I haven’t made or eaten Anzac biscuits for too many years. Years of living without easy access to golden syrup, rolled oats, and an oven, meant that I kind of just forgot about this childhood favourite. Until Anzac Day rolled around and I got to talking about the biscuits again.
Anzac biscuits are sweet, egg-less treats that are said to have been baked by mothers and wives from Australia and New Zealand and sent to soldiers at war. They’re well suited to long journeys and they keep for an extended period of time, though they never last long in my house.
I wrote about Anzac’s once before here, about how they were a staple in the houses of my parents and grandparents, the only sweet treat that made an appearance with any regularity in my childhood home. Although my husband (yes, I got married!), has tried a pre-packaged, sub-standard ‘Anzac Cookie’, he had never smelled the sweetness of a batch of Anzac’s cooking, and he’d never tasted the real thing. This had to change.
It’s a surprise that I never got around to writing about yogurt here. For the last few years it’s been a regular part of my routine. Making homemade yogurt is super simple and the process that makes regular milk becoming creamy and thick could almost be magical, but it’s all in the bacteria.
There are loads of different incubation methods I’ve read about, including wrapping bottles in towels and leaving yogurt jars in an oven with the pilot light on, but none of these have worked for me. My go-to method is using a thermos, and it has never failed. The thermos does what it’s supposed to do – hold the milk at the same temperature for a long period of time, while the bacteria does it’s job. The most difficult part of this is getting the thickened yogurt out of the thermos when it’s ready.
The recipe is simple and adaptable. If you want the final product to be more sour, leave it in the thermos longer. For thicker yogurt, it can be strained through cheesecloth for a few hours or overnight. To make yogurt cheese, add a weight when you strain it to get even more liquid out.
The vegetable lady at our local wet market knows us pretty well by now. On a good week we’ll visit a couple of times and load up with whatever looks good. Somehow whatever we’re talking about in English will magically appear on her long vegetable laden bench. And she’ll give us suggestions in Vietnamese, she knows what we like. Last week the cauliflower looked particularly good and I haven’t been able to get the idea of whole roasted cauliflower out of my head. This afternoon, I snagged her last two cauliflowers.
After reading a whole load of recipes I saw there were two camps – roast from raw, and, par-boil, then roast. I had two cauliflowers, so I tried both methods.
Roast from raw
I chose the slightly smaller head here and roasted it in the middle of the oven in a heavy iron pan. After about an hour it was nicely browned on top, but still had a nice bite. It wasn’t fork-soft, but it was definitely cooked enough. All the pictures in this post are of this method.
I’d recommend this method for smaller heads and those who prefer one-pan cooking.
Chłodnik, chilled beetroot soup, is a refreshing and bright summer soup from Poland. In the few years that Pikelet & Pie has been off the air, I’ve spent a bit of time in Poland, but only in winter time, when the beetroot soup is, thankfully, served hot. Chłodnik, pronounced huwod-neek, actually even means ‘cooler’ and this is definitely a soup for the warmer months. Because of this seasonal discrepancy, I’ve only made and eaten chłodnik in Vietnam.
The soup itself is tangy and bright from yogurt and acid, but the toppings are what push it over the edge. Crunchy cucumber, loads of dill, boiled eggs with oozey yolks and more dairy, in this case homemade yogurt. If I was not in Vietnam, the soup may have included the beetroot stems and leaves and buttermilk, as other recipes mention, and would be topped with creme fraiche or any number of things from the incredible dairy sections of Polish supermarkets. But this simple made-in-Hanoi Polish soup hit the spot on the first hot days of the summer.
This is one of those dishes that every family has a different recipe for, so please adjust to your own tastes. We ate the leftovers with some toasted sunflower seeds for a bit of a different spin.
One of the great joys of living in Hanoi is spending time by one its many lakes. Especially when the temperature spikes after the chilly, damp winter as it did a few Sunday’s ago. The road around Hanoi’s largest lake, Tay Ho, is lined with cafes where you can sit on the lakeside and drink sinh tố, juice, coffee or beer and snack on sunflower seeds or thạch dừa – coconut jelly.
On this Sunday we stopped at a favourite lakeside coffee spot, sat in deckchairs and ordered coconut jelly. The jelly coconut looks like a regular drinking coconut, but is filled with coconut jelly instead of liquid. When you open it up, the top layer is white coconut cream covering the set, wobbly coconut water. The inside of the coconut is still covered with flesh, easily prised away with a spoon.
As I understand it, the jelly is made by adding sugar and agar to the different components and setting them in layers. This version had almost no sugar added, and even though it was served room temperature, as demand was high this day, it was perfectly refreshing. Paired with the coconut flesh, thạch dừa is a light but satisfying snack.
I’ve only recently started to like coconuts, so many years of affordable and plentiful access to coconuts wasted. This summer will be different.
Coconut rubbish pile.
Thạch dừa – Coconut Jelly
Available all over. This one is from Mai Heaven Coffee (17 Quang An, Tay Ho, Hanoi).
Coconut Jelly 45,000 vnd (~$2.60AU)
Regular Coconut 35,000 vnd (~$2AU)
dừa – coconut. The same word with different tones also means melon and pineapple which can cause confusion.