In endless search for Comfort Food

…the makings of the Lamb Lentil Moussaka!

Wow, it has been a long time since we decided to share some of our special recipes, but given that our Heron House family is on hard lockdown again, we thought why not share the love?!?

Needless to say, with the pandemic affecting travel into and in Vietnam, we have found our special corner of the rice fields particularly quiet these days but not boring in the slightest. As we wait to start welcoming visitors again and being able to hold some special events, we thought, why not work on further beautifying our amazing colonial villa with some nice new touches and better yet, work on how to best feed our guests in the future.

New recipes have ranged from 48 hour slow cooked beef short ribs, to learning to make fresh ravioli, to experimenting with Japanese momafuka pork belly, to trying to reinvent the classic Com Ga (Hoi An chicken rice), but in the end for Loic at least his heart, stomach, and mind always wander off to Greece and its incredible cuisine so the time came to tackle a Lamb and Lentil Moussaka after months of elbowing by his hungry friends.

We will share more details on our projects, recipes, and rapidly growing family soon, but for now we just wanted to share a few ideas on how to make this truly incredible dish.

Good luck and bon appetit!

(salting aubergines, the most mundane time consuming process of the whole dish)
(the layering begins)
(Progress)
(at last the ‘healthy’ layer has been applied)
(The final result – in appetizer form – beautiful, with a crunch on the top cheese, loads of creaminess in the bechamel, and the lentils have stayed moist and still kept their shine)

The Lamb & Lentil Moussaka Recipe

(via thermomix, anova sous vide, and good old fashion’d sweat work 😉
Yields about 8 full portions

Ingredients:

  • 300 grams green or red lentils
  • 100 grams parmigiano or pecorino cheese (grated finely preferable)
  • 50-60 grams kafalograviera (or another salty cave aged cheese will suffice)
  • 140 grams crumbled feta
  • 1 kilo (minimum) aubergines
  • Good Olive oil (lots 😉
  • 250-300 grams white onions
  • 1 green or red bell pepper
  • 1x large carrot
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 420 grams canned tomatoes (use all contents)
  • 250-300 grams red wine (up to 1 bottle in truth depending on cooking method and chef’s thirst)
  • 3-5 tbls of oregano
  • 3-5 tbs of thyme
  • 2x whole cinnamon sticks
  • salt to taste
  • Ground pepper to preference
  • 40 grams butter
  • 500 grams fresh milk
  • 40 grams self raising flour
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 whole nutmeg

Instructions: (more or less in order of tediousness)

For the Lamb:  600-800 grams of Lamb cuttings will work

  • remove cuttings, wash thoroughly, dry, and rub lightly with salt, pepper, and oregano.  Leave it to rest uncovered in refrigerator for around 24 hours
  • After airing the lamb, mix with 1 can of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, dry spices (thyme & oregano to taste for me) and 3 crushed pieces of garlic and then place ingredients in a covered bowl for 4 hours to marinade. (can also add 1 stick of cinnamon at this stage if you want to better flavour the tomato paste)
  • After 4 hours marinade is finished, place contents in plastic bag along with a minimum of 20 grams of virgin olive oil, seal it up, and heat up your sous vide machine to 57.5C/136F.
  • Place vacuum sealed lamb (or use water displacement method) into the bath for 2 – 4 hours
  • Remove lamb and cool
  • Once cool, remove prime lamb meat (that is stupidly tasty at this point) from the excess fat, oil, tomato paste, and gristle.
  • For lamb meat, cut all prime meat into mix of minced and small chunks. Cover and leave to the side to be used for later.
  • SAVE excess fat, oil, tomato paste, and gristle to prepare your moussaka sauce

For the Aubergines: (most annoying step by far) take 1 kilo  or more depending on preference for the layering

  • Wash all aubergines but leave skin on
  • Cut aubergines into even discs
  • lay out all aubergine in an even layer and salt them –  leave to rest for 45+ minutes
  • dry all of them with towel, flip to other side and repeat
  • Once all aubergine slices have been salted on both sides, rinse thoroughly under cold water in sink and leave to dry
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
  • Whisk together virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried rosemary and proceed to dip all pieces into the oil mixture
  • On an oven tray place baking paper and lay out oiled aubergine slices without overlapping them
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on thickness chosen) until tender but not at all crispy.
  • Cool and set aside for use later

Lentils: 300 grams will do it

  • Place 300 grams dried lentils into 750 grams minimum of room temperature water
  • leave to rest for 2 hours
  • Drain excess water and let lentils air dry until ready

The Sauce:

  • Place olive oil, carrot, garlic, white onion, bell pepper, into thermomix –>  set to 5 seconds at speed 5 to properly mince
    • If no thermomix in sight can use a food processor
  • Add canned tomatoes and from sous vide bag, the excess lamb fat, oil, tomato paste, and gristle –> set to 8 seconds at speed 5
  • Add red wine to taste, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and both cinnamon sticks then set thermomix to 30 minutes at varoma, reverse, speed 1 (please note that while the sauce is reducing and solidifying it may be necessary to add more time & more wine to taste but ensure that lamb fat has begun to liquefy during process)
    • If not using a thermomix place all items into large saucepot and heat up gradually to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer and continually stir for about 1 hour minimum
  • Lastly, add dried lentils into the thermomix pot and set to 18 minutes at 100 degrees celcius, reverse, speed 2 (Note: It is very important that the lentils do not break or dry out, nor that they are too tough at their center so if your pot is full than give it a hard stir around to ensure everything is evenly cooked and add more red wine to the sauce if you are afraid it may be a tad dry) 
    • If adding lentils to conventional pot, it is best to add lentils to sauce and continually stir for about 20-30 minutes depending on liquid levels and consistency desired.  Keep adding wine as needed and dont let the chef go dry either while he is over the heat

Final Assembly:

  • Take large casserole dish (deep if possible) and brush lightly with olive oil to avoid sticking
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius
  • Add saved lamb into the lentil tomato mix and stir thoroughly until well mixed
  • Pour lentil lamb moussaka mix in the bottom of the casserole dish and layer evenly with a rubber spatula
  • Evenly start placing prepped aubergine slices and make a full 1-2 layers of aubergines on top of lentil mix (note, some kitchens like the aubergines between 2 separate layers of lentils and some cooks just on the top of the mix…either way, with the lentils I rather like the aubergine layer on top and with 2-3 individual layers)
  • Now, start covering the aubergine layer with crumbled feta
  • Next, the Bechamel sauce is needed:
    •  Throw butter, milk, flour, egg(s), and a little ground pepper to taste into thermomix and cook for 8 minutes at 90 degrees C speed 4
    • Add 80 grams parmigiano, grated nutmeg and salt to taste in thermomix and mix for 10 seconds  at speed 4
    • Taste and add more nutmeg, salt, pepper, and some oregano to taste if you like then mix again for 5 seconds at speed 4
      • If not using thermomix, classic process in a saucepot should take about 30 minutes and heavy use of the wrist 😉
  • Next evenly pour the bechamel over the feta layer and ensure that it is evenly distributed
  • Sprinkle remaining parmigiano, crumbled kefalograviera, and breadcrumbs over the top of the bechamel
  • Then grate a little extra nutmeg over the top (along with a dusting of oregano if desired)
  • Throw the now full casserole into the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes until top of moussaka is bubbling and the top layer of cheese starts to bubble evenly
  • Remove from oven, let stand two minutes, undo ones belt, and dive in!

Novemberfest at Heron House

This fall has most certainly been the strangest one we have experienced in central Vietnam since we arrived. A rainy season that was all but nonexistent until late November and yet Hoi An was surprisingly quiet as the beaches seemed deserted despite the sun and hot temperatures.  Add in a rising demand for special events for the expat population and forging some friendships with some young and upcoming chefs and the decision was made to start using Heron House for special events to get creative, fat, tipsy, and just generally spoiled! The culmination of all this being NOVEMBERFEST: a celebration of Belgian & German cuisine and the promise of hearty food to (one day) welcome some cooler temperatures in Hoi An.

 

We were lucky enough to welcome 22 hungry local guests to Heron House for some mean home style cooking in our beautiful colonial villa and I must say we did not disappoint! Chef Huu and Loic devoted some serious time to planning out the ideal Fall 4 course menu and started preparing some of the dishes days in advance to ensure that everything went smoothly.  Everything sourced needed to be fresh, organic and home made so the boys went crazy in the kitchen making their own garlic mayonnaise, roasting peppers, crafting their own cheese croquettes, smoking their fresh sardines in the Texan smoker, and even using arugula and limes from Loic’s own garden.

 

It was in short a truly memorable night at Heron House and we hope you like some of our pics and the menu that follows below

Canapés:

Belgian Style Cheese Croquettes

&

Bruschetta of Smoked Sardines on a bed of roasted peppers, fresh garlic mayonnaise, and German beer bread

First Course:

Tomatoes stuffed with sweet shrimp, mayonnaise, celery and granny smith apples, sitting atop a layer of fresh pesto, with an arugula & frisé salad

Second Course:

Carbonnade Flamande cooked for 9 hours with Wagyu Beef and Chimay Grande Reserve Beer, roux, and plenty of onions naturally.  All served with a decadent layer of classic German mash with caramelized carrots, fried onion curls, and fresh parsley

Desert:

Pears poached in a merlot red wine sauce of spices and lemon & orange zest served with home made vanilla ice cream and water apple compote

Cheese Course:

  With help from Le Comptoir in Da Nang we were able to offer three beauties from Les Freres Marchand of 2 year old Comte, Reblochon and Loic’s favourite Mimolette Extra Vielle

The Fallout afterwards was predictable, lively, and utterly saturated with laughter, wine, and cocktails throughout the night.  Cant wait to see what we try out next in December!

 

The Castro Birthday Party Feast

On the occasion of Marjorie Castro’s big birthday, her sweet sons organized a nice weekend family reunion and the request for a special night….and Heron House was more than happy to oblige as we cooperated with her sons to devise the perfect menu focused around locally sourced ingredients, free range poultry, and some new recipes we whipped up predominantly based on classic western dishes with a new oriental spin.

Castro family dinner menu

The results spoke for themselves as the birthday girl in question could not have been happier and Chefs Loic and Thanh loved talking with our guests and explaining the dynamics of each dish.  Not sure if we quite competed with ‘Chef’s Table’ but I will say there were far more smiles around the kitchen.

Will be trying to share some of the recipes in question in the future, but for now we just wanted to share our menu, some pics from our lovely guests, and in general thank the Castro family for a memorable weekend!

 

bird preparations (3)Castro family dinner menuDSCF1186Bird PreparationsMushroom Canapes-1 (1)Mango Gazpacho -1 (2)Asian Caprese (2)DSCF1288Finished Poultry (3)Finished Poultry (1)Sauteed Mushrooms-1 (2)Baked Potatoes (1)Tiramisu time (3)The happy DSCF1324

The Castro family birthday dinner:


Marinated Mushrooms with toasted almonds on home baked toast canapés

A variety of 4 local white mushrooms marinated in an olive oil and raspberry vinaigrette. The perfect starter that will leave the hands dirty and the stomach happy

 

Chilled Mango Gazpacho with lemongrass sautéed shrimp

Hoi An’s very own take on gazpacho with a little chili kick and large chunks of fresh mangoes & tomatoes served with lemongrass sautéed shrimp and mint on top

Oriental Caprese Salad

Our local tomatoes are only enhanced with capers, Japanese seaweed, sesame seeds, and of course a large piece of fresh Da Lat mozzarella with sesame & oil dressing

Affligem Double beer Smoked Free Range Chicken and Duck

These birds sat on top of thrones full of Belgian double beer for 4 hours while sweating in our smoker and having their skins regularly basted in a maple syrup and thyme honey sauce.  There are indeed far worse fates off for these birds

With baked potatoes topped with a mix of east and west

A simple twist on a classic, these baked potatoes are cooked directly on the charcoals and are served with sour cream, fresh chives, and Vietnamese fried scallions on top

And simple sautéed mushrooms with garlic butter and thyme

We love using the dark mushrooms grown in Da Lat and roasting them in the oven before tossing them in a simple butter and garlic sauce. The perfect partner for Daffy

Thanh’s own Tiramisu

Heron House’s own resident baker has made her own delicate tiramisu using fresh whipped cream and Vietnamese cacao powder.  The perfect Birthday Cake!


 

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