What’s yo flava?

Whenever I talk about flavour, an urge to be “musical” arises, I blame Craig David. Anyone else know the song? Comment if you do!

I would say it was a trip at the age of sixteen to Malaysia that first opened me up to such colourful spicy notes. Mee-Goreng, an incredible noodle dish I had the good fortune of tasting, is a food memory that has stayed with me for over a decade.

Then came Curry Laksa during my Masters year while I was living near Brunswick Square in London. My mouth still waters thinking about it, a beautifully separated assam curry, a timid layer of fragrant oil just glistening on the surface and what lies beneath, fat rice noodles, crisp vegetables, tofu and other delights. It has all been cooked in a coconut milk broth that has incredible depth and heat.

The first Thai dish I ever cooked was Tom Yum soup, I literally had no idea what I was doing but the end result was pretty good. This convinced me I could cook. So much so, I basically whipped up an entire Thai meal over the following week for my Dad’s birthday and so it was that this school of flavour (Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian) kind of became my forte (Italian and Afghan comes in at a close second).

The kind of flavours used in these Asian cuisines hit all your tastebuds, sweet, savoury, sour and spice. The fragrance and freshness of coconut milk, lemongrass, lime, gently toasted ground and whole spices, fresh coriander, kaffir leaves and basil just explode bite after bite.

I’ll be honest, this experience can rarely be delivered as a quick fix recipe, if there are some cuisines I will slave over it’s these. For me personally, the slow cooked coconut curry is what develops intense flavours and gives you that melt in your mouth moment.

Having said that today is one of those crazy days where time is of the essence, while I didn’t spend hours over on it and though it’s no laksa, it tastes pretty awesome.

IMG_1721.JPG

Serves 2

Four chicken thighs with the skin
*(For a vegan version of this, use firm tofu and follow the same steps but apply half the cooking time of the chicken)
1tbsp ginger paste
Pinch of red chili flakes (or to taste)
1tbsp Tamari
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup of basmati rice
2tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1tsp poppy seeds
1 cup of coconut milk

To serve: some chopped fresh coriander

Marinade the chicken in ginger, red chili flakes, tamari and half the lemon juice.

Wash and cook your rice according to packet instructions.

Heat 1tbsp coconut oil in a shallow pan that has a lid on a medium flame. Once the oil is hot, put your chicken thighs in skin side down. Fry them off until they are gold brown. Flip them over, go to the lowest heat setting and cover with lid.

You are going to steam the thighs slowly until they are cooked, about forty minutes or so. Once the thighs are cooked, reduce the remaining liquid in the pan so you get a nice glaze on them.

In another pan, on a medium heat, melt remaining coconut oil and throw in the garlic, curry paste and poppy seeds and sauté for about ten minutes until they are sizzling. Add your cooked rice, coconut milk, the remaining lemon juice and mix well until everything is combined.

Serve with coriander.

Limitless

IMG_2019-0.JPG

On wintery evenings I love the tenderness of lentils al-dente. For when you want to eat comforting carbs and not eat them at the same time, they are the perfect antidote and then cooking a little extra for lazy and easy packed lunches the next day. Roasted onions and feta, I’ve found, are the best thing for these teeny tiny sized dumplings of nutrients.

To make about four servings, what you need is a cup of pardina lentils, a slug of olive oil, a red onion or two chopped in two quarters tossed with 1tsp of cumin seeds, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and to finish 1/4 cup of crumbled goats feta cheese.

IMG_2021.JPG
Bring lentils to boil and simmer for 25 minutes.

IMG_2020.JPG
Roast onions for 25 minutes at 350F.

IMG_2022.JPG
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

IMG_2023.JPG
Finish with feta cheese and serve with steamed kale or my favourite Harissa roasted vegetables or both or employ your beautiful imagination, lentils are quite limitless.

Sunday Bliss

Sundays are made for bliss, they bring the prospect of movies, yoga, the time to cook a good meal, the fresh smell of laundry, a fridge laden with newly bought groceries, a good book, board games and mellower hangouts with family and friends.

It’s been a while since the hubby and I had a Sunday with each other and it was kind of one of those perfect ones. Great weather, we had our first hip hop lesson, an afternoon snooze, doing the laundry and the type you would normally end on with noodles from your favourite Chinese food haunt.

I love noodles, there are very few people in the world with whom I would share my last noodle, each one packs a punch.

The best noodle dishes are fresh, fragrant, light, full of flavour and with beautifully cooked vegetables, not loaded with salt and grease in the name of taste. King Soba are my favourite, they transform noodles into something that is not only delicious but also nourishing and nutritious.

So I leave you with this simple recipe (great for anyone who is gluten free or vegan) on which we ended our perfect sort of Sunday.

IMG_0996.JPG

Buckwheat Noodles with Tamari, Green Chillies and Ginger

King Soba Buckwheat Noodles
1tbsp Coconut oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1tbsp grated ginger
2 small green chillies (we love spice so kept the seeds, but you don’t have to)
3 spring onions sliced (including the green part)
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1tbsp tamari (you can add a little more if you like)
1/4tsp smoked paprika
1/4tsp cayenne

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions.

Melt the oil in a wok on a medium heat and sauté ginger, garlic and chillies until they start to sizzle. Then add the spring onions, mushrooms and broccoli. Stir-fry while the noodles cook.

Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse in cold water and then throw them into the wok. Add the tamari, paprika and cayenne. Mix everything well and stir-fry for a few more minutes.

Serve immediately.

Reward Season

Amid winter, is my favourite season, award season. It’s when my other half and I are at playful odds with one another over what makes a movie British, bets over which nominees will win and domestics over who saw which Globe/Oscar/BAFTA nominated movie without the other. Of course we aren’t half as excited this year without the Beasts of The Southern Wild nominations, but are rooting for Alfonso Cuarón for Best Director, Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor and of course Philomena for Best Adapted Screenplay and Her for Best Original Screenplay.

What award season often presents though, is an opportunity to combine movies, family, friends and food, my four favourite things in no particular order. As ever, careful preparation will be going into the food details for the night and while always up for some star studded decadence, this year I have been racking my brains to create some rewarding treats for award season.

Pan Popcorn

This one can’t go amiss, away from the butter laden variety at the real movies and the microwaveable sort, in recent years, popcorn been embraced by health lovers and is now sold liberally in supermarkets as pre-popped skinny corn.

Having always cooked popcorn at home in a pan with olive oil and a little salt, it was never an unhealthy experience. Using the same traditional method with a slightly revised recipe, this even healthier popcorn will bring the necessary cinematic delicacy to your night.

20140203-221240.jpg

(For 20 reasonable servings)

1 cup of popcorn kernels
3 generous tablespoons coconut oil
Himalayan Pink Salt

Melt coconut oil in a deep pan, without the lid on a medium high heat.
Once the oil has melted, add kernels to pan and season with salt and coat kernels with oil.
Leave the lid off for a few minutes and allow kernels to sizzle slightly, once they do cover pan with lid and turn the heat up.
After a few minutes the kernels will start to pop, be mindful of this and keep an eye on the pan, try not tinker with it too much, the odd shake here or there when you sense the pan needs it. The easiest way to keep an eye on this is to use a deep pan with a glass lid.
After sometime the popping will slow down, to a pop or so every few seconds, your popcorn is ready. Empty into a large bowl, a few kernels will remain under popped, if there are many, work quickly to remove popped kernels into the bowl and return the remaining few back to heat until they are finished.

For an extra oomph, make the popcorn fresh when your guests have arrived and serve in colourful cups.

Mini Thai Cakes

These yummy mini morsels are made of yam and brown rice, because they resist fish, dairy and gluten, one doesn’t have pass them onto other guests in a hurry.

(Makes 10 big ones or 20 little ones)

2 cups of cooked brown rice
1 large yam, boiled and mashed
1 teaspoon grated ginger
One clove finally chopped garlic
2 heaped tablespoons Thai Kitchen red paste (adjust to taste – I like it HOT)
Handful of coriander, washed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tumeric
1/2 Chilli flakes
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
Himalayan Pink Salt (to taste)

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl thoroughly, make small two-bite sized patties.
Lightly oil a non stick frying pan and cook for three to four minutes on each side, using spatula to keep the shape of each patty.

Tip: Prepare and cook the night before and heat up when your guests arrive.

20140203-221426.jpg

Serve each with a teaspoon of homemade guacamole…

Juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic
One large avocado

Blend all the ingredients with a hand blender, adding a little bit of water to ease blending.

Date-Pops

Cake-pops are more tempting because of how lovely they look, these date-pops are a sweet delicious alternative to to those sugary things and can look just as pretty.

(Makes about 10)

250g dates (pitted)
Half a cup ground almond powder
Half cup unsweetened desiccated coconut (to cover with)

In a blender mix the dates with the ground almonds, this should leave you with a thick sticky mass. You can also do this by hand if you want.
Form ten two-bite sized date-pops.
Scatter coconut on a flat plate, roll the date-pops in the coconut and cover, pressing coconut in as required.
Finish by pushing a cake-pop stick or tooth pick into each date-pop.

20140203-221544.jpg