Monthly Archives

January 2011

Market Day at Huay Malay

January 30, 2011

The Thursday morning market in Huay Malay is thriving.

All the locals gather to load up on produce. There are fresh vegetables a plenty, mammoth cabbages and engorged cucumbers take first place. Tiny, potent chillies line every corner, markers reminding you that you are in Thailand, where heat abounds.

Beautiful fresh herbs.

Children skip to the sweets, and quietly ponder their big decision for the day – what shall I spend my 10 baht on? Will it be prawn chips, cream filled wafers, or meat on a stick? The latter usually wins. These spongy, processed balls and logs are ever popular with young children. Sure, they’re fun to look at, they would even make good projectiles in a fighting match…but to eat? No thank you.

Fresh fish, dried fish, fish paste – they have it all. Along with other meats and bits of carcas, flung upon a board and displayed for the discerning market go-er.

Hungry for a snack? There are greasy doughnuts slathered in sugar syrup, which are, just quietly, rather delicious. We also have fresh bananas, fried bananas or dried bananas – they love their guai here in Thailand. Banana trees line the streets, and you are never short of a bunch.

More meat on sticks.

Pad Thai – this was loaded up on shrimp flavour. Quite nice, though not a stand-out.

We have fresh watermelons too! Small, medium or large, you pick.

I believe these are betel leafs, used in the same vein as in Vietnam, where the old ladies chew them due to their addictive properties.

We tried an Indian style flat-bread with chickpeas and dried shrimp, which was quite lovely. With subtle flavours and some good nutrition, I was pleased to come across this little gem.

Our kids also have a stall here, selling donated clothes, pencils and other knick-knacks. It teaches them good communication skills and integrates them with the local community, and also raises a little money for the home. The kids love to come to the market for ‘selling’. They always go for a wander and spend a little of their saved money. What I love about our kids is that they all share with each other, and swap what they have – a bite for a bite, here try this, they’re so sweet. They’re always very generous to Sister Heidi and Brother Ben too.

Now we pack up and head home.

The kids had sort of a holiday this week, so many of them could join us for this market. Visiting the market is one of my favourite things to do here, and it was so nice to have such funny, gorgeous company.

Pictures courtesy of the kids 🙂 They love to take pictures and ‘movies’.

Heidi xo

Baan Dada days 1 and 2

January 24, 2011

Hello from Baan Dada!

We arrived Saturday afternoon, and we’re so happy to be back! Many of the kids remember us, which we weren’t expecting. It has been 15 months since our last (and first) visit. There are a lovely bunch of volunteers here also, from Belgium, England and the USA. We’re already having loads of fun, the energy of the kids is infectious. There are talks of a camping trip tomorrow, which would be wonderful.

For now, here is a snapshot of how we’re spent the past 2 days.

(not where we stay, but I had to show this hut, which is on their property)

In their new truck – the money we raised at our engagement party went towards this truck. Thanks to everyone who donated! The truck is epic!

Some of the kids performed at a guest house Sangklaburi to raise money for the home – and they take a percentage themselves, which they spend as they wish. Some save their money, some spend it on snacks. The older boy’s band, the younger boy’s band, the girls band and the dancers (doing traditional local dances) all performed.

The food – oh how we have missed this food! The mothers are angels, who prepare all the food for the kids. They sometimes, sometimes, let me help 🙂 They’re Neo-Humanists, and so they are vegetarians. This suits us fine, the tofu is yummy!

Fresh cucumber

Tofu and bean shoots

Cabbage and tofu

Som Tam (papaya salad)

Coconut pancake, from the market

Rice porridge

At a Temple, the kids playing with the camera.

And that is all for now – I’ll be back with more. Today we are hoping to do a little construction work. Right now I have Malaee and Malaoo on my lap, I must go play 🙂

Heidi xo

Beer, Interrupted

January 21, 2011

Photoshoots don’t always go as planned. I captured this moment using a rapid shooter on our iphone. I was planning on showing a quick meal amongst the locals in Hanoi, and a new beer we tried. Instead I have for you an exhibition on the gastro-oesophageal effects of beer, or carbonated beverages in general. We found this quite funny, so I hope you also find it amusing.

We arrived in Thailand this morning (it is currently Friday at 8pm), and headed straight for Kanchanaburi, which is more or less the halfway point between Bangkok and Baan Dada. We head to Baan Dada tomorrow morning, by bus. I am incredibly eager to get back to the home and the kids. Even though we only spent 5 weeks here in October 2009, we feel like we’re home. Moving to Bangkok seems like a nice idea right now 🙂

Heidi xo

Random Travel Notes

January 17, 2011

1. I love exploring a city on foot, getting lost & finding hidden places that you would otherwise never have come across. Some of our best meals in foreign cities have happened this way, by stumbling upon a random little gem.

2. A hot, steamy shower at the end of a long day is pure bliss.

3. Every time I pay for a meal in Vietnam or Thailand I still feel the need to say to Ben, “all this cost $2!!”

4. I actually really enjoy getting massages & spa treatments. Prior to this trip I had had 2 manicures in my life & the same number of massages. & I kind if prided myself on that fact. Now I’m a little addicted…

5. Without meaning to sound patronising, I love how ‘simple’ life is here in Vietnam & Thailand. Family, work (often family businesses), food, life. Less drama, less distraction, more life.

6. I wholeheartedly believe that the best food in Vietnam & Thailand is not found in restaurants, it is found on the street or roadside cafes.

7. Yoga is a great way to start the morning. It helps me to focus my energy (usually I run in the morning, but in large, crowded, manic cities this can be troublesome) & helps keep me *cough* regular – let’s just say my body is used to wholegrains, which are noticeably absent in most Asian cuisines.

8. Travelling together highlights how similar Ben & I are. We both enjoy the same sightseeing activities, love exploring a city in a more off-beat way, get sick of clothes shopping but love anything to do with food (hello supermarkets!) & find great happiness in searching out local hangouts & trying to blend in. Ben often achieves this (so many locals have questioned “you Vietnam?”), but I kind of standout. In fact they take pictures of me. And then I blush & go red.

9. I am terrible at haggling. No need to expand on this, it is a fact. Ben, on the other hand, loves to play the game & sees it as a sport. Most of the time he wins.

10. Hairdressers in Vietnam love funky, 80s styles & play early 90s music.

11. Beer tastes better when you’re on holidays.

12. Long bus/train rides are a nice way to catch up on some reading, sleeping or do a little writing. Right now we’re on our way back to Hanoi from a day trip to Hoa Lu & Tam Coc (beautiful inland caves reached by boat). We rode bicycles between the towns. It was fabulous. I’m only just able to feel my toes again – it’s slightly chilly up the north of Vietnam!

Hanoi is such a fantastic city, I’m a little in love.

Tomorrow we are off to Halong Bay, staying overnight on a boat & doing some kayaking. I’m so looking forward to it.

Heidi xo

Pretty, Peaceful Hoi An

January 14, 2011

We’ve spent a lovely 4 days in Hoi An, a beautiful city on the central coast of Vietnam. We’re staying on the edge of the Old Town, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The architecture is just gorgeous, with a number of the old buildings preserved. Yellow houses with colourful shutters line the winding streets, and women wearing Nón lá hats ride their bicycles or carry bananas and sweets on their shoulders. It is very picturesque.

It is also quite touristy, however this is not necessarily a terrible thing. The thriving tourist trade has allowed for much business for the locals, as well as building preservation and restoration. Tourists flock here (including lots of families with young children) for the beautiful architecture, the many tailors, great food and to get a user-friendly taste of Vietnam.

We were here long enough to really get to know the city. We moseyed along the streets, and took our time wandering through the market. The amount off fresh produce on offer every day is amazing. And the herbs, oh the fresh herbs! Herbs are used more as a vegetable here, not a garnish. Vietnamese mint, basil and more – the flavours are just beautiful! (except for one herb, that is very foreign to us and that we simply cannot stomach. I must investigate what it is exactly, for it keeps popping up everywhere and without knowing it you have a pungent mouthful!)

Here are some snapshots of the Hoi An market.

We relaxed with a beer by the river on our first night.

Fried banana from a street vendor. Amazing. Ooooh these are addictive.

Trying our first Cao lầu, from a street vendor. This one was quite delicious, however not our favourite version – more details of our culinary adventures will come once I am home.

Bo Luc Loc – Ben’s favourite, he has to try it whenever he sees it on the menu.

Fish in banana leaf – we had had this quite a lot, whenever I see banana leaf my face lights up. Truth be told, however, whenever we get fish in banana leaf it is a little dry…

And there you have it – a brief look into our Hoi An visit. We were also lucky enough to meet up with some gorgeous friends from back home while we were here. And yesterday we went on a trip to visit My Son. Today we have a 6 hour cooking class, starting off in the market. Pho is on the menu, and I’m excited to see how they make it. I should tease you a little – we had our best ever pho while in Hoi An. I will provide more details all in due time 🙂

Tomorrow night we fly to Hanoi. I am excited to get back to a fast-paced city, and try even more incredible food.

Heidi xo

p.s. I have caught up on the awful situation in Brisbane (and the rest of the state) – I hope you are all safe and well, my thoughts are with those affected.

Saigon Snapshot

January 11, 2011

I’ve never seen anywhere quite like Saigon. Even Bangkok doesn’t compare. The sheer volume of people is overwhelming, as is the controlled chaos on the roads. Westerners label it as ‘crazy’ driving, but I was honestly impressed. No road rage, no accidents – in fact, it was the most respectful display of driving I’ve seen in my life. The city had a cool vibe, and all the people we encountered were really friendly and interested in our backgrounds.

There were the important tourist sights, including the Reunification Palace and the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, however the highlight of our visit was the food. I will do more in depth posts on the food of this trip once I am home. I don’t quite have the time to detail the brilliance of it all just yet 🙂

Here is a brief outline of how we spent our whirlwind visit…

Cocktails at the Sheraton Rooftop bar, a great way to view the city.

Fresh coconuts on the street, to stay hydrated as we explored the city. I think I had 3 coconuts in the first day – overload? Perhaps.

Pho. We did it, we ate pho in the land of pho. If I had a bucket list, this would be on it. Tick!

Massages. A tidy US$13 for 80 minutes, yes please.

And food, delicious food! Banh Xeo, Cha Ca, Pho – the list goes on. As I mentioned above, there is too much to say, and too little time. We tried some amazing food, and the best, of course, was off the street.

Saigon, you impressed us greatly. Many people do not rate this city, and I guess I can understand why. It is big, crowded, hot and not particularly attractive. But Ben and I always seem to warm to those cities that many dislike. Athens, for example, will remain a favourite city of ours, while many disregard it. We will look back at our time in Saigon fondly, and rememeber the great food, friendly people and controlled chaos. To quote the great Dennis Denuto, from The Castle, “it’s the vibe…”

On Sunday evening, we caught the overnight train to Da Nang. 15 hours spent in a Russian-style bunker. It was surprisingly cozy. We slept well and got a lot of reading done. Ben is reading 1984 for the first time, and I am starting The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, after many recommendations by friends.

Ben ate sesame bun snack things.

And I ate lots of dried coconut. It was delightful.

Delightful seems to be the theme of our Vietnam trip so far… next stop, Hoi An!

Heidi xo

Rhubarb and Ricotta Tart

January 9, 2011

Do you recall my last post, where I shared my list of food fears? Gee it felt good to get that out in the open, and thank you for all being so supportive and encouraging! I feel very inspired to get into the kitchen and try the foods on my list.

So I just had to let you know that I recently confronted one of my fears. And I can’t seem to wipe the grin off my face…

I made pastry. Oh yes, yes I did. And I loved every minute of it.

I made a rhubarb and ricotta tart, specifically. The pastry recipe was fail-proof – Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry. Yet that didn’t stop me from walking around with my chest puffed up in pride for hours after I baked. And boy did I guard this tart like it was my child – my family can atest to that. It was my first born pie, after all.

The tart is a recipe from Guy Mirabella, who creates beautiful Sicilian food, linking strongly to his family’s roots. His café in Mt Eliza, Shop Ate, is a favourite spot for brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. I adore his cookbook, Eat Ate, especially the pasta dishes and Rosa’s Almond Biscotti. This recipe is from that book (recipe link).

During each of the many times I flicked through this lovely cookbook, I always looked longingly at page 62, and would sigh as I pushed it into the ‘too difficult’ corner of my mind. How could I have been so silly and scared for so long? I feel as though I am seeing the world in a whole new light. I did it, I made pastry. And it wasn’t too hard… it was fabulous.

Those of you who also stated you are scared of pastry, don’t be! I did it and so can you. Why not start off with this recipe? It really is deliciously simple and delightful.

I adore rhubarb

I warned Ben, as the tart was cooling, that he would be eating a lot more tarts and pies in the future. He said he was fine with this. And I am too.

When did I make this lovely tart? It was two Sundays ago, in the afternoon, just before I had a few friends over for dinner. My parent’s were amazing, as per usual, and offered up their house in Red Hill as a venue – my apartment allows for maximum 5.5 people, which is not so conducive to dinner parties. A dear friend was down visiting family in Red Hill from Canberra with her beautiful little boy, and it was the first time in a over year that a lot of us had all been together (apart from Skype dates). It was so so lovely to be together, catching up over good food and wine.

We had the woodfired oven roaring outside, and we talked and played with the baby as we sipped homemade lemonade.

We used lemons, orange and a hint of lime for a real citrus mix (recipe link).

We sat outside, and feasted on caprese salad and pizza. Long, lazy dinners with friends in the Summertime…what could be better?

For dessert we had cantaloupe sorbet, made by my skilled, ice-cream loving Father. He used David Lebovitz’s recipe, from his book, The Perfect Scoop (a.k.a. the bible), and it was really delicious. A new favourite, perhaps.

One of my gorgeous friends, Philippa, made Jamie Oliver‘s Sweet and Lovely Honey and Pistachio Cake , which was divine. It is from his book, Jamie Does, and I have been wanting to make it for months. I adored this cake, with it’s beautiful, olive oil spiked flavour and light texture. It was super moist, especially with the honey syrup devilishly poured over the top. Mmmmmmmmm. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographic evidence of it’s delightfulness – you’ll have to trust me on this one.

And we ate my rhubarb and ricotta tart. It was lovely. I am a little in love with this recipe, it is incredibly dreamy and romantic. And I made the pastry. Me. So it tasted even more dreamy.

Heidi xo

* Note: I am in Vietnam right now, but prepared this post before I left. Oh yes, I’m sneaky like that 🙂

I downloaded an iphone bogging application, and look forward to posting pictures and snapshots of where I am at this coming month while I am away, travelling South East Asia! I am very excited to share this with you! xo

A List

January 7, 2011

I’m not one to make a list of New Years Resolutions. However I do relish the opportunity to quietly ponder what I would like to achieve in the coming year. One thing I am striving for in my life is to get to sleep at an earlier hour. Evidently I appear to be doing that very well, lately.

Following along this path, and feeling inspired by the promise of a new year, I recently spent a little time pondering my food aspirations. Namely skills that I would like to develop this coming year, and a few food-fears thrown in for good measure.

I am a food appreciator from way back, however branching out of my comfort zone to tackle daunting recipes is a something that is fairly new to me. Historically, I would rely on others to do what I couldn’t, and if I am honest with myself, for a long time I stayed within my comfort zone. This lack of confidence stopped me from cooking certain foods, which were categorised in my mind as ‘scary’.

This year has seen me taking leaps and bounds with my cooking, trying new food and cooking more adventurously than ever before. I have never been hungrier than I am now. Yet there are still a good handful of foods that I am yet to tackle. These foods sit there in the back of my mind, clearly untouched and ever-foreign.

Not all my feared, not yet attempted recipes are necessarily difficult. They do not always require an arms length of exotic ingredients, nor do they necessarily involve skillful processes. They are simply ones that are foreign to me, and hence, ones that I have never before attempted in my humble little kitchen.

I so wish to make friends with these intimidating foods. Even if I fail, I want to try. I want to give myself completely to my cooking and be fearless, like my mum. Essentially, I need to man-up. And I know just where to start…

A List

These foods are at the top of my ‘feared’, ‘never made before but oh how I long to do so’ list. This year, I want to attempt them and become less inhibited with my cooking. Cheers to that!

Cupcakes

Yes, I have never made cupcakes. Of this I am rather ashamed. I tried once, yet I was decidedly distracted and lacking some ingredients. They weren’t great. I long to bake a fluffy, moist cupcake and generously top it with picture-perfect swirls of frosting. I may also add sprinkles or some dainty edible silver balls…we’ll see. Either way, this year I am determined to get my cupcake-bake on.

Roast Chicken

I put this down to the fact that since moving out of home 7 years ago, I have never had a good oven. Cheap rentals don’t really afford you a smeg. Frittatas and cakes never cooked throughout and the edges were dry, occasionally burnt. This limited my options. I rarely tried anything ‘roasted’ – slow-cooking I could do, but I never trusted my oven to roast anything properly. Potatoes would take at least 1.5 hours and would never be crisp *sigh*. While my oven at our current apartment is not particularly better, my confidence and skills have improved enough for me to attempt roast lamb, and I also regularly roast vegetables. And so, I feel ready to try my hand at a classic roast chicken. Last year, using my parent’s beautiful oven I have made Valli Little’s chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, and it rocked my world. This year, I am going to give my oven a chance to rock my world too. It might just to the job.

Yeast

From cooking conversations I have had with friends, baking with yeast is not an uncommon fear. For me, I am dubious about my ability to use it and have the dough rise properly. However I recently saw a recipe for cinnamon buns that might just lead me to push my fear aside, rise up to the challenge (pun intended) and get baking.

Clams and Mussels

On my recent European adventure, I ate mussels and clams like there was no tomorrow. Prior to this, I was never a huge fan. I have never attempted them since my trip, as, well, they’re kind of creepy looking and I have no idea where to start. This year, I wish to cook with these babies at home, so I can feel like I’m in Italy or Spain, vino at the ready. I’m thinking spaghetti with mussels and clams, seafood platters with crusty bread and garlic aioli and I might even try a bouillabaisse. I cannot wait!

Pastry

I have never made pastry before, and I am not quite sure what it is about pastry that scares me. Perhaps it is the chilling process, or the fear of a dry, crumbly mixture. Either way, I find myself avoiding recipes that involve pastry because of this ever-present lack of confidence. However I so wish to overcome this frustrating fear. One of my favourite movies is Waitress, and every time I watch it I long to be in the kitchen, with my rolling pin, creating and baking pies. This year I want to become a pie girl. I want to bake pies all day long until the sun sets. Whilst doing said baking, I will wear a frilly, floral apron over a yellow sun dress, and walk around my kitchen barefoot as the sun softly peeks through the blinds. At least this romantic notion is how it goes in my head.

So there it is, my list. Now where shall I start…

Heidi xo

First Stop, Red Hill Market

January 5, 2011

I cannot think of a better way to start the new year than by visiting a Market.

First thing Saturday morning, Ben and I walked the 20 minutes it takes to get to the Red Hill Showgrounds, and by the time we arrived our tummies were grumbling. My first meal of 2011 would be Poffertjes, and that sounded simply fabulous to me.

The Poffertjes stand is conveniently (and cleverly) located at the front entrance to the market, so naturally we headed there first.

They’re just delightful – warm, soft pillows, which are super fluffy, slathered in gooey butter and dusted with icing sugar. A sticky drizzle of maple syrup adds a nice touch of sweetness. We went back for more.

Next we purchased some Corn on the cob. For $5 a cob it is quite ridiculously expensive. It is lovely, juicy corn, however it never used to be so pricey. I feel like an old man swearing at “kids these days”, but seriously, times have changed…

Ben visited his usual Satay stand. They were lovely, full of ginger, like always.

I bought a cupcake. I always walk past this stand and “oooh” and “ahhh” at all the pretty cakes. This time I bought one. After much indecisive back-and-forth, trying to decide on a flavour – “do I want white chococolate and raspberry? Or perhaps fudge brownie?” – I decided on a Rose Blossom Cupcake.

It was a vanilla base with a soft, baby-pink tinted icing. The icing tasted more of marshmallow than rose water. I was hoping for a stronger flavour like that in turkish delight. Despite not being a huge marshmallow fan, I enjoyed this cupcake. A few bites were enough though – it was very sweet. Naturally I got it all over my face.

The Italian Doughnuts were a little disappointing this time. Perhaps I built up their brilliance in my head and hence had unrealistic expectations. Either way, they’ve been knocked off their podium and Poffertjes are officially my new favourite market food. We bought some doughnuts home for Jackson, as he adores them. The cinnamon sugar combined with the hot, fried dough really is quite delicious.

We drank Lemonade and wandered the stalls.

I love this place. I think it is going to be a great year.

Heidi xo

Dip, Brush, Repeat: A Baklava Story

January 3, 2011

You know you’re part of a foodie family when it’s 10pm on Christmas night and you’re making Baklava together.

I find the process of making Baklava incredibly cathartic. Dipping a brush in butter, then painting the pastry… dipping in butter, painting the pastry… over and over, again and again. It’s a work of art.

My somewhat limited experience with Greek food is that it is often therapeutic to make and comforting to eat. I’m thinking Spanakopita, with lovely layers of filo creating a pastry parcel that envelopes a bundle of spinach and cheese.

Dip a brush in butter, then paint the pastry.

Repeat.

Bake.

Eat.

Lovely.

Boxing Day Lunch

This year for Boxing Day lunch, my family and I attended a Greek inspired lunch hosted by our good friends. One member of the party was Greek and that was enough to warrant a theme. This was music to my ears. Note to readers: no Zorba was played during this party. Instead, the Greek theme came to life in the food.

We feasted on freshly baked bread from their woodfired oven. I made good friends with a slab of marinated fetta. There were the requisite olives, tzatziki and a classic Greek salad. Succulent lamb skewers circulated early on, and Ben made it his number one priority to secure as many sticks as possible. We were then offered lovely little plates of Greek sausage with tomato, before finally tucking into some beautifully roasted lamb, which was also cooked in the woodfired oven, and potatoes.

Then the desserts came. We were treated to authentic, homemade Galaktoboureko. The custard was light and subtle, and absolutely stunning. With cinnamon sprinkled over the fresh filo pastry, I was in heaven. I was speechless. The use of fresh filo pastry appeared to make it refreshingly light and moist. In our Baklava, we used frozen filo, and it did not have the same effect. It goes without saying that next time I am very keen to use fresh pastry.

Our Baklava was greeted with cheers and many generous compliments. Actually, come to think of it, they were probably just being honest rather than generous, it was seriously delicious. I really like this recipe. Just quietly, it is a Syrian recipe. However I didn’t feel it would matter. As long as it was tasty, yes?

Baklava

I used a recipe by Amal Malouf (link). I have been super keen to try it, ever since watching the Food Safari episode on Syrian cuisine. We used a combination of pistachios and walnuts, as this is what we had on hand, however it ended up containing primarily pistachios. It wasn’t too sweet, and it was the perfect level of moistness (surely that is a word). I will certainly be using this recipe again.

I have officially decided that Baklava is one of my favourite desserts. Ben and I have tasted some lovely versions during both our trips to Greece. I do not know if I prefer walnuts or pistachios in my Baklava. I suppose more cooking and tasting is required to come to an educated conclusion.

Either way, there is something really special about Baklava. It elicits hungry groans of longing from whoever is near, whenever it is mentioned. It is superbly delicious. The crunchy nuts and flaky pastry defy their natural properties and completely and utterly melt in your mouth, courtesy of the sugar syrup, which is spiked with orange blossom and rose… it is almost too much to handle.

Evidently it wasn’t too much to handle. I had a piece the next day for breakfast with an espresso.

Heidi xo