Monthly Archives

February 2011

One Whirlwind Day in Ho Chi Minh City, Part 3

February 28, 2011

Snacks, Sights and Soup

Spending hours upon hours exploring a foreign city by foot certainly allows you to work up an appetite. The wonderful thing about Vietnam (and Thailand also) is that you are never far from a tasty treat. Sold to you by your local lady or gent, wheeling a cart or carrying a load on their shoulders, you can readily grab a banana, a pork bun, a Vietnamese doughnut or a fresh coconut – whatever your heart desires, take your pick!

We tried these bready sesame snacks from a man with a basket – it sounds dodgy doesn’t it? “A man with a basket”. Anyway, they were essentially little pita pockets that were dotted with sesame seeds. They tasted a tad oily. And slightly stale. Yeah, they weren’t that great. But they were definitely edible…I bet this makes you want to hunt down that man with the basket. We saw them quite a bit actually, so I felt it prudent to give my opinion. I wouldn’t exactly call them a ‘must try’, although Ben didn’t mind them.

Vietnam really aims for subtlety when it comes to electrical work. Clearly it works, see? You can hardly even notice these powerlines

Our First Pho in Vietnam

Ben and I have long been lovers of pho. And so, on our trip to the official Land of Pho, we took our job of eating this epic dish very seriously. I was incredibly keen to try the regional differences in broth, as I have heard that the variations between southern, northern and central of Vietnam are pronounced. We had one day in HCMC (which is located in the south of Vietnam), our first stop in the Country – where were we going to experience our first pho…

With quite a few noted pho shops to choose from, we selected a place that is said to be particularly popular with locals. When overseas, Ben and I live by our ‘eating when travelling credo’: search for, follow and trust the locals!

And so we did…we followed them to Pho Hoa, 260C Pasteur, District 3, where we ordered one Phở bò tái (beef) and one Phở gà (chicken).

This place is an institution, and there were certainly some fabulous features…

The rice noodles were lovely, fresh and slippery – just delightful.

The basil was fresh and fragrant and the vegetables vibrant – fantastic. Apparently in southern Vietnam they add bean shoots and more fresh herbs to their pho, compared to other regions. This was abundantly clear, as our table was overflowing with fresh produce!

The beef was thinly sliced, tender and not overly fatty – impressive (especially since I had been encouraged to not expect too much from the meat in Vietnam).

However in all honesty, we didn’t love the broth. I am aware that this may just be our personal taste, as this haunt has been thriving, selling steaming bowls of pho for over forty years. Yet we found it to be overly sweet and very salty. It was disappointing. I have heard that MSG is used fairly liberally in restaurants across Asia. I am not sure if this is the case, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was used in this broth. The flavour was too intense – like soup on steroids. We didn’t find it delightful, soulful and nurturing like pho should be, which is such a shame.

We didn’t expect this from a well revered bowl from the motherland. Perhaps we are too stuck on our usual broth back home? I am not sure. I would love to hear if others have experienced this also.

Alongside the pho came pork sausages that were wrapped in banana leaves. After spending a little time researching, I am still not sure of their name. Is anyone familiar?

This was my first time coming across these curious logs, and I found them to be quite tasty, although not what I personally would classify as a necessary accompaniment. Chilli, on the other hand…

So that was our somewhat anti-climactic first pho feature. Perhaps we built up the experience so much in our heads? Perhaps we placed unrealistic expectations upon this humble dish? Or perhaps not…

I like to think that I can demand perfection from my pho. For when it is right, it is utter bliss in a bowl. It is everything you would ever want, and everything you could ever need. Liquid gold.

So I guess, connecting on some sensory level, I’m like a surfer – treading the ripples of the ocean, always in search of that perfect broth.

Heidi xo

p.s. Don’t worry, our pho experience doesn’t end on this muted note. We did experience some incredible bowls in Vietnam. At one point I was so elated I could have cried. But that is for another post…

A Tutti Frutti Afternoon

February 24, 2011

Gelati really is a special food to me. When Ben and I spent time in Sicily in 2009, we would end our evenings with a scoop of gelato as we strolled the town centre. Locals and tourists alike would all be participating in the same sweet ritual of the scoop and stroll. I love how all people, young and old, feel the same childhood delight when enjoying gelati. It really is a magical treat.

Last Sunday Ben and I visited Tutti Frutti, a delightful gem of a gelateria in Mornington. With the soft sunshine offering a light blanket of warmth against this cool summers day, a scoop or two of gelato seemed like the perfect afternoon treat.

Ever since Tutti Frutti opened whilst I was in high school, it has been a beloved place for something sweet. They serve delicious, homemade gelato which never disappoints – and I am a seasoned gelato eater!

Couples sharing a cup while on a date, friends congregating over cones after a day at the beach, and families sharing a scoop on a sunny Saturday – everybody loves Tutti Frutti.

Usually when I am treated to a cone or cup, I opt for either fruity or creamy. I rarely combine the two. However this time I simply had to mix. The reason?… I saw two new flavours that instantly caught my eye, and despite the mixing of genres, I had to have them both!

May I present, Green Apple and Cocao

“MmmmMmmmMmmm”


*note: there are hints of berry mixed with the cocoa, as our lovely server accidentally gave me some of Ben’s leftovers – score! 3 flavours for the price of 2, mwahahahaha

The Cocoa was rich, thick, smooth and sweet. Like the richest, most indulgent, dark cup of cocoa you have ever been lucky enough to consume… in gelato form. In other words, heaven. Perfection, in my opinion. A scoop of dark, rich chocolate gelato always sends me spinning…

One of my gorgeous friends, Vicki, adores green apple gelato, and introduced me to this delightful flavour at Cones. Whilst I did enjoy Tutti Frutti’s version, I feel that Cones serves up a better scoop. It is a fine line between smelling fantastically like a lipsmacker and starting to taste like one.

Ben opted for a fruity mix of Passionfruit and the house special, Tutti Fruiti. Tutti frutti is Italian for “mixed/all fruits” (what we would call tropical, I believe). When Ben and I were in Italy, we would always order ‘fruity di bosco’ (which means “fruits of the forest”). Not so much for the delicious flavour, which it was, but more because we liked saying “fruity di bosco”…..I still do, clearly.

The passionfruit was lovely, full-of-fruity goodness and quite rich, yet not overly sweet. And the Tutti Frutti I found to be refreshing and uplifting, though not a favourite of mine. I must admit I was too focussed on my cocoa to take much notice of Ben’s flavours, however I could tell that they were definitely delicious.

We ate our gelati with sweet grins on our faces, as we moseyed along in the afternoon sunshine. Perfection.

Heidi xo

One Whirlwind Day in Ho Chi Minh City, Part 2

February 22, 2011

Vietnamese Coffee

Sitting across a busy intersection in Ho Chi Minh City allows for much entertainment.

After sharing a cup of soup (detailed in part 1 of this Whirlwind series), we parked ourselves at a café dotted with locals to create a game plan. Our hours were limited, so we wanted to spend our precious time wisely in this bustling city. Coffee was necessary.

As we sipped our Cà Phê, traditional, filter drip style, with sweet milk (condensed milk, otherwise known as ‘sweet heaven’), we gawked at what looked like countless inevitable crashes or near misses to us, but were simply casual, every-day crossings of the road to locals.

Sure, I’ll take my massive cart full of god-knows what and wheel it nonchalantly straight into oncoming traffic. What of it?


(can you spot the lady I speak of?)

What did I think of Vietnamese coffee? It was love at first sip. Delightfully smooth and without the bitterness that so often comes with a cup of joe back home, no matter how fancy the coffee art on top. Give me a cup of strong, dark, rich Vietnamese coffee any day.

Plus it is fun to watch it drip, drip, drip as you sit, sit, sit.

Whilst in Vietnam I also enjoyed their ice-coffee, cà phê sữa đá, which is essentially a shot of their fabulous coffee, served on ice with sweet milk. What’s not to love… chilled, refreshing, delicious.

The cafe where we sat is on a corner Pasteur and Le Loi, opposite Saigon Centre (a shopping centre). It was a great spot to relax, try a local coffee and soak up the city.

Museum of Ho Chi Minh City

During our whirlwind day (am I overusing this word? I hope not, I do so love to type it…‘whirlwind’…) we visited the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City. Clearly, from my photographs, I was more in love with the elegant building than what was actually on display. However there were many gems to peruse in this beautiful, quiet corner of the city.

I always find old books photo-worthy

And door handles, apparently…

This was parked at the front of the museum entrance. I’m a sucker for vintage cars…

Heidi xo

One Whirlwind Day in Ho Chi Minh City, Part 1

February 19, 2011

When planning the Vietnam leg of our Asia trip, we were unsure how long to spend in each city. We did some research on the internet, read travel books and spoke to friends for personal recommendations, however in the end it was pretty much guess work. Somehow we came to the conclusion that we would only spend one day in Ho Chi Minh City. And thus, our Whirlwind Day was born. And what a whirlwind it turned out to be…

We explored a large portion of the city by foot, forgoing spending hours at museums and instead opting for people-watching, as we attempted to soak up the culture of this fantastic city via complete immersion and osmosis, Vietnamese coffee in hand.

Here is part one of my ‘One Whirlwind Day in Ho Chi Minh City’ series. I hope you enjoy my snapshot into what I found to be an upbeat, cool city were the people were lovely and the chaos surprisingly organised.

Hilarious/slightly concerning motorbike image of the day :

A young child sitting on an everyday, regular chair strapped to the motorbike with yellow tape. Sure.

Coconuts:

Fresh coconuts off the street – what better way to stay cool and hydrated?

I adore fresh coconuts, and happily sipped away as we wandered the quiet streets. Ho Chi Minh City was only just waking up…

Chicken Soup:

We stumbled across this lovely lady serving chicken soup out of a big pot on a side walk. A young local woman who spoke good English was purchasing a serve, and she encouraged us to try some, “it’s very good!”. So we did. And it was.

A gelatenous-style mixture with shredded chicken, some whole little eggs and shrimp, topped with fresh coriander, fresh black pepper and chilli. It was light and comforting, and reminded Ben of a Chinese style soup that he would eat as a child. I would love to re-create this soup at home, but the style is so incredibly foreign to me, in both texture and taste, that I wouldn’t know where to start…

We left the eggs, we were too chicken *wink wink* to eat them. We weren’t sure what kind they were – possibly quail eggs? I would love to hear any suggestions you may have, regarding the eggs and how to make this soup!

All this before 9am…clearly it was going to be a great day.

Heidi xo

Valentines Day

February 16, 2011

While Ben and I have never placed a lot of emphasis on celebrating Valentines Day, I do see it as a nice excuse to be a little cute. In high school he was sweet enough to send me flowers whenever the 14th of February rolled around. This made me very embarrassed, but secretly I was thrilled to be one of those girls who were lucky enough to get a bunch delivered to the school. As we grew up we would always naturally save the date to spend together. Perhaps we would go out for dinner, or if the date fell on a weekend we may go for a picnic. But it was never a very lavish affair – never any diamonds or big boxes of chocolates….hang on a second here, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad? Just kidding, I love our way.

This year, with Valentines Day falling on a Monday, we decided to have a casual night in. It is always nice to spend a night together with some wine, indulgent food and snuggles, so I was loving the excuse to make that little extra effort. I was pressed for time, with a super busy work week, and so I couldn’t spend hours preparing dinner. But I knew I wanted to try something special, and something new!

We also put a $10 limit on presents (we tend to do that a lot and I like it, it really encourages creativity). I originally planned on getting Ben a really delicious BBQ sauce from a gourmet grocer. However in the end I decided to steer clear of food related gifts – just for a change! Instead, I visit out local cheap junk style store, and bought him a lint remover (a personal joke, he’s always saying we need one) and a little golf putting game. Just something fun.

Ben was a little more sentimental, and had a picture framed, taken in Hoi An during our recent trip to Asia. I love it, we look so happy. He also bought me one red rose, ahhhh love.

Side note: as children, mum would always get us kids something small and sweet for Valentines Day, and she still does. This year she gave me this gorgeous cookie-cutter set in a cute tin. She’s the best.

Over the weekend, Jamie Oliver tweeted a link to his recipe, Spaghetti Vongole. This is a dish that Ben and I adore. While travelling Italy in 2009, we fell in love with al dente linguini with mussels and clams. It is very likely our most beloved meal, the taste and the memories send us instantly into a euphoric state of unadulterated happiness. I knew that this was the dish I had to make.

With the main covered, I went searching for something else. Usually, for a two course meal, I opt for entree and main – desserts at restaurants rarely grab me. However for Valentines Day, you can’t go past dessert. You simply must have a silky, sexy pot of sumptuous sweets to share. No dessert on Valentines Day? That’s against the law, right?

So what was I going to make?…

I wanted to cater to Ben’s tastes, so mum’s fabulous suggestion of coeur à la crème was out of the question, as Ben is a bit funny about sweet cheeses. I also wanted to avoid anything too rich and heavy, and hence not conducive to a *cough* happy time, so that crossed self-saucing chocolate pudding off the list (dammit). I contemplated a lemon tart, but did not want to commit to the time requirements of making my own pastry, as well as attempting lemon curd for the first time – this all felt a little too stressful for a busy Monday. Souffle for me equal stress, so that was out too.

Then a sweet thought occurred to me…crème brulée! Sure, this luxurious French dessert doesn’t exactly follow on thematically from the very Italian main… but crème brulée is one of Ben’s all-time favourite desserts! It felt right.

So I set out to make my very first crème brulée…gulp! A little preparation and cooking in the morning, and into the fridge it went to chill for the evening. Although I didn’t have any prior attempt to compare my crème to whilst it was cooking, I was quite pleased with how it came together. And I actually really enjoyed the process. As a side note: Is there anything more delicious than vanilla bean? So incredibly sweet and fragrant, I find it powerfully intoxicating.

During a work break I dashed out to purchase clams from Extra Fresh, in Bentleigh. I had a super busy work day and couldn’t travel far for produce, plus I have been pleased with their salmon steaks in the past. They did not have any clams, however they did have mussels, so I purchased 800g (this is more than the recipe calls for, however I anticipated that some wouldn’t open and would need to be discarded).

Before I knew it, early evening was upon me. I quickly made pretty our dining table…

then got to preparing dinner.

I started cleaning the mussels, when suddenly one sneaky mollusc made very clear he was still alive – as I was pulling out the creepy hairy part, it initiated a tug-of-war game. This officially creeped me out (my face below says it all), so I resolved to hand the rest over to Ben when he arrived home.

You see, overcoming my fear of cooking with mussels and clams is on my list – my list of culinary skills that I want to develop this coming year. Although I wussed out during the preparation process and ran to Ben for support, I am still giving myself a giant ‘tick’, as I know I will be far more confident next time I cook with these creepy, yet delicious, little suckers.

In all honesty, I was actually pleased I could share the cooking process with Ben. We had a lot of fun drinking Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and reminiscing about our Italian adventures.

This dinner came together so quickly, and was a lot of fun to make (once the cleaning and de-hairing was out of the way). And it was even more fun to eat, together at our table with fresh flowers, candles, wine and B.B. King playing in the background. It was a perfectly romantic and scrumptious meal.

The remnants…

The rest of our night involved Man Men, our couch and more wine. Between episodes I rose from our comfy nook to put the finishing touches on the crème brulée. At this point what I had prepared was a complete surprise, and Ben was guessing I had made some sort of tart for dessert. Excitedly, I whipped out the blow-torch that my parents had kindly given us (thanks mum and dad!), and began to create my brulée. After about 5 seconds I called Ben into the kitchen, as I did not want him to miss out on this fun! As soon as he saw what I was doing his eyes light up in excitement – not only for the promise of his favourite dessert, but also to have a turn of the blowtorch. Crème brulée is such a fabulous dessert to make, I love to see sugar caramelise – it’s like magic!

I did a little sugar experiment with this crème brulée. Mum informed me that she likes to use caster sugar for the top, whereas the recipe I used called for brown sugar. I made two serves, so I did one of each. I feel that the caster sugar gave a more solidified top and a more definite ‘crack’ when attacked with a spoon. The brown sugar gave a more intense, rich flavour to the top, which I did not favour. All in all, I prefered the caster sugar topping, however Ben enjoyed the brown one equally – easily pleased? Perhaps. What are your experiences in this area? I would love to hear your thoughts!

So here is the finished product, my very first crème brulée. I must say I was quite pleased with the result. Next time, I would want my crème mixture to be smoother (perhaps I stirred it inadequately or I may need to use a sieve). I would also like it to be a little more ‘set’, however I chilled the mixture for 9 hours (as opposed to the 5-6 recommended in the recipe) so I am not sure what else I should do. Perhaps it all depends on the cooking process while in the oven. Again, I would love any tips. I can tell that I am gong to be making many more crème brulée in the future, as despite my few little misgivings, it was utterly delicious!

Divine, luxurious, vanilla-infused custard with a delightfully crisp, caramelised top. I was so pleased with the ‘crack’, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. And I noticed that Ben was wiggling his toes as he ate his dessert – my job was done 🙂

So that is how we spent Valentines Day this year. I must say it was one of our best nights in. I hope you all had a little love and happiness on Monday too. Scrap that – I hope you all have a lot of love and happiness in your life. Everyday should be Valentines Day.

Heidi xo

A Blissful Early Morning, with a side of Bacon

February 13, 2011

Saturday morning I woke up just before 6am. Why? It was not on purpose, I would have liked a sleep-in. In fact I set my alarm for 9am anticipating an indulgent, sleepy start to my weekend. This precaution was, as it would turn out, very unnecessary, as in a rather romantic way, the sweet chirping of birds became my alarm clock. I am rather pleased that they were feeling cheeky and took liberty with my wake-up call, as it allowed me to enjoy the morning in a unexpectedly peaceful manner.

So I climbed out from under my doona, slipped into my dressing gown and spent the first hours of the new day comfortably nestled in a corner of my couch. I browsed recipes online, and caught up on a few of my favourite overseas blogs, such as this one. I also took the time to plan a nice breakfast. I wanted to make something special for Ben, just because. I had the lovely notion of him being woken by the smell of bacon sizzling in the pan. And so my mind excitedly wandered through the bacon possibilities…baked eggs, egg and bacon roll, pancakes with bacon and maple syrup…

Serendipitously, moments after I tweeted about my desire to make Ben and egg and bacon roll, Jamie Oliver tweeted a link to one of his delightful, bacon-centric breakfast recipes. It was a sign, a sign from Jamie, the Food God.

So off to the shops I skipped – yes I actually did skip a little – to fetch ingredients for Breakfast Eggy Crumpets (recipe link). On my way to the shops, the smell and sound of breakfast was in the air – toast was cooking, coffee was brewing and plates were clattering. My senses stimulated, I was filled with warmth and feelings of nostalgia. I adore the morning, and always feel so wonderful when I rise early. It is a special, secret time of day – a feeling which is only shared amongst other early birds. Being a morning person is like being in a special club. I guess in a mildly smug way, I feel like people who sleep-away these blissful hours don’t know what they’re missing.

As it was only just past 7am, I basically had the store to myself. I contemplated grabbing a coffee but then saw some lovely raspberries at our local grocer and instead decided to spend my pennies on a punnet.

Home again I skipped, where I quietly waited for Ben to rise. I prepared breakfast for myself – yoghurt and raspberries with blue mountain tea. Why was I not partaking in the eating of the Breakfast Eggy Crumpets…? I was off to Yum Cha mid-morning, and did not fancy such a hearty breakfast myself. I was rather pleased with my little bowl of berries – just delightful.

Around 9:15am I became aware that my departure for dumplings was looming, and Ben was still happy in his slumber. I worried that my dream to wake him with the aroma of bacon on the stove may not be realised, so I headed into the kitchen (I may or may not have also started playing B.B. King at an enthusiastic volume), and I got to cooking.

It may have been the bacon or it may have been the B.B. Boogie, I am not sure. Either way, Ben rose from the bedroom and came dancing into the kitchen with a big grin on his face, his eyes wide at the anticipation of filling his belly with eggy, bacon breakfast treats.

As per Mr Oliver’s recommendations, I drizzled some maple syrup over the dish. I also agree with his comment that ‘brown sauce’ would go well – whether he is referring to HP or BBQ sauce I am not sure, but I agree that it would indeed work.

What I loved about this recipe was the use of crumpets – they really soaked up the egg mixture with all their cheeky holes. When cooked in the pan they became spongey and golden. Ben really enjoyed his breakfast. It was super easy and fun to make, to boot, so I know we’ll be making Breakfast Eggy Crumpets more often.

So thank you, keenly chirping birds for my gift…I am so grateful for the precious early hours of the morn.

Heidi xo

7.5 Hours at KL Airport, What to Do…

February 11, 2011

What are you to do when you have a 7 and a half hour stop-over at Kuala Lumpur airport? Good question, my friends. Please use the following post as a guide for how to spend the sometimes frustrating hours, as you eagerly wait for a connecting flight to your originally desired location.

Yes, low cost carriers are fabulously cheap. However they do incur with them an obligation to wait umpteen hours with awkwardly sized luggage that makes casually strolling the candy isles an impossible task without looking like the Incredible Hulk and sending candy flying off the shelves in all directions. I recommend you try and avoid that situation – the staff at one particular convenience store are apparently without a sense of humour about such incidents. Instead, I suggest you amuse yourselves with the following activities.

1. Eat meal number 1, lunch…at 8am local time.

After much careful consideration (read: we were starving and ate at the first place we paid attention to) we sat down at ‘Taste of Asia’. I had chicken and fish-ball noodle soup, and Ben had a Nasi Lemak. Mine was better. A lot better. Not bad for airport food! A nice flavoured broth, good quality shredded chicken and rather delightful fish balls. I was quite pleased.

Ben’s beef was dry, the egg overcooked, and the sauce lacked depth, but what do you expect from a café called ‘Taste of Asia’ that cooks in bulk. I think that my soup was a diamond in the trough.

2. Lament the long wait – our flight wasn’t even up on the board yet – and take silly photographs to amuse yourself.

3. Wander around the foods shops educating yourself on how much Malaysians (and, as I would discover, many South East Asians) appear to love Shrimp flavoured chips and Oreos. Not at the same time…or maybe?

4. Drink beverages the size of your torso. This was Ben’s ‘medium’ café latte from ‘The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’. Haha, right. I had a green tea that was just a large, however I was over-the-moon about my huge cup – usually tea just seems so tiny and overpriced. The US $5 I spent on this cup felt completely worth it. Hang on a minute…I paid $5 for tea?!! Long waits at Airports will do that to you.

5. Make up for said costly tea by saving money on book purchases. I bought ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘ for 35 MYR, which equates to ~ $15. I immediately got lost in the pages and developed an unabashed crush on Blomkvist. And Salander. Dirch Frode was kind of cool too. I really enjoyed this book, and picked up the second in Bangkok, which I am yet to finish.

6. Diligently observe the variety of donut flavours on offer at ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’ – hello potato, sausage and green tea flavours!

7. Watch 3 episodes of Mad Men, season 1, on your laptop computer (if you don’t have a laptop with you, may I suggest spending extra time on activities 3 and/or 5).

We’re in love with this show! It took a couple of episodes for me to get into it, but now I love everything about it – the characters, the storylines, the work, the costumes. I want to be Joan, boy is she hot stuff.

But perhaps only for a day, I don’t think I could stand the rampant sexism. And is there anyone cooler than Don Draper? (disregarding the multiple affairs, and all).

8. Eat meal number 2, second lunch – at 1pm. Well this meal was far worse than the first, true story. Drawn in by the attractive ‘white picket-fence, garden’ look, we decided to eat at the aptly named, ‘Food Garden’. Come to think of it it was incredibly aptly named, as there were flies buzzing everywhere. We had the Laksa, and let’s not even go there. Bland soup, heavy on the coconut milk, with a few measly shards of chicken (or other tasteless, white meat). Ok I just went there…we ate it, though, as we were hungry.

We also had another Nasi Lemak, as it looked so yummy being delivered to fellow patrons. Looks can be deceiving, my friends. I did enjoy the ikan bilis, however. I think I just like saying ‘ikan bilis’. No, this is not true, I am certifiably in love with this stuff. I may even name my future dog “Ikan Bilis”.

9. Happily board your plane, enjoy the flight, disembark and be greeted with this:

Hello Vietnam!

Heidi xo

Coming home to Tuna Casserole

February 8, 2011

Early Monday morning, Ben and I arrived home from our month-long travels around South East Asia. We had such a fabulous time, we were very sad to be coming home. Our travels included Vietnam (from South to North), Thailand (in the Kanchanaburi province), Hong Kong (visiting family) and one night in Kuala Lumpur. We especially wished we could have stayed longer at Baan Dada in Thailand. Our visits there never seem to last long enough.

During our travels we had some incredible eats – oodles of noodles, buckets of herbs, countless coconuts, banana each and every way and pork for days. There was rice and soup and buns, not to mention an endless supply of beautiful, fresh, tropical fruit. Visiting Vietnam for the first time allowed us to really got to know the cuisine on a more authentic level. I have many posts planned detailing our delicious culinary adventures throughout Asia! Yet my first post back home is not about Asian cuisine or travel. It is about comfort food.

Coming down from the travel high, one thing that I always look forward to is tucking into the food I have missed whilst abroad. Monday for me was all about oats, muesli, yoghurt, berries and vegemite. Ben had to go to work early on Monday after very little sleep, so I wanted to make him a special, comforting dinner to welcome him home before putting him to bed at a decidedly early hour. He had requested a dish that epitomises comfort food to me. Ben has only eaten this a handful of times at my parent’s house in Red Hill, yet he instantly fell in love with it and came to think of it in the same way as my family. The dish I am speaking of is Tuna Casserole. Technically I think it is more of a Mornay, and we do interchange the name amongst our family, yet I prefer the name ‘Tuna Casserole’ (‘Mornay’ just sounds irksome to me for some reason).

I grew up eating this dish, which would appear on the table after long days or when we had little time to prepare dinner. It is by no means a gourmet feat, rather it was mum’s easy dish, and is both nutritious and comforting (you get a decent serve of calcium and protein). It fills your belly with warmth and love and instantly makes you feel nourished. A serving of this dish equates to one big long hug from a loved one. I was not at all surprised when Ben requested it.

Tuna Casserole

Ingredients

1 ½ tablespoons Butter
½ cup plain flour (I would like to try this with wholemeal flour, for extra fibre)
2 ½ cups milk
1 or 2 x 125g tinned capsicum (depending on how much vinegary capsicum flavour you like. This is a secret ingredient, and completely makes the dish. Fresh capsicum just wouldn’t have the same effect. It is the only time I ever use tinned capsicum, as frankly, it is a little weird. But it totally works in this dish)
1 x 420g tin sweet corn kernels (or less if you don’t enjoy a lot of corn) ½ cup frozen peas (or more if you wish)
1 x 425g tin Sirena tuna in oil (drain the oil)
1 cup grated tasty cheese
A handful of Parsley

Method

In a heavy-based saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Turn the heat down to low then add in the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon briskly for ~1 minute. Be sure to not catch the flour on the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat back up to medium and slowly add in the milk, ~1/4 cup at a time, briskly stirring to allow it to combine with the flour. The mixture will be a little lumpy but don’t be discouraged. Keep stirring continuously and allow the sauce to gradually thicken. This process of stirring in the milk slowly will take ~3-5 minutes. If you like a thinner sauce, add in more milk. Once at the desired level of thickness add in the capsicum, corn and peas. Stir them into the sauce then add the tuna. Once the mixture is hot again, add in the cheese and allow it to melt. Serve immediately and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

One whole month without my beloved Sirena tuna…oh how I have missed thee…

Growing up, my family and I would always eat tuna casserole with some bread and maybe a salad. Oven chips also go well. I like to make my own potato wedges by roasting potatoes in a little spray oil, and serving them alongside the tuna casserole.It is also delicious, hot or cold, on toast for breakfast the next morning (which is exactly what I did today).

I made this earlier in the day, then re-heated it when Ben came home and served it with oven potatoes and bread. He was very pleased. And comforted. And nourished.

Heidi xo

Swimming at Ban Mai

February 3, 2011

When it gets really hot in the afternoon, a swim in Ban Mai river is the perfect way to cool off. We take the kids down in the truck, and watch them have an immeasurable amount of fun.

Here is a video, filmed by the gorgeous Wahlawutt. It shows a quick snapshot of the river. I think he is a budding film-maker! He pressed ‘stop’ just before you got to see him, which is a shame – he’s a real cutie.

The older kids love to jump off the 7(ish) metre high cliff edge, which is a little scary but a whole lot of fun! Usually we just swim in the shallow, waist-high water, looking after the young ones as they splash and swim and play. The joy in their eyes is beautiful. Then they get cold and wrap themselves in our clothes, as we make the bumpy trip home.

Once we get home, it is bath-time, then dinner. Here is the Rat Pack eating their meal, “Gin Kao”.


(left to right: Sirichai, Wahlawutt, Kalazoo, Mongkon)

Heidi xo