A Providential Journey

Friday, January 6, 2017



Coconut Tapioca with Caramelized Ginger Lychees (recipe below).


Hung Quach is no stranger to travel. Indeed, the life of this successful freelance photographer and stylist started out with a dangerous adventure many of us could barely imagine. At the age of nine months, Quach and her family joined the wave of "boat people" fleeing South Vietnam in the aftermath of the war.  Pushing off in a makeshift wooden boat with only a few meager possessions and the clothes on their back they cast their lot with fate and sailed for Indonesia, While many died during this exodus (from typhoons, pirates, starvation), Hung and her family were some of the lucky ones. The hand of Providence covered their journey, and, after sailing for two weeks, they arrived in Indonesia where they were placed in a refugee camp while their papers were processed. Later, that same hand guided them to settle in Australia where Hung spent her growing-up years in Sydney.


A self-taught stylist and photographer, Hung now lives in London with her Irish husband, Mark, and their young son, Finn, where she carries on the cultural food traditions of her Vietnamese heritage. Though she considers herself an Aussie at heart, her multi-cultural upbringing has caused her to quickly embrace London as her "adopted city". Her captivating images can be seen on her portfolio at HungQuach.com while her blog, Jet and Indigo, carries stories of food and travel. And for everyday inspiration, her Instagram feed is listed as one of the top four to follow, according to Jessica Bride, a New Orleanian writer living in London.

Read on for my interview with Hung:



Hung Quach, author of the blog Jet and Indigo



Tell me about your life currently, what you do, where you live, etc. I recently became a mum to a beautiful baby boy who is keeping me extremely busy. I work as a freelance photographer and stylist but motherhood is my main occupation and priority for the time being. I currently live in London with my husband who is Irish. We met 13 years ago here and have moved back and forth between Sydney and London a couple of times. Although we're not from London, we have a strong link to this city and have spent a great deal of our adulthood living here.






Creme Fraiche Semi Freddo with Honeycomb. 


How did you come to love cooking and photography? Was there an early influence in your life? Food has always been a huge part of my life. My mum was a great Vietnamese cook who was discerning when it came to buying the best produce for her cooking, and you can say she influenced my passion for food and cooking. I grew up eating mainly Vietnamese food at home, but as a child I was never interested in learning how to cook. It wasn't until I left home that I learnt to cook for myself and the dishes I grew up eating. Of course, I love Asian flavors and Vietnamese food is my favorite. I try to cook it at home often, but it isn't always easy getting all the ingredients you need in London. Fresh herbs are dominant in Vietnamese cuisine and you can't always get them. As for photography, it has been a hobby since my university days. My blog emerged from combining my two passions - photography and food. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I decided to take my photography seriously and realized that I could do something with it. 





Tiramisu. 


Have you always been in your current profession? Although photography has been a hobby for a long time, I decided to take it seriously a couple of years ago. It took me a long time to have the confidence to do this and believe in myself. Prior to photography, I was working in buying and merchandising in fashion first, then home-wares. I didn't always enjoy working in an office 9-5. Working freelance gives me a lot more flexibility, especially now that I have a young baby.






Chicken Soup to warm the soul. 


Tell me about a memory you have that involves food? I have many wonderful memories from my childhood that involves food but the memory that sticks to me most, is the time I first went back to Vietnam to meet my maternal relatives. I was a teenager at the time, and you can imagine I received a culture shock coming from Australia to what was a 3rd world country. We traveled by road from Ho Chi Minh City for 10 hours to arrive at the town my parents grew up in. Vietnam was still a developing country then, and still recovering from the war. There was a lot of poverty. Despite this, my grandmother put on a banquet to welcome our arrival. A pig was slaughtered in our honor for the banquet, which would have been worth at least a month's salary. I've never forgotten this event.





Flourless Chocolate Cake. 


What inspires you? I am inspired by many things but mainly people. I have to note that my two biggest inspirations who lead me to where I am today would be Helene Dujardin (Tartelette blog) and Aran Goyoaga (Cannelle etVanille blog), both food bloggers and photographers. I have followed them for many years and admired and studied their work, which is what got me to where I am today. That's not to say I have stopped learning. My photography is constantly evolving and I'm always being inspired by people I discover through Instagram.





Pancakes topped with figs for a weekend indulgence. 



What is your favorite prop to use and why? I have so many favorite props but it would be my growing collection of vintage cutlery that I love using the most. I have collected so many over the years from many different countries on my travels. Every time I travel to a city, I have to visit a flea market and I am always drawn to vintage cutlery. I can't help myself. Perhaps I have an addiction! Using these props not only reminds me of my travels but I think about the life it had before I owned it.





Who wants a slice? (Recipe below) 



Any quote you'd like to share? Travelling is another passion of mine, I love an adventure. The world is such a huge place and although I've been to so many wonderful places, there are still so many more to see. One quote that I try to follow is "Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before."  - Dalai Lama



Recipes...





Coconut Tapioca with Caramelized Ginger Lychees


Coconut Tapioca with Caramelized Ginger Lychees


Serves 4-6

FOR THE TAPIOCA

1 cup tapioca
4 cups water
2 x 400ml cans coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt

FOR THE CARAMALISED GINGER LYCHEES

2 x 425 cans lychees, reserving 1 cup of the lychee syrup
Zest 1 lime
1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp granulated sugar


METHOD

Place the tapioca, water, coconut milk, sugar and salt in a pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir the mixture every few minutes to prevent the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. The tapioca is cooked when it has expanded, is translucent and the mixture is thick. It should still be able to slide off the spatula. If the mixture is too thick you can some more water. Allow to cool before assembling.

While the tapioca is cooking, quarter the lychees. Place the reserved lychee syrup and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil until dissolve the sugar. Add the lime zest and ginger. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 mins or until the syrup has reduced and thickened. Add 3/4 of the sliced lychees, saving the remainder for topping. Continue to cook the lychees in the syrup for another 3-5 minutes until the lychees are caramalised. Allow to cool before serving.

Spoon some tapioca into a serving glass then add the caramlised lychees and the syrup on top. Repeat again to achieve a layered effect. Top with fresh lychees, roasted dessicated coconut flakes and roasted almond flakes.

NOTES

Instead of lychees from a can, use fresh lychees if you can get a hold of them. When making the caramalised lychees just add 1/2 cup sugar to the mixture since you won't have the sweetness of the lychee syrup from the can to cook with.

The tapioca can be served warm or cold.




Chocolate Caramel Whiskey Cake 

Chocolate Caramel Whiskey Cake

12-16 servings


FOR THE CAKE

225g unsalted butter
2 cups plain flour sifted
150g dark chocolate
¼ cup instant coffee
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup boiling water
1 cup whiskey
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla essence


FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL

1 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cup double cream
60g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp sea salt


FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

350g unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp whiskey (optional)
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup salted caramel (see above)


METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line 2 x 18cm round cake tins.

Melt the dark chocolate and set aside to cool. Dissolve the coffee & cocoa powder in a bowl with the boiling water. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter until light and creamy. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and continue to beat. Mix in the whiskey with the coffee/cocoa powder mixture and add it to the batter along with the sifted flour and baking powder. Continue to beat until well combined. Divide the batter evenly into the 2 pans. Bake for 40 mins or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the salted caramel, heat the sugar in a large pan over medium heat for about 10 mins until the sugar dissolves and turns a dark amber colour. Do not stir the pan but swirl the sugar in the pan to ensure it all dissolves. In a separate pan, heat the cream and butter on medium-low heat until the butter melts and is combined with the cream. Once the sugar is completely melted, turn off the heat and quickly whisk in the warm cream/butter mixture. If you get solidified sugar bits, you can re-heat it on the pan. Stir in the salt.

To make the butteream. Whip the butter until light and creamy then add the salted caramel. Slowly add in the icing sugar. If the buttercream is too soft, add more icing sugar until you achieve a thick but workable frosting.

Once the cakes have cooled completely, slice each cake lengthways into 2 layers so you have 4 layers in total. Add buttercream to one layer, and a thin layer – about ¼ of the remainder salted caramel on top of the buttercream. Place the next cake layer on top and repeat this process for the next 2 layers. Buttercream the top and sides of the cake. Finally, drizzle the remainder of the salted caramel on top. Garnish with brittle or nuts.






All photos courtesy of Jet and Indigo and used with permission.

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