Edible gifts, The Basics

Celery salt

salt.jpg

Flavoured salts are a good way of adding subtle flavours when cooking, particularly if you don’t have any of the fresh ingredient for a dish. They also look better as a condiment than boring plain salt. If you are lucky enough to get a bunch of fresh celery with plenty of leaves then save the nice darker green outer leaves and after rinsing and removing any excess water, in a salad spinner, spread them out on a baking tray and put them in the oven at about 120 degrees C / 250 F for about 10-15 mins until they dehydrate. You can turn off the oven and leave them in there to ensure that they are completely dried out. They will be dry and crisp and you can either crush them in your hands or chop them up roughly with some scissors. Then place them in a mortar and add sea salt, enough to fill a smallish jar, and pound them together. Put the salt in a sealed jar and keep in a dry place. This also makes a nice gift for a foodie friend.

 

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Thai Food, Veggie sides

Stir-fried celery

celery.jpg

Yesterday at a local organic farmers’ market they were selling beautiful bunches of celery an I couldn’t resist buying some. Normally in Thailand we can only find tiny bunches of Chinese celery so it was irresistible. Celery is something my family are very fond of and as well as eating raw celery in the past, my grandparents had it fresh and crunchy just dipped in a bit of salt, I can remember having braised celery sometimes, although I wasn’t that fond of it cooked this way as it lost it’s crunch. Today I wanted to let the celery take centre stage in a cooked dish but I also wanted it to keep it’s crunch so I decided to stir fry it and resisted adding too much else to it. This is probably more Chinese than Thai in it’s style, whatever it’s great if you like celery!

Start by cutting the base of the bunch of celery and then wash the stalks and leaves. Remove the leaves, keeping all the fresh green ones. My bunch had lots of leaves so I kept half of them for making celery salt. Then chop the stalks into bite-sized pieces. Heat up about 2 tbps. of sesame oil, or other vegetable oil, in a wok. While the oil is heating finely slice two large cloves of garlic. Fry a couple of dried chillies and the garlic in the oil, these will flavor the oil, The chilles will cook very quickly so as soon as the puff up and start to change colour, brown, remove them and keep frying the garlic for a minute of so, turning occasionally, until golden brown and then remove these too.

Put the chopped celery stalks, not the leaves, into the wok and stir-fry for about a minute. Then add a couple of tbps. of water and about 1/2 – 1 tbsp. of light soy sauce and continue frying. The celery will let out some liquid too and will steam / fry and this will bring out it’s colour and stop it burning. Fry for a few minutes until it looks just cooked through, the colour will change as it cooks so check that it’s cooked almost through and most of the liquid has evaporated. This will take 4-5 mins. depending on the heat of your wok etc. Then add the leaves, 2 tsp. sesame seeds, I used a mix of black and white, a tbsp. of veggie (mushroom) oyster sauce and some white ground pepper. The oyster sauce can be left out if you don’t have it but it makes the dish nice and glossy and thickens the sauce up.  Stir-fry so the leave wilt and everything if coated in the sauce. Then add the garlic back in and break the chillies into the wok and give it a last stir. Serve with rice and any other dishes you like, I had it with a Massaman curry. Enjoy!

 

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Thai Food, Veggie mains

Spaghetti pad kaprao

spaghetti

This makes a quick and easy lunch or supper made from store cupboard staples. It’s an adaption of spaghetti aglio olio to include Thai holy basil. The breadcrumbs pangrattato give extra texture to the dish and are used instead of cheese making it a great vegan option. The recipe here serves 2.

So what do you need?

  • 1 or 2 slices of bread
  • 5-6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 4-5 colves of garlic
  • 3-4 birds-eye chillies
  • 250g spaghetti
  • a small bunch of holy basil

So what do you do?

Start by putting your salted pasta water on to boil. Then make your breadcrumbs by putting the bread in a food processor and chopping them until you have relatively coarse breadcrumbs. Pour a little olive oil in a frying pan and over a medium heat toast the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt until crisp and golden brown. Then put them to one side in a bowl. Slice up your mushrooms and peal and chop the garlic, give the chillies a bash and then heat up about 4 – 5 tbsp. of oil in the frying pan and add the mushrooms, garlic, chilli a good pinch or two of salt and a grind of black pepper. Cook on a medium heat until the garlic starts to go golden brown and the mushrooms are cooked.

Meanwhile cook your spaghetti according to instructions. While it’s cooking pluck the leaves off the holy basil so you have a good handful. Once the spaghetti is cooked drain it reserving some of the pasta water. Add the spaghetti to the frying pan with about 1/3 up of pasta water and throw in the holy basil leaves cook until the leaves wilt and the pasta is covered in the oild mixture. Divide the spaghetti into two bowls and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs.

 

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Thai Food, Veggie mains

Pad Thai

pad thai

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get round to posting a recipe for Pad Thai, maybe as more often than not it’s a dish I eat at our local noodle shop and enjoy their version. There are probably as many versions of Pad Thai as people who make it, but I find many too sweet or too oily so making it at home allows you to control the flavours. If you don’t live in Thailand, surrounded by Pad Thai options, then it’s easy enough to make at home. This will make 2 servings which is about as much as you can make at a time in a domestic wok.

So what do you need?

  • 100g firm tofu
  • 120g flat rice noodles (I used brown ones)
  • 200g bean sprouts
  • a small bunch of garlic chives / spring onions
  • 4tbs vegetable oil
  • a handful of roasted peanuts
  • 3 tbsp. dried pickled Chinese radish
  • 3 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • 3 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. palm sugar
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 lime

So what do you do?

Start by soaking your rice noodles in water, brown ones will take about 20 minutes, white ones about 10 minutes. Then cut the tofu into small pieces and marinate with a tbsp. light soy sauce. If using unroasted peanuts then dry roast them in a wok for a few minutes, stirring, until they are golden brown and put them in a mortar ready to crush.

Next make the Pad Thai sauce, in a small pan warm together the tamarind paste, palm sugar and 2 tbsp. of soy sauce with a splash of water, the amount of water will depend on how thick your tamarind paste is. This should make a runny sauce that is sour with a hint of sweetness and saltiness. Then rinse and strain the beansprouts and garlic chives, reserve a handful of beansprouts and a few of the chives to use as a garnish. Cut the remaining chives into 4cms lengths. Crush the peanuts once they have cooled.

Next put the oil in the wok and fry the tofu until golden brown and pour out most of the remaining oil into a dish. Then add most of the tamarind sauce and fry the tofu in it for about 30 second. Drain the noodles and add them to the wok and stir fry them for a minute or two then add the Chinese radish, most of the crushed peanuts, the chili powder and the bean sprouts and chopped garlic chives. Fry until the bean sprouts soften and if it seems dry add the remaining tamarind sauce. Then push the noodles to the edge of the wok and add the reserved oil into the wok and crack in the eggs and break them up with the spatula and fry them when they are almost done mix the noodles back in and fry everything together.

Divide into two portions on plates and garnish with the remaining garlic chives, bean sprouts, peanuts, a wedge of lime and a sprinkle of chilli powder (optional).

 

 

 

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Veggie mains

Pasta & broccoli

 

pasta

This is a ‘copy’ of a recipe by Rachel Roddy in the Guardian that I’ve been meaning to make for a while. It’s really simple and delicious.

The broccoli is cooked twice ‘ripassati’. For two large portions start by boiling about 500g of broccoli in well salted water. I used baby broccoli and added the chopped stems to the pan a couple of minutes before the heads and cooked for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile I heated about 4 tbsp. of olive oil in a heavy pan and started to fry a couple of cloves of garlic. I then used a slotted spoon and transferred the cooked broccoli into the pan with some of the cooking water and added about a tsp. of peperoncino seasoning, herbs and chilli, you can just add 1/2 tsp of dried chill flakes. I stirred this around and then covered it and let it continue to cook. . I brought the water I’d cooked the broccoli in back to the boil and added about 250g of rigatoni pasta. I cooked the pasta and kept the broccoli cooking stirring occasionally and adding a couple of tbsp. of pasta water if necessary. The broccoli needs to cook down until it’s really soft. Once the pasta was cooked I drained it and added it to the broccoli and mixed everything together well and added 100g cottage cheese, you could use ricotta, I then served the pasta with some parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of the peperoncino chills and herbs.

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Snacks, Veggie mains

Arancini / risotto patties


This is a great way to use up any leftover risotto (there are several risotto recipes on the blog already). Just roll the cold, sticky risotto rice into balls or patties and coat in flour or breadcrumbs and shallow fry in oil until crisp and golden. You can put a small piece of mozzarella or blue cheese in the middle of the balls if you like. Serve on a bed of green leaves. Here I also added some homomade tomato sauce too. Enjoy!

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Baking, Something sweet

Double choc biscuits 


These are really easy and delicious if you like chocolate. This will make about 15 biscuits or 8 larger cookies.

So what do you need?

  • 100g butter
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla essence
  • 100g plain (all purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. cocao powder
  • 50g chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. plain yoghurt or milk

So what do you do?

Start by pre- heating your oven to 175 degrees C / 350 F. Then cream together the butter and sugar and mix in the vanilla essence. Next add in the the flour, baking powder, cocao powder and choc chips and mix them in. Then add just enough plain yoghurt or milk to bring the mixture together into a dough.

On a lined baking sheet put dessert spoons balls of the mixture leaving some space between them and then press them down with the back of a fork. Put them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the begin to crisper at the edges. Allow to cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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