Saturday, 6 November 2010

The World of Premade Pastes.

When it comes to pre-made sauces and pastes, I am a massive skeptic. I never quite understood why someone would buy (the indian variety) of curry paste in a jar, when it takes little to no effort to do it at home.

But then I fancied my First Ever Thai Green Curry, and I don't have a blender/food processor/pestle and mortar combo at uni (I aim to change that with the remnants of my M&S voucher). But then I found my favourite aisle in Sainsburys, and decided this would be a good idea. Sainsbury's Thai Green Curry Paste.  So I had a quick look at a few online recipes, and the one on the back of the jar, and here is the conclusion. 

It's not too shabby. It's a quiet sort of spicy, I use more than the jar says and a few extra chillies to bring it up to scratch, but it's not actually too shabby. Seems to have all the main flavours, not too big on the colour, but a bit of extra coriander sorts that out. And from what I gather so far, it goes well with prawns, vegetables and chicken. And I think I may start stock buying this in for when I can't really be bothered to cook. 

But this does mean I am now looking for interesting recipes with coconut milk. When eating for one a whole jar is just far too much. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Chilli Prawn Noodle Salad

I've been feeling a little stodgy lately. I'd gotten to the end of my food so I was all about the rice and the pasta. (I like the fact that I can never not have a home cooked meal. Posts later on Rice with Chickpea curry). But I got a nice ASDA shop this morning, and a lovely salad was born.

This salad works as warm or cold. Mine was somewhere in between, but it seemed to taste pretty good anyway. I went for a soy lime chilli dressing, but I think it'd be a really nice sesame ginger chilli combo too (I haven't gotten round to buying sesame oil yet, I'm doing it all slowly). So here's how I rolled this.  

ASDA Sharing bowl salad: a combo of shredded carrot, lettuce, red cabbage, a sliver or two of red pepper and some sweetcorn. Fairly okay.

Sharwoods Fine Noodles: I used about a third or half a nest. Boiled and drained. I don't like the idea of straight to wok noodles, it freaks me out.

Prawns: A handful. I went for cooked and peeled ones, nothing too fancy. If I was getting a little posh, I'd go for raw king prawns and griddle them (as I type, I am googling the cheapest place to buy a George Foreman. I really want one). Maybe marinade them beforehand in chilli lime juice. (This is getting TOO fancy for a salad, I think).

Green beans: trimmed, blanched and drained.

Peas: Frozen, boiled. They provide a bit of sweetness to go with the prawns.

Chuck in a bowl, drizzle with soy sauce, lime juice and chopped chilli. Then chow down. 

My apologies for the awful picture, it was the webcam. 

Friday, 15 October 2010

The amazing world of Harissa.

I think I may move this blog and start again. It's very messy and just not very pretty. I think I may.

But in other news. Today I bought harissa paste (in a jar, I confess). I've only ever had harissa once, and that was from the vegan food cart that used to be outside Carphone Warehouse (by the Hot Sausage Company stand, funnily enough) and they did it with their falafel in flatbread - which was amazing. So that was my first step into harissa. About 3 years ago. Since then, I haven't really touched it. But a 1 hour jaunt to a Sainsbury's Central got me buying lots of little jars, and one being the vivid red harissa.

I thought about mixing it with cous cous, but then I realised after a quick google that everyone does that. So I think it would make a good variation on the Moroccan Veg Cous Cous (that I haven't cooked since June). It's going to be basically a similar recipe, with less herbage (post on my plans for cheap herbage another time) and all round cheaper.

So anyway. Harissa Chicken with a (cheaper) Roast Veg Cous Cous.

Chicken thighs. I prefer to use these as they are a] cheaper, b] more flavourful and c] they don't dry out like I manage to make chicken breast dry. So get your chicken breast. I think a ziplock bag with a teaspoon of harissa paste, about the same of lemon juice and possibly some crushed cumin and some olive oil, and just let it sit there. The longer the better, of course, but I think I'll end up doing this in between classes or just after I've gotten in from class. Then it gets all flavourful and even more yummy. I think the chicken would be best done in the oven, and maybe with a bit of a crispy skin. That would definitely be yummy.

Vegetables. Whatever's left really. Right now I have an absurd amount of mushrooms which I may quickly pan fry and crisp up, a bit of courgette which I will grill off with a bit of FryLite and a fair amount of seasoning. An idea would be to make a separate container of harissa roasting oil. So a little harissa with a lot of vegetable oil to use when roasting. I may take this up if there is a spare jar. And whack it under the grill. I still do the carrots differently. They're up there with my favourite vegetable. I'm stealing the idea Jamie Oliver had of glazing them (I think a slight sweetness would work so well with the spicey veg and chicken). So boil them in water with olive oil, sugar, little bit of salt and I'm not quite sure what else. I'm still going to go with the cumin like last time.

Something really interesting I bought today was purple potatoes. I've had a quick scout on Google, and they're pretty much the same as normal potatoes. Except they are higher in antioxidants than your normal white variety (doesn't say how much higher though...). Anyway, the idea is to either go down the minted potatoes route (except I don't have any mint) or the harissa potatoes route (i.e. roasted harissa potatoes) or the coriander potatoes route (yoghurt, coriander, lemon, maybe cumin seeds again – I'm slightly obsessed with them). I think the coriander ones would look absolutely gorgeous with the bright purple, but that hits me more as a summer thing. But the yoghurt would be like a sort of raita (wrong cuisine but who's caring?) to cool down the heat of the spicy food.

Cous Cous. Anyway, the cous cous would be of whatever vegetable is going to be roasted/grilled/boiled/fried, with a lemon cous cous. Rosemary seems to be the herb of choice with chicken, but I'm thinking more along the lines of thyme (I just love how thyme goes with lemon and spice!). Maybe a little bit of clapped thyme in the ziplock baggie just so it carries through the dish, but definitely chopped up in the cous cous. A simple vegetable stock to cook it through, a little coriander, seasoning and lemon juice. Then mix through some of the veg, but keep most of it on top so it stays nice and crisp.

So as you can tell, I'm very much looking forward to this meal tomorrow. I just hope I'm not too tired from the visit to the Geffrye Museum. But I shall do it properly tomorrow. With pictures. And real instructions. 

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Revisions on Moroccan

Hello. Sorry it's been a while. Here are a few revisions I decided to make on the Couscous Recipe

First of all, I made it, and it was bloody good. I was ridiculously proud of myself. 

1. The courgette wants to be sliced thickly and cut into quarters. It means you've got a larger surface area for roasting, which gives more flavour. We Like Flavour.

2. Thyme. Adding thyme just makes it brilliant, and it goes really well with a recipe for mini Kofte Kebabs I'm going to put up. Add woody thyme to the stock whilst it's simmering (chuck a bayleaf in there for flavour too - it gives great depth to any dish). For the younger, less woody thyme, just chop it up and mix it through before the lemon juice.

3. The spice mix needs more than a little bit of water. I'd say about 75ml or so. It sounds like a lot, but lets be honest, it'll all be absorbed by the couscous anyway. 

4. Roast the vegetables first. Really simple. Chop into bitesized chunks, give them a quick toss in olive oil, season well, and whack in a high oven (220-250C) for about 25 minutes, or until they start going 'Cajun' (brown).

5. Lemon juice. That's best added last, it gives a fresher flavour. 

6. The mint. I forgot to mention it last time. Whack it through the dish at the end, with the thyme (if you're using the younger stuff) or just before serving.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Thoughts on Moroccan.

First and foremost, apologies for not posting in a while, I just haven't been supremely motivated to share food knowledge as I've been so busy. But right now I've realised I'm loving food a little too much and it needs to be shared. Especially for those out there who say they "can't cook". Nonsense. I promised my flatmates I'd cook for them tomorrow (well, today) cause they all leave on Friday/this weekend. And I thought I'd use all the leftovers in the fridge/freezer. Only problem is, Moroccan equals couscous. The problem with my couscous (or froufrou as a Brazillian boy I used to live with called it) is that it's always sort of... bland. But I've been racking my brains and jotting in the old Moleskine and I think I may have come up with something exciting. Thus, welcome, Moroccan Influenced Citrus Couscous with Vegetables.

(I only call it influenced because it's not moroccan. I don't know moroccan food well, and I'm half doing this recipe towards the Algerian food I eat at the fantastic Al-Casbah on Mill Road in Cambridge).


A note: I only came up with this recipe about 10 minutes ago, so it's still in refining stages. I'll try measure everything out for tomorrow so it's all easy to follow and stuff. 



Olive oil – a light one, or vegetable/sunflower oil

Onions – I’m giving red a go as it adds colour and sweetness

Head of Garlic – it’ll be confited so it goes all sweet and mushy

Courgette – diced in generous bite sized pieces

Carrots – in rounds, fairly thin (3mm thick is a good size)

Red peppers – again, diced

Tomatoes – a good fleshy variety, ripe as you can get it

Can of chickpeas - drained


Vegetable stock – I used oxo or marigold swiss bullion

Lemon juice + zest

Fresh mint

Fresh Coriander

Cumin (powdered)

Coriander (powdered)

Cinammon (Powdered works better than sticks, if it’s sticks, simmer it in the stock for a bit)

Tumeric (powdered)


Tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

(It sounds like a lot of stuff, but if you stock up on certain spices like turmeric curry powder etc you can do a wealth of recipes. I’ll post on my favourite versatile spices later)

So, first of all you want to get the garlic confited.  Chop the top of it off so the bulbs are all exposed, put a bit of butter on top (quite a large bit in fact) then wrap it up in foil tightly and shove it in a medium to high oven for 10-15 minutes. So 150-200C. Then just take it out and let it cool.

Next, some oil on. (Cause I’m cooking for more than one, I’m doing this in a wok. It’s my least scratched pan and it’s nice and big). Just cover the bottom of it and add the spices, going easy on the turmeric, or things will go sour and bitter. You want a nice easy sizzle going. 

While the spices roast through, add a bit of water to help it cook through, and a teaspoon of tomato paste. Then a base is made.

Next, turn the heat up and then add the veg. Leave the tomatoes and garlic till later. 

(I did have an idea for the carrots which involves par boiling them, then adding some orange juice and cumin seeds to finish boiling them, and draning and adding with the veg. All this does is add some interesting citrusy sweet tones to the dish. If you can’t be bothered, boil them til al dente and add in now).

Cook until the vegetables are coated nicely in the spiced until they’re coated and the onion is browning, then turn the heat right down. While this is happening, take the garlic out the papery skins and add to the pan.  Then add the couscous and mix through nicely.

Next, you want to add the juice of half the lemon, the vegetable stock (as a rule, I do equal amounts of liquid and couscous. It comes out nice and fluffy then). Season to taste, take off the heat, cover and leave for a little bit for the couscous to soak up the liquid. 

While that’s being absorbed, chop up mint and coriander, a ration of 1:3 (don’t bother being exact, it’s just leaves). Uncover and stir the couscous, adding the herbs, zest and remaining lemon juice and tomatoes. Double check the seasoning et voila. 

Okay, so this hasn’t exactly been tried, but when it has, I will amend the amounts, and any revisions that need to be made to the recipe.