‘I was sitting in a café in Hanoi watching the world go by,’ chef Luke Nguyen explains as he pours a cup of caramel-coloured Vietnamese coffee. ‘There were people exercising: doing Tai Chai, playing badminton and kicking around a bamboo shuttlecock. And next to me on these little stools were a pair of old men with long, silver beards. They were wearing scarves and berets--and, to my surprise, were speaking fluent French. I thought “wow, this is a great experience” and I wanted to speak to them and find out what life was like in the days of the late 1800s to 1954 during the French occupation.'
One after the other the fishermen on the wharf reeled in their catch as we looked on from the timber deck on the historic cargo shed-turned-restaurant above. Watching the sunset with 180 degree vistas of ocean, lake and mountains was nothing short of magnificent. The freshness and quality of our meals—coupled with salty air and the theatre of the anglers on the fishing platform below—made for a most memorable evening.
You know that feeling when you're on holiday somewhere special and you wake up early when the sun's just rising and there's the promise of a beautiful day, and the sea is clear and calling your name, so you go for a swim before breakfast but you're still in the water at midday because the waves are just so darned delicious and there are schools of fish swimming at your toes, and besides, you're sure there's some mighty fine tucker to be devoured with gusto whenever you're good and ready? Yeah that!
'From the obligatory [special] dinner to the unexpected glass of fresh-squeezed juice, the act of preparing food for another (or with another) speaks louder and clearer than most words. It says, with no exceptions, I love you. I want you. I care for you. You are worth the effort.'
Fresh, light and healthy. That's my vision for 2014, in terms of both the food I prepare and how I'd like to feel from head to toe. I'd like to spend more time at the beach, too, basking in the goodness of the sun, surf and sand. Sounds like a well-considered plan, no? Well, let me tell you, things are well underway.
'Is not possible!. He tell me I not know how to make-a paella! I tell him paella is-a Spanish, not Cockney-stinking eel pie! I make-a paella like my mama! My mother's recipe is big in Barcelona!'
'Sit down and relax while I make our breakfast, Mum,' my daughter said as she flung open the plantation shutters on the portico overlooking the pool. Moments later the room was bathed in the warmth of the morning sunshine, with shimmering ripples of spectral colour and light from the tropical oasis outside reflecting onto the interior walls.
In the late 1950s my father, the gentleman barber who liked to be known as 'Andre the Great', spent a few hard earned pounds on a very fine full-length leather coat. And with the docket from that investment he managed to win for himself a little Fiat motor car that would herald the beginning of many seaside adventures.
Just prior to Christmas, I purchased a 3kg box of Austral Fisheries wild-caught tiger prawns. Austral Fisheries operates a fleet of ten prawn trawlers in the Northern Prawn Fishery situated off the coast of northern Australia. The fishery was established in the late 1960′s and is Australia’s most valuable fishery. The company's Banana and Tiger prawns have been certified as 'sustainable and well managed' by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
We've been cooking our way through that box of prawns and I have to tell you, the quality is outstanding! Austral's trawlers are fully refrigerated, allowing the crews to grade, pack and freeze the prawns on board within a short time of them being caught. Thus, that ocean freshness is truly locked in.
Rick Stein's Gremolata Prawns
If you love eating and cooking with prawns, then please allow me to share with you one of my favourite recipes: Rick Stein's Gremolata Prawns. This is the first dish I cooked for Peter in the early stages of our dating and, almost seven years later, I believe it must have been quite a hit!
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
Join me as I share with you my favourite recipes; postcards and morsels from my travels; conversations with cookery writers
and chefs; and news on food, cookbooks
- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.