February 2008


My Valentine’s gift to Alexander came a week late in the form of a night spent at Luxx near Silom.

They were fully booked the previous week, so I decided to move the date, which worked out fine because Thursday was a public holiday. We left home around noon and checked into our sexy room early, before going out to explore the neighborhood around the hotel. It was beautiful tree-lined area with lots of neat old architecture and a variety of restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine, from Thai to Iranian.

For dinner, Alexander took me to the incredibly hip and stylish Eat Me. The setting was perfect for a romantic dinner for two and the menu was incredible. Begin with a cocktail menu with items like Bloody Mary made with saffron infused vodka and continue from there. It was the perfect dinner to compliment our stay.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast in bed the next morning before checking out and heading back to work. It was unfortunate that we had to work Friday, I would have loved to sleep in some more, but it was going to be an easy day with just some grading. Only a couple of hours.

My pleasant mood was spoiled by the discovery that the fee for a re-entry permit for Thailand has gone up by 2000 Baht. Ridiculous and ludicrous. I was shocked and enraged and I still cannot understand some of the buerocratic nonsense we have to put up with to be legal workers. It’s almost as if they encourage people to work illegally and do regular visa trips to pretty destinations like Vientiane in Laos. Ugh!

To top that, my students are doing horribly in their exams, really just terribly. One after the other paper I graded was either a fail or just passed. And I thought this paper was going to be way to easy for them! Luckily all the other teachers I spoke to complained of the same thing, so hopefully I won’t get fired!

We left school at around noon, both of us feeling gloomy and in very bad spirits. While at Tops to pick up some groceries, Alexander began insisting that I bake some treats this weekend, and I could not think of a better way to rid myself that came and clung to me after our pleasant inner-city getaway.

So after lunch, a nap and an old Sex and the City episode I got out a bunch of ingredients and went baking-mad.

First item was a mango bread/cake. I used this recipe (mostly) on Barbara’s blog. I did change the quantities a bit, dividing everything in half. I also did not have any nuts or raisins around so I just added a lot of toasted coconut to the mixture. I divided the batter between two pie dishes and decided to turn the whole thing into a cake. And this was the wonky result…

I know, not very pretty. I do believe I have said before that I am no food stylist, but who cares when it tastes good? And I can assure you, this is very-very yummy. Thanks Barbara! The frosting is a broiled coconut frosting. What you do is you mix 1/2 a cup dessicated coconut with 1 tablespoon melted butter, a tablespoon brown sugar and a tablespoon of whipping cream. Spread this on top of the still warm cake a few minutes before it should be removed from the oven. Obviously it should be watched closely so it doesn’t burn. I spread a layer of lytchee jam between the two cakes, so it’s all very tropical and real tasty.

While that was baking I started on some banana muffin batter, throwing in a handful of poppy seeds just for fun. As soon as the cake came out the muffins went in and here is the result (which we enjoyed for breakfast the next morning)…

And after that, I rested. Enjoying a big slice of cake with some tea while the scent of freshly baked goodness hung around the apartment.

(The pictures of Luxx and Eat Me were taken by Alexander.)

Dear All,

Why, you may ask, am I posting the next Hay Hay it’s Donna Day! challenge so soon after winning the last round? Why am I not savoring the moment and kicking back with a glass of wine to celebrate? Why am I already spending hours (not really) in the kitchen working on the new challenge?

Not being one for secrets I will tell you that it’s because I miss the ‘relax’ gene, I’ve never been good at kicking, wine in Thailand is stupidly expensive, and we’re spending most of March traveling to northern Vietnam and Thailand’s Andaman coast (jealous?). So Barbara and I decided to do it sooner rather than later. Because for me, later never happens.

So here it is, your next challenge for this event that was created by the innovative and very sweet Barbara, inspired by the (as I am discovering) great Donna Hay and previously hosted by my funky Southeast Asian neighbor Joey; Coconut Chocolate Tarts from Donna’s book New Food Fast. It is a very-very-extremely simple recipe. And the ingredients are very basic and easy to get your hands on as well. Preparation time should not be too long, the thing that takes the most time is for the chocolate to set, but more about that later. The reason I chose such an easy recipe is because with simplicity, in this case, comes endless possibilities. Endless. So what I’m giving you is the opportunity to let your inner culinary artist go nuts!

Let me explain the recipe.

You need to gather:

For the shell-

2 egg whites

1/2 cup white sugar

2 cups dessicated coconut

For the filling-

1 and 1/4 cups cream

300g dark chocolate, chopped

Make:

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

Mix the egg whites, coconut and sugar well. Scoop the mixture into muffin tins and with wetted hands (works best this way) press it out to create a base and sides for a cup. Put into the oven at bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until it begins to lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for one minute. Gently remove the cups from muffin tins and let it cool more.

While this is happening, heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Remove from heat and throw in the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted into the cream and you have a decadent and rich looking chocolate liquid.

Carefully, fill each cup with the liquid. Put the cups on a plate or tray in the freezer and leave it for 10 minutes or until set. When set, remove from the freezer and serve to guests with coffee or as a dessert. You’ll be an instant hit. Or be selfish and enjoy it all yourself, I know I would!

Suggestions for Coconut Chocolate Tarts:

– Although you should use muffin tins, I used paper cupcake forms and went through the whole process and only removed the paper after the chocolate has set.

– Mine took longer than ten minutes to set, but I think my freezer is not that cold.

– If you follow this recipe, you may end up with some of the chocolate liquid at the end. Either eat it all immediately or keep some to add on top of the tarts later for decoration.

– I got about 14 tarts with the regular sized cupcake forms I used.

– Be imaginative and creative! The possibilities are really endless. One can play with different ingredients, textures and flavors for the shell. And as for the fillings- go crazy. Add a bit of liqueur, chili or any other spices, use other kinds of chocolate, use nuts, dried fruits, preserves. Also, if you can be very creative with toppings and decorations. I would say you can do whatever you like, as long as you make a sweet tart in a similar format. Have fun!

Here are the dates for this challenge:

Entries should be in by March 2nd. The roundup will be posted by the 7th (same day we are flying out!) and the winner will be announced the next week from somewhere in northern Vietnam.

The winner will receive a gift from me, perhaps I will pick up something fun in Hanoi?

And here are the rules:

RULES FOR HAY HAY ITS DONNA DAY

Hay Hay Its Donna Day is open to all food and wine bloggers.

Entries submitted for HHDD must be made specifically for this event, although photos may be submitted to Does My Blog Look Good In This.

The host will select, make and post the original Donna Hay recipe without any changes. Participants may make the same recipe as is, or put their own spin on the recipe by altering the ingredients whilst remaining with the theme. Entrants must include a link to the host in their post.

Entries can be made at any time once the event has been announced but must be posted and emailed to the host by the closing date. My email address is bordeaux76@gmail.com

Good luck and enjoy.

I got the most brilliant Valentine’s gifts from my boyfriend yesterday.

It came in this super funky and retro Thai-style lunch box. It is a tin affair with stacked compartments, usually filled with rice and meat dishes. I’ve wanted to get one ever since I first laid eyes on them, and now I have one. Lucikly mine did not come with rice and fried chicken (not that I don’t like rice and fried chicken, but as romantic gestures go, they are not at the top of my list).

My lunch box came filled with an assortment of chocolates, cookie cutters, cake decorating goods and chocolate-orange hand cream. Each tray held a different surprise! Isn’t it just too cute?

And now I have a really wicked container for some of my old and new baking accessories.

Looking at all of this it is quite clear what his Valentine’s message to me was. More ‘rommel in die trommel’ for me and more cupcakes and cookies for him!

I am not sure how to word this without sounding too silly and giddy and excited. But I guess it’s okay for me to be silly, giddy and excited because my spanako-pizza won the HHDD Pizza challenge that was hosted by Joey of the super entertaining, inspiring and always beautifully illustrated 80breakfasts! Even though I was feeling a bit unwell yesterday I was bouncing around and squealing with pleasure after receiving the news.

Thank you Joey for hosting and inviting me to participate. It was a great event, you had an amazing roundup and I feel fortunate to have had my pizza surrounded by so many creative and delightful pizzas made by many other inspired cooks. Thanks also to Barbara of Winos and Foodies for starting this fun event, which was inspired by Donna Hay.

And of course, thank you to everyone who voted for my spanako-pizza. And Alexander for his endless patience while I was stomping around trying recipes and grouching when not all of them (there were quite a couple) turned out as I wanted them.

I’m working on the next challenge and hope to have it out very soon, since March is going to be a crazy travel month for us. Watch this space.

And this evening we celebrated with… pizza!

We had a friend from work over for lunch last Sunday, and I decided to try these sandwiches I saw in a copy of Real Living I picked up recently. It’s real simple to prepare and a makes for a very satisfying and refreshing lunch.

All you need is some pesto and olive oil, grilled vegetables, some fresh greens or herbs like basil and parsley and cheese. Grill your veggies. Slice the top off the bread and hollow it out, the breadcrumbs can be saved for other cooking (like in burgers). Spread pesto and olive oil along the insides of the bread and then layer veggies, cheese, and greens inside the bread. Put back the top of the bread, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate overnight. Slice and enjoy.

Alexander made a dragon fruit and watermelon salad to accompany the bread. Refreshing!

I made the pesto using fresh basil, garlic, cashew nuts and olive oil. Of course I made too much, so the leftovers found themselves being used up in other dinners throughout the week.

Monday I made mushroom burgers and sweet potato chips. I spread some pesto on the toasted buns. And there was a surprise in the burgers! What you do is make two thin patties and put some sauteed mushrooms on one, cover with another and seal before cooking. I am convinced that you can absolutely have your imagination run wild here.

Thursday night I made oven baked chicken and had pesto and pasta on the side. Marinade some sliced chicken breasts in a mixture of fresh lemon juice, chopped garlic, black pepper, and olive oil. Wrap this and some sliced shallots and fresh green peas in aluminum foil and cook in a preheated oven (250C) until juices run clear. Mmm succulent and flavorful chicken.

And that was pretty much my week in the kitchen.

Whenever I am traveling I always try to send postcards from my destinations back home. It’s always a bit of a thrill for me to imagine the surprise when a friend or family member opens their mailbox and there is a postcard from places like Luang Phabang, Las Vegas or Maputo from moi awaiting them.

Here in Bangkok I just feel like sending postcards all the time. There is an enormous variety of hip and retro postcards to be found almost everywhere you turn. So never an excuse not to send one.

Here are some with retro images of the Royal Couple, some kids and the Democracy Monument…

… and some funky illustrated cards!

Just some apricot cheese, fresh snow pear and almond slivers on top of melted mozzarella and voila!

A dessert pizza is born.

Out of all the pizzas I made recently I think I personally loved this one the most. The fruitiness tasted kind of unique. and looking at it made me very happy.

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