Sunday, 22 July 2012

Breakfast Frittata (or "how to use up spare egg whites")

I had three egg whites left over from making ricotta gnocci last night, so this morning a frittata for breakfast seemed like a great way to use them up. 

For two people, three egg whites plus two full eggs is about right.

Chop a small bell pepper and slice a purple onion, then throw them in a frying pan with a little oil and get them cooking until nicely softened and sweet.

Meanwhile beat your eggs with salt, pepper, grated parmesan * and torn, fresh basil leaves. When the pepper and onion mix is ready, pour over the egg mix.

Cook until pretty firm and then sling under the grill to finish off - this is not for flipping like a pancake, or at least not first thing in the morning whilst still bleary eyed. Serve hot, in quarter slices with a tomato salad.

* - If you're vegetarian you can buy a cheese very similar to traditional parmesan but which is made without animal rennet. "Twineham Grange" is one brand but I'm sure there are others out there.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Yoghurt-Sour Chicken Curry & Spicy Fried Okra

Please give this dinner a chance! Yoghurt-sour is a good thing, plus yoghurt helps all the spices to penetrate the chicken meat whilst tenderising it as well. 
The dry fried okra is really delicious and together they beat any greasy takeaway offering hands down, both on the healthy front and on the tasty front. 

This is inspired by a dish in "Indian Food Made Easy" by Anjum Anand and I would totally recommend this book to anyone who thinks they love a takeaway!

So, pop some chicken thighs into a bowl, 1-2 per person, and pour over one of those large pots of natural yoghurt.

Add 7-8 large cloves of garlic, smashed up or minced if you can be bothered to clean the mincer - I never can. Take 2-4 cardamom pods (depending on how much you like them) smash them open, extract the seeds, crush them with the back of your knife and tip them in. 
 Top with a large hunk of ginger chopped up very finely, a heaped tablespoon of ground coriander, a heaped teaspoon of garam masala, a teaspoon of chilli powder, and a generous pinch of cumin

Sprinkle in a good amount of salt, maybe as much as 2 teaspoons, and mix everything together really well - make sure every inch of the chicken is coated. Marinate for as long as possible, in the fridge overnight would be great, but if I'm honest I left it for an hour on the sideboard and it was tasty for just that time.

When you're ready to cook it, upend the whole lot into a pan and put on a reasonably high heat. In a separate pan, cook up a chopped onion and some green chillies. When they are soft, add them to the chicken mixture.

Cook the curry for 20 minutes, then stick a lid on it, turn the heat right down and cook for another 10 minutes. You can add extra water if it dries up. 

While the curry is cooking, slice the okra up vertically and liberally sprinkle gram flour, garam masala, chilli powder and salt over the top. Mix up well, heat up oil in a frying pan and, shaking off excess powder, fry the lot for about ten minutes.
Serve the curry with rice and shedloads of fresh coriander, plus the okra. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Nasi Goreng

Mmm, I'm dribbling just thinking about this Indonesian / Malaysian delight. I made tons of the spice paste and we've had it twice this week without any complaints at the repetition. Whoever gave this dish to the world was a culinary genius and great pie philanthropist. Sadly, as that hero's name is lost to history, I will instead thank Rick Stein for his version of it, which forms the basis of this dinner.

It does take a little while to do all the chopping for the paste, and shallots always make me cry, so it's well worth making up a big batch and either freezing it for long term storage or popping it in the fridge and using it up over a month.

The paste

Heaped teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 nutmeg (grated)
Handful of peanuts
1 tsp sesame seeds
60g chopped shallots
25g chopped fresh ginger
40g chopped fresh galangal
1 tsp turmeric
3 lemongrass stalks, chopped up finely
20g chopped garlic
2 ordinary red chillies
2 really hot chillies (like birds eye, I used dried)
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp palm sugar
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp salt and 3 tbsp oil

I ended up having to add a tiny little bit of water just to get the mini-processor going, but it smoothed up perfectly after that. This is enough paste for 8 portions so, if you're cooking for two then use 1/4 of the paste, for four then 1/2 and so on. 

The amounts below feed two people.

The dinner

Get a cup of rice on to cook, it doesn't really matter what kind you use. I used brown jasmine rice and it worked well.

Blanch a large handful of green beans by boiling them for a few minutes until cooked but still pretty firm, then holding them under cold water until cool. Also hard-boil a couple of eggs, to use as a topping later on.

Prepare a carrot cut into batons, a few sliced shallots, some garlic cloves and a couple of chillies. You'll also need a pack of prawns and/or a couple of peices of chicken, cut up into bitesized peices (thigh, breast, leg... it doesn't matter). Leftovers from a roast is fine too.

Get a spash of oil on to heat up and, if the prawns and/or chicken are raw, cook them through and put to one side. Add the carrots, shallots, garlic and chillies to the pan and cook for a few minutes before adding 1/4 of the spice paste. Cook for a couple more minutes then add the green beans, a big squeeze of tomato puree, a tbsp palm sugar and 2 tbsp soy sauce.

Lastly add the rice, prawns and/or chicken and make sure everything is well coated with the spicy mixture before adding a good handful of sliced spring onion. Serve up in bowls, topped with chopped egg, sliced cucumber and crushed peanuts

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Tasty, tasty holiday treat! The last time I had laksa I was in Malaysia and I'll always remember how amazing this noodly, spicy soup was out there. 
This particular balance of ingredients was suggested in Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey, currently my favourite book, and turned out tasty as can be - even with a few of my convenience tweaks thrown in.

A warning: this can take a while to make because of all the chopping to make up the paste before you start cooking! I made enough for four dinners, we'll have the leftovers of the first half for lunch tomorrow and pop the rest in the fridge for another time.

The Curry Paste
The spice paste contains lots of ingredients, all chopped or ground up, and popped into a mini food processor to be made into a smooth paste (or you could do it in a pestle and mortar, old style). If you don't fancy making the paste, buy a pot of pre-made from the supermarket and skip to the next section.

Dried Shrimp

1 tbsp Shrimp Paste

10 Dried Chillies

Several garlic cloves

A peice of galangal

Two stalks of lemongrass

1 tbsp Coriander Seeds

1 tbsp Turmeric

Handful of peanuts

Several Shallots

3-4 tbsp oil

The finished paste

* Just by the way: you can use ginger instead of galangal, any onion instead of shallots and can buy frozen, pre-chopped lemongrass as well as shrimp paste at the supermarket. The rest of the ingredients shouldn't pose a problem, except the dried shrimp which you can leave out if necessary.

The Laksa
Heat up a glug of oil in a pan and fry the paste for a few minutes. Add 750ml of stock, preferably fish stock. I was stuck so I used 500ml dashi and 250ml vegetable stock. Also a can of coconut milk, 1 tbsp palm sugar and 2 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce).

While that's coming to a simmer, pour boiling water over some dried, flat noodles and leave to soak. They'll be ready in a few minutes.

Add some king prawns to the soup and leave to simmer for a few minutes. Pile the cooked noodles into bowls along with sliced cucumber, bamboo shoots, beansprouts, red chilli, spring onion, mint and coriander.

Ladle the soup over the top along with the prawns. Goes nicely with Jubilee champagne!