Rice

Onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala

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I don’t make risotto – all that standing and stirring is too boring and laborious for me. I get impatient and try to add the stock too quickly…my arm hurts. Luckily though my husband Ben is a risotto king. It has become his special dish which he makes for me with love and care when I ask him very nicely and give him plenty of notice (having first checked the weather forecast as standing stirring over a hot stove in the heat is not fun).

This very simple sounding risotto from Lindsey Bareham has become my new favourite – knocking beetroot risotto off the top spot. Prior to that it hand been a James Martin smoked haddock and black pudding one.

The combination of onion and rosemary with the sweet Marsala produces the most heavenly rich flavour. You won’t believe me until you’ve tried it.

Marsala is widely available in supermarkets, look for it in the ‘fortified wine’ section. It also makes a nice aperitif, served cold with ice.

Stirringrisotto

The master teaching the son.

Lindsey Bareham’s onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala

  • 2 ½ medium sized onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 75g of butter
  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 1 small glass of Marsala (or Madeira works well too)
  • Approximately 1 litre of hot chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is always best but a good ready made stock will still be nice)
  • 50g of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Fry the ½ of the onion in hot vegetable oil until crisp and drain on some kitchen roll. These are for the crispy onion garnish which is essential.

Melt 50g of butter in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the rest of the onions seasoned with ½ teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes until limp.

Stir the rosemary into the onions. Add the rice and cook with the onion for a couple of minutes until the rice is semi-translucent.

Then add the Marsala and let it bubble away into the rice stirring all the time as it does.

Now for the laborious bit.

Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and not adding the next ladleful until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid. You may need to turn the heat down a bit so that you have a nice gentle simmer. The whole process will take around 30 minutes in total. At the end the risotto will have a creamy like consistency and the rice should be soft with a slight bite in the middle. If when you have used up all the stock the rice is still not cooked keep adding a little more hot water until it is done.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining butter and cheese and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Cover the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with the garnish of crispy fried onions and extra Parmesan if you like.

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

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Believe me this tastes better than it looks.

I’m rather enjoying being a temporary vegetarian and am not really missing meat and fish at all. I did waver slightly when my son was pushing the battered fish from his takeaway around his plate – my ‘just’ chips hadn’t really hit the spot and I was tempted to eat it all up for him. There was also a stab of jealousy over my husband’s sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I can just about put up with veggie sausages but vegetarian gravy just doesn’t compare with the meat version.

The hardest thing is eating out. Vegetarians get a rough deal here unless they dine at specifically vegetarian restaurants which is tricky to do when you are mainly friends with meat eaters.

All too often restaurants offer very limited options for vegetarians and the lack of originality is astounding. If you don’t like goats cheese (like me) then you’re pretty much stuffed – goat’s cheese tart being an almost permanent fixture on menus. You must like risotto or you’re in serious trouble. Soup is also popular as restaurants try to kill two birds with one stone by making the obligatory soup option also the vegetarian one. My sister (who lives in a family of vegetarians) jokes about the ubiquitous and bland ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’. She will not eat anywhere unless she can order a bowl of chips if the vegetarian option fails her.

I bought some mushrooms for dinner in the week without a plan. A google recipe search placed the before mentioned ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’ in pole position and I nearly made it for a laugh. But then my head was turned by this Nigel Slater korma from his fabulous ‘Real Food’ book.

It doesn’t sound very exciting (probably the fault of the word ‘korma’) and I wasn’t expecting much (except a disappointed, meat deprived husband). But  it was actually very delicious. The addition of roasted hazelnuts and sultanas is genius  (so do not be tempted to leave these out). Ben ate it very, very happily.

This is not a difficult dish to make once you have prepped and lined up all the ingredients (there are quite a few and they are all important, I’m learning this about vegetarian cookery – vegetables need a lot more help to make them taste ‘special’).

Unfortunately my permanently(?) vegetarian daughter does not like mushrooms. Eating out with her is going to be a nightmare!

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite and how much rice you serve with it)

  • 50g of butter (I used ghee)
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 15 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds crushed
  • ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ a teaspoon of chilli powder (I used flakes)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 650g of assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I only had 500g which were a mixture of chestnut and some dried Chinese mushrooms which I found in the back of the cupboard and rehydrated in water first)
  • 50g of hazelnuts, toasted and shelled (I toasted mine in a 180oC oven for 10 minutes and then removed the shells by rolling between some kitchen roll)
  • 350g of leaf spinach (I used 6 cubes of frozen spinach as this was all I had)
  • 50g of sultanas (Nigel uses ‘golden’ ones but then he would)
  • 150g of thick natural yoghurt
  • 150g of crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt

Melt the butter (or ghee) in a deep pan (over a medium heat) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until golden (turn the heat down if the butter starts to burn).

Then add the spices and bay leaves and cooked for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften.

Then add 225ml of water and the hazelnuts (I also added my frozen spinach here which I hadn’t bothered to defrost first and used slightly less water – because of the excess in the frozen spinach). Bring the water to a boil turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and cook them (still wet) in a saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes with a lid on (they will cook in their own steam). Drain, squeeze out the water and add to the mushrooms after they have finished simmering for 15 minutes.

Then add the sultanas and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add in the yoghurt and crème fraiche. Heat gently but don’t boil or the mixture will curdle.

Finally stir in the chopped coriander and season well with salt (I needed two large pinches).

I served the curry with rice but it would be amazing with homemade naan.

 

Cauliflower ‘rice’

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I get rather annoyed when beautiful, skinny women (Hemsleys, Gwyneth, Ella D) eulogise low carb diets and spiralizing as the only way to be perfect and healthy (just like them). So I was secretly pleased when the courgette shortage was declared. Nobody should be eating courgettes in February anyway – they’re a summer vegetable.

In my view a good diet is a balanced one which involves all the food groups (unless you have a genuine allergy), and periods of eating sensibly interspersed with the occasional indulgence. But I say all this as someone of average weight who wants to remain so.

I acknowledge that it’s rather different if you need to lose a significant amount of weight and if this is the case then it seems that there is evidence that low carb diets do work (but admittedly  this view is based on watching one episode of ‘How to diet well’ and knowing one person who has recently lost weight on the Ketogenic diet!).

I’ve always been a outwardly sniffy but secretly intrigued by the idea of cauliflower ‘rice’ as an alternative to real (carbohydrate loaded) rice. So in an experimental frame of mind I bought a cauliflower and decided to attempt the ‘rice’ idea following a guide on the BBC Good Food website.

I was sure I would hate it but it was actually perfectly fine (Ben even ate and quite liked it).  The term ‘rice’ though is rather misleading. The size of the grains you get is more like couscous and the texture has a real bite to it – not at all like the soft texture of rice.

The other thing to note is that the resulting ‘rice’ does taste (unsurprisingly) very cauliflowery. It does not have the bland and neutral flavour that goes with anything like real rice. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that you do need to be quite careful about what you pair it with. My idea to serve it with a Thai pork, cashew and lime stir fry did not work. However, a dhal or Indian style chicken or lamb curry would go brilliantly.

The other thing would be to add spices and herbs to the cooked cauliflower (as you might flavour couscous) and then serve with a simply cooked piece of meat or fish. And I’m wondering about a cheat’s risotto whereby you stir through some grated cheese and butter after roasting (not good on a low fat diet but fine on a Ketogenic one). I will continue experimenting.

Think what you like about ‘faux carbs’ it’s nice to have something to do with a cauliflower other than ‘cauliflower cheese’. And unlike courgettes, cauliflowers grow in this country all the year around so there should never be a shortage.

Cauliflower ‘rice’

Serves 2 – 4

Take one small cauliflower, remove the leaves and hard core and cut into quarters. Then cut each quarter into four again and blitz in a food processor/mini chopper until it resembles couscous (I had to do this in several, small batches but it didn’t take too long). You can store it in the fridge now until you are ready to use it (it will save for up to 2-3 days). If you don’t have a food processor then you can battle with a regular grater but you will get bigger chunks.

I then followed the Good Food website advice and roasted it in the oven for 12 minutes at 200oC. I spread the cauliflower in a thin layer on a baking tray with a little coconut oil and mixed it in the tin half way through the cooking time.

Apparently you should always season after cooking or the salt turn the cauliflower to mush.

Alternatively, you can stir fry it quickly in a wok, or cook it in the microwave, covered, on full power for 3 minutes.

Keeping it simple – Elizabeth David – rice – holiday photos

rice-and-tomato

Over the summer I read ‘An Omelette and a Glass of Wine’ and decided that I wanted to be Elizabeth David. She had a brilliant wit. She loved picnics and travelling. She liked to eat unpretentious food made from good ingredients. She also (and this is possibly the main reason) enjoyed drinking wine at lunchtime (and woe betide if you served her with, just because she was a woman, a half bottle).

I admit a slight obsession (although I am currently reading her biography and it seems there is a darker side – which I’d probably rather not hear).

I now have a long list of her recipes that I want to try.

After our holiday (where we ate lots of delicious but indulgent food) I needed a few weeks of simple eating centering around vegetables. So the first recipe which I picked out is a basic rice dish with a cold tomato sauce. It sounds stupidly simple but it is surprisingly rich in flavour. It does rely on your tomatoes being very fresh. They are very much in season now and are really good even in the supermarkets but I wouldn’t advise making this with the artificially ripened ones you get at other times of the year.

Tomato Sauce and Dry Rice

For the simple tomato sauce, slice ripe tomatoes into a bowl  and mix with olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a bit of onion. Prepare the mixture two hours in advance and immediately before serving to stir in a pinch of sugar.

For the rice, put a small dollop of butter or oil into a small saucepan over a low heat. Add half a chopped onion and when the onion is golden discard (or save for another use). Then add half a pint of basmati rice and stir until the rice has started to turn golden. Then tip in a pint of boiling stock or water. Bring to the boil, put a lid on and then turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes. Try not to be tempted to open the lid. Fluff up with a fork.

Serve the rice with some flakes of butter and some grated cheese with the tomato sauce separately on the side.

Gratin of courgettes and rice

ricecourgette1

It’s the season for courgettes but for the first time ever my plants have been annihilated by slugs and snails. However, I am going to keep this recipe for other years when I have them coming out of my ears.

The idea does sound a bit odd – my family were terrified. But trust me the taste is lovely. The courgette flavour is very subtle so even my children (who do not like courgettes) enjoyed it. It was unexpectedly good cold the next day cut into wedges.

Gratin of courgettes and rice

Here I quote Elizabeth directly:

‘It was followed by a gratin of courgettes and rice. This dish, new to me, was made with courgettes cooked in butter and sieved, the resulting puree then mixed with béchamel and rice, all turned into a shallow dish and browned in the oven. A mixture with delicate and unexpected flavours.’

There were no quantities given. I used two large courgettes, cooked down with butter until soft and then pureed in the blender. I then made a very thick béchamel (50g of butter, 50g of flour and just enough milk so that the mixture would only just run from the spoon). The mixture of courgette to béchamel was 50/50 (I had leftover béchamel but saved this to make macaroni cheese another day). I then added the same amount of cooked rice (cooked with water not stock in my usual way – see above), poured the whole lot into a baking dish, dotted with butter and browned in the oven.

Who knows whether this is the correct way but inspired by the following words I’ll leave you to experiment.

‘I think that the ideal cookery writer is one who makes his readers want to cook as well as telling them how it is done; he should also leave something not too much perhaps, but a little, unsaid; people must make their own discoveries, use their own intelligence, otherwise they will be deprived of part of the fun.’ – Elizabeth David


A random aside – holiday photos

I have to admit it. As much as I love them, my children (now six and eight) are no longer cute.

One is toothless, bespectacled and likes to play the fool. The other is toothy, a complete scruff bag and has a slightly crazy look in her eye. They no longer enjoy posing for photos but just see it as a good way to wind me up.

So my holiday photos these days are less about the kids and more about the food (although the children are usually in there somewhere).

If you read this blog then I’m assuming that you like food, so I thought I’d share some of my food focused holiday photos with you.

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Giant breaded meatballs with a liquid sauce centre, served with salad or ‘stoemp’ (mashed potato with carrot) at Balls & Glory. A great idea and totally delicious.

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Classic Ghent cuisine – shrimp croquettes with Westmalle Dubbel (a strong, dark, beer)

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This is a bad photo but it’s all about the ‘Kouign Amman’ here (that little pastry on the left) which was the most amazing thing I have eaten in a long time. Buttery, sugary – pure heaven with a strong coffee. I think they once made them on Bake-Off.

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The children try snails for the first time in Alsatian restaurant Bosso in Luxembourg. We also had ‘Alsatian pizza’ or ‘Flammeküeche’ and the best potato rosti ever.

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Elizabeth’s eighth birthday treat – a ridiculously expensive rose flavoured macaron filled with rose petal cream.

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Another sweet treat at ‘Stoffels’ in Liege. This is ‘La Soliel’ – layers of raspberry coulis, creme anglais and then Italian meringue on top. AMAZING.

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You can’t go to Belgium and not have frites with Andalouse sauce.

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A very good beer.

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Stir fried egg and tomato

stir fried egg and tomato

I’m sticking with the Chinese theme here with a dish that we ate a lot when travelling in China. At the time we suspected this was just comfort food served up for the benefit of tourists terrified of accidently eating dog, but apparently it’s just good Chinese home cooking.

I hesitate to even call this a ‘recipe’ because it’s so simple, but if Nigella can dedicate the first slot of her new programme to mushed-up avocado on toast then I’m going to jump on the bandwagon. On the subject of Nigella, did anyone else hear her describe chopped up onion as “lambent puce”? (I had to look that up*). Even by Nigella’s standards that’s pretty funny.

Returning to the point, I know egg and tomato doesn’t sound particularly Chinese but there’s something about this dish which makes it taste different to how you would imagine the sum of its parts to taste. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself very well but if you try it you’ll hopefully see what I mean.

I just wish I’d known about this dish when I was a student. It’s so quick and cheap I probably would have eaten it every day.

*Lambent – (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance. Puce – of a dark red or purple-brown colour.

Stir fried egg and tomato

Serves 2-4 (in our case, two adult portions and two children’s)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil for frying
  • About 450g of fresh tomatoes, chopped into chunks, or halved if using cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon and a good pinch of salt
  • 2 spring onions, chopped and separated into white and green parts
  • Black pepper
  • A pinch of sugar (only really necessary if your tomatoes aren’t that sweet/ripe)

Whisk the eggs with the sesame oil and a good pinch of salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil in a wok until smoking.

Tip in the egg mixture and fry until nearly cooked (about 30 seconds – 1 minute) breaking the egg up a little with your spatula. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of groundnut oil. Stir fry the tomatoes and white spring onion over a very high heat until the tomato juices are released and tomatoes are slightly wilted but still intact (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle over a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of sugar (if using) and a good grind of black pepper. Stir to combine.

Return the eggs to the wok and stir fry for a further 30 seconds.

Serve over rice sprinkled with the green tops from the spring onion.

The only way to cook pork belly

crispy pork belly 2

I don’t actually cook pork belly myself, but very occasionally (when I’m feeling particularly gluttonous) I will buy a slab when it’s my husband’s turn to cook and casually leave this recipe open on the work surface. We have several cookbooks with recipes for pork belly and Ben always forgets which one to use, but I ALWAYS remember that this one from Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes’ is the best.

The photo above will either make you salivate or gag depending on your appetite for crispy meat fat. I just love it and when I do a regular roast pork joint there is never enough crackling to satisfy me (especially now I have to share it with my children). In contrast there is so much crispy fat on a piece of pork belly that I’m in culinary heaven. Having said this, by the time I’d eaten half of everything you see in the photo above I was ready to go on a detox and eat vegetables and muesli for a week to clear out my arteries.

Crisp Chinese roast pork (from Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes’)

Serves 4-6 (or 2 if you’re a real glutton like me)

  • A large slab of pork belly with the rind still on (roughly 1.5kg)
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt, preferably Maldon
  • 2 teaspoons of five spice powder (if you want to grind your own see my post ‘What spices make up Chinese five spice?’)
  • 2 teaspoons of caster sugar

Spike the skin of the pork with a fine skewer as many times as you can, going through the fat but not the flesh.

Pour a kettle of boiling water over the skin, leave it to drain and then pat dry with kitchen towel.

Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat, add the two types of peppercorns and shake them in the pan for a few seconds until fragrant. Put them in a spice grinder, pestle and mortar or mini food processor and grind to a fine powder. Tip them into a bowl with the salt, five spice and sugar.

Turn the pork flesh side up on a tray and rub the spice mixture into the meat. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 200oC.

Turn the pork skin side up and place it on a roasting rack resting above a roasting tin half full of water.

Roast the pork for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 180oC and cook for a further 2 hours, checking periodically and topping up the water in the tin if necessary.

Increase the oven temperature to 230oC and cook for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cook slightly before carving. We like to carve it into large slices, although Rick recommends small squares.

Serve with steamed rice and greens (if you don’t know how to cook rice by now see my post Nice Rice).

crispy pork belly

Last supper

Pork with cashew nuts, lime and mint

pork lime cashews

I was rather mean about Nigel Slater in a recent blog post and it’s been bothering me. Being horrible doesn’t sit well with me – I was just trying (and failing) to be clever and cutting like many journalists (forgetting that I am not clever, or indeed a journalist). So I’m sorry Nigel, as I constantly remind my children, how someone looks should never be important.

And my view that Nigel is a really good food writer was strengthened recently when I picked up his recipe book ‘Real Food’ in a charity shop. It was written 16 years ago and it’s brilliant. A no nonsense cookbook, full of straightforward recipes with big flavours – just the sort of food I like. It also includes several Nigella recipes (from the time before she was on the telly).

I’ve tried a few recipes but so far this ‘pork with cashews, lime and mint’ is my favourite. It’s punchy, refreshing and just perfect for a Sunday evening when you’ve drunk a little too much over the weekend. If you like powerful flavours and a feeling that you’ve in some way cleansed your body then you should definitely give this dish a go.

Nigel Slater’s pork with cashew nuts, lime and mint (in my own words)

Serves 2

  • 400g of pork fillet (trim off as much fat as possible, then cut into 1/2 inch thick medallions and cut these into thin strips)
  • 5 tablespoons of groundnut oil
  • 90g of cashew nuts (finely chopped with a knife or roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • a 4cm knob of ginger, finely shredded
  • 4 small red chillies, finely chopped, (or I use 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes)
  • The zest and juice of 3 limes
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • a handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • a handful of basil leaves, torn

Pour three tablespoons of oil into a really hot wok and stir fry the pork for three or four minutes, keeping the heat high and stirring from time to time so that it browns nicely. Tip the meat into a bowl along with any juices.

Return the wok to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for a minute, stirring constantly so that they don’t stick or burn.

Then add the nuts and stir fry for another minute.

Add the meat back to the pan, along with any juices and stir in the lime zest and juice and fish sauce. Fry for a couple of minutes and then stir in the herbs.

Serve with plain rice.

Teriyaki

teriyaki

I’ve completely failed in my new year’s resolution to be a more exciting cook. Slowly I’ve crept back into lazy habits and three months on I’m cooking mainly tried and tested old staples that are already on this blog.

I’ve not yet told you about this one though. It’s a really easy way to transform any piece of meat or fish into something more exciting. You can buy teriyaki sauce ready made in a bottle but it’s much nicer (and cheaper) to make your own.

This is in memory of our epic holiday in Japan which was exactly a year ago. We just have to wait 9 more years before we get to go again.

Teriyaki sauce

Makes about 6 tablespoons

  • 120ml of mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 60ml of Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 4 minutes until syrupy.

Any unused sauce can be kept in a clean jar in the fridge.

Using the sauce

Lightly season two chicken breasts with salt and pepper and fry on a medium heat with a little oil until just cooked through (I cook mine for 5 minutes each side).

Spoon over 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce and continue to cook for about a minute spooning over the sauce all the time to glaze the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pan and slice thinly.

Serve over rice and drizzle over any remaining sauce from the pan.

This is also nice served over a simple green salad.

NOTES

For Japanese style rice cook according to the guidance in my post Sushi rolls but omit the vinegar, sugar and salt and serve while it’s still warm.

This technique can also be used for steak, pork or fish.

Japan

A year ago in sunny Japan some geisha asked to have their photo taken with Elizabeth and Eddie. Today we’re in Nottingham and it’s raining.

Nasi goreng

nasi goreng

I have two distinct memories of Malaysia. The first is of a group of locals rolling about with laughter at Ben (my now husband) literally melting in the heat as we crossed the border. They had never seen such a sweaty man and it was very funny. The other is of eating Nasi goreng at the train station in Kuala Lumpur. It was just a cheap canteen type place but it was delicious – then again anything served with an egg on top usually is.

Nasi goreng basically means ‘fried rice’ and with such a generic title it’s no wonder that there are seemingly infinite recipes for it on the internet. Some are very complicated and involve lots of specialty ingredients (if you don’t believe me see Rick Stein’s recipe on the BBC food website which was enough to send me into a mild panic).

This version is adapted from one in my ‘Essential Asian Cookbook’. It is fairly simple but has the characteristic sweet and salty flavour which makes it taste fairly authentic.

Nasi goreng

  • About 225g of prawns (raw or cooked)
  • Cooked and cooled rice (half a pint raw weight, see my post Nice Rice)
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons of kecap manis (they sell this in the ingredients section of Tesco now, it’s basically a very sweet soy sauce and if you can’t get hold of it just use an additional tablespoon of soy mixed with ½ tablespoon of sugar instead)
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • Some groundnut oil

Spice paste

  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar

Omelette garnish (to serve)

  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ a cucumber finely sliced length ways (to serve)

First make the omelette garnish. Beat the eggs until foamy and add a pinch of salt. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Put half the egg mixture in the pan and swirl around until you have a very thin layer of egg. When set (about 1 minute) flip over and cook for a further 30 seconds. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture. Roll both omelettes up tightly and cut into fine strips. Set aside.

Put all the ingredients for the spice paste into a food processor or pestle and mortar and grind or pound until you have a fine paste.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok until smoking. Add the spice paste and cook for a minute, then add the prawns and stir fry until warmed or cooked through (this will depend on whether you are using cooked or raw prawns).

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and then tip in the rice and cook until it’s heated through, stirring regularly to break up any lumps.

Then add the soy sauce, kecap manis and spring onions and stir fry for another minute.

Serve with the sliced cucumber and thinly sliced omelette.

Note: If you like you could use finely sliced chicken breast or rump steak instead of prawns. You could also substitute the omelette strips for a fried egg. Crispy fried onions as a garnish are also nice if you can be bothered.

Cheat’s chilli and a New Year’s resolution

cheats chilli

Flicking through my past few posts I see a bias towards quick and simple dishes. It seems I’ve entered into a rut whereby I lazily wheel out easy recipes I know almost by heart and shy away from anything too challenging.

So one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more adventurous in the kitchen, to try at least one brand new recipe a week and to not always go for the easiest sounding option. My other resolutions are pretty standard – drink less wine, eat more greens, pay my family more attention, clean the house, turn off the computer, do more yoga…blah, blah, blah.

But before I launch into this new realm of extra special effort in the kitchen, I want to quickly tell you about another cheat’s dish (my excuse being that I drafted this post in 2014).

Spaghetti bolognese is one of Britain’s most popular dishes and most people I know can cook it (even those who claim to be hopeless in the kitchen). I’m not going to insult you with a recipe here because you know the thing – garlic, onion, minced beef, a tin of tomatoes, beef stock perhaps a good slug of red wine and some fresh oregano. What I would like to share with you is my trick for turning leftover bolognese into  a chilli-con-carne for day 2 or 3.

All you have to do is add a few bits from your store cupboard and as if by magic you have an entirely new dish.

Cheat’s chilli-con-carne

Serves 4

  • About 700g of leftover bolognese (give or take 100g or so)
  • 1 tin of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 x 10g square of dark chocolate
  • ½ a teaspoon of cumin
  • ¼ a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ a teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ a teaspoon of sugar
  • Chilli, either dried chilli flakes or chopped fresh chilli, amount will be according to how hot you like it with 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes resulting in a fairly mild chilli that my children and husband will eat (with yogurt).

Put all the ingredients above into a saucepan, heat slowly and let the mixture bubble away over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Serve with rice.

PS. This only works if you’ve made a pretty standard bolognese. If yours is laced with pancetta, chicken livers or similar fancy ingredients I wouldn’t suggest trying this (but then if you’re making that extra special effort you probably wouldn’t appreciate the cheat’s tip anyway).

PPS. I’m off to yoga now.

cheat's chilli

Alchemy