Archive for April, 2011

Hint of the Day

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Pesto freezes :)

And furthermore – you can substitute walnuts with the pine nuts and I can’t really notice the difference.

Yay! No more basil wastage ever! :)

Winter’s almost here! Time for casseroles!

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Dont’ get me wrong – I love summer  - it means tropical fresh fruit, gelato every afternoon and picnics at the beach, followed by sunset cocktails.   But with each new season comes its familiar friends you haven’t seen for a year, and for me this means slow cooking, braises, soups, stews and curries!  What better way to warm your hands and heart after a freezing day at work than over a steaming bowl of <something>?   One thing that I’ve been pondering over the years is – what is the best slow cooking cookware for me?

There’s the traditional french bakeware/stove top ready Le Creuset – top of the range, lifetime warranty.  These babies will certainly help you build up your biceps lifting them to and from the oven and stove!  There are so many gorgeous colours too!  Hot and traditional red, mellow yellow and my favourite – creams.    If you can’t afford to invest in the premium Le Creuset, Le Chasseur is also a great option.  It’s approximately half to 2/3 of the price (depending where you buy it), and is apparently so because Le Creuset uses each mould once, whilst Le Chasseur may use the same mould a number of times.   Can I tell the difference? No way.     But my wallet can!  That’s like saying what’s the difference between the Kitchenaid and the Kenwood.  To some people, brand and prestige matters, but to some, they achieve the same result so why pay more?

Next option is the slow cooker.  Slowly simmering away for hours – prep before work and at a very low heat, your dinner’s ready for you when you come home.    Slow cookers are great if you don’t have time to stand and stir.  But for me, I’m a bit wary of having an appliance turned on all day when I’m out of the house.  I’m occasionally accident prone, and always paranoid as a result! But with the advent of numerous slow cooker simmer sauces, this is a very convenient option that has saved many a working mum!

How about the pressure cooker?  Slow cooking in a fraction of the time?  I haven’t tried one of these, but you know what, I’ve seen shows like Top Chef where contents have exploded! (admittedly, the appliance was faulty).  But what if you accidentally burned yourself with steam?  Have you got one? Do you like it?

Having pondered all my options:  Creuset – exxy, Chasseur – still heavy, Slow cooker – it’s on all day and pressure cooker – me scared! I decided on the ultimate Asian slow cooker, the thermal cooker.  Have you heard of these? Manufactured by Tiger or Thermos, they cook by vacuum.  You simply cook your soup or casserole on the stove in the inner pot for 30 minutes, then put it in the vacuum container and then leave it for 2 -4 hours… and it finishes the cooking off! No joke, my Taiwanese beef noodle soup took 30mins on the stove – I made it at 11am – and by the time I ate it at 8pm, it was still hot – tasty and tender.  Amazing.  It serves me well. No need to have electricity on while I’m out of the house, no need to have it on the stove for hours, in these days of electricity price hikes it’s certainly handy!

Dinner tonight – Salmon en papillotte

Monday, April 11th, 2011

So it seems really easy and also mess free. I decided to give it a go. So easy – create a “bag” by taking a huge piece of foil, and a sheet of the same sized baking paper. Put the baking paper on the top and fold it in half. Fold the edges on two sides in very very tightly and you’ve got your bag! Then I took a piece of salmon, seasoned it and layered some slices of lemon on top. Place it carefully in the bag; along with a few sprigs of parsley and a few springs of dill. Now – very carefully pour in some white wine and a drizzle of olive oil, and now even more carefully, close up the bag with more folds. Place in the oven on a tray – at 220 degrees and bake for 20 minutes, depending on how cooked you like it. It’ll puff up in the oven.

When it’s ready, put the whole parcel on the plate and very carefully, using scissors, snip open the bag and take in the aromas, and the most AMAZING melt in your mouth fish ever.

You can serve it at the table for dramatic effect, or lift it out of the bag carefully and preserve every last drop of that precious yummy sauce! Chuck on some more freshly chopped parsley to serve.

I seriously can’t emphasise just how easy it was to make this dish. And the best bit is that if you’re careful, the only thing you’ll need to wash is your plate!  It’s certainly something you can incorporate into your weeknight dinner repertoire – or dare I say – a weeknight dinner PARTY repertoire? ;)

Ramana Hotel Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Buffet restaurant

Friday, April 8th, 2011

My belly is looking a little preggers lately given our trip in Vietnam and today’s two buffets! One for lunch and one for dinner! You may have gathered that ribs and buffet are my two favourite meals – definitely not for dates though ;) , and if you’re ever in Ho Chi Minh City, there is one that I highly recommend.  We stayed at the Ramana Saigon Hotel (yes, that’s Ramana, not Ramada), a 4 star hotel not really that well located (then again, what is?  HCM city is so big!).  With crossing the street equating to a death wish, we copped out at ate at the “American” buffet.  It was rip off prices by Vietnam standards, but a steal in any other currency 0 at US$18.50 per person.  We inspected – usual salads and bain marie stuff but our eyes lit up when we saw this boat!!

It was filled with ice and then displayed an array of fresh raw seafood for you to heap up onto a plate and ask the chef to cook for you as you wished – grilled, sambal, ginger and shallots, steamed….  That definitely made us pick the buffet over a la carte (in Vietnam you have no idea how long things coudl have been sitting around for).  We had scallops in the shell, huge prawns (which look like yabbies) and normal tiger prawns… yuummm…..

How about a bit of all you can peking/roast duck, chicken and mantou buns? :)

Mandatory sushi plate.  I didn’t try this – the purple is pretty but not quite authentic?? hehe

Then there’s the fresh green vege section – have you ever been on holidays and felt vege deprived and let’s say – been a bit irregular? ;)   Well here you could also pick a plate of your preferred veges and the chefs will also cook it fresh for you!!

This isn’t an ordinary buffet, it’s more like an all you can eat cooked to order!!

There wasn’t much else we wanted to fill the remaining nooks in our stomach with, so we just nibbled on some of the other stuff which included these yummy rice rolls with herbs and duck in them, and some roast duck and pesto roasted veges.

The fruit platter also caught our eye.

I have no idea what those little lolly like balls are but they tasted of star fruit and had 3 little cardamom shaped seeds in them.  Anyone have an idea?

Fresh fruit and vege are your best friends on a holiday diet, and I can never get enough of the tropical stuff.

So there you g0, come here if you’re in HCM city!  It was a real shame that for the time we were there (Saturday night, 6:30 – 8:15pm), there were only 2 other tables. And there was also a band playing just for us at one stage as we had the whole restaurant to ourselves for much of this time!  I hope that yummy food dosen’t all go to waste.   It would be such a shame, with so many hungry people out here.

Ramana Saigon Hotel – 323 Le Van Sy St, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam