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The vegetables I love {a few of my favourite vegetable dishes}

>> Friday, May 27, 2011

 Tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella. This is summer on my plate!

Taking photos and writing for this food blog is a difficult process. Inspirations come randomly (almost). I don’t tend to plan things much, so a lot of good cooking often fails to reach this blog.

Often or not, I would finish photographing the ingredients for a particular dish, then go off cooking/baking. Before I know it, meal time comes when I haven’t taken photos of the final dish. Or, I would manage to save some leftover for shooting later. But it is too dark, and there is no natural light left. And I am too lazy to set up my lighting gear.

The bottom line is I often end up with really tasty food and no photographs. It’s still a win situation in my book if you ask :P.

So when I took these photos for my food column a few months back, I thought they were good enough to share around here. (side note: my family is not a huge fan of raw vegetables. For some reasons my in-law often overcook their vegetables. A big no for me, and I’m changing that habit overtime!)

Roast baby eggplants with garlic and dill yoghurt sauce

Let’s start with roast mini eggplants. I was lucky enough to get really good supplies of mini purple eggplants of various sizes. Cut into halves, they are roasted quickly in the oven with a generous drizzle of olive oil, thyme and sea salt. They go so well with a simple dip of natural yoghurt, crushed garlic and a pinch of salt. (I wish I had pomegranates available back then. The addition of colour and texture would be awesome).

Gotta say I am loving yoghurt garlic dip at the moment. It’s good with roast vegetables. I sometimes add a swirl of tahini to the mixture, too. Delicious!


I also love a simple tomatoes salad. When I took these photos, it was late summer. Tomatoes were abundant then, and I remember loving the crisp flavours of green tomatoes. They are almost like eating apples! Throughout the summer, I made a lot of tomato salad. A particular favourite is the quinoa, bread and tomato salad from Plenty. It has such amazing texture and flavours. Go, and make it, those who are in the northern hemisphere.

steamed vegies with miso dressing....

Last of the bunch is the fool-proof steamed vegetables with miso dressing/dip. This is an absolute winner! I love this dressing so much since it reminds me of the northern Vietnamese fermented bean sauce (tuong ban), which cannot be found overseas. It’s nutty with the balance of sweet-salty notes. I have been known to eat the miso dressing with lots of things – vegs, pour over salad, and even use as a dip for fried tofu.

How to make miso dip – mix together 1-2 tablespoons of white miso with a bit of sugar (1-2 teaspoon), and some water. Mix well and adjust the taste to your liking. Finish off with a few drop of toasted sesame oil.

So, what is your favourite way of eating vegetables?

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A moment in life #51 - Black Beauty

>> Sunday, May 22, 2011

I have a new hobby - cat-photography! yay!

It all started about one week ago when we opened our arms to adopt a three year old short hair cat. Her name is Đen (which means Black in Vietnamese). Her previous owner was leaving Australia, and had to give her away, and so Đen came here and lives with us. (I was really nervous since this is our first cat EVER! Millions thanks to Susan for her encouraging words!)

She's such a sweetie, and loved by everyone in my family. :)

So, please say hello and welcome her! :)


Black beauty

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Fig tart with almond crust

>> Monday, May 16, 2011

{And a sad farewell}

Fig tart.

Recently, my parents in law bid farewell to their home of more than 20 years and moved on. It was emotional and sad. And together with the move was the nightmare of cleaning up the junk here or there around the house.

I didn’t wish my parents to bring many things along to our new place (we don’t need 3 fridges, do we?). But I do secretly wish that we could take the fig tree with us. My in-laws are not into gardening so the only edible thing in their backyard is the fig tree. A really nice one, producing dark skin fruits with incredible flavours. For a few years now, I have harvested the fruits and made all sorts of jam and cakes with them. I feel proud and relief that I don’t have to pay the most ridiculous price for store-bought figs.

That soon will change. This year is our last season to enjoy home-grown figs. I am planning to grow a fig tree in our new house. But that will take time to produce fruits, provided that I have a green thumb. (Side note: in the current burke’s backyard magazine, there is one article about the largest fig tree in an Australian backyard. Grown in Melbourne! This gives me hope).

On the brighter side. This fig tart is easy and incredibly tasty. Originally I didn’t intend to take photos or write up a post on it. But the tart looked so pretty in the clear soft light; I reached out for my camera and took some shots. It looked sort of like this blooming flower photo of mine. So pretty.

Let me bloom for you, like a flower...

I did make a mistake of putting a little too much almond paste inside the tart case, so it was a bit wet. Don’t be too greedy when you make it.

Until I figure out how to grow figs, let’s enjoy this first then perhaps resort to store-bought figs. I will be saving my cash ;).

Fig tart in tray

Fig tart with almond crust

The beauty of this tart is that you can make it with a variety of fruits – sliced banana, rhubarb, apples, pear etc. It is good by itself or with a doolop of thick cream.

Printable recipe

Almond Crust (recipe from Guy Grossi)

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 Cup caster sugar

1 Large egg, lightly beaten

1+1/2 Cups flour

1/2 Cups plus 2 tablespoons almond flour

Frangipane (recipe from Chez Pim). You only need 1/3 or less for this tart. Store the left-over in the fridge for future tart.

75g almond flour
75g sugar
75g butter at room temperature
1 large egg

Topping: ripe figs (around 10) and castor sugar

Method

To Prepare Crust

Blend together the sugar and the butter until well combined, add the egg and mix well. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, almond flour and salt. Add this flour mixture into the butter mixture in two batches scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl between additions. Mix the dough until the mixture just holds. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.

To Make Frangipane

Mix the almond flour together with the sugar in a food processor. Add the butter and the egg and pulse until well-combined. If you don’t want to use it right away, divide the frangipane into four equal parts, wrap each tightly in plastic. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, and up to a month in the freezer.

To assemble the tart:

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Roll out your pastry dough to about 10-inch diameter. Spread about 1/3 of the quantity of frangipane on the dough, leaving about 1 inch parameter around the outer edge of the dough.

Quarter the figs (only halve if small) and arrange them nicely onto the filling. Fold and pinch the edges in. Sprinkle the tart with a bit of sugar. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the pastry edges are golden brown.

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Baked cassava cake (bánh khoai mì nướng)

>> Sunday, May 08, 2011

for Delicious Vietnam #13

a slice of cake. and flower.

Living with the parents-in-law is different, and of course it presents itself a lot of funny little incidents along the way. My MIL apparently has learned a few things about me and Vietnamese culture. Her so-called facts include:

Fact #1: I use fish sauce. She uses soy sauce.

Fact #2: I need to eat pho at least once a week. Her craving is laksa.

Fact #3: I use chopsticks to eat. She uses fork and spoon. (If you have a chance to visit us during meal times, you will see  chopsticks for me and my sisters, and forks+spoons for the “other” clan *lol*)

Fact #4: She uses oyster sauce for stir-frying. Me: look at fact #1.
[to be continued…]

But of course, we have a lot of things in common. Coming from the same region (Southeast Asia), we share similar fondness for flavours like coconut, pandan, black sesame etc. Quite often, we realise how similar our food can be.

Baked cassava cake (bánh khoai mì nướng)

This baked cassava cake is a good example. I call it bánh khoai mì nướng. She calls it kuih bingka. Frankly, I didn’t grow up with it but learned from a friend in my teenage years. The cake is popular in the south of Vietnam. I would think that it came with the immigrants from Southeast Asian region.

My version of the cake is really simple without too much coconut milk, starch and sugar. The cake is quite heavy in texture due to the starchy nature of cassava. It’s like eating sticky rice, but sweet, coconuty and buttery.

You can’t imagine how popular this cake is in my family. Making it less sweet is a good thing, since I could actually enjoy one big slice for last weekend breakfast. ;)

I am sending this cake to Delicious Vietnam #13. This edition is hosted by Jing of My fusion kitchen. More information can be found here.

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Baked cassava cake (bánh khoai mì nướng)

You can find the frozen grated cassava in most Asian shops. Thaw and drain well. I believe you can grate fresh cassava for the cake. I have never been bothered to do it, though.

Ingredients
 1 package of frozen grated cassava (see information above). Drain well. You should have 1.5 cup in the end
1/2 cup castor sugar
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1 egg
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut milk

Method
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 20cm cake pan well.

Mix all the ingredients together. Pour into the pan, and bake for about 30-40' or until is golden and cooked through.

Cool well before serving.

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A moment in life #50 - It must be, It must be

>> Monday, May 02, 2011

Muss es sein? Es muss sein! Es muss Sein!

Muss es sein? Es muss sein! Es muss Sein!


Must it be? It must be! It must be!


... for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes...

(The unbearable lightness of being. Milan Kumdera)

++

I am inspired. By flowers. Their beauty. The light. My camera. And Kimdera's words (funny, because I don't like the story much. But I love his words, and the story atmosphere). So, another phto which continues the theme "the unbearable lightness of being". It must be. What can I do? :)

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