Dreaming of Kerala – Squid Coconut Fry

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Kerala, often called ‘God’s own country’, is the perfect destination for the avid traveller who seeks adventure, beauty and tasty food. It encompasses so many different experiences and terrain in this sunshine state that no day is ever quite the same. Over the course of the last few weeks my family and I (and not other animals) spent time in Cochin, exploring their diverse places of worship as well admiring their famous Chinese fishing nets.

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The Western ghats, which provide the state, and much of the wider world, with tea, cardamom and coffee.

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The calming, slower pace of life in the emerald backwaters,

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and of course the palm fringed beaches of the coast and the gloriously warm Arabian sea.

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Along the way I met some wonderful people, both locals and fellow travellers, who all made our experience of Kerala very memorable. It was tough to say goodbye to the warm rays and friendly smiles and head back to a much colder London, which is now firming in the throes of winter.

During our travels I learned to cook a wealth of Keralan recipes from chefs and home cooks who welcomed us into their homes and kitchens. Meet some of them below. From left ‘Mummy’ from Philip Kutty’s Farm,  Sreeja  from Marari Beach Hotel and Moly from Cochin, who allowed me to shadow her for the day.

Prior to visiting the state I had a preconceived notion that a lot of the cuisine would be vegetarian, however this is not the case. In Kerala, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Jews (there are only 6 now left in Cochin) live harmoniously and respectfully amongst one another. As such we feasted on chicken, lamb, pork and beef as well as delicious fresh and seawater fish, shellfish and a host of vegetarian dishes. Coconut oil and coconut in many forms, is the heart of many Keralan dishes along with the irresistibly sour tamarind and kokum, the latter being new to me. “Kera” in Malayalam (the language of Kerala) means coconut. As Kerala is abundant with coconut plants, it naturally got the name Kerala. Yes, many of the dishes in Kerala have heat, but with the cooling qualities of  coconut, many had their chilli bite tempered.

Over the coming months I will intersperse my blog posts with temptingly delicious Keralan dishes that will hopefully encourage you to try cooking them at home.

First up is ‘Squid Coconut Fry’, which in all honesty takes 10 minutes and that includes the prepping and cooking. So look no excuses not to give this a whirl. It is so good you’ll be cooking it time and time again. IMG_2160

 Squid Coconut Fry

Serves 2 (or 4 if serving with other dishes)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 dried red Kashmiri chillies, halved and seeds removed if you like it less hot

10 pieces of thinly sliced fresh coconut or dried coconut slices

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tsp ginger paste

1 fresh green chilli (2 if you like it hot)

10 curry leaves

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

300g squid tubes, chopped into thin rings

1/4 juice of a lemon

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 garam masala

  1. First get all the ingredients ready as the dish takes no time to cook and you will want to eat it immediately. This dish is not good to be reheated.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a pan. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and red chillies followed by the thin coconut slices. Keep the heat on a medium to low heat.
  3. After 20 seconds add the garlic, ginger, fresh green chilli and curry leaves.
  4. Move around the pan for a minute before adding the red onion and salt.
  5. Now add the chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and allow the flavours to come together in the pan. Allow the onion to soften for 3-5 minutes
  6. Add the squid and move around the pan. Cook for a further 3 minutes.
  7. Add the lemon, pepper and garam masala. Move the ingredients around the pan.

Serve immediately. All the wonderful flavours will have wrapped themselves around the squid culminating in the most appetising of dishes.

Quick and easy. I would serve with rice, a vegetable curry and a dal (see my recipe library).

 


Foraging for Cockles on the Welsh Coast

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There is something very rewarding about foraging for your own food, it’s like a treasure hunt for grown ups. I am no expert forager mind you and I would draw the line at foraging for mushrooms. I did a post a few years ago on foraging for samphire which you can read here.

This past week, however, I have been in a corner of Wales that even the locals requested I keep secret for fear that their corner of paradise will be overwhelmed by zealous visitors. The beaches are HUGE – think California expansive – stretching over a couple of miles long. This gives the treasure seeker a wonderful opportunity to forage for tasty goodies.

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We opted for cockles this time, but when I return to Wales I will also try for razor clams as the locals say they are also great to search for when there is a spring tide. Cockles are basically like small clams and you may have had them in southern Spain where they are referred to as ‘coquinas’. They also sell them in seaside towns in Britain, cold in little pots without their shells. That never particularly appealed, but hot with loads of garlic, parsley, lemon juice and zest and spaghetti certainly does.

The day we foraged was a little drizzly (the rest of the week was completely sunny, unlike the rain clouds over London I hear). The tide was a long way out and we searched between the shoreline and the sea. We looked for clues – cockle shells laying scattered on the beach surface and then would dig a hole about 1-2 inches deep and then feel around with our hands. Once you have found a couple you can normally find a whole group of around 10 or so. My daughters and I (Mr B had decided to take himself off for a walk along the 2.5 mile beach instead) lucked out and found over 250 in under an hour and a half. Result.

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We placed them in a pot (bucket is ideal) which we had filled with sea water. Overjoyed with our foraging success we went back to the cottage and let the cockles remain in the sea water overnight to get rid off the grit and sand.

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The following day we then cleaned each cockle and placed them in a bowl of salted water (below). At this point they are still alive and do stretch their limbs beyond the shell from time to time (you can see this happening in fact in the photo above). When you take them out of the water, gently knock the shell and they should close tight shut. If they do not then discard them. We found that there were only 10 or so that were a bit suspect, the remaining 250 were ready for our feast.

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This amount could  easily feed 6 people. We kind of over foraged but seeing as we had cooked them we decided it would be a shame to waste any so ate the lot between the four of us. Piggie I know! Both my daughters (6 and 9) adored them. I am a big believer that if you make a scene about shellfish or any particular kind of food in fact, then your children will too and not want to eat them. If you show them how delicious they are and get stuck in then invariably they will too and not want to be left out.

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We feasted royally and before you ask, we all felt on top form the next day. They are great fun to forage for so have a go when you are next on the British coast.

Cockles with Garlic, Lemon, Parsley and Spaghetti

Serves 4-6 easily

250 cockles (I did not weigh them but guess it is around 1-1.2kg)

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic, finely chopped

1 lemon, juice and zest

160ml white wine

2 large handfuls of flat leaf parsley

400g spaghetti

black pepper

  1. Leave the foraged (or not) cockles overnight in salted water – ideally sea water, to allow the sand and grit to be dispelled.
  2. Scrub them clean in the grooves of the shell under running cold water. Make sure they shut firmly. Place in a clean bowl of water with 1 tsp of salt.
  3. Place the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water and simmer for around 10 minutes, then leave in the boiling water until ready to add to the cockle pan (no9)
  4. Heat a large deep pan with the butter and olive oil and when it is hot add the garlic. Keep on a medium low heat.
  5. Once the garlic softens after a couple of minutes, add the lemon zest and stir.
  6. Turn the heat up high and add the cockles. Add the lemon juice, white white and then place the lid on the pan. Shake the pan gently from side to side.
  7. After a minute check to see if some of the shells are opening. Keep the pan moving with the lid on.
  8. After another minute the shells should be open.
  9. Add the spaghetti and the parsley and mix all the ingredients together for 30 seconds before plating up and adding a little black pepper.

Any shells that have not opened then discard – do not try to prize open.


Scallops with Black Garlic, Black Pudding and a Balsamic Jus with Pea and Mint Quenelles

You’ll have to excuse me for this blog post. It slightly pains me to post it if I am being honest as the photographs are all wrong…in the sense that I took them in the evening with no light. This is a major no no for food photographs and normally I always shoot in daylight but for this post I could not reheat the dish and as much as I love scallops I really did not want to eat them for lunch and supper. So please overlook these dark shots and believe me when I tell you this is a seriously quick, tasty and stylish dish that is guaranteed to please anyone you present it to.

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Fresh scallops are wonderful, but I sometimes buy frozen from my local fishmonger and they work pretty well and are relatively good value. I am also a HUGE fan of black garlic. I wrote an article about black garlic for Country and Townhouse Magazine which you can read here. It will tell you all about them so have a peek at the article. Black garlic is beginning to pop up in some supermarkets but I sometimes just order it directly from either The Garlic Farm,  Merchant Gourmet or The South West Garlic Farm.

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Some people are squeamish about black pudding, but please people seriously there is nothing to get worked up about, unless you are vegetarian/vegan then I apologise. The fact is the saltiness from the black pudding works brilliantly with the scallops and the black garlic adds a umami (I wrote an article about this too – read here) sweetness that bursts in a flavour explosion in your mouth. I have added a balsamic jus to bind it all together and then added little quenelles (oval shape mounds of food) of pea and mint puree.

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The colours and flavours are magical. I think it probably works best as a starter or you could just add a few more scallops and black pudding to turn it into a main.

Scallops with Black Garlic, Black Pudding a Balsamic Jus and Pea & Mint Quenelles

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil

16 1/2 inch slices of black pudding

1 tbsp butter

16 scallops

16 slithers of black garlic

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp boiling water (optional)

300g frozen peas

8 mint leaves

salt and pepper to season as required

1. First place the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot add the black pudding slices and cook on both sides for a couple of minutes, by which time they will have darkened in colour and crisped up slightly. Set aside in a warm place.

2. In a separate pan boil the peas and add the mint to infuse. After 5 minutes, drain and then puree using a blender. You can add a little chicken stock at this stage if you want a smoother more runny puree. Set aside in a warm place.

3. Using the pan that you cooked the black pudding heat the butter. Once it is melted and hot, but not burnt, add the scallops and gently heat for max 2 minutes on each side, so that a slight bronzing occurs on both sides. Add the black garlic once you have cooked one side of the scallops and then add the balsamic jus just before you take the scallops out of the pan. Ladle the balsamic jus over the scallops and then place them on a warm plate.

3. Raise the temperature slightly and add the boiling water if you want more of a jus and boil for a few minutes so the jus reduces and thickens slightly.

4. To plate up (use pre-warmed plates) add the black pudding followed by the scallop and then the black garlic. Next create quenelles with the pea and mint puree. They are easy to do. Watch the quick video below to show you how to do them.

5. Finally pour the jus over the scallops and around the plate.

Serve immediately so that it is still hot.


Turkey Revisited and Moule Marinieres

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Having been impressed by all that Turkey had to offer last year we decided to return for our summer foray this year, which is a little out of character as we tend to try somewhere new for summer travels. To be fair though, we were exploring  a new area – this time the Bozburun peninsula.
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I favour peace, tranquility and being away from the crowds of mass tourism, so nestling for a couple of weeks in the quiet village of Sogut at the very tip of the peninsula was absolutely the perfect base from which to explore the local area and enjoy the warm waters of the Aegean. It has been described as going back in time, not dissimilar to the south of Spain or France 40 years ago.
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The village itself is small and meanders down the hill towards the sea, offering breathtaking vistas of the nearby islands. The road came to an end at a picturesque harbour where a handful of wooden fishing boats bobbed gently up and down. Along the harbour were a few tavernas offering the freshest fish caught that very day. As the fish were bought in on the fishing boats the women would crouch over the rocks at the water’s edge gutting and cleaning the fish.
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Over the two weeks we alternated between these quaint little eateries (there were four in all) for our evening meal, sitting on the harbour wall, watching the sun gradually dip over the brow of the far away islands.
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Their menus were all fairly similar, but each had their own interpretation of the mezzes. We were somewhat surprised to see that samphire was offered every evening, cooked in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. 2013 can definitely be remembered as the summer of samphire!
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It tasted less salty than the samphire found in the British Isles and when I asked where it grew, they pointed in-land as opposed to  seawards,  which might explain its less salty taste.
Octopus grilled with garlic, herbs, pink peppercorns and olive oil was another daily staple to the point that I fear that Mr B will start to have cold sweats if he doesn’t have it back at home now and again.  Needless to say a number of the mezzes consisted of aubergine and tomato fusions with the ubiquitous garlic and olive oil, as well as a broad bean based humous and another including beetroot.
We discovered a new soup that really appealed to us. Known as ‘tarhana’ it has been cited as the first ‘instant soup’ invented by Central Asian Turks. The dough that goes into making up the soup takes 5-6 days to ferment, so it really is a labour of love to make and as such I felt it probably wouldn’t get much of a following if I posted it as a blog post in its own right. If I am wrong then let me know and I may well do a post on it in the future.
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Apparently 100 years ago locals would eat a bowl of it for breakfast each morning before embarking on their day’s work. It is truly delicious, and eating it accompanied with a fresh tomato and pickled red cabbage salad and a round or two of gozleme filled with local cheese and cabbage definitely hit the spot.
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The Bozburun peninsular, or to be precise the village of Osmaniye, is one of the most prolific producers of pine honey in the world. We journeyed into the hills to visit the Honey House where we were taken on an informative tour of how honey is produced in the region. All those in the vicinity of the village earn their living from bee keeping and scattered all across the hillside you can see little blue and white boxes housing the bees.  True to its name, the honey itself has a distinctly pine taste to it and I was fascinated to learn that the bees collect a saliva off the pines that has been excreted onto the pine leaves by a totally different insect and it is this liquid that gives the honey its distinctive aroma and taste. You can find out more about the process here.
Other than eating we enjoyed seeing the local area and in particular the local ruins of Phoenix and Amos. The former was scattered all over the surrounding  countryside of Sogut and at a nearby beach – Phoenix Beach – which wins awards in my book as the most off-piste beach to reach, an adventure in itself – you can snorkel and see pots dating back thousands of years.
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I learnt that whilst it has not been thoroughly excavated, archeologists decided that concreting the pots and treasure of the past to the sea bed would be the best course of action to deter would-be-treasure hunters. Maybe this is common practice but I felt this was a rather unusual choice of action.
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We explored the ruins of Amos in 40 degree heat, which was not really the best time to explore the ruins thoroughly, but getting to the ruins took some time to reach as we meandered over the mountains and hairpin bends that make up the Bozoburun peninsular. After exploring the ruins of Patara, Tlos and Letoon last year the ruins of Amos and Phoenix were slightly disappointing, but nonetheless, I do still enjoy a good amble around an ancient ruin.
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As always the locals were friendly and welcoming and made our visit to their region a happy and enjoyable one. I was most impressed with Osman’s gold teeth (see above) – what a legend!
To continue with my seafood diet of the last two weeks I wanted to bring to you my version of the ubiquitous Moule Marinerre, which is long overdue.
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A foolproof recipe that is very quick to prepare and cook, economical and a family crowd pleaser. Enjoy. I hope you all had a wonderful summer holiday wherever that may have been. Leave a comment to fill me in.
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Moules Marinierre 
Serves 4
2kg mussels, cleaned
2 tbsp butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
3 bay leaves
200ml single cream
200ml dry white wine
1 tsp salt (optional/to taste)
handful of fresh parsley to serve
crusty bread  to serve
1. Thoroughly clean the mussels under cold running water. Close the open ones with your hands or by tapping them gently and discard the ones that remain open or are broken. Remove any barnacles from the shell and pull away the beards. It’s easiest to pull the beards  back and forth and then they will release from the shell with a little tug.
2. In a pan that is large enough to comfortably fit all the mussels at once with extra room to move them around (if need be cook in two pans and then merge together at the end) melt the butter and then add the garlic, shallots and bay leaves. Once softened add the mussels and stir for a few seconds before placing the lid on top. Leave the mussels to cook in their own steam for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the cream and white wine and give a good stir and leave for another minute or so.
4. Serve immediately in bowls topped with a scattering of fresh parsley. Serve with a crusty baguette to soak up the juices. Discard mussels that remain closed or are barely open.
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Bengali Prawn Curry

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This Bengali prawn curry is one that was passed on to me by my mother-in-law and is, without doubt, my favourite of all prawn curries. The sweet undertones from the desiccated coconut and prawns blends superbly with the black mustard seeds and chilli powder, giving it a gently kick. I love to cook it using the king of all prawns, but it tastes equally good if you cook it using the smaller varieties as well. I do prefer to keep the tails mind you, both for appearance and because it holds the prawns together well, so if you can find prawns with shells and tails on I would always opt for those as opposed to buying the ones that have already been shelled and deveined.

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The prawns will be a greyish colour when you buy them. I bought frozen prawns and then let them defrost slowly over night in the fridge before peeling and deveining them in the morning. They remind me of the giant grilled prawns I would eat most evenings when I was staying on the shores of Lake Malawi for my honeymoon, many moons ago.

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Within seconds of being gently cooked the prawns will turn a fabulous pink and begin to curl into themselves. They only need a minute or so cooking on each side to seal them.

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The sealed prawns waiting to go into the curry sauce. The meatiness of them makes them a very satisfying and filling meal.

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Once the prawns have been added to the curry sauce let them simmer gently for a few minutes, making sure you coat the prawns sufficiently in the delicious sauce. Sprinkle ground garam masala over the prawns and give a little stir, before serving with basmati rice.

Bengali Prawn Curry

Serves 3-4

600g prawns, peeled, deveined but tails left on (I used 9 frozen super king prawns)

1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin removed and grated

vegetable oil

2/3 bay leaves

1 tsp black mustard seeds

25g (or 4/5 tbsp) desiccated coconut

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp chilli powder (less if you prefer it less hot)

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp salt (you may wish to add one more – taste first)

2tbsp chopped tin tomatoes

200ml boiling water

1 tsp ground garam masala

1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a fairly deep frying pan or karahi. On a low heat add the prawns, in stages if your pan is on the small side, so as to seal them. They will curl up slightly and take on a vibrant pinkish hue. After a minute or so turn them over so that both sides are sealed. Then turn them on to their backs so as the top side is also cooked. Remove from the pan and place on a plate to one side, whilst you finish cooking the remaining prawns.

2. Add a little more vegetable oil if it is running dry and keeping the oil at a low heat add the black mustard seeds. They will burst open and sizzle so make sure the oil is not too hot as they will spit! Add the bay leaves and stir with the black mustard seeds.

3. Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook gently for around 5/6 minutes until they begin to bronze in colour.

4. Add all the spices apart from the garam masala, as well as the salt and sugar.  Stir together and add the tinned chopped tomatoes.

5. Add 200ml of boiling water and add the desiccated coconut. Bring to the boil gently stiring and add the prawns. Gently cover the prawns in the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

6. Add the ground garam masala over the prawns, give a quick stir and serve immediately.

Serve with basmati rice.


Macha Soul tea with Janice Leung and Satay Prawns with Garlic, Lemongrass and Spring Onions

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This blog post has been a long time coming and for that I apologise to you all. I initially wrote the post on the plane coming back from Hong Kong and was rather chuffed with myself as I had, for once, hours to compose and fine tune it.  I was really satisfied with the end result, but then tragedy stuck as I accidently deleted it upon my return owing to the fact that I wasn’t very familiar with my new computer. So this post is very much an abridged version of the original, which in hindsight was probably far too long and rambling anyway.

During my recent visit to Hong Kong I was fortunate enough to meet up with one of Hong Kong’s most dynamic food bloggers, Janice Leung, over a delicious cup of creamy ‘matcha soul’ tea, at a charming little tea house called Sinmei in Sheung Wan. Like many of Hong Kong’s gem eateries and cafes it was hidden on the 5th floor of a commercial building away from the hustle and bustle at street level. It was an oasis of calm and serenity with its mix of vintage Chinese and European furniture giving it a somewhat boho shabby chic vibe.

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Matcha soul tea at Sinmei
Prior to setting up her blog: e-ting food, Janice worked as Assistant Editor at Luxe City Guides, so knows her way around Hong Kong (and a number of other cities in fact) better than most. Most recently however Janice, along with her business partner Vincent Poon, have set up Island East Markets which is Hong Kong’s answer to an organic farmers market.
Janice’s motivation for setting up such an enterprise was down to the fact that she found it increasingly difficult to source good organic produce in Hong Kong; the nearest place for her was in Tao Po, over an hours journey from her house, or the  few stalls on Central Pier 7. Typically the fresh fruit and vegetables you see being sold in the various street markets in Hong Kong comes from mainland China where little or no knowledge is known about where or how it was grown and whether pesticides or fertilizers were used.
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A typical Hong Kong fresh vegetable stall
There was definitely a gap in the market to launch such an enterprise and having spent time traveling the globe as well as living and studying in Melbourne Australia, Janice had seen the positive effect that having a local farmers market had on the community and the farmers alike. She was keen to create an environment where people would want to spend time getting to know the vendors, trying the different foods on offer and a place that families could wile away a few pleasant hours on a Sunday.  As well as edibles and fresh produce, there is handcrafted goods made by local artisans, face painting for the kids and talented local bands. I also particularly like the idea that she has organised for local chefs to come and do food demonstrations using the local food on offer at the market to create delicious dishes that people can replicate at home.
There were a couple of key factors, however, that were paramount to the markets success; firstly she needed the support from the local organic farmers in Hong Kong – namely in the New Territories and secondly she needed a site. For the former she was directed to a body of around 70 farmers who were members of the Organic Farmers Association in Hong Kong, which is similar to the Soil Association in the UK. Using this list as a starting point she introduced the idea to the farmers who responded positively. The second factor could have proved tricky had the Real Estate company Swire Properties not offered them a site in Quarry Bay every Sunday. It was an incredible stroke of good luck that allowed the market to breath life. On Sunday’s the road is closed off to traffic and stalls are set up and a relaxed vibe is allowed to resonate.
So far the market has received a positive reception by vendors and customers alike and although it was closed over the Christmas period it opens up again from Sunday 27th January so if you are living or visiting Hong Kong in the future make sure you take some time out on a Sunday to visit Island East Markets on Tong Chong Street and see for yourself Hong Kong’s answer to an Organic Farmers Market, I know for sure that I will be paying it a visit upon my return in April, in fact I can’t wait!
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The recipe for you today was inspired by a visit to a restaurant called ‘The Chairman’ on Kau U Fong in Central. Similar to Janice’s way of thinking the restaurant is also pro ‘local’ and sourcing premium produce from the New Territories, as well as placing emphasis on home-made as opposed to ready-made. Additives and MSG have no place in their kitchen and whilst the menu may not have as widest selection of dishes compared to some restaurants, the dishes that are on offer hit the mark.
The dish below was inspired by one such dish that I sampled in the restaurant. I hope that I’ve done credit to the original.  After a few false starts on the home-made satay sauce, I think I have found one that hit’s the high note. I hope you ‘ll agree.
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Satay Prawns with Garlic, Lemongrass and Spring Onions with Rice Noodles
Inspired by a similar claypot dish at The Chairman Restaurant in Hong Kong
Serves 4-6 (depending if you are serving other dishes as well)
320g fresh King Prawns (heads removed, shell on or just tails on – up to you)
2 tbsp of ground nut oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled (I like my garlic)
3 spring onions, chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 lemongrass, chopped into 2 inch pieces and halved (white part only)
250g rice flat noodles
Peanut Satay
250g dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
1 tbsp Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 and a half tbsp palm sugar (or regular if you don’t have this)
1 tbsp of tamarind concentrate (or pulp soaked in 25ml of warm water – you’ll need to squeeze it through a sieve if you do it this way)
pinch of salt
50 ml ground nut oil
200 ml water
for the spice paste you will need:
4 small dried red chillies, deseeded (or more if you want more of a kick)
3 shallots
2 lemongrass (remove the green part)
3 garlic cloves
1 inch fresh galangal (or ginger if you cannot source it)
1. First make the peanut satay sauce. Coarsely grind the peanuts in a blender or food processor (or pestle and mortar) and remove and place to one side.
2. Next place the spice paste ingredients in the food processor and whizz until they are form a smooth as possible paste.
3. If you are using tamarind pulp soak in warm water for 10 minutes and then press through a sieve.
4. Place the oil in a pan and add the spice paste ingredients and let simmer gently for a couple of minutes before adding the crushed peanuts and stirring together.
5. Add half the water, tamarind concentrate (or pulp), kecap manis, palm sugar, salt. Stir in throughly.
6. Place the remaining water, and add even more if necessary, and let similar for a few minutes. Taste test to see if the salt/sugar elements have the right balance. Let cool and place to one side.
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7. Heat a pan with groundnut oil and when the oil begins to bubble add the garlic and lemongrass and let it gently sizzle for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
8. Add two tablespoons of homemade satay sauce to the pan and stir into the garlic and lemongrass.
9. Place the prawns into the pan and cover throughly with the peanut satay. Add another one or two tablespoons as required. After a couple of minutes add the spring onions and after a minute take off the heat.
10. In a separate saucepan boil the rice noodles for the time specified on the packet – will not be longer than 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and add a further tablespoon of satay sauce so that the noodles are also coated in the satay.
11. Transfer the noodles to a large main dish and place the prawns, garlic, lemongrass and spring onions on top and then let guests/family serve themselves.
Please note homemade satay sauce can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks and in the freezer thereafter.
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Crab, fennel, chilli flake and lemon bruschetta – an uplifting lunch for the start of the new school year

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School started again today for big A, so it was a return to the old routine of getting up early – although at the moment we have no problem there as the jet lag hasn’t completely worn off as yet.

After a breakfast treat of crepes with ham, cheese and eggs – for the girls, not me I might add, we did the school run. All morning whilst little Z and I were busying ourselves I was looking forward to trying out a recipe that I recently spotted in the Australian food magazine ‘Gourmet Traveller’. If you have not come across the magazine before I urge you to take a look at their website at the very least. The fusion of food and travel appealed to me and I thought that the articles were well written and interesting and the photographs stunning. Australia is approaching spring and of course we are heading towards autumn, so perhaps their recipes are slightly out of sink with what us Brits would be thinking about cooking. That said this recipe appealed to me greatly and I felt that it could easily bridge the seasons.

It’s an ideal snack, light lunch or starter and would go down nicely with a glass of crisp white wine. The combination of crab, fennel, lemon and chilli flakes is sublime and the fact that it is easy to prepare further adds to its appeal. I think you will agree this one is a winner.


Crab, fennel, chilli flakes and lemon bruschetta

Adapted from ‘Gourmet Traveller’

Serves 4

Sour dough loaf, sliced

120g tin of crab meat. By all means use freshly cooked crab meat if you have it to hand but I find the tinned variety reasonable and hassle free

1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 tsp of chilli flakes

25 ml of olive oil

half a lemon, thinly sliced. Meyer lemon if you can get hold of them. Equally you can substitute the lemons with 2 tsp of lemon juice and 1 tsp of finely grated rind. 

1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 handful of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 garlic clove, halved

*  Mix the crab meat, lemon juice, fennel seeds and chilli flakes together with your hands and add the olive oil.

* Now gently add the lemon slices (or finely grated rind – see above), fennel bulb and parsley and season to taste.

* Using a griddle pan, or in my case non-stick grill plates from my sandwich and panini maker, place a couple of slices of sour dough bread on the plates for approximately a minute. If you are using a griddle pan, turn the bread only once. Repeat until you have toasted enough bread for your needs.

* Once the bread is toasted sufficiently so that griddle lines appear, rub the cut-side of garlic onto the toast.

* Place the crab mixture on top of the toast and serve immediately.


King Prawn Noodle Broth – effortless joy in a bowl

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Do you ever feel too exhausted to cook in the evenings but want a fresh, healthy, comforting dish that you can prepare in lightening speed with very little effort? I think all of us do from time to time, I certainly did this evening. So I put together this wonderfully flavoursome broth in less than 10 minutes. I feel it cleanses the body and heightens ones senses. It’s definitely my kind of dish.

King Prawn Noodle Broth – Serves 2

190g  Jumbo king prawns (or any prawns will do)

1 bag/ 200g of udon noodles (double the amount if you are feeling hungry)

1 tamarind broth cube (Knorr make them)

1 garlic clove, finely sliced

6 thin slices of fresh ginger

half a red chilli, finely sliced

1 lime

1 spring onion, finely sliced

1/2 tsp of lemongrass paste

2 tsp of light soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp of coriander, chopped

1. Thinly slice the garlic, ginger, red chilli and spring onion. Heat the sesame oil in a pan, and when it is hot, add the chopped ingredients and the lemongrass paste, and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

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2. Meanwhile put 600ml of boiling water in a pan on a low heat and break up the tamarind broth cube into the water. Then add the prawns and watch them reduce in size slightly – this will only take a couple of minutes – be careful not to over cook them!

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3. Place the contents of the pan with the garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and spring onion into the broth along with the udon noodles. Whilst I use udon noodles any type of noodles will work equally well. Experiment and see which you prefer. Cook the noodles for 3 minutes and during this time add the soy sauce and the juice from half a lime.

4. Serve piping hot with chopped coriander on the top with a lime quarter on the side.

If you are feeling under the weather or want a general ‘pick me up’ this warming broth is sure to reinvigorate you. Instead of prawns you could use chicken or for a vegetarian option: broccoli, sugar snap peas, mange tout or pak choi.


A simple dish that will impress – Chilli Crab Linguine

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Summer is all about wonderful fresh ingredients and recipes that are easy to execute leaving time to relax in the company of family and friends. When autumn and winter sets in its kind of comforting cooking over a stove for longer periods of time, preparing chutneys, jams and stews but when the sun shines and the days are long you want to be out enjoying it.

A recipe which is super easy and has definitely got the mmmmmmmmmm factor is chilli crab linguine. I adore crab, its definitely up there amongst my favourite things to eat. Last summer I devoured a whole crab when we were in Cornwall. It took me 1 hour to eat. Seriously. I got really stuck in and was determined to get every last bit of crab out of its shell. A squeeze of fresh lemon and a cold crisp white wine, simple and yet heavenly. My kind of food.

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Anyway back to chilli crab linguine.

Now don’t worry this recipe does NOT require you to dissect a fresh crab. Its far simpler than that.

Remember you want to impress with minimum effort.

You need to buy two 170g  tins of white crab meat. You can prepare the crab, chopped garlic, chilli, coriander in advance and leave in the fridge until you are ready to cook the dish.

chilli crab linguini

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When you are ready to eat, bring the crab mixture out of the fridge whilst you boil the water for the linguine. When the pasta  is cooking, heat some chilli oil in a pan and when the oil is hot place the crab mixture gently into the pan and bring the heat down and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. As you bring the crab mixture off the heat squeeze the juice of one or two lemons, depending on how much of a lemon kick you want to give the dish, and a splash or two of olive oil.

Once the linguine is cooked, drain thoroughly and immediately pour the crab mixture over the linguine. I tend to then mix it all together so that the crab is evenly spread through all the pasta.

Serve immediately and season with black pepper and rock salt and wait for the mmmmmmmm reaction. It will happen, trust me.

As an alternative to coriander you can use flat leaf parsley, which is equally tasty. I have also tried this dish using chilli flakes instead of fresh chilli. Both are good, but I think the fresh chilli has the edge. I cook this dish for my children, but obviously omit the chilli and they love it.

I hope you do too.

Chilli Crab Linguine

serves 4

dried linguine (see packet for amount per person)

2 x 170g tinned white crab meat

2 large red chilli, finely chopped

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large bunch of coriander/cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 or 2 lemons

1 tbsp of chilli oil

2 tbsp of olive oil

rock salt and black pepper

1. Finely chop the garlic and chilli and chop less finely the coriander. Mix into the white crab meat and store in the fridge until you are ready to cook the dish.

2. Boil the water for the linguine and place in the pan. In a separate pan heat the chilli oil and then place the crab mixture in the pan and cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. As you take the crab mixture off the heat add the juice of one or two lemons and the olive oil.

4. Drain the linguine and then mix the crab mixture into the pasta thoroughly.

5. Serve and season with rock salt and black pepper.