Category Archives: Daily

Asian Inspiration

Caramelised Coconut Mackerel from Uyen Luu's book

I’ve just had a super terrific reunion weekend with three of my great friends, Kavey, Pete and Marie. We’ve been anticipating this meet-up for months (FYI: Pinterest is awesome for brainstorming foodie get togethers) and, as usual, hatched some ambitious plans for our menu. I can always count on Kavey to come armed with fun new cookbooks to try, and this weekend it was Uyen Luu’s My Vietnamese Kitchen, which became the focus of our cooking adventures and also inspired us to go with an Asian theme throughout the weekend. As a result, I’m feeling that dopamine high of having learned so many new things! Steamed fish, Shaoxing wine, fried rice, Vietnamese omelettes, Chinese salad dressings, tempura vegetables, new ways with tofu, not to mention some delicious drinks to go with them, and a few solid GAMES to keep us busy between courses (I. Love. Carcassonne.).

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I thought I’d share a few of the recipes that I particularly enjoyed.

We loved Uyen Luu’s Omelette Bánh Mi with quick pickled carrots; the perfect thing for Saturday Lunch. We also loved her Caramelised Coconut Sardines (which we adapted with mackerel, pictured above).

Saturday Lunch: Bahn Mi and Beer

Warm tofu with spicy garlic sauce, perhaps one of the easiest and most delicious preparations for tofu that I’ve ever come across.

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce

Miso Sesame Dressing, a sauce so nice we made it twice! First to go with panko fried vegetables on Friday night, and we liked it so much that we did it again on Saturday for veggie tempura.

Crispy Salad with Grated Carrots and a Ponzu Soy Dressing from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi (another stellar book find).

Harumi Kurihara's Crisp Salad with Grated Carrots and Ponzu Soy Dressing

Steamed Sea Bream with Ginger and Spring Onion, adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s sea bass recipe on matchingfoodandwine.com (we couldn’t get a hold of whole sea bass so used sea bream fillets which worked a charm). This was very simple to make and totally outstanding. Plus, it added a new ingredient to my cooking repertoire: Shaoxing wine!

Steamed sea bream with ginger and spring onion

Spicy Peanut Noodles, another Fuchsia recipe and a perfect side dish for the fish. I’ll definitely be making the peanut sauce again to use on all manners of tasty things (veggie “noodles” come to mind).

Dutch Baby Pancake with Green Tea Ice Cream.

Clafoutis with Whisky-Soaked Dates (adapted from Kate Hill‘s recipe), served with Uyen Luu’s Vietnamese Frozen Yogurt.

Made @katedecamont's clafoutis last night, with whiskey-soaked dates. Leftovers going down well for breakfast with @lovelulu's frozen yogurt.

 

Do check out Uyen Luu’s book, My Vietnamese Kitchen, and while you’re at it, check out my friends’ awesome websites too: Kavey EatsPete Drinks and Lanyon Cottages.

There’s also a few more awesome pictures from our weekend (Banangrams, Pina Coladas, Yahtzee!) on Flickr.

Mushrooms on Toast with “Limon Tuzu”

Mushrooms on Toast

Last week I received a mysterious parcel. The box read “alternating pressure pump”, but inside was neither pressure pump, bicycle pump nor breast pump. Instead, this was box recycling at its best: what once held a pressure pump now bore a wonder of delights from my friend Tim Clinch, that rad peep photographer I met in Gascony last summer and who runs stellar food photography workshops in beautiful places like France, Bulgaria and Spain.

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A few weeks ago I sent Tim a sample of the life-changing salsa macha, along with some dried chillies so he can make his own. In return, he sent me some of his homemade “oh fukkah it’s really good” dukkah along with an array of Turkish delights like date syrup, the best sumac ever (so far), dried gooseberries, a curious “raisin sausage” and this “limon tuzu”, aka lemon salt. Foodie pen pals are the best pen pals, don’t you think?

I’ve been having fun experimenting with the dukkah and spices (I’m saving the “sausage” for a special occasion). The dukkah is quickly becoming one of those “good with everything” sort of foods (much like salsa macha, and Chicago-style giardiniera since we’re on the subject). Today, it was time to tap the tuzu.

Lemon Salt

It was a spontaneous act, adding the lemon salt to the mushrooms. I was in a hunger-induced, post-swim, post-dog-walk panic, hastily frying the mushrooms, toasting the toast and barely finding the will to wash the rocket. It was time to salt the shrooms and I saw the tuzu before the sea salt, so in it went, and it totally transformed this fairly common breakfast into something totally tart, fresh and “fukkah yeah awesome”. A bit of thyme would have been great in here, but I couldn’t be bothered going outside so settled for a pinch of za’atar, which actually worked a treat.

In one sentence, here’s how it all came together: sautéed mushrooms with lemon salt and black pepper, served on sourdough toast with avocado, rocket and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

It took maybe 10 minutes to make, and I had to fight myself not to devour it in the same short amount of time.

My next mission is to photograph the dukkah as well as Tim photographed my chillies (see his blog – seriously, Tim, I will pay you for a print). Maybe Tim can help on this front, too… in fact, I know he can. And besides, I’ve always wanted to go to Bulgaria (I hear they have good cheese…and great photographers).

Winter Vegetable Breakfast Salad

Image created with Snapseed

I thought I’d start sharing my vegan breakfasts as I kick things up for the Healthy Vegan Breakfast Book. Today’s required some creativity with the veg box because I’m down to the dregs: a few carrots, half a swede (aka rutabaga to my American friends), a few broccoli florets, a head of cauliflower and a few lingering leaves of Batavia lettuce. Actually when I type it out like that it sounds like a lot of food, but I assure you the fridge looked sadly bare!

  • Cooked quinoa (leftovers)
  • Julienned carrot
  • Julienned  swede (my new favourite use for swede?)
  • Red onion
  • Broccoli, diced into small florets
  • Currants soaked in boiling water for ~10 minutes
  • Batavia lettuce
  • Crushed red chilli flakes
  • A pinch of ground cumin
  • Tahini (~ 1 Tbsp) mixed with lemon juice (~ 1/4 lemon) and enough water to make a creamy dressing
  • Salt and pepper

This takes inspiration from American recipes I’ve seen for broccoli raisin salad, and this recipe for raw cauliflower “couscous” that really intrigues me and is the likely fate of the aforementioned cauliflower.

Multigrain Bread

Multigrain bread

I haven’t been baking very much bread lately, partly because I already have a freezer full of bread, and also because I’ve been carbing it up on all the winter root veg I’ve been getting in my organic box. In truth, I feel better when I’m not eating so much bread. I don’t think it’s a gluten thing, I think it’s a self control thing: when good bread is around, I tend to eat lots of it.

The trouble is, I miss baking. And last week, I really felt like I needed to bake. More than that, I needed to Comfort Bake. I got the idea in my head that I wanted multigrain bread, and of all people, Martha Stewart came to the rescue with her Multigrain Bread recipe which ticked all the right boxes: rye flour, oats, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.

The only substitution I made was to use quinoa rather than bulgur wheat. I could definitely smell and taste the quinoa in the resulting loaf, but I loved it. I also didn’t need as much flour as the recipe called for (I had about a cup leftover), which may be partially due to quinoa not holding as much water as bulgur. This picture makes the crumb look a little, well, crumbly, but I think that’s due to my slicing the bread before it was totally cool.

I loved this bread and will certainly be making it again – with the quinoa. That is, once I get through my freezer stash.

Recipe: Multigrain Bread

Ceviche Revelation

Corn and Avocado Ceviche

I think I’ve discovered my new favourite thing to do with pollock: turn it into ceviche.

Pollock is all the rage at the moment as a sustainable alternative to cod. I got into pollock thanks to Rosalind Rathouse at Cookery School who uses it to make beautiful fish cakes and goujons (fish fingers for grown-ups). Her Fish and Shellfish class futher taught me how amazing poached pollack works with black butter sauce (but what wouldn’t be good with black butter sauce?).

Pollock is relatively inexpensive compared to most fish, but also, relatively flavourless. This makes pollock a good candidate for high flavour preparations like curries, fish tacos and, as I discovered this week, ceviche.

Ceviche is interesting – it’s an ancient method of preparing fish originating from South America where the fish gets diced and “cooked” by letting it marinate in citrus juice or other acidic liquid. Although no heat is applied, the fish obtains the colour and texture of cooked fish thanks to the interaction of acid in the citrus and protein in fish. To quote McGee, “the high acidity denatures and coagulates the proteins in the muscle tissue, so that the gel-like translucent tissue becomes opague and firm: but more delicately than it does when heated.”

Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for smoked corn and avocado ceviche using sea bass, one of my most favourite fish but also one I reserve for “special occasions”. Wild sea bass (the good stuff), is expensive, and when I have it, I like to cook it simply so I can really enjoy the flavour of the fish, not hide it in lime juice and spices.

Instead, I made his ceviche recipe with pollock, and I think it’s up there with one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever made. I served the ceviche on a crispy corn tortilla (which I achieved by heating a corn tortilla on an oiled frying pan until it was browned on both sides), with a dollop of fresh wasabi I recently acquired from The Wasabi Company. Total win.

Corn and Avocado Ceviche

Recipe: Smoked corn and avocado ceviche [guardian.co.uk]

Waldorf-Inspired Breakfast Salad

Heeding the call of the #vegan #breakfast #salad. Apple, celery, carrot, red onion, little gems, walnuts, chilli, mustard vinaigrette.

This has been breakfast the last few days, a sort of glorified vegan version of the classic Waldorf salad, inspired by this season’s apple harvest and a few stalks of celery lurking in my fridge. You could bulk this out with added quinoa, bulgar wheat, maybe a few raisins, or even a blob of yogurt, but I found this wasn’t necessary. As is, this was my idea of perfect breakfast: delicious food that satisfies without over-filling. Major feel-good factor here.

For one serving:

  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • a few thin slices of red onion
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 10g walnuts
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • a few little gem lettuce leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sliced green chilli (optional)
  • 2 tsp dijon-based vinaigrette (mine was the House Dressing recipe from Arthur Potts Dawson’s Eat Your Veg, but any mustard-based dressing would do – I love this honey mustard dressing recipe)

Mix it all together and serve.

Chilli Chocolate Beetroot Smoothie

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My experiments with “green” smoothies have led me to that happy marriage of beetroot and chocolate, but with a little twist inspired by Sumayya Jamil who recently wrote about her Chilli Chocolate Lassi with Mint and Rose Petals.

What caught my eye was the inclusion of cumin seeds and mint, so I decided to try the two with beetroot, spinach and banana. This might be my most favourite “green” smoothie to date:

  • 1/2 large banana (~75g)
  • 1 small beetroot, boiled (~60g)
  • 30g spinach
  • 1 heaped tsp cocoa powder (or more to taste)
  • 4 large ice cubes
  • a few mint leaves
  • a few cumin seeds
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of salt

Blitz until silky smooth, adding as much water as necessary.

Minted Pea and Watercress Soup

Pea and Watercress Soup with Boiled Egg

The watercress returns, because let’s face it, there are only so many watercress and apple smoothies one can drink. The rest went into this soup, adapted from this recipe on Channel 4: Minted Pea and Watercress Soup.

I used stock in place of soy milk, and didn’t bother straining out any solids: all hail the Vitamix and its ability to puree even the toughest of pea membranes and watercress stems into the finest puree. The soup is vegan, until you add the boiled egg, which makes it altogether awesome (I’m sure toasted sourdough croutons would also work a treat). On a whim, I also added some mixed seeds I toasted in a dry pan then tossed with a little soy sauce. This might be my new favourite soup garnish!

Pea and watercress soup with boiled egg and tamar-toasted seeds.

I particularly enjoyed this soup for breakfast, and as we move into winter, I expect to see more savoury breakfasts arrive in soup form.

Recipe: Minted Pea and Watercress Soup

Watercress and Apple Smoothie

Better than I thought it would be: green smoothie w/ banana, apple, avo & watercress.

My green smoothie experiments continue, and this one was a bit of a risk.

I got a big bag of watercress in the organic box this week. I don’t like watercress at the best of times, but yesterday afternoon I found myself craving a cold beverage and eager to try another green smoothie, but watercress was the only greenery I had in the house. Fruit, too, was running low – except for apples (the benefits of “Orchard Cottage”). I didn’t have many options, and so became the smoothie of randoms:

  • A handful of watercress
  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 avocado
  • a few ice cubes
  • enough water to blend it to a fine puree in the Vitamix

Shock of the day: it was actually really damn good. I thought the watercress would overpower the smoothie but it didn’t at all. It added a subtle flavour akin to a cross between mint and parsley which worked really well with the apple. It also made my “green smoothie” properly green.

I should also note that this is my first time using apple in a smoothie: revelation. My new plan is to chop up and freeze a massive quantity of orchard apples, enough to supply me with numerous smoothies for many months to come.

My First “Green” Smoothie

"Green" Smoothie

I’m doing a little life experiment – I’ve been drinking whey protein smoothies every day for the last while, but lately they’ve been making me feel kind of blah in my innards, characterised by weird digestive gurgles coupled by fatigue, and tripled by bloatiness. Gross, right?

Yes, I could just stop drinking them, but I’ve come to really enjoy my afternoon smoothie ritual – especially when they involve cocoa powder. So I’m going to use this as an excuse to find out what the fuss is about these “green smoothies” – smoothies that include something green like kale or spinach, plus fruit and other stuff to make it yummy. I’ve had my Vitamix for a couple years but have never tried one of these – until today!

My smoothie was: banana, beetroot, blackberries, a big handful of spinach, a few ice cubes, water and a heaping spoonful of cocoa powder (that’s right – cocoa powder!). I enjoyed this, though in the future I would skip the blackberries – the beetroot and cocoa are so good together, but the blackberries add a sour note that I’d rather pass on. The spinach? I couldn’t taste it very much. And it must be said: the Vitamix blended this to silky perfection.

While not as satisfying as my whey protein smoothies (I was hungry within 30 minutes of drinking this), it was also not as digestively challenging. And it was real food, which I can’t really say for “whey protein powder”. I could use this opportunity to externalise my internal debate about protein, fitness and a mostly vegetarian diet, but that would be boring. I’ll let the experiment speak for itself. Tomorrow: no blackberries, more cocoa.