I went to Vietnam and it was delicious

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Củ Chi tunnels, War Remnants Museum and dinner at Ru Pho Bar



















Vietnam bound

I’m off to Vietnam today for a holiday over the Easter break. I haven’t traveled in Asia before so I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m particularly looking forward to eating Vietnamese cuisine. I haven’t had it much here in New Zealand but when I have I’ve really enjoyed the fresh flavours that it is renown for.

I’ve done some research on Vietnamese cuisine and discovered how dishes should strive to incorporate five elements of taste: spicy, sour, salty, sweet and bitter. Dishes also include five different nutrients: powder, water/liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat. Not only this, Vietnamese cooks also try to have five different colours present in what they serve (white, green, yellow, red and black. This explains why Vietnamese dishes are always so vibrant in colour. There is also another layer of five – dishes must appeal to the five senses – smell, taste, touch, sight and sound.

Attributions for these images on next page

Muffins are due for a comeback

Sometimes when you set out to make delicious food to write about on a food blog, the results are not always what you are hoping for.

On Sunday it was a beautiful, gorgeous day in Auckland. We’ve been having some stunning weather lately and this Sunday was another exceptional day. I woke up feeling in a muffin mood. I’m not sure how to describe what exactly is a ‘muffin’ mood is but muffins are ridiculously easy to make as a breakfast food so maybe there is a sense of feeling of cheerfulness and relaxation.

Unfortunately, my muffins were a bit of a disappointment. I wish I had followed a previously used recipe, but I decided to give Nigella Lawson’s Pear and Ginger muffin recipe. I adapted it by replacing the pear with apple, and including cinnamon as a spice.

Although they tasted fine they had this really odd consistency – very oily. They reminded me of a pound cake I had once made that had called for a lot of oil. I’m not used to cooking with oil in baking – I think butter gives a much richer and better consistency. Oil just doesn’t feel right in baking! And the amount of sugar in these! I don’t think I’ve ever used so much sugar in making muffins. Maybe I’m just a sugar prude.

It’s quite frustrating when the subject of your blog post turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. It’s not worth my while really sharing this recipe. However, I didn’t want to waste a baking experience, so I thought I’d share some thoughts about muffins in general.

If baked goods were all at high school, muffins would be in the uncool clique. In the foodie scene they have been totally dismissed and ignored – not on the radar at all (unless you count duffins – but they don’t seem to be happening).

It’s not really fair, because muffins are very versatile as baked goods – they can be both sweet or savoury. They’re easy to make and they fit a whole manner of difference occasions.

Perhaps that is the problem with muffins – unlike cupcakes, macarons and cronuts, muffins are very every day. They don’t have a sense of specialness or occasion that these other baked treats have, nor do they come across as particularly indulgent.They’re humble and unpretentious and I think that’s largely why they have been overlooked by the foodie scene.

Muffins became a popular café item in the 70s and 80s. Until this point, muffins had been relatively petite. It was their popularity within these cafes that resulted in an explosion in their size, become at least three times bigger than previous. Since then muffins have been closely associated with chain coffee shops and petrol stations. No wonder they are so uncool.

I think it is time to bring the humble muffin back. Muffins need to reclaim a sense of occasion. It’s not an indulgent or elegant occasion where you’re trying to impress. Muffins suit a more laid back, relaxed occasion – an unhurried breakfast or perhaps a casual picnic with friends. We need to liberate muffins from their daggy chain café locations and free them from their banal flavours. Time for a muffin revolution!

Blue Cheese, Apple, and Chicken Stuffed Crêpes

This week’s mystery ingredient was Kapiti’s Kikorangi Blue Cheese.

The Kikorangi is quite a special cheese. It’s well known for being an absolutely gorgeous blue cheese and not surprisingly, its won it’s fair share of cheese awards in New Zealand.

I changed my mind a few times with what I would make with the Kikorangi. I put something up on twitter asking what I should do, and a friend of mine suggested blue cheese and pear cupcakes. I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes (I find them more icing than cake), but I thought it could be possible to make a pear cake and a cream and blue cheese frosting.

I described this cake idea to Joe and while he was keen on it, he suggested that I have a go at a more savoury dish. He reasoned that I had already done a lot of sweet recipes and a savoury might mix things up a bit. A fair point I guess.

I’m not used to savoury crêpes. I usually make sweet crêpes with lemon and sugar. I make them less because SOMEONE (hint: it’s Joe) isn’t as partial to crêpes as I am. I don’t quite understand how someone could not like crêpes – it’s like disliking kittens.

These crêpes, however, are worth a try. They are very rich, especially the béchamel sauce and the blue cheese. If you are going to make these, I would make sure they are eaten the same day. I found that as a work lunch the next day, they were just too rich. Definitely a dinner party type food I think.

Blue Cheese, Apple, and Chicken Stuffed Crêpes

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Ingredients

Crêpes
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water (not cold)
4 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 t salt

Filling
3 cup cooked chicken
2 medium apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices
2 cups béchamel sauce
50 – 100g blue cheese
100g walnuts, roasted, chopped

Method

Crêpes
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place pan over medium heat and add small knob of butter. When the butter begins to colour, but not smoke add a small amount of batter and swirl it so it covers the pan in a thin coating. Flip the crepes over when bubbles begin to form.

Filling
Spread 2 – 3 tablespoons of the béchamel sauce in the centre of the pale side of the crêpes. Place the chicken on the lower third of the crêpes. Top with apple, blue cheese and walnuts. Roll up the crêpes and arrange seam side down in a prepared baking tray, Cover with the remaining sauce and cheese (if any left). Bake until the sauce is bubbly and lightly browned. Around 20 minutes.