Tag Archives: lime

Crab Spag Nam Jim

A crab shell with red chillies and a halved lime

Inspired by a classic salad from Skye Gyngell – not someone I’d automatically associate with Asian food, but what the heck – I turned this into a pasta supper. It might sound odd to include Parmesan here, but it works. Honest! The key to this is to use only the best quality fish sauce* you can find. A traditional Nam Jim dressing would include coriander roots and stems, and if you wish to ruin the dish please feel free to do the same – can you tell I’m not a fan?

Feeds Two

  • 220g Spaghetti
  • 120g Crab [mixed brown and white meat]
  • 1 Banana Shallot
  • 2 Red Chillies
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • A pinch of Palm Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 60g Parmigiano Reggiano [grated]

Whilst the pasta cooks, finely dice the shallot and chilli and soften with the crushed garlic in a little oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and a ladle of the pasta water. Allow the al dente pasta to finish cooking in the sauce.

*Readers of my recent Vietnamese adventure will remember that Uyen recommends the Three Crabs brand.

Pina Colada Ice-Cream

Pina Colada Ice-Cream

I recently ordered a Pina Colada in a chi-chi Kensington cafe at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon – I was in the mood for one, it happens! – only to be told, a tad too frostily I thought, that cocktails weren’t served before 6:00. We were celebrating for heaven’s sake, and the waitress seemed to be implying that I was some sort of lush. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the first time that such an accusation’s been lobbed in my general direction, but normally by people with whom my acquaintance extends to more than just the passing of a menu. A menu which, I hasten to add, mentioned nothing about this cocktail curfew. 

Now it’s not every day that I crave a Pina Colada, and it happens more often round a Caribbean pool than in the grey of a London summer, but once decided the disappointment of a thwarted craving rankles. And it was rankling still when my friend Richard started pressing me for coconut recipes, which is where the plot thickens.

Richard and some other dedicated souls are embarking on The Three Peaks Challenge to raise money and awareness for the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust after his friend and colleague Francesco Anstey tragically and unexpectedly died of brain tumour earlier this year, aged just 23. Coconuts, somehow, have become an emblem for the team’s efforts – there’s even talk of having a coconut shy at the top of each mountain – and hence Richard’s request for coconut based help. Which I’m more than happy to give if pottering around in the kitchen gets me out of yomping up a mountain or three. 

So I’m having my Pina Colada, as an ice-cream, in a glass. And Francesco, I’m raising that glass to you. 

You can find out more about the challenge on facebook or by following @fa3pc on twitter. And if you enjoy this recipe please consider making a donation of whatever size through the just giving page here. 

Makes one litre – ish 

  • 120ml double cream
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 240ml milk
  • 140ml coconut flavoured rum [I used Malibu]
  • 100g caster sugar
  • The juice and zest of half a lime
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 75ml pineapple juice
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 10 maraschino cocktail cherries
  • 2 tinned pineapple rings

Whisk the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Combine the cream, milk, coconut milk, pineapple and lime juices, sugar and vanilla paste in a pan and heat to simmering point whilst stirring. Add a ladleful of the hot liquid to the eggs, whisking all the while. Add the egg mixture back into the pan and cook on a gentle heat with constant stirring for five minutes, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, cool, and then refrigerate until completely chilled. 

Whilst the mixture chills chop the cherries into small pieces, and pineapple rings almost to a pulp. What happens next will depend on the instructions for your ice-cream maker, but you’ll need to set the mixture churning and then five minutes before the end of the churning / chilling time add the cherries, pineapple and grated lime zest. Transfer to a sealable container and freeze overnight.

Any remaining pineapple and cherries can be used to garnish the ice-cream, cocktail style. Paper parasols optional.

 Eat within one month, if you can wait that long.


Lime and Chocolate Cheesecake

Once upon a time, probably around 18 years ago, I remember picking up a recipe card in a supermarket after seeing the recipe advertised on TV. This was a cutting edge piece of marketing in the early nineties, before we all had inter-lives and tweet-nests and books full of faces through which companies could court our affections. Not sure if this marks me out as an early adopter or a sheep, but it worked.

What now looks like an essentially simple dish felt like quite a complex ‘occasion’ piece at the time, but that’s probably due to my relative culinary inexperience, the use of the then uncommon ‘Mascarpone’ [daring!], and the flim-flamerous decoration required by the original recipe. The smiley people in the TV advert easily made chocolate leaves and sugared their grapes for the topping, but it was always a bit more of a palaver in my kitchen.

Nonetheless I persevered with, and indeed added to, the chocolate leaf display business for quite some time. And there was always some chocolate left over, which I decided to add to the cheese and lime mixture, and so this version was born. I’ve since decided it’s easier to simply drizzle some molten chocolate over the top than to put myself through the whole leaf making anxiety, but by all means go there if the fancy takes you.

For a lighter, fresher version don’t add chocolate to the cheese mix, just grate a little solid chocolate over the top of the finished dish. But do add chocolate – the beauty here lies in the marriage of the freshness of lime with the richness of deeply dark chocolate.

This recently fed six of us, but could easily have stretched to eight, or even more…

  • 100g lemon shortbread biscuits
  • 100g dark chocolate digestive biscuits
  • 80g butter, melted
  • 500g Mascarpone
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 75g good dark chocolate [at least 70% cocoa solids]

Whizz the biscuits to a fine crumb in a food processor and combine with melted butter. Mix well, and press evenly into the bottom of a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until set.

Melt the chocolate in a bain marie then allow it to cool a little whilst ensuring it remains mobile. If the chocolate is too hot when added to the cheese mixture the whole thing may become a little granular.

Zest the limes, and add their juice and the sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, and then fold in the Mascarpone. Pour in two-thirds of the melted chocolate and gently, but thoroughly, combine. Spread this mixture evenly over the chilled biscuit base and smooth the top surface with a spatula or, if necessary, the back of a warmed spoon [dip into hot water and dry before using].

Place the tin on a large sheet of newspaper and drizzle over the remaining chocolate in a pattern of your choosing. Cover and chill well until twenty minutes before needed, then gently release from the tin and transfer to a suitably pretty plate.

And if your guests don’t ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the table – invite different people to your next party.

Pot Thai

Chicken in a pot with a selection of Thai spices

Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we’ve been enjoying of late, or maybe it’s got something to do with my having done two whole weeks of full-time work [I know, poor me!], but I’m yearning to get on a plane and head for distant shores. And with my own planned odyssey to explore the food of Indochina currently on indefinite hold it doesn’t help that you can’t turn on the TV at the moment without seeing a certain bum-chinned, potty-mouthed chef trampling all over South East Asia and its peoples and cuisines. Ah well, if departure lounges must remain a distant dream for now there’s nothing to stop me rustling up a mini-break from the comfort of my own kitchen.

Last July I wrote about the versatility of a simple chicken pot roast and this is yet another variation on the theme, though this time conceived with thoughts of a cold Tiger beer on a Thai beach at the forefront of my mind.

Follow the same basic method as before [you can substitute water for the wine if you think it feels more ‘authentic’, but I didn’t] but this time add the following:

  • A couple of bruised lemon grass stalks and the stems of a handful of basil [reserve the leaves for later] these to be inserted into the cavity, the rest strewn about the chicken in the liquor…
  • Two small shallots, finely chopped
  • A thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
  • Two or three red chillies, chopped
  • Strips of the peel of half a lime
  • Three or four crushed cloves of garlic
  • Half a teaspoon of ground turmeric

Season well and cook as before. Once the chicken is done allow it to rest and strain the juices into another pan. Reduce by a third. Add a tin of coconut milk, simmer for a few minutes more, and check the seasoning. Add some previously steamed and refreshed green veg to the sauce and warm through. I used new season asparagus and some pak choi, but green beans, peas, spinach, pea aubergines, etc. would all be fine.

Finish the sauce with a squeeze of lime, a splash of fish sauce, the reserved basil leaves, and a few further strips of freshly sliced chilli if you fancy. Serve chunks of the chicken in bowls on a bed of warm noodles and with plenty of the sauce.

Now then, where did I put my postcards…?

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.

Beetroot Gazpacho

Beetroot Gazpacho

Quick! The sun’s out again and there’s no telling for how long so fire up the barbecue and chill down the soup bowls. We’ll come back to the barbecue, for now it’s beetroot gazpacho time. Sweet and earthy, and resplendently purple, this makes a delicious and eye-catching summer starter. An online search for beetroot gazpacho recipes at the moment will find numerous references to Aiden Byrne’s elegant assembly of soup with avocado sorbet and vodka jelly, and if you’re looking for a full on production number do seek it out. I’ve based this on Aiden’s recipe and added some twists of my own, but it’s a simpler affair, though none the worse for the absence of the bells and whistles in my opinion.

Make no mistake, cooking with beetroot can be a messy business. Their magenta juices will attempt to leave vivid pink stains wherever they can, though these are easy enough to remove from surfaces and implements if you don’t leave them to settle in, and if you wash your hands regularly they should also escape mainly unscathed. That being said, if you’re a hand model about to shoot a commercial for De Beers you might want to wear gloves.

For four starter portions:

  • 900g raw beetroot, scrubbed clean
  • 1 medium apple
  • 300 ml beetroot juice
  • 2.5 tbsps sherry vinegar
  • 1 slice of stale bread, soaked in water [not part of Aiden’s recipe, but usually found in traditional gazpacho]
  • A small bunch of thyme
  • The zest of half an orange and 1 tbsp of its juice OR the zest of a lime and the juice of one half
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Soured cream to serve

First take three-quarters of the beetroot and wrap in a loose foil packet with most of the thyme, reserving a few sprigs for the final garnish. Roast the foil package in a 160˚C oven for an hour and a half. Peel the remaining beetroot and the apple and grate them raw into the bowl of a food processor. Once cool peel the cooked beetroot and grate or chop into the bowl, along with any juices from the foil parcel, discarding the thyme. Tear in the bread and add the juice and zest of the orange or lime – or you could experiment here and use the juice of one and the zest of the other. Finally pour in the beetroot juice. Lid on, and blitz the whole to a smooth purée. Now pass the purée through a fine sieve, pushing through with the back of a spoon or ladle.

Start adding salt and tasting as you go, until you feel you have almost added a touch too much salt. No add the sherry vinegar, and a sprinkle of sugar – the acidity and sweetness should balance out the saltiness. Chill for a few at least two hours, more will do no harm.

To serve pour the gazpacho into chilled soup bowls, dot with soured cream and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Serving suggestion

If you have more beetroot juice than you need freeze some in ice-cube trays and add two or three to each bowl of soup. If you’re really looking to make a splash, and have the time and freezer space to spare, you could even serve this in ice bowls – but they are a post for another day.