Tag Archives: coriander

Coronation Potato Salad

Who’d have thought we’d be wanting salad recipes in October? I’d planned to pack this away with the barbecue and pull them both out next summer, but the weather says otherwise…

Coronation Potato Salad

It all began with the cucumber pickle. Susie’s cucumber pickle, which had recently arrived at the shop and which was so good that a meal had to be created around it. It would make a great accompaniment to burgers or other barbecued meats, but I plumped that day for poached salmon. And I love potato salad with poached salmon but wanted something with a bit more poke to stand up to that pickle. Coronation potato salad was the answer.

If you’ve ever made Chicken Elizabeth, the correct name of the dish devised for the coronation of Elizabeth II by the Cordon Bleu cookery school, you’ll know that it’s not bright turmeric yellow as we usually see now, but a purpley burgundy colour thanks to the reduction of red wine and apricot jam which is added to the mayonnaise. But having changed the principal ingredient from chicken to potato I’m sure you won’t mind if I take a few liberties with the rest!

These quantities are a rough guide which you can adjust to vary the levels of spice, sweet and sharp. For around 250g of baby new potatoes I used:

  • 2 tbsps mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsps natural yoghurt [for a vegan version use 4 tbsps soya yoghurt]
  • 1 tbsp Sharwood’s green label mango chutney
  • Half a tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1 to 2 tsps curry powder
  • Half to 1 tsp chilli powder
  • Half a tsp of ground coriander
  • A few finely sliced spring onions
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Some chopped coriander or flat leaved parsley to garnish

Mix everything except the chopped herbs together, taste, season and adjust. You might want to add the curry and chilli powders in half teaspoon increments as you can always add more, whilst removal is more problematic. Add the cooked and cooled potatoes and stir to combine, adding the chopped greenery at the end.

Normal autumn service [casseroles and the likes] will undoubtedly be resumed shortly.

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Curried Crab and Hot Smoked Salmon Spaghetti

AKA “Spaghedgeree” if you’re feeling all Spike Milligan, or are four years old.

Curried crab and hot smoked salmon spaghetti

So, there I am mooching around the farmers market in the sunshine, the asparagus and strawberries are in the bag, and I’ve already got my eye on some lovely looking crabs at the fishmongers stall, and I’m thinking that dinner’s a done deal. Spaghetti with crab and chilli (about which I’ll post another day). When all of a sudden I come across a fascinating little stall selling dishes from India to the Philippines and stopping at a few fun sounding places along the way. I’d have happily scoffed several there and then if I hadn’t already stuffed my face with a lamb bourek from the nice couple on the Algerian stall. One of their offerings was a kedgeree fish cake, and now I’m craving warm curry spices with the crab. I need to pimp my pasta, kedgeree style, and luckily there a couple of hot smoked salmon fillets in the fridge to provide the required smoky notes. Raj era bureaucrat’s breakfast it may not be, but we’re having it for tea…

For two

  • I medium brown crab [brown and white meat, and claws too if you have them]
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 150g hot smoked salmon, flaked
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • ¾ tsp garam masala
  • 180 ml double cream
  • 220g spaghetti
  • 20g parmesan
  • A splash of vermouth
  • Some chopped fresh coriander
  • A mild green chilli, deseeded and chopped

Cook the spaghetti as directed until al dente. Sauté the onion in the oil until softened then add the spices and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the vermouth and quickly bubble away to almost nothing. Add the cream and once bubbling toss in the crab, the salmon and the parmesan [fish and cheese? yes, but it’s really more of a seasoning here], taste and season with salt and pepper. Throw the spaghetti into the sauce with a ladle of its cooking water, strew the coriander and chopped chilli over the top, stir, and you’re done.

I had some halved boiled quails eggs with mine for the full kedgeree effect, but left them out for the Shopkeeper whose egg aversion seems to be growing ever deeper roots.

Salad of Banana Blossom

Banana Blossom Salad

If you plan to go shopping in the smaller local markets of Phnom Penh my two top tips are 1) do so with a local guide and 2) plan things such that you don’t go with a hangover. My one day Cambodian cooking course began with a nine o’clock tuk-tuk ride to Kandal Market and being accompanied by our teacher and chef Heng took care of number one. A thorough and comprehensive introduction to the bars of the Cambodian capital the previous evening however is why I am able, with some authority, to offer the second piece of advice.  Cambodian markets are lively, colourful, noisy places and there is no shortage of stimulation for all the senses. Most Cambodians will make daily visits as fridges are a rare luxury, but some of the sights and smells can prove something of a shock to an unsuspecting westerner who’s had one or two too many the night before. Fruit and vegetable stalls will be piled high with produce both familiar and not, with herbs like fresh caraway a real revelation, and shouldn’t overly challenge the constitution, unless of course you’re surrounded by a large quantity of ripe Durian on a hot sunny day.

Cambodian Market Stall - Vegetables

Venturing further into the narrow alleyways [and avoiding the motorbikes which people will ride down them] the atmosphere ripens amongst the stalls selling poultry, pork and fish – alive, dead, dried, or despatched to order – until you come across the highly prized ‘Cambodian cheese’, Prahok. Prahok is crushed, salted, fermented fish which is allowed to mature for up to three years. It is added to soups and sauces, or just eaten raw as a dip with vegetable crudités. It’s a rich, heady brew, and is your first real reason to avoid this trip whilst worse for wear.

Cambodian Market Stall

After the Prahok baskets of sulphurous charcoal aged eggs [similar to a Chinese century egg] will barely raise a nostril. My first visit though was rounded off by a visit to a frog stall. A steel tray held deep layers of frogs, all freshly skinned, beheaded and shining in the morning sun. It turns out that a recently skinned and decapitated frog doesn’t need any encouragement from Mr Volta to flex its muscles, and two of the beasts leapt out and onto the street and began hopping blindly about. A lady intent on her morning shop didn’t notice and stepped on one – the headless frog of course had precious little chance of seeing her coming. This is when you really wish you’d gone to bed early with a cup of tea the previous evening.

Cambodian Market Stall

Whatever else you stumble upon one thing you will find is banana blossoms in abundance. They resemble purplish brown elongated cabbages around 45cm in length. The tender creamy white inner layers are the edible parts, and as you strip away each layer to get to them you’ll find little proto-hands of bananas between each. The petals are rolled and thinly shredded, but discolour quickly so need to be immersed in water acidulated with lime juice as soon as they are cut. Whilst they’re slightly less abundant here they are by no means impossible to come by; my local Thai supermarket has them in stock ‘from time to time’ and recommends that if you see one you should buy it, but they also stock a tinned version which I had to buy but am yet to try. If you absolutely cannot track one down then use finely shredded hard white cabbage instead.

Flowers of the banana plant on a Cambodian market stall

You will need around half a large or one whole small petal layer per person.

Serves two

  • Banana Blossom
  • 2 tablespoons of roughly torn mixed herbs including mint, basil and coriander [Asian varieties if available]
  • A handful of torn spinach leaves
  • 1 large mild red chilli cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon of roasted peanuts, slightly crushed
  • Juice of 1 lime added to a shallow bowl of cold water
  • 150g to 180g of poached chicken or any leftover poultry

For the dressing

  • 1 or 2 mild red chillies
  • 1 small birds eye chilli [optional]
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 3 cloves of garlic.
  • 1 shallot finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cambodian fish sauce [or two thirds that amount of Thai Nam Pla]
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons water

The dressing can be made a few days beforehand and stored [covered] in the fridge. Chop the chilli finely and crush the garlic, then smash together a little with a mortar and pestle but do not reduce to a paste. Mix all the other ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the chilli and garlic.

To make the salad roll the banana ‘petals’ into cylinders and slice finely across to produce strips about 1mm wide. Place these into the cold water with lime juice to prevent browning. Drain after five minutes. Tear the meat into thin strips with your fingers. Toss everything together in a bowl and add the dressing bit by bit until you are happy with the balance of flavours. It should be sprightly and fresh, lively with herbs and with a kick from the dressing.

Roast Fractal

Romanesco cauliflower

Fractals [geometric shapes exhibiting self-similarity] are all around us in nature it seems, from the shapes of galaxies and clouds to snowflakes and ferns. But surely the most visually astounding example of complex mathematics in vegetable form is the Romanesco cauliflower [if indeed it is a cauliflower, see http://www.fourmilab.ch/images/Romanesco/].

The term ‘fractal’ was coined by Benoît Mandelbrot in 1975, although the thinking behind them had been developing for several hundred years by this point, but for many of my generation they’re inextricably linked to the ‘magic eye’ images of the late 1980s and early 90s where they concealed patterns which when viewed with eyes crossed to focus somewhere behind the plane of the page revealed 3D images of dinosaurs and skyscrapers. Hours of fun, nausea and  headaches, normally to be found on posters sold in the sort of shops where you could also find tie-dyed scarves, soapstone trinket boxes and jossticks.

It was some time after all this that I met my first Romanesco and so, despite the obvious evolutionary timeline, it appeared to me have been ‘invented’ sometime in the late 20th century, and yet still it managed to look like a visitor from the future. Or perhaps the wild imaginings of a Martian audience on hearing  one of their explorers freshly returned from a visit to Earth, minus his camera, and trying to describe a cauliflower.

The striking appearance of the Romanesco has even landed it a starring role in the sort of debates which concern themselves with whether such naturally occurring complexity provides definitive proof for or against the existence of a creator god – a quick trawl of the internet will turn up numerous arguments on both sides. Quite the perfect side dish then if you happen to be entertaining Pope Benedict and Stephen Hawking at the same table this weekend.  If you are, and you have a spare place, do give me a call because a] I love Romanesco and b] I wouldn’t mind a ringside seat for the debate, though I should tell you now that my money’s on Stephen to win.

As a side dish for two:

  • 1 small to medium Romanesco
  • 3 to 4 tbsps rapeseed oil*
  • Dried chilli flakes or chilli powder to taste
  • A pinch of ground coriander seeds
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 190˚C, and divide your Romanesco into roughly equally sized florets, trying not to fall into an ever decreasing spiral of infinitely smaller measurements [an ever-present danger with fractals!] as you do so. Toss well with the oil – the surface area of fractal vegetables can tend worryingly towards the infinite, but thankfully the coverage will eventually be limited by the size of the molecules  of both oil and vegetable –  the spices and seasoning, and squeeze over the lemon juice. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until there are crunchy brown tinges to many of the green corners. And that’s’ it, a surprisingly simple recipe for such a multifaceted vegetable.

* I cooked my Martian mathematical marvel in rapeseed oil as they both have a certain nuttiness which is mutually complimentary, but olive oil will do just as well.

The Never Ending Fillet!

Mmmm, beef fillet. Luxurious, indulgent, and not something you’d eat every day. Not, that is, unless you’ve been living here for the last few days. What began as a South African braai [or barbecue for the non-Afrikaans speaking] in honour of the world cup host nation has, mercifully given the price of fillet, metamorphosed into a medley of delicious dishes. But let’s start at the beginning…

‘Gemsbok fillet in red wine and soya sauce’ read the recipe, helpfully adding that in the absence of Gemsbok any South African antelope could be used. A trip to my local butchers however failed to turn up a single specie of antelope and the decision was soon taken to replace the prancing prince of the plains with a cow. ‘Enough for six’ I told Mr Armstrong and left with a hefty slab of the finest fillet [c. 1.5 kg] ready to submerge it in what I like to think of as a spa treatment for meat, a deep, dark marinade which the recipe said should be composed of the following:

  • A bottle of Merlot [though I had an open Pinot Noir and used that instead]
  • 125 ml soy sauce
  • 125 ml olive oil
  • A tablespoon of soft brown sugar
  • 5 or 6 crushed garlic cloves
  • A small thumb of grated ginger
  • A small teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds
  • 2 or 3 finely shredded chillies [I left the seeds in despite being told to do otherwise]
  • And without being asked to do so by the recipe I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple of torn and fragrant bay leaves

Despite the South African provenance of the recipe there’s a clearly oriental bent to these aromatics which I have previously combined with red wine, Chinese five spice and honey when cooking duck, but the beef [as I’m sure would have the Gemsbok] appeared very much at home with its new playmates and became a darker ruby red with every turn over the next 8 hours.

Now it would seem from the recipe book [Cape Wine Braai Masters – free with 6 bottles of South African Wine!] that your average South African barbecues roughly three meals per day, but I’m British and with English summers being what they are I probably cook over coals that many times per year, and as such I think I lack the natural confidence with charcoal which comes from the life lived largely outdoors. So the fillet had its prescribed 20 minutes per side on the barbecue, with regular basting, but there was an oven waiting at 200˚C and off it popped for a further 20 minutes in there to be on what we Brits would call ‘the safe side’. Whilst the meat finished and rested I reduced the remaining marinade to a thick sauce which needed only a sparing drizzle over the thickly sliced meat. The result was meltingly tender meat, still rare at the core and with an intensely flavoured outer crust, but without knowing the exact temperature of the charcoal etc I can only suggest using the ‘poke test’ one would apply to a fillet on the grill to check when the meat is cooked to your liking.

The same book contains a great recipe for a simple but splendid tomato salad with mixed varieties of tomatoes [as many as you can find], diced red onion, finely chopped red chillies and basil with a lemony vinaigrette which eats very nicely with the beef on a warm summer evening.

Well received as the fillet was by the braai guests I was left with about half of the meat and a good quantity of the marinade / sauce. Perhaps I should have scaled to quantities to take account of the Sosatie marinated pork chops and the Bobotie spiced chicken [ostrich, it seems, is no easier to come by than Gemsbok]. Ah well, there are worse things to worry about in life than what to do with a hulking great chunk of steak and some intensely fragrant cooking liquors. And despite the summer heat I was inexorably drawn, wherever else I looked, in one direction. The direction — of cottage pie!

EPISODE TWO – THE PIE.

I do have an old fashioned hand cranked mincing machine, inherited from my mother, but it’s suction foot doesn’t suck properly anymore and the laborious job of feeding flesh into its gaping jaws and winding [and winding, and more winding!] the handle whilst trying to keep it in one place is actually nowhere near as much fun as mum made it look. So mincing by hand with a chef’s hatchet seemed the best way forward, first with, then across the grain of the meat. I have seen Chinese chefs do this to raw pork with a cleaver in each hand, but again it’s probably one of those things where a lifetime of practice pays dividends so I took the slow and steady route.

An onion was chopped and sweated, in went some more garlic, then some quartered button mushrooms [for some reason known only to The Shop Keeper we have a fridge FULL of mushrooms] and some finely diced carrot. And was that half a fennel bulb lurking in the salad drawer? Why not.

Next a good squeeze of tomato puree, a dash of umami paste, and a glug of fruity rose [also, ahem, open], which all cooked out for a few minutes more. Then in with the hand minced beef, the remaining marinade / sauce, a good quality tin of chopped tomatoes, and, as it looked a little thick, another good glug of wine. Oh and a couple more bay leaves from the neighbours’ garden. Then it’s simmering time. Gentle simmering that is, we are after all cooking with fillet steak and not boiling brisket.

And having tipped the result into a pie dish more than big enough for two – there’s still enough left over for another day! [see Episode Three]

I always let a cottage or shepherd’s pie filling cool before attempting the topping. The filling become firm when cold and as such it’s far easier to get a nice even coating of mash. And I wanted this mashed potato to be bold enough to hold its own against the richness beneath so added a generous grated handful of full bodied, meatily mature Comte which had somehow managed to squeeze into the fridge amongst all the mushrooms. So, mash on, top swirled with the tines of a fork, brush with melted butter and into the oven until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. At which point allow to the pie to sit and [literally] chill for a few minutes before serving. The taste buds of a scalded tongue would struggle to savour the delicate complexities of your creation.

There is an ongoing debate between The Shop Keeper and I as to the perfect accompaniment for such a pie, that being garden peas or baked beans. On a cold November Monday with an M&S cottage pie I’m quite happy to take the path of least resistance and open a can of Heinz, but for a pie of this refinement nothing less than the king of the greens will suffice. In case you’re wondering, we ate this one with peas.

EPISODE THREE – THE SKY […’s the limit? OK this is a really crap heading but I’m about to write about tortillas and nothing appropriate rhymes with ‘Braai’ and ‘Pie’]

Don’t forget, this beef is amongst other things, a spicy little number – remember all those chillies way back in the original marinade? They’ve mellowed somewhat by now, but they’re still there. And so the last hurrah for this saucy little cow is to be in a meaty tortilla.

This won’t be the traditional chilli filling but I’m looking forward to the rich and slightly spicy mixture wrapped in a warm flour tortilla, and topped with sliced avocado, a tomato, lime and chilli salsa, and a dollop of soured cream. There’s only one thing missing – the cheese. Luckily we didn’t use all of that Comte, and I think it’s about time that this fillet and that particular fromage were reunited…