Asparagus and Crab meat Soup

When I was a kid I loved Chinese food as I had good access to it with all the Chinese takeaways. Over time, that love has broadened to include many more cuisines from South East Asia as I’ve had more exposure. Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food I also now love though I await the day when vegetarian versions of Char Sui Buns are readily available (yes I should make some!). All these cuisines have a few things in common for me – they have a few central ingredients which are used to create many different dishes, they’re fresh, flavourful, healthy, quick to make and the meat recipes are generally quite easy to substitute. This recipe from ‘The Vietnamese Market Cookbook’ is a great example of this.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Chicken flavoured stock
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion
  • 200g crabmeat
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • rice noodles (I didn’t measure these – enough for 4 – I really like the wide strip ones)
  • 1 punnet of shitake mushrooms
  • pepper
  • coriander leaves

Method

1.) Peel and chop up the onion

2.) Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and fry the onion until soft

3.) Boil some water and make up 1.5 litres stock

4.) Add the crabmeat to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes then add the fish sauce and fry for one more minute

5.) Pour in the stock and turn up the heat

6.) Slice up the mushrooms and asparagus and add to the pan with the rice noodles. Reserve the tips of the asparagus as they cook quicker.

7.) Cook on a high heat for 5 minutes until the noodles are soft, after 3 minutes, add the asparagus tips. While this is cooking, chop up the coriander leaves.

8.) When the soup is done, sprinkle in some pepper. Serve up with a garnish of coriander.

Japanese mackerel and Broccoli

Eating Japanese food really takes me back to my time in Japan. This dish is so tasty but so quick to make and tastes pretty authentic even though I did sub in some smoked mackerel. Using smoked mackerel means you can just flake the mackerel over at the end which is great if you’re short on time though the sauce would be delicious with any grilled fish. (I realise I go a bit heavy on the mackerel on this blog and aim to mix it up in the future.) I’ve bought a ton of awesome cookbooks on Kindle store that I don’t often look at – I find it easier to pick up an actual book. However, there’s this great ‘collections’ function so now I have all of them in one place. This recipe (well the sauce) was from ‘Everyday Harumi.

‘ Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2 fillets of mackerel
  • 2 servings white rice
  • 50ml sake (or dry sherry)
  • 50ml mirin
  • 30ml soy sauce (2 tbsp)
  • 1.5 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp water
  • 15g fresh ginger
  • togarashi (Japanese 7 spice) – not obligatory but sooo good

Method

1.) Put the rice on to cook. The food is so quick, you may want to have it almost done.

2.) Chop the florets off the broccoli and simmer in a pan

3.) Peel and grate the ginger

4.) Make the sauce by heating the sake, mirin, sugar, soy sauce and water in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil until the sauce has thickened then turn down the heat and add the ginger and cook down for a couple more minutes.

5.) When the rice is done, plate up and sprinkle over some togarashi

6.) Flake the mackerel and serve over the rice. Serve up the broccoli and spoon over the sauce.

Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are really a salad but they don’t feel like salad. After a couple of unseasonably warm April days, these fresh, delicious rolls made a great dinner. You can find the rice paper in any oriental supermarket and it’s also readily available on Amazon. I did get back home a little late so I was a bit lazy in making a dipping sauce, just using some pre-made sauces that we had but sweet chilli, soy sauce, satay sauce and hoisin sauce would all be great options. Dipping the rice paper into the water meant my hands were always wet and it was difficult to take pictures of the assembly but as you can see, my rolls were more oblong shaped and it doesn’t really affect the taste.

Makes about 12 rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 small carrots
  • 10g mint
  • 10g coriander leaves
  • 100g pack of pre-cooked prawns
  • 200g pack vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 iceberg lettuce
  • rice paper (one pack usually contains at least 50 wrappers)

Method

1.) Microwave the vermicelli noodles according to the instructions.

2.) Peel the carrots and chop them into thin batons about the length of a third of a carrot. Add to a mixing bowl. (You will also need a mixing bowl bigger than the size of your rice paper so bear that in mind in your container choice).

3.) Wash and chop the lettuce into thin strips and add with the carrots.

4.) Finely chop the herbs and add with the lettuce and carrots

5.) Chop up the prawns and add to the salad.

6.) Add the noodles to the bowl and mix everything.

7.) Fill the largest mixing bowl you have with cold water and place a rice paper wrapper in to soak.

8.) Leave for about 30 seconds until soft. When they’re too soft they end up sticking together so keep an eye on it.

9.) Place the rice paper on a plate (it won’t stick) and place the next wrapper in the water.

10.) Dump some of the mixture in the middle of the rice paper

11.) Wrap it up like a burrito – ends first then middle bits.

12.) Repeat until all the mixture is used up.

13.) Serve with your dipping sauce of choice. I found these kept quite nicely in the fridge with some foil over them for the next day.

Thai Salad

We’re hopefully on the last stretch of the lockdown now and it’s got to the point where I’ve watched so much TV that I’m able to guess the plot twists . However, holidays are in sight now so hopefully I can stay sane before then!

This Thai salad is from Phaidon’s – Thailand – the cookbook. It’s a big book full of authentic recipes and there’s some stuff that’s pretty out there for us westerners – particularly the recipes containing ants. I couldn’t find any squid for this recipe but just used a frozen fish mix of cubed fish instead and you can’t really go wrong, the dressing is so complimentary with any fish and tastes like a Thai salad from the restaurant. Also, I just can’t get enough of the tinned hearts of palm – I must admit – a couple didn’t make it in the salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 300g frozen fish pie mix
  • 100g cooked prawns
  • 2 tins hearts of palm
  • 10g coriander leaves
  • 1 mango
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 5 spring onions
  • 2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp chilli paste

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

2.) Line a baking tray and spread out the fish

3.) Bake for about 15 minutes, until the fish is hot

4.) In the meantime, julienne the drained hearts of palm, mango, carrot and spring onion and add to a mixing bowl

5.) Peel and chop the onions into small pieces and add to the mixing bowl

6.) Chop the coriander up and add that too.

7.) In another bowl, mix the fish sauce, chilli paste and sugar. Slice the lime in half and squeeze in the juice. Mix until the sugar is dissolved and pour in the mixing bowl.

8.) Add the fish pieces and the prawns. Stir to coat all the ingredients with the dressing and serve.

HOT and SOUR SOUP

Growing up my mum was always on a diet so I don’t think the takeaway delivery man ever visited our house. However, my Grandma did like the odd Chinese takeaway so maybe that is where my love of Chinese food developed. Hot and sour soup was my absolute favourite and it’s great to recreate it now in a vegetarian form just as Chinese New Year is due. This recipe is from Ching He Huang’s ‘Chinese Food In Minutes’. Due to the never-ending lockdown, there’s restrictions on shopping together in most supermarkets therefore we’re shopping at our local which doesn’t have a great range of ingredients. However, I still got everything on this list from that supermarket except for the dried mushrooms so I think it’s fair to say it’s not too specialist.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 2 chillis (mine were quite mild – buy according to your heat tolerance)
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tin stir fry vegetables
  • 10g dried mushrooms
  • 1 box tempeh (or tofu or other meat substitute)
  • 1 tin kimchi (about 200g)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chilli oil (I used Chiu Chow Chilli Oil – it comes in a jar and has chilli flakes aswell as oil – I recommend as it’s not just purely heat flavour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 spring onions
  • 5 g fresh coriander

Method

1.) Boil a kettle. Measure out the mushrooms into a bowl. Pour over the boiling water and leave to soak up for 20 minutes

2.) Measure out 1 litre of water and add the stock cube

3.) Peel and chop the ginger

4.) In a small container, crack in the egg and beat

5.) In another small container, measure out the cornflour, add 2 tbsp cold water and stir until there’s no lumps

6.) Chop up the chillis, spring onions, tempeh and coriander

7.) When the mushrooms are done, squeeze out the water and chop them up

8.) Put the stock into a large pan and bring to the boil.

9.) Add the mushrooms, ginger, chilli, tsp rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, tin of stir fry veg and the kimchi

10.) Turn the heat down to simmer and add the tempeh, 2 tbsp light soy sauce, 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp chilli oil (I tried to get a bit of both the oil and the chilli flakes). Simmer for 10 minutes.

11.) Stir in the egg, stir in the cornflour mix and mix to thicken the soup.

12.) Garnish with the coriander and spring onion.

Aubergine Cheesecake

January was finally over last week and I had a celebratory gin (or two) as opening a bottle of wine on a Monday night seemed far too dangerous. Probably the reduced boozing has done wonders for my reading challenge (30 books this time) as I would normally fall asleep within 5 minutes of reading after a couple of drinks. At the moment, I’m reading The Silk Roads – covering the lesser known (at least for me) history of the Eastern part of the world. It seems particularly apt as I’m being such a fangirl of the Israeli chef Ottonlenghi this week!

This is the first time I made this aubergine cheesecake from ‘Plenty More’ though it had been on my to-do list for a while. It was worth the wait and is probably one I’ll roll out to impress guests. It’s really delicious cooled down to room temperature straight from the oven, or cold from the fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 60ml olive oil + 1 tbsp
  • 2 aubergines
  • 150g feta
  • 150g cream cheese (I used light Philadelphia)
  • 3 eggs
  • 60ml double cream
  • 150g plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (or fresh if you have it, I can never find this)
  • 1.5 tsp za’atar
  • salt and pepper

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C

2.) Line a large baking tray

3.) Slice up the aubergine (about 5 slices per aubergine)

4.) Measure out the 60 ml oil and brush onto the aubergine. I turned the pieces round to try and get it all absorbed.

5.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper

6.) Bake for 40 minutes.

7.) In the meantime, start preparing the cheesecake filling.

8.) Measure out 60ml double cream into a container and add the 150g cream cheese and break in the eggs.

9.) Crumble up the 150g feta and stir this in. Grind in a bit of black pepper.

10.) When the aubergine is done, turn the oven down to 170 degrees C.

11.) Line an oven proof baking tray with the aubergines, careful as they’ll be very hot, my tray had about a 15cm radius.

12.) Sprinkle half the oregano onto the aubergine and dot with the plum tomatoes

13.) Pour over the cream cheese filling and top with the remaining oregano.

14.) Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until set (per recipe). In fact, mine took over 50 minutes as I had quite a deep tray.

15.) Once the cheesecake has cooled down, brush with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle over the za’atar

16.) Leave to cool to room temperature and serve.