Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

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Don’t ever throw away coriander stalks as they are bursting with flavour and are perfect for making a delicious paste to go in all manner of curries. Today I wanted to show you one of my Vietnamese inspired prawn curries that combine lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander stalks, jaggery (palm sugar – or you can just use caster sugar), fresh mangoes and coconut milk.  To say it’s sublime would be an understatement. It is so downright delicious that you’ll be wanting to make it on repeat.

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I always seem to have frozen prawns in my freezer as, once thawed, they are hugely versatile to make all manner of curries or prawn cakes and generally speaking I find that most people like prawns. I had some fresh mangoes and lemongrass that were needing to be eaten so I thought that I would work the recipe around my three main ingredients – prawns, mangoes and lemongrass.

My hand blender is back in action (rejoice – how I missed it) so it took no time to whizz up a paste that tasted of the exotic Far East. By adding a little coconut milk allowed the paste to become smooth, whilst retaining its thickness.

My mother-in-law modelled the mangoes and I bought king prawns that had already been deveined and peeled to save time. So all in all from start to finish this is definitely a 15 minutes tops kind of meal, unless you are slow at peeling and cutting up your mangoes, which in that case might add on another 5 minutes or so.

If you love prawns you might also like Bengali Chingri Maach or perhaps Keralan Prawn and Kokum or my Prawn and Tamarind Curry or if you buy prawns with shells on don’t forget to keep the shells and heads so that you can make a heavenly Prawn Bisque

Happy Easter All.

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Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

paste

40g coriander stalks

2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers removed and finely chopped

1 red chilli

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1 tsp jaggery/palm sugar or caster sugar

a little coconut milk from a 400ml tin

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2 tbsp vegetable/coconut oil

15g shallots, finely sliced

1 tsp salt

700g king prawns, deveined and peeled

2 mangoes, cut into bite sized pieces

the remaining coconut mil from the 400ml tin

  1. Place all the paste ingredients into a hand blender and whizz them up to form a smooth paste. Adding a little of the coconut milk will loosen up the ingredients and help the paste to become smooth.
  2. In a deep pan or karahi add the oil and when it is hot add the shallots and salt. Move them around the pan for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let them burn.
  3. Now add the paste and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk. Let the coconut milk heat up before adding the prawns.
  4. Move the prawns around the pan until they become pink. This will take no more than a few minutes. Simmer for an extra couple of minutes before adding the mango.

Serve with rice with some fresh lime on the side and a sprinkle of fresh coriander on the top.

If you like this recipe I am sure you will love my Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Coriander Curry


Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry

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Increasingly more and more people are balancing their diet with vegetarian food and cutting out meat completely on some days of the week #meatfreemondays. Whilst I do eat meat and fish I am consciously eating less meat and more fish and vegetables. A balanced diet is important and I do enjoy eating meat but I am in the camp that it is unnecessary to eat it everyday.

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My recipe here ‘Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry’ will hopefully convert even the meat lovers amongst you. It is packed with so much goodness and tastes really good, with a lovely chilli kick reverberating through the dish. For those who claim they can’t cook, seriously try this one. It is very easy to make and you can cook it in under 30 minutes. The hardest part is peeling the butternut squash. *Inventors* out there I would love you to come up with a device that makes it quick and easy to peel any type of squash or pumpkin. I use my regular peeler and knife and whilst it does not take long I know it can be done faster.

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This recipe shouts SPRING to me, although that maybe because I put daffodils in the photo shoot. The bright yellow orange hue coming from the butternut squash and turmeric sings to me and makes it wonderfully appetising to look at and eat. I also love the burst of green from the spinach, fresh herbs and lime.

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I have used fresh ginger paste and garlic paste, as I always have pots to hand in the fridge and for speed they are wonderfully helpful, but by all means use fresh ginger and garlic and then simply finely grate them so they become more paste like.

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The sweetcorn adds a lovely crunch and texture to the dish alongside the soft butternut squash and spinach. I have added kaffir lime leaves as I often have some in my fridge/freezer. They freeze well and you can pick them up at the big supermarkets.

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I don’t bother to take out the kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass when serving. I quite like the rustic, throw it together look. I also find the dish is a great pick me up if you are feeling a little under the weather. The ginger, turmeric, garlic, spinach and chilli really flood the body with so much goodness that a sense of wellbeing hits you almost immediately.

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I would love you to give it a try and please let me know how you get on. Butternut squash (uncooked) last for weeks so I always have one ready to use.

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Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp ground nut oil

3 banana shallots (or 2 medium onions), finely sliced

1 tsp salt

2 lemongrass, outer leaves taken off and both ends and then bashed gently with a rolling pin

1 heaped tsp of ginger paste

1 heaped tsp of garlic paste

2 small red chillies, thinly sliced

3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)

1 tsp ground turmeric

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3cm cubes

500 ml of vegetable stock

1x 400ml can of coconut milk (I find Pride is nice and creamy)

1 tbsp Thai fish sauce

1 fresh corn on the cob, corn sliced off the cob

200g fresh spinach

handful of fresh coriander, to serve (optional)

handful of fresh mint, to serve (optional)

1/4 fresh lime per portion

1.  Finely slice the banana shallots and then heat the oil in a large deep pan. When it is hot add the shallots and turn the heat down. Add the salt and stir into the shallots. Allow the shallots to soften, which will take a few minutes.

2. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir into the shallots. Then add the chillies, lemongrass, ground turmeric and kaffir lime leaves. After a further minute add the fresh tomato and stir once again. Add the butternut squash and stir into all the other ingredients.

3. Add the stock, Thai fish sauce and the coconut milk and simmer gently for around 20 minutes, by which time the butternut squash will have nicely softened. If it needs a couple more minutes to soften adequately, carefully monitor as you do not want to over cook as mushy butternut squash is not so appealing. Add the sweetcorn 5 minutes before you wish to serve as it will take no time to cook.

4. Turn off the heat and add the fresh spinach and gently submerge in the sauce, which will wilt it perfectly.

5. Serve hot in bowls either with some jasmine rice or noodles. Add fresh coriander, mint and lime to suit individual tastes.

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If you click on the comments button below you will also see the option to like. I know it’s a little hidden away but have a look and don’t forget to click the *LIKE* button and if you are feeling extra brave do leave a comment as I love to hear from readers.


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.


Cau Lau – Hoi An Special Noodles with Marinated Pork

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This Vietnamese pork and noodle dish is wonderfully fragrant and tasty and very straightforward to put together. It is known as Cau Lau in Vietnam and is a speciality of the world heritage town of Hoi An. Cau Lau is a noodle that is made from rice and water – nothing new there I hear you say – but wait – the water is supposedly from a well in Hoi An. Into the collected well water the locals place the ash of the La Gai Leaf, which they burn. The water and ash are then left over night to rest and then it is this water that is then used to make the noodles, which gives them a light brown hue. As they are tricky to come by in London, I have replaced them with the rice ribbon noodles, but frankly you can use whichever noodle you have to hand.

So this is what you need:

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The only ingredient absent from this photo is ‘sweet basil’, which I managed to source before devouring the meal. It is not a absolutely necessary but definitely adds a delicate fragrant flavour if you are able to get hold of some.

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Place the chilli, turmeric, garlic and lemongrass into a mortar, as above and give it a good grind with your pestle. If you don’t have one simply use a bowl and the end of a rolling pin, works wonders!

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Then add the honey, soy sauce, five spice powder, salt and pepper to taste and you will end up with a marinade to pour over your pork loin.

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Keep the fat on the pork loin and cut into 6 pieces. Using your hands cover and mix the marinade over all the pieces and then leave the meat to marinade in your fridge for ideally a few hours or even overnight if you can.

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In a large, slightly deep, pan pour in some oil and bronze each piece of pork on both sides.

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Then add the marinade along with enough water to just cover the pork. Simmer and cover for around 45 minutes, by which time the pork will be tender and the sauce will have reduced by around half.

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Before serving remove the fat from the pork and discard and finely slice the pork. Follow the instructions for the noodles. For ribbon rice noodles I simmered them for around 5-7 minutes in boiling water and then strained them and ran them under cold water for a second. Whilst the rice noodles are cooking place a little oil in a pan and when it is hot add a handful of uncooked shrimp chips for 10 seconds, by which time they will puff up and curl.

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When serving place a good helping of noodles into a bowl followed by the sliced pork loin on top. Ladle a generous spoonful or two of the remaining marinade/sauce on top followed by a small handful of bean sprouts, coriander and sweet basil on the side. Lastly add the shrimp chips and a slice of lime. Serve hot and enjoy.

Cau Lau- Hoi An Special Noodles with Marinated Pork

Adapted from The Green Bamboo Cooking School recipe in Hoi An

serves 4

800g pork loin, cut into 6 pieces

small handful of bean sprouts per serving

small handful of uncooked prawn chips per serving

small handful of fresh coriander and sweet basil per serving

 1 packet of white rice ribbon noodles (see photo)

1 lime, quartered

Marinade

5 pieces of garlic, finely sliced

1 tsp ground turmeric

 2 lemongrass, finely chopped

2 chillies, finely chopped (remove seeds if you prefer less of a kick!)

2 tbsp of five spice powder

5 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp honey

salt and pepper to taste

1. Using a pestle and mortar, or bowl and end of a rolling pin, crush the lemongrass, chilli, garlic and turmeric for a few minutes. Once the ingredients have broken down add the five spice powder, soy sauce and honey.

2. Place the pieces of pork loin (with fat on) in a bowl and cover with the marinade using your hands. Place cling film over the bowl and place in the fridge for at least an hour – you could leave over night if you have time.

3. Using a fairly deep pan, heat up a little oil and bronze both sides of the pork loin. Then pour in the marinade and add enough water to the pan so that the pork loins are just covered. Simmer for 45 minutes at which point the sauce will have reduced by almost a half and the pork loin will be tender.

4. When the pork is cooking, in a separate pan add some oil and when it is hot place a small handful of uncooked shrimp chips into the oil and cook for 10-15 seconds, by which time the chips will have puffed up and lightened in colour. They burn really quickly so don’t take your eyes off them during this part. Place to one side on some kitchen roll. Repeat until you have enough to put a few on each serving.

5. Heat up some boiling water and add the rice noodles for the time specified on the packet – which is usually around 5-7 minutes. Strain and run under a cold tap briefly and separate into each bowl.

6. Using a spatula take the pork loin out of the sauce, remove the fat and slice thinly. Place the pork slices onto the noodles and add a ladle of the sauce on top of the pork and noodles. Add a small handful of bean sprouts, coriander, sweet basil and shrimp chips to the bowl along with a wedge of fresh lime.


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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Florentine Lemongrass soup

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Spinach is one of those super foods that you can literally feel the goodness seeping into your body with every mouthful. When Catherine de Medici became Queen of France in 1533, she was so taken by spinach that she insisted it be served at every meal. Dishes that are cooked with spinach are known as ‘Florentine’, after Catherine’s place of birth – Florence. Hence the name I have given this delicious soup.

I know I tend to say this a lot in my blogs, but this really is super easy and takes no time at all – so perfect for a light lunch or for a starter when guests are coming over. You can prepare it in advance, freeing you up to have proper conversation without the worry of having to prepare the starter. Have you ever tried making souffles for a starter? Well believe me, the results are delicious, but it does involve a lot of care and attention and time away from your guests to get it right.

You can absolutely use fresh spinach here, but I often tend to use frozen as I always have bags of it in the freezer. This soup is versatile in that it tastes equally good in the summer or winter.

Florentine Lemongrass Soup

Serves 4-6

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 tbsp of olive oil

2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped

2 tsp of lemongrass paste (I use Barts)

1kg of spinach, frozen or fresh

2 pints/40 fl oz vegetable stock

400ml tin of coconut milk

juice of 2 limes

single cream to garnish, if desired

salt and pepper

1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and then fry the onions gently until they begin to become transparent – this should not take more than six minutes. Then add the garlic and chillies continuing to stir for a few minutes.

2. Add the vegetable stock and lemongrass paste and gently simmer for five minutes. Then add the frozen or fresh spinach and cover until they have completely wilted/defrosted. Once this has happened use a hand blender to blend the soup thoroughly.

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3. Add the coconut milk and lime juice and blend once again. Season to taste and garnish with single cream if desired.

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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.