Recipes

Why the need to go all across the planet?

That’s what my mom asks when announcing trips to Asia. To be honest, that’s what I’m asking myself the day before leaving. Soon as I get on the plane the doubts are gone, I’m in observing mode. The greatest thing about travel is the enhancing of the senses. Becoming present in the moment by simply observing the surroundings. At home knowing the everydayness places and routines is a blessing time savior, but drifting through gets automated and we stop to pay attention or question the details around us. But when you land yourself all the way there in a completely new setting you wonder at electric poles and charm the dirtiness of the city chaos.

I have a strong bond to local flavours and recipes, but my heart belongs to Asian food. Best served locally where the street have the omnipresent durian smell, eating on pavement petite plastic chairs and where markets are still very much alive and kicking. My latest was a trip to Vietnam, and their food stands a new standard to fresh. With 70% of the population working as farmers, the markets are very busy places and people still have the habit to buy meat kicking for their meals. Also what fascinated me, were that the tables of locals eating out: bunch of pots and plates with fresh garnishes on the table with everybody sharing everything and combining different dishes in one small bowl, where you combine each perfect bite.

One of our national staple foods is beef noodle soup, but phở bò is a step higher with bold spices and adding meat and garnish at the end in order to preserve the texture and taste. Quail eggs were a revelation as well, as I never use them at home, but you see them everywhere in Vietnam. The tiny little egg is a perfect addition to nutritious soup plus they are the most fotogenic ingredient ever. So đac Biet it is – all included, phở galore.

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 Pho Gà đac Biet

For the broth:

3,5 l cold water

1 whole chicken cut in peices
1 whole onion, unpeeled
Big chunk of ginger, unpeeled

1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fish sauce

Rice noodles (grab a bunch with your hand as much as you can hold)

Broth dry spices:
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise

Garnish:

2 quail eggs per person
bunch of cilantro or basil tops and green spring onion chopped

The point is to make broth clear and intense in flavor. The trick is to parboil the chicken to get rid of the impurities. Have 2 big pots ob boiling water ready. Dunk the pieces of chicken in one for 5 minutes, then transfer to the cooking pot. Next move to charring the ginger and onion for a naturally sweeten and enhance their flavor. You can do it directly on the flame or place them on the he top rack in the oven. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get black and the onion/ginger soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off carefully, the black skin would make the soup bitter.

Put in pot with cooking chicken covering with the lid. Turn heat to high to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Lift lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and set aside. Skim the surface of any impurities in the broth, skimming every 20 minutes to get a clear broth. Simmer for 1,5 hours, in the meantime taste and adjust seasoning with fish sauce and or sugar. In the last 20 minutes of cooking add roasted dry spices. Put them in tea filter, so you can quickly remove them, or they will make the soup bitter.

Strain the broth, discard solids. Soak noodles as per directions on package and cook quail eggs for 2,5 minutes. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soaked noodles in each bowl. Have garnish ready to add according to individual taste preferences.

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Recipes

Saffron cauliflower soup

Lately my cooking is all about colours. The gray dullness outside makes me crave vibrant foods and what better way then to use blooms to spice things up. As saffron is strong enough to tint the textiles, it is also used to clear away the blues as it is an antidepressant. So, here is a soup to warm and energize.

saffron_cauliflower_cream_soup_recipe

Saffron Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower florets, broken into pieces
1 small peice of celeriac, diced
1 medium diced onion
2 peices of garlic
2 Tbsp ghee
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
1 Tbsp sliced almonds for garnish
1 tsp saffron
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

In a heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the melted ghee until fragrant.  Add the celeriac and cauliflower.  Pour in the stock and bring the mixture to a boil.  In a small saucepan, warm a bit of ghee and heat the saffron, releasing its flavor and color.  Add to the soup mixture.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.  Use a stick blender to puree the soup until smooth.  Taste and add salt, if needed, garnish with parsley and almonds.

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Recipes

The greener peas

The ones on the other side. With voluptuously saturated green and supreme glow. “Bling”, from the shine spark. Anti consumerist might blame it on the hard core capitalism, which is igniting purchasing desires in order to keep the money motor running. But in fact there is also our inner motor which runs on fuel,  the goal, the constant need of something to be achieved or improved. Yes, sometimes it may seem like that we are constantly reaching on a never ending staircase. How very non zen, if you look at this treadmill running from a distance, it does seem almost primitive and ridiculous. But then again, the Buddhists are also longing, reaching higher and improving their knowledge, compassion and serenity. Having infinite desires to always reach higher is in our nature, our nature given kick in the rump to exist.
Whenever I look back I always regret because I keep longing to the perfect future. When all the problems, frustrations, imperfections and goals will be over. Keeping the motor running is crucial, just don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
What does that have to do with peas? Nothing really, but the soup is fantastic.

peas from podpea soup with tarragon

Fresh peas and tarragon soup
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup peeled diced apples (hint: the secret ingredient)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cups shelled fresh peas
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • freshly ground white pepper and salt to taste
  • greek yogurt for garnish

In a saucepan cook onions and apples on olive oil, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add peas and broth, simmer uncovered for additional 5 minutes, or until peas are cooked. Stir in tarragon. In a blender purée until smooth. Add white pepper and salt to taste and garnish with a dollop of greek yogurt.

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