About

About

Welcome to my blog! I am a writer, photographer, food/ prop stylist and film maker. You can find recipes, photos, blog posts, films and videos here.

Please follow me on instagram @loveleluu & subscribe here for blog posts. Thank you so much for visiting this page x

Food Styling & Photograhy

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Supper Club

Supper Club

The supper club is held in my home in London Fields, Hackney. It is like a dinner party in the tradition of a Vietnamese feast with homemade Vietnamese food.

Classes

Classes

Vietnamese food is about the balance of flavours, of sweet, salty and sour – there is no measuring device that can ever match your own taste buds.

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A FOODIE FAMILY HOLIDAY GUIDE For TantrumXYZ

This is an adaptation of the original post written for TantrumXYZ, courtesy of Airbnb here
In this post, there are many extra recipes!

From foraging to feeding fussy eaters, food writer Uyen Luu provides recipes + inspiration from her foodie trip to Siena

I am the type of person who loves to travel to a destination specifically for the food it has to offer. I find great tranquility in cooking and I take great enjoyment in food shopping on holiday – whatever the season. For me, pleasure is food shared with others. Now that I have a young family, (my daughter is currently just under 2 years old), cooking is strongly weaved through our daily lives and meal times are milestones of the day, even on holiday.

We recently went to Tuscany with some friends. Sunshine, splish-splashing in the pool and good food was our entire agenda. We stayed in a gorgeous 4-bedroom Airbnb villawith a swimming pool, about 30 mins outside of Siena.

The villa had a swimming pool overlooking the endless groves of olive trees, luscious vineyards and lavender bushes spreading wildly under the golden heat. The major selling factor was also the many great dining spaces the villa boasts. Since having our daughter, we have had less time to spend with friends, and so big communal meals were always going to be a big part of our trip. We could take our pick of where on the property to eat, from the most romantic and breathtaking of places: under the tall, protective pine trees; underneath arches of thorns and roses next to the swimming pool and beside the giant perfumed fig trees. Inside the house, the kitchen was great for breakfasts, and the roofed balcony and various living spaces for snacks and feasts by candlelight and cicada cries. This was a perfect place for our new family to spend precious time with friends, especially with the bottles of wine left for us by the Airbnb host, who also owns a vineyard.

If you love cooking and feeding as I do, ideas for Italian-inspired recipes can be endless and I loved spending time in the cool kitchen, slicing melons and making fresh pasta. The kitchen had the most amazing view and such great contrasting light. I could seriously romanticise and be there all day looking out of the window, writing a novel and cooking meals for the family, if it weren’t for all the children running around! It had everything that we needed from big plates and platters for feasts, to pots and pans for cooking it all. The only missing thing was a pasta machine. We even found a second fridge for drinks which was great. If you love cooking on holiday, don’t be afraid to ask your host beforehand to detail exactly what equipment there is, just so you can make the right choice for you.

Food-wise, I firmly believe you wouldn’t miss meat if you just decided to cook all sorts of beautiful Italian vegetables and enjoy them with the simple pasta. Making fresh pasta is better but perhaps too time-consuming for all apart from the most dedicated foodies, so having it from the packet is just as good.

For me, there is no time or inclination to ever count calories or drink kale juices, especially not on holiday. Make cake, buy cake, eat cake and do what brings the family utmost pleasure.

Tuscan-inspired holiday recipes

Simple tomato pasta

Get hold of one or a variety of delicious red plum tomatoes. Fry with shallots/onions, garlic, chillies if you like them, and a splash of white wine, then season with salt and pepper. Add a couple of spoonfuls of water from the pasta pan, and reduce with butter or olive oil. When the pasta is cooked, I mix it all together and serve with torn basil and a fresh grating of parmesan. On some nights, we just used the sauce from a jar, just as good.

Roast vegetable trays

Lay your favourite cut vegetables on a baking tray and drizzle olive oil, season with salt and pepper and herbs. Choose vegetables with similar cooking times (which you can guess by the hardness/softness of each item) to roast together. If leaves are put in with butternut squash, for example, then the leaves might burn before the squash cooks.

My favourite pairings are fennel and aubergine; squash, olives and beetroot; courgettes & tender-stem broccoli. Add a whole or half bulb of unpeeled garlic, hardy herbs like mouthwatering rosemary and sage. Or make a fresh basil or parsley olive oil dressing to toss everything together in once it is cooked.

Tray roasts are also a great way of using up vegetables on the last few days when you have to eat all the fridge contents. Be inventive with ingredients and use what’s available. Sometimes the nicest things are the simplest things.

My spaghetti vongole recipe

One of my favourite meals of all time is a plate of glorious spaghetti vongole. Sweat out some onion, cherry tomatoes, add garlic, then clams and a generous amount of good quality white wine, chopped parsley, chillies (optional), a couple of ladles of pasta water, and salt and pepper, then leave on the lid for a few minutes until all the shells are open. Mix with grade-5 spaghetti. Done. Heaven!

Ingredients

Serves 4

1 pack Grade 5 Spaghetti

3 tbs olive oil

2 shallots or 1 onion, diced

handful of. cherry tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2-3 red chillies (optional)

1kg fresh clams in their shells

300g peeled king prawns (optional)

1/3 bottle of good quality white wine

1 handful of parsley, coarsely chopped

50g butter

4 lemon wedges to serve.

 

Equipment

Large pot of boiling water for spaghetti

Large frying pan or saucepan with a lid for vongole.

Method

Prep all the ingredients because you will have to work fast on the stove.

Boil water for spaghetti.

Softly fry onion or shallot for about 5 minutes in olive oil then add the tomatoes, chillies if using, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes on high heat.

Put pasta in to cook with a generous pinch of salt.

Then add the clams (and prawns if using) to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Close the lid for a minute then add the white wine, there should be a great sizzling noise. Immediately close the pan with a lid and let cook for 4 minutes then add about 2-3 ladles of the pasta water. The clams should steam in the white wine and open up. Discard any that are not open.

Drain the pasta then pour into the vongole pan and mix with together with parsley and butter.

I usually serve it on a big platter and everyone can help themselves with an optional squeeze of lemon, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

Prawn Linguine with Fennel & Lemon

Serves 2
Ingredients
Half packet linguine
1/2 fennel, finely sliced
1/2 onion, diced
350g cooked king prawns
2 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon and zest
1 red chilli
splash of white wine
a few leaves of fresh basil
salt and pepper to season
Method
Prep all ingredients while the pasta is cooking.
In a medium hot frying pan, add onion and fennel to sweat off. Then add garlic and chilli and cooked king prawns. Stir together well then add a splash of white wine and cook for a further 3-5 minutes.
When the pasta is ready, add it to the pan with some of the pasta water, squeeze half a lemon and add its zest and combine together with salt and pepper for seasoning. Sprinkle with fresh basil.
Serve immediately.
 
Homemade puff pastry pizza
You can add any vegetables you desire and be creative to your hearts content. Here’s an example.
Ingredients
1 x all butter puff pastry
half tub of cream cheese
2 courgettes, sliced into rings or peeled lengthways (or both)
3 shallots, sliced into rings
1 small red onion
10 asparagus, small spears
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
red chilli or chilli flakes, finely chopped (optional)
20g garlic butter
sprinkle with basil or parsley
Method
Pre Heat oven to 180c
Line a baking tray with baking paper and lay flat a roll of pre made puff pastry.
Using a butter knife, spread the cream cheese evenly over the pastry and spread the courgettes, red onion, shallots and asparagus evenly across the pastry sheet.
Sprinkle onions, garlic and chilli on top with a seasoning of salt and pepper.
Bake for 30 mins
Prepare garlic butter and paint over the pizza with a pastry brush
Sprinkle with basil or parsley and drizzle over the gravy. Serve immediately.
 

Barbecue

For carnivores, what better than seeing the smoke rise from a sweltering barbecue with steak sizzling on crackling red coal? Whole fish like bream, lemon sole and huge tiger prawns are also so moorish as they sear and soak in a good squeeze of lemon juice and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Use a liberal amount of rosemary to brush on to meat, fish and vegetables with olive oil, butter or dressings. Grill vegetables such as courgettes, spring onions, corn on the cob, aubergine, tomatoes, and enjoy.

What I fed my daughter

My daughter Olive will sometimes eat everything in front of her, especially runner beans, courgettes, asparagus and anything green. I have always heroed the vegetables on her plate. But she can also be extremely picky and won’t like things if they are over seasoned, over sweet, over sticky! She also doesn’t like eating when she’s over-excited. It’s always a balancing act.

But I know what she favours. She loves a piece of fresh baked salmon, pasta with tonnes of chopped vegetables tossed in butter and a bit of cheese; she loves mashed potato or baked potato; she finds sucking spaghetti hilarious and, give her veal escalope Milanese, and she’ll be away with it. She usually eats what we eat but slightly altered with less seasoning.

Sometimes, there is no inclination to cook from scratch and shop bought ravioli is simple, time efficient and utterly amazing! Gnocchi is also really simple to make or just buy!

On holiday we tried to stick to some sort of routine, so that we could have some me-time in the evenings (a big bonus of staying in Airbnb accommodation). So I usually cooked her something earlier which she could enjoy by herself with just her mum or dad instead of being in a big group which can over-excite her (not good for sleep), then we’d have bath-time and bed-time like at home.

Food shopping on holiday

When you do your holiday food shopping, check the rental kitchen first because it usually has things other people have left behind. Our Airbnb kitchen already had stock cupboard essentials such as salt, sugar, spices, olive oil etc so we could concentrate on picking delicious things to eat instead, and it saved us money too.

Also, remember to check the best-before dates on fresh fish and meat as I managed to go home with fish which was two days out-of-date!

Foraging on holiday

Obviously don’t go an pick a local farmer’s cherished produce, but check your immediate surroundings for things such as rosemary, sage, etc and pick only what you need. Sometimes locals set out extra produce they don’t need in crates at the rim of their properties, which you can normally loot for a small price or for free. At our Airbnb villa we had an endless supply of the sweetest aromatic figs, beautifully ripened on the trees, which I served fresh with blackberries and ricotta, and roasted with fennel and aubergine (see above).

How to choose who to go on holiday with

If food is as big a part of a trip to you as it is to me, and especially if it’s a self-catering holiday as ours was, it might be wise (if at all possible) to select friends who have the same mindset about the enjoyment of food. Those who will gladly say yes to an antipasti of melon, prosciutto, salami, pickled artichoke, figs, ciabatta and olives at 11 am even though they’ve just had a hearty breakfast will really please the feeder. Friends who don’t ever muck in with the tidying up will not.

How to deal with fussy eaters on holiday

It might be difficult to juggle cooking for children who are fussy with food when in a new location. Make sure you stock up on some solid backups, such as pesto and pasta, bread, cheese and yoghurts, from a local market or supermarket, so no one goes hungry.

or you can give them this: it usually works!

Treats:

Strawberries and cream lollies

I mix 600ml double cream and 150g condensed milk and throw in some sliced strawberries. Fill Looy moulds and freeze!

Croissant Butter Pudding With Marshmallows

You can make an adult version of this and add a good splash of whisky or aperol, Campari, cointreau, chambord etc to the cream/ milk mixture.
Ingredients
6 croissants
1/2 can condensed milk
300ml double cream
A handful of marshmallow (optional)
Ideas: Raisins, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, figs (optional)
Method
Line a 20cm tin with greaseproof paper.
Pre-heat oven to 180c
Mix condensed milk and cream together.
Tear croissants and place one layer inside the baking tin, pour in some of the cream mixture to cover, then throw in some marshmallow. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up.
Bake for 30 mins. Serve with cream or custard.

Olive loves her biscuits. Here’s one she adores.

Strawberry & Basil Sables

Ingredients
70g caster sugar
2 tbs finely chopped basil
450g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
60g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
600g plain flour
Method
To make the biscuits:
Beat together caster sugar, butter, basil and salt until light and creamy.
Add the egg yolks and beat until combined.
Sift the flour and icing sugar into the bowl and mix into a dough.
Split the dough into quarters and roll into tubes with cling film. Chill for about an hour or until firm.
Remove clingfilm and slice into 1cm discs.
Bake at 175 for about 12 minutes.
Leave to cool before filling.
To make the strawberry jam filling:
Ingredients
300g strawberries, roughly chopped (you can also use whatever fruits that are in season or available, like raspberries, figs, blueberries etc)
25g caster sugar
1 tbs cornflour
Method
Cook strawberries and sugar on a low simmer for about 5 minutes
Mix cornflour with a little water to form a paste.
Add to the pan
Boil, stirring constantly for about 5minutes until the liquid has reduced.
Leave to cool before filling the biscuits.
Fill a biscuit with a teaspoonful of strawberry jam and sandwich another biscuit on top.

Pancakes! always win! especially for late night snacks

 

How to do holiday picnics

I find that if you create irresistible antipasti and snacks on boards or platters, everyone dives into them more than if you lay them out still in their packets. If possible, have a cooler to keep drinks, cheeses and things that melt easily cool in the heat (it’s worth asking your Airbnb host if they have one you can use before you bring or buy your own).

Cheese & Bacon Swirls

These are everyone’s favourites and are great to have all day long as snacks and should keep the crowds happy. Leave out the bacon and add more veg like courgettes if you are vegetarian.

Ingredients
1 x all butter puff pastry
5 back bacon rashers, sliced into 1cm strips
3/4 tub cream cheese
75g cheddar, grated
1 x onion, diced
handful of parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to season
1 egg, beaten
Method
Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Roll out the puff pastry and spread cream cheese all over the surface.
Sprinkle evenly all over with cheddar, onion, bacon rashers, parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Then roll up one end until you’ve made a swiss roll.
Using a sharp knife, slice up into 1inch segments and place on the baking tray. Brush over with egg wash.
Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes until golden.

Food for holiday car journeys

Holidays often bring an element of discovery which can mean long road trips. Along with favourite songs to play in the car, we discovered great security in carrying around an array of snacks to keep tantrums at bay. Sandwiches made from fresh ciabatta with brie, tomato and basil; prosciutto or grilled vegetables are firm favourites. Or any leftover tart or other sweets are great too.  Without fail, I always forget to bring a rubbish bag and plenty of paper towels. They come in very handy if you remember them.

Eating out on holiday

Keeping our eyes peeled for signs helped us find a wonderful osteria by a free-range beef farm, high on the hills overlooking the most spectacular view of grape vines and olive trees. Italy boasts many off-the-beaten-track restaurants in someone’s house or farm. Usually in these places, there isn’t such a thing as a menu but the host just brings out an array of courses based on what they happen to be cooking. This one (Podere Montechiarino di Machetti Mario, near Pianella) was all about the wine from their vineyard and the gorgeous beef from their cows, all for 40 Euros per person.

We ate next to a peach tree accompanied by the farm dog. The beautiful sunset quietly seeped into the luscious land. It was one of the most magnificent and memorable meals of all time: the view, the food, the wine, the company.

We also stopped on the road at little villages and chose to eat in some lovely trattorias and pizzerias along the way. We went out of the way for some recommendations but they were disappointingly closed for private weddings. Thank goodness for the packed lunches!

As Italy functions around children, families and their mealtimes, many places we found had their own playground with swings and see-saws to keep the little ones entertained. Eating with young children isn’t unusual, it’s a given. Going for gelato is a great treat. Holidays are a time to treat yourself to all the things you like eating and cooking.

We loved our time in Italy. As a keen cook, my heart will never leave it. With the views, with its warmth and with its infatuation with its own cuisine, food will always taste better there.

Noodling Around in The Guardian Cook

My cover feature: The Guardian Cook Sat 15th July 2017

It makes the hard work of being a parent worthwhile and utterly thrilling when I see the shine of delight on my daughter’s face when she eats something she enjoys.

Olive is 21 months old and she likes saying “hmmm” when she eats. At six months, she was traditionally weaned on Vietnamese rice porridge, then we introduced fruit, vegetables, meat and fish to her bowl. She now has some firm favourites: avocado – spooned out of the shell, tenderstem broccoli, grilled asparagus, fragrant chicken pho … Every day, I fear she will change her mind and refuse her greens.

Her first introduction to “cooking” was sitting on the kitchen counter, picking and smelling herbs while I prepped food – like the hardy garden mint that tickled her enchanted nose and made her giggle.

Over the summer, she has been greeting our multiplying herb pots in the garden. With song and conversation, she waters the perfumed lavender tree and bashes the rosemary – because hitting it makes the smell linger in the air. Olive points her tiny fingers at the unripened green blueberries and says: “Wait.” She bumbles around with the big green watering can, avoiding the loitering spiders and buzzing bees; she picks strawberries and raspberries with her daddy then excitedly delivers them to me, like prizes, one by one. Later, we eat them with yoghurt and honey.

Olive loves texture, shapes, and hints of colour, like yellow buttons of sweetcorn, green balls of peas, ruby gems of pomegranate. Giving her the chance to touch and eat the things she finds interesting helps me learn what she likes. She loves slurping noodles or making a satisfying quenched sound after a big drink of water. She adores eating with her parents, sitting on a grown-up chair around the table and feeding the dog under it.

Please visit The Guardian here for toddler friendly recipes for all the family to enjoy too

Photography by Elena Heatherwick

 

THE GEOGRAPHY OF VIETNAMESE NOODLES

noodletown2

(This feature was originally published at Momentum Magazine – John Brown Media. It is re published here with permission)

Across Vietnam, noodles are a staple. But how they’re prepared and what they’re served with varies according to the climate, history and personality of each region

What’s better than the moment when you receive a steaming, aromatic bowl of noodles? Is it when you add the garnishes and that squeeze of lime that somehow always ends up on your face? Or is it that blissful moment when you finally get to eat the noodles, when it’s just you and the noodles and no one else?

In Vietnam, noodles are the thread of daily life. From flat rice noodles (bánh phở) in the morning to rice vermicelli (bún) in the afternoon, from rolled noodle sheets (bánh cuốn) as a quick street snack to thick, plump cylindrical noodles (bánh canh) at the end of the night, all kinds of noodles are enjoyed as a staple. But how they’re prepared and what they’re paired with varies greatly, and often depends on what’s available within the various regions of the S-shaped country.

In the cooler north along the Chinese border, people tend to eat simpler meals with purer broths. They’re not as flamboyant with herbs, condiments and garnishes like those of the tropical south where vegetation is in abundance. Northerners prefer their food either salty or plain; southerners prefer it sweet and vivacious; and those from the center love it hot, zesty and peppery.

THE NORTH: HANOI

Beef pho_Uyen Luu
Beef pho was first created during the French colonial period as a Vietnamese interpretation of beef casserole

The world-famous phở bò (beef pho) is actually an interpretation of a French dish. Legend has it that during French colonial times (1887-1954), a street vendor just outside of Hà Nội was one of the first to gather discarded marrow-rich bones, cartilage-rich oxtail and other undesirable cuts of beef. He poached them with a concoction of spices left by the Chinese (cloves, star anise, black cardamom), essentially creating a watered-down beef casserole. But being Vietnamese, not French, he had to have it with noodles.

When the communists ruled the north after the revolution in 1954, many northerners fled south and brought the much-loved phở with them. In the south, where the land was much more fertile and the people loved to be extravagant with flavor, phở changed drastically and developed its own signature depending on where it was prepared. Southerners also like their bánh phở noodles much thinner and with more of a bite—thinner noodles let more air circulate, thus making the slurp of broth or sauce more indulgent and satisfying.

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS: HUẾ

Hue Banh Cang Ca Loc
Bánh canh cá lóc is a comfort food for people of Central Highlands

The Central Highlands city of Huế was once the capital and is still brimming with history from its past dynasties. Here, food is meticulously prepared although the people are generally poorer and tend to make do with whatever ingredients they can get their hands on. Bun bò Huế is a famous and delicious breakfast bowl of lemongrass beef and pork noodle soup that’s served with the fattest rice vermicelli—sometimes measuring more than 1.8mm. Somehow it only tastes right with thicker noodles, which were meant to keep Huế residents fuller for longer.

In the mid-morning, afternoon or after supper, bánh canh cá lóc is a popular local snack. This humble but mouthwatering lemongrass and marrow-rich snakehead fish (similar to catfish) soup comes with hand-rolled noodles and plenty of herbs, heat and zest. Soups in this region are often served with unpeeled, whole quail eggs and chả Huế—a famous and much sought-after paste of cinnamon, pepper and steamed pork wrapped in a banana leaf.

COASTAL TOWNS: PHAN THIẾT

Phan Thiet Banh Canh
Bánh canh Phan Thiết is a great summer dish with a spicy kick

Drive down the coast from Huế to the southerly fish-sauce-making seaside town of Phan Thiết (my mother’s hometown) and the food takes on its own quirky personality. Instead of adding rice vermicelli to summer rolls, locals add shredded pork skin coated in roasted rice powder, which mimics noodles in its appearance and (slightly chewy) texture.

 

The famous street noodle soup bánh canh Phan Thiết is a great top-up after an evening meal, designed to keep hunger at bay and make for a sound sleep. The broth is either made from pork knuckles and trotters or with fish or crab, and is served with pork or dill fish cakes plus an array of seafood and condiments. It is wonderfully sweet and fresh with lime and fierce with chilies too. The dish is usually slurped from a spoon because its short, thick and transparent hand-rolled tapioca noodles fit right into it.

THE SOUTH: SÀI GÒN (HO CHI MINH)

Saigon Bun Thit Nuong Blue
The unmistakable fragrance of bún thịt nướng comes from a mix of perilla, mint and coriander

Download Uyen Luu’s recipe for bún thịt nướng

The Sai-Gonese prefer the non-noodle components of a dish to shine—like a piece of grilled pork, caramelized by sweet sticky sugar and smoked over charcoal with savory, pungent fish sauce. The treacle aroma of bún thịt nướng (rice noodles with chargrilled meat) hovers around Sài Gòn every afternoon as skewer after skewer sizzles then drops onto bowls of fresh fluffy bún. They are then layered with an abundance of herbs such as perilla, mint and coriander, which are used with an assortment of salad leaves and crunchy pickles for color and garnish. Finally, nước chấm: that ultimate dressing of sweet, sour, salty and hot fish sauce that makes this noodle dish the supreme fast food of Sài Gòn.

No matter where you are in the country, noodles are here, there and everywhere. In a rapidly developing world, where fast food is infiltrating from the West, Vietnamese cuisine is still very much cherished by its people: from those in the rice paddies to those in the high-rise cities and seaside resorts. Not only are noodles vital to the diet, the dishes made with them represent place, celebrate culture and preserve tradition.

Download the recipe below and take a stab at making bún thịt nướng at home. Share your food shots with us at #momentumtravel!

Photos: Styled and photographed by Uyen Luu

– See more at: http://momentum.travel/food-drink/geography-vietnamese-noodles/#sthash.Exp6AixQ.dpuf

Chicken Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Pomelo, Mint and Red Onion Pickle

Mint is the must have essential ingredient in everyone’s fridge. Throw together a combination of raw vegetables, thinly sliced, with a protein such as chicken, dress with mint and a simple Vietnamese dipping sauce and you will have the most delicious and satisfying meal. What is great is that it makes you feel light and healthy. My raw vegetable salad is a major crowd pleaser and anyone hankering after the pure taste of Vietnamese cuisine does the trick. Its down to the refreshing taste of mint, green and cool to the palette. Its all wonderfully fresh, crunchy, sweet, sour and hot. The dipping sauce is bursting with zing, spiciness, sharp tanginess and syrupy ginger. 

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Chicken Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Pomelo, Mint and Red Onion Pickle

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Red Onion Pickle
1 red onion
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
pinch of salt and pepper

Salad
Whole corn fed free range/ organic chicken
400g sugar snap peas (can also be carrot, kohl rabi, daikon, courgettes, mange tout or a combination of these)

1/4 pomelo (de-skinned, separate segments) (or grapefruit)

10 radish (thinly sliced)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
10 mint sprigs
small handful of coriander
crushed peanuts, cashew or pistachios

Dipping Sauce
3 birds-eye chillies (de-seeded and finely chopped)

1 clove garlic (finely chopped)

1 thumb ginger, (peeled and finely chopped)

3 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs cider vinegar
5 tbs premium quality fish sauce
5 tbs crushed/ blended salted roasted peanuts, cashew or pistachios

Prawn crackers and/ or steamed chicken rice to serve

Method

Poach a whole chicken in a pot with a lid with 3 litres of boiling water, season with salt and cook for about 60 – 70 minutes, until the juices run clear and the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Meanwhile, slice the red onion as thinly as you can and pickle with vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl, mixing occasionally.

Thinly slice the sugar snap peas lengthways. Slice the radishes into paper thin pieces. Tear pomelo into bite sized pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

Using cooking scissors, cut the mint into 1 cm stops and add to the bowl.

Prepare and mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a separate bowl, tasting for the balance of sweet, sour, salty and hotness. Serve in dipping bowls.

When the chicken is cooked, leave to cool. De-bone and tear off the meat along the grain. Season with salt and pepper. Add this to the bowl of salad with the pickled onion (add the vinegar juice too). When ready to serve, toss the salad together.

Garnish with a few sprigs of coriander and mint and a sprinkle of nuts. Serve with the salad dressing as a dipping sauce, prawn crackers or steamed rice.

You can use the chicken stock to make  a delicious chicken rice.
Alternatively, you can also use the dipping sauce to dress the salad.

Oxtail Soup with Butternut Squash and Winter Melon

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I have just had a baby girl and I am breastfeeding. When my mother comes to visit, she prepares this very quick one pot wonder of magic which she claims what makes good milk and that women all over Vietnam are eating this to promote healthy nutrition for mother and baby. It is delicious whether you are breastfeeding or not! Daddy loves it too.

Serves 2

Ingredients

330g large oxtail chunks, ask butcher to slice into 1 inch thick

1.2 litres water

200g butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1 inch square chunks

200g winter melon, peeled, cut into 1 inch slices (or courgette, marrow, green papaya, lotus)

salt and pepper to season

2tbs premium quality fish sauce coriander to garnish (optional)

 

Method

To gain a clean and clear broth, clean the oxtail pieces by boiling it for 5 minutes, then drain and clean the oxtail pieces under running water.

Clean the saucepan and fill with 1.2 litres of water and bring to the boil. Add the oxtail and a good pinch of salt and cook on a medium simmer for half an hour with a lid on.

Prepare the vegetables, add the squash and winter melon to the oxtail broth and season with fish sauce and cook for a further 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of coriander, black pepper and enjoy with a crusty baguette – with or without plenty of butter.

TIP: you can make much more by doubling up. It’s great to have over a couple of days. I’ve suggested a combination of butternut squash and winter melon but it could be a combination of this with marrow, parsnips, carrots, courgettes, lotus. You can see what you have going in the fridge. Cook softer vegetables for less time towards the end.

Use any herb you fancy.

Slow Poached Chicken with Ginger, Lemongrass and Chillies

At home in the fridge, there are always some carrots, peas in the freezer, potatoes and onions in a cupboard. My staple ingredient is fish sauce, ginger, dried chillies (that I dry myself from fresh chillies, finely chopped and left on a plate for a few days), lemongrass and a bag of coriander or mint.

There are so many ways you can turn these ingredients into a quick one-pot, tasty, delicious and frugal meal as well as being healthy and nutritious.

This should take about 15 minutes to prepare, which can be done earlier in the day to be set aside for dinner. (Especially great to do when your little baby is asleep)

If you don’t finish the pot in one go, its great for breakfast or lunch the next day, adding more peas or courgettes and herbs to fill it up.

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Slow Poached Chicken with Ginger, Lemongrass and Chillies 
Serves 3- 4

Ingredients

6 chicken thighs (skinned, chopped or left whole)
2 tbs rapeseed or olive oil
1 thumb ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
I onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled, cut into 2cm chunks
200g baby/ new potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut into bite-size if necessary
1 tsp dried chillies
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 3 pieces
300ml homemade or good quality chicken stock
3tbs premium fish sauce
150g fresh or frozen peas
1 courgette, slice into 1 cm pieces (optional)
Some coriander or mint (optional)
black pepper to season

Method

In a medium hot sauce pan, add oil and brown the chicken thighs for approximately 2 mins on each side for approximately 2 mins. Set aside on a plate.

Using the same pan, add the onions, dried chillies, ginger and lemongrass to slightly brown. Return the chicken to the pot, add the carrots and potatoes. Pour the chicken stock into the pan and season with fish sauce and black pepper. Place the lid on the pot and on the lowest heat setting and cook on a low simmer for 30 – 40 mins.

When ready to serve, add peas and/ or courgettes and cook for a further 5 mins. If available add chopped coriander or mint.

Serve with steamed rice, rice vermicelli, baguette or buttered toast.