Tamarind Noodles with Five Spice Tofu

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This past week I have been avoiding the kitchen. Don’t worry I am not on some crazy January diet that involves me starving myself or anything, goodness no. For those of you who read my last post you’ll know that my boiler died a death over a week ago, which has resulted in my house becoming rather Baltic. The kitchen is the coldest room in the house so instead of pottering in there as I normally would, when the heating works, I have been hibernating in one of the smallest rooms in the house – the study, with an electric heater going at full blast. It’s fairly roasty toasty so I try to avoid leaving it for long periods of time.

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However, when my mother in-law (aka my culinary spy) recently came back from a trip to Sri Lanka, she handed me a piece of paper with a very short ingredients list for a tamarind noodles dish that she has eaten and adored by a chef called Anura. If you are out there Anura and are reading this then this dish is in honour of you.

The recipe was for the sauce itself and I just got creative in turning it into a dish that my whole family will adore. If you don’t love tofu then you could always replace it with chicken or pork by following the same steps, but crispy five spice tofu – what’s not to like folks!

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Take a look at those crispy tofu bites, with sweet red peppers, soya beans and tamarind noodles, which have been coated in yet more tamarind sauce.

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Tamarind Noodles with Five Spice Tofu

Serves 4

tamarind sauce

3 tbsp tamarind paste

4 tbsp jaggery (palm sugar)

3 tbsp coconut milk

2 tbsp caster sugar

75ml chicken stock

2 lemongrass, chopped very finely

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350g firm tofu, bite sized cubes

2 tsp Chinese five spice

2 tbsp cornflour

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 sweet red pepper, cut julienne

200g frozen soya beans

4 nests of medium egg noodles

1. First cut the tofu into bite sized cubes. Place the cornflour and Chinese five spice into a shallow bowl and then add the tofu so that the cubes are all coated in the flour.

2. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is hot add the tofu in batches, turning at intervals so that it browns and crisps slightly. Place on kitchen roll to soak up the oil whilst you are frying the next batch.

3. Boil all the ingredients of the tamarind sauce until the sauce is smooth. Transfer to a pouring jug.

4. Using the same pan as the tamarind sauce, gently fry the sweet red peppers so that they soften. This will only take a couple of minutes.

5. In another pan boil some water and add the soya beans. After 3 minutes add the noodles and cook according to packet (usually a couple of minutes). Strain and place in a mixing bowl along with the sweet red peppers and 2 tbsp tamarind sauce. Mix together well.

6. Place the noodles into bowls and add the five spice tofu on top along with a little more tamarind sauce.

Serve and eat whilst hot. Enjoy.

Any leftover tamarind sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. 


10 Minute Asian Squid With Noodles

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I love all the traditional feasting around Christmas and the warm, inviting smells that come from the kitchen. Sometimes however, I think it is rather refreshing to have a completely different, spicy type of dish to feed the family over the Christmas week.

Squid is very economical, especially if you are feeding large numbers and takes minutes to cook. So I imagine you have been feasting royally over Christmas and Boxing Day and you crave something a little lighter and perhaps a chilli kick. You want minimum fuss to prepare a work of wonder. Step forward my ‘Asian Squid with Noodles’ to feed the family. It really is ridiculously easy and quick and you will be rewarded by many happy faces. By all means tone down the chilli if you are feeding to little ones (I tend to do a separate one for my youngest).

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I find the best place to buy squid is fresh from the fishmonger or from the fresh fish counter at your local supermarket. The fishmonger can gut the squid for you so that all you need to do is to cut it into rings. Gutting the squid yourself though can be rather good fun, but perhaps not if you are squeamish. I will do a vimeo of me doing it next time I make this and will then paste it up here for you to see. Watch this space. It’s actually very easy and my daughters actually enjoy helping me with this part.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year.

10 Minute Asian Squid With Noodles

serves 4

2 tbsp sesame oil

1/2 white onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 inch of ginger, finely grated

1 red pepper, chopped

2 green chillies, finely sliced

1 handful of fresh sugar snaps

400g squid, cut into rings

1 tbsp five spice powder

3 tbsp light soy sauce

1 handful of fresh coriander

250g medium egg noodles

1 lime, quartered

1. In a bowl add the five spice powder to the squid rings and put to one side.

2. Place the oil into a wok or shallow pan and add the onion, garlic, ginger. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes before adding the red pepper, green chillies, sugar snaps. Cook for a further couple of minutes before adding the five spiced squid.

3. Move around the pan so that ingredients do not burn. Add the soy sauce and continue to cook for 3 more minutes.

4. Boil the egg noodles according to the packet and then drain and serve into bowls.

5. Just before serving add the fresh coriander to the squid.

6. Spoon the Asian squid onto the noodles, place the lime on top and serve immediately.


Panch Phoron – Bengali Five Spice and Red Split Lentil Dal

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From top right going clockwise: fenugreek, nigella, fennel, black mustard, cumin seeds

We’ve all heard, and no doubt use, Chinese Five Spice, but the Indian equivalent, Panch Phoron, for some reason is not given as much PR and voice in the West and yet across Bengal, it is a spice mix that is commonly used in every home and very much cherished.

When I launched my blog way back in 2011 one of the first recipes that I posted was my absolute comfort food – red split lentil dal. I cook it often as it is ridiculously easy and provides me with a quick-fix nourishing meal. You can choose whatever vegetable, if any, you need to use up, giving the dal a different twist every time you prepare it. A key seasoning to the dal, which imparts the unmistakable flavour, is panch phoron and whilst I am able to source it from a local Indian supermarket, I know that for some people getting their hands on this magic ingredient could be harder.

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So I wanted to show you how to make your own panch poron. Panch in Bengali is five and phoron is spices and these five spices are: nigella seeds (other wise known as black onion seeds, Kalonji or kalo jeera), fennel seeds (mouri or saunf), fenugreek seeds (methi), black (brown or yellow) mustard seeds (rai) and cumin seeds (jeera). The aromatic spices working together provide a  considerable depth of flavour to any dish and especially to dal.

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Unlike most spice mixes these are not ground to a powder but are cooked whole, either dry roasted in pan or placed in a little oil until they begin to pop and release their flavours – this is known as tempering. There are significant health benefits from eating the spices. In short: cumin aids digestion, fennel contains vitamin a, e and c as well as anti-oxidants, fenugreek aids metabolism, mustard seeds contains omega 3 fatty acids as well as being a good source of selenium and magnesium, nigella seeds balance the hormonal system and have healing qualities.

They store for months in an air tight container so if you make up a batch that should last you for some time as you only need a teaspoon or two every time you use it in a dish.

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There are a couple of lentils that do not require soaking over night and take a very short time to cook. Masoor dal or red split lentils, as they are more commonly known, are a staple in my store cupboard. From cleaning thoroughly to cooking, the dal takes no longer than 20 minutes to prepare – and that’s being generous – on average it’s a 15 minute meal to prepare and cook. Oooh Jamie Oliver would be so proud!

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Red split lentils are also very reasonable to buy so all in all this dish is healthy, speedy and economically friendly. A win win surely!

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I eat this dish all year round and like to change the consistency from a more runny, soupy dish to a thicker dal that may be eaten the Indian way, with your hands, accompanied by some rice or naan.  When the months turn colder I tend to gravitate more and more towards dals and soups to warm me up so this really is the perfect autumn meal to give me that inner glow.

Panch Phoron – Bengali Five Spice

Makes enough to last you for months

3 tbsp cumin seeds

3 tbsp fennel seeds

3 tbsp fenugreek seeds

3 tbsp mustard seeds (I tend to use black, but brown/yellow is also fine)

3 tbsp nigella seeds (black onion seeds)

1. In a bowl mix all the seeds together thoroughly and place in an air tight container.

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Red Split Lentil Dal

Serves 2

200g red split lentils (masoor dal)

500ml of water, add more if you would like it a thinner consistency

1 tbsp oil (mustard,vegetable or sun flower oil)

1.5 tsp panch phoron

2 fresh chilli (red or green), chopped in half

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

5 cherry tomatoes (or carrots, courgette, marrow, peas etc)

optional

fresh coriander, to serve

lemon wedge, to serve

1. Boil the kettle and meanwhile rinse the red split lentils under the tap so as to fully clean them. Then place the boiling water in the pan with the lentils. Boil for about 10 minutes on a low heat, the lentils will become less orange in colour during the boiling.  If you are going to add a carrot you need to add it to the lentils at this stage so that they are soft in time. Please note you may need to add more water if the water is completely soaked up by the lentils.

2. In a frying pan warm the oil and when it is hot add the panch phoron, fresh chilli and turmeric. Once the panch phoron begins to pop and release the flavours – this will be around 15 seconds, give it a quick stir and then add a ladleful of the watery dal into the frying pan and mix the ingredients together.

3. Now place the contents of the frying pan back into the main pot with the red split lentil and stir.

4. Add the quartered tomatoes (or peas, courgette, marrow, spinach) at this stage and simmer gently for a few minutes.  Add salt to taste.  If you want it more soupy, add more water and if you want it thicker, let it simmer for longer.