Sunday, January 26

Pad Thai Noodles with Chicken and Prawn

If you have been to Thailand then this dish needs no introduction. Available on every street corner from the mental Khao San road in Bangkok to bamboo shack beach restaurants. It is the backpackers staple, mainly because it is cheap, tasty and filling meaning more cash can be reserved for ice cold Singha beers. I have eaten these noodles countless times in a myriad of now forgotten places - this version is an amalgam of the best ones. 

If you get the time, try and find your local Asian supermarket as you will be staggered how economical items are compared to supermarkets. I got most of my ingredients from Teohs on Lower Ashley Road in Bristol - a fantastic treasure trove of a shop. Serves 2 to 3.

Vegetable oil
Garlic - 3 fat cloves, peeled and sliced
Spring onions - 1 bunch, cleaned and sliced, green bits and all.
1 small onion - peeled and finely sliced
Bean sprouts - approx 150g
Crushed red chilli - 1 tsp
Rice noodles - 100g
Eggs - 2, beaten
Prawns - 100g
1 small chicken breast - finely sliced
Blanched peanuts - 50g
Fresh coriander - 1/2 a large bunch, leaves and stems chopped separately 
Limes - 2
Fish sauce - 2-3 tbsp
Sweet chilli sauce - 2-3 tbsp

Put your noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand for 5 mins or so and when tender, drain, refresh in lots of cold water, drain again then toss them in veg oil to stop them sticking.

In a large frying pan or wok, gently fry your peanuts in quite a lot of veg oil until dark golden (maybe 50ml of oil). Drain reserving the oil and set aside to cool. Once cool, roughly crush and set aside. Get the pan back on a high heat and tip in the peanut oil you reserved. Start to fry off the onion, chilli and garlic and when just starting to colour toss in the chicken and most of the spring onion and bean sprouts. When the chicken is almost cooked through, push all the pan contents to one side and fry the beaten eggs on the clear side of the pan. When the eggs have scrambled, mix everything together again and toss in your noodles, prawns, a handful of the crushed peanuts, the fish sauce and chilli sauce to taste. Also throw in the chopped up coriander root at this stage as it has bags of flavour

Keep stir frying until the noodles are hot and the chicken is fully cooked. Taste and add more chilli and fish sauces to your taste.  Serve on a large platter and sprinkle generously with the rest of the peanuts, raw bean sprouts, spring onion, the coriander leaf and lime wedges. 

Saturday, January 25

Tarte au Citron Brûlée

The classic lemon tart, subtly enhanced with an almond pastry and thin crisp veneer of caramel on top. The tart must be served immediately after you have brulee'd it and will not keep well in the fridge. Best to make on the day, serve warm and blowtorch at the table for maximum effect.

100g Unsalted Butter
50g Caster Sugar
150g Ground Almonds
200g Plain Flour
1 Egg

Lemon Filling:9 Eggs
400 g Caster Sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 5 lemons
250 ml double cream

Bung all the dry ingredients for the pastry into food processor and blitz with the butter. Unlike normal pastry you need to allow the pastry to blitz for a good couple of minutes. Add the egg and pulse to  bind. This pastry is a bugger to roll out so roll the pastry between two sheets of parchment or clingfilm  Remove one layer of the parchment and then upturn the pastry into a greased 20cm loose bottomed flan tin. Remove the other piece of parchment (which should be on top) and push well into the tin with your fingers. Any cracks can be repaired by patching up with any spare pastry.  Leave the pastry overhanging the edges of the tin. Line the pastry with cling film and then fill with baking beans. Blind bake at 200c for 30 minutes removing the cling film and beans 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Allow the pastry to cool then trim the edge of the tart with a serrated knife. If you have any small cracks, paint with beaten egg and return to the oven for 30 seconds to cook the add and thus seal the crack.

To make the filling, whisk the eggs with the caster sugar and lemon zest until smooth. Add the lemon juice and cream. Continue to whisk until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Skim any froth from the top then pour into the tart case. Bake at 120c for 30 to 40 minutes until the centre of the tart just wobbles like jelly when given a gentle nudge. If the filling looks too liquid, give the tart another few minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. Don't refrigerate or the flavours will be dulled and the tart filling has a tendency to crack. 

Just before serving dust with a thin layer of caster sugar and using a blowtorch, brûlée the top. Serve with pouring cream.

Saturday, January 18

Prawn & Spring Onion Pakora, Cheats Mint Raita

Who doesn't love those fried Indian spiced snacks from the curry house? This is kind of a 'throw it together' recipe and as long as you get the batter to the correct consistency, you can pretty much add what ever ingredients you have. Some shredded vegetables or onion, cooked lamb, chicken or flaked fish would all work well. The cheats raita sounds a bit pikey but the end result is surprisingly authentic……trust me.

Obviously these go great with an ice cold lager, but then don't most things?

Gram flour (chickpea) - 100g
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Mild curry powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Cooked prawns - 100g
Fresh coriander - 1 small bunch, roughly chopped, stems and all
Spring onions - 1 small bunch, finely sliced
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

For the Raita:
1/2 cucumber
200 ml greek yoghurt
2 tsp of mint sauce from a jar
A pinch of sugar and salt

Grate the cucumber and squeeze the resultant mass of all excess juice. Add the squeezed cucumber to a bowl and mix with the yoghurt and mint sauce. Add salt and sugar to taste. Depending on how acidic the mint sauce, you may also need a little squeeze of lemon to lift the flavour. 

The batter needs a little bit of care when mixing as you need the right consistency. I won't give a measure of liquid as it depends on how wet the ingredients are that you add (fresh prawns are drier than frozen etc). Put all the ingredients in a bowl except the oil and mix well. Add milk or water a tbsp at a time until the mixture binds together in a wet mass that holds it's shape. You don't want a thick bread dough like consistency, nor should the batter pool and drain away from the ingredients. Something in the middle is required, like cake batter. This all sounds very complicated but if in doubt fry off a single pakora. If the thing falls apart more flour is required, if the end result is too doughy, add a little more liquid.

Heat about 1cm of oil in a pan over a medium/low heat (about 150c is perfect). Spoon 1 tbsp of the prawn mix into the oil and flatten the pakora to about 1/2 inch thick. Add as many to the pan as you can without overcrowding. When the pakora are golden brown on one side, flip and colour the other sides. Drain and serve hot.

Thursday, January 9

Smoked Haddock & Leek Hash, Poached Egg, Parsley Sauce

The misses and I went to the coast last summer with the sole intent of eating at Mark Hix Lyme Regis (@hixrestaurants). He is the master of understated, seasonal and bloody tasty food - and I highly recommend his books and food columns. This is one of the dishes I ate there and it left a delicious lingering memory. It makes for a very quick mid-week supper making use of any leftover cold boiled potatoes you may have kicking about. 

Leftover boiled potatoes - 400g, cut into chunks
Undyed Smoked Haddock - 400g
Leeks - 400g, washed and trimmed weight
Parsley - a large handful, chopped
Veg Oil - 1 tbsp
Butter - a large knob
Plain Flour - 1 tbsp
Milk - about half a pint
Very fresh eggs - 2 large ones

First poach the haddock in the milk. Place the whole fillet in a pan, add the milk, cover with parchment and gently simmer for a few minutes until the fish is just cooked through. Drain, reserving the milk and allow the fish to cool before flaking and discarding the skin and any bones.

In a non-stick frying pan melt a little butter and slice the leeks into 2 cm rings. Add the leeks cut side down along with a few tbsp of water. Cover with parchment and gently fry until the leeks are soft and starting to colour on one side. Remove the leeks from the pan and set aside. Add a splash of veg oil to the same pan and fry the potatoes on a medium heat until the edges start to colour and crisp. 

In the meantime get a deep pan of boiling water on for the poached eggs. When boiling give the water a swirl and gently break the eggs into the centre of the vortex poaching until cooked but with a runny centre. You can tell if they are cooked by gently lifting the egg out of the water and giving it a gentle squeeze. 

Add the leeks and haddock to the potatoes along with a little knob of butter and some seasoning - warm through. Heat the remaining butter in a small pan, add the flour to make a roux and then pour in the reserved poaching milk stirring continuously to make a white sauce. When the sauce has thickened, simmer for a minute or so to cook out the flour then adjust the seasoning. Toss a little parsley into the fish mixture, the rest into the sauce. 

Plate up the hash, top with an egg and serve the parsley sauce on the side.