Thoughtful birthday present

A good friend from my days in high school and his wife got me one of the most thoughtful presents for my birthday this year.   They got me a two hour cooking lesson at L’atelier des Chefs (http://www.atelierdeschefs.co.uk) to master a Thai menu which consisted of:

  • Lamb massaman curry
  • Coconut and chilli prawns with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.
  •  Jasmine rice
  • Lemongrass and ginger creme brulee

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There was one other person attending and we split the tasks of prepping and cooking.  We did lamb 2 ways – one was seared cubes cooked slowly in the curry and the other was cooked medium rare on the hob.  The session was guided by a well experienced chef who’s past assignments have included 1/2/3 Michelin star restaurants and five star hotels.  The sweet chilli dipping sauce was an eye opener and will definitely feature on our next dinner party menu.   The twist on crème brulee using Thai flavours has me inspired to play around with a few other flavours.  Best part of the afternoon was getting to play with the blow torch for the first time on the creme brulee (hint to Anna – we need one of these in the kitchen!)  I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and it has reinforced my passion for the culinary arts all the more.

Rathi & Ramesh thank you for your generous and thoughtful gift – I guess you know what we are having for dinner the next time you are over here.

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Spicy aubergine and potato curry

We’ve extolled the virtues of the aubergine and potato combination in an earlier blog and that dish inspired us to create another but with a thick sauce this time.   This dish works really well with a simple rice pilau and probably just as well with an Indian bread of choice.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 8 baby aubergines quartered (not a small aubergine but the bulb variety)
  • 6 small potatoes – peeled, quartered and par boiled and then fried till golden brown
  • I medium onion chopped
  • 2 small tomatoes chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2″ piece of ginger
  • 6 small green chillies
  • Handful of coriander and mint
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 3-4 tbsp ghee
  • Coriander for garnish
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Coarsely grind the peppercorns and cumin seeds first and then mix with the caraway seeds.   Use a pestle and mortar to make a coarse paste of the garlic, ginger, green chilies, coriander and mint.   Heat a heavy bottom pan and add the ghee.  First add the coarse powder with caraway seeds and stir for 30 seconds before adding the paste.   Stir the paste for a few minutes before adding the chopped onions.   Cook over medium heat till the onions start to brown and then add chopped tomatoes.  Continue cooking till the fat leaves the masala before adding the aubergines and a cup of water.   Cover and cook on low heat till the aubergines are cooked through.   Add the fried potatoes, adjust the seasoning and garnish with fresh chopped coriander.  Enjoy.

 

Stir fried choi sum and mushrooms

Last night we had a Malaysian meal of chicken Rendang with brown rice soba noodles – the ingredients for the Rendang came pre-packaged but the simplicity of the dish has inspired me to make it from scratch next time.  I served the Rendang with some stir fried choi sum and mushrooms which was relatively quick and easy to make.   Both of us enjoyed the vegetable accompaniment so we have decided to share it with you.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 bunches of choi sum – washed and chopped to 3 inch pieces
  • 4-5 chestnut mushrooms chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili
  • 1 tsp spiced black rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 2 generous portions

How do I make it?

Heat wok and add vegetable oil.  Add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds before adding the crushed red chili and repeating the process.  Add the sliced onions and stir fry for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms.  Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the choi sum and cooking for another five minutes.  Adjust the seasoning and drizzle the spiced black rice vinegar and sesame oil.  Serve hot.

 

Garden fresh – roasted butter nut squash salad with rosemary and lemon thyme

Anna has planted a lot of herbs in our garden and it has afforded us numerous opportunities to boost the flavours of our dishes with fresh herbs.  We had a roasted butter nut squash salad the other night which was straightforward to make and used fresh rosemary and lemon thyme from the herb patch.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 butter nut squash
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary
  • Small handful of lemon thyme
  • Bag of mixed salad leaves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Split the butter nut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil and rub through the squash before dressing with rosemary and lemon thyme.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper and bake in a 180 degree pre heated oven for 40-45 minutes.  Check on the squash with a skewer and ensure it is cooked through (needs to still be firm and not mushy).  Place leaves in a salad bowl and drizzle remaining olive oil, sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Remove squash from oven and peel the skin away and chop into bite size cubes.   Place leaves in serving dish and add a generous portion of the squash.

English summer

We have had our first peek of summer with sunshine for 4 days in a row (I say this with my fingers and toes crossed)!!  Having cleaned our barbecue last week I decided to grill some chicken for dinner tonight and served it with some roasted green peppers, mushrooms and a simple baby mixed leaf salad.  It was an opportunity to try out the apple balsamic vinegar which I picked up from Waitrose earlier.

The marinade for the chicken was dead simple – six de-boned chicken thighs, 3 tbsp of Scwartz blackened cajun seasoning and 2 tbsp of olive oil.  For the veggies I drizzled a little olive oil and sprinkled some garlic salt over them before grilling.  The salad was baby mixed leaves with olive oil and apple balsamic vinegar dressing.  Looking forward to more sunshine over the next few weeks to get the maximum out of the Weber grill.

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Wild rice pilaf

As Anna and I have reined back on our rice consumption we try and make our weekly treat as interesting as possible.  What started off as a trial in combining flavours together turned out to be a pretty tasty dish which we are sure to repeat in the future.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 1/2 cups of wild rice washed and soaked
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 1 spring onion chopped
  • 1 red chili chopped
  • 5-6 baby corn cut into bite size pieces
  • 5-6 mushrooms cut into quarters
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • Handful basil leaves chopped
  • Handful coriander leaves chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 piece of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Heat ghee in a pan and then add bay leaves, cinnamon and star anise.   Saute for a minute before adding sliced onions, spring onions and red chili.  Saute for a couple of minutes before adding the remaining vegetables.  Cook for five minutes and then add chopped herbs and washed/pre-soaked wild rice.   Stir for a couple of minutes before transferring to an electric cooker.  Add three cups of water, coconut milk powder and then adjust the seasoning.  Serve hot with raita of choice.

Suffed Portabello mushrooms

A versatile mushroom which works a treat as a vegetarian option on the barbecue (sprinkle salt, pepper, dry herbs, twist of lemon and a knob of butter and grill).  I baked some for dinner the other night and stuffed it with a mushroom duxelle of sorts.  The finished article had bags of flavour and will definitely feature on future barbecue sessions.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 4 portabello mushrooms skinned
  • 3 closed cup mushrooms finely chopped
  • 3 chestnut mushrooms finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 sprig of green onion chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion finely chopped
  • 10-12 green olives finely chopped
  • 6 sun ripe tomatoes drained and chopped
  • small handful chopped tarragon
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (thyme, parsley and marjoram)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • small knob of butter
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  •  Salt to taste

How do I make it?

Heat pan and add oil and butter.  Once melted add garlic and stir for a couple of minutes before adding onions and celery.  Saute for 5 minutes before adding the chopped mushrooms and spring onion.  Add herbs and chili flakes and season with a bit of salt.  Once mushroom has cooked down add the sun dried tomatoes and olives and warm them through before garnishing with fresh chopped tarragon.

To prepare the portabello mushrooms for baking remove the skin and place on baking sheet.  Scoop a bit of the mixture and fill the cups of the portabello mushroom.  Finish with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese before baking in a 220 degree centigrade oven for 25-30 minutes.