Vietnamese inspired Salmon, Cucumber, Red Onion and Grapefruit Salad

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Up in my old neck of the woods there is a fantastic restaurant that I love to visit whilst catching up with friends. It goes by the name of Granger & Co, owned by the Australian chef Bill Granger. Bizarrely I have never purchased or been given any of Bill’s cookbook (sorry Bill – take note friends and family ;o) but if any of the dishes at his restaurant are to go by I really ought to get my hands on some copies. The restaurant is always heaving and it’s important to note that they don’t take reservations, so it is always best to go with plenty of time in hand as there may be a wait – max I have ever waited was 20 mins.

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The other day my lunch companion and I were seated to a table immediately – we were in luck – and then cast our eyes over the menu, which quite frankly has all the types of dishes that I would like to eat in a restaurant. Delicate, fresh, exotic, great flavour combinations and healthy, the menu appeals to anyone with a love of food and flavours.  I actually found it hard to make a decision as there were so many things that appealed. I opted for a Vietnamese inspired salmon salad – mainly for two reasons: firstly I have a bit of a ‘thing’ going on for Vietnamese cuisine at the moment which you’ve probably noticed and secondly I was curious to see how the dished compared to those I actually ate in Vietnam recently. It was also light and healthy, which was a bonus!

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It is no exaggeration but every mouthful was an utter delight. Making a mental note of what I was eating I was determind to replicate a similar dish at home and share it with you. I don’t know exactly what Bill used in the dressing but I have made my own twist on the dish. I have cooked it many times since and the response has been really positive. Aside from the red grapefruit, even my seven year old  really loves the dish. As alternative you could always replace the red grapefruit with fresh mango.

Vietnamese inspired Salmon, Cucumber, Red Onion and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 4

4 salmon fillets

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp sesame oil

*****

2 cucumber, sliced at diagonal angles (see photos)

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 red grapefruit, chopped into bite sized pieces

200g trimmed fine green beans

1 large handful of fresh coriander

*****

2 tbsp mirin

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

2 limes, juice only

1. In a bowl place the salmon fillets and add the soy sauce and runny honey and using your hands coat the salmon pieces and leave to marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees.

3. In a frying pan heat the sesame oil and when hot add the salmon skin side down to begin with. Literally allow to bronze slightly for a minute and then turn over gently and leave for another minute. You want to have it so the outside is delicated bronzed but not cooked all the way through. It can begin to turn a lighter pink but you want the remainder of the cooking to take place in an oven gently.

4. Spread out a large piece of  tin foil and place the salmon pieces in the centre, making sure not to break them up. Add the remaining marinade from the bowl over the salmon.  Now you need to create a Papillote effect. It’s very straightforward – all you need to do is create a salmon parcel making sure all the foil edges are closed up so that no air can escape and there is some space above the salmon so don’t enclose it too tightly.

5. Place the salmon parcel in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, by which stage it will have be cooked through and ready to crumble gently on the salad.

6. Whilst the salmon is cooking steam the green beans for a minute or two. You want to make sure they continue to have a good crunch but that the bite is taken off a little with the steaming. Equally you could boil them for a minute and then drain under cold water.

7. Add the green beens to the cucumber, red onion, red grapefruit, fresh coriander and place a good helping on eat plate.

9. Add the mirin, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, caster sugar and lime juice to create the marinade. Taste to check you have the right balance for you.

8. When the salmon is ready remove from the oven. Gently remove the skin, which will come away easily and place a salmon fillet on the top of each salad, allowing it to crumble slightly. Pour a little of the marinade over the fish and salad and serve immediately. Place the remaining marinade in a small jug for guests to add more should they wish.


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.


Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu


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In my first months of blogging, way back in the middle of 2011, I posted one of my absolute favourite recipes, Ma Po Tofu, which is a Sichuan classic and is seriously addictive – if you like chilli that is. It is incredibly easy to cook and after a manic day it is the perfect pick-me-up-food that takes no time to prepare. Over the years however, I have found that I am increasingly making it without the pork mince element and keeping it to a more vegetarian dish by including simply tofu and fresh (or sometimes frozen) spinach.

Recently in Hong Kong I began to judge eating establishments on how well they could cook Ma Po Tofu and Dan Dan Noodles as I had a acquired a taste for both dishes.

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Tofu I know divides opinion, but I am definitely in the camp of someone who loves it. It wasn’t an immediate love affair, but one that has grown over time to the extent that I always have tofu in the house, ready and waiting for me to make a last minute Ma Po Tofu dish or my other favourite tofu dishes, roasted harlequin squash with tofu, kale and coriander in a miso curry paste, black pepper tofu and soba noodles with tofu, aubergine and mango. Seriously give them all a try – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Tofu, or bean curd as it is also known, is hugely nutritious, versatile and a great vehicle for flavour. It’s rich in protein and low in fat, especially saturated fat. Yes, eaten on its own it is rather plain, but the point of tofu is to incorporate it with other flavours which it will help to enhance and lift. There are a myriad of different types of tofu, but the one I tend to use the most is ‘firm, silken tofu’ . I am going to be cooking some more tofu dishes over the course of this year, hoping that I may convert a few followers to the joys of tofu eating.

So here is what you need for the vegetarian version of the dish.

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Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu

Serves 2/3

349g silken tofu (or a similar amount)

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

2 tbsp of chilli bean sauce (Lee Kum Kee’s I find works really well)

125ml of vegetable stock (fresh or a cube)

1 tsp shaoxing wine

1 tsp of soy sauce (light or dark)

2 tsp of sugar

1/4 tsp of sea salt

a good pinch of crushed Sichuan peppercorns

1/2 tsp of sesame oil

1. Cut the tofu into small (2cm) cubes and place to one side.

2. In a shallow pan heat the vegetable oil and then add the garlic and spring onions, stirring for around 30 seconds. Then add the chilli bean paste and mix into the garlic and spring onions.

3. After a minute add the chicken stock, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar and salt and bring to the boil.

4. Add the spinach to the pan and gently fold into the hot sauce.

5. Once the spinach has begun to wither add the tofu and carefully spoon the sauce over the tofu, making sure not to break up the cubes. Leave to gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

6. Serve into a large bowl and sprinkle the Sichuan peppercorns and sesame oil and gently mix together.

Serve alongside small bowls of rice and hot cups of piping Jasmine/Chinese tea.

Perfect for this cold snowy weather.


Red Camargue and Wild Rice Salad with Miso Dressing

I know it’s winter and there is snow on the ground but I’ve been trying out some new exciting salad recipes recently, ones which really make you sit up and take note of what you are eating and have the definite wow factor. I like to eat salad during my weekday lunches with a bowl of piping hot soup, even in winter. I make a decent amount so I can eat it over a few days.  Dressings are certainly important and give salads a certain edge. For your average green salad I always like to make my Asian vinaigrette, it’s fail proof and  can easily store in the fridge for a number of weeks.

This red camargue and wild rice salad with a miso dressing is seriously divine and unlike any salad I have tried before, I really urge you to try it. I recently spotted it on fellow food blogger Sara Forte’s site sproutedkitchen.com. I have made a few changes, the most obvious one being that I used red camargue rice as well as wild rice so as to get that rich red colour. I’m rather partial to tofu these days, well ever since I discovered this recipe, which has become one of my favourites.

So this is what you need to make this winning salad recipe.


  Red Camargue and Wild Rice Salad with Miso Dressing

sourced from the talented Sara Forte from Sprouted Kitchen

150g rice (check packet to see cooking instructions)

400g block of firm tofu

2 tsp coconut or olive oil

2 tsp soy sauce

freshly ground pepper

2 carrots, thinly sliced

200g frozen edamame/soya beans

3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

handful of chopped coriander/cilantro

and for the Miso Dressing you will need:

2 tbsp of white miso

2 tbsp agave nectar

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 shallot, minced

juice of half an orange

1. Heat up a small frying pan and when it is hot add the sesame seeds and shake them in the pan for around 30 seconds. They burn really easily so as soon as they begin to turn a light brown take them off the heat and place to one side.

2. Rinse the rice and cook according to the instructions on the packet. If you are using red camargue or wild rice please note that cooking takes a lot longer than white rice. It will take up to 40 minutes before the water has been absorbed and the rice is ready.

3. Drain the tofu, being careful not to break the block. Pat it dry with a kitchen towel and then cut into even bite sized cubes. In a cast iron pan, if you have one, or a normal frying pan if you don’t, gently heat up the coconut oil; I didn’t manage to find any so used olive oil. When the pan is sufficiently hot add the tofu and saute for around five minutes, being careful not to burn the tofu. Next add the soy sauce and a few grinds of black pepper and continue to saute for a few more minutes, turning the tofu so that it is evenly cooked on all sides. Once it is cooked turn off the heat and place to one side.

4. In a mixing bowl add all the miso dressing ingredients together.

5. In a separate bowl combine the rice, tofu, sliced carrots and edamame.

6. Combine the salad with the dressing and add the toasted sesame seeds and coriander/cilantro. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

 


Bream me up Scotty!

If you were to open my fridge at any point in time you can pretty much guarantee that you will find some fresh red and green chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander/cilantro lurking within. They are like my kitchen essentials. I adore them I really do. They make what would otherwise be a rather bland dish into one that wants to shout from the roof tops ‘I’m alive and kick ass’. From these ingredients I can pretty much conjure up a feast without too much effort.

Following a glorious full on wedding weekend I thought it was a good idea come Monday to cleanse the body and soul with some tasty bream and some of my kitchen essentials. Its certainly no ‘rocket science’ recipe but it certainly tastes good and can be adapted to suit ones liking to chilli, or not, as the case may be.

I had some wonderful bream in my freezer, which I defrosted the night before to make the dish. Bream is a delicious fish, similar to seabass in texture being firm and sweet.  As an added bonus you can sleep soundly at night, dear reader, with the knowledge that it is not on the endangered list like cod and halibut. Its reasonably priced, simple to cook and not overly boney.  So what’s stopping you? Seek it out and let me know what you think.

This recipe is quite a personal thing in the sense that you can emphasise more or less of the ingredients depending on your preference to them, or not as the case maybe. I tend to cook it with no particular guidelines, however, I realise that this is not very helpful when you are trying to pass on a recipe so here goes at me noting down how to create this gem of a dish.

Bream with chilli, spring onions, garlic and ginger

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 13 minutes

Serves 3 (hungry people or 6 less greedy people)

6 pieces of Bream or 3 Bream

3 spring onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves,  choppped

2 inches of ginger, grated finely

2 chilli, chopped

1 lime, chopped into two

4 tbsp of soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil

Handful of chopped coriander/cilantro

Whole grain rice

1. Place the rice in a pan of boiling water and simmer gently for the required time. Whole grain rice takes a little longer than white, normally around 20/25 minutes.

2. Place the oil in a relatively deep pan on a low heat.  When the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger, spring onions and then the chilli. Fry gently for a couple of minutes and then add the bream  pieces. Squeeze in the lime halves and then leave in the pan so that the flavours can blend together.

3. After a minute add half the soy sauce and add a splash of water so as to give more of a steam effect to the cooking of the fish, placing a lid on top.

4. After 5 minutes turn the bream over and cook for a further 5 minutes, so that it is cooked/steamed sufficiently on both sides.

5. Just before you take it off the heat, place a good handful of corriander/cilantro over the fish. This adds a wonderful aroma to the dish.

6. Serve with whole grain rice.

So speedy to prepare and cook that even those with a busy schedule can cook such delights.