Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Boug blossoms.jpgSundowner open evening at the studio, as the holiday season gets underway. Terry organized a large bowl of olives and hunk of cheese, their own focal point in the studio and excellent with our sponsored Steenberg Chardonnay. During the evening, I did a small painting of bougainvillea flowers that will be auctioned for charity.
Pestle and mortar for grinding pepper corns for the Vietnamese Steak au Poivre. The steak sauce, scrumptious. Mayonnaise dressing for the salad, a tad too rich for the dish and it didn’t have the clean, crispness of Vietnamese dressings. Will try again using the classic Vietnamese dressing. Carbonara, with spinach and cauliflower noodles and the leftover Vietnamese Steak au Poivre.
7km jog around Thesen on the time-trial route that Craig has set up, with Prince in a cool overcast day. His first run on the lead, managing cars, other dogs, kids, bicycles and my lack of coordination. The water bowls along the route helping him to cool down.

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Blue-black agapanthus flowering on the back patio garden. Indigo blue from Van Dyk the tonal colour with Ultramarine blue and permanent Megenta. Light lemon yellow against the pale grey background. Fighting to achieve lightness.

Orthopod happy with how Terry’s wrist is healing. No change to the cast, which will stay on until the 16th January. Christmas dinner could be a test of my dubious cooking skills!

Vietnamese Steak au Poivre

This fish sauce–spiked steak au poivre is chef Chris Shepherd’s nod to the French influences in Vietnamese cooking.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  1 large onion, thinly sliced
  •  2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  •  One 1 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
  •  1 star anise
  •  2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  •  1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  •  2 cups beef stock or low-sodium broth
  •  1/2 cup heavy cream
  •  2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed
  •  Kosher salt Pepper
  •  1 1/2 pounds small heads of broccoli, cauliflower
    and/or Romanesco
  •  3 tablespoons canola oil
  •  1 cup mayonnaise
  •  1/4 cup yellow mustard
  •  1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  •  1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, preferably Tabasco
  •  1/2 medium red onion,
    thinly sliced (1 cup)
  •  2 tablespoons roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
  •  Four 6-ounce center-cut beef tenderloin steaks

How to Make It

Step 1

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the cinnamon stick and star anise and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and simmer over moderately high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

Add  the cream and simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes longer. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Return the sauce to the saucepan and stir in the crushed peppercorns. Season with salt and keep warm.

Step 2

Heat a large cast-iron skillet. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli, cauliflower and Romanesco with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Working in batches, cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over and crisp-
tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool. Cut into bite-size pieces and wipe out the bowl. In the bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard, vinegar and hot sauce until smooth. Fold in the charred vegetables, the red onion and sunflower seeds and season the salad with salt. Wipe out the skillet.

Step 3

In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 125° for medium-rare, 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the peppercorn sauce and the charred-vegetable salad.

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Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Terry out of action with a broken wrist after being knocked off her feet by over exuberant playing dogs at Steenbok Park. My schedule now around ensuring Prince gets his exercise and we have easy to eat, one handed, meals.

Dorado with a basil-pesto crust on the weber grill. An almond flower diabetic-sensitive substitute for bread-crumbs. The fillets were a tad thin, which I cooked for 3 minutes too long, despite the fire not reaching the recommended temperature. Fortunately they were full of flavour and weren’t too dry.

Moving trucks, full-moon, owls, holiday makers, mozzies, dog patrols. All driving Prince a tad crazy. Making for disrupted nights.

Paint smeared across the canvas. A couple of studies for a larger commissioned piece. The agapanthus on the patio garden coming into flower. The most amazing shades of purple-black petals. A painting that I have had in mind for awhile, waiting for the plants to come into flower. The shadow. A mixture of Titanium white, Magenta, Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna.

“I feel such a creative force in me: I am convinced that there will be a time when, let us say, I will make something good every day , on a regular basis….I am doing my very best to make every effort because I am longing so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things mean painstaking work, disappointment, and perseverance.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Porchetta. Or rather, a suggestion of porchetta-style from a pork belly, basil pesto and basil leaves, rolled and cooked on the Weber. Silver-oak wood pieces on the coals to add that slight smokiness. Served with a hint of blue-cheese and basil leaves. ‘Gorgeous, melting pork belly and blue cheese is a genius combination invented by Iain Graham of Urban Caprice to go with Mumm champagne’. No Mumm, but Kleine Zalze Vintage MCC, probably better!

Porchetta-Style Roast Pork

Like many traditional Italian foods, porchetta is prepared differently from region to region but is generally defined as a dish of boneless roast pork stuffed with filling and then rolled and roasted, usually over wood. In the town of Ariccia in the Lazio region of Italy, porchetta restaurants abound, leading to a close association with the dish, though variations of it are made across the country.

Add, a twist with the melting pork belly and blue cheese combination invented by Iain Graham of Urban Caprice to go with Mumm champagne.

Pork Belly and Pork Loin

• 1 piece pork belly with skin, about 10-by-20 inches

• boneless pork loin

Pork Roast

• 1 Tbsp kosher salt, plus more

• 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more

• Pesto

• 12 smashed garlic cloves

• 12 fresh sage leaves

• Herbs (recipe below)

• Blue cheese

| Preparation – Pork Belly and Loin |

With the pork belly skin-side down, score meat in a cross-hatch pattern. Turn pork belly over, and using a sharp knife, score skin deep in a cross-hatch pattern. Turn, skin-side down, and set aside.

Place the pork loin skin-side down. On the tapered side of the loin, make a cut about 1-inch deep and then cut straight across to butterfly, continuing to make 1-inch cuts until the loin folds open like a book. Set aside.

| Preparation – Pork Roast | Season skin side of prepared pork belly with salt. Turn belly skin-side down and place flat on a cutting board with the short end facing you. Season with pepper and more salt.

Spread half of the pesto over the belly, leaving a 1-inch border around the sides.

Lay butterflied pork loin in the center of the pork belly and spread remaining pesto over loin. Arrange garlic and sage on top of loin. Season with salt and pepper.

To roll the roast, begin at the end of the pork loin where you finished the initial cut, slowly rolling and packing ingredients in tightly. When finished rolling the roast, use butcher’s twine to tie roast at 1-inch increments so it will cook evenly. Set roast on a platter and refrigerate overnight.

| To Cook | Remove roast from refrigerator 2 hours before cooking.

To estimate the cooking time, measure the roast through its thickest part, and cook for 1minute per millimeter. Hence if it’s 90mm thick, cook for 90 minutes.

An indirect fire (two equal piles of coal on either side of the charcoal grate, with a drip pan in the middle to catch the rendering fat), topped with a couple of pieces of hard wood.

Place roast on the grill, turning every 10 minutes until the skin is browned and crisp.

Reduce the temperature (325ºF) by closing the vents halfway and leave until the loin reaches 140 degrees. (1½ to 2½ hours)

Remove and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, top with a sliver of blue cheese and a tiny button of redcurrant jelly.


Herbs

• 2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves

• 1 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh rosemary leaves

• ½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

• 3 tsp roughly chopped fennel fronds

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Squeaky bits on my jog from Leisure after a week back on the bicycle. Bum complaining at the sudden abuse. At least I have lost a bit of weight with my haircut. No lice, either!
Beach. Prince a bit ‘freaked’ at the wave noise. The banging and crashing of maintenance work not helping.
Terry bringing tastes of Vietnam into the apartment. The hunt for local alternatives to some of the less common bits in the recipes. The surprise as to what is available, including cashew nuts from Vietnam.
spring rolls
Diabetic sensitive, Vietnamese ‘banana flower’ salad, with shredded cabbage rather than banana flower. Grapefruit, baby marrow, carrot, a touch of pineapple, deep fried spring onion, raw roasted peanuts (crushed), coriander and a dressing with lime juice, fish sauce, zylatol garlic and chili. Served with grilled pork belly. Smoked salmon on Parmesan crackers as a starter.
Fresh spring rolls with cauliflower noodles from Woolworths. Ham, lettuce, baby marrow, and carrots. Tasty and get to look at.
Butterflies from the Mekong Delta on small canvases in acrylics. Easier to manage than oil paints with the increased foot traffic coming through the studio. Phthalo blue-green mixed with Cerulean blue for the wings.
Paintings from Vietnam on one wall of the studio settling out the kinks from traveling. No damage, fortunately. My initial concept of using oil paints over the acrylic painting doesn’t seem necessary. The paintings, their own energy, and emotion.
Messing About with Paint

Review of what to pack for painting Travel

In the five weeks, I painted 20 pictures on canvas, linen and paper.

Of the limited pallet of 11 colours (Ultramarine blue, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red, Cadmium yellow light, Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium yellow deep, Cobalt Blue, Naples Yellow, Phtalo Blue Green and Cerulean Blue) I hardly used the Cadmium red and I would leave the Burnt Umber out next time.

I found the dark mixture of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine blue disappointing. I did need the additional tube of white paint that I didn’t take along, and both the Cadmium yellow deep and Naples yellow ran short as I did not anticipate the huge amount of yellow colour everywhere in Vietnam.

Phtalo Blue Green, Alizarin Crimson and Naples Yellow made a wonderful rich grey color that contrasted fabulously with the Cadmium Yellow.

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam – Terry’s Random, Accidental Observations

We’re sipping iced coffee amongst the orchids at the airport. The world of international travelers wafts around us and our internal landscapes have shifted to all that awaits us – dinners, friends, work, and busy schedules, such as they are, in Knysna. In short, reality.

Behind us, five weeks of anonymity, if, as westerners, we can be anonymous in an Asian world. Language alone encapsulated us and kept us apart. Our engagement only by choice, through smiles and nods.

On Sunday we drank our jasmine tea to the sound of Church bells, the Catholic steeple on the horizon of our neighborhood. Walking distance to an area outside the boundaries of our limited city map is Cholon, the Chinese district. Along the road is an all encompassing temple that includes all religions. Everywhere in between, coffee is the common culture. And the constant traffic is a background white-noise.

Opposite our trendy air conditioned coffee shop, an old man stands bare chested in the heat. Children play badminton on the sidewalk of this major arterial into the city outside the coffin-seller’s shopfront, while he naps on a bench the size of a coffee table at the entrance – hoping to catch the 41 degree breeze.

In our apartment, we take another lukewarm shower with the go-to brand of body wash in all the establishments we’ve stayed in: Lifebuoy. For him, and for her. 

Our two day trip to the Mekong Delta was an excursion, once more, into commercial tourism. Fortunately we were a group of six, and all easy going. Our guide took charge of us and we boarded and disembarked boats and busses as directed. The clouds were heavy, but didn’t rain on us. The grey-brown water was worthy of a Kipling description, and the palms and mangroves on the banks, beyond the stilt houses, felt heavy with silence. The American movies come to life. 

We were conducted through rice-wafer baking and coconut-candy processing, rice-paper and rice noodle making, and the charms of snake wine, scorpion wine, and grilled frog,snake and rat over the BBQ. Our lunch, fortunately, of river fish, chicken and broth. 

The city of Vinh Long was modern and trendy with wide streets and boulevards. Funky coffee shops played contemporary-rap through their speakers.

When our tour guide realised our group was fit enough for a change to the itinerary, he arranged a cycle around one of the island villages to visit a temple. Lush, humid, muddy – but friendly! Children calling ‘Hello!’ And high-five-ing us. Women doing their washing on the water’s edge. 

The floating market was grey and drab, with more tourist boats than merchants. Their living conditions basic, both in the boats and in the stilt-shacks along the river banks. It felt intrusive to be viewing and photographing them. But they were trading with smaller boats that came to buy the wholesale fruit and veg to sell on to their local neighborhood markets. 

It was exciting to recognize our streets and local coffee shops and minimarts when our minibus entered Saigon again. And it was with a sense of belonging that we settled into our regular seats, at our regular table and placed our regular order without even asking! They knew us so well there, that for me, it was an emotional farewell today. 

According to our tour guide, Ho Chi Minh City is a political name. For him, ‘Saigon City’ is written in his heart. 

And so it is that we say: Thank You, Saigon.

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

HCM

Our time in Vietnam rapidly shrinking. Particularly, time for painting, as even acrylic paints need time to harden before the canvases are rolled to travel. With the Mekong Delta taking a couple of days and the last day needed to pack and hand back the apartment, I’m down to a handful of painting days. Afternoon thunderstorms reduce the light levels so that even with the good light in the apartment, by mid afternoon it’s too dark for my lousy eyes. I want to get the larger canvases I brought painted, as I have carried them around for almost a month!

The flowers sellers in Hoi An old town, one of the subjects on my painting list that I wanted to do on the larger canvas. The hotel room in Hoi An too small to work in. Here, I have a table which is also a tad small but workable, if messy. The last of the cadmium yellow deep squeezed from the tube and a last gasp from the Naples yellow.

A new dinner adventure: hot pot of Lau ga la giang all in Vietnamese and a picture menu. Essentially- a piece of chicken, a spicy broth, banana flowers and other unknown greens all cooked over a little table-top stove. A frustrating process.

Our corner restaurant has proved to be an excellent spot to sit and capture candid street photo’s. Particularly interesting portraits to add to my painting list.

Squeezing through the tiny alleys of the market, and trashing display piles of plastic containers in turning to avoid an impatient Granny. Shopping with gesture and the remarkable power of smartphone photos and translate, searching for elusive kitchen bits and cashew nuts.

Lightning, flashing across the sky. The instantaneous transformation of those on scooters into ponchos. Rain turning the streets into knee deep rivers. A drowned rat seemingly the only casualty of the ferocity of the storm as restaurants, shops and commuters carry on as normal.

In one of the corner gardens, a small yellow iris flower. Delicate. Perfect.

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam – Terry’s Accidental Reflections

We haven’t seen stars for five weeks, since we left home. Yesterday we woke to a blue sky and clear sunshine for the first time since arriving in Vietnam. It seemed to make the walk into town to the Ben Thanh market shorter, the air less weighed down. 

At the main entrance, under the clock tower, I met with five other tourists and The Vietnamese Cookery Centre’s Ms Mie, for a tour of the market and a morning of cooking. This time I learned to make a fresh spring roll using a mustard leaf, braised chicken in a caramel and fish sauce, and the day-long process of making pho.

Singeing onions, shallots and fresh ginger over the open gas flame was also a technique new to me. This adds a smoky flavour – but also stimulates the sugars in the onions, adding sweetness to the bone broth. That’s apart from the cup of sugar that is added to the stock. Or the sugar used in the final seasoning when serving the pho.

Our time in Ho Chi Minh City has been domestic – a time of laundry, market shopping, cooking experiments in the apartment, morning and afternoon iced-coffee breaks, painting and reading. 

The measure of a good holiday, for me, is how much reading I manage. It’s been a good holiday so far – I’m deep into my 11th novel. And that’s apart from several recipe books and tour guides.

I love that we have sat on our terraces here in Vietnam (both in Hanoi and now HCMC), with doors that open to the living area of the apartment, and below us are street sounds and a thriving business. So similar to being at home, above the studio.

Strange the things one misses when leaving one place for another – here in Saigon I’m missing the earthy scent of the incense burning inside and outside almost every shop or home or restaurant in Hoi An. Tributes to ancestors and gods. In Saigon, the incense is noticeable for its absence.

Hot, bothered and bewildered – this is the state of tourists passing our regular table at our local eatery. Everyday, new visitors arrive, looking dazed. We were no different on our first day. Now, when we walk down the street, parking attendants smile greetings to us, our chefs and waitrons wave at us when we walk past, and the staff in the art -supply shop welcome us as regulars!

Downstairs in our coffee-shop entrance to our apartment stairs, the regular patrons nod hello. And each barista has his or her own playlist. My favourite is the young woman who plays her classical piano repertoire in the morning.

So many other playlists in other places loop around and around playing Karen Carpenter, John Denver and Glen Campbell.

For those who are wondering, this has ended up as my Accidental Holiday Reading List (Accidental as some of the books I’ve picked up are from where travelers before me left them behind for me to find!)

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Woman in the Orient Express by Lyndsay Jayne Ashford

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Barefoot Summer by Carolyn Brown

The Stars are Fire by Amit Shreve

The Man in the Barn by Fiona McShane

Watermelon by Marian Keyes

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

(audio book)

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
(I started reading Saigon Wife by Colin Falconer but abandoned it)
(I am also part way through My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante on audible, and listen when circumstances allow).
Foodie reading has included:

Authentic Recipes from Vietnam by Trieu Thi Choi and Marcel Isaak

Real Vietnamese Cooking by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl

Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Phol

Rice and Baguette a History of Food in Vietnam by Vu Hong Lien

Diary of an Adventure, Messing About with Paint

Bay of Dragons

Bay of DragonsAcrylic on canvas 150cmx70cm 

Vinh Ha Long, means “Bay of the Descending Dragon”.

The legend says that during the old time when the country was newly formed, Vietnamese had to fight against fierce invaders coming from the North through the sea. Feeling sorry for the country, The Jade Emperor sent the Mother Dragon and her children descending on earth to help ancient Vietnamese people defend the country.

While the mighty enemies were attacking the main land, The Mother Dragon and her children suddenly appeared and incinerated the enemies with their divine fire and giant emeralds. The emeralds from the dragon’s mouth were scattered around the battlefield on the sea and formed an invincible defensive wall that left enemy battleship fleet sinking. Thanks to the dragons, the Northern invaders were finally swept away and the peace finally came back the South East Asian country once again. After thousands of years, the wall of emerald turned into island and islets of different sizes and shapes.

After the battle, The Mother Dragon and her children didn’t come back to the heaven, but stayed in the mortal world and turned into human form and help people planting, cropping, raising cattle, reclaiming, and expanding the country.

To remember the help of Mother Dragon and her children, the people live there from generation to generation name the bay where the Mother Dragon descended “Ha Long or Halong” and the bay where her children descended “Bai Tu Long”, which means “Thanks to the Dragon’s children”. This legend is also a part of the general belief that Vietnamese people’s has Dragon’s origins.

http://www.halongbay.info/news/the-legend-of-halong-bay.html

Detail

Diary of an Adventure

Traveling diabetic #18

Hi,

Jan here.

HCM

Terry has figured out that Pho, without noodles, is on the menu as ‘Chen them’ and when ordered with ‘Tai’, it comes with small pieces of beef. The only problem being that they serve it in a ramekin type dish, which means that I’m not only perched on a tiny chair at a low table, but trying to eat soup from what feels like a thimble! Etiquette being that you do not lift the Pho dish from the table. It gets messy.

Our default salad of bamboo stalk with sea food has been removed from the menu. Shredded chicken with cabbage (not that daw cabbage strip is anything to get excited about) the next best option. Or rather it would be if they didn’t drown it in a dressing loaded with sugar. 

Back to cashew nuts.

Blood sugars

High 10.7 mmol/L
Low 4.5 mmol/L

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Saigon

Coffee culture is thriving, with designer places offering inflated priced coffee. There is such a variety, even ignoring the big chains like Starbucks, that it’s a taste-by-trial to find the brand, and roast to your taste. Some are too sweet, others bitter. Some are burnt, some are rocket fuel. Fortunately, none seem to be in the dish-water category. Some are terrible and probably the fake coffee that is sold, made of corn, chemicals and soybeans. Getting in, and out of the small spaces in the city is a different experience. Good air conditioning, often winning over coffee taste.

One of the special aspects of the Nocturnal Artist Restaurant in Hoi An is that the cooking is done in their home kitchen. Within the tiny space, the family shrine watches over the cooking. A small painting on 300 gram paper, ‘The Cooks Shrine’.

Neighbours coming over the rooftop to the patio of our top floor apartment first thing in the morning, a tad surprising. Guess we know whether we can sleep with the doors open! Assuming the heat, noise and mozzies aren’t enough of a reason to keeping them closed.

‘Pho fighting’, morning battle with Pho. The broth is tasty and full of all sorts of nutrients that are supposed to be healthy. However, managing it at the tiny table, compounded by slippery noodles and various floating bits that I would rather not have to confront. Working through the menu options is at least reducing the worst of them.

A grey from Naples yellow, Raw Sienna and Phthalo blue, which is one of the scariest colours as its strong pigmentation turns everything into a blue-green hue. However, with the Cadmium yellow deep it creates a balance that I used for the portrait of ‘A man in Hoi An’. 

During the flooding he seemed to wonder about the place, seemingly without purpose. Sometime we would see him on a scooter, but for the most part he simply observed the evacuation of people across the swollen river. With his baseball cap pulled low over his face, it was difficult to get a decent photo reference to work from.