The best way to start 2015 is on Bali, naturally

Well hello there! It has been a while. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's Eve. And I also hope that the first couple of weeks of 2015 has served you well. I've been traveling to Bali the first two weeks of January and I had a wonderful time meeting up with my brother in law and exploring several different places on Bali. It wasn't my first time on Bali and I have to say I was kind of sad of how much Bali has changed (in a bad way) over the years. It has become way more touristic (I thought the first time was already a little too touristy) and the food in many restaurants and hotels hasn't become better at all (which is a huge turn off for me: Must. Eat. Delicious. Food. Every. Day. Right?!). The only food I really enjoyed (Yummy Nasi Goreng!!) came from local warungs which you can luckily still find all over the island. I do have to say we only visited the Southern parts of Bali which are famous for its more touristy destinations. I'll definitely travel to the Northern parts of Bali and Lombok next time. But don't get me wrong though! I had so much fun, swimming, snorkeling, rafting and scootering around Bali. It was the best.

The other interesting thing was that we arrived on Bali in rainy season. The first couple of days we had a lot of sun, the next day it was raining almost the entire day or only in the mornings, which I kinda enjoyed (i'm not a huge fan of steamy hot temperatures or a burning sun all day. And yes it doesn't make sense I moved to Asia at all ;-) ). 

But like I said; we visited the Southern places of Bali. We traveled from Seminyak, to Lembongan, Ubud and finally Jimbaran. I enjoyed Ubud the most because it has these amazing landscapes filled with endless paddy fields. Down below is a selection of my travel photos mixed with some Instagram photos I shot too. Hope you enjoy it and happy Friday too!

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Christmas lunch: Bouchée à la Reine

How is your Christmas holiday going so far? Mine is great also due to the last minute fact that my sister-in-law is coming to Taipei! Yay!, she's coming all the way from Holland, arriving on Christmas day. It's really unexpected but we couldn't be happier!!!

But while that was all happening (oh, and I still need to buy Christmas presents, aah!) I was thinking about a Christmas lunch. It got me wondering if people even have Christmas lunches. We for example, have breakfast during lunch time because we like to sleep in (lazy Christmases are the best). Or I would eat so much at breakfast time i'm full till dinner time. So I choose a dish that could be served during lunch time or as a starter before dinner. Just in case. It's a small, fun looking, very French and old fashioned dish called: Bouchée à la Reine.

If you're familiar with the dish you know it's traditionally served in a circle shaped pastry shell (Vol au Vent). Well, since it's Christmas and I believe traditions need to be broken (a little), I made star shaped pastry shells. In order to make these you need to make your own puff pastry dough like I did (it's really easy, use this recipe) or buy dough at the store. You can even buy ready to use pastry shells, to be found in the supermarket freezer. But these will be round shaped obviously.


Star shaped Vol au Vent (puff pastry cups)

makes 8 pastry shells
 

Ingredients:

puff pastry dough (store bought or home made)
egg wash

Directions:

Take a star shaped pastry cutter and cut out 8 stars. Place them on a baking sheet. Take the same size pastry cutter and cut 8 identical sized stars. Now we have 16 stars. Take a slightly smaller round cutter and cut a hole in the middle of only 8 stars. Cover the first 8 stars (without the holes) with egg wash. Place the other cut pastry with the hole in the middle, on top of the base. Pinch small holes in the middle of the stars using a small fork. This will prevent the middle part from rising too much. Brush the top with the egg wash. Make sure the egg wash stays on the top and doesn't slide down along the sides because the egg wash will prevent the dough from rising once it hits the sides. Bake in a 200°C oven for around 10-12 minutes.

Once the stars are baked remove a little dough in the middle, using a small knife or fork, to make the holes a little deeper.



Bouchée à la Reine

recipe adapted from Mimi Thorisson at Manger, slightly edited by me

fills around 8 pastry shells plus a little more
 

Ingredients part 1

8 vol-au-vent pastry shells home made or store bought
3 chicken filets, diced
70 grs/ 1/2 cup morel mushrooms, chopped (or any mushroom of your choice)
1 small onion, chopped
30 grs/ 2 tbsp butter
15 ml/ 1 tbsp white wine
Handful of chopped parsley

Ingredients part 2

60 grs/ 1/4 cup butter
40 grs/ 1/4 cup flour
480 ml/ 1 cup milk
a pinch of thyme
1/2 cube chicken stock, crumbled
half a glass of wine
Coarse salt and pepper for seasoning


Hints:

In a pan, fry the onion in the butter until soft and golden, add the diced chicken and fry for 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and fry 4-5 minutes – add the white wine and let the sauce reduce for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven 150° C.

Prepare the bechamel sauce – melt the butter in a casserole, and gradually add the flour and the milk with a whisk on medium heat. Crumble in the cube of chicken stock. It should become thicker and thicker. By now you can add the half glass of wine. Lower the heat and stir firmly and quickly until desired thickness. Set aside.

Take out the pastry shells and heat for 8-10 minutes. Now you can mix the chicken with the bechamel sauce. Reheat slightly for 2 minutes on a low-heat. Fill generously each shell and place top ‘hat’ shell on top (optional). Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

This would match perfectly with a salad on the side.

Merry Christmas!!!


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Forrest flower Christmas wreaths

Last Saturday I was invited by my friend Takako to photograph a special event she was organizing. Takako is a Japanese florist living in Taiwan and she owns a cute flower shop in Taipei City. Every now and then she organizes a floral workshop on different locations. This time she wanted to celebrate the 1st year anniversary of her shop by hosting the workshop on a special location, called siu siu. A gorgeous space up on the mountains and surrounded by a forrest.

When the students arrived they where welcomed with a nice cup of hot tea (it was really cold that day) and an explanation of the workshop Christmas wreath making. The idea was to go out into the forrest and collect as many flowers and plants as you could find to make a Christmas wreath. Takako directed all the students and it was fascinating to see how different each and every wreath came out. To ease the cold hands and runny noses, we where all treated on a glass of warm wine mixed with fresh apples and rosemary. 

As soon as the Christmas wreaths where finished, they got nicely wrapped so that they would be ready to be taken home. It was a special day and everyone had so much fun. I loved how everyone could stroll around the forrest, explore and take their findings to make something special.

Thanks Takako for inviting me!

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