Pork Larb – the national dish of Lao

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Larb originates from Lao but is also eaten in North Eastern Thailand where many of the Thai people are of Laotian decent. It is, put simply, a meat mince salad (pork, chicken, turkey or duck) that is placed in a lettuce ‘cup’ and then eaten in a couple of delicious bites. They have a similar lettuce wrap recipe in Korea known as ‘Ssambap’ – ssam meaning ‘wrap’ and bap meaning ‘rice’.

 

 

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My version has replaced the rice, (which is traditionally toasted then roughly ground (Khao Khua) and sprinkled on the top of the mince when serving to help soak up any of the juices) with roughly ground shelled and oven roasted unsalted peanuts. I like the crunch and taste of the nut combining with the minced meat and fresh herbs. If you want to stay true to the original recipe then just add ground toasted rice in place of peanuts. Try both and see which works for you.

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The combination of fresh crunchy salad leaves, fragrantly spiced mince meat and fresh mint and thai basil (or coriander, but I had run out otherwise I would have thrown that in too) is satisfyingly tasty that one, or three in fact, is never quite enough. It is perfect as a canapé, or as a starter whereby guests can put together their own wraps before popping them in their mouths. Personally I love eating with my hands so any excuse to get everyone to throw themselves into this enjoyable pursuit gets the thumbs up in my books.

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If you tone done on the chilli this dish is also a hit with kids (although my 8 yr old has it as is) as it is a little bit different, packed full of flavours and quite simply good fun to eat, which bottom line is what food and eating should all be about. My dish is more Laotian in style and substance, minus the rice sprinkle. The north east Thailand variety varies again omitting fish sauce and lime juice and instead uses a wide range of spices including cinnamon, star anise, long pepper, cumin, cloves amongst others. I’ll post this version in the future.

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Throw yourself into it, try something different. I can assure you that you one wrap is never enough. This will become a firm family favourite I can guarantee.

Pork Larb 

Serves 15 as a canapé or 6-8 as a starter

2 tbsp sunflower oil (or peanut oil if you have it)

2 banana shallots, finely sliced

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp grated garlic

1 tsp lemongrass paste

2 small red chillies, finely chopped (take the seeds out if you like it less hot)

1 kg pork mince

2 limes, juice only

5 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp caster

1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

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30g shelled and oven roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped

5 little gem lettuces or similar lettuce

handful of fresh thai basil

handful of fresh mint leaves

handful of coriander leaves

limes wedges to serve

1. In a large pan heat the oil on a medium heat and then add the shallots and fry gently. (Equally 1 large red onion also works well if you cannot get hold of shallots).

2. When the shallots have softened add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and fresh red chilli and stir together gently.

3. Add the pork mince and move around the pan until all the pink meat has become brown. This will take around 8-10 minutes.

4. Add the fish sauce, light soy sauce, lime juice, caster sugar and red chilli flakes and stir into the mince. Leave to cook on a low heat for a further 5 minutes. Just before serving throw in a few fresh herbs and give a good stir.

5. To serve place a tablespoonful of the mince onto the lettuce cup followed by a couple of mint, Thai basil and coriander leaves and a sprinkling of peanuts (or rice if you want to stay totally traditional). Add a splash of lime juice as required.

It can be eaten at room temperature or slightly warm.

* If your mince has juice, cook it for a little longer with the lid off the pan. That should do the trick. If there continues to be some juice, it is best to strain the mince as it is easier to eat on the lettuce cups if there is no juice. 

you can replace the pork mince, with chicken, turkey, duck or I reckon even tofu would work well.


Spanish Baked Chicken and Pea and Mint Soup with Crumbled Feta

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It’s always good to have some quick, easy and tasty recipes up your sleeve if you feeding a crowd. I know how it is difficult to decide what to pair up with what in as far as a starter, main and dessert is concerned. I always find it helpful in cookery books when they give suggestions. It’s surprising how many do not actually do this!

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Both these recipes turned up on my blog when I first started back in 2011 and I felt that the photos needed a little improving so decided to re post with new ones that I recently took. They are both definitely ‘go-to’ recipes for me. Hearty food with wonderful herbs, but light and fresh – perfect for summer days.

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They are so quick and easy to prepare that if you have friends coming over or you are doing your own catering on holiday, they take no time and will not cause you any stress. The dessert I accompanied these dishes with was Rose and Summer Berry Skinnifreddo, which I found on fellow food blogger Kellie’s blog – kelliesfoodtoglow.com. It was wonderfully fresh, colourful and healthy and  complements my starter and main beautifully. Her blog is really rather lovely so do take some time to look around it – I am sure you will be inspired.

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The above photo is of the chicken after marinading but before cooking

Spanish Baked Chicken

Sourced and inspired by Simply Recipes

serves 4-6

3.5 pounds/1.6kg  chicken thighs

100 ml red wine vinegar

100ml olive oil

1 handful fresh oregano

100g raisins/sultanas

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

pepper

100g stoneless green olives

4 bay leaves

150 ml white wine

2 tbsp brown sugar

1. Cut the excess fat off the chicken thighs, pierce the skin with a fork and place in a large mixing bowl. Then add all the ingredients, except the white wine and brown sugar, to create the wonderful marinade. You don’t have to stick rigidly to the amounts for the olives and raisin/sultanas ingredients – if you love olives throw in a little more and same goes for the raisins/sultanas. Really mix all the marinade thoroughly over the chicken using your hands. Cover with foil and place in the fridge overnight or for as many hours as you can.

2. Transfer the chicken and the marinade to an oven proof dish. I often use a couple of dishes so that the chicken thighs are evenly spread out. Then pour the white wine and sprinkle the brown sugar over the chicken thighs.

3. Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 50 mins remembering to spoon the marinade over the chicken during cooking. This will ensure the chicken has a golden brown glow when it is cooked.

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Pea and Mint Soup with Crumbled Feta

Serves 4

4 spring onions, sliced

50g butter

700g frozen peas

1 pint/600ml milk

1 pint/600ml of vegetable stock

one handful of fresh mint (or two if you like it really minty)

black pepper

salt

75g feta

1. Melt the butter slowly in a pan, careful not to burn the butter. When melted add the sliced spring onions and stir into the butter for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas, vegetable stock and mint and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes (30 minutes if you are using fresh peas).

2. Puree the soup to the consistency that you require. Then add in the milk – if you like a thicker consistency then add less milk than the amount given above. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Immediately before serving sprinkle each portion with crumbled feta.


Dried Ginger and Lentil Spiced Chicken Balti and the Curry For Change Campaign

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For the month of June folks, I’m going to share recipes that include some of the ingredients that were kindly sent to me by Natco foods as part of the ‘Curry for Change campaign’ competition. As part of the competition, food bloggers had to use at least 3 ingredients to come up with an original curry that would be easy to replicate at home by YOU.  Check out the varied array of goodies they sent me. My mind was working in overdrive to come up with a curry that would appeal from a taste and ease perspective.

I’m curious as to what you would have created using some of the ingredients below…..leave a comment for us all to see.

IMG_8956 But first let me take a few steps back to explain what ‘Curry for Change Campaign’ is all about and how you too can get involved.

In short, the campaign is about raising awareness of families who suffer from hunger across the world and how by cooking or eating a curry can help support a wonderful charity called ‘Find Your Feet’. The charity helps rural communities in Asia and Africa by giving them the knowledge and skills to become self sufficient and feed their families and communities. Rather than just offering handouts the charity gives the communities knowledge, understanding and education that allows them to bring themselves out of poverty and hunger. You can read more about the charity – here.

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You are probably wondering how eating or cooking a curry is going to actually help these communities?

Well a number of well-known Indian restaurants across the capital, in June, have thrown themselves into the campaign by creating a number of special dishes to help raise money for the cause. For those of you who are keen cooks, however, you can sign up for a Curry for Change event pack http://www.curryforchange.org.uk  for you to host a spicy night in with friends. All your friends need to do is to donate what they would spend on a typical Indian take-out. The pack includes spices from Natco Foods, cooking tips and recipes from the campaign ambassadors. On top of that you will also have my recipes over the month to give you more ideas on what to cook as well as my extensive list of recipes in my recipe library.

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So what are you waiting for? Do leave comments below and let us know how you get on. Spread the word on this exciting campaign. I’ll be giving you details of who won the competition in my next post ;o)….so watch this space.

Dried Ginger and Lentil Spiced Chicken Balti

5 tbsp vegetable oil

10g dried ginger

1 tbsp shredded coconut

500g chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 tsp turmeric

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garlic paste

2 tsp salt

1x 4 inch piece of cassia bark, broken in two

2 green chillies, stalk removed but kept whole

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

6 large tomatoes (900g), finely chopped

400g boiling water

100g yellow split peas

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to make the Tarka

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies

10 fresh curry leaves (or dried if you can’t get hold of fresh)

Ingredients in bold were part of the Natco hamper sent to me.

1) Heat a large deep pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. When it is hot add the dried ginger and move around the pan for under a minute. Remove the ginger and place in a spice grinder/blender along with the shredded coconut.

2) In a bowl add the chicken pieces, turmeric powder, the ground dried ginger and shredded coconut as well as one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Stir well so that all the chicken pieces are coated. Leave to rest whilst you prepare the rest of the dish.

3)  In the same large deep pan that you heated the dried ginger, add 3 further tablespoons of vegetable oil. When it is hot add the onion and gently fry it until it begins to brown in colour. Add the garlic paste, salt, Kashmiri chilli powder and cassia bark and stir for a few minutes.

4) Add the spiced chicken pieces to the pan and stir into all the other ingredients. Place a lid on the pan and allow the chicken to whiten and begin to bronze in places. Stir at intervals. This will take around 10 minutes.

5) Add the chopped tomatoes and the boiling water, which will allow the yellow split peas to cook easily. Continue to cook the curry on a medium heat for 20 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

6) In a separate small pan heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds, dried red chilli and curry leaves –  this will be the tarka. The cumin seeds will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Move the ingredients around the pan for one minute and then pour into the main pan when ready to serve.

Serve with either plain rice, naan, paratha or puri.

Note: If you prefer less of a sauce keep the lid off the pan for a little longer, which will allow the sauce to thicken and reduce.

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New York Wanderings and a Traditional Bengali Chicken Curry

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I’ve been doing a spot of travelling since my last blog post, hence the slight delay. Mr B and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with a long weekend in New York. It’s been a decade since I last visited so was really eager to catch up with friends and immerse myself in a city that has the most wonderful, infectious energy and of course, never sleeps.

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We parked ourselves in The Standard, East Village with it’s fabulous vistas spanning the whole of Manhattan with it’s floor to ceiling windows; I never tired of the view from our bedroom.

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The hotel totally lived up to our (high) expectations and the staff made a real effort to make our stay extra special. Would I return? Most definitely.

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Sunrise on our first morning from our room

We walked and walked and walked for hours on end, exploring the little streets in the Villages and Soho with it’s stunning wrought ironwork on the sides of the buildings.

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To give us bursts of energy we would refuel with fresh juices from the juice trailers parked in the streets. With around 80 different juice combinations to choose from it was hard to decide which one to pick. At around $4 a pop they are great value and ridiculously healthy – a win win.

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They cleanse the body and totally refresh the tired wanderer. Competitively priced and they would do so well here in London – a great business idea for a budding entrepreneur!!

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The stunning High Line with the old tracks visible

The High Line really impressed us – a great example of urban regeneration. It’s a stunning elevated greenway mile that used to be the New York central rail road spur, known as the West Side Line. It spans the meat packing district all the way up to Chelsea and is cleverly designed with shrubs, plants and trees interspersed with benches and seating areas around and on top of the old tracks. I particularly loved the raised seating, similar to an amphitheatre that looks over one of the roads with a huge glass window.

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Clever designs and architecture throughout the High Line

Instead of watching a movie you sit and watch the traffic buzz beneath you. Later in the day when I was passing underneath it in a taxi it almost looked like an advertising poster, and then I saw the people moving around. A clever effect and a fun way to be creative with the old rail road.

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Walkways along the High Line 

The peace and serenity that the High Line offers is a welcome respite from the manic life that goes on down below. If you are planning a trip my recommendation would be to go early as it definitely becomes crowded as the run rises higher in the sky.

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Me sitting on the attractive wooden seating on the High Line

Friends beckoned us over to Brooklyn, a place I definitely want to explore further on my next visit, to an area that is gentrifying and that has become rather hip – called Dumbo. Looking across at Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of New York, gave a new perspective to this sprawling city. The sun was shining and the crowds were out and if the ice cream queue at The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory had anything to go by the area of Dumbo has become hugely popular.

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Looking back at Manhattan from Dumbo in Brooklyn

A couple other must-see destinations for foodies is the Italian food emporium of Eataly, which is just by the famous Flatiron building, which in itself is a piece of interesting architecture worth seeing.

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 The famous Flatiron building

It’s only a matter of time before we’ll see an Eataly in London, having already got branches outside the US in Dubai, Japan, Istanbul and Italy itself.  The shop is bursting at the seams with delicious Italian produce, and yet it has a calm serenity that makes wandering around it very pleasant indeed. There are bars and a couple of cafes (the one on the roof is perfect for sunny summer days and has a huge selection of beers) and it’s quite acceptable to browse around the store with a glass of wine in your hand. All very civilised if you ask me.

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The other food mecca worth seeking out is Chelsea Market, not far from the High Line, so perhaps the perfect pit stop after a High Line stroll. It’s a stunning food court with a great atmosphere and an incredible choice of eateries, bars and cafes.

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strolling through Chelsea Market – loving the exposed bricks

Aside from eating, walking and socialising we managed to squeeze in a little culture with a visit to the ‘The Frick Collection’ . Based in the Upper East Side it gave us a great excuse to explore the neighbourhood and central park. The collection itself is fascinating and housed in the mansion of the wealthy industrialist Henry Frick, one of America’s greatest art collectors who died in 1919. His house contains many masterpieces of paintings, sculptures and decorative art that the public are freely allowed to view and admire. He bequeathed the house and all it’s contents to the public upon his death. It’s a relatively small collection so won’t take too long to amble around so is easy to fit into a quick stop in New York. Go visit.

New York is jammed full of incredible restaurants. A list of some of those we visited is listed below:

The Dutch – happening bar with tasty American food and an exciting wine list. Based in Soho.

Lafayette – sister restaurant to The Dutch (we did not realise this at the time). Larger in size to The Dutch and a little more formal. More French style menu.

Atrium – This Dumbo restaurant is buzzy with a delicious brunch/lunch menu. Mr B found the pulled pork bun too small for his liking – I on the other hand found the size spot on. Interesting foliage structure upon the main wall.

Spice Market – based in the Meatpacking District across the road from Soho House. Old kid on the block but still going strong. Large restaurant so not intimate and filled with locals, but seriously tasty Asian food.

Noho Star – Neighbourhood cafe in East Village. Highly recommend the spicy Mexican Huevos Rancheros. Deeeelish.

Cafe Standard – Within the Standard Hotel East Village, this hip eatery is always buzzing and has a great menu with delicious juices.

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Back in London we craved spicy Indian food so rustled up one of our favourite chicken curries. We tend to cook it on the bone (seriously it tastes much better this way), but if the thought of cooking and eating off the bone doesn’t appeal simply cook the curry with breast and boneless chicken thighs instead.

Eating nourishing, homely food also really helps with jetlag ;0)

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Traditional Bengali Chicken Curry

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 chicken, cut into 10/12 pieces and skin removed

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

4 cloves

5 cardamom pods, split open

1 pieces of cinnamon bark, split into three

2 tsp salt

8 garlic cloves, kept whole

2 tsp of fresh ginger paste

4 medium potatoes, chopped in two

2 or 3 large carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 tbsp natural yoghurt

2 tbsp of tinned chopped tomatoes

1. In a large deep pan heat up the oil. Place the onion in the oil and gently fry until the onion becomes translucent and soft. This should take around 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and allow them to whiten completely. Turn them at intervals so that all sides of the chicken pieces are white. This will take around 10 minutes.

3. Once whitened add all the spices and salt followed by the potatoes, garlic cloves, carrots, tomatoes and yoghurt. Stir in well so that the chicken and vegetables are completely coated in the spices.

4. On a medium heat allow the curry to cook through, stirring at intervals. No extra water is needed as the chicken pieces release plenty of water during cooking.

5. After 40 minutes the curry should be completely cooked. Using a knife make sure the carrots and potatoes are soft. If they remain hard, stir into the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve with rice or Indian bread. As it is on the bone it is easier to eat the traditional Indian way – with your right hand -but I’ll leave that for you to decide.


Rajasthani Kick-Ass Lamb Curry – Laal Maas

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Sometimes a kick-ass curry is what one needs to enliven the senses and to feel blessed to be alive. It also does wonders if you are suffering from a cold or feeling a little run down. This curry, known as Laal Maas – which in Hindi translates as  ‘red meat’ – is a traditional Rajasthani dish that is loved, adored and eaten in every Rajasthani household. My version is not ‘blow your brains out’ chilli hot, although it does have more heat than the majority of my Indian curries on my blog.  I think if you generally like spice then this will appeal. If you are more of a korma person then I would give laal maas a wide berth.

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I cooked it earlier in the week when I had a bunch of friends over for supper and not one lamb morsel or spoonful of sauce was left. I served it with an ivy gourd/tindora/gentleman’s toes curry – see recipe here as I felt they would compliment and not overpower one another. I also made some pakora with some homemade coriander chutney and tamarind and date chutney – recipes for all of these I will post soon.

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Rajasthani cooking is traditionally a lot spicy than Bengali and this dish clearly demonstrates this. It is not a hot as you may think, largely owning to the Kashmiri chilli powder that is added which gives the curry a deep red colour but not so much heat that it is difficult to eat. The yoghurt also tones the down the heat making it enjoyably palatable. Not one of my guests requested milk to deaden the heat or were perspiring uncontrollably. So give it a go. I like to cook it earlier in the day and then gently reheat before serving. I find that leaving it to rest a while before reheating also calms the heat so don’t stress if you taste a spoonful when it is cooking in the first instance as it will calm down if it is left for a few hours.

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Laal Maas – Rajasthani Kick-Ass Lamb Curry

Serves 6

125ml vegetable oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

6 cloves

6 fresh red chillies, storks removed (you can also used dried – see footnote)

1/2 mace blade

6 green cardamom pods, opened

2 black cardamom pods

2 large red onions, thinly sliced

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tbsp ginger paste

1.2kg lamb, diced

2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp salt

250g plain yoghurt, whisked

coriander to serve – optional

1. Using a pestle and mortar (or a bowl and the end of a rolling pan if you do not have one), gently bash the green cardamom pods so that they open and some of the seeds come out. Place to one side. If you are making your own ginger and garlic paste I find gently grating them first is the best way to form a paste. Add a drop or two of water to make a more paste like consistency. For this recipe I used a jar of garlic paste and ginger paste for ease and speed.

2. In a large pan or casserole dish add the oil and when it is hot, but on a medium heat, add the cumin seeds and move them around the pan for 30 seconds to allow the flavours to open up.

3. Add the chilli, the green and black cardamom pods, mace blade and cloves and continue to move around the pan for a further minute.

4. Add the sliced onion and cook on a low heat for 6-8 minutes, by which time the onion will begin to brown in colour.

5. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir in well with the other ingredients and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.

6. Now add the diced lamb and completely coat in all the ingredients. Add the turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powder and salt and leave to cook gently so the lamb has browned – this will take up to 10 minutes.

7. Place the whisked yoghurt into the pan and fold into the lamb. Cook for a further 5 minutes, before reducing the heat and allowing the lamb to simmer in the sauce for 40 minutes. Continue to stir intermittently.

8. Ideally cook this curry at least a few hours before serving allowing the curry to rest. When you are ready to eat gently reheat and if you like scatter with coriander before serving.

Serve with Basmalti rice or Indian flat bread to mop.

The same curry can be made easily with either chicken or goat. 

You can also used dried Kashmiri chillies. Best to soak them in warm water for 10 minutes and then either keep them whole or blitz them to make a coarse paste. 

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Chicken, Ginger and Spring Onion Gyoza/Jiaozi/Pop Sticker

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Mention the worked ‘gyoza’ in my household and you will hear yelps of delight – and that’s not just from the children. These moreish savoury dumplings are incredibly addictive and are a great little starter or snack, although you can off course have them as a main meal along with some steamed greens with soy and garlic perhaps.

Japan and China both have their version of the dumpling, although these dumplings first originated from China and were then adopted by the Japanese. The Chinese dumplings are known as jiaozi if they are boiled or steamed and guo tie if they are fried, in Japan – gyoza and the US – pot sticker.

The Chinese variety have slightly thicker wrappers and have a far wider combination of fillings than their Japanese counterparts. They are often steamed, whereas the Japanese gyoza are fried for a few minutes and then steamed for a further few minutes. The fillings I typically use for the vegetarian are tofu and shiitake mushrooms, or the meat variety filled with pork, chicken or duck or the seafood version, which tends to be prawn. Whatever takes your fancy these little dainties will be forever cherished by those who sample them.

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Now the question is to lovingly prepare your own wrappers or to buy some from your local Asian grocers or online. Basically it will come down to time on your part. Making your own takes a little time, but its the perfect activity to do with a mate who comes over for coffee – just rope them in they’ll love the experience or even with the kids. Shop bought is pretty cheap, as you can see for the price sticker I left on above, and are likely to be more uniform in thickness, but I’ll leave it to you to decide which suits your lifestyle.

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For those who wish to make their own it is SO simple. Seriously you only need a couple of ingredients and then a bit of kneading.

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Homemade Gyoza Wrappers

Makes around 20

210g plain flour, seived

125ml warm water

 pinch of salt

1. Stir the salt into the warm water until it completely dissolves.

2. Place the sieved flour into a large bowl and add the warm water. Using a wooden spoon mix the flour and water together and then use your hands to create a ball.

3. Kneed the dough on a cold surface for around 10 minutes, when it will be soft and springy to touch. Sprinkle more flour onto the dough if it is getting too sticky.

4. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins.

5. Take small balls of the dough – about the size of apricot – and flatten it with your hand. Gently roll the dough into a round shape, turning it after every roll. Using a round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a saucer) cut out a round circle and cover gently with flour and place in a pile.

6. Continue until the dough has been used up. You should make around 20 dough wrappers with the proportions above. Whilst you prepare the filling place a damp cloth over the wrappers so they do not dry out.

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So now you have the wrappers ready to go you need to prepare the filling. Whether you want to use chicken, pork mince, prawn, duck or shiitake mushrooms and tofu the rest of the ingredients remain the same.

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Whilst using Chinese cabbage is the most authentic, use whatever green cabbage you have in your fridge. Place two large leaves in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute and then drain and pat completely dry with kitchen paper. You then want to slice and cut them up as small as you can. You can blitz everything in a blender but I tend to often take the slightly slower version of cutting by hand. Today I used chicken and as I tend to find minced chicken hard to source so I bought boneless chicken thighs and cut up them up into small pieces. I also added spring onions, chopped garlic, finely grated ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper and hey presto you have your filling. You can get creative and add any other ingredient you think might work – how about carrot, fresh chilli, five spice.

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Wrapping the dumplings is rather satisfying and you will begin to get into a rhyme with them. Don’t overfill the gyoza, instead putting a teaspoonful in the centre and then, using your finger tip, wet the low half rim of the circle. You then want to fold over the gyoza in half and then begin to pleat from left to right, making sure the filling is securely inside the parcel. It is definitely a case of the more you do the better you become. My 8 year old is a complete natural and can do multiple pleats across the top. You only pleat one side of the gyoza s0 do not turn over and attempt to do more on the other side.

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The above photo shows half of the gyoza pleated. I finished doing this row, but did not turn it over to attempt to do the other side. To pleat you simply use your thumb and forefinger to make small pleats going over the last. Make sure you press the top together so that it is firmly stuck together – you don’t want them opening up in the pan.

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So you can see some are neater than others above. They will still taste delicious even if you haven’t got the perfect symmetrical pleating!

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Dumpling Filling

to fill around 20 dumplings

2 large leaves from a green cabbage/Chinese leaf cabbage

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

20g ginger, peeled and finely grated

3 spring onions, finely sliced into small pieces

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp mirin rice wine

275g boneless chicken thighs/or chicken mince (or duck, pork mince, tofu and shiitake mushrooms)

100 ml water

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Dumpling Dipping Sauce

3 tsp rice vinegar

6 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp chilli oil (optional)

1 tsp sesame seeds

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1. Finely chop all of the ingredients and then bind together using your hands.

2. Place a heaped teaspoon of the ingredients onto one of the wrappers in the centre.

3. Wet the rim of the lower half of the wrapper using your finger.

4. Fold the wrapper in two and then pleat from left to right across the top, making sure to firmly seal the top of the wrappers.

5. Bend the wrapper slightly so that it is in a crescent moon shape and so it can stand up unaided. Place to one side whilst you prepare the rest.

6. Using a large nonstick pan add a tablespoon of sesame oil and when hot add the dumplings so that they are standing up and not sticking to one another. Fry them for 3 minutes, by which time they will have bronzed underneath. If they have not bronzed sufficiently leave them to fry for a little longer.

7. Add 100ml of water to the pan and place a lid on the top. Leave to steam for a further 3-4 minutes so that the water has completely dissolved.

8. Mix the ingredients of the dipping sauce together and then place to one side in a little bowl.

9. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

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Boneless Southern Indian Chicken Curry

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I am guessing that most households will eat chicken at some point in an average week and whilst I do cook a number of chicken curries on the bone, it is always good to have some boneless chicken curries up your sleeve that you can whip together relatively quickly on a given evening. Cooking meat on the bone allows the meat to be more tender and succulent, but that said I know that having bones in a meal can really put some eaters off. So I hope this curry will be a happy compromise in that it is tasty, quick and bone free, therefore perhaps appealing to a wider audience.

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Whilst it does contain coconut milk the tomatoes balance out the sweetness to the extent the coconut doesn’t dominate this dish, instead giving it a subtle creaminess. I also find that adding just two chillies allows my eldest child, who is 8 yrs old, to really enjoy eating it as she does not find it too spicy. So if you find yourself wondering what to do with some chicken breasts in the fridge over the course of next week give this south Indian curry a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Boneless Southern Indian Chicken Curry

Serves 4

650g chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite sized morsels

1 level tsp of turmeric powder

1/2 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 red onion, chopped

2 inches of ginger, peeled and finely grated

4 garlic cloves peeled and finely grated

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curry paste

2 green chillies, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 inch of ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 tsp of black peppercorns

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tbsp water

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5 tomatoes, peeled, skinned and chopped (put in boiling water for 3 mins then peel easily)

 2 limes, juice

250 ml coconut milk

salt to taste

fresh coriander leaves to serve

1. First marinate the chicken breasts at room temperature for up to an hour. Mix thoroughly with the turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powder and cover.

2. Prepare the chopping and grating of the onion, garlic and ginger for both the paste and the sauce and place to one side.

3. Place all the curry paste ingredients in a blender and blend into a smooth paste. Add a little more water if it needs help reaching a smooth quality. Place to one side.

3. Heat up a large pan with the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds. They will begin to pop within about 20 seconds  – move them around the pan to release the fragrance and then add the onion and stir into the oil and seeds. Cook the onions for 5 minutes, by which time they will begin to soften before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook for a further minute before adding the curry paste and stiring thoroughly. Let simmer away for a further couple of minutes.

4. Add the chicken and stir into the sauce so that it is coated and begins to cook. After 8-10 minutes the chicken should have turned white, with no pink bits remaining, and will begin to bronze in places.

5. Add the softened tomatoes (you can remove the pips but I tend to use it all up, bar the skin!), lime juice and coconut milk and simmer for a further 20 minutes to allow the flavours to work together and for the chicken to be thoroughly cooked through. Season to taste.

If the sauce needs to be juicier then simply add a little water. If it is too juice then cook with the lid off for a little longer.

Serve with fragrant rice or some Indian flat bread.

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Moroccan Giant Couscous Salad and a Mung Bean, Carrot and Feta Salad

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I had a few girlfriends over for lunch this week and thought it might be helpful to give you the low down on some of the things I prepared which allowed me to have a stress free time. Planning ahead is absolutely essential. There is nothing worse than having to fret over food last minute when all you really want to be doing is catching up with everyone. I tend to opt for large healthy salads and then prepare a hot soup of some sorts to warm the belly and soul.

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So first up was a mung bean, carrot and feta salad with cumin, caraway and fennel seeds. It requires some forward planning in that you need to soak the lentils overnight, but other than that it is very straightforward and ticks all the boxes for healthiness and importantly tastiness.

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Then I prepared my Vietnamese inspired salmon, cucumber, red onion and grapefruit salad with a mirin lime dressing. I posted it on my blog about a year ago. Check out the recipe here.

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Then I made one of my absolute favourite salads – a miso soy chicken with spinach, lentils, slow baked tomatoes, green  (you can use puy, beluga whatever takes your fancy) lentils and pine nuts. Recipe here. I opted to make my own slow baked tomatoes – you can find a recipe for them at the bottom of the post if you click here. Very easy to prepare and taste so delicious.

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To balance out the flavours, palate and colours I then prepared a Moroccan influenced salad of giant couscous, Moroccan spices, sultanas, pine nuts, fresh mint and pink lady apples. Recipe below.

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Excuse the rather hazy shot of the final ‘salad’, but I opted for shredded duck with pomegranate, spring onions, mint and coriander with a raspberry vinegar dressing. I posted the recipe here on my blog a while ago.

The hot soup that I prepared I completely forgot to take a photo of – so I will do a separate blog post on that another time – but it was a red lentil (I am slightly obsessed by these delicious little beauties), coconut milk and smoked paprika with a chilli oil and fresh coriander sprinkled on top.

Needless to say I cooked far too much of everything so will be eating tasty leftovers for the next few days!

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I’ll leave you with a pretty flower shot. I am so pleased that finally some of the wonderfully colourful and sweet smelling flowers are beginning to grace our florists.

Until next week folks…..

Moroccan Giant Couscous Salad

Serves 4-6

Inspired by a similar recipe from Red Magazine online

300g giant couscous

1 tbsp butter

50g sultanas

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1/2 cumin powder

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 garlic, finely grated/chopped

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

handful of fresh mint, chopped

zest of a lemon

1 red chilli, finely chopped (half if you prefer it less hot)

2 pink lady apples, diced and cored

1. Place the couscous in a pan and completely cover with boiling water. Simmer gently for 6-8 minutes so that the couscous is soft. Strain and run under the cold tap. Shake off the water as much as you can. Place to one side.

2. Using the same pan melt the butter and then add the sultanas so that they are completely coated in the melted butter.  Now add the ground cinnamon, cumin and smoked paprika and simmer for one minute and then place to one side.

3. Dice and core the apple (if serving at a later stage hold off on cutting up the apple until almost ready to serve as it will begin to bronze), deseed the chilli and finely chop. Finely chop the shallots and grate the ginger and garlic cloves.

4. In a mixing bowl add the couscous, the sultanas with all the spices and butter juice and mix together. Now add the shallots, ginger and garlic and continue to fold into the couscous.

5. Scatter the apple on top along with the mint and lemon zest and serve.

Leftovers can easily be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.

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Mung Bean, Carrot and Feta Salad with Cumin, Caraway and Fennel Seeds

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe in ‘The Guardian’

Serves 4-6

300g dried green mung beans

1 tbsp chilli oil (or olive if you prefer to have less of a kick)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp caraway seeds

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

3 good sized carrots cut in to batons

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

150g feta, crumbled (not finely)

handful of freshly chopped coriander

1. Soak the dried mung beans overnight in water that completely covers them.

2. The following day, rinse them a couple of times in cold water and then place them in a pan and cover with boiling water. Simmer gently for 25-30 minutes to soften them but so they still retain a bit of a bite.

3. Drain and rinse through cold water and set to one side in a large bowl.

4. In a small pan add the chilli oil (or olive see above) and when hot add the seeds and allow them to start popping, which will take no longer than 30 seconds. Stir a couple of times and then transfer the seeds and oil into the large bowl with the drained mung beans.

5. Add the white wine vinegar, garlic, chilli flakes and stir in together.

6. In a separate large shallow pan lay the carrot batons and almost cover with cold water. Add one further spoonful of olive oil along with the sugar and salt. Simmer on a high heat for 7 minutes by which time the carrots will have soften and the water will have drastically reduced – drain any excess. The sugar will allow the carrots to slightly caramelise.

7. Add the carrots to the mung beans and stir in gently. Add more salt if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter and crumble with feta.

Again this stores well in the fridge for a couple of days.

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Tlayudas – Mexican Open Pizza and Homemade Guacamole

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Homemade guacamole packs a punch well above the bought stuff.  I know this my trade mark line (yawn yawn!), but it really is a breeze to make and is so tasty you’ll be wishing you had bought more avocados. As well as being a moreish dip – I kid you not, if I leave the room with a bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips, when I return the contents of the bowl will be clean – it’s also the perfect filler for the Mexican pizza Tlayudas, pronounced something along the lines of (clae-yoo-das).

These pizzas can be made with Middle Eastern flat breads/pittas a supply of which I always have in my freezer. It’s simply a case of piling on all the ingredients, with the flat breads sitting directly on a frying pan and then folding them over slightly to give the appearance of an thick taco. You can fill the flat breads with whatever takes your fancy, however I find that guacamole; shredded, poached chicken; mozzarella; pecorino; spiced sun blushed tomatoes; spinach; tarragon and rocket really hits the spot.

Be warned eating this is not a tidy pastime. However, you can get seriously involved and at one with your food.

Let me know if you give them a whirl and leave a comment below.

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Homemade Guacamole

adapted from Thomasina Miers’s book Mexican Food Made Simple

Serves 4

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped

2 serrano green chillies (1 if you prefer it less spicy), finely chopped

3 large ripe avocados, stoned and skin removed

1-2 limes, juice

pinch of rock salt

handful  of freshly coriander, chopped

black pepper

1. After finely chopping the red onion and chillies (I tend to leave the seeds in to give it that extra kick) place them in a bowl and  mash them together a little before adding the avocado. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar I find a good sized bowl and an end of a rolling pin work really well.

2. Add the juice of one lime and stir well into the guacamole, along with the salt, pepper and the chopped coriander.

3. Taste and add the juice of a further lime if needed – down to personal choice. I love it limey so tend to add two.

4. Give a good stir and spoon into a serving bowl/dish.  Place in the fridge whilst you are preparing the ingredients for the Tlayudas. Do not prepare too far in advance as the avocado will begin to discolour.

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Tlayudas, Mexican Open Pizza

adapted from Thomasina Miers’s book Mexican Food Made Simple

Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, poached and shredded

1 large bag of spinach

1 tsp of butter

4 large Middle Eastern flat breads

a bowl of homemade guacamole, see above

2 large mozzarella balls, torn into smaller pieces

16 slow baked tomatoes with chilli 

2 handfuls of rocket

1 handful of fresh tarragon

rock salt and pepper

pecorino or cheddar cheese for grating

1. Poach the chicken (in boiling water for up to 20 mins) and then shred it using a fork.  Place to one side.

2. Place a saucepan on low heat and add the butter. Once it has melted add the washed spinach and cook for a minute until the spinach just wilts. Remove from the pan and strain the spinach, pressing down firmly with a spoon so that the water is removed as far as possible. Place to one side.

3. Heat up a large frying pan and when it is hot add a flat bread and press down gently. Sprinkle a drop of water and turn the flat bread over. Now you need to work quickly. Spoon on a generous helping of guacamole followed by the chicken, mozzarella, slow baked tomatoes in chilli, spinach, rocket, salt, pepper and some grated pecorino/cheddar.

4. The flat bread will begin to crisp up quickly and the mozzarella begin to melt, so carefully begin to fold the flat bread over. With a spatula lift the pizza onto a plate and serve immediately.

5. Repeat until everyone is served.

Dive in and enjoy. Don’t forget the napkins.


Vietnamese Chicken Rissoles with Shallots, Lemongrass and Garlic

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Vietnamese chicken rissoles, or patties if you prefer, are the perfect simple lunch/supper to prepare for all the family. Little Z, who is four, is always a bit unsure about eating chicken, however, disguising chicken as rissoles seems to really work as they are softer and therefore easier to eat than regular chicken pieces. Other than the dipping sauce, there is no chilli in the rissoles, so they really are family friendly.

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When preparing the rissoles you really want to make sure that the lemongrass and garlic is well chopped up. I chopped them with a knife to begin with before putting them into my spice grinder for a finer texture. The chicken and the shallots also need to be chopped up before whizzing them in a food processor.

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Once the all the ingredients have been combined place some oil into the palms of your hands which will allow you to easily shape your rissoles without them sticking to your hands. Roll them into a ball before flattening them slightly to give a pattie appearance. Cooking time is really short. After heating oil in a pan place five patties in your frying pan and leave them for 3 to 4 minutes before turning them over for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure that the heat is consistent and they do not burn.

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I like to eat them with a fresh salad of tomatoes, red onions and coriander with splashes of nuoc cham sauce over the top, although my daughters prefer theirs with white rice noodles and splashes of light soy sauce. Any leftovers can be stored easily in the fridge and then enjoyed the following day in a baguette with shredded carrots, cucumber and fresh cucumber – similar to the Vietnamese sandwich – Bahn Mi. More on these glorious sandwiches another time.

Chicken Rissoles with Shallots, Lemongrass and Garlic

Makes 15 rissoles (yes myself and a little someone ate two before the photos above)

adapted from the recipe I learnt earlier this year from Van at her fabulous Green Bamboo Cooking School in Hoi An

500g boneless chicken breasts, chopped and then blended

4 lemongrass sticks, finely chopped/blended

4 garlic cloves, chopped/blended

3 banana shallots (if you only have regular shallots that is also fine)

2 eggs

pinch of five spice powder

pince of cayenne powder

2 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp caster sugar

salt and pepper

oil for frying

1. Finely chop the lemongrass and garlic, initially by hand and then in a spice grinder/blender./mortar and pestle. You want the lemongrass especially to be as fine as possible.

2. After roughly chopping the chicken and shallots place them in a blender until a chicken paste forms. Add the finely chopped lemongrass and garlic and pulse once again. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add the eggs, flour, spices and all the other ingredients. Mix well with your hands.

4. Place a little oil in the palm of your hands and then roll some of the chicken paste into your hands to create a ball and then gently press down to create the flattened rissole.

5. Heat a large frying pan with oil and when it is hot gently lower the rissoles into the pan. I usually do mine in batches of 5. Leave the rissoles to cook well on one side (3 to 4 minutes should be sufficient) before turning over and cooking for a further 3 to 4 minutes.

6. When they have browned, place the rissoles onto some kitchen paper to cool.

7. Serve with nuoc cham dipping sauce and a fresh salad

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

juice of 1 lime

2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

fresh chilli, finely chopped (optional/to taste)

1. Initially mix the lime juice with the sugar thoroughly before adding the rest of the ingredients. Continue to mix together. This sauce can be made ahead of time and can store easily.