My Bangkok. Travel Themes. Cities.

Direct from Bangkok.

Bangkok, a megacity of 22 million, is a comfortable and relaxing place to re-visit, once you drop the compulsion to visit the major tourist spots. Like all big cities, Bangkok has its precincts and the area I love is residential and quiet, alongside a tree lined canal, with no passing traffic.

Quiet public spaces are everywhere- just drop into a nearby Buddhist temple. Walk the local streets and seek the shady side. Take a break from the heat and duck into a Chinese- Thai teahouse. Observe the detail of life. Show respect- a Sawadee kha/kap said with slight bow goes a long way.

This week’s travel theme for Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack is cities.

Below. Start the day at a city Buddhist temple. Lotus buds are available as offerings.Image

Pink taxis and buses brighten the busy streets.

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My favourite Chinese tea house

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Sleeping dog with mobile phone. Phone home!Image

Lady making floral offerings.Image

 

“I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine” 

Quote from Murray Head. Do you know the song?

 

Garden Monthly. June 2014

This is a quick round up of my June garden.  More importantly, it is my garden diary which compels me to record the seasonality of my own produce, as well as enjoying other garden stories from around the globe.

                                                The Harvest.

Firstly, the Asians:  limes, lemon grass, chilli, coriander and Kaffir lime leaves. I can see a curry or guacamole coming up soon. Or perhaps some lemon grass tea.

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The baby turnips and pepper were baked with some other ( stored ) home produce.ImageImage

                                            The Veggie Garden

These two beds below were seeded on March 25th and are now ready to pick ( except for the broccoli). Young turnips, tatsoi, lettuce, radish, dill and coriander, silverbeet, and self sown bok choi are now abundant.Image

ImageThese strawberries think it is Spring, due to the unseasonable warm weather we have experienced this May. Will they have a chance to colour? The crazy yellow eggplants refuse to die. Shame that I don’t really like them.ImageImage

                                                 The ‘TO DO’ list.

  • plant broad beans in patches that could benefit from a nitrogen fix.
  • finish off planting out the garlic ( an endless task)
  • make a few more beds of winter lettuce and rocket.
  • remind the family to pick the broccoli heads in our absence, ensuring a future supply of side shoots.
  • protect the lemon grass from future frost.

In the photo below, Renato farewells the girls, my Dexter cows, Delilah, Derry and Duffy. Renato has been working as a volunteer Wwoofer on our property, on and off for two months. From Milano and a high tech working world, he loves farming and Australia and is always researching interesting approaches to everyday tasks. He has gathered endless quantities of manure from these paddocks, spreading it on all the fruit trees and olives and adding it to the compost.  Good gardening depends on good compost and manure.  Grazie Mille Renato.

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Nostalgia and an Excellent Bonne Bouche

This month the fans and  followers of the Cookbook Guru  are looking at ‘Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management‘, first published in 1861 and re-printed many times since then. The book makes fascinating reading and is available online in its original form. The first section of the book provides insight into household management during Victorian times and the remainder, the bulk of the book, records recipes and seasonal approaches to ingredients.

Photos copied from the original Mrs Beeton.Image

Many aspects of this work surprised me. Firstly, her approach to recording recipes and the indexing is quite modern. In this sense, Mrs Beeton paved the way for later seminal recipe dictionaries. Secondly, Mrs Beeton was only 21 at the time of publication, and would have been too young to acquire this depth of knowledge and wisdom, as well as the cooking experience required for such a tome.  A little digging reveals that most of the recipes in the book were copied from elsewhere.  One thinks of Mrs Beeton as a matriarchal, stern, and pragmatic Victorian woman so it is surprising to find that she was so young, dying at the age of 28 after childbirth complications. Her story makes intriguing reading.

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Thirdly, the book struck many familiar chords and transported me back to the tastes, flavours and cooking of my childhood, back to the land of English and Irish food, with its economical stews, meats and puddings. It is a land I rarely visit now, dominated as I am by the food of Italy and Asia. My taste buds are Mediterranean, my location is closer to Asia than anywhere else, but my genetic food memory is still intact. Reading Mrs Beeton has brought on a deep sense of nostalgia and pining for the comfort foods of my past. It is a winter sensitivity and one that I am prepared to indulge in when the wind howls outside and the sun is too shy to appear.

Growing up in suburban Melbourne in a time when Anglo food was the only food known to us, we had our own Mrs Beeton living next door. Mrs Ferguson or ‘Ferga’ for short, a prim and pragmatic woman, with a tight perm and an eagerness to chat, was wonderful source of budgetary advice for my young mother in the 1950s.  Ferga introduced her to the economical principles of Mrs Beeton, ie, that every meal should have a cost per person and that everyday meals should have a firm budget.  My Nanny ( along with Pop) lived in a bungalow in our backyard, due to her health problems. She was also a kind of Mrs Beeton.  She was a great cook, using plenty of lard in her puddings and making beautiful barley soups, scones and other treats.  She was round, affectionate, and fairly un- Victorian in manner. I used to go on shopping errands for her- mainly to purchase a packet or two of Turf or Craven-A cigarettes. The smokes didn’t help her health!

Below- My Nanny in dance costume, around 1910.

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As a child, one of my favourite spreads was Anchovy Paste. The brand Pecks comes to mind. It was cheap and pink and came in a tiny jar. It made a welcome change from Vegemite or jam.  The thought of this fishy paste bounced back into my life as I read Mrs Beeton’s amusing words on the topic:

“When some delicate zest,” says a work just issued on the adulterations of trade, “is required to make the plain English breakfast more palatable, many people are in the habit of indulging in what they imagine to be anchovies. These fish are preserved in a kind of pickling-bottle, carefully corked down, and surrounded by a red-looking liquor, resembling in appearance diluted clay. The price is moderate, one shilling only being demanded for the luxury. When these anchovies are what is termed potted, it implies that the fish have been pounded into the consistency of a paste, and then placed in flat pots, somewhat similar in shape to those used for pomatum. This paste is usually eaten spread upon toast, and is said to form an excellent bonne bouche, which enables gentlemen at wine-parties to enjoy their port with redoubled gusto. Unfortunately, in six cases out of ten, the only portion of these preserved delicacies, that contains anything indicative of anchovies, is the paper label pasted on the bottle or pot, on which the word itself is printed…. All the samples of anchovy paste, analyzed by different medical men, have been found to be highly and vividly coloured with very large quantities of bole Armenian.” The anchovy itself, when imported, is of a dark dead colour, and it is to make it a bright “handsome-looking sauce” that this red earth is used.”*

So now for some real Anchovy Paste. A simple little recipe which I plan to freeze and use on my return from Asia in two months time. I will pop it on some bruschetta, or let it melt over a fine fish, or perhaps stir it through a bowl of pasta.

Mrs Beeton’s Anchovy paste

227. INGREDIENTS.—2 dozen anchovies, 1/2 lb. of fresh butter.

Mode.—Wash the anchovies thoroughly; bone and dry them, and pound them in a mortar to a paste. Mix the butter gradually with them, and rub the whole through a sieve. Put it by in small pots for use, and carefully exclude the air with a bladder, as it soon changes the colour of anchovies, besides spoiling them.

Average cost for this quantity, 2s.

POTTED ANCHOVIES are made in the same way, by adding pounded mace, cayenne, and nutmeg to taste.

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My Version of Anchovy Paste

  • 24 fillets of anchovies.
  • 125 gr butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
  • chopped herbs to taste

Pound the anchovies and garlic in a mortar and pestle, then incorporate the butter ( or whizz in a food processor).  Roll the paste into logs. Use some now ( yum) or section off  into segments and roll in foil, then wrap in plastic zip lock bags, label and freeze for later.Image

Average cost for this quantity in 2014. $1.25.

I buy anchovies in bulk at $10.00 for a large tin of 720 gr. ( you can never have too many anchovies). I used unsalted butter at around $1.60 per 250 grams.  Mrs Beeton would not approve of the addition of garlic but she would like my budgeting approach.

Thanks Leah for the chance to indulge in these memories and for bringing this book to our attention.

* As I am following a web copy, my referencing is imprecise with regard to page numbers of quoted text. Apologies to the academically inclined.

Sunsets of the Mornington Peninsula. Sunday Stills.

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Every year from February through to the end of April, a caravanserai of family members lands on the foreshore at Rosebud. Aunts, Uncles, Great Grandmothers and Nannas, nieces with new babes, daughters, sons, lovers and ex- lovers from USA, the mob gets bigger annually. Cousins try to work out if they are first, second or once removed. Four birthdays are celebrated at the beach and Easter Eggs are buried in the sand on Easter Sunday.

One of the family rituals is to meander down to the beach ( a mere stone’s throw away) at sunset. The oldies have a drink in hand, the youngsters dig in the sand or cartwheel in the setting sun. Ed, from Sunday Stills, has nominated Sunrises and sunsets for this weeks photographic challenge.

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Travel Theme: Metal

When Ailsa from Where’s My Backpack nominated this week’s theme, I thought my digital shoe box would not suggest much in the way of Metal. I was pleasantly surprised to find an abundance of metallic gems from around the globe.

I have chosen a few snaps from one of my favourite seaside towns, Apollo Bay. Situated on the West Coast of Victoria, Australia, at the end of the Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay is a relaxing place with a village atmosphere, a lovely old wharf and jetty and a small fishing fleet.Image

Above: Rusty metal cray pots line the old wooden jetty.

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Above: Modern beach houses built in corrugated iron, a much favoured building material in Australia.

 

Ake Ake Vineyard and Restaurant. New Zealand Road Trip.

Travelling around the North Island in a motorhome provides a great chance to taste some regional cooking, especially in out of the way spots. Ake Ake vineyard is located a few kilometres from the little town of KeriKeri, near the Bay of Islands. We booked for dinner one Sunday night ( this is necessary as the dining area is quite small) and were able to park our large motorhome and camp there for the night. This offer is only available to vehicles that are completely self contained. No facilities are provided, just a little spot alongside the vines out the back of the restaurant. I love this flexible approach to camping in New Zealand. This enabled us to try a wonderful bottle of Ake Ake wine then trot off to bed after our meal.Image

Above- Waking up to a chilly but sunny morning in the vineyard.

The entrees were few and this was the only disappointing part of the menu. I should mention that I don’t eat meat, only fish, and so this limited my choice. Three items were on offer- garlic and parmesan ciabatta, ( $9.50 ) seafood chowder ($14.50)  and a vineyard platter for two ( $25.00). There was also a special of the day which was meat based.Image

Starting with garlic bread, to me, is not a sound idea for dinner although it is a crowd pleaser and would probably go well with the platter at lunchtime. As I was ordering the main course of  fish, this left very little choice for entree. I had the garlic bread and shared it with Mr Tranquillo, who ordered the chowder. The bread was very filling ( four large slices) and very garlicky. It is fortunate that I love garlic.  His chowder was subtle and creamy and included prawns, a scallop and fish.

My fish of the day was a substantial piece of dory, cooked perfectly, served on a bed of tiny roasted Autumn vegetables, with a house made tomato sugo and pesto.($33.00) while Mr T had the gnocchi, which was also served with the Autumn vegetables, a tomato and sage butter and shaved parmesan. ($27.00 ). Both meals were substantial and very satisfying.ImageImage

For dessert we both ordered the creme brulee of the day, ( $12.50) served with ice cream and a biscotti. The brulee was studded with blueberries and although well executed, with a perfect toffee top to crack, the blueberries detracted from the creamy sensation of the custard. The accompanying ice cream was sensational- a cassis gelato, and the little biscotti was house made.

ImageAbove- Mr T can’t resist creme brulee and I was a little slow with the photo!!

The Ake Ake Chardonnay was one of the better wines we tried in New Zealand and it is a shame we didn’t start the evening with a quick wine tasting to sample the others.

I would recommend Ake Ake Vineyard and Restaurant for its honest cooking and reasonable prices. It is a modest establishment set in the middle of the vineyard and I suspect it would be a great spot for lunch with friends. Then the platters and breads would shine.Image

Ake Ake Vineyard

165 Waimate North Road, Kerikeri

New Zealand.

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New Zealand Road Trip. The Mangonui Fish Shop.

The ‘World Famous’ Mangonui fish shop is located on the water front at Mangonui, Doubtless Bay, in the North Island of New Zealand. The town has two distinct districts: the original historic town, then further around the bay, the residential area, mostly consisting of beach houses. The original town is well worth a detour off the main highway.

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“In 1769, Capt. James Cook sailed past the entrance to the area and recorded in his journal  “doubtless a bay”, hence the name. At the same time, the French ship St Jean Baptiste of François Marie de Surville was anchored within the bay. Each ship was unaware of the other.

Not long after, European traders, whalers, sealers and missionaries arrived here and Mangonui became a thriving port providing supplies, repairs and R & R for the many ships and their crews. Kauri trees grew in abundance and their trunks were sought-after for their length and diameter to serve as spars and masts.” More info here.

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The town is picturesque and quaint, retaining many original weatherboard buildings from the early days. Coffee shops, waterfront pubs and other tourist facilities line the streets. The use of public space is generous, as are most public spaces in New Zealand, with boardwalks, grassy areas and seating along the waterfront. There is also a nearby Lions park set up for ‘freedom’ camping.

The fish shop perches on the water and is inviting, with alluring signs promising fresh seafood and fish cooked on the premises. The interior seating area is large, with a casual restaurant layout plus sea fronted high benches and open sided windows with plastic blinds. They also sell wine, beer and non alcoholic drinks.

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We ordered two fish of the day,Tarakihi fish, and one serve of chips. The fish is indeed fresh, is battered and cooked to order. Sadly, the batter on our order was poorly executed. The batter, which was a tempura style mixture, didn’t stick to the fish, hence the fish became oily. It was necessary to tear off bits of fish as the batter fell off in pieces. The sizing was small. We were informed by the shop assistant that the average sized fillet weighed between 80 and 100 grams. The chips were tasty and well done, but few. One scoop cost $3.00.

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Total cost for a packet of two freshly cooked fish of the day, with one serve of chips? $19.00. The lemon wedges are free.

The view is really outstanding but the prices are over inflated and the cooking is not up to scratch for a fish and chip shop. This place is probably set up for bus tours and large groups and so tourist prices apply. Perhaps next time I would ask for the snapper, paying a little more for a bigger piece and insist on the batter sticking in true fish and chip shop style!

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Sunday Stills: Dangerous Things

I am walking along the narrow road towards the market at Cipanas, West Java, when a man catches my eye.

‘Come over here’, he beckons, ‘I have something to show you’.

I move closer as he reveals the secret of his box.  A large snake slowly winds itself around the man’s arm. I stay long enough to notice the strong resemblance between the man and his pet, then quickly move on.

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If you would like to see more nasty and treacherous things, visit Ed’s photographic site at Sunday Stills: Dangerous Things.

New Zealand Road Trip. Cooking the Local Produce.

ImageOne of the joys of travelling abroad is the chance to eat the local cuisine. Even better if you get the chance to cook it yourself. Some of my fondest food memories are of meals cooked in backpacker lodges in Ireland and Scotland, rented houses in Italy and France as well as meals made camping, both here in Australia and in New Zealand. I often dream of the wild salmon and new baby potatoes we cooked in the backpacker lodge in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland, or the fig jam we made in St Michele d’euzet, Languedoc, France or picking local herbs to enhance a lovely farro soup while staying in Guido’s  ‘Casa dello Scrittore’ near Lucca, Italy.

A trip to New Zealand in a campervan/motor home/RV provides another chance to eat some very fine local produce. Seafood is plentiful and inexpensive- just look at the amount of coastline on a map!

ImageNew Zealanders love to smoke fish and I am really pleased about this. Chowder is on the restaurant menus and it is always on mine too.  Heavenly smoked mussels from Coromandell are addictive. Smoked Hake, Tarakihi and Trevally are readily available in supermarkets. Fresh green lipped mussels can be purchased for $2.00 a kilo, while local Gurnard, Salmon, Snapper and Tarakihi are the main fish varieties commonly available. Pipis and clams can be collected or purchased.Image

ImageThe seasons in the North Island are mild; the soil is rich and fertile, largely due to earlier volcanic action. Visiting Farmer’s markets along the way to find fresh, local and organic produce is so satisfying.  In May, you can expect to find local avocados, persimmons, mandarins, apples, all manner of lovely vegetables, field mushrooms, organic cheeses, sourdough breads and olives. Many farmers sell directly from stalls along route, and the wineries of New Zealand are always close by and very tempting. The local Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are very tasty indeed. The Sauvignon Blanc I can happily leave on the shelf.

Here is one sample of ‘on the road’ cooking from our recent trip. This is a simple and easy dish to prepare on a two burner stove inside a motor home using all fresh NZ produce.

 Salmon fillet, with Mussel, Spring Onion and Cream sauce, mashed Agria potatoes.

Ingredients ( for 2)

  • 2 pieces of New Zealand salmon fillet, skin on, around 150 grs per person.
  • 150 gr fresh green lip mussels
  • one small container of local cream
  • unsalted New Zealand butter
  • 4 spring onions
  • 4-6 Agria potatoes, peeled
  • EV olive oil
  • salt, black pepper

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Method

  1. Cook the mussels until they just open. Shell them and then chop the flesh, removing any hard bits, into 1 cm pieces.
  2. Melt a knob of butter in a small pan, add finely chopped spring onions, including some of the green. When soft, add a slurp of white wine ( straight from the glass that you are drinking), reduce, then add the chopped mussels and a generous glug of cream. Season with pepper only.
  3. Boil the potatoes, add salt to taste towards the end of cooking. Mash with a knob or two of butter, finsih off with a little cream and fork until until smooth.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the salmon fillets in a frying pan with a little EV olive oil, until crispy on the skin side, then turn and cook briefly. Remove from heat. The salmon will continue cooking as you assemble the dish.
  5. Re- warm the mussel sauce, plate the mash, add the salmon fillet, then arrange the mussel sauce over and around the plate.

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Note. On the road means always making extra. The left over potatoes and mussels became the next day’s tasty mussel and potato patties.

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New Zealand Road Trip. Top 5 reasons to travel in May.

There are some compelling reasons to choose the month of May for a road trip around New Zealand, despite the fact that winter is looming.

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  1. All the major hire car companies drastically reduce the daily cost of renting large motor homes (RVs) from the beginning of May. The daily cost of a 7.2 metre self contained motor home reduces to around AU $30.00 per day. We have rented vans from Britz and Apollo companies over the last two years. The vehicle layout, insurance liability and excess, and other features differ slightly from company to company but the price is the same. More about this below.* These vans come equipped with a cooktop stove and microwave, sink and fridge, shower and toilet, heater, large bed, linen, DVD player, kettle, toaster and kitchen utensils.Image
  2. Travelling from Melbourne to Auckland in May is often economical as Jetstar annually cuts the return fares to around AU$ 200 pp ( walk on 10 kilo hand luggage, no extras). We hope this trend continues.
  3. The camping grounds are often empty, allowing you to choose the best spots overlooking glistening bays dotted with islands, yachts and distant promontories. The price is reduced slightly as off-season rates apply. The facilities are clean and empty.Image
  4. Freedom camping is alive and well in New Zealand and some ‘choice’ spots can be found overlooking inlets and bays, or along green verges. Camping for free reduces the average daily cost. The van DC batteries are designed to last 2 or so days without plugging in. We ran the lights, DVD player and the water pump and used gas for cooking in these situations.Image
  5. The weather in the North Island is perfect for travelling. The mornings are sunny and warm, around 20-22c, the afternoons can be the same but with an intermittent shower, followed by chilly evenings, making for comfortable van sleeping.Image
  • The fitouts of the vans vary from model to model.This year we rented our vehicle from Apollo. The fitout was cumbersome, with wasted spaces and unusable features, obviously designed by someone who had never camped.  Last year’s fitout ( Britz) was sensational. You could attempt to hassle the companies regarding your preferred fitout but on the whole, these companies don’t promise much. It was hard enough to get Apollo to agree to an automatic transmission.
  • Despite having researched credit cards which provide insurance excess on these vehicles, some insurance slug will be necessary. Car hire companies make money from insurance products, interest transactions and add ons, such as rental of outside chairs and tables. The latter can be negotiated.
  • These vans have Mercedes engines and run very economically on deisel fuel. Factor in the cost of a tax for Pay Road User Tax, around $10 per 100 kilomteres. This tax is collected by the hire company, who pay it on your behalf.
  • The Britz hire company provides a ‘recycling’ corner where travellers may leave left over, non- perishable provisions after their journey. In 2013, I picked up EV olive oil, spreads, soy sauce, plastic wrap and tinfoil, coffee, salt and pepper, flour, toilet paper and more. Then on returning the vehicle, I knew that I had some lovely offerings to leave on the shelf. Sadly, Apollo doesn’t provide this service. I had to hunt around for someone in a camping ground to take my little pile of yummy, useful things. I hate waste!
  • Paid camping in New Zealand is not cheap. Prices vary from NZ$32- $50.00. Prices are related to the star rating of the facilities and the location within the camp, seafront often requiring a surcharge, despite the absence of customers in May.The other odd feature of NZ camping is that hot showers are not included in the price, often requiring a 50 cent coin. These showers have a habit of running out without warning, requiring a dash OUTSIDE the cubicle to feed the coin vending machine. In the flashier camping grounds, showers are free but the overall fee ( particularly those in the TOP 10 Holiday Park chain) is excessive. These franchises are often equipped with playgrounds, silly giant chess pieces and other unnecessary geegaws. On the up side, all camping grounds come with functional indoor kitchens, BBQs and TV rooms, providing a break from cooking in cramped conditions, especially when fish is on the menu. The overall weekly cost of camping is reduced dramatically when interspersed with freedom camping. See 4 above.Image

More on the food and wine of New Zealand next time.