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.


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


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.


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.


Enjoy eating and food and life!

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.


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


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.