Tuesday, 14 June 2016

One-pot Red Curry Chicken and Rice...and the time I graduated from university.

One-pot Red Curry Chicken and Rice

I love the Stone Soup Story. Have you heard it before? Basically;
An old weary traveller arrives in a village one evening, tired from his journey. Hungry, he asks some of the villagers to share their food, but they all turned him away. Slowly, the old man made his way to the village square and set up a single cooking pot. He took a stone from his bag and placed it in the bottom of the pot, and then he poured some water over it and brought it to a boil. The villagers, curious about what he was doing, gathered around the old man. When asked what he was doing, he replied “Oh I’m just making my famous stone soup. This magic stone I have in this pot makes the most fantastic soup! So filling and fragrant..oh it’s delicious! If only… but…oh…oh nevermind…”.
“What? What is it old man? What?” the villagers prompted.
“Well…it is a brilliant soup mind you. Absolutely brilliant simply on it’s own. Such a simple, flavourful broth the stone makes…but oh! It would be just that much better with some cabbage. But nevermind nevermind…I will be more than content with this soup the way it is”
“I have some cabbage!” a woman called form the back. “Here my dear old man. Take it for your soup.”
“Why thank you!” the traveller cried, taking the crisp leaves and adding them to his boiling pot. “Oh this will make it so much nicer! Oh how kind of you! The soup was going to be brilliant before but now it will be simply sublime! But oh…if only…oh but nevermind there is no need simply no need….”
“No no tell us please! But what, old man?”
“Well…..this soup will be wonderful. Absolutely wonderful mind you,” he replied, “but it would be just that more delicious if it had just a few onions. Just a few onions would truly make it food of the Gods! But alas…there is none to be found here so never mind. It will be simply delicious just as it is.”
And so it went, the old man would have the villagers volunteering little scraps of meat and vegetables they had in their homes to add to this magical stone soup. Very soon, the soup was indeed, a most flavourful broth made rich with all the contributions of the village. The old man then fished the stone out from the bottom of the pot and together he and the villagers feasted, for together they had produced this delicious soup and delicious things are meant to be shared.
As I look forward and see my graduation ceremony coming up next week, I find myself thinking of the Stone Soup. I think of all those villagers adding to the pot without actually meaning to, and the old man who brought them together. Most of all I think of that soup. I think about how it started out as some water with a stone in it and became so much more through the gifts of people who didn’t realize what they were doing.
In a week, I’ll be graduating from the University of St. Andrews with a 2:1 degree in behavioural biology.
I’ll try not to get too heavy handed with the metaphor here…but I think you all get where I’m going with this. Yes, my degree was a result of my hard work, but as cheesy as it sounds I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a very supportive network of friends and family. I have so many people to thank.
My parents, who worked so hard to give me the very best education they could afford.
My academic mother who has always kept tabs on my progress in university, when it would have been so easy to fade out of contact once she graduated, and has always been ready with encouragement and advice.
My godparents who did the same, and made sure I knew I was always welcome in their home when university madness got too much.
My lecturers who got me interested and passionate enough in their courses that I kept going and didn’t just quit.
My friends, who made me laugh when I needed it most.
My housemates, who made our little student dig a home.
Their families, who adopted me and made sure I knew I was just as much a part of their family as their daughters were.
My boyfriend, who has never been more than a Skype call away.
The future is looking very bright, promising and scary. Mostly scary to be honest. All the same, I’m looking forward to all the new experiences I’m going to have and all the new people I stand to meet. Here’s to celebrating the past four years and the next chapter of my life about to begin.
Here’s to new pots of Stone Soup.

One-pot Thai Red Curry Chicken and Rice
Because if you're going to be celebrating, the last thing you want to be doing is washing pots and pans

-       2 tbsp vegetable oil
-       2 tbsp of your favourite thai curry paste ( I use my own from recipe here)
-       1 chicken breast, cubed small
-       1 cup basmati rice (washed till the water runs clear)
-       1 cup light coconut milk
-       ¾ cup water
-       2 kafir lime leaves
-       1 lemongras stalk (with the ends smashed with the side of a knife)
-       ½ cup frozen peas (steamed in the microwave)
-       ¼ cup fresh coriander (chopped finely, stalks and all)
-       2 tbsp roasted cashew nuts (very roughly chopped)
-       1 tbsp deep fried shallots

1.     Heat the oil on medium heat in a large saucepan.
2.     Stir-fry the curry paste until fragrant, this should take 2-3 minutes.
3.     Add the cubed chicken and stir-fry till cooked through. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.
4.     Add the washed and drained rice to the same pot. Scrap the bottom to make sure all the browned bits are removed from the pan.
5.     Add the coconut milk, water, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass stalk, then bring to a boil. The minute the liquid starts to boil, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat to as low as you can get it.
6.     Leave the rice to cook. This could take up to half an hour, but start checking after 15 minutes.
7.     Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and add all the chopped coriander in one go. Fluff up the rice with a fork, mixing in the coriander in the process.
8.     Gently combine the rice, cooked chicken and cooked peas so everything is evenly distributed.
9.     Divide into two bowls and garnish with roasted cashew nuts and fried shallots.

1.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Mee Mamak... and the time I fed a MAJOR food personality a £3 Tesco meal deal.

Mee mamak ala Lindsay 30...

Oh dear...

No no no no this is not a slump what on earth are you talking about? I haven't slipped up on my posting schedule at all.


The last few weeks have been a haze of travelling and freshers and beginning fourth year. But now we are back to our scheduled programming! Well...almost. My next post was going to be about the cheese shop I worked at over the summer, but I need a wee bit more time to get that properly typed out. 

So this week, we're talking about mee mamak! But first, story time. 

I am going to tell you about the most AMAZING thing that happened to me this summer. Well amazing and cringe-y. I still wake up nights completely mortified and excited. And confused. And in awe.
I have a lot of feelings about what went down.

About a month ago I went to visit Karen in Glasgow, just for a night. I'd made dinner plans with Cate for the day I got back, but she called that morning and asked if we could have another person join us. So I thought "yes, great, cool, the more the merrier. :D" 
I got into St. Andrews at around 6 that day and I was knackered. Like, REALLY tired. And so... I thought to myself (and if you haven't clued in by now, I REALLY regret thinking this)
 " S'ok, I'll just pick up one of those Tesco £3 stir fry packs. NOBODY WILL KNOW ANY BETTER."

So I head over to Cate's via Tesco with the bag holding my sin of all sins, and she's tidying and I'm making dinner and she's telling me about our impromptu dinner guest. Turns out the lady's name is Barbara and she's Jared's (Cate's housemate) aunt.
Cool. Yes. Good.
Barbara turns up bearing fancy wine and chocolates from Ian Burnetts and numerous desserts from Rocca.
And she's wonderful! We have a lovely time and she's chatty and fun and very, very food-centric.
Like, I wanna get on this lady's level. She was talking about eating all these wonderful things from all over the place, and how when she goes on holiday she scouts out restaurants while everyone else is looking at the touristy stuff.
She mentions that she's semi-retired and does a little writing on the side.
"Hmmmm...writing..." my little brain thinks to itself. " I wonder what she writes about?"

So I turn to ask her what she does.

Turns out, I cooked for Barbara Fairchild.
The ex editor-in-chief of Bon Appetite magazine.
Who teaches food writing courses at NYU.
And has a radio food show.


I made Barbara-frekkin-Fairchild a £3 Tesco stir fry.

Cate practically wet herself, causeI looked like I was having an aneurism. 
(Which I'm so TOTALLY sure did NOT make a good impression oh God why me why do bad things happen to good people whywhywhy???).

I have NEVER been more embarrassed in my life guys. NEVER. Imagine if you will, this sweaty, wild eyed, manic little Indian girl apologising over and over and over again, red in the face DESPERATELY puffing out promises of a proper Malaysian meal cooked completely from scratch the next time we would meet.
There was like, ZERO poise guys. There was NO finesse. NO eloquent speech.
Having said all this Barbara (this first name basis thing is sending my brain into a little bit of a tailspin, not gonna lie) was very gracious, asked for seconds and gave me her card.

In case you haven't figured, I'm still reeling.
One day, if and when I become famous, this is going to be a FANTASTIC little story. 
Till then I'm just going to hide in a hole.

So this, my dear readers ( READ: ma and pa) is what I should've served that night. It's called mee mamak, and it's a very common Malaysian noodle dish. You get it everywhere and everyone has their favourite guy to get it from. Naturally it's not something you can find very easily in St. Andrews, but think of it as a darker, spicier slightly wetter chow mein. I still use the noodles and vegetables from the Tesco meal deal for ease, but the stir fry sauce is super easy to put together and makes a world of difference.

Barbara, (yep, still not wrapping my head around this) on the crazy chance you might be reading this post, this is how that dish should have turned out. 
REALLY looking forward to cooking for you again. And NO Store bought sauces this time.

Noodle noodle noodle...

3 cloves garlic
4 dried chillies, soaked in hot water till softened
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp chopped tomatoes from a can.
1 tbsp brown sugar

- Noodles (use a BIG wok. You want lots of room to toss things around, and lots of heat to cook things in.)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Stir fry sauce
100g of any protein you'd like. I used about 5 king prawns, but you could thinly slice up a chicken thigh, or some rehydrated soya chunks, or use a combination of the lot.
4 pieces taufu pok, cut in half
1 packet tesco stir fry vegetables.
1 packet tesco yellow noodles
1/2 knorr fish/veggie stock pot diluted in 50ml water

Blend the sauce ingredients together till nice and smooth. In fact, I'd make a big batch of the stuff because once it's made this dish comes together very quickly. Just freeze it in little ice cubes and use as you need.

When you're ready to cook the noodles, get your wok on the hob and crank the heat up high. As high as it can go. Don't worry, this is a lesson in cooking dangerously and I believe in you.

Heat up the oil and add the stir fry sauce. Cook it till you can really smell that sweet, garlicky perfume. Add your protein of choice and cook for about 3 minutes, then add your taufu pok and cook for 2 minutes, then finally your sliced up veg and...you guessed it...cook for one minute.

You may need to add a little more oil to your wok if things are sticking, then add the noodles and stir to coat in the meaty, veggie, tofu-y, saucy mix. Pour in the stock and let it boil away so the noodles get coated in this silky sauce that is just slightly wet. This should take 3-5 minutes.

Serve hot topped with crispy fried onions.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Thai Red Curry Paste...and the time I admitted to being a meddler.

Ladies and gentlemen I am a meddler. 

Mmmmmmm.......fish curry.......

I am that person who sticks their nose into things they really don't need to be sticking their noses into.
In my defence I don't do it to complete strangers. If some people are having a fight, I'm not going to get in there and put in my two cents. 
I'll simply eavesdrop and judge from afar. 

But say I know the people involved
Say a friend of mine has a girl he fancies 
...well that's an entirely different story. 
I'll fan the flames of that budding romance till I can't feel my arms anymore. 

It's terrible. It's awful. I now have a reputation. Nobody tells me anything anymore, for fear that I'll swoop in and attempt to play wingman when really... I end up making a fool of us both.

It's not just relationships I meddle in though. I mix shampoos to make 'super shampoos'. I've rearranged books on library shelves because I felt they needed to be organised according to colour rather than the overly practical Dewey decimal system. This meddlesome habit of mine is a big part of the reason I find it so hard to follow recipes. 

"Vanilla? Nah man, this would taste much better with lemon juice. Oh!! And cardamom."
"One clove of garlic?? Nonono... I think you mean five" 
 Look, I'm aware this is a terrible habit and I am working on kicking it, but there is one thing I'll always allow myself to meddle with. 

Supermarket spice pastes. 

Oh come on, we've already established I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to stuff like this so you can keep your abuse. But guys... you have to admit, supermarket pastes taste a little...'blah'. They're NEVER spicy or fragrant enough. I always find I need to doctor a supermarket paste with some garlic or a couple of chillies to get the result I'm looking for. 

It got to the point that I meddled so much with the spice pastes from Tesco that...well...they weren't so much Tesco pastes as they were my own. And that's when I decided it was maybe time to start making them myself from scratch. I got a beautiful multipurpose grinder for my birthday from Cate, it was time to put it to work.

Ok, yes. A small side note. 
This is a snobby post.
When you're on the go everyday and you barely have time to throw together a sandwich, how can I expect you to make a spice paste from scratch? I hear you ask.
And in truth, I can't expect that. Hell, the only reason I had the time is because it's the summer and I don't have to worry about working 9-5 or feeding a family.
So look, if there's a brand of paste you LOVE and you are happy with, you use that paste and hold your head up high. Who the hell am I to tell you what to do?
But... I do ask that you try at least once. Just once. That's all.
The ingredients aren't too hard to get a hold of and you can accumulate them over the course of a week. Making the paste takes just half an hour. I promise! And then you can freeze it for a later date.
But please, just try this once ok? Try this curry you made from start to finish completely from scratch. Even if you don't taste a difference, at the very least you will see how quick it all comes together.

This recipe will yield a fairly spicy yellow curry to feed 4-5 people. I like my curries quite thick and strong, so I used the whole lot, but if you like something lighter this quantity of paste would probably be enough for two separate curries. Just freeze half to use at a later date.

I've prepared it with salmon and green beans here, but that's merely a suggestion.

Go ahead. Get meddling. 

1 1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp whole black pepper
1/2 red onion
4 fresh red chilli
6 cloves garlic
1 thumb ginger
1/2 thumb galangal
2 tsp shrimp paste
8 kafir lime leaves
2 stalks lemon grass
1/2 tsp salt

~ Curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric
400ml coconut milk, that's 1 can I think.
1 tbsp fish sauce
6 salmon fillets (just a little note here, no shame in using frozen. You don't even need to defrost them, just cook the fish a little longer in the curry)
A handful of green beans, ends removed and cut in half.
Juice of half a lime.
A handful fresh coriander, finely chopped stalks and all.

Toast the whole spices on a low heat in a dry pan until you can start to smell them. Be careful of the cumin, it'll go very quickly and if it burns you'll have to start over again. Grind the toasted spices as finely as you can and set aside.
 Blend the rest of the paste ingredients. You may have to do this in stages to get a nice fine paste. Go slowly, one or two ingredients at a time. Once you've got a paste add the ground spices and the salt then blend to combine. Your paste is ready. 

When you're ready to make the curry, heat up the oil in a medium sized pot/wok and add the paste. Fry it till you can see the oil separating (in Malay, we call that 'minyak pecah' which translates into 'oil breaking'). Sprinkle in the turmeric and fry for a few seconds, then pour in the coconut milk and season with the fish sauce. Let that simmer for 2 minutes.

Finally add the salmon fillets and green beans, covering to cook till the fish is flaky but not dried out. Finish with the lime juice and chopped coriander. Serve hot on a bed of rice.

If you have any leftovers, lucky lucky you!! As my dad taught me, fish curry is always better the next day.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Honey & Co. Baking Book - Rose and Strawberry Jam

Today's post is going to be a Honey&Co. related post, and in that vein it should lead in with a Honey&Co. related announcement.

Sarit and Itamar read the babka post guys. And they loved it. Sarit loves the blog. She thinks I'm 'so sweet and enthusiastic and full of love'.Yes, I am still reeling from that happening. It was such an uplifting, positive, wonderful e-mail to come home to after work that I didn't stop smiling for days after. While they did ask that I not share the recipes (since they're copyrighted to Saltyard Books), they loved that I'm planning to give the book a good testing. I really can't think of any other way to thank them for such a mid-week boost. So today, we're going to talk about jam making.

I promise they were redder than that. Damn night time photography.

But first! Let me tell you about my relationship with strawberries.

Strawberries back home are on the expensive side. They cost five times more what they cost in the UK and don't taste...well...they just don't taste of anything really. They don't smell of anything either. I ate them purely because they were exotic...but secretly would crave mangoes while trying to swallow their sour red juices. In a world of papayas, mangoes and a smorgasbord of bananas, strawberries emerge as the 'exotic fruit' redolent of pale skinned, golden haired strangers in lands far away. But in comparison to the juicy longans you could get at the market for a fraction of the price, they seemed a little...blah.

This summer, things changed. The first time I tasted a summer strawberry my world exploded. Color became sound, sound became color the sky split and fireworks went off behind my eyes.  Ok, none of those things happened. But let me tell you it was pretty damn close. Finally. THIS was what all the fuss was about. I got it now. All the hype made sense.

I have spent the past two months gorging on strawberries. These big, juicy rubies have stained my lips and dribbled their juices down my chin and fingers on an almost daily basis. But ( as all good things) summer is coming to an end, and it's taking strawberries with it. In an attempt to bottle my British summer, I tried making the strawberry and rose jam from The Baking Book. Itamar did say at the book launch that if you try ANYTHING in this book, please please please make our jam.
And I can see why.


I mean, ok. I have consumed many a jar of commercial jam (Hey Mrs. Bridges! Hello Bonne Maman! How's it going?) before. I have also consumed many home made strawberry jams, lovingly made in big pots by watchful home cooks. But see.... they always just tastes of...well...strawberries. And yes, that is what you ask for when you buy strawberry jam. But it's always just...strawberry. Good...straight up...strawberry.

This jam has ruined me. and the secret touch? Roses. They put rose petals and rose water into the jam. Just...just what? That sweet floral note just makes this jam. It gives your nose something else to concentrate on besides sugar cooked strawberries and rounds out the sweetness of the actual jam. But it's not cloying. There's just enough rose water to get things going.

 I want to bathe in this stuff. I want to smear it on my face. The perfume is unbelievable. My house smells divine. The kitchen and living room have been perfumed with strawberries and roses....this is what Valentine's Day should smell like.

That bubbled up to 3x it's original volume. It was intense.

Making jam is not for the faint of heart. That's not meant to turn you off. Do it. It'll put a little gumption in your soul. And really most of the jam making adventure is stress free, if not a little tedious. Be careful, hulling and preparing that much fruit may give you a sore wrist. Just go slow and take breaks. And read the recipe, the WHOLE recipe at least twice. I missed Sarit's jam making 101 at the beginning of the chapter and that made things a little hectic.  Imagine haphazardly stirring hot sugar and frantically reading how to test if your jam is cooked enough and then burning yourself and running to put plates in the freezer...just...just read the recipe ok? Read it twice. At least twice. You've been forewarned.

The really scary bit is when you start cooking the jam. Sarit insists on boiling at the highest heat possible which makes the mixture bubble up to over twice it's original volume. Play it safe and use the biggest, heaviest bottomed pot you have. And don't fill it to more than 1/2 full. Once you get over the fear of your jam bubbling over and catching on fire it all becomes quite fun. Nothing will make you feel more witchy than stirring a cauldron full of bubbling goo.

Bottled and ready to go!

And that's it! Divide into your sterilized bottles and let them sit on the counter overnight to make sure they seal properly. Spread over warm bread or save it for the winter months when the sun has gone down at 3p.m. and you need a reminder that it was ever there at all.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Silken Tofu with Peas and Mushrooms...and the time I admitted to being homesick.

When I was growing up, my nanny spoilt me by feeding me rice that had been cooked with pandan. The first time I had rice that had been cooked without it, I immediately noticed the lack of that familiar perfume. Putting a knot of pandan leaves into the rice pot is a practice I have continued to this day, and boy was I relieved to find them sold in the Asian supermarket!

You know, I have a tiny bone to pick with the UK.
Yes, the entirety of the UK.
Ok no...just the people who advertise for Scottish universities.

Now, you take tropical international students like myself and feed us tales of highland bagpipes and kilts and how all the men look like James McAvoy (ok, maybe that lie I got from the media but let's not get nitpicky here). Sure, you tell us the winters are cold. We expect that. We're not stupid. In fact, because we don't know any better we welcome this foray into the winter because it gives us a chance to be like all those cool instagram people! All bundled up in their hipster reclaimed tartan blankets, and urban outfitter jumpers, clutching designer mugs of rainforest certified hot chocolate. Oh how we live for the chance to capture this aesthetic! Yes, the blankets will come from Oxfam and the jumper will probably be from Primark but we will be there. Living the pictures we see on the Christmas cards back home.

But you know what you don't tell us? You know what the ultimate deception is here? Winter may leave. Hell, it might even be summer. That doesn't mean a damn thing. You don't tell us it's COLD ALL YEAR ROUND.

Huh. St. Andrews. Sunniest place in Scotland. 
Well yeah buddy, that really doesn't say much for the rest of Scotland.

Ok ok. I will acknowledge that most of this rant can be attributed to homesickness (yes ma, I said it. No ma, I do not need to fly home).  Being here over the summer while amazing (like genuinely, I've had the best time), it has worn me down a tiny bit. I miss my family, my friends, my boyfriend, my dog, not having to put on a jacket whenever I step out of the house, having durian on demand, having dim sum on the cheap, not having to make biryani myself....

Ok maybe slightly more than a little homesick.

But that is ok!!! 
This is something I can deal with. Millions of students have dealt with this before me and I am NOT going to wimp out. I am the master of my own moods.
And you know what gets me in a good mood?
Oh please...I'm not even going to finish that for you.

This was so simple to make. And don't be fooled, it may look plain but it packs a punch of flavour. 

Silken tofu with peas and mushrooms
~ 2 tbsp veggie oil
~ 1/2 inch ginger (minced)
~ 2 cloves garlic (minced)
~ 5 chestnut mushrooms (stems separated from caps, sliced.)
~ 1 big red chilli (sliced)
~ 1 cup water
~ 1 tbsp soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp oyster sauce
~ 1 cap full Chinese rice wine
~ 1 tsp sesame oil
~ a pinch of sugar
~ 1/2 cup frozen peas
~ 300g silken tofu (cut into cubes)
~ 1 Knorr fish stock pot

OK, first thing you want to do is crank the heat all the way up on that wok. ALL the way up guys. All your ingredients have been prepped. Don't worry. I believe in you.

Pour the oil in along with the ginger and garlic. Keep tossing it around the wok until you have garlic and ginger perfuming the air. Add the sliced up mushroom stems and stir fry till slightly softened. Add the sliced caps and sliced red chilli and stir fry for about a minute. Add your water all in one go. It will sizzle. You will live. I promise. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and sugar. Stir to dissolve then add you peas and tofu. Stir, but be gentle. You just want to separate the tofu pieces, but silken tofu is fairly delicate and you run a risk of breaking the pieces. That will happen, no getting around that. But let's keep it to a minimum, shall we?
Add the stock pot ( I LOVE THESE. I keep a few of the veggie and chicken ones in my cupboard as well. They're so easy to use and are great for thickening sauces and soups), stir, then cover with a lid and let simmer for 3 minutes to warm up the tofu and peas. Serve hot over a bed of hot rice.

Best eaten whilst under a duvet and watching That 70s Show.