Monday, 31 March 2008

Royal Foodie Joust: Malaysian Fish Kebabs

This is a strange post. Partly, because I already know it is going to seem inordinately long for the final effort. But also because I am currently flying over Carlisle at a cruising speed of 34,000 feet. Or so Pete, our captain, has just informed me! And finally, because I haven’t even finished cooking my dish yet (nor am I likely while at this altitude).

But I unexpectedly have to return to my native Scotland for a meeting on Monday morning… and decided to take advantage of the trip to stop in and see the parents – for a hug, a natter and some good, Scottish home-cooking! Tonight, I have chosen steak pie… made from skirt of beef and beef sausages, served with creamy mashed potato and real gravy. And I even get a proper breakfast tomorrow – square sausage pieces with broon sauce! Yum yum yum – it doesn’t seem too difficult to say no to the budget airline’s reheated soggy panini - even though my belly is rumbling!

So back to why I am writing my post at 34,000 feet, when I haven’t finished cooking! The Royal Foodie Joust is hosted by HRH Jen over at The Leftover Queen. I have been curious about it since I started food-blogging, and finally registered on the forum a couple of weeks ago. Each month three ingredients are chosen, and each entrant has to make a dish which includes all three. This month, the ingredients are coconut, lime and something from the sea… These are my kind of ingredients, and I had worked out my recipe within a few hours of registering!

Coconut and Limes!

But real life kicks in, and between Easter weekend, illness and work I realised that the only night I would have to make my dish was tonight – Sunday. Which gave me one day to write it up – perfect!

But my unexpected trip has thrown that askew. I briefly thought about offering to cook for my parents, but I selfishly wanted my mum’s home-cooking (plus, I haven’t told them about my blog yet so the camera may surprise them!)

I am now in Edinburgh airport – my steak pie was fabulous, the sausage square, and my meeting concluded to the satisfaction of all. I have, however, just eaten a rather sub-standard chicken Caesar salad (not so good) and am quaffing a large glass of pinot grigio (much better!) So here goes for 40 minutes typing before I have to proceed to the gate!

So, tonight I am flying back to Brighton, where upon I need to go to the supermarket to buy some fish, prawns and cilantro (fishmongers will be closed by then!), before heading home to finish cooking my entry for RFJ. I hope that by preparing the curry paste and dipping sauce yesterday morning, then by starting my post in the air, I will actually make the deadline!

I wanted to make something a bit different. The ingredients obviously call out for Asian handling, and it seemed like ages since I did something new. Soup? No, I seem to have made a LOT of soup recently. Curry? Meh. No, fancy something different, really. Asian-Brit Fusion? (Think coconut breaded cod, with chips and a limey tartar sauce…) Hmm… maybe not!

I eventually hit on an idea – spicy fish kebabs, with a limey dipping sauce. But I had to make the paste, and the dipping sauce, from scratch… This has more of a Malaysian influence – containing the slightly earthier spices of Indian cusine, as well as the fresh/salty/sweet of Thai food! The three key ingredients: lime, coconut and the sea, feature in every element of this dish… I’ll let you know how it goes later!!

A lot of chillies - 15 Thai red chillies to make 6 kebabs! I love the Thai shop round the corner!!

Malaysian Fish Kebabs

200g raw prawns
450g cod fillets
Half a grated fresh coconut
4 lime leaves, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup Curry Paste
3 Thai red chillies
6 lemongrass skewers
1 tsp brown sugar
Fish sauce/Thick Soy sauce – to taste

Take about 2/3 each of the prawns and cod and blitz to a fine paste. Roughly chop the remaining prawns and cod – you want a bit of interesting texture to it!

Mix both sets of seafood with the curry paste, coconut, lime leaves, lime zest, chillies and sugar. Take a little dod of the mixture and fry it til cooked through. Taste this and adjust seasoning with fish sauce/ soy as required. I suppose you could have only added half the chillies to this point, and adjust the heat here too – but I like it spicy so didn’t bother!!

My coconut - took me ages to get it to this!!

Divide the mixture into six and squeeze round the lemongrass sticks. Put under a medium grill for about 10 minutes, turning frequently, until cooked through.

In their pre-cooked state!

Serve with the dipping sauce and wedges of fresh lime!

Yum yum yum!!!

If you like what you see, you can vote for me here - but do check out the other entrants - there are loads of fabulous entries - stores worldwide will be running out of limes and coconuts!

Malaysian Rempah Paste

Malaysian Rempah Paste

My roasted dry ingredients!

Shallots, galangal and fresh turmeric! If you're using fresh turmeric, watch your hands - this stuff seriously stains!! (I used gloves ;)
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1” cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, ground to a paste
  • 1” piece galangal – peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2” piece fresh ginger – peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2 small pieces fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp ground) – peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves – peeled
  • 9 Thai shallots – peeled, roughly chopped
  • 6 Thai red chillies – stalks removed, seeds in
  • 2 4” lemongrass sticks – inc bulb
  • The zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 2 tbsp finely grated coconut

In a dry pan, toast coriander, fennel, cumin seeds and cinnamon until they start to release their aromas. Grind in a mortar and pestle.

Take all the fresh ingredients and grind to a smooth paste. I did this in a mini-blender – quick and easy! But feel free to use a mortar and pestle/ spice grinder/ grater if you fancy!

Mix all of the fresh ingredients with the ground spices and sauces. The paste will keep in the fridge for up to two months – store in a glass jar, with a layer of oil to prevent oxidisation.

Malaysian Peanut Dipping Sauce

Malaysian Peanut Dipping Sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic – peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1.5” piece ginger – peeled, roughly chopped
  • 6 Thai red chillies – stalks removed, seeds in
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ cup raw peanuts
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 1 tsp thick soy sauce
  • Juice and zest of two limes
In a dry frying pan, toast the peanuts for a few minutes until they are starting to brown. Make sure you keep them moving – burnt peanut is not a good taste… Once browned, transfer to a blender and blitz to a fine puree.

In a mini-blender or mortar and pestle, blitz the ginger, garlic and chillies to a paste – add some fish sauce to loosen if required.

Mix all the ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning with soy sauce, lime juice or fish sauce as required.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Spinach Chana Dhal

Dhal, Dal, Daal, Dahl... They're all the same thing you know!

And that's tasty, cheap and healthy - no wonder they gave it so many names :)

I asked a friend to get me some dried chickpeas the other day - I've had an urge for home-made hummus since I had some at another friend's recently. But instead of chickpeas, I got a pack of chana dal (dhal, daal, dahl...)! There was a rationale - but I can't remember what it is now.

So I decided to make a dhal. As in the thick, spicy lentil stew - rather than the pulse itself...

And some naan bread to go with!

Spinach Chana Dhal

  • 1.5 cups chana dal
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 slices fresh ginger (skin on)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100g spinach, washed
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Place the chana dal in a pot with twice as much boiling water and simmer for 30 minutes. (Alternatively you could pre-soak them for 2/3 hours... if you remember!)

Melt the ghee in a saucepan, and fry the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic and ginger for 2/3 minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop.

Add the chana dal, the rest of the spices (except the garam masala!) and the tomatoes. Top up with boiling water and simmer, covered for 45 minutes to an hour - or until the chana dal is tender. Top up water as required, and stir every so often to prevent sticking.

When the chana dal is tender, remove the ginger slices and use a fork to mash some of the dal against the side of the saucepan. This gives a more interesting texture and consistency - don't skip it!

Add the spinach and garam masala and cook for another 3/4 minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Serve with rice - either plain or pilaf, or with naan bread!

Excuse the lurid photo - it looked better in real life!

Naan Bread - from scratch!!

I am not a baker. I've tried, but it really just doesn't come naturally to me. My first ever home-made bread tasted of beer. My bread machine bread could probably be used as a weapon to kill small animals. Flat breads seemed to be just about acceptable - but I wasn't sure if that was due to the lack of yeast, or because I was being supervised by a chef!

Yet, last week, when I was preparing my dough for the berber pizza, something felt a bit different. It started to make a bit more sense. So last night, I put my neck out and decided to make some naan bread... and it worked! It just worked!! No beer smell. It rose as I wanted it to. I burnt a couple... but that's because I got distracted...

I don't know if it is using active dried yeast instead of the sachets. When I see the yeast foaming at least I know something will happen! Or maybe I'm just getting more used to cooking in general...

And so, the intrepid baker presents you with...

Naan Bread

  • 1 1/2 tsp active dried yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3 cups white bread flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsps ghee - room temperature, so liquid form!
  • 3 tbsps natural yoghurt
  • 3 tbsps melted ghee for brushing
  • garlic salt (optional)
Mix the sugar and yeast with the hot water until dissolved, then leave to stand for 10 minutes until foamy. (Woo hoo - I now know that the hot water wakes the yeast up - and that the sugar is its breakfast!)

Meanwhile, sieve the flour and salt together, add the ghee and yogurt and the activated yeast mix. Mix with a spoon, then by hand until it forms a soft dough, then turn out and knead for 10 minutes. (I even like kneading! It's great seeing the ingredients form a dough... that you just know will work!)

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with film and place in a warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size.

Remove from bowl, divide into eight pieces and flatten each one into a round circle - I just used the palm of my hand to do this - you want an uneven surface!

Now, I worked this out as I went through the eight pieces, but I think the best thing to do here, is to make the circles, then cover with a damp cloth for 15 minutes. Oil a baking tray, then take a circle and gently tug it downwards - ideally you want a teardrop pattern. Place this on the tray (you might be able to fit a couple on!). Brush with ghee and sprinkle on a little garlic salt if you like. (Or you could mix a bit of crushed garlic into the melted ghee!) Put it under a medium/hot grill for 2 minutes until puffy and browned. Bring it out, turn, brush with ghee and grill for another 2 minutes on the other side.

Serve immediately!

Anyway, I think I'm getting a bit over-excited with all this baking stuff - stand by for my next baking post... if it stinks of beer, or weighs more than I do, then it could well be the end of the intrepid baker!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Porcini Stuffed Pork with Red Pepper Pulse-otto!

Blimey - for some inexplicable reason I've written this post in reverse order - and it already seems really long! So I'll try to keep this bit short and sweet...

After a bout of illness, and a very unhealthy Easter Weekend, I was in the mood for a decent meal. It had to involve roast meat... and avoid starchiness! Then I remembered that I had wanted to enter this month's Waiter, there's something in my... event - which this month is... pulses! It's being hosted by Jeanne, over at Cook Sister - and I think it's a great theme! Especially as I have decided to try to eat more pulses and veg!

I've came up with a pulse-otto. Yes, yes, it's kinda twee and a bit forced, but I am starving and ready to go for lunch - so just think, risotto with lentils instead of rice ;) It was actually going to include rice initially... until I forgot to buy some... So I decided to chuck in red lentils instead. It just makes it even healthier! And even pulsier - so just right for this event!

Porcini Stuffed Pork with Red Pepper Pulse-otto!

Feeds 3 - with plenty of lentils to spare!
  • 600g pork tenderloin
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 30g dried porcini, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, reserve soaking liquor
  • 10 slices smoked streaky bacon
  • small handful chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 15 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
  • Bunch spinach
  • 3/4 cup red lentils, washed
  • 1 tin green lentils (I used tinned - use whatever you have to hand!)
  • 3/4 cup broad beans (I used frozen - use whatever you have to hand!)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • Approx 250 ml vegetable stock
  • Salt & Pepper to season
  • olive oil for frying
Prepare the pork!

Preheat oven to 180c (350f).

Very finely chop the chestnut mushrooms - you could do this in the food processor, but I wanted to keep some of the texture! Chop up half of the porcini mushrooms. In a frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil over a medium heat, then fry mushrooms for a few minutes until almost cooked. Add 3 crushed cloves of garlic and continue to fry for a further couple of minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and season to taste.

Cut the visible fat and sinew from the pork tenderloin and cut in half lengthways to open the pork out into a flat rectangle. Cover with cling film and bash a few time with a rolling pin to flatten it out more uniformly.

Lay the washed, but uncooked spinach leaves over the pork (cut off any tough stems), then spread the mushroom and tomato mix over the leaves.

Now roll the tenderloin back up so it looks like a swiss roll!

Take each slice of bacon and flatten/stretch it out. (Either with a rolling pin, or by a knife - up to you!)

Cut one slice in half and stretch over each end of the "swiss roll". (Hmm... now is when I realise I really should have taken pictures at every step!) But basically, you are kind of sealing the ends to stop the filling coming out... Now, take the remaining bacon and, starting from the edge of the capped piece, roll up the pork log in the bacon. (I'm sure I'm making this sound more difficult than it is! Think wrapping chicken in parma ham!)

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, and seal the pork round all sides.

Place on a baking tray and roast in oven for 45 minutes (if using a meat thermometer, reading should be about 160c). Remove from oven, cover and leave for 10-15 minutes to rest.

The Pulse-otto!
Meanwhile, while the pork is roasting, start making the pulse-otto!

In a deep pan, sauté the onions and red peppers until soft. Chop up the other half of the porcini mushrooms and add to the pan. Crush two cloves of garlic and add them - and the red lentils - to the pan Allow to sauté for a few minutes more.

Add the strained mushroom liquor and the stock to the pan until the lentil are covered by about an inch.

Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Add the broadbeans and green lentils, cover and set aside.

To serve!
Once the pork has rested, slice into 1cm rounds. Dish up a couple of spoonfuls of the lentil mix, top with the pork slices, and serve with roast vegetables.


Note on re-heating!

I had about a third of this left to reheat the next day. I hadn't sliced it yet, as I was concerned that the pork would dry out or become tough.

To get6 round this, I mixed up a little vegetable bouillon (fairly weak) and put it into a frying pan (about 1cm up the sides). I then sliced the remaining pork, and put it into the pan. I poached it gently for 3/4 minutes, basting to ensure the top was warmed through also. It worked well - the pork was still tender and juicy!

I had some tomatoes going spare, so sliced them in half, chucked on a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkled on some garlic salt and red chilli flakes. 10 minutes under a medium/high grill til they were just starting to collapse - yum!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Taste & Create: Buttermilk biscuits... or scones!

Hello! Happy Easter! I'm back!!!

I actually started this post on the 20th March at 11:47, then decided to finish it over the Easter long weekend... However it was not to be and I ended up achieving exactly ZERO over the whole holiday. Well except a fair amount of whinging... it's fair to say I am not very good at being sick - I may well have had man-flu ;)

I missed Monday's deadline for Taste and Create - but Nicole was lovely and understanding, so here's my entry for this month!

Nicole's blog made for enjoyable browsing - For The Love Of Food. Although it has been in my subscription list since I discovered food blogging in January, it was great to have an excuse to peruse through the archives.

My initial temptation was to make a homemade pizza - something I really don't make enough of... but adore! Specifically the Wing-less Buffalo Pizza with Feta - which is soooo on my to-make list. But I was already making my Berber Pizza for the Pizza Blog Party - and thought that two pizzas in two days may be a little too much (for my waistline if not my appetite!). Another one that was high up on the list was the Tortilla Lasagne - great idea Nicole!

But in the end I opted for the Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits - mainly because I've never made anything like that before (I have been facing my baking fears recently - I think this was my most successful venture!). It was almost aborted - firstly because I couldn't find any buttermilk (not such a common ingredient in the UK, but I finally found some in Sainsburies!) and secondly, when I ran out of flour half way through. But there was enough in my flour shaker to make up the quantities - yay!

See Nicole's recipe here!

This was a great recipe - very easy to follow - and I think it took me about half an hour from starting to getting them out the oven... and about the same length of time for me and two girlfriends to polish them all off! They were flakey and buttery, and gorgeous straight from the oven - I didn't get a chance to try them cold - but I'll let you know next time!

I followed the recipe pretty much as is - except I made the dough in a food processor - pulsing it to get the pea-sized butter lumps, then a couple of times more to mix in the buttermilk. Finally I turned it out onto the floured work surface and continued with the recipe.

Thank you Nicole - I will be making these again!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Eat The Seasons - UK and USA

Just a quick note to let you know about this nice little website I've just found to tell you what's in season when: Eat The Seasons

There is an American version and a UK version - and I think it's really handy - I'm rubbish at remembering what I should be buying!

Ps. There's no connection - I just liked it and wanted to share!!

Berber Pizza! And a Mini Travelogue...

Three years ago I went for a two week trip to Morocco with a friend of mine. After a few days in Marrakech, Fes, Casablanca, we went on a road trip, driving over the Atlas mountains to the Sahara.

As you can imagine, food played a big part of my trip - and was one of the things I had been most excited about. But I had been somewhat disappointed by the choice in the cities - the ubiquitous cous cous with 7 vegetables along with chicken or lamb tagines seemed to form the bulk of many menus. We did manage to eat well - but it wasn't quite as easy as I had hoped!

Where was the the spice, the variety and the depth of flavours that I had been looking forward to?
As we drove over the mountains, I found it... Berber food!

Our guide took us into the Sahara, where we rode camels through the moonlight to reach our camp. The fire was already roaring when we got there, with some people playing music whilst others cooked dish after dish of stunning Berber fare. It was all vegetarian, and no two dishes were even approaching similar. As different from 7 veg cous cous as you could imagine!

Me and A. We called our camels Dave and Ian. They had really long eyelashes!

That night we slept in hessian Berber tents (you could see the stars through the tent material), snuggled under about six blankets (it got REALLY cold!!). And at about 5am we were woken to watch the sunrise over the sand dunes. Neither words, nor my photograph can describe how beautiful that was.

Sunrise over the Sahara

So we then trekked back through the desert before meeting our guide. We then had a long drive back, stopping to buy carpets (about a third of the price of those in Fes!), visit a film studio and look round a 6th century mud built town.

Like our Berber headware??

So, by the time we got to a silverware workshop we were almost faint with hunger. After a prolonged haggling session and 3 gorgeous purchases later, I had the most welcome invitation of my holiday... our guide informed us that the silversmith and his wife would like to invite us to stay for lunch!

As we sat down I asked what we were having, to which our guide responded... Berber pizza!

I was bemused - there was nothing that I had seen in Moroccan restaurants or cookbooks that even remotely resembled pizza. Then it arrived - a large round calzone type affair. When he cut into it, the juice from the meat poured out - it was one of the best things I ate all holiday!

The original Berber Pizza!

So when I found out that this month's blog party over at Dispensing Happiness was a Pizza Party, and started trying to decide what to make, the idea of Berber pizza popped into my head... and refused to go. Despite the fact I couldn't find a recipe anywhere! Then, after a few hours of detective work, I finally found this recipe. It is called medfouna - which means 'buried', and is basically stuffed bread! I seem to remember being told that they used to cook this by burning a fire in the sand, putting it out, then burying the medfouna in the hot sand to cook. I haven't been able to find a source to back this up though! I have made a few changes, but only to make it more like the original one I had! I also used half fillet/ half rump steak to cut the cost down.

As for a drink to go with it - Morocco is all but dry, so no alcoholic beverages for me. So instead I think I'll serve this with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice - the Djemaa el Fna was full of vendors selling the best OJ you've EVER tasted... all for about 25p a glass!

Medfouna - or Berber Pizza!

  • 2 tsp active dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 175ml lukewarm water
  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 1 handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 small handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 200g fillet steak
  • 200g rump steak
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 beaten egg, for brushing
  • sea salt flakes
  • cumin seeds

Start by activating the yeast for the dough - add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and mix to dissolve. Leave for about 10 minutes until the foam starts to form on the top of the yeasty water.

I made the dough in a mixer with the dough blade attached - but you could do it by hand if you like! Place the flour, salt and caraway seeds into the mixer and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the yeasty water and mix for a couple of minutes - until the dough forms one big ball and the sides of the mixer are clean. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and knead for five or six minutes.

I accidentally forgot to divide the dough at this point - it still worked ok, but it was harder to get a uniform shape! So, divide the dough into two equal pieces and place in bowls. Cover the bowls and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. In a pan, fry the onion, celery and chilli for a few minutes until they start to soften (I didn't fancy leaving the onion raw!). Using my mixer I pulsed the meat a few times - I wanted it still to have some texture.

Mix the onion mixture with the parsley, cilantro, coriander, ground cumin and meat into a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.

To build the medfouna, roll out both risen portions of dough into large rounds about the size of a dinner plate. Place one of the dough rounds onto an oiled baking tray. Place the filling on top and spread evenly, leaving a 2cm edge. Brush the edge with a little egg wash. Place the second dough round on top and press the edges gently together to seal the bread.

Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and cumin seeds.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes at 180c (350f), or until golden-brown.

Serve in slices and enjoy your Berber pizza!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Leftover Curry Soup Curry!

This isn't much of a recipe, but it tasted sooooo good I thought I better share! Seriously, this is one of the best curries I've ever made - and it was by accident!!!

A couple of days ago I made a Spinach and Chickpea Curry soup for No Croutons Required. It was very tasty, and I had it for lunch the next day too.

There was still vats of it left. I seem to be still cooking for two - even though there is just me to eat it!

Anyway, wasn't too interested in eating more soup last night, so instead decided to convert it back to a curry...

Beef, Spinach & Chickpea Curry

I got a nice piece of rump steak, and sliced it before quickly browning it in a little oil. I added some of the soup - trying to add the sauce only so the potatoes/chickpeas didn't cook any more! Then I let it simmer for a few minutes. I added some potatoes and chickpeas, and heated it through.

I dished up some fennel saffron pilaf, then spooned the potatoes, meat and chickpeas over the top - adding a couple of spoonfuls of the base soup as sauce.

Sprinkle with some cilantro and I was ready to eat. I even had seconds, and that hardly ever happens! It is the never ending pot of soup!

Move over Catwoman... Introducing Super Kittie!

I got to work this morning, and my slim grasp on motivation vanished when I saw Ley from Cilantro and Lime's post about a Hero Generator. Check out her effort here!

So anyway, I've spent a wee bit of time creating my hero - and I present you with... Super Kittie!

Ok, so that's a rubbish name - but I thought I had wasted enough time on this so far this morning ;)

Anyway, just to prove I am actually a super hero, check out how I save the world - one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time!

Fennel Saffron Pilaf

This is one of my favourite accompaniments to Indian curries - so I thought I would give it a post of its own instead of sharing with another dish!

I made this last night to go with my left-over curry - excuse the rubbish dark photo, I don't know why it turned out like that... but was so hungry I was rushing too much to try to fix it!

You can use a stock instead of water - but I am usually too lazy - and it doesn't really need it!

Fennel Saffron Pilaf

  • Basmati rice
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds per portion
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric per portion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch saffron (it is a strong flavour, be careful not to go overboard with this!)
  • Olive oil
  • ghee
Heat the ghee and olive oil in a saucepan with a tightfitting lid. (Using ghee on it's own can be a bit overpowering, but it's nice to use a bit!)

Add the fennel seeds and fry until they start to brown. Add the basmati and fry for a couple of minutes. Keep it moving so all the grains get coated, and to stop it sticking or burning.

Add the tumeric, saffron and salt then mix well. CAREFULLY pour boiling water over the rice (it will spatter!) In my pot the water should come about an inch above the surface of the rice - you might need to experiment a little til you get it perfect with your pot. Don't worry if you add a bit much or little - it can be fixed later!

Cover and leave to cook for 10 minutes. After this time is up, remove the lid and check how cooked the rice is. You also want to check the water situation - using a fork, pull the grains away from the side of the pot and see if any water is left at the bottom.

Hopefully the rice is perfectly cooked and the water is pretty much gone (a little bit left is ok). In which case, mix well, replace the lid, turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes. This really helps the rice fluff up.

If the rice isn't cooked yet, add a bit more water if required, replace cover and cook for another couple of minutes.

If its cooked but there is water left, pour the excess off, mix rice well, replace lid and leave for 5 minutes.


Monday, 17 March 2008

No Croutons Required: Chillies, Spice and All Things Nice


So yesterday I realised that the deadline for No Croutons Required is fast approaching. Spicy vegetarian soup. I can do that. In fact, I make spicy soup pretty much every week - at least once. I had already made spicy Thai soup in the last week for Presto Pasta Night. Yay - an excuse to make more soup!

I considered various options. Asian soup was out - I made some pretty recently and I had it for lunch yesterday! Hmmm... spicy lentil soup, tomato soup? Nah, wasn't feeling the lentil/tomato love...

I realised that what I actually wanted was curry. A thick, smooth, spicy, rich curry soup...

So I have adapted one of my favourite curry recipes, and turned it into a soup. It is still pretty much a whole-meal soup - the potatoes and chickpeas add some real bulk. Serve with some nan bread, and you're sorted!

It wasn't until I took the pictures that I realised that my soup looks very similar to last month's NCR entry... So now I feel like I'm being dull and unoriginal... Am I a one-soup pony?? Tune in next month to see if I can escape the spinach!

Curried Chickpea & Spinach Soup with a Cilantro and Chilli Drizzle

Makes a lot of soup! Probably 4 big bowls - or 6 normal ones...
  • 400g tin tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium/large onions
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inch long)
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • 500 ml vegetable bouillion
  • Large bag spinach, washed
  • 3 green chillies
  • small handful of chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • 1 tsp garam masala
Heat the ghee, chop both the onions, and fry over a medium for about 15 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the ginger and garlic. In a liquidiser or blender, blitz the ginger and garlic with the tomatoes and about a quarter of the stock. Once the onions are ready, add them to the tomato mix and blitz it all to a smooth puree.

Return the puree to the pan, add the salt and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the chilli powder, paprika, turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander and mix thoroughly. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

Add the diced potatoes and chickpeas, then gradually stir in the stock until you get the consistency you want. (I kept it pretty thick - it was going to be my dinner!) Continue to cook until the potatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, wilt the spinach and blend to a puree. Add to the soup, taste and adjust seasoning if required. Add the garam masala.

To make the cilantro chilli drizzle, blend the cilantro with the chillies and olive oil.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of ... erm... drizzle (!) and garnish with a few cilantro leaves and a sprinkle of cumin!

Moroccan Marinated Chicken with Tabbouleh

I'm a bit late in actually publishing this one - considering I started it at the same time I wrote up my Tabbouleh recipe! And it is barely even a recipe - more just a bringing together of components!

This was my effort for last week's girlie night in - a taste of summer despite the rain that poured down for most of the week...

Moroccan Marinated Chicken with Tabbouleh

  • Chicken breasts - one per person
  • chermoula - one tbsn per person
  • a little olive oil for frying
  • tabbouleh - as much as you want!
  • optional extras - lightly toasted pita bread, hummus, wedge of lemon
Place the chicken breast between 2 sheets of clingfilm and use a rolling pin/ jam jar/ bottle of wine/ shoe to flatten it out to about 2 cm thick. (Though don't really use a shoe...)

Spread the chermoula onto the chicken breasts and massage in. (Garlic and chilli alert: wash your hands straight away! Or try this tip - massage a little olive oil into your hands and nails before you handle the sauce - this will stop the chilli/garlic oil being absorbed into your skin)

Cover and place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours - I left mine overnight.

Heat a little olive oil over a medium heat and fry the chicken for 2/3 minutes each side. Make sure there is no pink left - but be careful not to overcook or it will go tough and stringy!

Serve the chicken on top of the tabbouleh, with a wedge of lemon and some hummus and pita bread.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Yummy Scrummy AND healthy! Mmmm... Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh - the first time I tried it, I found it so-so. Nice idea, nice ingredients... but in the end, wasn't it just a bit.... bland? Some years later I visited a local Lebanese restaurant - where Tabbouleh formed part of an amazing mixed starter plate. I was shocked with it arrived. Instead of a pile of bulgar wheat, it was full of herbs, beautifully soft parsley - with just a hint of cilantro. Mmmm... I can still remember even bypassing my beloved hummus to eat it. it was that good.

So when I was deciding what to do with the rest of my chermoula, I decided to stick with the North African theme and even though the weather was cold outside, go for this beautiful salad.

It isn't entirely authentic - I do add a touch of garlic - just because I like it! And I wasn't too happy with how it turned out - there was too much tomato (and it was chopped too big), the parsley wasn't chopped quite finely enough, and my local greengrocer was out of cilantro. But after 2 hours resting in the fridge it still ended up tasting lovely!


Serves 4
  • 1 cups bulgar wheat (I used the medium grade)
  • 1 large bunch parsley, thoroughly washed
  • 3 large tomatoes (I used 5 - too much!)
  • 1 small clove of garlic (optional)
  • 1 red onion
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper
Cover the bulgar wheat with cold water, and leave for 20/30 minutes. If you have a thicker grade bulgar wheat you may have to leave it longer!

Blanch and remove the skins from the tomatos. Quarter them and discard seeds before dicing finely.
Finely chop the garlic and red onion.
Using a knive, finely chop the parsley - including the stocks. I think I left about 2 inches of stock left from my bunch - you don't want the really tough bits.

Mix the herbs, tomatoes, onion and garlic with the bulgar wheat, add the lemon juice and a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Cover and put in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavours mingle. After this time, give it a good mix, taste and adjust seasoning if required.

Serve with Moroccan chicken like I did, or with hummus and pita bread for a light lunch or supper!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Spicy Moroccan Chermoula

Chermoula is a North African marinade, commonly used to flavour fish in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. There seems to be loads of regional variants - I didn't find two recipes the same when I was looking for ideas! The main basis always seemed to be lemon juice, cilantro and garlic - then I took my favourites from the other to make my own Brighton variation... hot, spicy and very garlicky! Feel free to adjust quantities to taste. I also did this using both my mortar and pestle (for the dry) and mini-blender (for the wet) - but it could be done by hand or in a blender - whatever you would usually use to make pesto I guess!

It can be used as a marinade for fish, veg or meat. I also used it as a basis for a sauce (recipe to follow!), and heard the some people use it as a seasoning! If you follow my quantities, be careful though - there is a fair whack of garlic there, and if it isn't cooked out you'll keep more than the vampires away...

Spicy Moroccan Chermoula

  • 1 large bunch cilantro
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 red chillies
  • 1 lemon
  • a couple of glugs of olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 tsp paprika
In a pan, fry off the coriander and cumin seeds until you can smell the aromas being released. Transfer to the mortar and pestle along with the salt, and grind to a fine powder.

A couple of the recipes I saw suggested picking the leaves from the cilantro, and discarding the stalks, but the Scot in me baulked at this waste - they have so much taste! Instead, I picked most of the leaves from the bunch, then blitzed the stalks to a fine purée in my mini-blender (Add a few drops of olive oil to loosen if required.)

Transfer the blitzed stalks to a small mixing bowl, along with the spices.

Now, pulse the chillies and garlic to a fairly fine purée and add to the mix. I left the seeds in because I wanted it HOT. But feel free to take them out and save your palette!

Grate the zest from the lemon, and add that, along with the juice from the lemon to the bowl.

I then finely chopped the cilantro leaves by hand. I wanted to keep some roughness to the marinade - and it only took a minute - but feel free to do this in the blender to save time :)

Now mix all the ingredients together, adding olive oil until you get the consistency you want. Again - this seems to change depending on recipe - but I decided to make mine to pesto consistency.

Very carefully, taste and adjust seasoning as required.

I read that this should keep for 3 days in the fridge - but that it is also freezable. If I'd had enough left after 2 days I would have tried to freeze it in ice-cube trays for easy defrost!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

An Accidental dinner: Chermoula Trout with Puy Lentil Veggie Stew

As I had bought a huge bunch of cilantro (just so I could garnish my thai soup) I was determined to not waste it, and went on a cilantro-rich recipe hunt! I typed in "coriander recipe" (having briefly forgotten my lesson) into google, and my googlepedia found me this Wikipedia article on Chermoula.

Yuck, I think that is quite enough links for now...

So anyway, I was initially planning to use a decent piece of white fish with my chermoula marinade, and make a cous cous salad to go with it.

But I saw an amazing piece of Scottish trout at the fishmongers - rich pink with the finest marble lines. And was reminded how much I love trout. I much prefer it to salmon. My grandfather used to be a fisherman, and my childhood holds many memories of whole trout (along with the occasional rabbit - never worked that one out actually). I don't think I appreciated it enough at the time though!

I had a think - and decided that the trout could hold the strong flavours of the marinade - and the unlikely (yet delicious!) combo of Scottish trout with Moroccan marinade was born! If you can't get a hold of trout, I'm sure salmon would work similarly.

I got home, and hit a set back. The cous cous that I need to make my vegetable cous cous side... was gone! No idea where. I definitely don't remember eating a whole packet of cous cous. So I decided to go for bulgar wheat instead.... but was similarly denied. I think there is a grocery thief with very precise requirements at work in my kitchen. Alternatively, it was fate, because although i finally decided on puy lentils through lack of choice - the earthy lentils with the slightly gamey taste of the fish and the super spicy and garlicky flavours of the marinade were really, really good!

What I'm trying to say, is this is not a dish I would have chosen to put together, but it's definitely one I'll put together again!

Chermoula Trout with Puy Lentil Veggie Stew

This gave me enough fish for one big meal - though there was loads of veggie lentils left over - I had that the next day - I added a handful of black olives, and ate with hummus and pita bread. So it may not have been authentic, but it tasted great!

  • 250g piece trout (or salmon!)
  • 1 cup puy lentils
  • 1 small courgette, halved and sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • a couple of handfuls of mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 tbsp chermoula
  • 2 cups stock - whatever flavour takes your fancy
  • Olive oil to fry
Rinse and drain the puy lentils, before placing in a pan with the stock. Bring to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes. add 1 tbsp of the chermoula and continue to cook until al dente. The stock should not be completely evaporated - we want this to help form a sauce with the vegetables.

Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a pan, and fry the onion for a couple of minutes. Add 1 tbsp chermoula, the chilli and mushrooms and fry until mushrooms are done. Add the pepper and courgette and cook for a few more minutes - the pepper should still have a bit of bite!

Add the carrots and lentils to the pan and stir to mix. Allow to cook for another couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

Serve the fish atop the lentils - and enjoy!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Home Coming Thai Noodle Soup!

I survived!

I have just returned from a week's skiing in Obertauern, Austria - and have made it home pretty much in tact... although I do have some very attractive bruises. Especially on my butt from where A pushed me off the chairlift... (apparently it was an accident...)

So now I'm home, washing done, cats treated and mollycoddled to make up for the neglect. It's after midday, and I'm in my PJs, about to start looking through my Google reader to see what new fabulous recipes have been concocted in my absence. (Current unread sat at 237!)

But before I do, here's a quick post of some thai noodle soup I made last night when I got home. After the stodge of Austrian cuisine, I was desparate for something light and spicy! Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy the stodge - more to follow on that later (homemade cheese spatzel with roast onions anyone??)!
Oops... I got sidetracked! And now it's no longer Sunday, but Monday night - and I have even survived the first day back to work! Still not had a chance to catch up on my food blogs though...

Anyway - back to the recipe... and I'm going to send this over to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast for Presto Pasta Night!

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes one huugge bowl - or two normal sized ones...
  • 1 large banana shallot, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp thai curry paste (I used green, but anyone would do!)
  • Half a red pepper, sliced
  • 1 chicken breast, finely sliced
  • Handful of mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 small courgette, sliced and halved!
  • 165ml tin coconut milk
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • 1 portion rice noodles
  • 1 thai red chilli, sliced
  • Small handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  • fishsauce to taste
  • light soy sauce to taste
  • lime juice to taste
Heat a small glug of olive oil in a pan, then gently fry the shallot, ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms and thai curry paste and fry til done.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to packet, drain and rinse.

Chuck in the rest of the veg, the stock, coconut milk and the chicken. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Add noodles, taste and adjust seasoning with fish sauce and soy sauce. Dish up and garnish with the red chilli and cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice!