30 November 2011

lessons in sweet + salty + sour

A good Pho loaded with lime, fresh herbs and chile is one of my favourite dishes. A dish that I have no idea how to recreate…so when Uyen of Leluu supper club started her Vietnamese cookery course I knew I had to go along.

I left my house in South East London on bicycle and headed for Hackney with what I thought was plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately Google maps doesn’t warn of markets and I hit a few on the way (Deptford market, Broadway market)…but at least now I know where they are…I had been meaning to find Broadway market and have since been back. I arrived a bit late…so I felt a bit awkward but the awkwardness quickly turned to ravenous anticipation as we discussed the day’s menu:

Beef Pho
Banh Cuon With Five Spice, Honey & Lime Pork Belly
Bo La Lot
Summer Rolls
Roasted Sea Bream With Spring Onions & Soy Sauce
Fried Morning Glory
Brill With Mango
Braised Pork Belly in Coconut Juice & Egg
Steamed Rice

Ten dishes…now that’s good value for a cooking course! Plus, there were a few hidden extras for starters. We had a refreshing basil tea and some store bought pandan flavoured jelly. The tea was made quite simply from basil seeds, water and brown sugar. I really liked this and have since made it at home. It is a delicious and refreshing summer drink. I love gooey textures, japanese mochi is one of my favourites, and the pandan jelly was very similar but with the subtle flavour of pandan leaves.

Summer Rolls have always been a dish I enjoy. It was a revelation to find out how easy they are to make. I had seen the wraps in the shop before, but just wasn’t sure how to get them from the hard crispy state from the packet to the soft, stretchy rice wrap special to a summer roll. Turns out 5 seconds in a bowl of warm water is all you need! Since taking the course this has become a regular lunchbox meal for me. It’s easy to make them in the morning before work and it is delicious and healthy!

It would take forever to go through each and every dish so instead I will point you toward Uyen's website where she has most of them and more http://www.leluu.com/p/recipes.html

I think the success of a cooking course can be estimated by the ability to recreate the dishes at home...that's the point after-all. The summer rolls were easy, but the other dishes were more intimidating. So I put one to the test with the Braised Pork Belly in Coconut Juice & Egg.

I followed Uyen's recipe from the class as posted on her website: http://www.leluu.com/2011/03/recipethit-heo-kho-trung-braised-pork.html

The ingredients were not difficult to find and it was a simple recipe. I love eggs and they are a highlight in this dish that is sweet but savoury and just so good. I used chicken eggs...  My housemates were scared to try it...the smell of fish sauce is a bit unusual in our house and I think they were put off. I plan to make it again and insist they try it next time...this time I was quite happy to keep the whole pot to myself. It lasted several days by just heating it twice per day as Uyen suggested.

I look forward to making the Bo La Lot and of course the Beef Pho in the near future...blog posts coming soon :)

If you love Vietnamese food or even if you aren't very familiar with it, I highly recommend this course. For £75 it is great value and lots of fun.

Edible Experiences

29 November 2011

thanking london...with pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I have grown more attached to since moving to England. It is a time when no one else has family plans and I can share a bit of American tradition and cook some dishes that are much different from my usual repertoire. Plus, it is the perfect theme for a holiday. Simply being thankful for all that we have and sharing that with the people that mean the most.

This is my 7th year in England and my 6th big Thanksgiving meal (one year found me gallivanting around New Zealand and making myself a really bad pumpkin risotto)... I now think I have honed in on a menu that I am quite happy with...although it still might change a bit next year.

Porcini Mushroom Turkey with Mushroom Gravy (Epicurious)
Herbed Bread Stuffing
Roasted Beets, Carrots and Garlic with lemon and thyme
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Caramelised Red Onions and Balsamic (Epicurious)
Pecan Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
Cranberry-Ginger Chutney

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
(Libby's pumpkin pie recipe using fresh pumpkin puree rather than Libby's canned pumpkin)

These recipes (at the end of the post) are a reminder of what my mum used to serve in Arizona, but have been chosen with my tastes and preferences in mind. My mum always cooks two or three turkey crowns, as she ONLY eats breast meat. My first four Thanksgivings in the UK had me sticking with this theme and making Turkey Breast Stuffed with Sausage, Fennel and Golden Raisins (Epicurious). I decided three years ago to take a risk and cook a whole turkey. I love this porcini mushroom recipe that includes rubbing the turkey down in an amazing butter of garlic, parsley and porcini mushrooms. The gravy that results is unbelievable. I now double the gravy recipe as it is always a hit.

I was never a fan of cranberry sauce, but decided as it is traditional to try making one home-made. This is a DELICIOUS recipe and I double it every year and keep it in the fridge after Thanksgiving for other uses.

The pecan sweet potatoes with marshmallows is a must serve...very traditional American. My mums version includes a can of yams, a stick of butter, and a package of mini marshmallows. It was my favourite growing up (at least the marshmallows were)!!  I have changed mine to include fresh sweet potatoes, spices, pecans and of course the mini marshmallows sent from the USA.

Thursday evening saw me starting the two day process of making pumpkin pie. I feared not finding a pumpkin a month after Halloween so I ordered one from the local deli El's Kitchen.  It was beautiful and bright orange and very fragrant. I cut it into large chunks, rubbed it with butter, and cooked it at 200°C for 1-1.5 hours or until soft. I then let it cool, scooped the flesh into a colander lined with paper towels, covered it with more paper towels, topped it with something heavy and put the colander over a bowl to drain overnight.

The next day the mashed puree can be used with my variation on Libby's pumpkin pie recipe.

Pumpkin Pie 
  •  3/4 cup demerara sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • About 1.5 cups of pumpkin puree
  • one can of Evaporated milk (400ml)
  • pie pan with short crust pastry
  • Whipped cream (optional)
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into dish with pastry.

BAKE in preheated 200°C oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 175° C; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near centre comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

The rest of the ingredients came the lazy way, by Ocado delivery. They were the only option for getting a fresh turkey delivered. The cooking on Saturday was a group effort. I live in an amazing house in South East London. My housemates have become family and this event really emphasized how lovely it is. They helped me cook and arranged the dining table. It was an incredible evening and definitely worth the effort to organize and prepare.

For a guest's perspective on this wonderful evening, have a look at Rosana's post.

Continue reading for a few of the other recipes...I apoligise for the mix of English and American measurements and temperatures...This is how I work...

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