Posts tagged ‘rice’

December 15, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Barley, Basil, Broccoli

Barley, basil, broccoli

Three Bs make this simple dish, which, I know, isn’t done justice by the photo (my camera battery died after just one test shot). Let’s pretend it’s a great shot and move swiftly along.

Using pearl barley to make a risotto is a pleasant change from starchy rice. Usually we make it just the way you would in a normal risotto (for example, see here), but on this occasion we did something a little different, cooking the rice in stock on its own and making a separate sauce for extra flavour. The difference, here, is that the grains almost swim in the sauce rather than being bound together by it. If you like your risottos very loose then you’ll probably like this. This made enough for two.

The first B: Barley

Cook as per packet instructions and use about the same amount of barley as you would risotto rice. We simmered ours in a light vegetable stock for around 25 minutes until the grains soften to just past the point when they’re chewy.

The second B: Broccoli

While the barley is cooking, steam a bunch of purple sprouting or tender stem broccoli for four minutes then saute it for a few minutes in a little olive oil and with a clove of finely chopped garlic.

The third B: Basil

Again, while the barley is cooking roughly chop a bunch of basil and place it in the jug of a blender/liquidizer with two cloves of finely chopped garlic. Add 300ml of single cream and blitz to make a bright green sauce. Gently heat the sauce in a small pan.

When the barley is cooked, drain it and stir some grated parmesan (or other strong hard) cheese through it along with a generous nob of butter. To plate up, either mixing the broccoli through it or placing the greens on top. Pour the sauce around the edges of the bowl. Sprinkle some extra grated cheese on top. Serve immediately, or pause to take a bad photo of it, as we did.

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May 13, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Chilli-marinated tofu with coconut greens and rice

What a tasty Saturday night treat! And it was made after an afternoon at a local festival fundraiser at which ‘drink was taken’. Which is a way of saying it wasn’t that difficult to make. Think of it as a perked-up veggie Thai green curry, in fact an easier one, with the ingredients mostly coming together at the end rather than all being cooked sloppily together in a big bowl. Caring for ingredients individually, as ever, can really pay dividends.

Serves 2.

First, the tofu. Take a block of firm tofu (ours was Cauldron brand on this occasion), drain it and place it in a shallow bowl. Splash some dark soy sauce over it. Chop some fresh chilli (as much as you like) and a clove of garlic and sprinkle over the top of the tofu as well, before massaging the mixture into the tofu a little, gentling turning the tofu over to ensure it gets fully coated in the marinade. Leave for 20 minutes.

After marinating, cut the tofu across its width into ‘steaks’ 1cm thick. Try and coat each steak in the marinade without breaking them – careful now! Then heat a little sesame oil in a large frying pan and add the tofu steaks, reserving as much marinade as possible for later. On a high-ish heat the tofu will begin to colour and crisp up on the outside after around 7 minutes or so. When slightly crisped and golden on one side, turn the steaks over. Don’t worry if they look a little blackened, but don’t let the edges turn to charcoal. When golden on both sides they steaks can continue to sit happily on the heat at the lowest setting while the rest of the dish is made. Just keep a check of them though. Ours, pictured above, are black from the soy sauce, not from burning.

Now for the greens. In a large wok or frying pan, add a tin of coconut milk. Heat through on a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of turmeric, a stalk of lemongrass, snapped in the middle to help release the flavour and a 2.5cm piece of grated fresh ginger. Stir and bring to a soft simmer.

Chop one large or two small heads of pak choi, top and tail some French beans and add to the sauce. Alternatively you could add some sprouting broccoli or even asparagus – but the contrast between soft leaves and crunchy beans is rather nice. Cook through for 5 minutes, until the veg has softened ever so slightly and the sauce has reduced a little. Fish out the lemongrass.

Now, back to the tofu: pour the remainder of the marinade over the tofu and cook for 2 more minutes.

Serve with the tofu on top, the coconut veg underneath, and a bed of nutty brown rice at the bottom. Oh, and a squeeze of lime will work a treat as well.

We really liked this and hope you do too.

January 23, 2012

Recipe: The perfect egg fried rice

A few days ago the Guardian newspaper offered up its advice on how to make the perfect egg fried rice. Glad to see it didn’t differ to much from our own here at ETP Towers – other than the non-addition of garlic. I think at the moment I’d also revise our version and go with the paper’s, although it’s a matter of personal taste. The newspaper’s recipe is here. X-ref with our own here.

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.

January 12, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Beetroot risotto with lemon oil and goat’s cheese

Do you ever start to make a recipe and then realise you’re missing a vital ingredient? Only the other day I was busy assembling a meal of (Turkish vegetable casserole) Turlu Turlu when I remembered I had no tomatoes in the house in any shape or form. Which reminds me that ETP should feature that recipe at some point.

Well, this risotto recipe may look complete, but secreted within it is a similar story. It was meant to include elements of fennel (in the oil) and broad beans (adding colour and texture to the risotto). Oh dear. I can feel our old friend Denis Cotter, whose recipe we were stealing, shaking his head admonishingly.

But we persevered and, if you haven’t tried a beetroot risotto before, so should you. Here’s how:

The lemon oil was made by shaking olive oil with the zest and juice of a lemon in a jar. Easy – in effect a basic lemony dressing.

Beets are then boiled/simmered until tender (anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on size), drained, rinsed under cold water then peeled. They are then diced and roasted with a little olive oil and salt for 15 minutes. Don’t burn them – it’s easily done.

After 15 minutes, remove half the beets and, adding about a cup-full of vegetable stock or water, blend to a puree in a food processor and put it in a pan on the hob, adding enough extra stock to make the amount of risotto you’re cooking. Keep the stock hot. Continue to cook the remainder of the beets in the oven for 10 more minutes or so, until they begin to caramelise.

Now for the rice – and this really just becomes a standard risotto cooking method with a different type of stock. So, saute a couple of finely sliced shallots and 2 cloves of garlic in a little olive oil for 5 minutes. Add arborio risotto rice and ‘toast’ it in the pan for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add a small glass or red wine and cook for a further 5 minutes or so to ‘burn off’ the alcohol. Then start to add the beetroot stock, a ladle at a time. Keep going until the risotto is just tender. It should be pink too! When it’s done, stir in the caramelised beets and a little butter.

To serve, plate up the rice, scatter over some goats cheese and drizzle the lemon oil over.

Even if it wasn’t the recipe we had initially intended, it still worked – big flavours all round, from sweet beets to tangy goats cheese to perfumed lemon.

The prize goes to the best colour pink, along with the biggest flavours. The photo here doesn’t quite do ours justice – but I think another bash at the recipe could improve it. A magenta risotto, anyone?

October 5, 2011

Tuesday-night suppers – the stir fry

I’ve mentioned previously that many of the dishes we post in the ‘Last Night’s Dinner’ section of this blog are the interesting ones – the ones that make use of gorgeous seasonal ingredients, or that make a pretty picture on the plate, or are worked up to some extent: a weekend meal rather than a Tuesday-night supper.

But that’s only half true. Our cooking at ETP towers varies little from weekday to weekend, mainly because at the moment yours truly doesn’t quite work a standard Monday to Friday 9 to 5 week. It’s also because even after a busy day’s work we enjoy a little kitchen prep and cooking as a way to relax. Why completely give that up during the week if you can help it?

That’s a privileged position, however, and there are times of course when you don’t want to think about cooking; when easy fall-backs become a practical necessity. For some people that’s once a week, for others almost every evening.

At these times we often resort to one-pot cooking to create a big bowl of health – for example our own signature dishes of butter beans, greens and peppers in a spicy tomato sauce, or spicy ‘Spanish’ chickpeas (recipes we may reveal in the fullness of time). This is basic stuff: take a big pot, fry an onion, add in some veg, chuck in some tomatoes, add spices, top with water and leave to simmer down. A hob-cooked stew, by any other name. You hardly have to think about making these and they’re so difficult to ruin.

I’ve heard that many carnivores resort to Spaghetti Bolognese and stir fries for a quick weekday meal. Well, we don’t eat much pasta here, but a stir fry, such as the one pictured, does hit the mark. The beauty is that we don’t have to think too much about how to cook the ingredients. Simple innit? But is a good stir fry as basic as one-pot cooking?

Well, it can be: if you use straight-to-wok noodles and throw all the veg in at the same time. Typically, however, and without wishing to turn a simple stir fry into a culinary challenge, I do now think a little extra effort can help.

Take the tofu in our Stir-fried tofu with broccoli, mushrooms and rice (above). Throwing chunks of even a firm tofu straight into the wok with the other veg will cause it to break up into a mush. Much better to fry it separately first for 5 minutes each side, then add it to the wok at the last minute. And the broccoli? To avoid tough stems it’s much better to steam it for 5 minutes before it hits the wok, too. So that’s two extra pans, but not a lot of extra thought. And it really does mean your stir fry will be a much more enjoyable Tuesday-night supper.

August 8, 2011

Recipe: Brown rice, courgettes and mint

On first glance I thought this recipe, here, for brown rice, courgettes and mint had two things going against it.

First, as you might have realised, I don’t always trust Nigel Slater’s cooking. Amongst other things, I often feel he misses a trick and rejects obvious ways to pep up his food in favour of his own nostalgia-filled peccadilloes.

Second, I firmly believe anything you might want to call ‘risotto’ should be made with a proper risotto rice.

So, this recipe fails twice before we’re even off. But… it looks rather nice. Nutty, summery, rustic, with a hint of old-skool veggie health food that suddenly looks almost vogueish. I think we’ll try it.

June 18, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Tofu with lemongrass and chilli

Monday 6 June.

In the East End of London, along Kingsland Road, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to Vietnamese food. There are so many cheap and cheerful restaurants from which to choose but our favourite is the Viet Hoa – it’s website is here.

Ella’s regular choice is their rather fine tofu Bun Xa noodle dish, whereas I change what I eat there a litle more regularly. I like their fried rice – but you can probably tell by now that I’d eat fried rice nearly every day if I could. On our last visit the fried rice came with Tofu with lemongrass and chilli. A few weeks later I thought I’d see if we could replicate it and this a pretty decent attempt. Not sure of the authenticity, but it works.

Serves 2.

First, take a standard block of firm tofu, cut it into little-finger sized strips, no more than 1cm thick. Place them on a plate, sprinkle some dark soy sauce over them and set a side to marinate for 15 minutes. When the time’s up, fry off the tofu in a large frying pan with some sunflower oil until it is golden. Take care not to break the tofu strips. Set aside.

Next, take two stalks of fresh lemongrass and chop them finely. Peel a 2cm piece of fresh ginger root, roughly chop 2 cloves of garlic and finely chop 2 small green chillis and 2 medium shallots. Put all these in a blender, add a splash of rice wine vinegar and blend until you have a paste. You may need to add a little water to help you on your way, and scrape down the sides of the blender part way through the process.

Now roughly chop a red bell pepper into bite-sized pieces, slice six shiitake mushrooms, chop the ends off 6 spring onions then slice into thirds to create segments about 3cm long. Then slice up some fresh red chillis into rounds (as many as you like!).

Heat some sunflower or groundnut oil in a wok and when it’s hot add the fried-off tofu. After a couple of minutes add the bell pepper, mushrooms, spring onions, red chillis and the lemongrass paste. Dry for around 5 minutes, stirring as you go. The pepper and onions should just start to soften a little. When that happens, mix 2tsp of cornflour and a little water in a small cup, stir well and pour into the wok. Add a few splashes of dark soy sauce (but not too much) and stir. After a minute or so this should create an almost translucent ‘sauce’ that will coat the tofu and veg. This ‘sauce’ shouldn’t be watery or overly sticky – it’s neither a gravy or a glaze. Somewhere inbetween is perfect.

Serve with rice.

June 6, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Greens with satay sauce

Wednesday 18 May

Where to begin with satay sauce? I reckon it’s best to imagine it as an Asian sweet chilli sauce with the addition of peanuts. That’s essentially how we make it, in any case. Some people simply add a dollop of peanut butter for that sweet peanut flavour, but we grind skinned peanuts, coarsely in a food processor and then soften them by simmering in a little water for 15 minutes until they’re almost creamy.

For the chilli sauce I made what is becoming our ‘standard’ base, which can be adapted for many Indian curries and Chinese/Indonesian/Malaysian recipes. Essentially, for sauce for two people, you take a couple of medium shallots, two cloves of garlic and some chillis (to your liking!). Add a little oil and a dash of water if you need and blitz in the small jug of a food processor until you have a paste. Spoon into a dry frying pan and ‘cook it off’ for about 10 minutes.

[For a curry paste, you might add dry spices, tomato or ginger. For some Vietnamese dishes – more of which soon – lemongrass.]

I added a splash of soy sauce and of Chinese rice wine vinegar near the end of the chilli sauce cooking. Then add the simmered peanuts, et voila.

The rest of the dish is basically stir-fried greens – and almost any would do – plus a little assortment of veg. I had some spring greens to hand, so they went in the wok, along with some oyster mushrooms and some shavings of carrot. Once it’s sizzling, piou over the satay sauce and heat through for a few minutes. Serve on egg fried rice.

You wanna know about the rice again? Okay then:

Never fry rice if it’s still steaming and hot. Allow boiled long-grain rice to cool completely before letting it even look at a frying pan. Once cool, heat a little sunflower and a tiny bit of sesame oil a wide frying pan and add the boiled rice. Once it’s crackling and hot, add a little soy sauce. Make sure the soy is evenly distributed through the rice and cook for 5 minutes. The crack an egg per person into the rice, stir quickly and cook for another 10 minutes, making sure the egg cooks through, dries out somewhat, and becomes mostly broken apart.

Hope you enjoy.

June 1, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Leek, Wild Rice and Potato Cakes with Flageolet Beans in a Cider Cream Sauce

Sunday 15 May

It might not look like it, but this dish came about by wanting to use up various bits and pieces from the fridge and store cupboard. Potatoes about to go soft? Tick. Leeks starting to yellow? Tick. Half a packet of wild and basmati rice plus a few handfuls of flageolet beans malingering on the shelf. Tick and tick. A bottle of cider and half a tub of single cream with nothing better to do than throw themselves into a pan? No less.

Every now and again we love to make a savoury cake. They’re so easy and you can stuff all kinds of ingredients into them. To make these I boiled some rice and left it to cool, did the same with a few potatoes and then mashed them, and fried some finely chopped leeks in a little olive oil. Combine the ingredients together in a bowl with an egg and some salt and pepper, shape into cakes/patties. Fry them for a few minutes either side until they’re golden and they’re done.

I soaked the beans during the afternoon and then simmered them in plenty of water until they were tender. Drain, then add a glass of dry cider to the pan and an equal amount of cream and heat on a low setting for a few minutes. Season as necessary and add a little chopped parsley, dill or tarragon even. Serve with the cakes on top of a pile of beans.