It seems like an awfully long time since I have done one of these but ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to, straight from the vaults of 1972, The Nancy Spain All Colour Cookery Book.
Don’tcha just love it when you open the first page of a book and just know you have found something to treasure. The All Colour Cookery Book opens with this…
Yep…a black and white photo.
I guess “all colour” meant something different back in 1972…
Then let’s mosey over to page 3 where Nancy gets her kit off…no, sorry to disappoint, it’s not that sort of page 3….although equally shocking for the folks of 1972 I would imagine is the following:
“That is because my partner’s “presentation sense” is very, very highly developed and she uses colour in “laying out” her Sunday or Saturday lunch as an artist would “lay out” his palette”
What? Did I read that right? Did Nancy Spain just out herself? Who knew there were lesbians back in 1972? Ok, no we all knew that…but I always assumed that those times were a lot more homophobic and that people were a lot less open about their sexuality….then again, it was the ’70’s…people were flinging car keys into fruit bowls with wild abandon…maybe being out and proud was nothing back then…as it should be now…. Anyway, you go girl!
Whenever I read these old books, I can’t help imagine the personalities of the authors…In a really early post I spoke about my crush on Jules J Bond; Greta Anna Teplitzky is the cool girl in school I always wanted to be. And Nancy and I, would have just been besties…who wouldn’t be best friends with someone who takes photos of themselves holding oversized vegetables over their heads…
Or with oversized cookware…
Or who hold parties based on obscure Nationalities….
Or who begins a piece called “The Three Musts for Every Party” with the words:
“Drink is all important…”
She’s definitely a girl after my own heart!
She’s fun, she’s boozy, and a little bit kooky, and we’d never fall out because we both fancied the same boy! Why would we not be friends?
(Ps the other two musts are food and music).
So, this has just been the taster, we’ll have a closer look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the contents of the book over the next few weeks.
Oh, and welcome back WordPress followers…who knew you would all drop off when I moved platforms? Specifically because I was assured you wouldn’t drop off when I moved platforms…but you’re back now…I think, I hope…Let me know if you are.
Meantime, I’ll be moving house and planning my Liechtensteiner themed housewarming party….you can all come, but only if you wear the Liechtenstein National Dress and bring me something from there. Although I remember from a Year 8 geography project that their main produce is postage stamps…ok, fuck that, who needs stamps? Wear this & bring booze…from anywhere. I’m not fussy….
I’ll handle the menu.
Wikipedia tells me popular Liechtensteiner foods include asparagus, bread, pastries, rosti, schnitzel, sandwiches and yoghurt. If I wasn’t already in the middle of moving house, I might up sticks to Liechtenstein…the cuisine sounds fab! And that national dress has a kind of cute raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens Sound of Music vibe….
I’d love to say that I’ll be spending my week planning a holiday to Liechtenstein. However, the reality is packing and unpacking boxes….although my new house is going to be awesome…I”ve already set up the bar…
And cookbook corner is looking wicked good…
Still have an enormous amount to do so, best be doing it, instead of arseing about on the internet all night.
Hola and Olé friends…and that’s the extent of my Spanish done!
Let’s talk about soup, baby….ok…I’m stopping with the bad music puns.
Right here. Right now.
Green Asparagus Soup
Our November Daring Cooks’ hostess was Begoña, who writes the beautiful blog, Las recetas de Marichu y las mías. Begoña is from Spain and didn’t want to go with the more common challenges of paella or gazpacho, she wanted to share with us another very popular recipe from Spain that we don’t see as often called Sopa Castellana which is a delicious bread soup!
I chose the Green Asparagus version as not only is it my second favourite vegetable ( behind the far less exotic green bean) but also, currently in season here in the Southern Hemisphere..
Just look at how gorgeous it is!
And the soup was pretty awesome too…I love the combination of egg and asparagus and I also love a poached egg in a soup…so, so good.
A few weeks ago I, was chosen to be one of the brand ambassadors for The Spice Peddlers, a great shop in Sydney selling a fabulous range of herbs and spices!
Each month, they will send me a different spice or spice blend and I can play with it as much as I want.
Happy days people, happy, happy days.
I can’t tell you how excited this made me. Well, I can’t tell you…but I can can show you.
There may have been a bit of spontaneous dancing round the kitchen.
I may have done a little bit of this… Followed by a bit of this…
I drew the line here.
It seemed a little bit too Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks…
But I was right back into the groove with this…
That’s how excited I was.
Then I got my first blend and…the fear kicked in. What if it was terrible? What if I was totally uninspired? What if what I made turned out awful? What if the sky fell on my head? You know the usual nonsense panicky “I’m not worthy” that plagues the best of us at times….
So first things first. Which for me was to open up the pack, lick my finger, dip it in and have a taste.
Yeah, I know…
So much for the first unfounded fear. The team at the Spice Peddlers had sent me a container of their Middle Harbour Seasoning. This is a blend of sea salt, lime leaves, lime zest, Tasmanian Pepper, black pepper, green peppercorns, lemon myrtle, dill, chervil and green and white onion.
Otherwise known as delicious! It’s tangy from the lime, zingy from the pepper, punchy from the salt with a very slight herby, aniseedy undertone. So good. So, so good.
This would be perfect just spinkled on pita bread which is then toasted in the oven until crispy to have with dips and a lovely crisp cold glass of white wine on a hot summer day. And you know what? I’ll be doing that very soon.
However, for the purpose of experimentation I wanted to get a bit more fancy.
We are heading into party season and I wanted to experiment with some new fingerfood dishes…have I ever mentioned how much I love fingerfood? There is something magical for me in a party pie, a mini burger, a bite-sized pizza, a canape….you get my drift.
I was once waxing lyrical to a friend about how if I owned a restaurant it would only serve small bits of food and wasn’t it crazy that no one had ever thought of that before?
She gave me a look. You know. That look. “They’re called tapas bars” she said in a voice that suggested she was speaking to the mentally incompetent.
My idea is to have cocktails and fingerfood and it would only be open for the cocktail hour…
Ok…never mind…it’s a tapas bar.
Damn those Spanish and their eerily prescient good food ideas.
Let’s quickly move on and talk about some of my better ideas…like this:
Smoked Salmon and Herb Frittata
Makes 16 mini frittatas
8 eggs 400ml cream
4 spring onions
200g smoked salmon, chopped
2 tsp Middle Harbour Seasoning
1 tsp chopped tarragon
1 tsp chopped chervil
1 tsp chopped chives
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 150º.
Whisk together the eggs, cream and milk.
Add the spring onions, salmon, spice mix and herbs and parmesan.
If not using the spice blend, season with salt & pepper and increase herbs to 1 tbsp each.
Pour into greased muffin trays and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until base and sides are set. Serve sprinkled with additional chives.
Except again, I subbed in the Spice Peddler Middle Harbour Seasoning for half of the herbs and I also sprinkled a little bit of the mix on the top of the pastry before cooking.
The mixture for this is delicious. However, when I make this next time, instead of the “pastry” mix in the Serious Eats recipe I would use a really light crispy buttery shortcrust pastry or even a filo.
As soon as I tasted the Middle Harbour Mix I knew I wanted to make cocktail with it..and what else would go with a lemony, peppery zingy herb mix than a Bloody Mary?
Can i just digress for a moment to talk about how much I love a Bloody Mary? I love a Bloody Mary the way Don Draper loves a Manahattan. To me they are the height of sophistication. In my mind, enjoying a Bloody Mary is like enjoying oysters…when you can do it, you know you’re a grown up. Even more so if you can down one before noon!
I’m also a big fan of drinking my vitamins and all that tomato juice, has to be good for you!
This recipe is probably the best one I have tried. I think it’s the splash of sherry which adds a teeny bit of sweetness into the mix that does it – and I used the Spice Peddler Middle Harbour instead of the celery salt and also to rim the glass.
OMG, this was sooooo good, it set off another bout of dancing…
200ml tomato juice
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp Spice Peddler Middle Harbour Seasoning or Celery Salt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 drops Tabasco sauce
Splash of cream sherry
Stir Ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, strain and serve!
I’m going to be spending my week perfecting my moves from my new favourite possession – the Barbie Allen Dance/Exercise Book.
She has an entire routine for Xanadu which I may share as a special Christmas Present for all of you…hell, if I get full enough of some Christmas spirit (we here at RFFMT are quite fond of a little bit o’ Hendricks for the holidays) I may even dance it for you!
Most of the Vietnamese people I know come from the South and their reaction when I mentioned I was going to Hanoi fell into two categories.
Actually, cancel that.
There was one main response which was a pause, followed by a frown, very shortly followed by a comment along the lines of “WTF do you want to do that for?”
There were however two distinct subcategories behind this response. The first was “Oh my God, you’ll be robbed / stabbed / murdered in your bed. The people are rude, the traffic is awful, and the food is terrible.”
The other reason was “There’s FA to do there…”
Before leaving I mostly put this down to a little bit of North / South rivalry. However, this malaise seems to have also infected the people of Hanoi. The first sentiment was echoed by the girl who checked us in to the hotel who whispered to us “You’ll find the people here are not very polite.”
“But you’re lovely” I said.
She shook her head. “Other people” she said.
The first question most people ask you in Hanoi is “When you do leave for Halong Bay / Sapa?” Thereby reinforcing the second response. It’s like no one can believe you actually want to be there.
Well guess what? Wrong and wrong peeps, wrong and wrong!
We had a wonderful time in Hanoi – we lived to tell the tale, found the locals friendly and, even though we were there longer than expected we found plenty of things to do. Just walking around and admiring the fabulous colonial architecture can take a few hours.
And the Hoa Lo Prison is also definitely worth a visit. This is where ex American Presidential candidate John McCain was held prisoner for many years.
My photo and the name Maison Central give this place a rather welcoming look, a bit like a swanky hotel. This may have helped to give the Hoa Lo the nickname of the Hanoi Hilton.
Believe me, after spending a few hours inside and learning about the history and some of the awful things that happened within these walls, this is one hotel where you really do not want to be a guest!
One of the best things I did in Hanoi was the Street Food Tour hosted by Mark Lowerson. A long time resident of Hanoi, Mark knows all the places to get great tasting authentic food, which would be unlikely to be on most tourists’ agendas. On top of this, Mark is a charming and knowledgeable host and despite the weather being against us (it was bucketing down the whole time) this tour was one of the highlights of Hanoi for me and something I will definitely do again.
Just one tip, if you are planning on doing this tour (and you absolutely should) – skip breakfast. No, skip dinner the night before and skip breakfast!!!
I did the tour in July and on occasion, still find myself debating over which dish I liked the best. The Bun Ca which was fish with dill and tomatoes made with tea flavoured noodles? The crispy prawn fritters? The freshly made yoghurt with local coffee? Of the many dishes we tasted, they were definitely my top three although it was all delicious!
For some culture, we went to Ho Chi Mihn’s Mausoleum. Don’t let the long lines here put you off, they move pretty quickly. And who doesn’t want to see a perfectly preserved cadaver? You can also visit his house and see the rooms from where he conducted the war. You need to be on your best behavior though – no smirking or pointing or behaving in any manner that is not utterly respectful whilst viewing Ho.
Whilst we’re on the topic of showing some respect…how about, we try to adopt that as a general rule of travel? This is particularly directed at the young gentleman (and I use the term in its loosest form) who burst into the office of the travel agent I was in the middle of having a discussion with, blind drunk at midday, shirtless and trying to haggle over a coolie hat.
One, dude, I was already there…wait your damn turn.
Two, no one needs to see your disgusting sweaty beer belly. Put on a shirt. And some shoes.
Three, I don’t know how you managed to get that drunk that early…but don’t do it again. It didn’t make you look cool. It made you look like an idiot. And if the people of Hanoi were as bad as everyone said they were – that kind of obnoxious behavior would have got you stabbed. And you would have deserved it. It’s almost a shame they weren’t!
Ok, rant over. One of my favorite shops in Hanoi was the Sun Tailor. They make all sorts of gorgeous clothing, purses, jewellery, hair accessories, etc with a cute retro sort of feel to them.. Great for gifts…or for yourself and it’s all as cheap as chips!
The button necklaces and bracelets are just adorable and the headband with pictures of Italian cities like Rome…
And….oh…erm…places that sound like they may be Italian..are just gorgeous….
Another cool thing about Hanoi are the street bars. By day, these are normal shops. By night, the grills go down, plastic tables and chairs make an appearance, someone rolls out a cooler full of beer and some snacks and voila, the street corner becomes a bar! We visited the same corner bar in the old quarter several times and by the end of our stay, far from being hostile, the owners were greeting us like old friends!
For a day trip, we went to the Perfume Pagoda, which was for me, one of the highlights of the trip. It gets a bad write up in a few of the guides mainly for the over zealous nature of the women hawking cold drinks, beer, food etc both along the river and at the base of the mountain. Ok, this is kind of annoying…but try not to let this jade your perspective. The Pagoda itself is worth this.
And you gotta hand it to the women who row the tourist boats. They are tiny and each boat fits six tourists for an hour long ride to the pagoda and another hour long ride back. It was scorching the day we went and believe me…that woman rowing us deserved every cent of the hefty tip we gave. Although, if I had been her, I would have been a little snippy with her country women who were rowing alongside trying to sell us food and drink. In fact, whilst I don’t speak a word of Vietnamese, I swear our rower said something to them along the lines of “For the love of God, can you just sod off? It’s stinking hot and these bastards are fat enough without you getting them to cram beer and Mars Bars down their gobs.” It must have been her tone…
The only way to get to the Pagoda is by boat, then, after you land and fight your way through the ladies hawking their wares.including some quite scary looking rats in cages…you can either get a cable car up the mountain or walk. Some of our group chose to walk up the mountain to the pagoda, I went by cable car. Firstly because it was a cable car….I have no idea why I love them so much, I just do! And you know…walking up a mountain in blazing heat could give you some sort of ecstatic religious moment…or heatstroke. You choose!
The actual Pagoda is magnificent and really has that atmosphere of being a sacred space. Instead of being a Pagoda as I know it – a structure like the one we visited in Hue, the Perfume Pagoda is a series of rock formations set in a cave at the top of a mountain. The air is dark and cool which is a lovely respite from the blazing sun and just adds to that “otherworldly” atmosphere.
We never got to Halong Bay as the bad weather prevented it. However, the upside of that is that it gives us a great reason to travel back to Hanoi!
I’m going to spending my week looking at flights to Hanoi, have a fab one whatever you get up to!