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Indochine Melon Coconut Curry, Lemongrass, Coriander, Rice Noodles

26 Mar

This was one of the five different vegetarian curries we had the pleasure of trying at Indochine restaurant on the Delaire Graff Wine Estate. The whole experience was out of this world but this curry was the best I have ever had. And I’ve had a lot. I’d even go so far as to say it is one of the best dishes I have ever tried from anywhere in the world.

It’s unusual, elegant, fragrant, well-balanced, exotic, beautiful and totally delicious. It’s not actually on the menu, the chef on the evening that we were there, Virgil prepared a special selection of vegetarian curries for us to try. If anyone is listening from Indochine, you should definitely put it on your menu. It is really fantastic.

The drive up to the Delaire Graff Wine Estate has stunning views of the surrounding mountains and when you drive up through the shady tree-lined drive to see the well-manicured lawns and row upon row of parallel vines, you know you have arrived somewhere special.

And if you thought that the exterior was beautiful you have to see the interior to believe it.  The entrance lobby is flooded with light and filled with huge exotic flower arrangements. Bronze sculptures and water features punctuate the space, creating a modern African glass jungle.

Contributing to the theme, the lounge areas are decorated with gold and ebony pieces that transport you the colonial luxury lodge of your dreams. Or is it just me? I could definitely get used to this.

The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass doors opening out onto a terrace that takes full advantage of those spectacular views.  The copper and blue theme mirrors the red earth and blue sky of the surroundings bringing the outdoors in.

The curved banquette seating, facing the view is perfect for an intimate dinner for two.

A lovely detail, they have little pots of microherbs on the tables. Should you need a little more coriander.

Let’s get onto the food. First a bamboo basket arrived filled with pickled cucumber, black rice crackers (amazing), sweet potato crisps and a trio of sauces to go with them. Passionfruit, cucumber and pineapple & chilli. We chose a bottle of the Delaire Sauvignon Blanc as recommended by our excellent waiter. It had a hint of passionfruit which made it the perfect wine pairing with the spicy, fragrant dishes to come.

The amuse bouche was a little mouthful of tofu, mushroom, edamame and coconut sauce. Beautifully presented on a piece of slate. You may have noticed that I am plating some of my food on a slate tile at the moment. This is where the inspiration came from.

Our starter was an Indian Spiced Makhani Tofu Croquette, cinnamon confit tomatoes, pickled root vegetables, raita, beet leaves and tomato chutney. Presented on a slate tile again. You can see how all the colours stand out so beautifully.

We also ordered a Green Mango Salad with lime juice, chilli, ginger, coriander, mint. This classic Asian dish is refreshing, light, crisp and fresh. It makes a great side dish because of the contrast in textures. The cold crunch of the unripe mango with the hot spicy sauces of the curries. You can see why it is a classic all over Asia.

We were then presented with a palate cleanser. Apple and Ginger Sorbet with a sake shot. Oh alright then.

The sous chef Virgil came out with our main courses to explain the selection of curries he had made for us.

Tapioca Pearls with Curried Squash and Tofu Tom Yam, never has tapioca tasted so good or looked so beautiful.

Thai Green Pak Choi Curry with broccoli, sugar snaps, edamame, spring onions, light, fragrant and spicy

Melon Coconut Curry with lemongrass, ginger, coriander, chilli and fresh mint. Mind blowing honestly.

Lychee Red Curry with pickled cabbage, coconut, ginger and sprouts. This fruit in curry thing is going to catch on.

Burmese Aubergine Curry, tomato, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Aromatic and spicy.

For dessert we ordered the Trio of Creme Brulee because why wouldn’t you?

White Chocolate & Chilli, Ginger & Lime, Coconut. Heaven on a plate.

This restaurant has some of the best food I have ever tasted. It is daring, exquisite and mouth-wateringly good. If you live in SA and you haven’t been, you need to go. Exceptional food and service in luxurious surroundings.  Go on, treat yourself you know you want to. For more details and menus check out their website here.

For those of you that don’t live in South Africa, you need to try this recipe. And if you’re saying “Eww melon in curry, that’s gross” you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. The cool sweetness with the spicy, aromatic sauce is an unbelieveable combination that deserves some recognition. Do it.

You will have to make your own curry paste and coriander puree but don’t let that put you off it is not difficult and it is so worth it. You will also need to get a melon baller if you haven’t already got one leftover from the Seventies. You can serve it with plain rice or some thick rice (stick) noodles like I did.

Indochine Melon Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles

Serves 4, Vegan, Gluten-free. Adapted from the Indochine recipe

Prep time: 25 mins Cooking time: 20 mins

For the curry paste:

  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 5 white peppercorns
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 4 small green chillies, deseeded and chopped (depending on the chilli)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped/minced lemongrass
  • 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic (about 3 cloves) finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lime/lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped coriander stalks
  • a big pinch of salt

Blend everything together in a mortar and pestle or food processor until you get a smooth- ish paste. Set aside.

For the Coriander Puree:

  • a bunch of fresh coriander leaves(or a mix of coriander & basil), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1 bowl of iced water

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the bicarb. Plunge the coriander into the hot water and leave until the water starts to turn green. Drain off most of the water and blend to a smooth puree in a measuring jug. Cool down by putting the measuring jug in the iced water.

For the Curry:

You can use which ever melon is available, two different colours is nice.

  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) watermelon
  • about 500 gr (rind on weight) green melon
  • 2 cans coconut milk (do not shake before opening), I used low-fat
  • 2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • coriander puree (see above) I used about 2 or 3 tbsp
  • salt
  • thick rice (stick) noodles for 4 people (or rice)
  • fresh mint leaves, rolled up & finely shredded for garnish
  • toasted coconut for garnish
  • vermicelli rice noodles deep-fried for garnish (optional)

Scoop out balls of melon flesh with the melon baller but leave the excess on the rind. Scrape out the excess flesh into a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.

To a large pan over a medium high heat, add the tops of the coconut milk (the thick cream bit) and cook until bubbling and starting to reduce. Add the curry paste and stir for 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the rest of the tins of coconut milk, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Cook the rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.

Add the palm sugar, lemon juice and salt to the sauce then stir in the coriander puree and melon puree and taste. Adjust salt, lemon juice as required. Then add the melon balls, stirring to coat them in the sauce and heat through.

To make the vermicelli garnish, heat some oil in deep-frying pan until it sizzles when you test it with a dried noodle. Carefully drop a bunch of the dried rice vermicelli into the oil , it will puff up straight away. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.

Serve the curry over rice noodles, garnished with the shredded mint leaves, toasted coconut and fried vermicelli (if using).

Thanks Indochine for a fabulous evening and for introducing us to the genius of fruit in curry. I am desperate to try the lychee one next…

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….

Shitake “Tom Yum” Soup

12 Nov

Tom Yum Soup has got to be one of the most well known Thai dishes. Usually served with prawns it is a hot and sour broth known for its restorative qualities. Ginger, chilli, lemongrass and lime leaves are the main ingredients used to flavour this soup all of which are known to help relieve colds, sore throats and fever symptoms. Apart from the health benefits of this soup it also tastes amazing, not for the faint hearted chilli wise, but so virtuous, virtually fat free and invigorating…

Shitake Mushroom Tom Yum Soup Recipe

Serves 3 or 4 Vegan

  • about 6 dried shitake mushrooms
  • a handful of fresh shitake mushrooms sliced(or other interesting mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste/concentrate
  • 1 tbsp minced lemongrass (or 1 stick chopped finely)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 or 2 red chillies deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 lime leaves finely shredded
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 or 2 tbsp lime juice
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves

First of all soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for about 25 minutes. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid for later and slice the rehydrated mushrooms very finely. 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok over a medium high heat and fry the rehydrated mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and the curry paste, bring to a boil, stirring then add the veg stock and bring back to the boil. Add the tamarind, lemongrass, turmeric, chilli, ginger, lime leaves and sugar and boil for 2 minutes stirring. Reduce the heat slightly, add the  fresh mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in fish sauce and lime juice. Serve in warmed bowls topped with lots of fresh coriander.

Tom Yum- Yum!!

Enjoy and feel those sinuses clearing………….

Thai Pumpkin and Chilli Noodle Soup

1 Nov

This was my ideal Halloween dinner last night. Pumpkin based (of course), spicy, delicious & warming. Plus it was really easy to make which was important as I had to watch Strictly & The X Factor so I didn’t want to cook anything which meant I had to leave the sofa for long…

Thai Pumpkin & Chilli Noodle Soup

Serves 3 or 4 Vegetarian

  • 1/2 medium pumpkin about 500 gr cut into 1 or 2 inch chunks (you can peel it if you can be bothered, I didn’t)
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 or 2 tbsp thai yellow curry paste (you can use red if it is what you have)
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  •  1 tsp lemongrass paste (or a lemongrass stalk bruised)
  • 2 or 3 lime leaves thinly sliced (or lime zest from 1/2 lime)
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  •  a handful of fresh coriander chopped (plus leaves for garnish)
  • lime wedges to squeeze over
  • salt or fish sauce
  • 150 gr noodles cooked according to packet instructions (rice noodles or whatever you have)

Fry the onion in a large pan over a medium high heat for a few minutes until translucent then add the garlic, chilli and the rest of the spices & pastes up to and including turmeric. Stir to combine for a minute then add the veg stock, soy sauce, tumble in the pumpkin chunks and bring to he boil. Season with salt (or fish sauce) put the lid on, turn the heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes(or maybe longer) until the pumpkin is really tender.

Meanwhile cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, drain, rinse under cold water and cover with a lid. When the pumpkin is really soft turn off the heat and put your stick blender in the saucepan and carefully blend until smooth- ish. (you don’t want to get hot orange soup all over your kitchen!). Stir in the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls then place a pile of the cooked warm noodles in the centre garnish with coriander leaves & lime wedges to squeeze over.

We also had it for lunch today(above) without the noodles just with some crusty bread and it was just what we needed after a long walk in the mountains. I might have to go for a lie down now…. Siesta calling!

We found an old ruin so The Washer Up decided to collect some wood for the fire….

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