Thursday, June 23, 2011

Andrew the birthday boy

June 21 is a big day on the calendar as it is someone's birthday.  In fact it rates only slightly ahead of November 30th, St Andrew's Day.

After a lovely lunch out at a new French Lao cafe we had some chocolate cake from one of the good bakeries in VTE.  And the day concluded with a lovely dinner out at one of the high end French restaurants in town. 

However there is some concern age is affecting his thinking.  He now has progressed to sitting on the plastic outdoor chairs...inside the apartment, looking out at the area outside through the screen doors. 


(Admittedly it has been hot this week and it is way too hot to sit outside in the sun)

Next we will rename this blog simply "Andrew" :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Andrew the Baker

In NZ Andrew may be famous for his love of lamb, wine and barbecuing.  Here in VTE he has added baking to his list of talents. 

More specifically, one item of ‘baking’, the Nanaimo bar.  We 1st tried it at the Joma CafĂ© "world-famous-in-vientiane".  It turned out it was a no-bake recipe and…as we have no oven…perfect.  It is like a chocolate fudge slice but with a layer of custard icing through the middle.

Last weekend we were invited out for dinner.  Not unusual, but it wasn't our scintillating presence that was the main reason for the invitation this time.  Instead the motives were:
1.            So Andrew could cook a large piece of beef fillet the purchaser had no idea how to cook – but it proved no challenge to Master Chef Andrew and
2.            So everyone could taste the often boasted about, baking prowess of Andrew and his Nanaimo.
Here is a quick picture of the remaining small pieces of slice.  This needed to be taken in bad light and with AJ grumbling away "can I eat it now?", "hurry-up" 

Once the photo was taken Andrew hoovered up his share.  He had protested at the amount we took out for dinner was excessive as he wanted more left at home, but it went down a treat there too.

The recipe is on the website of the city of Nanaimo (in Canada )

Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.
Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

We substitute extra coconut for the almond in the base - mainly because we would have to find ground almond somewhere around here!
And Andrew has learned that doubling the chocolate might sound yummy, but it makes it impossible to cut and just a bit too rich!

PS. Dinner was great and we had a fun evening

Monday, June 13, 2011

Journey to Sekong and Champassak

Andrew 3 weeks ago travelled for a week down to the southern provinces of Sekong and Champassak (and I have been waiting for him to write up his travels himself – but that hasn't happened - so I am giving a little help)
The view of the road: from an air conditioned late model vehicle.  Andrew nabbed the front seat for the journey because "someone had the gall to sit in the front last trip and SLEEP the whole way"  The things missing from this picture are livestock wandering on the road and kamikaze motorbike riders, otherwise it's just your usual day on the road here.

After a full day driving from VTE south, they stayed in boutique accommodation in the coffee growing area. The Sinouk Resort is a little oasis in the middle of dusty roads and paddy fields.

Although he did make comment on the size of the bathrooms – you could touch all the walls while standing in one spot

There were more visits to provincial and district health operations. People were all passionate about what they were doing, but they had few resources. Electrical wires had been strung from the village houses to the clinic to power the refrigerator that housed the medicines, but power outages were common.

 Health centre facilities were basic. If you look at the picture below you can see daylight seeping through the large gaps in the walls.  Not that that was an issue - there were no windows anyway

 On the plus side: travelling with the Bank means a higher standard of accommodation and food – he had boutique resorts, high rise multi-star hotels in Pakse, and a great French restaurant in Pakse. When I travelled with project staff (trying to keep the most of their per diem allowances they didn't want to splash out on anything) we stayed in basic accommodation and never visited a French restaurant (and the baguette stall for breakfast does not count as a French restaurant!)


He is now busily collating the information into an intelligent report.