Vietnamese ‘Chicken’ & Mint Salad

I first made this salad many years ago when I lived in the US. Nigella Lawson was doing a competition on her website where you had to make this salad, plate it and take a picture and the best looking picture won. I was a bit annoyed back then because I’d submitted my photo and plated in a certain way then the person who eventually won posted after me and plated very similarly. But resentment over, this is a great salad, the cabbage makes it nice and crunchy and it’s so easy these days to replace the pulled chicken. I used Linda McCartney’s hoisin ‘duck’. The mint balances the spices very nicely and the fish sauce adds a nice sourness. Anyone who is familiar with Nigella Lawson will appreciate her narrative on the recipe ‘When it comes to chicken, I am very much a thigh than a breast person’. She is my idol!

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 clove garilc
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion
  • pepper
  • 200g white cabbage
  • 1 carrot
  • 200g chicken substitute
  • 40g mint

Method

1.) Heat a frying pan and cook the chicken substitute until crispy then set aside to cool.

2.) Make the dressing by adding the chilli to a measuring jug, crush the garlic clove, finely chop and add that, add the sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, a pinch of pepper and oil. Stir and leave to sit.

3.) Shred the cabbage and add to a large salad bowl. Peel the carrot and grate and add with the cabbage. Pick off the mint leaves and chop up and mix in. Peel and finely chop the onion and add that. Add the cooled ‘chicken’. Finally, add the dressing and give everything a good mix. Serve.

Halloumi Orange Salad

It’s kind of summer in the UK (well as much as we get) so I fancied a nice summery salad which I found in this on the BBC Good Food website. The Vitamin C probably did me a few favours with my COVID too. Early this month the two final episodes of Stranger Things aired and I got round to watching them this weekend, it was a bit of an event to manage for as they’re film-length. Even if you haven’t seen this show, you must have heard of how Kate Bush’s song ‘Running up That Hill’ has given her a number one over thirty years after the original song came out. It’s even cooler because she’s now made the record for the longest time period between two number one songs. The song features because in the show there is another world full of monsters called the ‘Upside Down’ and the biggest monster of all ‘Vecna’ can drag you down there if you have something traumatic that’s happened in your past. However, your favourite song can pull you out of it, which is how Kate Bush features. Obviously this led to a discussion on what would be the song that rescues you from Vecna, mine would be Bohemian Rhapsody which in my opinion does for music what the Godfather did for films. My husband stole my suggestion and my friend’s was ‘Life on Mars’. What would you choose?

Serves 2 as main meal

Ingredients

  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 large carrots (I used carrot battons as it was all I could find but the original recipe calls to grate the carrot into ribbons)
  • 225g halloumi
  • 100g watercress

Method

1.) Peel the oranges and cut the flesh away from the pith. Chop into small pieces

2.) Add the oranges and juice to a large bowl. Add the carrots and watercress.

3.) In a small bowl, mix the honey, mustard, vinegar and oil and pour into the salad. Mix everything to coat.

4.) Slice up the halloumi and place on a baking tray with some baking paper.

5.) Grill under a hot grill for 5 minutes until browning and bubbling. Flip with a fork and do the same on the other side. Serve with the salad.

Bulgur & Veg Khichree

This recipe is another winner from the book ‘Simple Spice Vegetarian’. It’s actually a mix of rice, lentils and bulgur wheat which I kind of questioned when I first saw the recipe but the mixture of textures and the ability of the different elements to soak up the spices really added something to the flavour. The word kedgeree comes from this word too so you just know it’s going to be good. This is really tasty when you ramp up the ginger content.

Serves 4 (large portions)

Ingredients

  • 200g bulgur wheat
  • 100g rice
  • 150g lentils
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 chilli
  • 5cm ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 150g peas
  • 250ml water
  • salt

Method

1.) Cook the rice and lentils in a pan until tender, Halfway through cooking, add the bulgur wheat. Preheat the oven to 130 degrees C.

2.) In the meantime, peel and grate the ginger. Peel and finely dice the onion, carrot and parsnip.

3.) Make a masala paste by adding the turmeric, coriander and cumin in a bowl with a tbsp water and mixing.

4.) In a casserole dish, melt the ghee and add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.

5.) Add the masala paste and cook until it dries out. Chop up the tomatoes and add to the pan with the carrot and parsnip.

6.) Cook for about 5 minutes then add the spinach and peas and cook for another couple of minutes.

7.) Drain the lentils, rice and bulgur and add to the pan. Add the water and stir everything together. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.

8.) Season before serving.

West Indian Pepper Pot

Back when I was a meat eater I used to like cooking some Caribbean curries from Levi Roots book ‘Caribbean Food Made Easy’. Levi Roots actually became famous on the show Dragons Den, selling his own Reggae Reggae sauce. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to succeed in finding a way to make his curries work without the meat so I’ve just looked at that book wistfully when I see it on my bookshelf. When I saw this recipe for West Indian Pepper Pot in Shelina Permaloo’s book ‘The Sunshine Diet’ I was excited to find some Caribbean food I could eat. With the sweet potato this dish was a little too sweet for me but it definitely brought those flavours of allspice and cinnamon that I was looking for. I think next time I would maybe switch it out with some normal potato but I know sweet potato is many people’s bag. I added a bit of quinoa during the cooking time.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 100g green beans
  • 200g kale
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • 10g chives
  • 3 spring onions
  • salt

Method

1.) Peel the onion and finely dice.

2.) Heat the oil in a casserole dish, add the onion. Cook until soft.

3.) Whilst this is cooking, strip the thyme leaves into the pan and finely chop the chilli. De-seed the pepper and chop into chunks. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into small cubes.

4.) After the onion has softened, add the marjoram, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and chilli and sauté for another minute.

5.) Add the pepper to the pan along with the sweet potato, stock, kale and green beans.

6.) Cook for 30 minutes.

7.) Chop the chives and spring onions up finely.

8.) Use these to garnish the stew.

Vietnamese Sweet & Sour Soup

Whilst in Paris, our friend made us a delicious rhubarb crumble and it reminded me that rhubarbs do exist as they’re so underutilised. I was hugely intrigued by this Vietnamese soup from ‘The Vietnamese Market Cookbook’ as to use rhubarb is by itself interesting but to use rhubarb in a savoury recipe is something I’ve never seen before. It seems that the authors added the rhubarb as a happy accident as they just had some rhubarb to use up. The rhubarb adds the sour element and then you get the sweetness from the pineapple. I bulked the soup out with some smoked tofu which also added some protein. I could only find tinned rhubarb but if you get the fresh stuff, do remember that the leaves are poisonous.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 tin rhubarb
  • 160g pineapple
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 spring onion
  • 200g smoked tofu
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves

Method

1.) Chop up the tomatoes

2.) In a casserole dish, heat up the oil and add the garlic

3.) Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, the sugar, salt, pepper and garlic powder and a splash of water.

4.) Bring to the boil.

5.) Rinse the rhubarb and chop up the tofu, pineapple and the coriander leaves and spring onion,

6.) Once the tomatoes are soft, add the rest of the water and the pineapple and bring to the boil for 5 minutes.

7.) Add the tofu and rhubarb and cook for another couple of minutes.

8.) Season with the fish sauce

9.) Serve and garnish with spring onion and coriander.

Lemon & Caper Cauliflower Orzo

My husband was asking for something with roasted cauliflower and I came across this charred cauliflower and orzo dish on BBC Good Food. I’m not sure how authentically Italian it is. I was just in Rome and I saw all the classics – Spaghetti alle Vongole, Lasagne, Carbonara, Rome’s version of Arancini (suppli) and more focaccia and mozzarella than you can shake a stick at but nothing with cauliflower and orzo. Nonetheless it’s still molto buono as they say in Italy. Rome is a beautiful, richly historic city and I’m now watching Suburra on Netflix which is an engrossing Italian crime drama set in Rome allowing me to relive all the sites.

Serves 3 (I doubled the recipe which Served 1 with leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g orzo
  • 4 tsp capers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • 100g rocket

Method

1.) Heat up the grill

2.) Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Chop up the cauliflower and place over the tray.

3.) Grill for 10 – 15 minutes until charred.

4.) Cook the orzo in a pan of boiling water until soft.

5.) Make up the stock and peel and dice the garlic. Zest the lemon.

6.) Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and capers and fry for a minute.

7.) Drain the orzo and add to the pan, add the cauliflower, the lemon zest, add the lemon juice to the pan and the vegetable stock.

8.) Cook for a couple of minutes then serve up with the rocket sprinkled over.