Sunday, September 25, 2011

MONACO

Friday, 9 September 2011


Friday we went to Monaco. It was Friday, wasn’t it? We visited the aquarium at Monaco, this time without Perry. We got a little bit lost on the way; not really lost – we just missed our bus stop – but overall, the trip was a success. We arrived just before 2pm and decided not to look for a lunch spot but instead had sandwiches on a bench outside the aquarium entrance.





The aquarium was wonderful; sublime and peaceful, meditative in feeling. I have developed a taste for aquariums.




These days one is struck by the lengths to which the curators go to inform us about the watery world, its inhabitants and the dangers we impose upon them with our pollution and over-fishing. The Prince of Monaco, much like Charles in England, has taken the role as Nature’s Ambassador. I can’t help but think that in some ways royals must see themselves as part of Nature and thereby a threatened species like the ones they are trying to protect. But that’s me!


THE MUSEUM – The Royal Wedding and ‘Oceanomania’

This visit, the museum was dominated by two exhibits; one in its ‘foyer’ called ‘Oceanomania: Souveniers of Mysterious Seas From the Exhibition to the Aquarium’ by Mark Dion and the other was The (other) Royal Wedding.



The royal wedding was, as you would expect – a collection of the ingredients that go into such an affair; The Gown, his suit, the silverware and crockery; gifts they received from all over the world, etc.

‘Oceanomania’, on the other hand, was an attempt to ‘breathe life into this beautiful encounter between Art and Science’. It was an interesting exhibit and there was, for me, a thread of ‘Jules Verne’ woven into the fabric of the piece.



It also served to remind me of the methodology of 18th and 19th century science – explore and collect; a ‘souvenir’ hunt, of sorts. Very different from science nowadays, IMHO.

THE RETURN TO THE CITY

We ambled through the green space surrounding the museum high above the Port, looking at the scenery and taking photographs.





After some time, we made our way to the bus stop where we boarded our bus back to Nice. As the bus was rather crowded, we didn’t get to sit together for the first half of the journey – at least we were sitting, there were those who were not as lucky as we were…

DINNER

Back in the city, we we had a couple of beers in Garabaldi before deciding what to do for dinner. We had never had the pleasure of eating dinner at the Grand Cafe du Turin and this evening seemed the perfect opportunity. In fact, the cafe had been renovated since we last spent time in Nice and the tables for dining al fresco now spilled out into the street on all sides. With the lights and glasses on the tables and the hustle and bustle of families and friends enjoying fresh seafood in the Place, the decision to join in the fray was all too simple to make. Steve had a dozen no. 1 oysters and I was unable to resist getting a platter of ‘everything’ so mine consisted of oysters, clams, winkles, whelks and brown shrimps. As is always the case, it was far too generous a portion for me to finish! To our delight, although the Cafe was packed with diners, we were very attentively and well-looked after by our waiter. We shared a bottle of ice-cold Sancerre from which we drank seemingly endlessly – from even smaller glasses than the little ones I’d bought at Monoprix the day before. It was an excellent, indulgent and memorable meal!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Spicy Nights


Chickpea and Okra Curry, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.


It's been quite a while since my last post but that doesn't mean that my kitchen has been idle! Not at all, in fact, we have been cooking up a storm and I haven't had time to post! Rather than try and catch up with my posts, I'll start again - with last night's dinner...

Steve and I have been on a 'Curry Kick' lately. Long, cold winter nights benefit from the warm and sultry spices from the East. Our 3 masala dabbas are almost always in use as we anoint various dishes with different combinations of spices, whole and ground. Warm and exotic smells waft through the house - permeating my clothing and hair. Chillis, fresh coriander and curry leaves have become staples in our larder. It's an adventure and there's almost no food that isn't improved by the additions of cumin, turmeric and chilli powder.

Last month we were given some chat masala spices to try cooking with by our friends, Rupak and Kinnary who'd brought some back from their holiday over the Christmas break. The unassuming little boxes of masala, with brand names like 'Catch' and 'Tasty Treat' now sat on the shelf and even seemed to taunt me; I was intimidated by them! Every so often, Kinnary emailed me a recipe to use the spices in and Rupak would subsequently ask me if I had tried them yet. Friday I promised I would use them. (I lied, as it turns out - but more about that later!)

Yesterday I surveyed my vegetable boxes. Yet another swede (bringing the total to 2); I knew exactly one thing to do with swede - mash them up with carrots and butter. While it is a delicious dish, I didn't think it would go particularly well with my rice and dal. Right beside the swedes was a forlorn-looking butternut squash that hadn't made the cut when I cooked its younger, fresher brother in a pumpkin and coconut curry two weeks ago. The squash was beginning to show signs of aging and would need to be cooked. So I trawled the web, looking for help. I didn't find any recipes for swede curry but I found many for turnips which I have modified to produce what I'll call Swede & Pumkin Curry.

My larder also contains a growing collection of pulses (lentils). I've been experimenting with different lentils and different tarkas or seasonings. This time I tried making a Mixed Dal using three different dals; moong dal, toor daal and chana dal.

But now, back to the chickpea curry: we're in this thing together, Steve and I, so I asked him to cook it! We had a very busy kitchen last night with a mixed dal, a chickpea dish, rice and the swede curry all bubbling merrily on the stove. Steve's version of the chickpea dish was wonderful and was enhanced by the addition of baby okra, a vegetable we have taken to adding to various dishes as we to do with garden peas. The okra adds a wonderful texture (2 textures, really; the fuzzy somewhat resistant outer coat which gives way to the softer seeds on the inside) and flavour to the mix:


Recipe for Chick peas

From Kinnary Shah

Ingredients:
One small finely chopped onion
Chopped tomatoes (half tin)
1 bay leaf (divided into half)
2-1/2 tbsp of Chole masala
One tin of Chick peas
1 cup frozen okra
1/2 tsp of Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of ginger and garlic paste. (separately or together)
Salt to taste
Coriander for garnish (Fresh)
3 tbsp of oil
Small green Chile, cut from middle (optional)

Method:
1. Add oil in the pan, to it add cumin seeds, when the seed become brown add chopped onion, ginger garlic paste, bay leaf. (and Chile)

2. When onion gets light brown, add chopped tomatoes and to it add chole masala and salt, and stir till oil separates out (approx. 10 min).

3. Then add chick peas, okra and half cup of water and cover the pan.

4. Let it boil for 10 mins or till the gravy becomes thick (stir occasionally). If the water dries out, then add little water and let it boil.

5. Add coriander and serve...

Can be eaten with rice, or pullao.

Spicy Nights (II)

This was my first attempt to try mixing different lentils. I chose chana dal, toor dal and moong dal for this. The addition of green chillis, tomatoes and curry leaves helped make this a very tasty treat!

MIXED DAL

Ingredients:

1/3 cup moong dal
1/3 cup toor dal
1/3 cup chana dal
½ tsp Cumin Seeds
a pinch of Asafetida
1 large onion, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 tsp ginger pulp
2 green chilies, chopped
20 curry leaves
½ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp red chilli powder
Fresh coriander leaves for garnish
3-1/2 cup water (or enough to cover the lentils to a depth of 3 cm)
ghee, oil or a mixture of both, to fry
Salt to taste

Method

1. In a large bowl, mix all the dals and wash and soak in water for about an hour. Drain and rinse until the water runs clear.
2. Add the mixed dals to a pan of salted water, to a depth of 3cm, and bring to the boil.
3. When frothy foam appears on the surface, remove by skimming the surface with a slotted spoon, then add the turmeric.
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil/ghee in a separate frying pan until hot and add asafetida and cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the onions, garlic, curry leaves and chopped green chilli. Fry this mixture for 3 min or until the onions take on colour and have softened a bit.
4. Add tomatoes and fry for about 5 min to soften. Next, add the red chilli powder.
5. When softened, add this mixture to the dal, cover and cook on a low flame until the dal is softened and is ready to eat.

Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Spicy Nights (III)

Swede and Pumpkin Curry, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

This dish is remarkably delicious! I was curious to see what swede would taste like curried, having never had it before. Too, I had 2 of the beasts in my larder and was not in the mood to have my usual mashedcarrotsandswede! The addition of the 'pumpkin' (in this case, butternut squash) was an inspiration born of necessity; one of those was rapidly ageing in the larder and needed to be cooked! My customary trawl of the interweb yielded quite a few good places to start (e.g. this one) which I took and modified:

Shalgam Curry (or, in this case, Swede and Pumpkin Curry!)

1 medium swede (500-600 gm or equivalent weight of turnips)
300 gms or 1 medium butter nut squash or pumpkin
1 medium onion, chopped
200-300 gms (2/3 can, approx.) chopped tomatoes
2 tsp ginger puree
2-3 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chillies, chopped
20 fresh curry leaves
1-2 tsp salt to taste
1 tsp. sugar
Chopped fresh corriander
ghee and/or oil for frying

1. Peel the swede/turnips and chop into 2-3cm pieces.

2. Boil the swede until soft or pressure cook for 3 minutes.
(I found this took around 30 minutes or so)

3. When nearly done, add the pumpkin/squash and cook with the swede until both are done.

4. Heat the ghee or oil in a frying pan and fry the chopped onions, ginger, green chillies, curry leaves and garlic until golden brown.

5. Add chopped tomatoes to the onion/garlic/chilli mixture, add salt to taste and 1 tsp. sugar. Mix together and cook for 20 minutes or so (adding water if necessary) until the gravy is golden in colour.

6. Add the swede and pumpkin, mushing gently with a spoon to create an uneven texture, cover and cook for a further 10 - 15 minutes or until the curry is well cooked.

Garnish with chopped corriander and serve.

(This amount will serve 4)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Reindeer sausage risotto

Reindeer sausage risotto
Reindeer sausage risotto, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.


This dish was inspired by a trip to the butcher's shop in December. As always, everything looked delightful and Christmassy and these reindeer sausages were no exception. We bought them on impulse. As it turns out, we had so much food to prepare and eat over the Christmas break that we couldn't find a 'slot' to fit these in. So into the freezer they went to resurface in January when our cooking frenzy had abated a bit.

I used a recipe from Francesco da Mosto's 2007 book Francesco's Kitchen:


Sausage Risotto

6 best quality sausages
30ml olive oil
60g butter, plus extra to serve
1/2 white onion, finely sliced
350g arborio rice
half a glass of dry white wine
1 litre beef stock
75g Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra to serve
salt

Cook the sausage in an open pan with the oil, butter and finely sliced onion. Add a little salt and then cook at a moderate heat until the onion is golden brown.

Halve and set aside two of the sausages and cut the others into small pieces. Return these to the pan and add the rice. Mix thoroughly for a minute or so, making sure that the onion and rice are well mixed together. Add a half a glass of white wine and cook, stirring frequently.

When the wine has been absorbed, add the beef stock, stirring it in a little at a time and making sure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan,

When the rice is ready - it must be very smooth - remove from the stove, adding a knob of butter and a generous handful of the grated Parmesan. Stir in energetically. Bring the risotto to the table, already served in bowls, with each portion topped by one of the reserved half-sausages - and further grated Parmesan.

Serves 4

-- from Francesco's Kitchen, 2007

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fried scallop, borlotti

Scallop season is here, or so I'm told and I need no further excuse to indulge in this delightful mollusc. I often find myself at a loss when it comes to what to do with them though - especially when I insist on keeping creamy sauces out of the picture. After all, the best examples of this beastie are rich and creamy enough on their own. No need for anything as dark and flavoursome as bacon nor as rich and cloying as cream or cheese.

So, when Steve produced his haul of a dozen of the biggest, freshest scallops I'd seen in my own home, fresh from the fishmonger in the Market Square, I went to my cookbook library for ideas. I finally settled on this deceptively simply entitled recipe from River Cafe Two Easy by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

As usual, I adapted the recipe to my own taste and to the amount of time I wanted to spend preparing the dish. My biggest 'cheat' was to use canned borlotti beans and, although I am sure the dish would have been even better if I'd used dried beans, this was one amazing dish, indeed...

Fried scallop, borlotti

Ingredients:

Scallops 16
Dried borlotti 250g
Fresh red chillies 3
Garlic cloves 2
Rocket leaves 100g
Lemons 4
Extra virgin olive oil


Soak the bolotti beans overnight. Rinse, then
put into as saucepan with 1 chilli and the garlic.
Bring to the boil, skim and simmer for 45
minutes. Drain, season and add olive oil. Keep
warm. Slice the remaining chillies diagonally
into 5mm slices, leaving the seeds in. Wash and
dry the rocket. Halve the lemons. For the
dressing, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon and
combine with 3 times the volume of olive oil,
season.

Heat a thick-bottomed frying pan large enough
to hold the scallops in one layer.

Season the scallops on both sides. When the
pan is very hot, sear the scallops 30 seconds on
each side and remove.
(I seared for 1 minute as our scallops were very, very large)

Reduce the heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the
pan, add the chillies, Squeeze over the juice of
1 lemon and shake the pan for a minute.

Chop the rocket leaves and toss with the
dressing. Add the barloti beans and divide
between 4 plates. Place the scallops, chilli and
any sauce from the pan on top. Serve with lemon.

(From River Cafe Two Easy, R. Gray and R. Rogers, 2005)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Bangladesh in Cambridge


A Vegetable Biriyani, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
I woke up late this morning to the tantalising, spicy, garlicy, oniony cooking smells coming from my next door neighbours' Bangladeshi kitchen. Oh! I was instantly hungry! I got up and looked out of the bedroom window - outside in Mrs Begum's footpath lay a metal bowl, overflowing with bright red chillis which she was leaving to dry in the sun.

I quickly dressed and went outside to have a closer look at her bounty; the little front garden which she uses to provide her family with familiar foods from Bangladesh was bursting with vegetables, courtesy of the very wet weather we've been having this summer. There were several types of squash and beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and various leafy vegetables which I could not identify and which my Bengali-speaking neighbours could not give me an English name for. There was leafy corriander in various patches, some of which was being allowed to go to seed for planting and for cooking. And there were pots of chillis, now nearly bare of fruit at various locations in the garden.

All of this in a space intended for the off-street parking of ONE car! I looked but there was no one in the front of the house; loud laughter, shouting and talking poured out of the house through the open front door along with the spicy cooking smells - there was little question, then, where the family was!

Steve suggested I make fried rice with the leftover basmati rice from last night's Pomfret fry dinner. While I agree that left-over basmati rice would be fine in a Chinese-style fried rice, I was already hopelessly intoxicated by the smells of South Asia which had permeated my dreams and lured me from my bed. I started thinking about what I could cook that would satisfy both my hunger and my hankering for these flavours.

I built this dish using leftovers from the night before. It was simple to make and incredibly tasty:

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked basmati rice
2 handfuls frozen garden peas, thawed
1 cup cooked frozen (or left-over) mixed vegetables such as carrots, beans etc, diced
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1-2 green chillis, de-seeded and sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, mashed
juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and cut into quarters
2 tbsp butter

Spices:

1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
10 curry leaves
2 cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp garam masala
Sliced green chillis, lemon wedges and plain yoghurt (curd) to serve.


1. Measure all the spices EXCEPT the garam masala, curry leaves and salt into a cup or bowl.
2. Heat a wok or frying pan and add 2-3 tbsp oil or ghee to the pan. When hot, add the sliced onions and cook, stirring, until just beginning to colour.
3. Add the spice mixture to the oil in the pan and stir for 15 seconds in the oil before stirring into the onions.
4. Add the rice. Use the back of a spoon to separate any clumps into single grains. Continue to stir and fry, adding a splash of water if the mixture seems to be getting dry, until the rice softens.
5. Stir in the butter, chillis, salt, curry leaves and lemon juice.
6. Add the peas and vegetables. Stir fry for another minute or two.
7. When the vegetables have cooked stir in the garam masala.

Taste the rice and correct the seasoning adding additional salt, red chilli powder and garam masala, as desired.
Garnish with lemon wedges and sliced green chillis. Serve with a bowl of plain yogurt.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Indonesian Spicy Fish Curry


Indonesian Spicy Fish Curry, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Another fishy weekend!

Friday I was again hoiking off to Cambridge market to see what the fishmonger had to offer. I found, as usual, several things utterly irresistible - for one thing, the mackerel was so fresh it was practically flipping around in the ice. I had a couple of those. Then, Lo!, he had cuttlefish! I love cuttlefish - for me, these are the 'rich cousins' of squid. They are buttery and rich-tasting and have a flavour that is more refined that that of squid. They lend themselves well to stews, too. So I got a few of the smaller ones on the stall. Finally, the red snapper looked mighty fine, so I got a big, chunky fillet for the two of us to share.

Friday night we had the Indonesian curry. I trawled the web for quite a while before I found a recipe that I thought would rival our favourite mackerel recipe - Mackerel with polenta and tomato sauce. I chose well, too, because this dish was beautiful!

Indonesian Spicy Fish Curry

Fish is given a hot, piquant twist in this flavourful dish.

Ingredients

1 kg (2 1/4 lb) fresh mackerel fillets, skinned
30 ml (2 tbsp) tamarind pulp, soaked in 200 ml (7 fl oz) scant 1 cup water
1 onion
1 cm (1/2 in) fresh galangal, peeled
2 garlic cloves
1 - 2 fresh red chillies, seeded, or 5 ml (1 tsp) chilli powder
5 ml (1 tsp) ground coriander
5 ml (1 tsp) ground turmeric
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) ground fennel seeds
15 ml (1 tbsp) dark brown sugar
90 - 105 ml (6 - 7 tbsp) oil
200 ml (7 fl oz) scant 1 cup coconut cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh chilli shreds, to garnish

Method

1. Rinse the fish fillets in cold water and dry them well on kitchen paper. Put into a shallow dish and sprinkle with a little salt. Strain the tamarind and pour the juice over the fish fillets. Leave for 30 minutes.

2. Quarter the onion, peel and slice the galangal and peel the garlic. Grind the onion, galangal, garlic and chillies or chilli powder to a paste in a food processor or with a pestle and mortar. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, fennel seeds and sugar.

3. Heat half of the oil in a frying pan. Drain the fish fillets and fry for 5 minutes, or until cooked. Set aside.

4. Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining oil. Fry the spice paste, stirring all the time, until it gives off a spicy aroma. Do not let it brown. Add the coconut cream and simmer gently for a few minutes. Add the fish fillets and gently heat through.

5. Taste for seasoning and serve scattered with shredded chilli.

We served this with Thai Coconut Rice:

Coconut Rice

The rice is prepared with 50% water and 50% coconut milk and cooked as normal. This rice is the perfect accompaniment for the spicy curry.

Try this - knock your own socks off!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Poached Turbot with herb butter

What a weekend! We had beautiful weather - sunny skies and warm air - and I'd had the foresight *smirk* to buy some fish for our weekend meals. Actually, I went to the fish monger stall meaning to get only one or two fish dinners - but I ended up accounting for every dinner this weekend! I got a squid (a rather sizeable specimen, in fact) a bunch of very fresh and delicious sardines (which we ate that very Friday evening) and... a turbot!!! We'd only ever bought turbot, at the most, twice - be we adore the fish. I find it difficult to get a fish that's really suitable for 2 people. This time, though, whilst I was (very vocally) admiring the (huge) turbot (pl.) on display, my eyes were directed to the smaller, more manageable-sized turbot. Well... the scallops I'd selected went back into the display (the fishmonger was very gracious in putting them back in the case!) and the turbot was weighed, priced and put in my bag. Off I went - without any idea of what I was going to do with it.

Ah... Rick Stein is my hero! I knew I'd find something, within the pages of one of the several books of his that I own, that would do this fish some justice. And so I did. His recipe for "Poached Turbot with Herb Butter" was, unusually, not accompanied by a photo, but we went ahead with it as it really sounded good!

The recipe itself is pretty straight forward. The ingredients are too - you just need a turbot, some butter, herbs (I used parsley, bay, thyme and chives) and salt and pepper. The rest was preparation: The oven was pre-heated to 230 ˚C. The turbot skin was lightly scored around the base of the dorsal and ventral fins - evidence of that can be seen in the photo - this made skinning the cooked fish a LOT easier. Next, the fish was placed in a baking tin and 600 mls of water was added. After a 20 minute poach in a 230˚C oven, the fish was removed from the cooking water and the top, darker skin was carefully removed. The cooking water was reduced to 2 tablespoons and added to the melted butter and herb mixture. The final 'flourish' was to pour the hot butter and herb mixture over the fish, in a serving platter. Finally, sprinkle any remaining chopped parsley over everything, for effect.

Wow!

At the table, remove the flesh from the bones - carefully with a spatula. First lift the flesh recently revealed by removing the dark skin away from the bone yo a plate, then remove the spine and serve the lower portion of the flesh.

We served this lovely fish with organic new potatoes and a lovely, fresh and juicy"rainbow" tomato salad.

Awesome.

Enjoy eating and food and life!
xx

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Burger Night!


Burger Night!, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Today was a tough day, one way and another. Necessitated a good old-fashioned, easy meal to finish it off. Even though we'd been out for burgers just the night before - as a prelude to a night at the theatre - I really craved A BURGER! This, after politely (I hope!!) bowing out of a meal out with friends. All i wanted was to get home, kick off my shoes, cook and sink my teeth into a home-made burger. Well, I had my wish:

We made a short stop on the way home to pick up some minced beef and some rolls. By the time we got home, of course the cats were starving (and so had to be 'seen to') I set to preparing the burgers and condiments (tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, mustard, ketchup, tomatoes, mayonnaise, pickles) and, when given the signal, some of the above went into the hot grill pan, to be sizzled to perfection, whilst the rest of the ingredients were arranged in such a way as the burgers could be quickly assembled.

In the end, it all went pretty well. All was devoured, with much enjoyment (at least as far as I could tell!)

Bon app├ętit!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Bean thread noodle soup with prawns and vegetables

My friend A. is transforming herself:
Not under the knife of a high-priced plastic surgeon, not by going to a spa and being massaged by well-muscled and sweet-talking men while being fed, what amounts to nothing, served up by 'nutritionists' at exorbitant prices - but by sheer force of will. I talk with her nearly every weekend and I marvel at her tenacity and determination; I listen in awe as she gives me an almost overwhelming account of calories in, energy out; nutritional information such as fat, sugar and salt values in everyday foods; the intervals and reps, the miles, the sweat, the fears, tears and pain. I listen with envy (and with some shame, perhaps) as I lie in my bed at noon on a Saturday trying to think of reasons to get up. She gets up much more easily these days for she has lost some 80-odd pounds at this writing.

These days, her voice betrays her newly acquired energy and her excitement - sometimes sounding like a stretched bow, waiting - waiting to be released and give wing to that arrow; sometimes breathless with anticipation of overcoming the challenges that she faces every day. I am both relieved and envious - relieved because, not long ago, I thought I might never see the friend I knew back in graduate school again. Relieved because I know when I see her, we'll be able to do things together - the way we used to before she fell into that hole of loneliness and despair that made her twice the size of the woman I knew, once. And envious, perhaps, of her strength and perseverance in the face of this challenge she set for herself. I cannot imagine what it must take to do what she is doing.

Brava!

This time, as so often, our talk turned to food and eating and by the time we hung up, I was ready for lunch. But, Lo! I didn't want to consume loads of calories and I craved something spicy and full of flavour. So I came up with this:

Bean thread noodle soup with prawns and vegetables

Ingredients (for two servings):

1 100 gm packet bean thread noodles
1 courgette (zucchini)
8 very large prawns (shrimp)
8 dried black Chinese mushrooms (or fresh Shitake mushrooms, if you can get them)
8 asparagus spears
6 spring onions
fresh galangal (or ginger)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
juice of 1 lime
1 stalk fresh Thai lemon grass, smashed and cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp instant Dashi powder (optional; available from Asian shops)
1 tsp chicken powder (or 2 cups good home made clear chicken stock)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 red chilli, sliced
small handful of fresh coriander leaves

To serve:
lime wedges
Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
fresh coriander sprigs

Method:

First prepare the ingredients:
Remove the tough bottom ends of the asparagus and discard. Split the asparagus spears in half, length-wise then, finally, in half, on the bias.

Put the bean thread noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes.

Place the dried mushrooms in another small bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes. If using fresh mushrooms skip this step.

Slice the spring onion/scallion into 2" pieces. Keep the most green parts for a garnish (thinly sliced) and use the rest as large pieces.

Wash and peel the prawns, remove the dorsal 'vein' and split in half, length-wise (they really curl up beautifully AND you are left with twice as many pieces of prawn, of course!)

Prepare the courgette by slicing first length-wise then into thin rounds, approximately 1/4" thick.

Prepare 3 slices of galangal or ginger, approximately 1/4" thick and cut into matchsticks. Cut the garlic into thin slices and roughly chop the coriander.

Juice the lime.

Now get cooking:

1. Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.
2. Bring 1 litre/4 cups water to the boil (if using chicken stock, replace half the water with the stock). Add the instant dashi and chicken powder or stock cube. To this add the courgette and the asparagus and blanch for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl of cold water. Keep the cooking water simmering and...
3. Add the garlic, ginger, ground white pepper, the nam pla, a few slices of red chilli, the soy sauce and the lemon grass. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Remove the lemon grass stalks. Drain the mushrooms, remove the tough stalks and cut into quarters (If using fresh mushrooms, cut into quarters. Add these to the broth, along with the prawns and spring onion (white part).
5. When the prawns begin to turn pink (which is almost immediately), add the blanched vegetables, the soaked bean thread noodles, and the sliced chilli to the broth.
6. After 2 minutes, stir in the chopped coriander and remove from the heat.

To serve:

Serve the noodles first then divide the vegetables and prawns between the bowls. Ladle the dashi broth over the noodles and vegetables.

Garnish with coriander sprigs, lime wedges and sliced chilli or serve the soup with no garnish and let your guests help themselves to garnishes including:

Lime wedges
nam pla
thinly sliced spring onion (green part)
chopped chillis
chopped coriander

This tasted delicious! In spite of the long list of ingredients and lenghy-looking preparation, it all went together rather quickly and was ready to eat in about 30 minutes. We loved the spicy/minty taste of the chillis, the crunchy barely cooked freshness of the vegetables and the exotic slimyness of the noodles. Mmmmm!

Celebrate friendship and achievement.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Brunch Primavera


Brunch Primavera, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Spring!!

A blaze of sunshine, at the start of what would become the warmest weekend of the year so far, prodded us out of our bed and into the garden where we spent the late morning and early parts of the afternoon. A fridge bursting with fresh organic vegetables. Some lovely fresh organic eggs. What should we do? We did the simplest thing possible:

I just washed all of the vegetables and cut them into equal-sized pieces. A list of some of the vegetables I had at my disposal included:

green beans
mange tous (snow peas)
courgette (zucchini)
shitake mushrooms
carrots
asparagus spears
spring greens (or use Savoy cabbage)

I boiled some water, added some powdered chicken stock and blanched the vegetables - each one separately so I'd avoid the risk of over-cooking any of them. The carrots, the smallest ones in the box, of course took the longest. I cooked the vegetables until they were bright green and still slightly crisp. As I removed them from the water with a slotted spoon I plunged them into a bowl of cold water.

When the vegetables were all cooked Steve whipped up some eggs, seasoned them with salt, pepper and in no time served us both some of the most delicious scrambled eggs I've eaten in a long time.

We ate on the patio with the sun warming our skin for the first time this spring. This set us up nicely for the bicycle ride we went on later in the afternoon.

Enjoy Spring!