‘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.'
- Chef Luke Nguyen talking about his experiences at Luke Nguyen's France masterclass in Sydney
Seven little nests of hay
On his latest overseas adventure, Luke Nguyen's France, which begins on Thursday, 24 April at 7:30pm on SBS ONE, celebrated chef Luke Nguyen ventures out of Asia and into France — the culinary wonderland that shaped both his ancestral home, Vietnam, and the lives of so many in his family.
With the Easter weekend approaching, baking is number one on the agenda at my place. The house will filled with delicious baking aromas from Spicy hot cross buns, or maybe my muffins, vanilla sugar drops, chewy macadamia cookies or my favourite apple and passionfruit cake. So many good things to choose from and a delicious long weekend, I’m not quite sure which to bake first. One thing is for sure; there will always be vanilla in the mix!
'We've decided we're not going to grow zucchini this year (mainly because everyone else does, so we're happy to take their excess off their hands and we'll have something else to fob off on them, I'm sure). But in the past when we grew 'zeppelins' we used to wrap them in a baby blanket, put them in a basket, leave them on someone's door step, ring the doorbell and run. — John Griffin, a.k.a. Kitchen Riffs
One of the things I miss greatly from my childhood is nuts in their shells. There were always walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds and Brazil nuts in my mother's kitchen, and as a family we would often sit together shelling nuts—for snacking on as well as preparing walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds for one of my mother's artisan cakes.
Corn is one of nature's gifts, wrapped and ready to enjoy. I love peeling back the tasselled husks to discover rows of golden yellow and white pearl-like kernels that prove to be every bit as sweet, tender and succulent as they look.
As the cool of our autumn mornings nips at my bare toes, I find myself thinking back to the bitter winter that Peter and I spent living in a rented house in Campbell. It was one of the coldest winters I can recall, both in terms of actual temperatures (i.e. minus 7 degrees C or more) and also in just how much my body and I felt that chill.
Salted butter caramel sauce might just be back on the menu now that I've treated myself to some Fleur de Sel from Carmargue near Provence in France. When it comes to salt, this 'flower of salt' is apparently the pièce de résistance, harvested by hand and is, subsequently, expensive. Brings whole new meaning to the term 'just a pinch', no?
'Our family of seven ... lived in a wooden house built by my father — its stained glass windows greeted anyone who approached the front door. Drinking water came straight from the sky and into our tank, fruit and vegetables were grown in the traditional way and we collected raw goat's milk from a farm at the end of our winding gravel road, both to drink and make yoghurt. Looking back, it seems like a fairy-tale, but it's exactly the life I now want to give my own two children.'