Posts tagged ‘coriander’

January 29, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Greens and Noodles with Citrus Broth

We have already documented our feelings about Nigel Slater’s TV series and, judging by the amount of people who find themselves reading this blog after searching for the words ‘Nigel Slater creepy’, then many of you are of a similar opinion. Poor soul.

He doesn’t always help himself, however. In a recent Guardian newspaper feature he advocated using fresh, lighter flavours to accompany an Asian-inflenced dish of greens, instead of ‘the dark, almost sinister spicing of the past’.

‘Sinister’? What, cumin? Ginger? C’mon Nige. Did you a recipe backwards and find some hidden meaning in it?

Well, it didn’t stop us from trying his suggestion, although we pimped the recipe by leaving out the fish sauce, adding a dessert spoon of tamarind paste and throwing in some oyster mushrooms and rice noodles for four minutes at the end to make a more substantial stew. And very nice it was too. Fiery, fresh and fragrant. And definitely not sinister in any way.

Nigel’s recipe is here.

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January 23, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Bun Xa

Ah, I see you’re looking at the bun xa! Or perhaps that’s bunh xao, ben xao, benh xa or other variations of western spelling I’ve come across.

Bun xa is Ella’s favourite Vietnamese dish. Noodles, basically. Rice noodles. And in our case with a topping of fried tofu and salad, with a chilli dressing. It’s a dish that depends on both ‘mouth-feel’ and your nostrils: by which I mean that it should provide a range of textures in your mouth – not just mush – and both a blast of chilli and some fresh, subtle fragrance up your nose! Yep, it’s all about balance.

We’ve been making this dish for a couple of years, attempting to recreate the delightful version found in a favourite Vietnamese place on Kingsland Road, East London. But we’ve never managed to get it quite right… until now.

The difference this time? Sourcing ingredients from a local Asian food store, rather than trusting our supermarket’s ubiquitous brands. D’oh. Seriously, getting better quality tofu, authentic rice noodles, plus soy and rice wine vinegar – in place of the usual Blue Dragon, Amoy and Cauldron brands – really made a difference. The noodles didn’t turn to slop, the tofu crisped up nicely and the seasoning was deeper and more rounded.

So, how do you make it?

First, chop some firm tofu into bite-sized (finger-sized) pieces and fry in a single layer in a wide pan in a couple of tablespoons of sunflower and sesame oil. Add a little soy sauce to the pan as well, but don’t overdo it. (Or marinate your tofu first, if you give yourself enough time). Cook the tofu gently, turning occasionally, until the tofu is golden on all sides. You can set this aside and reheat later if you need to.

While the tofu cooks, get that dressing done: chop a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, a couple of chillis (ahem, or more, y’know, perhaps) and add them to a small bowl. To the bowl then add a large splash of dark soy sauce and generous glug of rice wine vinegar. Next stir in a teaspoon of castor sugar until it dissolves. Taste. It should be fiery, sharp, fragrant and with a touch of sweetness. Remember, it won’t be this hot when it’s poured over your food. Make it as bold as you dare.

The rest is even easier. Plunge your fine rice noodles into a pan of boiling water, take off the heat and leave for around three minutes. Drain immediately then add a splash of soy sauce and a generous splash of rice wine vinegar to season them. Try and coat them well. Set aside with the lid covering them.

Quickly fry some button mushrooms, halved if they’re on the large side, then add them to the tofu pan. Shred some iceberg lettuce, finely slice two spring onions and coarsely chop some fresh coriander leaves.

Now assemble. In the bottom of your bowl place a portion of the noodles. On top of that comes the tofu and mushrooms. On top of that the ‘salad’ of lettuce, onion and herbs. Then, if you can get them in your Asian grocers, sprinkle some fried shallot flakes over the dish (we really find these add a savoury depth that’s very complementary – and yes, we’ve tried making the flakes at home but they tend to remain slightly greasy and wet whereas these are dry). Serve and let people pour the dressing over the top of the dish.

Some variations could include bean sprouts or shredded carrot in the salad. The main thing is that it is light and fresh. Chopped toasted peanuts could also be sprinkled over, as well as, or in place of, the dried shallot flakes.

Get the balance right and this is as fragrant and moreish a dish as you’ll ever have. If it was music you’d be wowed by it hitting every note on the scale. If it’s greasy, heavy or bland – and if there isn’t enough chilli, then something has gone wrong.

Practise this. It’s a tool for life. Honest.

October 26, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Socca crepe of roast squash, caramelised red onion, kale and pine nuts, with tomato coriander salsa and goat’s cheese cream

A Cotter special, taken from For the Love of Food.

Let’s look at that long recipe title again: Socca, squash, onion, kale, pine nuts, coriander, tomato, goat’s cheese, cream. Seems like a lot of ingredients, doesn’t it? And yes, in some ways it is. Put simply, however, this is just a stuffed pancake. The pancake is southern French thing made from gram (chickpea) flour – which usually puts you in mind of Indian recipes. It would be possible, though not quite as heartwarming, to make the pancake from wholemeal flour, or any kind of flour really, as long as it will form a thickish crepe that you can fold without breaking and yet also become a little crisped up too.

The filling is a neat combination of flavours and textures. The root notes are the sweetness of the squash and onion. The greens then cut through this and add some textural rough edges, while the pine nuts add an occasional, miniature bit of bite. The goat’s cheese cream is, essentially, a tangy dressing that helps cut through sweetness and the salsa brings some zip – just in case the rest is in danger of becoming cloying in the mouth. A recipe where every ingredient knows it’s job. And it’s a looker too!

August 10, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Sweetcorn ‘brunch’ fritters

Sunday 7 August

Sunday brunch is a fine thing. Think of it as a good old-fashioned weekend breakfast that’s been off and travelled the world a bit, tasted different cultures and arrived back with tales of how life could be, if only everyone lived ‘there’, not ‘here’.

Sunday brunch at ETP Towers sometimes nods to New York or or even Asia. I’m not sure where these fritters lie on the map (Mexico?), but they’re easy (if you have a few leisurely minutes to spare) and damn tasty. Corn at breakfast? Hell yeah! Ours came from the lovely huge pile of corn on the cob found at Cansdale Ross & Co, around the corner from us (and as previously mentioned in this blog).

Our serving for each person consists of two fritters. For each serving you’ll need one corn on the cob, two spring onions, a small amount of fresh chopped green chilli, a couple of sprigs of coriander, an egg and around two level dessert spoons of flour (plain white or wholemeal is fine, but I like to use gram flour – the chickpea flour used to make bhajis – and also gluten free).

The recipe below is for one serving, but it will be easier to mix when you double or treble, or quadruple it up, depending on how many people are eating.

First, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the whole corn on the cob (any leaves and stringy bits removed), return to the boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Remove the cob from the water, let it cool slightly and then, standing the corn on its end, slice off the kernels with a sharp, sturdy knife.

Chop the spring onion and add it to a mixing bowl with the chilli, flour and the egg (lightly beaten), season with salt and pepper. Mix for 30 seconds, then add the sweetcorn kernels. Chop and add the coriander and mix all the ingredients well until the kernels are coated with the batter.

Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, drop a large serving spoon-sized scoop of the sweetcorn and batter mixture into the oil. It should sizzle slightly. With a spatula, gently prompt, push and pull the mixture into a vaguely rounded disc shape. After 4 minutes the bottom of the fritter should be set and golden. Turn it over and cook the other side for another 4 minutes. Done.

We served the fritters with a tomato salsa that Ella made: chopped tomato, a tiny bit of finely sliced red onion, chopped fresh chilli, a dash of wine vinegar and a splash of olive oil.

The fritters are light, moreish and, somehow, a perfect start to the day.

A wholely different kind of sweetcorn fritter recipe was published in the Guardian newspaper the day after we made this. You can see it here.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s sweetcorn fritters recipe is here.

But try ours first, and try it for brunch.

May 6, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Mee Goreng

Sunday 1 May

Having been so busy at work and not getting home until late, Ella was keen to do some cooking. Sunday afternoon saw her turn to Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty for inspiration – where she found this recipe for Mee Goreng.

Mee Goreng is Indonesian (and Malaysian) street food: noodles with fried shallots, chilli and topped with shredded lettuce leaves. There are plenty of meaty versions but we had it with green beans and tofu. A quick web search will give you an indication of just how many versions of mee goreng there are out there – it’s a make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of thing really. Ottolenghi adds sambal olek (chilli sauce) and some ground cumin and coriander to the cooked noodles as they’re frying in the wok with with the tofu and beans. This coats them and makes them sticky – stopping it from being a straightforward common or garden stir fry. I’ve often wondered how you achieve the kind of sticky noodle that you get with, say, a good Pad Thai, and I have a feeling that, more than just the sauce, it’s the adding of the dry spice that does the trick. Any thoughts?

In any case, sometimes you make a dish that’s so easy and yet also expands your repertoire. This was one of those.

May 2, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Quesadillas

Saturday 30 April

I won’t include a recipe for these – there are so many variations. Basically, we filled a tortilla with spicy black bean paste (mashed black beans with spices, coriander leaf and lime), a salsa made with avocado, tomato, red onion and lime – and, in a break from authentic tradition, feta cheese. I had feta in a burrito years ago at a little place in Southwark and my it works. It replaces the sour cream and Cheddar/Monterey Jack combo you often see in Britain and it adds a really good tang to the meal. Pile up the tortilla, fold over and warm in a dry frying pan. Perfect.

April 29, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Pho

Wednesday 27 April

Pho, if you don’t know, is a traditional Vietnamese broth. We make various versions of this, adding vegetables, noodles and herbs and fresh chilli to our liking.

The basis is a good stock. To make the stock, soften an onion, a celery stack, two carrots, some cloves of garlic, a good bit of fresh ginger root, half a lime and some chillis with a tiny bit of oil in a deep pan. In this instance I also added a little bit of butternut squash that was lurking in the fridge – cauliflower, sweet potato, parsnip or other rot veg could also be used, Then add water and simmer for 20-30 minutes. To ‘season’ the stock as it cooks we add a splash of Chinese rice vinegar, a smidgeon of sesame oil, soy sauce, the stalks of some fresh coriander, basil and parsley, a star anise, two cloves, a teaspoon of coriander seeds and some peppercorns. You can also add a teaspoon of tomato puree and tamarind paste if you like. We like.

When the veg is soft, strain it through a sieve to remove the vegetables and return it to a clean pan. Taste and add a little more soy if necessary. Really you can then add what you like – you’re almost done. In this instance we added some rice noodles, shitaake mushrooms and deep fried tofu. To serve, garnish with some coriander leaf, a little chopped chilli and a squeeze of lime. The soup should be hot and fragrant with a good deep flavour coming from the broth.

One of Ella’s favourites here at ETP Towers.

April 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Muttar paneer

Tuesday 29 March

Well, I say. The last time we made muttar paneer (yep, that really does kind of mean ‘cheesy peas’, doesn’t it?) I was utterly disappointed. I think they had changed the recipe for the shop-bought paneer and I felt that one of my favourite Indian dishes was ruined.

I shouldn’t have worried. This dish really is so simple it’s ridiculous and it can be so substantial too. After my previous failure, I lightly fried the cubes of chopped paneer before adding to the sauce this time. Not too sure whether that’s normal, but one recipe website said it was okay. In any case, if you can do it for tofu…

For the sauce I just sautee a sliced onion until softened, add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and cook for a little more, then add some chopped chillis, or maybe a few whole chillis, or maybe a little chilli powder. Whatever… then add a tin of tomatoes plus an inch of grated fresh ginger, 2 good tsp of ground cumin, 1 heaped tsp of ground coriander, 1 tsp of turmeric, and… hmm, that’s about it. I think. I then tend to add 500ml of water and let it simmer down. As it thickens you can add the paneer (although if you’ve fried the paneer like me, add it last, a couple of minutes before serving, so the crisp edges don’t go too soggy). When the sauce looks done, add a small bag of frozen garden peas or petit pois, stir through and heat for four minutes. Job done.

March 14, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Chickpea, Greens and Coconut Soup

Monday 14 March

Is there any limit to how many ways you can combine chickpeas and green veg? Last night’s dinner was a spicy soup made with an onion, chopped spring greens, a tin of chickpeas and a tin of coconut milk. To make it, lightly fry a medium, finely sliced onion in sunflower oil in a large, deep pan. Add a clove of garlic, crushed, some chopped chilli (to your liking), a finely sliced red pepper and two inches of fresh ginger, grated. Roughly chop the leaves of a small cabbage head (we used spring greens but any leafy greens will do, really) and add to the pan. Then add the chickpeas and the coconut milk. Add in a teaspoon of turmeric and half a teaspoon of ground cumin. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add just under a litre of water (or thereabouts) and simmer for 15 minutes. To serve, add a little chopped spring/salad onion, some fresh coriander leaves and squeeze the juice of half a lime into each bowl. Should serve four – or two very hungry people. Sssshhh!