Nigel Slater’s Beef and Okra Soup for Stormzy

A recipe in the Guardian caught my eye recently and I made a note to myself to try making it in the New Year. Nigel Slater – who quite frankly is a culinary genius, came up with a dish ‘beef okra soup recipe for Stormzy’.  Now beef is a meat I rarely eat if I’m honest. Large slabs of any meat – particularly steak – don’t really float my boat, but if the meat is slow cooked and falling off the bone, with spices, then that is exciting. The recipe ingredients sung to me: ginger, garlic, plum tomatoes, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, okra, Scotch bonnet chillies. It sounded the perfect meal to make you feel alive and well in the cold bleak month of January. Don’t you agree?

 

It’s very straightforward but does take time, so if you have things to do in the house one morning then it is the perfect dish to cook. Nigel states that “the dish is even better if refrigerated overnight and reheated the following day”, so would be perfect for feeding a crowd as you can do all the preparations and cooking a day in advance. I’m too excited to dig in so shall be having it for my supper, I can hardly wait.

I’ve made a few changes to the recipe but you can find the original recipe here.

Nigel Slater’s Beef and Okra Soup for Stormzy

serves 6

1.6kg beef short ribs (get your butcher to cut the ribs into short lengths)

3 large onions, roughly chopped

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

60g ginger, skin removed sliced and then cut again into thin batons

1.6kg plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthways

3 tbsp beef dripping/oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

12 black peppercorns

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 scotch bonnet, seeds removed (unless you want it super hot) and finely diced (wear gloves)

3 bay leaves

1 litre hot beef stock

350g okra, sliced lengthways

salt and pepper

 

  1. Heat your oven to 220 degrees centigrade/gas mark 9 and place the ribs in a casserole pan in the oven for 20 mins.
  2. After 20 mins remove from the oven and add the dripping or oil and then add the garlic and onions and return to the oven for 15 minutes, lowering it to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.
  3. Remove from the oven again and this time stir in the ginger, spices, chillies, bay leaves and half of the halved tomatoes (reserve the rest for later).
  4. Return to the oven for 40 minutes and then remove from the oven and pour in the hot stock, cover and return to the oven for an hour.
  5. After the hour place the casserole pot onto the hob and add the okra and remaining tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, by which time the okra will have softened.
  6. Before serving cut the beef from the bones and place in a deep bowl and ladle in the broth and vegetables.


Happy New Year and Toor Dal with Fresh Coconut and White Poppy Seeds

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to my new (and old of course!) followers who have recently signed up to this blog.

January is a funny old month. The revelries from Christmas and the New Year are well and truly over and we all look forward to making a fresh start in the new year. With goals, aims, hopes and plans whirling away in our heads, it’s like shedding a skin and growing a new one. Veganuary has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, with increasing numbers introducing more vegan recipes into their diets and some even making the transition to become fully vegan. Whilst I have no plans to ‘do’ veganuary, I naturally eat a number of vegan meals throughout the year without even really thinking about it. Indian food is heavily focused on vegetables with the large majority in India having a vegetarian diet. On this blog I have a number of recipes which would work really well if you want to bring more vegetarian or vegan meals into your culinary repertoire. Here are just a few.

Upma (a savoury breakfast semolina eaten in India)

Dale Bora (a delicious street snack from Kolkata)

Indian sprout and carrot curry

Beetroot curry

Cauliflower with dried fenugreek/methi

Black pepper tofu

Aubergine, peanut and tomato curry

Indian corn on the cob

Butternut, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry

For my first recipe for 2020 however I thought I would show you a new dal recipe, which just happens to be vegan. I have loads on my blog – just pop the word ‘dal’ in the search box on the right when you go to my blog. Dals all taste so different that I could make a different one each day of the week and they would be completely unique.

This one uses the toor dal, which is also known as ‘pigeon pea’. It looks similar to the chana dal, which is a split chickpea. You don’t need to soak it but it does take around 50 minutes to soften sufficiently if you are using the stove top. When it is gently boiling away you will need to remove, with a spoon, the scum that will form whilst cooking. You may also need to add more water if it looks to become too dry. I never measure out the water and instead go more from sight and add a little more here and there when required.

Excuse the rather dark muted photos of the dal – I cooked it in the afternoon and when I was ready to photograph the light had gone so had to use the lights from my kitchen which give it a pretty awful glow. Anyway you get the gist. I ate it along with a butternut squash curry I made and a cabbage curry mopped up with some homemade luchi – which are also known as poori. Most delicious and all coincidentally vegan.

 Toor Dal with Poppy Seeds and Fresh Coconut

250g toor dal, washed through a couple of times with cold water

900ml water

2 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

30g grated fresh coconut (or desiccated)

a small handful of fresh coriander

100ml water

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp white poppy seeds

10 fresh curry leaves (you can freeze them – much better than dried which have lost their taste)

1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 fresh lemon, juice only

salt to taste

  1. First rinse the toor dal and then place it in a pan and cover completely with water. Start by adding 900ml water and you can add more later once the water has soaked up. It will take around 50 minutes to soften. Scum will form on the top so just remove this with a spoon and discard. You know the dal has softened when you can easily pinch one toor dal between your thumb and forefinger. Continue to add a little more water if it has all been soaked up.
  2. Meanwhile in a frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and gently fry the onion and the fresh coconut so that they begin to lightly bronze. Remove from the pan and then blitz in a blender with some fresh coriander and then leave to one side.
  3. Using the same pan add the rest of the oil and add the cumin, mustard and poppy seeds. They will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Be careful of the spluttering.
  4. Add the fresh curry leaves and the ginger-garlic paste – fresh or store bought. Move around the pan and then add the tomato and fresh chilli.
  5. Return the blitzed onion-coconut-fresh coriander to the pan and stir so that all the ingredients are nicely mixed together.
  6. Now add the turmeric, coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, lemon juice and salt.
  7. Once the dal has softened turn the contents of the frying pan into the dal and mix together. Check the salt levels.
  8. Leave to simmer for a few more minutes, then you are ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 


Fennel and Preserved Lemon Soup

As those who have been following this blog for a while will know, I absolutely ADORE soups. I’m happy to eat them all year round for breakfast (yes, in Vietnam you eat pho – which is their version of a soup/broth – for breakfast), lunch or supper. I am always trying to think of new pairings that might work well and since I had some fennel in my fridge that needed to be eaten I thought I would use that as the star ingredient and built up a few other ingredients around them.

I always have preserved lemons in my fridge so I decided to use them along with a leek. My other go to ingredient, which completely elevates dishes and which I do go on about a lot on my instatories, is my garlic confit. Seriously it takes very little effort to make a batch, stores in the fridge for ages, and really adds huge flavour to a host of dishes. In fact, it would make a great Christmas gift for any foodie friends or family. It shows thought and I bet the receiver would love you forever (although I am sure they already do ;o) anyway I digress.

The other ingredients are vegetable stock – I literally just used a stock cube, water, pepper and salt. I decided to top each soup with a parmesan crips and some of the fennel fronds to add a bit of umami to the dish (coming from the parmesan). If you are on instagram go to my stories and you can watch me cooking the dish on my instastories.

I think this soup would be a good one over the Christmas season if you are cooking for large groups. We always have a starter at each meal when the whole family gets together, so I will be definitely adding this one to my repertoire over Christmas.

 

Fennel and Preserved Lemon Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp garlic confit including around 5 garlic cloves from the confit

2 fennel, finely chopped (fronds removed and placed to one side)

1 leek, finely sliced

1-2 preserved lemons, finely chopped

1.2 litres water

1 vegetable stock cube

salt and pepper

 

Parmasan Crisps

will make 6

50g parmesan, finely grated

freshly ground black pepper

 

 

  1. Finely cut the fennel, removing the fronds and placing them to one side – you can use these later when serving the soup.
  2. Finely cut the leeks.
  3. Heat a large deep pan an add the garlic confit – oil and a few of the garlic cloves. This is what will really give the soup flavour and depth. Move around the pan and then add the fennel, leeks and a little salt and allow them to sweat and soften for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the preserved lemon. Add one to begin with, you can easily add one more later if you want it more lemony.
  5. Add the vegetable stock and boiling water and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  6. Using a hand blender, blend the soup so that it is completely smooth. You many need to add more water if you want it less thick in consistency. Taste test and then add a little more salt and freshly ground pepper. Also check on how lemony the soup is. If you would like it more so, add one more preserved lemon. It’s really down to personal preference so taste test and see what you think. Personally I like to add two.
  7. To make the parmesan crisps, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  8. Finely grate the parmesan and then place them in round piles and flatten to approx 2 inches in diameter on the greaseproof paper. Space them out as they will spread slightly. Add a little freshly ground black pepper on top.
  9. Heat in the oven for 6-8 minutes, so that they begin to lightly bronze, then remove and allow to cool.
  10. When serving the soup place a couple of ladles in each bowl and then add a parmesan crisp, some fennel fronds and sound freshly ground pepper.

Delicious. I hope you agree.

 


Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Continuing on the theme of lasts weeks post I wanted to show you a recipe that incorporates garlic confit.

So who has made it yet? Be honest!

Basically garlic confit is great in soups, stews, broths and pastas. It adds warmth, flavour and many delicious notes to a dish.

You will wonder how on earth you survived without it until now.

The soup I wanted to show you I’ve made a few times since my discovery of garlic confit. It takes minutes to prepare and is addictively delicious. The brown lentils I use are the ones in glass jars, as I just think they taste a whole lot better. If you can only find the tinned ones then absolutely use those – it will still taste great.

I love soups whatever the weather but I know that it is not customary to eat hot soups in hot weather here in the UK. In India it is quite different and hot soups are eaten even in 35 degrees heat. This recipe does have autumnal tones and I think that it will appeal to a wide audience as the days get cooler – at least I hope so.

Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp oil from the garlic confit

8 confit garlic cloves

1 small white onion, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika

400g brown lentils

1 tbsp tomato puree

800ml of stock – vegetable or chicken

salt to taste

2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

juice of half a lemon

 

  1. In a large deep pan – I love to use my Le Creuset pot – add the garlic confit oil, along with 8 garlic confit cloves. Allow to heat up and then add onion and allow to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes and smoked sweet paprika to the onion and garlic confit.
  3. When the tomatoes have softened, add the brown lentils and the tomato puree followed by the stock.
  4. Allow to come to the boil and then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste and then add the fresh flat leaf parsley and lemon juice.
  5. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

 


A Tuscan Classic – Ribollita

So how has everyone been coping this week with the HOTTEST weather on record in the UK and much of Europe? Dark, cool rooms or being in or near water have been the answer, but sleeping at night has been tough hey? When it’s super hot, I never feel particularly hungry and I certainly don’t want to be cooking with heat by a stove/oven for that long. I gravitated towards making salads, and on Thursday (the hottest day ever) I made my Vietnamese chicken salad – well a fusion of two of my recipes in fact – this one and this one .  It’s very straightforward and packed full of flavours and textures. It tasted cleansing and zingy with some good elements of crunch.

As crazy at it may sound when the going gets hot sometimes a soup – yes soup – can cool you down. You know how much I love soups and dals, and on our recent jaunt to Florence we ordered a Tuscan favourite – Ribollita – quite a few times when dining out. It’s a classic Tuscan dish that uses stale bread, tomatoes and my store cupboard favourite, white beans. It’s a meal in itself and gets the approval from the whole family so I thought I would make it my blog post for this week. I hope you like it. It’s a great year round recipe, so instead of just discarding stale bread try making this Tuscan classic instead.

 

Ribollita – a classic Tuscan dish

Serves 4-6

2 white onions, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

3 medium sized carrots, finely chopped

1 whole garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 wedge of parmesan rind (you know the end you normally want to throw away right)

2x400g can of good plum tomatoes

1 large handful of cavolo nero also known as Tuscan kale, roughly chopped

400g jar/tin of white beans

Approx 300g stale white bread (I like to use sourdough, but whatever you have to hand)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

70 ml of good extra virgin olive oil with extra to drizzle

salt to taste

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. First prepare the onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Place to one side
  3. Next remove the stalk from the kale by gliding your hand down the stalk to remove the leaves from the base of the stalk. Then roughly chop and place to one side.
  4. Cut up a wedge of parmesan rind and place to one side.
  5. Remove the plum tomatoes from the cans and strain, keeping the juice and then using your hand break up the plum tomatoes and place in a different bowl to the juice.
  6. Roughly tear by the bread.
  7. In a large pan – I find my trusty Le Crueset pan works really well for this type of meal – heat the oil and then add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic along with some salt. Allow to soften and the onions to become translucent but not brown.
  8. Add the plum tomatoes – still keep the juice to one side – and mix in thoroughly. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  9. Now add the parmesan rind, red pepper flakes, tomato juice and the strained white beans and stir in gently so that the flavours can infuse together.
  10. Add 1 litre of water and simmer.
  11. Now add half the cavolo nero and once wilted add the rest.
  12. Follow a similar step with the stale bread. When you have added the second batch of stale bread, add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  13. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

 

 


Chiang Mai Noodle Broth – An alternative Boxing Day recipe

Before we know it Christmas is upon us, so I thought I would get this recipe out early for you so that you can menu plan in advance. Whilst it is a Thai dish, it’s origin is actually from Burma and is very similar to the Malaysian laksa. I have cooked it for many years and whilst I tend to use boneless chicken thighs, I was thinking it would also work equally well with leftover turkey too. So if you are feeling the urge for some zing and heat on Boxing Day this recipe may just tick many boxes. You can make your own red curry paste (see at the bottom of this post for the recipe), should you want to make it completely from scratch or you can use a bought paste, which will speed up the process and make it pretty hassle free. I find this brand works well. The garnishes are important as they add texture, colour, flavour and taste so don’t hold back when plating up.

 

Chiang Mai Noodle Broth

serves 4

500ml coconut milk

2 tbsp red curry paste *

500g boneless chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces OR turkey leftovers

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

salt to taste

1 lime, juice only

600ml chicken stock

250g egg noodles (dry or fresh)

 

Garnish

1 shallot, finely sliced

2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal

fresh red chilli, optional

fresh mint, 1 handful

fresh coriander 1 handful

crispy fried onions – I buy these from this website

 

  1. In an non-stick pan add one third of the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Move it around the pan, with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes by which time the milk will separate and little bubbles will form on the surface.
  2. Now you add the red curry paste and mix together until smooth with the coconut milk.
  3. Add the chicken and coat completely in the sauce. Move around the pan for a  few minutes, before adding the rest of the coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, chicken stock. Simmer gently for 12 minutes. Taste test and add a little salt and/or sugar as necessary. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice.
  4. Meanwhile boil water in another pan and add the egg noodles, and cook according to the pack. Normally only takes a few minutes.
  5. Strain the noodles and then plate up in the following order. Make sure you have deep bowls – or pasta bowls will work well.
  6. Place the noodles in the bottom of the bowl. Next add some chicken/turkey. Next carefully ladle the liquid into the bowl and then scatter the garnishes on top – or place on the table for people to serve themselves.

 

 

To make your own red curry paste

You will need:

3 red bird’s eye chillies

2 shallots, peeled

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tbsp galangal or ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp coriander stems, chopped

1 tbsp kaffir lime zest or 2 lime leaves, finely chopped

1 tbsp shrimp paste

1 tbsp lemongrass, chopped

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a mini blender or pestle and mortar to form a paste. You won’t need to add any water as the juice from the galangal/ginger should provide this.

 


Toasted sourdough with goats cheese, broad beans, watercress and radish and a simple leek and potato soup

Here in the UK we’ve been enjoying blissfully balmy weather this October. To date, I have yet to don my winter coat, which would have been unheard of in past years. As such we’ve not been craving heavier stews and curries, but instead continuing to enjoy lighter food that we would eat in the summer months. So when my friend Vritti, the founder of Binge Magazine (have you bought your copy yet? I took a couple of the photos, including the front cover and one of the articles – you can buy your copy here), made a whirlwind visit to London from Dublin, I wanted to cook something fuss free, light and delicious for lunch.

I adore sourdough bread, so opted to make toasted sour dough with goats cheese, radish, watercress, lemon zest and pink peppercorns with a honey, lemon dressing. Lots of colours, textures and flavours each complementing one another.

On the side I cooked a simple leek and potato soup that was both light and flavoursome.  I garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and fresh chives adding another layer of flavours. Both dish are relatively quick to rustle up and can be made a little in advance as the toasted sourdough is best eaten at room temperature and the soup can be heated upon the arrival of your guests.

 

Toasted sourdough with goats cheese, broad beans, watercress and radish

serves 4

150g broad beans (frozen or fresh), boiled and skins removed

6 large pieces of fresh sour dough

2 cloves of garlic

150g smooth goats cheese

3 handfuls of fresh watercress (you could also use rocket)

4 pink radishes, finely sliced (I find a mandolin great for doing this, but be careful about your fingers!)

1 tsp pink peppercorns, roughly ground

1 lemon, zest only

salt (optional – I find you don’t need any due to the goats cheese)

 

dressing

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp running honey or agave

juice from 1 small lemon

  1. First boil the broad beans for 4 minutes and when cool de-pod them and place to one side.
  2. Next make the dressing, taste to test the balance is right for you. If it is too acidic then add a little more honey.
  3. Place the sour dough under a grill and when it is delicately bronzed turn over and repeat. Be warned it burns easily so really monitor this process.
  4. Remove the toasted sour dough from the oven and rub the garlic cloves over each piece so that a hint of garlic lingers on each piece.
  5. Spread a generous amount of goats cheese on each piece of toasted sourdough. Layer up all the other ingredients: broad beans, watercress, radishes. Sprinkle with lemon zest, pink peppercorns and salt if using.
  6. Finally sprinkle, using a teaspoon, the dressing over all the pieces. Cut each piece of sour dough in half and plate up.

 


Leek and Potato Soup

50g butter

3 leeks, sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 large potatoes, diced

1 vegetable stock cube

water to cover the vegetables

100ml milk

pepper and salt to taste

to serve

creme fraiche and finely chopped fresh chives to serve

 

  1. In a large deep pan heat the butter and once melted add the leeks, onion, potato and bay leaves.
  2. Move around the pan for 5 minutes before adding the stock cube, water and milk to cover the ingredients. I have purposely not given a precise amount of water to be added as I find some people prefer a thicker soup than others. I tend to opt more for the slightly thinner soup.
  3. Leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes, by which time the potato will be soft. Remove the bay leaves and then blend, using a hand blender, until smooth. Add more water if you want to thin out the soup.
  4. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of creme fraiche and some finely chopped chives.

A great combination that looks colourful and healthy and is packed with lots of fresh flavours.

 

 

 


Roasted Sweet Potato, Garlic and Smoked Paprika Soup

So hands up if you are as addicted to soup as me? I could, and almost do, have a bowl most days. Indian dal is very like soup and I often make one up for lunch – my red split lentil dal is a fav – see here.

Today however I wanted to show you my roasted sweet potato, garlic and smoked paprika soup. Anything roasted has that wonderful smokey flavour that is so addictively satisfying. This soup will warm the belly and soul with one spoonful (or preferably a whole bowl). The snow provided such a good backdrop the other day that I ran outside to take this shot. When I came to eating the soup later in the day I realised it was far too thick so I added more liquid. How thick or soupy you like your soup is up to you but just add the stock a little at a time until you have reached your desired consistency.

The whole family will love it and it involves minimum fuss so win win.

 

 

Roasted Sweet Potato, Garlic and Smoked Paprika Soup

5 sweet potatoes, cleaned and chopped into cubes (skin on)

1 whole garlic bulb

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter

2 stalks of rosemary, leaves only, stalk removed

1 tsp salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

1- 1.5 pint of vegetable stock, add more if you refer a less thick soup

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. On a baking tray place the cubed sweet potatoes and add the olive oil and smoked paprika and mix together so that the sweet potatoes are nicely covered. Add the whole garlic. Place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the sweet potato has softened.
  3. Meanwhile in a large casserole pan add the butter and a splash of olive oil and gently fry the red onion and rosemary for 7 minutes so that it has nicely softened.
  4. Remove the garlic cloves from the bulb, which will be all soft and gooey at this stage. Add them and the sweet potato to the main casserole pan and add seasoning and the vegetable stock.
  5. Using a hand whisk, blend until smooth. Add more boiling water/stock depending on how you like your soup consistency. I actually added a lot more water after this photo (above) was taken as it was too thick initially.
  6. Serve piping hot with some crunchy bread on the side. If you want to add a topping you could add a dollop of creme fraiche with a sprinkling of smoked paprika on top,  a little extra virgin olive oil or perhaps some roasted pine nuts.

If you try making this soup please post a photo on instagram and use the #soupmeuptoday so that I can see it.

 

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Cambodia, VB6 and a review of “My Vegan Travels” by Jackie Kearney

Sunset in Kep, Cambodia

Happy New Year everyone. As you’ve probably gathered from my lack of posts I have been off the grid for a few weeks, which has been bliss – although I was still posting on instagram so do check out my feed if you are interested. My family decided to cheat winter for a few weeks and headed off to Cambodia to see the ancient ruins, visit the capital and then head south to laidback Kep – which was once where the Cambodian royals and wealthy would head to relax and enjoy themselves; before the Khmer Rouge destroyed much of the town.

Angkor Wat Temple complex

Back in London and it has all been a bit of a shock with the cold, blistery weather and getting dark so early in the day. I reluctantly packed away my flip flops and got out my winter boots. January is a funny old month. We all start with such good intentions.

Most friends seem to be attempting a “dry January” and “veganuary” has now been thrown into the mix. Read more about it here if the term is new to you.

Sacred prays in Angkor Wat complex

I can get my head around being more vegetarian, or at least a diet which has a heavy vegetable focus, but vegan……now that involves a lot of thought and planning. Whilst I was pondering veganuary, I read about a rather interesting “diet” or let’s just say “way of life” which, in my view, seemed more attainable and realistic. There is a lot of chat about it in the media at the moment. It is called the VB6 diet. Now don’t get me wrong I do not follow diets and have never been on one, but this VB6 caught my attention.

Lotus flower arrangement in Siem Reap

The diet was given life by New York Times’ lead food writer Mark Bittman and literally means “Vegan Before 6pm”. I am increasingly convinced we all need to eat more vegetables and fruit and less meat and fish. Like Mark however, I am not going to become vegan anytime soon, but a swing of the pendulum towards more of a plant based diet is definitely attractive on many levels. I would prefer to eat meat and fish less often but the quality of what I eat to be high and ultimately know exactly where the produce has come from. By eating it less frequently does allow us to buy better quality meat and fish when we do actually buy it.

Drying out fish on the shores of Tonle Sap – the 4th largest freshwater source of fish in the world

The VB6 diet came about when Mark was told by his doctor that he was overweight, his cholesterol and blood sugar were too high and that intervention by surgery was one possible option. He discussed these findings with another doctor who suggested that becoming vegan was another way that could help him. Knowing that becoming a true vegan was out of the question he decided to adapt and become vegan throughout the day but in the evening from 6pm he could eat what he wanted. It made a lot of sense as he could be sociable in the evening with friends and eat how he always has done. He is also really realistic that sometimes he may deviates from the plan and he readily admits he has milk in his coffee in the morning, but for the most part he continues to be vegan in the day time.

A shrine in Phnom Penh

So has it worked?

Absolutely. He has lost a good amount of weight – 36 pounds then gained a little to plateau to around losing 26 pounds. The diet seems sensible and also not really very restrictive in the grand scheme of things. He talks to the Huffington Post here about the diet. Have a read, it’s really interesting. I definitely plan to pick up a copy of his book and see what he has to say in more detail. You can order it here if you are interested.

Buddhist shrine in Angkor Wat

Which brings me to a rather lovely book that was recently sent to me, called “My Vegan Travels – Comfort Food Inspired by Adventure” by Jackie Kearney. I don’t own a vegan cookery book so was not too sure on what to expect. What I discovered is a hugely informative book with recipes that actually sound and look (if the five photos below are anything to go by) delicious.

Photography credit above: Clare Winfield, published by Ryland Peters & Small

At first glance there did seem to be quite a number of ingredients in each recipe but that has never phased me. If you are someone who likes 5 ingredients, then this book is probably not for you. For anyone who has a keen interest in cooking and a willingness to try something new then you will love it. The chapters are slit into “No Place Like Home”, “European Summers”, “Asian Comfort” and “Americana”. I obviously gravitated to the “Asian Comfort”.

I think that to become full-time vegan does involve a commitment to actually stock your pantry/cupboard/fridge very differently. Leafing though the pages I found a couple of Cambodian recipes. Again I never come across Cambodian recipes so both of them really appealed to me. I opted on one though which I think is a real January mood-pick-me-up. It’s called “Num Banh Chok” – a Cambodian yellow curry with rice noodles and I cannot tell you how AWESOME this recipe is. I gave it to my father-in-law who has been recovering from a bout of flue and he couldn’t stop saying how delicious it was. It is now firmly part of my culinary arsenal and I will be cooking it again and again hence forth. I LOVED it.

I thought that the recipe tied in so well with this post and me having just come back from beautiful Cambodia, as well as the VB6 article, which I had been mulling over.

Now a couple of things to note. I made one change –  I added fried tofu instead of banana flower. I do love banana flower but it is tricky to find, certainly if you live outside London or not near any Vietnamese grocers. I thought it wasn’t very realistic for others to find if I found it tricky. Secondly, the vegetable with holes in it is called “lotus root”. I admit lotus root is also not that easy to find. My usual Asian grocers did not have it so they sent me off to a Chinese grocers that did. So folks aim for Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Japanese grocers near you. It is not stocked in your local supermarket. You can buy it online at places like Amazon and Fresh Oriental – here. You can also buy it frozen, but fresh is best if you can locate it. Galangal is not as hard to find, but again you may need to head to your South East Asian grocer.

Once you have the ingredients the recipe is a piece of cake to make. Do try it and let me know. If this recipe is anything to go by I can’t wait to try making the other Cambodian recipe “Khmer croquettes” (photo below) very soon. Don’t they look temptingly moreish.

Photography credit above: Clare Winfield, published by Ryland Peters & Small

Cambodian Yellow Curry with Rice Noodles

adapted from “My Vegan Travels” by Jackie Kearney, published by Ryland, Peters & Small

Serves 4

(1/2= half)

To make the Spice Paste

2 6cm/2 inch thumbs of fresh turmeric (or 1 1/2 tsp powdered)

1/2 tsp paprika

4 garlic cloves

5cm/2 inch thumb of ginger

5cm/2 inch thumb of galangal

4-6 dried red chillies, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes

1 small red onion

2 lemongrass stalks, ends trimmed and outer layer removed

10 kaffir lime leaves

 

To make the curry

2 tbs coconut/vegetable oil

900ml/4 cups vegetable stock or water, plus extra if needed

2-3 tbs vegan fish sauce or light soy sauce

1 tbs agave syrup or brown sugar

200g/7oz lotus root, peeled and cut into thick slices (or use cauliflower florets(

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

150g green or runner beans, trimmed

400ml/14 oz can of coconut milk

1-2 rock salt, to taste

100g/3 1/2oz Chinese leaf, roughly torn ( I used choi sum, but chard, beet leaves also works)

100g fried tofu cubes (I picked this up at Hoo Hing)

 

To serve

1 packet of thin rice thread noodles, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes

drizzle of chilli oil/chilli (optional)

50g/1/2 cup of roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)

 

  1. First place your rice noodles in a bowl and cover with hot water and leave whilst you get on with making the dish.
  2. New place all the spice paste ingredients in a blender/food processor and blitz until smooth. Easy hey.
  3. In a large non stick pan/wok, heat the oil and fry the curry paste.
  4. Add the stock/water, vegan fish sauce/light soy sauce and agave nectar/brown sugar and bring to the boil then add the lotus root and squash and simmer for around 8 minutes.
  5. Then add the green/runner beans and simmer for another couple of minutes before adding the coconut milk and more stock if needed; it should be a soupy consistency.
  6. Salt to taste and bring back to the boil. Make sure the butternut squash is soft. The lotus root will not be as soft!
  7. Stir in the choi sum and then remove from the heat, allowing it to wilt completely.
  8. Drain the rice noodles from the water. They should be soft and ready to eat.
  9. Place in a bowl and ladle the curry broth on top. Sprinkle with peanuts and chilli oil if necessary.

More instalments from Cambodia next week.

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Spinach Soup with Lemon and Garlic Crumbs – Book Review of ‘The Flexible Vegetarian’ by Jo Pratt

A really lovely looking cookbook landed on my door step recently. The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt is a beautiful compilation of recipes to inspire us all along vegetarian lines whether you want a purely vegetarian meal or perhaps you want to adapt it to be more meat/fish friendly.

The cover is simple and effective with a handprinted aubergine on the front. Pretty adorable don’t you agree? ‘Flexible’, because it will appeal to everyone whether you eat meat and fish or not.  Whilst all the recipes are vegetarian there is a section at the bottom of the recipe giving you an alternative to include meat/fish.  For example, one recipe that jumped out of the page at me was the ‘fennel, pumpkin and green olive tagine’ – I mean how delicious does that sound? If you follow the ‘flexible’ option then she tells you what to do to make it a chicken tagine. So simple and yet rather effective. There are some really lovely sounding recipes ‘aromatic tea-smoked mushroom ramen’, ‘courgette fritti with goat’s cheese and truffle honey’, ‘aubergine and green been laksa’, ‘Turkish pie with spinach and aubergine’ to name a few. The recipes all look very easy to follow and are perfect for lunches or dinners.

Photography by Susan Bell from The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt, published by Frances Lincoln
Photography by Susan Bell from The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt, published by Frances Lincoln

I was craving greens so was drawn to the spinach soup. I am big fan of all green vegetables and when I initially saw it it reminded me of my Forentine Lemongrass  Soup that I put up on my blog when I started it over 6 year ago (excuse the dodgy photos back then) and my wild garlic, courgette and lemon soup with poached egg and crispy panko breadcrumbs I think the similarities probably start and end with the same colour. Anyway Jo’s spinach soup looked a perfect way to give my body a good dose of healthiness in one sitting. I like the fact that the crumb combined parmesan, crispy breadcrumbs, garlic and lemon zest – a bit of zing, salt and crunch rolled into one. YUM.

It took minutes to whizz together and provided a most satisfying lunch, but would  work equally well as a starter. Her ‘flexible’ option was to combine anchovy fillets to the crumb, giving the soup a more salty depth.

 

Spinach Soup with Lemon and Garlic Crumbs (By Jo Pratt from ‘The Flexible Vegetarian’

Serves 6-8

40g butter

1 leek sliced

1 bunch of spring onions (scallions), chopped

1 stick celery, finely sliced

1 medium potato, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

1 litre vegetable stock

500g fresh spinach leaves

flaked sea salt and freshly group black pepper

to serve

1 tsp of  creme fraiche per serving, optional

 

For the crumbs

2 dry/stale piece white bread, whizzed in a food processor to create crumbs

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

olive oil

25g finely grated parmesan cheese

 

  1. Heat the butter in a pan and gently sauté the leek, spring onion, celery, potato and bay leaf for a few minutes and then place a lid on the pan to allow to sweat and soften  for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Pour in the stock and continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes so that the potato has softened.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and then add the spinach and gently stir.
  4. Using a hand blender blitz until smooth and vivid green. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
  5. In a frying pan add a glug of oil and then fry the crumbs so that they crisp slightly. Remove from the pan and mix with the lemon zest, parmesan and a little salt and pepper if required.
  6. Serve the soup in bowls with a scattering of crispy crumb mix and a dollop of creme fraiche if using.

The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt you can order here. It is published by Frances Lincoln.

 

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