Delicious, aromatic and wonderfully warming, Vietnamese pho soup is a perfect remedy for a spring cold and a bad mood. As you can probably imagine, there are numerous variations and regional modifications of the recipe. The one I propose is my way of quickly making a satisfying bowl of soup.
I’ve made mine with shrimp, but you could use thin slices of beef instead. If you want your version to be vegan, go for cubed tofu. You can substitute mint and cilantro with your favourite fresh herbs and spice things up with Sriracha sauce.
It is consumed at any time of day in the North of Vietnam, whereas Southern Vietnamese usually serve it in the morning. It might seem weird to have a bowl of soup for breakfast, but trust me - it really is the best way to start your day. Especially on Mondays.
Recipe: Pho soup
4 cups homemade vegetable stock
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
one piece (ok. 5 cm) ginger
one green chili
2 garlic cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 anise stars
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cardamom pods
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
To serve: rice noodles, raw shrimp, green chili, lime, fresh mint and cilantro
Char the onion and ginger over an open flame.
In a large pot, dry-roast cloves, cinnamon, anise, coriander and cardamom.
Add onion, ginger, chili and stock.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer, covered, for about an hour.
Season with sugar, soy sauce and lime juice.
In each bowl, place some noodles, shrimp, sliced green chillies, lime wedges, fresh mint and cilantro.
Bloody Mary seems to be a good friend of everyone who ever had to deal with the morning-after syndrome. Potassium and vitamin C (and vodka) make it a perfect choice for brunch, especially when Mimosa is just not enough.
There are at a few conflicting claims of who invented the Bloody Mary (and even if most of these bartenders are lying, it's hard to blame them). The cocktail was probably created in the first half of the 20th century. Its name comes from sorbiquet given to Queen Mary I of England, known for gory executions of Protestants when she tried to turn England back to Roman Catholicism.
The simplest recipe includes vodka and tomato juice, the most classic mix adds lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, salt and pepper. There are numerous variations. Bloody Fairy contains absinth instead of vodka, Bloody Maria replaces vodka with tequila, Bloody Moly - with Irish whiskey. The inventors of Bloody Bull combined beef bouillon with tomato juice, the admirers of Bloody Mariyaki substitute Worcestershire sauce with teriyaki. Bloodless Mary comes without tomato juice, Bloody Shame is a sad cocktail without vodka.
The most common garnish is a celery stalk, sometimes coming with olives, pickles and lemon slices. More elaborate ones include jalapeño peppers, becon, cheese, oysters or shrimp. The most extraordinary Bloody Marys are garnished with mini burgers (as well as full-size burgers), pizza slices (as well as entire pizzas) and hot dogs.
Recipe: Bloody Mary
Serves: 2 adults
160 ml of vodka
320 ml of tomato juice
juice of one lemon
5-6 dashes of tabasco
a dash of salt
a dash of pepper
Combine all the ingredients in cocktail shaker with a few cubes of ice.
Seafood has three essential assets: it’s scrumptious, it’s healthy and it’s almost ludicrously easy to prepare. A pot of mussels and prawns is one of the simplest and most effective dishes you can serve your friends at dinner. The most difficult step might actually be getting fresh seafood.
Once you’ve put your hand on some deliciously fresh mussels and prawns, it’s a piece of seafood cake. Start with throwing away defective mussels: tap open mussels against the counter and, if they don’t close up immediately, discard them. Next, rinse mussels under cold water, cut the beards and brush off any sand or debris from the shells. If your guests happen to enjoy interacting with their food, you can limit yourself to rinsing prawns before cooking. If, on the other hand, this might cause horror rather than pleasure, you can do some more work yourself. Chop off the heads, pull off the shells and legs and use a sharp knife to make slits around prawns’ back and belly in order to devein them.
Now all you need is some butter, a few cloves of garlic, onion, white wine, lemon juice, fresh parsley and a crispy baguette. If you want to keep it really simple, butter, garlic and white wine are enough for a mouthwatering dish. Or, if for some reason you have failed to get the seafood, wine will be fine on its own. White or red, doesn’t really matter at this point. Just make sure there is enough for everyone.
Recipe: Seafood pot with mussels and prawns
1 kg of fresh mussels, cleaned
200 g of fresh tiger prawns
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
one medium red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. of butter
2 cups of dry white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp. of finely chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Melt butter in a heavy-bottom pot. Add garlic and onion and saute over medium heat until they are soft, but not browned.
Add wine and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add mussels and prawns, cover the pot, increase heat to high and cook for about 5 minutes - until the mussel shells open and the prawns turn pink.
Before serving, top with parsley and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve with a crispy baguette.