30 September 2011

To see or not to see

My internet is really slow these days and I hate it. I’ve been surfing around and leaving comments, but some how they don’t appear on the site. I’m sure it’s me, but I can’t do anything about it. But at least it’s Friday! Time to sit back and relax.

Let me tell you what I did this week. Of course I worked and cooked, but I also went for a so called quick scan to see if my eyes are suitable for lasik. Without my contacts I’m pretty much blind and I’ve always been a bit afraid of having it fixed. Although I’m still scared I thought I’d have a quick check up to see what the possibilities are. Of course the cheapest (still 3,500 euro) option wasn’t suitable, but apparently I’m a great candidate for lens implants (5,000 euro). Not to go into details, but they will make a tiny cut in the cornea and slip a flexible lens just in front of the iris. This procedure would only take a couple of minutes. About one or 2 weeks later they will do the other eye. This procedure is reversible so if it doesn’t work out they can take the lens out and I’ll be back on square 1.

I will have to wear my classes for 4 weeks so my eyes can get back to normal shape, but if I decided to go through with it, I could be contact lens free before the end of the year. Four weeks doesn’t seem like long, but for me it is pure hell. My glasses are -10! and give me headache when I wear them. On top of that I have a Vietnamese nose (very flat) so you get where I’m going to right?

If I decided to go with through this, there won’t be much cooking and blogging. It sounds weird but wearing glasses totally kills my mood for anything. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t want to have it done in the first place. But to have a correct reading of my eyes I just have to suck it up.

To see or not to see that’s the question now. Yes I can see fine with my contacts and yes sometimes they are really a pain in the ass. Is it worth to wake up every day and see things clearly? I guess I can only answer this when I actually can see clearly. As long as I remember everything is blurry. I’ve been wearing glasses/contacts longer then I could actually see without them. People are right…you only miss things once it’s gone. Mine were gone so long that by now I don’t know better.

I still doubt about this so any comments or ideas are welcome.
So what do you all think?

27 September 2011

Stuffed bitter melon soup

Bitter melon; either you love it or hate it, there is nothing in between. Although I always thought it was a veggie it’s actually a fruit (Wikipedia) and it’s the only fruit I know of that has a bitter taste. There are several varieties, but the most common one is “China phenotype”.

When I was young I use to hate it. I just couldn’t get over the taste. The way I learned how to eat it, was to eat it together with some picked daikon root. It slightly concealed the bitterness and made it easier to swallow. Not that my mom really made me eat it, but the daikon did help me to get over it ‘mentally”. Once you get over that it’s pretty nice, even delicious once you get to love it.

It sounds weird, but these things make great salad. I will share the recipe next time I make it.
Anyway, this is my favorite way to eat it: 
Remember I made the stuffing for my “stuffed tofu” recipe and I froze half of it. Well I used this to stuff my bitter melon. I wassed them, cut them in pieces, scrapped all the seeds out and stuff them with the meat mixture.
I stuffed as much meat as I could, since I love lots of meat.
I cooked enough water to cover the melons and put them in when the water boiled. Because I like a clear broth I scooped out all the foam and fat. Then I seasoned the broth with some salt.
When the melons turn soft they are ready to eat, but I rarely eat them the same day. I found out that they are less bitter when you eat it the next day, or even 2 days later.

All they need now is a sprinkle of fresh chopped coriander and some spring onions.
I ate this soup with some plain white rice. The hubby and my sister didn’t touched it at all so it was all me. Had to eat it for 3 days…so I can now say that I will not have any bitter melons for the next coming months.

25 September 2011

Crème Pâtissière

Crème Pâtissière is such a fancy word for something so dead simple to make. In Holland we simple call it "banketbakkersroom" and we use it as a filling for our "tompoes" (something similar to a custard slice). It’s also a good stuffing for profiteroles.

Because I wanted to make (or try to make) something we call “koffiebroodje” I thought I make this stuffing first. A koffiebroodje is something similar to a cinnamon roll but then filled with custard and raisins.

I started with creaming 50 grams of sugar (5 big tablespoons) and one bag of vanilla sugar together with 2 egg yolks and a pinch of salt. 
When it turned pale yellow I added a teaspoon of orange zest. In the meantime I headed up 250 ml of milk.

To the egg mixture I added 2 big tablespoons of flour and made sure it became a smooth batter before I added half of the hot milk. Then the other half went in and after everything was smooth it all went right back in the same pan.
On medium heat it took just a couple of minutes to thicken. I had to use a whisk just to make sure there were no lumps.
After it was done I poured the custard in a bowl and covered with some plastic wrap.
I placed the wrap right on top of the custard and put it in the freezer for a couple of minutes just to take the temperature down. Then I stored it in the fridge till I need it.

I already made some koffiebroodjes, but they are in the fridge till tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to see if they turn out…cross your fingers…

23 September 2011

Quick stir fried shrimp

Ok its Friday finally! Some days goes by in a wink and others…well every minute feels like a minute. But I’m happy it’s relaxing time. I’ve just finished my very easy dinner...buttery mussels and French bread. A last minute change of dinner plans.

We still had some rice left and I had my bitter melon soup that I made yesterday (recipe will follow) and we (well actually I) were suppose to eat that, but I was feeling like having some party food. Anything that takes me less then 30 minutes to make is party food.
I also asked my hubby to take some shrimps out of the freezer so I could make some stir fry shrimp for him to eat it with some rice since he is not a fan of bitter melon. These shrimps were all ready to go and had to be cooked…today!

Because I only have 45 minutes before my movie starts I thought I’d do a quick post. I’ve been looking forward to watch Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix so I’m quite exited about it. It’s true that there’s a kid inside everyone =)

So with no further delay…
Shrimp with oyster sauce.

This literally took me 5 minutes to make. I started with frying some onion and garlic (don’t add the garlic till the onions are brown) and then I added a dash of oyster sauce and some sesame oil. Then the shrimps went in….wait till they turn pink and voila…stir fried shrimp! How quick was that? It was so quick I didn’t have time to take more pictures then this one.

It’s a great snack. I know because the hubby went in and out of the kitchen each time munching on a piece of shrimp. If there’s any left for tomorrow it will be good with rice as well.

I’m getting read for movie time with my hubby, if I get him to watch it with me. Hope you all have great plans for the weekend. If weather permits we’ll bike down to Delft tomorrow. It’s like a mini holiday, but then one close to home!

21 September 2011

Andijviestamppot (endive mash potatoes)

Now that the days are getting shorter and the temperature is dropping slowly it’s time to get ready for the winter. Can you believe it’s almost end of September? I still remember when we said goodbye to 2010 and welcomed 2011. And now in about 3 months another year is gone!

As much as I enjoy spring and summer, winter has a special place in my heart. I just love stews and Dutch mash potatoes with smoked sausage. And of course pea soup! I can’t wait to make that again.

Today I’m sharing a very easy Dutch mash potato dish. All you need is:
-          potatoes
-          bacon bits
-          endive
-          sausages
-          one bouillon cube
-          salt and pepper

After all these years I’m still amazed by how easy Dutch food is and how great it tastes. Maybe also because it takes so little effort to make it.
This endive was about 800 gram and I really wanted to use it all, but it was too much.
Although I cut and washed it all I ended up only using half. The other half is waiting in my fridge.
I was lucky that my sister already pealed the potatoes so all I had to do was to cut them in small pieces and boil them with one bouillon cube. This cube would give it plenty of flavor already so I didn’t had to add any extra salt.

While waiting for the potatoes to cook I fried the sausages and the bacon bits. You can use whatever sausage you like or have at hand. It normally goes with some rookworst (smoked sausage) but it taste great with “fresh” sausages as well.

There are 2 ways of making this dish. When the potatoes are done you can add the endive and let it “cook” together for a minute or to and then mash everything up. Or you can add the endive to the hot potatoes and mash them together. Either way I recommend you to drain the potatoes and keep the juice so you can add that later. Endives will release some juice as well and otherwise it will become endive soup. I happened to me once and although it still taste good, it doesn’t look too appealing.
After the potatoes are mashed and the endive is incorporated it was time to add the bacon bits. They were nice and crispy and salty so extra salt was definitely not needed.
Dinner was done in less then 30 minutes! The hubby sliced the sausages, pretty huh? We both loved this dinner! Highlight were the bacon bits so don’t skip on those!

On a different note:

Over the last few days I’ve been receiving some awards that I haven’t been able to thank for yet. But I haven’t forgotten about it.

So this is a BIG thank you for Ridwan from Ridwan’s Kichen / Asian-spice mix for sharing these awards with me. Although we are new foodie friends I’m always on the lookout to see what he’s cooking now. I’m keeping a close eye on this guy; he’s Indonesian and I’m hoping he’ll share some of the delicious dishes from his birth country.

And then sweet Parsely Sage from The Deep Dish. I think we’ve started reading and commenting on each others blog about the same time so we go wayyyy back =)
This lady lives in the Cayman Island and shares awesome dishes from Caymanian and Caribbean cuisine. Reading her blog makes you want to move to the Cayman Island right away.
Girl, HUGE thank you for thinking of me!

19 September 2011


My neighbor Georgia has a huge basil bush in her front yard and she always tells me to come over and cut some. It was getting plenty of sun and rain this spring/summer and was growing out of control. In fact it got so big it overpowered her thyme bush and almost suffocated it to death. The other day she decided it was time to cut most of the basil and to make her yard weed free. She ended up sharing a whole bunch with me and our other neighbor.

I plucked all the leaves, threw out the stems, washed and stored it in the fridge. Since basil is quite delicate it can’t be stored for that long. I had so much I didn’t know what to do with it. One can only use that much basil.
I’m telling you, it was quite a lot! This is the bowl I use for mixing dough and I had enough basil to fill it all to the rim.

What do with all these freshly plucked leaves? What else then to make pesto! So pesto it is…only one problem…I don’t have a food processor. Up to now I haven’t been missing it…but at times…it can be darn handy. I didn’t feel like grinding it by hand so I decided to use my stick blender. Not the best choice, but it was better then nothing.

I used one garlic head. Well it wasn’t actually a head it was more like a bulb. Have you ever seen these? They’ve been selling then here just for the last couple of years. It’s like one giant garlic glove. Very easy to peal and just as good as “normal” gloves.  
I toasted about 50 gram of pine seeds till they were nice and brown and threw that with the basil. Then I added about half a small cup of olive oil, some salt, pepper and about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I didn’t have any parmesan cheese and I’m ok with that. Not much of a cheese fan, but feel free to add as much as you like.
It took quite some time to blend it all together and it was splattering every where! Little green spots all over my kitchen *sigh*. So only use a stick blender if you don’t have a choice.

It was enough to fill 2 cups and I have to say...it tasted soooo good! I now need to find some recipes to use all that nice pesto. Idea’s anyone?

This morning I noticed that the pesto has turned slightly brown on top. It’s reacting on the oxygen. I poured a layer of olive oil on top hoping that it would help a bit.
Also I read that to keep the nice green color you need to blanch the basil first before you blend everything together. I just don’t remember where so I can’t give credit.

17 September 2011

Easy chocolate mousse

Sometimes you aren’t making anything and sometimes you almost live in your kitchen. Well it helps that the weather wasn’t working in our favor as well. It was raining and getting cold. Great time to experiment with different dishes. Today I manage to do 3 dishes, my daikon cake (first time ever), the chao and this easy chocolate mousse.

Can you believe I’ve never made my own chocolate mousse before? My neighbor made homemade chocolate mousse earlier and it was soooo good. I only wanted to have one spoon, but end up eating the whole bowl!! I asked her how she made it and she told me she had egg yolks in it. If there is anything I prefer not to work with is raw eggs. It’s fine when other people do (and I don’t necessarily have to know about it) but for me…well it try not to. 
So this mousse is made with only whipping cream, sugar and dark chocolate. How easy is that?
I started with melting my chocolate (180g). I normally melt it in the microwave but since I burned myself (because it got too hot), I prefer to do it this way (double boiler). It's easier to control.
The chocolate melted in no time. I took it of the stove and set it aside while I whipped the whipping cream (500ml) with some sugar till it was nice and thick.
Then I gentle fold in the melted chocolate. And to be honest…I also used my mixer just to make sure the chocolate was well incorporated. Only for a second…
I’d like to save my yoghurt and crème brûlée jars so I could reuse them and this was a perfect opportunity.

It was enough to fill up 8 jars to the rim. They are now setting in the fridge. I can’t wait till tomorrow…but I already know they will taste good…the spoon and spatula are licked clean.

I’m having movie night with my hubby now. Have a great weekend!

The next day:

It’s right now and I just finished my first chocolate mousse jar.
I was very happy to see that it was nice and fluffy.
Although it was a bit sweeter then I thought I would be (next time I just skip the sugar), it was till very good. I think a nice citrus salad or some cherries would balance the flavors out just right.
7 more jars to go...

Chao ga (chicken congee/porridge)

Remember I told you I would keep that nice chicken broth? Well since I kept it outside I made sure I bring it to a boil for a couple of minutes every day. It would be better to store it in the fridge, but there’s simply no room. I understand that if I keep doing this long enough it would be referred as a “master stock”, one stock in which you continue to cook your chicken, pork etc. Well I’m not planning to keep it that long. In fact I already used half of the broth for my chao.

My sister and hubby weren’t feeling to hot today and there is nothing more comforting then chao. And nothing easier to make either.
When we were young and we were ill, my mom use to make just plain chao with rice and lots of water (nothing more then that) and we had to eat it with sugar. JUK! Still now I can’t have any sweet rice pie…just reminds me too much of ill people’s chao.
I still had some of yesterday’s rice left which is perfect for this. It all went in the pot after the broth boiled. I turned the fire low so the rice could soak up all that nice chicken broth and had time to fall apart.
If you don’t have any cooked rice you can just use uncooked rice. It just takes a bit longer. Bring the broth to a boil and add the rice. Stir every once a while so the rice doesn’t stick on the bottom. Remember a little bit of rice goes a long way when you make chao.
As I don’t like my chao too thick I had to add some more water and some salt. I like it well seasoned. When you can’t see the rice shape it’s done. With chao there is no overdone, just underdone. As long as you still see the rice shape you know it has to cook it a bit longer.
While the chao was simmering I had time to chop some spring onions and cilantro. We always use this combo of herbs on our chao.

From that whole chicken I cooked for my goi ga the other day, I only used the breasts and the drumsticks, so today I had the thighs and the wings left.
I made another batch of goi ga, but as you can see it doesn’t look as nice as the one made with breast and drumsticks.
Normally chao has beans sprouts as well, but I didn’t buy it. I wasn’t planning on making chao. In fact I wasn’t panning dinner at all today. To busy making daikon cake (recipe will follow) which is sitting in my fridge right now. I’m crossing my fingers that it will set enough to fry tomorrow.
The goi ga went really, really well with the chao. It will for sure cure anything!

16 September 2011

Goi ga rau ram (Vietnamese chicken salad)

The other day I was craving goi ga (Vietnamese chicken salad). Partly because I have a very nice bunch of rau ram (Vietnamese mint/coriander) in my back yard that has to be eaten and partly because I love the sweet and sour onion slices I use for this salad.
My excuse for this salad was very much present in my yard. I actually grew these myself. I bought some rau ram and ate almost all the leaves. Then I soaked the stems in a jar till they developed roots. I’ve kept them in a jar for quite some time till I thought they had enough root so survive in the soil. If I knew they would love to be outside this much I would’ve put them out earlier. Before it gets too cold I’ll cut some off and start the process all over. I’ll try to see if I can grow them inside so I can still enjoy them in winter time.
These were getting plenty of sun and developed long strong smelling leaves! Only thing needed now is hot vit lon (duck eggs) or this chicken salad.

I know there are many recipes for this salad, but this is my one of my own. Just because it is so easy and the onions are really good in combination with the chicken and the rau ram. I hope you’ll give it a try.

For this salad I used:
-          one whole chicken (breast)
-          a couple of onions (I used 4 small ones)
-          vinegar
-          sugar
-          some rau ram leaves
-          nuoc mam gung (Vietnamese ginger fish sauce)
I started with slicing the onions in very thin half rings. In a big bowl I poured the vinegar and sugar and stirred till the sugar was dissolved. I wanted the mixture to be sweet and sour and depending on your own taste you can put more or less sugar. Then the onions went in. They have to marinate for at least half an hour so the loose that onion sharpness and suck this sweet and sour in.
I stirred it every couple of minutes to make sure every piece of onion got soaked. After half an hour they look like this; slightly less in volume but packed with flavor.
While the onion is marinating I started cooking the chicken. As I didn’t had any chicken breast I cooked a whole chicken in some ginger seasoned water till it was done. This broth can be used for some rice congee/porridge. Even for some chicken pho if you really crave it. I’m still thinking about what to turn it to. So many options and only one pot of broth.
I already had some nuoc mam that only needs an additional ginger to make ginger fish sauce. For this basic fish sauce you can go to this link. For nuoc mam gung you need to crush or grate some ginger and you’ll have ginger fish sauce.

In a big bowl I shredded the chicken (I used the breasts and the drumsticks) in big junks, added the sweet and sour onion (I squeezed them dry) and the rau ram. Last but not least I seasoned the salad with the ginger fish sauce. And that is all this salad needs.
We had it as a side dish with our stuffed tofu, green beans and rice and it didn’t really go well together. A better combo would be with some rice congee. So we ate our rice and snacked on this chicken salad after. I had a bit left and ate it the next day. It was even better so don’t through out any leftovers!

14 September 2011

Dau hu nhoi thit (stuffed tofu in tomato sauce)

My family LOVES tofu and we often eat them crispy fried with some Maggi sauce. Just straight out of the pan, piping hot, dipped in Maggi and straight in our mouths. It is delicious! And so easy. One time this was all we eat for dinner and we were very happy about it. It’s quite filling so we didn’t have room for more food even if we wanted.

This dish is one of my boehoe’s favorite. He loves everything about it, maybe you do to after you made it. I always make it one day ahead so the tofu can suck in all those nice flavors.

I used:
- 2 big fresh tofu (not the silken tofu)
- onions
- garlic (fresh and powder)
- minced meat (half pork, half beef)
- dried wood ear mushrooms
- dried glass noodles
- tomatoes
- tomato paste
- bouillon cube
- sesame oil
- oyster sauce
- salt, pepper, sugar, Maggi sauce
I cut the tofu in about 1,5 cm and fried them till they were golden. Well actually my boehoe fried them. You can either use them right away or the next day. I prefer to use them the next day because the tofu is firmer then.
With a little knife I carefully made an incision, just enough to have room for the meat. I usually go all the way through till I hit the other side, but not slice it through.
Now it looks like a little tofu bag. I continued slicing all the fried tofu.
I just love wood ear mushrooms. They don’t particularly taste like anything and are the ugliest mushrooms I’ve ever seen, but I grew up with them. I love the little crunch it gives. I always soak them in hot water till they are soft. This takes a couple of minutes.
I chopped one big onion, a couple of clove of garlic and the wood ear mushrooms. Then I added the minced meat and the glass noodles which I soaked in warm water for a bit and cut them smaller with a scissor.  

Then I sprinkled some salt, lots of fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, some dashes of sesame oil and oyster sauce.
I dug in there to make sure everything was evenly mixed. I use this mixture for everything. It’s great in some puff pastry, it’s awesome stuffing for bitter melon and goes great with stuffed Chinese cabbage (will be next on the to make list).
While my hands were dirty I opened the tofu pouches and stuffed them with as much meat as I could. I just had to make sure the tofu holds up and not split.
In a non stick pan I added a bit of oil and started with browning the meat top on first. After the meat is nice and seared I flipped them on the tofu side. Then on the other side and they were done. Well almost done.
I remember the first time I made this, my boehoe asked if he could eat it and I was like what? It needs to be cooked in a tomato sauce first. That was quite strange for him as him mom always stops here. I guess you could’ve stop here, but then you’ll have to make sure the meat inside the tofu cooks proper. As I was still cooking them I only needed the meat to brown.
For my tomato sauce I used a mixture of fresh tomatoes (lots of them) and one little can of tomato paste, just to intensify the tomato flavor. I started with browning some onion and garlic. Then I added the tomatoes and one bouillon cube.
There is my tomato paste!
After the paste was mixed I added 3 cups of water, some salt, pepper, sugar and Maggi sauce. I like the flavor the Maggi sauce gives to the tomato mixture.

Then it was time for the stuffed tofu to take a dive…in this divine sauce.
The next day they simmered for another 30 minutes and they were ready. I normally top them with some spring onion and cilantro, but I didn’t have any spring onions left.
Today we ate it with some stir fried water spinach and plain white rice. The tofu soaked up all that nice sauce. We all started with 2 stuffed tofu, but that wasn’t enough.
My boehoe went back to snack on some more stuffed tofu, no rice, no veggies…can you blame him?

There’s still plenty for tomorrow's meal. So guess what’s on the menu then…one very happy boehoe!