dinh Tomb Hue

There was also a third tomb but you know, after you’ve seen the Khai Dinh, there’s only one way to go…and it’s not up.  Also, the open air café next to where the bus stopped was selling freshly squeezed sugar cane juice and who doesn’t want a bit of that?

Me actually, it wasn’t great.  Freshly squeezed sugar cane juice tastes, quelle surprise,  like sugary water.  Still, the prevalence of the fresh stuff could explain why the mojito’s in Hüê were the best I had.

Mojito's in the rain

Mojito’s in the rain

In the afternoon we went to the Thien Mu Pagoda which was beautiful – we reached this via a boat ride.  The Pagoda is situated on the banks of the river in some very pretty gardens.  The complex does have a dark heart though.  In one of the outbuildings is a car from the 1960’s one of those ones with the fins you always see in the movies.  “Cool” you think.  “Even the monks in the ‘60’s had wicked style.”

Thien Mu Pagoda

Thien Mu Pagoda

Car - Thien Mu Pagoda

Car – Thien Mu Pagoda

Then you read the plaque on the side and find out that this was the exact car that a monk, Thich Quang, drove to Saigon in 1963.  When he got there, he stopped the car, sat down in the middle of an intersection, poured petrol over himself and set himself alight in a protest against religious persecution.  Those monks from the ‘60’s were hardcore.  No arseing about on Facebook for them.

The actual act is on You Tube for anyone who wants to see it – I haven’t watched it (and won’t be watching it) because it’s a person burning themselves to death and hence the type of thing that is likely to  give me the screaming heebie-jeebies for months.  But the link is here.

If you’re so inclined, knock yourself out.  For those of a not so psychopathic more sensitive disposition, you can learn more about Thich Quang and this fascinating piece of history via a BBC podcast here.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01blrbl

There was a detour on the way to the pagoda.  We were ushered off the boat into a garden and I guess, like me, a few of the others assumed we were at our destination.   We were greeted in the garden by an old lady who told us to follow her.  Which we did because she was going to lead us to the pagoda right?  Not so much.  We start walking through the garden.  Then she pauses and points at a tree.  “Mango” she says, pointing at it.  “Nice” we say, nodding.

We walk on.  She points out other trees.  “Apricot…lychee…banana” and we continue to nod.  “Yes…I see…interesting”.  We keep walking.  She keeps pointing out trees.  We keep nodding and agreeing.  This went on for a while – possibly too long – there  was  a moment towards the end where I think both sides were just phoning it in.  She gave us a bit of “Mango….mango….mango,”  and we gave back some “Yeah…right…whatever.”  It might been more interesting if there had been fruit on any of those trees.  As it was, she could have told us pretty much anything and we would have nodded and agreed like a bunch of dummies.

Anyway, shortly after the mango, mango, mango episode, we ended up at the front gate (exactly where we started) and she asked us all for money for touring her garden.  Huh?  Where’s the pagoda?  There were rumblings….the Germans and the Dutch were not happy about this development but she was not letting anyone go without them paying up.  One of the Dutch tried to sneak past her – I’ve never seen someone so old move so fast.  She was spry!!!  Must be all the fruit.  No one ever explained why we went there.   I suspect  she was the tour guide’s grandma.

Given that the actual tropical garden was kind of underwhelming, it was ironic that our favourite  restaurant in Hue was a place called the Tropical Garden.  This was really cute with tables set in the garden with little thatched rooves over the top.  Very Gilligan’s Island!  I so wish I’d worn my gold lame dress just like Ginger’s.  Until I remembered I only own one in my dreams…

Huh… I just realised my whole sense of fashion, hair and makeup is pretty much derived from Gilligan’s Island and Get Smart….who says tv doesn’t influence young minds?

Mary Ann

Mary Ann

The food at The Tropical Garden was super tasty but the best thing about it is the absolutely terrible band.  I guess Vietnamese folk music is an acquired taste because, our first time there, Mark had his back to them and shortly after they began to play frowned and asked.  “What’s that noise?  Is that cats?  Or the band?”  Mind you, they also set the local dogs to howling so I guess that, much like us canines can also not appreciate the nuances of the Vietnamese folk scene.

By no means should you let this put you off though, in fact I”m only telling you this to encourage you to go and hear it for yourself….we went three nights in a row….

The Tropical Garden Band

The Tropical Garden Band

Our other favourite place was a restaurant / art gallery called Confetti.  This had great food at great prices and nice art.  But you know what?  After the quirkiness of The Tropical Garden, it all seemed a little normal….

So, I have a new camera and have been cooking up some Hüê inspired delights.  Aubergine was a popular vegetable there so first up I have a very simple grilled aubergine / eggplant based on the recipe in Simple Good Food by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman called Grilled Aubergine with Nam Pla and Basil.

My version is called “Hey, Hüê, It’s Vietnamese Inspired Aubergine”

1 Eggplant / Aubergine, sliced into rounds about 1/2 centimetre thick

1 tsp tumeric

1 -2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp lemon or lime juice

1 tbsp Nam Pla (Fish Sauce)

1 tsp sugar

1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped

Chives, finely chopped

Basil leaves, finely chopped

Mix the tumeric and the olive oil and dip your eggplant slices into the mixture then place them under a hot grill.  Turn them once they start to brown – you may also have to redip them if they get too dry.

Whilst your eggplant is cooking, mix up your lemon juice and fish sauce.  Add the chopped chilli and chives. Once the eggplant is cooked,  place on a plate and dress with the fish sauce mixture. Scatter the basil leaves over the top.

This is a great side dish or, I quite like it just on crackers.  You can also mess with the mix as much as you like.  Add some ginger or garlic or your choice of flavourings!

tnamese Inspired Eggplant

Hey Hue, It’s Vietnamese Inspired Aubergine

And here is my “Minh Mang-o” Daiquiri.

Minh Mango Daiquiri

Minh Mango Daiquiri 1

I large mango, chopped

1/2 cup white rum

1/4 cup lemongrass, ginger and chilli simple syrup (I used the recipe here)

Juice of 1 large lemon

2 dashes Agnostura Bitters

8 Ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Makes 2

Minh Mango Daiquri 2

Minh Mango Daiquri 2

 

Enjoy!

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Retro Food for Modern Times – Strawberry Fields Forever, Part 1

Let me take you down ‘cos I’m going to...

…my local green grocer where they are currently selling trays of strawberries for $6.  My sincere apologies to John Lennon for that absolute travesty but just in case you are not utterly awestruck by this, let me reiterate.  A tray of strawberries for $6.   That’s 16 punnets.  For $6 dollars. The world may have not ended on December 21st but it has surely gone mad! 

Strawberries

How do farmers make any money when the (literal) fruit of their labour is being sold off at about 40 cents a punnet?

Maybe because the week before Christmas punnets of strawberries were selling for $4 each!

I know,  it’s not the farmers, it’s the wholesalers and the grocery shop owners and all the people in between who add their mark up.  The farmers probably got paid the same for the $4 strawberries as they did for the 40 cent strawberries.

My joy at my bargain buy lasted until I had to carry, not only all of my regular fruit and veggies,  but an additional four kilos of strawberries,  from the shop to my car.  By the time I reached the car (it was a hot day and I had parked some distance away from the shop to get a spot in the shade), I’d stopped thinking “I’m the best shopper in the world! ” and “I’m in berry heaven” to “What  on earth am I going to do with four kilos of strawberries?”  and  “How can four kilos of strawberries actually weigh a ton?”. 

Strawberries Waiting To Be Sorted

Strawberries Waiting To Be Sorted

My first task, on getting home, was to sort the strawberries – a few in each punnet were overripe and were starting to get a bit manky.   The perfect  ones went into a colander and the fridge for eating.  We have been feasting on these all week.

The  almost perfect berries went into a bag and into the freezer whole.  I puréed the somewhat bruised berries and placed them in 6 containers in the freezer where they will be great for smoothies, muffins, etc later in the year. Finally, my kitchen helpers, Oscar and Lulu, were on hand to dispose of the fourth group being the few badly bruised  berries that were left.

Oscar

Oscar

Lulu

Lulu

We have been eating  strawberries all week – by the handful whenever we feel a bit peckish;  for dessert with cream (Mark) and ice cream (me) and for breakfast with mango and vanilla yogurt:

Strawberry, Mango and Vanilla Yogurt Breakfast

Strawberry, Mango and Vanilla Yogurt Breakfast

I have started making a strawberry liqueur based on the link below with some tweaks inspired by other recipes, most notably, I am putting the sugar in from the start.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/homemade-strawberry-liqueur-recipe.html

 I searched high and low for tarragon yesterday; I went to three greengrocers and I could not find it  for love or money.  I decided to use basil instead.


Strawberry Basil Liqueur

Strawberry Basil Liqueur

 I was so excited about making the liqueur and trying to track down the tarragon, that I completely forgot to check the other ingredients.  I knew I had strawberries, I had vodka.  I was searching for tarragon.  And who particularly someone who bakes regularly, doesn’t have caster sugar?  Me apparently.  Grrr… Such a newbie mistake!!!

So today, I ducked into the supermarket to pick up the caster sugar and found piles of tarragon.  As I had another recipe for tarragon and strawberries I was aching to try, I bought a bunch and pulled the basil out of my would be liqueur and popped in the tarragon and sugar.   All the sugar sank to the bottom and when I tipped it upside down to mix it in, it made these drippy pale pink stalactite type things that looked awesome!  The mixture is also already a fabulous pink colour. And it’s only Day 2.  Imagine Day 30.

Strawberry Tarragon Liqueur

Strawberry Tarragon Liqueur

It’s Mark’s birthday tomorrow and the temperature is set to soar.  Baking in my tiny kitchen when it’s anything above 30 degrees outside  is not something I relish.  So, I’ve decided that he will get a White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake Semifreddo in lieu of a traditional birthday cake. I’m aiming for quirky but cool.  We’ll see how that works out.  I also need to get busy making it.  Which means that my strawberry and tarragon salad recipe will have to wait until the next post.

On a more sombre note, and speaking of temperatures soaring, many parts of Australia are currently experiencing devastating bushfires and my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, homes and belongings in this tragedy and to the brave people, many of whom are volunteers, who are so valiantly fighting the fires. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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Retro Food For Modern Times: Three Sweet Treats inspired by a Luscious Liqueur

I was recently strolling around my local purveyor of fine alcoholic beverages (or as we like to call  it, our second home) when a retro looking bottle caught my eye.   A very glamorous  Elke Sommer looking woman is being draped in a fur coat by a man who looks like a  1970’s tennis player or a porn star (possibly both).  The label promised  “an experience of elegance and lingering pleasure” which only further reinforced the boom chicka wah wah soundtrack that was going through my head.  The name: Kellermeister Sable.  According to the back of the bottle, Sable is a

“base of  ruby tawny into which we have steeped dark German Chocolate, special spices and three year old brandy”

You know those moments when Homer Simpson goes into the donut fugue state?  I think I lapsed into something very similar.  Standing there mumbling to myself  “Ruby Tawny…dark chocolate….special spices….brandy…ruby tawny…..”  Ruby Tawny may well become the name of my first-born child.  I hope it’s a girl.

The bottle, in all it’s gorgeous  retroness did give me pause though.  I honestly wasn’t sure if it was meant to be retro chic.  Or it just came from South Australia.  If anyone from South Australia wants to dispute the implication of this statement  I suggest they first go and count the people with mullets walking down Rundle Mall.  They can lodge their complaints when they have a number less than ten.  

Ok, we may have lost South Australia forever so the rest of us might as well get on with it.    Sable is meant to be retro chic and forms part of the Kellermeister Retro Range which includes this and two Moscatos which I am very keen to try.  One is called Pink Minx.  This may become the name of my second born child. Again, a girl would be good.

The Sable is great on it’s own as a little tipple – rich, silky, porty, chocolatey loveliness in a glass.  If I was prone to swooning I would.  However, as I do not live in a Jane Austen novel  I will remain upright and advise that this is utterly delicious and is likely to become a staple on my drinks trolley for some time to come!  This will be my go to product for those days when you just want a little something sweet and lovely after dinner! Or mid afternoon….or…you know…whenever….

The loveliness of the Sable does not stop with drinking though.  It is equally good in food.

I’ve now made three recipes with it and they were all gorgeous (even if I do say so myself).  If you cannot get Sable, your liqueur of choice can be substituted in all of these.

First up was a Raspberry Meringue Roulade  which I adapted from a Bill Granger recipe.

Raspberry Meringue Roulade

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

Raspberry Roulade and a glass of Sable – a lovely afternoon tea tipple

I then made a Strawberry and Mango Zagablione where I used the Sable instead of marsala.   This tasted divine!   The zabaglione was also lovely swirled into some plain yoghurt the following day.

Finally, I used some Sable  in my version of the Australian Gourmet Traveller Chocolate and Caramel Tart. I adapted the original recipe as I am not that good with pastry and I used a bought caramel.  This is a truly decadent recipe and tastes like heaven!  My only word of caution is give yourself plenty of time to make this.  I started mid afternoon.  I added the final layer at midnight.  This takes a LONG time to make as you have to let each layer chill before adding  the next one.  It is worth it though as this is absolutely delicious!

I love the ombre effect of the four layers!

If you really want to make your own pastry and caramel, the original recipe can be found here:

http://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/chocolate_and_caramel_tart.htm

Enjoy!