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!


Monday, 4 June 2012

Seared Scallop & Red Pepper Salad

This made a nice lunch for two but would be equally good as a little starter for four. I got the idea from a James Martin recipe in James Every Day, but as usual just had to ring in the changes. It was really tasty and extremely light, for something more filling I'd consider adding a slice of toasted ciabbatta.

First you need a red pepper or two, cut in half and place face down on a tray with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Pre-heat the oven on to 200°C and put the peppers in on the top shelf for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop a couple of spring onions, a handful of fresh coriander and half a red chilli and put in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon, a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Once the peppers are cooked, peel off the skin and then very finely dice them. Add them to the other dressing ingredients in the bowl.

Share out some mixed salad leaves between two plates with a few extra coriander leaves mixed in. Take half of the red pepper mixture and mix it in with the leaves using your hands.

Season your scallops with a little salt and pepper. Heat up a dry, non-stick frying pan until really hot and, keeping it on a high heat, lay your scallops in the pan. Count 30-40 seconds and then turn them over and count another 30-40 seconds.

Arrange the scallops on top of the salad and spoon the rest of the red pepper mixture over the top.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Easy Peasy Fishy Dishy (Lemon Sole with Sour Almond Sauce)

Fish is always a quick dinner and, if you're ok with sorting out the bones yourself, a whole fish is the tastiest of all. Lemon Sole has an mcs rating of 2, or at least the ones caught off the cornish coast are, so no need to feel guilty either.

This is a really tasty sauce to serve with lemon sole, and an uncharacteristically close rendition of a recipe for me, this time from The Abel & Cole Cookbook, I love this book and all the recipe ideas are cleverly grouped by seasonal ingredients. I've used it a lot and can really recommend it.

So, first put some jersey royals on to boil. Or whatever you want to serve with this, personally I couldn't wait to get my teeth into the jerseys, they are so lovely (just in case anyone doesn't know - jersey royals are a very special type of potato grown in, and only in, Jersey!).

Sprinkle a liberal serving of flaked almonds into a dry frying pan and heat until toasty brown. Put them to one side and add oil and a knob of butter to the pan to heat up, at the same time pop the oven onto its lowest heat.

Lightly coat the lemon sole with plain flour, put into the frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. Pop them into a baking tray and bung in the warm oven, turn it off though as you don't want them to keep cooking, just to stay warm.

Get some spinach (or whatever veg you're having) on to steam. 

Back to the fish pan: be warned this sauce evaporates faster than last month's paycheck, so you need to be on the ball. Make sure the pan is really hot then chuck a glass of white wine in, let it bubble away for a bit and deglaze the pan with a spatula. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, and add a heaped teaspoon of capers that you've chopped up, all of the toasted almonds, another knob of butter and a load of fresh parsley.

Turn the heat right down and get the fish, potatoes and spinach onto plates. Spoon over the sauce and eat immediately. Yum.