Sunday, 30 March 2014

Thai Pork Stirfry with Basil & Chillies

This is a Thai recipe that is supposed to be made with pork mince - however I had already bought some pork loin to make tried and trusted Pork with Beans & Green Peppercorns when I decided to ring the changes and remembered that I’d made notes from various recipes for a spicy pork with basil.

It was only on closer inspection that I remembered that it needed mince, not pork bits! Oh well - to be honest I decided that I’d still give it a go, with a bit of a spin. But then, as it happens, I found David Thompson’s recipe - again, with mince, BUT, and this is quite important, he states: “I find a rather coarse mince yields the best result – ideally done by hand”. So essentially, that is what I did.

Really this should be made with fresh Thai basil if you can get it. Even in London, with Chinatown really not far away at all, I find this a bit of a mission. That said, on my most recent trip I did for once see loads of it: everywhere I turned it seemed. But typically I had nothing in mind - and we would soon be away for a while so it seemed a bit of a waste to get it on the off-chance and have it stagnate in the fridge.

I do have a little jar of Thai basil so what I’ve decided to do here is use a little of that with some fresh Italian basil as well but do alter the recipe to fit with what you have. Using just Italian basil isn't ideal but it will do. Similarly I didn’t have any bird’s eye chillies (I really wasn’t very well prepared was I?) so instead used a long yet fairly thin red one, about 4-5 in long.

I think that when made properly with mince and holy basil this dish is called Pad Krapow Moo, using Thai basil will make it Pad Horapa Moo. In any case we’re basically talking street food here.

I saw a pic online of someone serving this with a fried egg on top which is apparently authentic so did that too. And in case you are interested (and again, I think) - fried egg = kai dao.

Serve over jasmine rice and squeeze a lime wedge over the whole with perhaps a drizzle of sriacha if you’re so inclined.. I’ve not had other versions of this but this, I have to say, was absolutely amazing. Although next time I would probably add a little more chilli.

Thai Pork Stirfry with Basil & Chillies
serves 2

3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 long medium hot chilli (or 4 bird's eye chillies), finely sliced
3-4 tbsp groundnut or rapeseed oil
2 eggs
200-225g finely chopped pork loin
100 g green beans cut into ½ cm pieces
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1-2 tsp oyster sauce (to taste)
large pinch sugar
pinch of white pepper
4 tbsp water
1 tsp preserved Thai basil (in a jar)
a large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
lime, to serve
sriracha, to serve (optional)

Heat a wok over a high heat until about to smoke, then turn down the heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil.

Crack in the eggs (separately) and fry gently, shuffling the egg to prevent it from sticking, until it has cooked to your preference. Carefully lift out and place on a warm plate while you cook the next egg. Keep the eggs, warm, to one side.

Add another tablespoon or two of oil to the wok and hot, fry the garlic and chillies for a moment, but don't let them colour.

Add the pork and continue to stir-fry for a minute until it is just cooked. Add the beans and stir fry for another minute or so.

Season to taste with the fish sauce, soy, oyster sauce, pepper and sugar but be careful not to make it too salty. Add the water and simmer for a moment.

Stir in both basils and as soon as the Italian basil has wilted remove the wok from the heat.

Divide between two plates, serving with mounds of steamed jasmine rice, perch a fried egg on top of each with the lime wedges and sriracha on the table to add to taste.

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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Chicken Teriyaki & Miso Soup

So these are two of the recipes from the cookery class I took in Tokyo: both quite simple, I have made my own version of Teriyaki Chicken loads of times and am quite partial to a bit of miso but in either case I have never really known how to make properly authentic versions. Especially in the case of the miso where I have only used the ready to go powder or paste stuff.

You could of course cut a corner and use ready made dashi soup stock granules for the miso but the flavour you’ll get from using the kelp and bonito, if you can get it, will be far superior. Both can be found quite easily in Asian supermarkets.

If possible when making the dashi soup stock, try and soak the kelp overnight where possible but in any case make sure it is soaked for at least 30-60 minutes. Making slits down the side of the dried kelp (see pics) will also help to further release the flavour

To the miso you can add whatever vegetable you like such as diced potato, mooli, onion and so on as well as tofu: either cubed, puffed or strips of tofu skin. I just used enoki mushrooms here but really you can use whatever you like.

When making the miso soup, it is traditional to use brown miso in Tokyo: use to taste as different brands will have different strengths so add in a spoon at a time tasting as you go.

Chicken Teriyaki
serves 2

300g chicken thighs
pinch of salt
3 tbsp sake
1 leek, cut into 4 lengths, and slashed lightly at a diagonal across the surface
For the sauce

1½ tbsp soy sauce
1½ tbsp mirin
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp sake
3 tsp honey

Remove any excess fat, but not the skin, from the chicken thighs, then using a fork prick them all over the skin side. Season with the salt and sake which will help tenderise them.

Mix the sauce ingredients together.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok and over a medium high heat cook the chicken skin-side down until browned.

Flip over and add the sauce ingredients and leek.

Continue to cook over a medium heat until the sauce is thickened and the chicken cooked through. About 20 minutes.

Dashi Soup Stock
10g konbu (dried kelp)
20g katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings)
4 cups of water

Cut the edges of the konbu down both sides.

Leave to soak in the water in a saucepan for at least 30 minutes but preferably overnight.

When you are ready to make the stock heat the konbu and water until you can see small bubbles start to rise.

Add the katsuoboshi and just at the point that it will start to boil turn off the heat.

Let it sit for a little while: the bonito should settle at the bottom and when it does you can then easily remove it and the kelp.

Miso Soup

Handful of enoki mushrooms, trimmed
Brown miso, to taste
3-4 cups dashi soup stock

Bring the dashi stock to a boil in a saucepan then immediately turn down to a low simmer and add whatever vegetable and / or tofu you are using.

Add the miso gradually and let dissolve into the soup (a good trick here is to add a little miso onto a wooden spoon, hold it just on the surface of the stock and then using chopsticks mix it up with a little liquid to let it melt - otherwise you may get big clumps of miso that are hard to dissolve).

Be careful not to boil - the temperature needs to be at around 90C.

When you have added the miso to taste and it is properly dissolved serve immediately.

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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Tokyo Cooking Class

When I went to Tokyo with the bf last year he had to work for a couple of days so on one of the mornings I had to myself I had pre-booked a cooking class with a local instructor named Mari Nameshida. I honestly can’t remember how I had first found about Mari but what attracted me to her class was that it would be carried out in her home: so not only would I be learning to cook some traditional dishes in Japan but I would also have the chance to immerse myself, albeit briefly, in local culture.

The classes are also small and intimate (in mine there were 2 Australian ladies and an English, living in Netherlands couple, as well as myself and Mari) and fairly hands on with a lunch of what you have cooked to follow. Mari contacted me in advance to let me know what we would be cooking: Chicken Teriyaki, Gyoza, Sunomono (Japanese pickled salad), Dashi and Miso Soup. In fact two of the dishes - the chicken and gyoza - I had already attempted at home but I was looking forward to learning both, and in particular gyoza technique, properly.

It was lovely and relaxed: really nice to get the opportunity to chat with my fellow instructees and to get a real feel of local culture from Mari. I learnt some fascinating things that day and also got some excellent knife shopping tips and a little lesson in kanji.

I’ll have some further posts at some point with a) recipes for some of the dishes from when I cooked them at home for the bf and b) a postcard from Tokyo. Here though are some photos from the class itself - if you ever get the chance to visit Tokyo, take it and make sure you book in on a cooking class with Mari! 

Gyoza filling ingredients ready for some mixing

Getting stuck in: lightning fast!

Mixed & ready to wrap

Slicing cucumber thinly for the pickle salad

I wanted to be sure I would know what
bonito to buy to bring home for dashi

Mari demonstrating how to cook the chicken teriyaki

Group effort gyoza wrapping

Pretty pleased with my technique!

A couple of batches ready (we made a lot).

Chicken teriyaki on the left and miso with tofu puffs on the right

The chicken teriyaki is nearly done so the gyoza go on

A happy (and hungry) group

My lunch in full:  and traditionally set out

Further details about Mari's classes can be found here:

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Beef & Pea Tagine

I do love tagines: not least of all as I love the fact that you chuck it all in, forget about it and come back to something deliciously fragrant and warming. It’s just a shame that I don’t have my tagine at the moment (as naturally it is still in storage somewhere or other) but a cast iron lidded casserole can work just as well.

I’ve used culinary Argan oil here as I picked some up (as well as saffron) on our trip earlier last year to Marrakech but feel free to use olive oil. And on the subject of saffron, a tip I read somewhere on the interweb was to carefully warm it up in a dry frying pan over a fairly low heat before crumbling it with your fingers. Apparently this method will help to release the best fragrance and flavour.

To be honest you could use any veg you wanted - or meat for that matter. I’d actually wanted to get sweet potatoes but the rubbish little Sainsbury near work didn’t have any so normal spuds it had to be. I’d love to try fresh artichoke and peas as although it would undoubtedly be a bit of a faff I bet it would be luscious.

Beef & Pea Tagine
Serves 3-4

1 tbsp Argan oil
400g stewing beef, cut into 1.5 in chunks
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20g knob ginger, finely shredded
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp ground coriander
¾ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ras el hanout
¼ tsp saffron threads, lightly toasted & crumbled
500g potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm chunks
Peel of ½ orange
200g peas
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1½ tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Pour a good splash of oil into a heavy based casserole dish, heat it then add the beef and brown on all sides.

Add the onion, ginger and garlic to the meat (add a little more oil if you need to) and cook for 10 minutes or so until the onion is softened then stir in the spices (bar the saffron).

Cook for about 30 seconds before chucking the potatoes, orange peel, and tomatoes into the pot.

Season well then pour over enough water to just cover everything, giving it a gentle stir before bringing to the boil.

Take off the heat, cover with a lid and pop in the oven.

After about 1½ hours both the meat and potatoes should be tender so add the peas and saffron (and top up the water if necessary) and cook for 30 minutes longer.

Double check seasoning and adjust carefully as necessary. The amount of sauce at this point should be fine but again, if necessary, reduce the liquids until a rich sauce has formed.

Serve with steamed couscous with the almonds and chopped coriander sprinkled over.

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Slow Roast Lamb, Spiced Cauliflower & Creamy Potato Gratin

I’ve mentioned before the half lambs purchased from bf’s boss, well we were onto half lamb number 2 and at this point all we had left was shoulder. As the bf’s offspring was with us for the weekend it seemed a good time as any to have it. Well, that and the fact that for once we actually remembered to take the lamb out of the oven to defrost ready for use for a Sunday lunch feast.

Slow-cooking is the only way to go really with shoulder: which means that I can get it ready, bung it in and then get on with prepping and worrying about the rest. One thing to worry about with anything slow cooked and ergo at a low temperature is that choosing sides to accompany is a bit of a pain in the arse. Unless you have a double oven (one day, one day..) you are stuck at the one temperature for the duration of the roasting: roast potatoes for instance are out as they need a high temperature for at least 45 minutes.

So I decided on a couple of things that could be semi-cooked at a reasonably low temp, or on the hob and then blasted for 15 minutes at a higher temperature while the lamb was rested and subsequently shredded and the gravy / sauce made.

My advice here therefore is to get the lamb in and then a couple of hours later prep the ingredients for the cauliflower, gratin and sauce.

Half an hour before the lamb is due to come out (so about 3.5 hours in) get the potato slice, milk, cream combo going on the hob and chuck the cauliflower in the oven. Keep an eye on the latter and take out again once it starts to brown.

When the lamb comes out, whack the oven temperature back up to 240C, tip the potato mixture into a dish and grate over the cheese, dot with butter and put that on the top shelf with the cauliflower on the bottom. Get on with sauce and then shred the lamb. 15 minutes later everything should have come together beautifully.

Slow Roasted Lamb
2.5 kg shoulder of lamb
2 onions, sliced thickly
3-4 carrots, halved lengthways
4 -6 large sprigs rosemary
4-6 large springs of mint
1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves (unpeeled)
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
200ml white wine
200ml chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat the oven at its highest temperature (usually about 250C).

Lay the onion slices over the bottom of a high sided roasting tin then lay half of the garlic cloves on top along with half of the rosemary and half of the mint.

Score the skin side of the lamb by using diagonal cuts about 1-2 cms apart, no deeper than about an inch.

Rub all over with oil and za'atar and a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Place skin side up on top of the garlic and herbs and then add the rest of the herbs and garlic on top of the lamb.

Tip in the wine and stock and tuck the carrots alongside the lamb.

Cover as tightly as possible with foil then place in oven and turn down to 150C/340F.

Roast for four hours by which time the lamb should be very tender and falling off the bone.

Remove the lamb and carrots to a plate, set aside on top of a wooden chopping board and cover tightly with foil and a tea towel on top of that. Leave to rest for 15 minutes before shredding or pulling the meat off in chunks.

Piquant Gravy 

½ tbsp flour
the liquid from the lamb roasting tin
1 heaped tbsp capers, soaked, drained and finely chopped
½ large bunch fresh mint, leaves picked, finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Discard any bits of rosemary & mint stalk from the tray. Pick out the garlic cloves and about half of the onion and set aside.

Tip the liquid into a measuring jug, let it settle and then spoon off and discard most of the fat from the top. Spoon 1-2 tbsp of the fat back into the roasting tin.

Using a stick blender whizz up the contents of the jug very carefully.

Put the roasting tin on the hob over a medium heat and mix in the flour, scraping up any stuck on bits from the bottom as you go. Add about ⅔ of the cooking liquid from the jug, stirring all the time.

Leave to simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the capers, turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes more.

Just before serving add the mint & red wine vinegar to the sauce, give it a stir and pour into a jug.

Spiced Cauliflower
I’d bought a little selection pack of Halen Mon salts when we were in Wales (and on Anglesey specifically) earlier this year but if you’re not lucky enough to have any at your disposal use some spices such as cumin & turmeric as well as some smoked or normal Maldon sea salt.

1 small/medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
Halen Mon sea salt with spices
Halen Mon sea salt smoked over Welsh Oak
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil spray

Preheat the oven to 240C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place the florets on the baking tray and spray with olive oil a few times, toss the tray around a little and spray again.

Sprinkle over the sea salts and freshly ground black pepper and toss around again so that the florets are evenly coated in oil and spices.

Shake the tray so the florets are in as evenly a single layer as possible then place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, turning the tray every now and again (NB see note at top).

Creamy Cheesy Potato Gratin
Serves: 3-4

1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into slices 1 cm thick
250ml full fat milk
250ml double cream
1 small banana shallot, peeled and halved
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt flakes
25g unsalted butter
50-60g jarlsberg cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 240°C.

Put the potato slices into a large saucepan with the milk, cream, onion, minced garlic and salt.

Bring to the boil and cook at a robust simmer until the potato slices are tender but not dissolving into mush (this is a fairly tough call to be fair!). Discard the shallot.

Use a little of the butter to grease a medium sized tin or lasagne dish and then pour the milk, cream & potato mixture into it.

Sprinkle over the grated cheese then dot with the remaining butter.

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes or until the potato is bubbly and browned on top. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes or so before serving.

Finally, serve everything up on to the middle of your dining table and let everyone serve themselves!

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