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Chinese Chilli Aubergine with Rice Noodles

17 Sep

This is the third and final recipe in the Aubergine series for this season. Designed to convert even the most stubborn of aubergine haters out there. The previous two recipes were Berenjenas con Miel (Andalucian Fried Aubergines with Cane Honey) and Curried Aubergine with Chickpeas & Tomato.

I have to admit that I have saved the best for last. I first saw this recipe on Gary Rhodes’ Rhodes Across China series. He visited  many different regions in China cooking their signature dishes. At the end of the series he cooked a banquet showcasing all of his favourite Chinese recipes. This was one of his favourites. It was from Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province.

“It is said that ‘China is the place for food, but Sichuan is the place for flavour’. Food from the region is famously spicy, and girls from the capital Chengdu are reputed to be the most beautiful in the country as the chillies purge their skin of impurities.

Sichuan is as large as France with a population that is almost twice the size of Britain’s. Bordered by the snow-capped Himalayas, the inaccessible region has developed a unique culture and distinct cooking style. Most local people ascribe the spiciness of Sichuan cooking to the muggy climate. The best way to drive out the cold and moisture is with a kick of chilli heat.”
 
Not surprisingly I love Sichuan food. As you may have noticed I am partial to a bit of chilli and I also love the fragrant, tingly, numbing heat given out by the Sichuan peppercorn. This dish doesn’t contain Sichuan peppercorns but it has reminded me how much I loved a Sichuan spicy peanut noodle dish we served at the restaurant. It made your lips go numb, in a good way. I’m definitely going to hunt down that recipe and share it with you.
 
Chinese Chilli Aubergine with Rice Noodles
 
serves 2-3, vegan gluten-free. Adapted from Gary Rhodes Across China
  • 225-250 gr rice noodles (I used medium)
  • 1 large aubergine (about 450 gr)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 2 tbsp chilli bean paste
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (pickled chilli sauce)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped, green & white parts separated
  • a handful of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves separated and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 200 ml veg stock
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (or kecap manis)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 -3 tsp brown sugar
  •  1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp corn flour (corn starch) mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • sesame seeds

Peel the aubergine by cutting off the top and bottom and peeling with a knife from top to bottom. Cut in half lengthways and then cut into “chips” about 5cm x 1.5cm x 1.5cm.

Meanwhile cook the noodles in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet, drain in a colander and rinse under the cold tap to stop them cooking and sticking together. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan until hot. Deep-fry the aubergine chips in about 3 batches until soft and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.

Carefully pour away all but 1 tbsp of the hot oil into a heat proof bowl and leave to cool before discarding. Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in the wok and add in the chilli bean paste, sambal oelek, ginger, garlic, coriander stalks and the white parts of the chopped spring onion. Stir fry for about 30 seconds

Pour in the rice wine/sherry and stock, bring to the boil and reduce for 2-3 minutes. Then put the aubergine back into the sauce.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Taste for sweetness, it should be sweet, tangy and hot. Add more sugar, soy sauce or vinegar if necessary. Dissolve the cornflour in the water and add to the sauce, stir until thickened slightly.

Stir through the cooked noodles and reheat.

Serve in warm bowls garnished with the green parts of the spring onion, chopped coriander leaves and sprinkle over some sesame seeds.

This really is the best aubergine recipe out there. It converted me and I was a hater. Because the aubergine is peeled it melts right into the spicy sauce coating the noodles in beautiful deliciousness.

Try it!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

These beautiful hot pink flowers. I don’t know what they are but they look like bright pink feathery fans. The kind they use for Burlesque dancing…..

And these dying sunflowers look like those gorgeous big shower heads. I want…

Enjoy the rest of your weekend….

Tempura Green Peppers with Dipping Sauce

2 Sep

First of all, sorry for my lack of posts recently. I’ve had some sort of virus and I couldn’t eat. I know, it was awful. Everything made me feel sick, even the smell of food was repulsive. I haven’t cooked anything for a week. The Washer Up has been surviving on pasta (and beer obviously) and is now desperate for something different.

This has been on my “to make” list ever since these beautiful long emerald peppers first made an appearance in the fields where we walk the dog about  a month ago. They are known as frying peppers here and are used in a typically Andaluz dish called Pimientos Fritos (fried peppers) where they are simply fried in lots of good olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

This Spanish/Japanese fusion came to me because I wanted to do something a little different from the usual fried peppers and I saw Nami’s recipe for Shrimp Tempura. She also posted a video of a Japanese chef making proper tempura and I was intrigued. It looked light, airy, crispy and delicate. A million miles away from the doughy excuses you get for tempura in most places.

They are not perfect but I’m really pleased with my first attempt at making tempura. They are light, crispy and gorgeous with the dipping sauce. It’s not as hard as I thought. The kitchen’s a bit of  a state though, better clean that up before The Washer Up gets home…

I’d definitely recommend heading over to Nami’s blog and watching the video if you are going to have a go at this. It’s amazing to watch and so much easier than me trying to explain it!

Green Pepper Tempura with Dipping Sauce Recipe

Serves 2, vegan. Adapted from Just One Cookbook

  • 4 medium long green peppers (frying peppers)
  • 2 or 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch, maizena)
  • 100 gr (3/4 cup) flour. I’m going to try it with rice flour next time.
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 200 ml iced water
  • oil for deep-frying

For the dipping sauce:

  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) water
  • 1/2 tsp dashi flakes/powder (I used ajishima no dashi)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine or sake
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • a pinch of shichimi (a Japanese 7 spice chilli pepper mix)
  • salt & shichimi to serve

First make the dipping sauce. Heat all the ingredients in a small sauce pan over a medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the dashi. When boiling remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Cut your peppers in half lengthways, through the stalk so that both sides has a bit of stalk to pick them up with. Lay them on a plate and sieve over the cornflour. Turn the peppers in the cornflour until evenly coated. Heat up your oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium high heat, 170 C.

Sieve the flour, baking powder & salt into a bowl and whisk in the ice-cold water until just combined to make a batter. Don’t over whisk. 

Dip your peppers into the batter and coat them well (you will need to do it in two batches). Carefully lower them into the hot oil and sprinkle over some more batter from a height with your fingers. This gives it that extra light crispy coating. Use a metal slotted spoon or chopsticks to move the peppers onto the bits of batter (watch the video it explains it so much better) and cook for 2 or 3 minutes turning once to cook on both sides.

Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest.

To serve, pile up the peppers sprinkle with sea salt and shichimi pepper and pour some of the dipping sauce into a bowl.

 Buen Provecho!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……..

I’ve been trying to get a shot of this for ages. There’s a pair of them in the spring where Rufus likes to cool down. They look like a cross between a dragonfly and a butterfly. The Washer Up got the shot in the end, he was more patient then me and willing to balance on a rock in the stream while trying not to fall in.

He also spotted this one through a gap in a fence….

I love that you can see it’s cute little face…

Have a great weekend…

My 7 Links Challenge, Pass it on…

21 Aug

There’s a challenge going around the blogosphere at the moment called The Seven Links Challenge. I have been nominated by four different bloggers over the past few weeks and I am very honoured, if not a little apprehensive, to be thought of for this.

I would like to say a massive thank you to the lovely ladies who passed this on to me, starting with E from Legally Blissful, who has just started law school and is following her bliss. Tiffany from Como Water a kindred spirit with a positive soul, Tanya from Chica Andaluza my fellow guiri living the dream in Andalucia, and last but by no means least Sawsan from Chef in Disguise my Middle East meets West kitchen guru.

This is the Challenge:

THE GOAL

To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.

THE RULES

1)     Blogger is nominated to take part

2)     Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category.

– Your most beautiful post
– Your most popular post
– Your most controversial post
– Your most helpful post
– A post whose success surprised you
– A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
– The post that you are most proud of

3)     Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part

So here are my “7 links”

Most Beautiful Post…

Chocolate, Fig & Almond Rosewater Brownies….

Or Beautiful Almond Blossom & Amaretti Biscuits

Are you noticing a theme here? I like pink flowers….

Most Popular Post….

Chargrilled Broccoli & Beans with Garlic, Chilli & Sweet Soy Rice Noodles…..

This was featured on Freshly Pressed, the front page of WordPress and had 45oo hits in 2 days. Very exciting!

Most Controversial Post…..

Mint Julep Peaches Via Iran….

This was featured on Foodpress and got quite a lot of hits. I didn’t think this was controversial but I received a comment saying that the book I was reviewing “Reading Lolita in Tehran” was considered by most Iranians to be“baloney”.

I’d just like to point out that all the opinions on this blog are mine and mine only and the last time I looked freedom of speech and expression were legal, at least they are here.

Most Helpful Post…..

Thai Squash Wonton Soup & Spring Rolls….

I don’t know how helpful it is but there’s some pictures of how to fold wontons and spring rolls. And the filling is delicious!

Most Surprisingly Successful Post….

Spanish Onion Soup on the Beach…..

I was really surprised when this made the Foodbuzz Top 9 and ended up at number one. It was the first time I had been featured anywhere. It’s my Spanish take on the classic French Onion Soup.

Or Indian Lentil Dhal with Potato Stuffed Parathas

This one of my really early posts but it still get loads of traffic now through search engines. It must be something to do with the way it’s titled or something, I don’t know.

The Post That Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved……

Halloumi Tikka Kebab with Turmeric & Cardamom Risotto & Tamarind Syrup

This is definitely one of mine and the The Washer Up’s all time favourite dishes. The texture of the halloumi that has been marinated in yoghurt & spices is a revelation and the complex balance of  flavours makes it a real winner.

The Post I am Most Proud Of……

Definitely Grandad’s Pickled Onions..

They’re amazing and so is he….xx

Okay so now I have to pass this challenge on to 5 other bloggers. I have chosen these five because they are blogs that I enjoy following that are quite new to me and I am really interested to see what they come up with from their archives.

Beth Michelle

Pease Pudding

The Sometimes Zoo

Sunshine & Smile

Crumb

Beloved Green

That’s 6, I know. If you get a chance you should check out their lovely blogs, if you don’t know them already.

And I look forward to seeing your gone but not forgotten posts…

Thai Spiced Corn Cakes with Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce

5 Aug

As you probably all know by now, I have a chilli plant on the terrace which is producing lots of beautiful red birds-eye chillis at the moment. We are overrun with them. I pick some every day and freeze them in a plastic pot. Make that two plastic pots, that are full.

I love Thai sweet chilli sauce so it didn’t take me long to realise that I wanted to make some with our chillis. This homemade version has none of the nasty chemicals that you find in many of the store-bought sweet chilli sauces and it tastes just as good. I think it’s even better. The Washer Up thinks so too, he said it’s less sweet and more rounded, so there you go.

Inspiration for what to make to go with this fabulous sauce came from watching these towering sweetcorn plants growing while walking the dog in the morning. I swear they must grow about a foot every day.

This one has pink hair for some reason, does that mean the corn will be pink too?

I made two attempts at these corn cakes/fritters. The first recipe I used didn’t hold together very well in the pan. I ended up with a spicy sweetcorn hash with some very small cakes because the sweetcorn breaks away very easily from the cakes.

For my second attempt I followed The Washer Up’s instruction. He wisely explained that sweetcorn is a bit of a nightmare (in his experience) and that it would hold together much better if I blended half of the mixture and then added the rest of the corn kernels for some texture. So that is what I did, and it worked.

Those Thai street vendors who are knocking out hundreds of the things every day, no problem at all, obviously know something we don’t. If you are brave enough, you can try it without blending the mix first, to see if you have any more success than I did. I would definitely add a bit more egg though, and keep your fingers crossed.

Thai Spiced Corn Cakes & Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce

For the Sweet Chilli Sauce:

makes a 250 ml bottle, vegan, gluten-free. From Chilli World

  • 10 chillies, finely chopped
  • 225 gr (1 cup) sugar
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) white vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (or fish sauce)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime/lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cornflour

Remove the stems from the chillis and finely chop them (wearing gloves is a good idea). Put them in a small saucepan with the sugar, water, vinegar, garlic, paprika and salt and bring to a rolling boil over a medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar for a few seconds then reduce the heat to low

Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly and thickens to a light syrup, about 10-15 minutes. Mix the cornflour with a few tablespoons of water in a cup until smooth then stir this into the sauce. Cook for another few minutes until thickened slightly then remove from the heat and stir in the soy (or fish) sauce and lime/lemon juice.

Pour the hot sauce into a sterilised (boiled in water, then dried in a warm oven for 5 minutes) bottle, seal and leave to cool before storing in the fridge.

For the Thai Spiced Corn Cakes:

serves 2-3, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 fresh corn cobs
  • 1o fine green beans, trimmed & finely sliced
  • about 100 gr (1/2 cup) polenta (cornmeal), plus extra for coating
  • 50 gr (1/3 cup) masa arepa (precooked corn flour) or plain flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp Thai green curry paste (or red)
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • salt & white pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for cooking
  • Thai sweet chilli sauce to serve (see above)
  • lime cheeks, to serve

Mix the corn, polenta, masa arepa flour (or plain flour), eggs, curry paste, green beans, spring onion, coriander, chilli, soy sauce and lime juice in a bowl until well combined.

Take out about half of the mixture and blend it to a chunky paste. Add this back into the rest of the sweetcorn and mix well. Season with salt and white pepper then taste to see if you want to add any more curry paste/lime juice/salt. Cover and put in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up.

Pour a thin layer of polenta onto a large flat plate. Remove the mix from the fridge and start to take small handfuls of the mix and make them into pattie shapes. You may want to squeeze them to make them hold together well. Put them on the polenta plate and lightly coat both sides. You can cover and refrigerate again now if you like.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the corn cakes for about 3 minutes on each side until golden & crispy. Serve immediately with the sweet chilli sauce and a lime cheek to spritz over.

The sweet chilli sauce can be used as a dipping sauce for anything really. Fried food works particularly well and it is also great as a base for a Thai salad dressing or marinade. Just add some soy sauce, lime juice and sesame oil, taste and adjust to your liking.

Enjoy!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today….

We finally found some Agapanthus. We’ve been looking for some since we came back from here. Their season is nearly over but we had to have them anyway.

We are having some cushion covers made for this seating area on the terrace. The fabrics we bought are different faded blue linens, so all the plants in that area now are going to be on a blue and white theme. I can’t wait for the cushions to be ready and then I will take some proper pictures with it all set up, exciting!

He does planting as well as washing up!

Chargrilled Broccoli and Beans with Chilli, Garlic and Sweet Soy Rice Noodles

10 Jul

I know broccoli isn’t usually the most exciting of vegetables. I know it can be a bit bland and boring. Time to rethink that. With this treatment it transforms into a shining star.

Seriously, we can’t get enough of it. The Washer Up, my toughest critic, has claimed it his favourite thing. To quote “This is the best thing you’ve ever made”. You can’t argue with that can you?

My best friend Tara bought me the Ottolenghi cookbook for my birthday. I am steadily working my way through it and every recipe that I have tried has been a definite winner. It’s all about the flavour and colour which is the kind of food I love. It has a definite Middle Eastern theme, but not solely. There are recipes from all over the world.

What I noticed, while flicking through, was that a lot of the food is cooked on a griddle pan. It adds to the flavour and appearance of a dish, giving a certain smokiness and the attractive black stripes that make such a difference to the overall impression.

I didn’t own griddle pan. I do now. Get ready for chargrilled everything.

It is chargrilling the broccoli and then drenching it in a garlic & chilli infused olive oil that makes this dish so special. You can serve it on its own, as a side dish with anything, or make it the star on top of some sweet soy rice noodles. Either way it’s delicious. You need to try this. 

Chargrilled Broccoli & Beans with Garlic, Chilli & Sweet Soy Rice Noodles

serves 2 -3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

  • 1 large head broccoli
  • a handful of french beans
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 mild red chillies, thinly sliced (or 1 hot red chilli)
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 250 gr fat (XL) rice noodles (or any noodles)
  • 2 tbsp kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) or use soy sauce plus 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (vegetarian)
  • 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • a handful of cashew nuts or flaked almonds, toasted

Separate the broccoli into florets with small stems still attached. Trim off  the stalk ends of the beans. Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water for exactly 2 minutes (no more). Then quickly transfer it, with a slotted spoon, to a large bowl of iced water, to stop the cooking. Now do the same with the beans.

Drain the broccoli & beans in a colander and then spread them out on a clean tea towel and leave to dry completely.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and rinse under the cold tap to stop them sticking together. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the dried veg with 3 tbsp olive oil and season generously with salt & black pepper. Place a ridged griddle pan over a high heat and leave it for 5 minutes to heat up. Grill the veg in batches so it’s not too crowded. Leave them for a minute on one side then turn them over so they get nice char marks on all sides. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and continue to griddle the rest.

Meanwhile put the 75 ml olive oil in a small saucepan with the sliced garlic & chillies. Cook them over a medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn golden brown. Don’t let it burn. Remove from the heat and pour the hot oil over the bowl of hot broccoli & beans and toss together well. Check seasoning.

Heat up a wok, or large frying pan, over a medium high heat, add in the cooked noodles, kecap manis (or soy sauce & honey), sesame oil and oyster sauce. Heat through the noodles and then throw in the veg. Toss everything together well and serve in deep bowls.

Squeeze over some lemon/lime juice and sprinkle with the toasted nuts and chopped coriander.

You are going to love this. Broccoli has never tasted so good, honestly. If you don’t own a grill pan go out and buy one now.

It’s just a bit of a bitch to clean….. Apparently.

Things that made me smile today…..

Dragonflies…

Butterflies….

And bugs…

Hasta Luego!!

Mee Goreng – Malaysian Fried Noodles

22 Jun

Mee goreng which translates as fried noodles is a very popular dish in Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore. Thought to be derived from Chow Mein, it is believed to have been brought over by Chinese immigrants.

There are hundreds of different variations of  Mee Goreng. It is sold from stalls as street food as well as in high-end restaurants. Some versions contain prawns, chicken or beef.  This recipe came from Ami’s Vegetarian Delicacies who lives in Malaysia. I changed the egg noodles to soba noodles to keep it vegan & gluten-free and used cashews instead of peanuts but apart from that it is fairly similar to her original recipe.

Malaysian Mee Goreng Recipe

serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Amis Vegetarian Delicacies

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 150 gr mushrooms , cleaned & thinly sliced
  • a handful of cashew nuts (I used salted)
  • 150 gr chinese cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shaved into ribbons with a peeler
  • 1 stick celery, diagonally sliced
  • 1 tbsp chilli bean paste
  • 200 gr soba noodles (or egg noodles)
  • 2 or 3 spring onions, sliced diagonally (save some of the green parts for garnish)
  • 1 spring garlic, finely sliced

For the sauce

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce or kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (vegetarian)
  • 1 tbsp curry paste (I used Massaman curry paste)
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (Indonesian chilli sauce)

To Garnish

  • a handful of fresh coriander/chives (optional)
  • a few slices of spring onion (green parts)
  • a handful of cashew nuts (I used salted)
  • a handful of crispy fried onions (bought in a bag/tub)

Heat the olive and sesame oils in a large frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cashew nuts and cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are browned. Tip this into a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan add a bit more of the oils, when hot , stir in the cabbage, carrot, celery and chilli bean paste and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Tip this into the bowl with the mushrooms and mix well.

Meanwhile cook the noodles in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet, drain them in  a colander, rinse under the cold tap to stop them cooking and set aside.

For the sauce heat the sesame oil in the same frying pan over a medium heat and stir fry the spring onion, garlic and ginger for 2 minutes but don’t let it burn. Then add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir everything together for a minute.

Reduce the heat slightly, stir in the noodles and cooked vegetables and mix everything to coat in the sauce and heat through. Serve immediately garnished with more cashews, spring onions, crispy onions and fresh coriander/chives.

This is also equally delicious served cold/room temperature the next day as a salad.  This gives the flavours time to develop and mingle together.

Enjoy!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

A field of lilac flowers….

Apricot Oleander….

Bright orange/coral rose, amazing…..

Roasted Butternut Squash and Miso Risotto

2 Jun

It was my birthday on Tuesday (I’m 38!). I had a bit of a boring morning, went to the hospital for a chest X-Ray (just a follow-up thing) then went food shopping in Mercadona (not exciting). It got better from then on though, I bought a new yellow dress (I’ve got a thing about yellow at the  moment) and then “The Washer Up” left work early so we could go out for a late dinner at our favourite Indian Restaurant (wearing the new yellow dress).

The Mumtaz Mahal in Coin is the restaurant that we love. We love the food (always delicious) and the staff (so polite & friendly) and we can take the dog and sit outside.  The food is stunning, none of that “one sauce fits all” type of Indian restaurant. Every dish has a unique flavour and is cooked to perfection.

We have been guilty, in the past, of always ordering the same things because they are so gorgeous (tarka dal, chana masala, vegetable balti, bombay aloo) but recently have decided to branch out and order something different every time we go.

My latest favourite is the Paneer Tikka. Paneer is an Indian cheese made in a similar way to ricotta which is then pressed to firm it up. The paneer is marinaded in the tikka sauce, threaded onto skewers with peppers & onions and then cooked until slightly charred. It comes out sizzling on a cast iron and wooden plate which all adds to the drama, I love it..

Please excuse the dodgy photo, I still haven’t worked out how to take pictures at night with this camera but you get the idea. And, before you say it, yes I did eat cheese, it was my birthday treat, I had a day off the detox (yay)!

They also do the most amazing bread called an Onion Kulcha which is a mixture between naan and pizza topped with onions, chilli and coriander. We have that every time without fail which means we don’t try any of the other breads but I just can’t not order it, it’s that good.

Oh and we always order far too much which means we get to take the leftovers away and eat (and photograph) them the next day….

Back to the recipe. I know that squash isn’t exactly seasonal here at the moment but I saw the bright orange in a sea of green and had to buy it. A lot of my readers are in the southern hemisphere (including my dad in South Africa) where it is  Autumn/Winter so I’ll use that as my excuse.

I usually make a squash and feta cheese risotto. I like the combination of the sweet squash and the sour salty feta. Making a vegan version was going to be challenge. I needed to get that same contrast in flavours without the cheese. Inspiration came from A Meandering Mango in Australia. She made a roasted squash soup with miso as she didn’t have any stock. Miso has that umami savouriness that I needed to off set the sweet squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Miso Risotto

serves 3, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1/2 butternut squash (about 700 gr) including seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 200 gr brown wholegrain rice (or risotto rice)
  • a big splash of beer
  • 1- 1 1/2 litres veg stock
  • 1 heaped tbsp miso paste
  • fresh coriander leaves to garnish
  • lime wedges to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Scrape the seeds out of the squash with a spoon, wash all the orange stringy bits off and dry the seeds. Place them in one layer on a piece of foil drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and roast in the preheated oven for 4 -5 minutes until golden. Keep an eye on them they burn quickly!

Remove the seeds from the oven and turn it up to 210 C. Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes (I didn’t peel it), put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle over the chilli flakes and season with the salt & black pepper. Toss everything together with your hands so evenly coated and lay the squash out in one layer. Roast in the 210 C oven for 35 -40 minutes until well cooked, softened and slightly browned.

After about 20 minutes you can start making the risotto. Put the veg stock and miso paste in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the miso while you make the risotto. In a large pan heat the olive oil over a medium heat, add the onion, celery and a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft but not browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice and stir to coat in the onions. When the rice is starting to turn translucent at the edges, add a good splosh of beer and cook until all the liquid disappears. Add a ladleful of the hot miso stock into the rice and stir or swirl the pan until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladleful of stock, stir or swirl until absorbed and continue like this until the rice is nearly cooked. About 20 minutes with risotto rice, wholegrain rice takes about 25 minutes and more stock.

Stir in most or all of the roasted squash (depending on the size of your squash) and cook for 5 more minutes until it has melted into the risotto. Taste for seasoning, add salt if necessary.

Serve topped with the roasted squash seeds, a few fresh coriander leaves and a wedge of lime to spritz over if you like.

This has a slightly unusual flavour for a risotto but it is really delicious. In fact I’ve come up with the perfect name for it, it’s a misotto. You should give it a go, it’s surprisingly good, whatever the season…

Things that made me smile today..

Wild Orchids…

So beautiful…

A definite “Moment of Gratitude”…

Enjoy!!

Sesame Soba Noodle Salad with Spring Onions, Chives and Awards

14 May

I’ll start by saying a big thank you to Kimberli at Kimberli’s Kitchen for passing a Versatile Blogger award onto me. Go and check out her blog, she makes lovely cookies!

The rules of these things are that :

  1. You must thank the person who awarded you by linking back to their post (check)
  2. You have to list 7 interesting things about yourself  (Seven! Oh dear) 
  3. You have to pass the award on to 15 other new or newly discovered blogs. (That’s the easy part)

The following blogs are new (or new-ish) to me and I find them all inspiring in different ways…

Journeys of Your Life. Andrew is living the dream and doing his round the world trip in style. Stops in New York, Peru, Thailand, Bali, India and more. Jealous much?!

A Meandering Mango Bhavani takes some of the most beautiful pictures of food I have seen. I want to be that good!

Pearl & Pine Sarah has an understated and beautiful blog. Her food is simple and elegant. I love her photos of Seattle it makes me want to live there even though it seems to rain all the time!

The Culinary Taste Rita lives in Tuscany with her husband and little boy Lapo. She makes simple, seasonal Italian inspired food and she has just written a children’s book for her son’s first birthday.

Beloved Green Clarkie makes delicious food that you want to eat. Her step by step photos are always gorgeous and she has a soft spot for beautifully designed things.

Two Tarts Sarah are Dulcie are two friends who like to cook and make things from scratch. They show you how to make things like ricotta and mascarpone and then give you a list of gorgeous recipes to make with them. They also post full menus for entertaining which is really brilliant.

Chocolate Chilli Mango As the name suggests, Viviane is obsessed with chocolate and uses her Italian genes to come up with some beautifully delicious sweet things that may have an exotic Aussie twist!

KO Rasoi Sanjana makes the most mouth-watering Indian vegetarian food out there and photographs it beautifully.

Alexa Marsden Alexa is an artist and photographer who also has a  beautiful vegetarian/vegan food blog. Some people can just be too talented you know!

Sweet Caroline’s Cooking Caroline is, as the name suggests, very sweet. Her happy, smiling face greets you when you arrive at her blog and you immediately feel at home. Home cooked beautiful food at it’s best. Margarita cupcakes, need I say more!

Mission Delectable Kirsten lives in San Francisco and I love every delicious recipe she posts. Her photos are light and beautiful, and her dog is just gorgeous!

Moderate Oven Dani makes healthy, seasonal dishes for her family using local produce and has a beautiful vegetable garden to pick from too. So jealous!

A little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock n’ Roll Mama J muses on food, family, music and life. Her vegetarian food is always what I want to eat right now. She also takes beautiful pictures of flowers!

Rufus’ Food & Spirit Guide Rufus is not a spirit guide in the yogic sense (as I thought when I first read it!). What he does do is make interesting, eclectic recipes and amazing cocktails. I love that combination!

The Taste Space  Janet/Saveur posts delicious vegetarian recipes with a definite world flavour. Think Middle Eastern, Asian and Mexican with a whole lot more thrown in. My idea of heaven! 

Okay so that’s my 15 new- ish finds. I really hope you check them out and have a good look round. You won’t regret it and if you feel like leaving a comment don’t forget to say who sent you…..

So back to the recipe while I struggle to find SEVEN interesting things to share about myself….

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat so they are gluten-free. They are also delicious. They have a nutty whole-wheat flavour which goes perfectly with the sesame oil. You can serve them hot in a stir fry or noodle broth but I actually prefer them cold which is how the Japanese serve them. Something about the cold bringing out the flavours and textures I think. They are also extremely more- ish (not Moorish). You can definitely eat a large bowl by yourself, no problem. Which is fine because they’re good for you.

This is our little chive plant which is growing on our roof terrace. It’s beautiful purple flowers make it stand out from the rest of the herbs so I wanted to do a recipe using chives as a main ingredient. This is a Nigella recipe that I make quite often, I just added the chives, it’s delicious…

Sesame Soba Noodle Salad with Spring Onions & Chives

serves 1, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe

  • about 100 gr soba noodles (about 200 gr cooked)
  • 3 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • a bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • 25 gr (or more) sesame seeds, toasted

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat until golden brown, and tip them into a bowl. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt. Put in the soba noodles and cook them for about 6 -8 minutes (or according to packet instructions) until they are just tender. Have a bowl of iced water waiting to plunge them into after draining.

In the bowl you are going to serve the noodles in, whisk together the vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil. Then add most of the spring onions and chives into the bowl with the cooled, drained noodles and mix together thoroughly before adding most of the sesame seeds and tossing again.

Leave the sesame noodles for about half an hour to let the flavours develop if physically possible.  If not, serve straight away garnished with the remaining, spring onions, chives and sesame seeds.

Okay so here we go: Seven “Interesting” Facts you may not know about me……

  1. I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years (that’s scary)
  2. When I was 13 I saw an episode of the TV show MASH where they had a pet lamb. By the end of the show they had to eat it. I never ate meat again.
  3. I developed breast cancer 2 years ago aged 36. I’ve just finished my treatment which was 6 months of chemo & lapatinib (a clinical trial) followed by an operation to remove the tumor. Then 6 weeks of radiotherapy and then a year of Herceptin.
  4. I now feel better than ever and attribute my swift recovery to a combination of conventional treatment, healthy diet (during treatment I stopped eating dairy (cow) products and all sugars, including fruit), reiki sessions and some alternative medicines such as Salvestrol, LDN and Melatonin. Salvestrol and LDN I will continue to take for the rest of my life.
  5. We used to own a restaurant where I designed the menus but I never went in the kitchen, except to make tea.
  6. None of my friends and family can believe that I now cook because from the age of 18 I lived on a diet that consisted of Marks & Spencer’s mashed potato and hummus, and I NEVER cooked!
  7. My ambition is to publish a vegetarian/vegan cookbook that will be a  vegetarian culinary journey around the world.

Enjoy!!

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom and Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

21 Apr

Laos is in South East Asia bordered by Northeast Thailand, Viet Nam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia & China. It is another place on my list of must visit countries that keeps growing by the day. I found the link to this recipe on Tes at Home. Tes grew up in Northeast Thailand but now lives in India. This recipe is my vegetarian version of her childhood memories of  a dish called Or Lam that she found on Eating Asia.  I took ingredients and techniques from both recipes and cooked the rice in the same pot but it would normally be served with sticky rice on the side. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any fresh dill for this dish so I replaced it with fresh coriander. Feel free to substitute the dill back in or a mixture of both would be nice.

You start by making a curry paste with shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt.  This is fried off then veg stock is added before adding the vegetables. The idea is to cook the aubergine until it is very soft and thickens the stew. I used my metal tea infuser to flavour the dish with Sichuan peppercorns and black peppercorns. This way you get some of the aromatic heat from the peppercorns but not the full on numb lips experience. I used 15 of each in the tea infuser. You could also use a  piece of muslin tied at the top with string). Or crush a smaller amount of each to add to the dish, say five of each.

Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom & Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl

serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • 1 large aubergine, quartered lengthways then cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 100 gr mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • 100 gr green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped( I used 2 garlic & 1 spring garlic)
  • 6 shallots (I used 1/2 spring onions), roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, roughly sliced
  • 3 lime leaves, sliced
  •  1 red or green chilli, roughly chopped
  • a handful of coriander stalks
  • 1 tsp salt (or 1 tbsp fish sauce)
  • about 500 ml veg stock
  • 15 Sichuan peppercorns
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 150 gr wholegrain rice
  • 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish

Put the shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt (or fish sauce) into a bowl or food processor and blend to a smoothish paste. Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add in the paste and stir fry for a minute. Add in the veg stock and put both sets of peppercorns in the tea infuser(or muslin bag) and hang it  over the side of the pan so it is submerged in the liquid (or throw in the muslin bag).  Bring to the boil.

Add in the mushrooms, aubergine and rice, season with salt and boil for another minute. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about another 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the aubergine is soft and melting into the stock. If you like you can take out a ladle full of the stew and blend until smooth before adding back into the pot.

Add in the green beans and spinach, stir, cover and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes until the beans are cooked. Stir in the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning.

Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with extra coriander leaves.

Imagine yourself on the banks of the Mekong river watching the boats go by or strolling through a colourful food market selling exotic, unknown foods, listening to the strange language and trying to recognise the unfamiliar smells. I will get there.. one day….

Thai Spiced Crispy Cabbage Pancake (or Japanese Pizza)

18 Mar

I was looking for a recipe to use up the other half of  the cabbage I used to make my Cabbage, Potato & Leek Soup and found this on 101 Cookbooks. The origianl version is called Okonomiyaki but is also known as Japanese Pizza. It is nothing like a pizza except, I suppose, it’s round. It is delicious though and you can add whatever flavourings you like. I added some toasted sushi nori (the seaweed sheets) and some Thai Massaman curry paste which gave it great flavour. It’s kind of like street food in your own home. It has that crispy, fried, spicy addictive thing that you want to eat with your hands. The shredded cabbage is mixed with leeks, eggs, wholemeal flour and whatever seasoning you fancy.

It’s a mixture of a pancake, frittata, tortilla, rosti and squeak without the bubble. But it definitely is not a pizza….

Thai Spiced Crispy Cabbage Pancake (or Japanese Pizza)

makes 3 or 4 large thin pancakes, vegetarian. Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  • 1/2 head cabbage, core removed and finely shredded
  • 1 large leek, dark green ends removed, cut in half lengthways, rinsed well and sliced
  • 100 gr wholemeal flour (or plain)
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 2 tbsp curry paste (whatever you have)
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 2 sheets of sushi nori (toasted under the grill for few seconds on each side)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • fresh coriander to serve

In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, leeks, flour, salt & black pepper until everything is coated in the flour. Stir in the beaten eggs, curry paste, oyster sauce and finely crumble over the toasted nori sheets. Mix well to make sure everything is evenly distribited.

Heat  about 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add a quarter of the cabbage mixture to the hot pan and press it out and down to fill the pan with a metal spatula. Make sure it is quite thin & flat. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. To flip it, slide it out onto a plate, place another plate on top and turn them over. Add some more oil to the pan if necessary and slide the pancake back into the frying pan. Press down with the spatula and cook for a further 3 -5 minutes until golden on that side too.

Serve straight away garnished with lots of fresh coriander leaves. This is a perfect quick and easy supper or brunch dish with bags of flavour. Great hangover food that isn’t bad for you!!

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