Archives for the month of: October, 2017

Basically a spicy Asian noodle soup, this easy recipe for laksa is big on simplicity without compromising on flavour. Sometimes you just crave those spicy citrus flavours of Asia and if time is short then a bought jar of Thai red curry paste is a great shortcut. Everyone will have their favourites but I have always found Barts to be reliably good. It keeps for ages in the fridge, I always have coconut and noodles to hand leaving only the chicken and fresh herbs to buy. If you have fresh chicken stock then so much the better – like any soup it is only every really as good as the stock it is made with but in this case, there are so many other intense flavourings that you can get away with one of those knorr gel pots if you really haven’t any fresh stock available.

Make sure you are careful how you use the thai fish sauce – it is your salt here and like any seasoning not enough is disappointing and too much is a big mistake! Add a bit at a time and you won’t go too far wrong. Fresh coriander is a must here, as is the fresh lime and it is a wonderful thing that supermarkets are at last stocking fresh kaffir lime leaves. Their exotic, heady flavour is almost irreplaceable but if desperate then the grated rind of a lime could go in instead. Shred fresh lime leaves up finely and they will soften sufficiently.

Chicken is just a suggestion here. Prawns are great as well, either combined with the chicken or on their own. Pork fillet would also work well, as would some lightly seared rump/sirloin steak. Vegetarians could add chopped up tofu or just increase the vegetables. I have used a red pepper but fine french beans, mangetout or beansprouts would also work well.

Lastly, if you are having people round that you want to impress with your beautiful table manners then perhaps this not something for that occasion. Noodle soup is almost impossible to eat in any way other than greedily, messily and probably wearing a washable boiler suit.

Serves Two

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
100g rice vermicelle noodles
2 teaspoons rapeseed oil/sunflower oil
1 tablespoon thai red curry paste
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
1 red pepper, sliced finely
250ml fresh chicken stock
1 can full fat coconut milk
Thai fish sauce
Dark soy sauce
Juice of a lime
Fresh coriander
Fresh basil/thai basil
Fresh mint
Sesame oil to finish

Cook the noodles according to the packet instruction. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wide shallow pan. Add the thai red curry paste and cook for a minute or two. Add the red pepper, the chicken stock and the shredded lime leaves and simmer for a few minutes. Add the coconut milk and a tablespoon of thai fish sauce. Add a couple of handfuls of shredded coriander, including the stalks. Reserve the top part of the coriander for garnishing.

Simmer for about fifteen minutes and then add in a tablespoon of soy sauce. Taste and adjust the flavour with thai fish sauce and a bit of the lime juice. Throw in the chicken and simmer very gently for literally just a minute or two until cooked through. Add the noodles and warm the whole thing up, stirring through more coriander, basil and mint if you have it. Serve in shallow bowls with lots of herbs over the top and a drizzle of sesame oil.

chicken laksa

It’s probably not something that most people immediately think of when planning a special supper, or just an everyday one for that matter. But guinea fowl makes a delicious, healthy and versatile ingredient that is easy to cook and just a little bit unusual. It has a lovely flavour, sort of a cross between chicken and pheasant. I prefer it to the latter – pheasant has a tendency to by dry if not very carefully cooked. Perfect for autumn cooking, it is here beautifully enhanced with a herb butter and made a little bit luxurious with a rich red wine sauce. A simple but effective main course that can largely be prepared in advance and won’t cause any kitchen stress. The cabbage parcels are deceptively easy. Prepare in advance and simply steam for a couple of minutes or so before serving. Celeric & potato puree is great with this.

For four

4 supreme of guinea fowl, wing bone cleaned
2 tablespoons extra virgin oil
Fresh parsley
Fresh thyme
Rind of a lemon
40g unsalted butter
Sea salt & black pepper
300ml Chicken stock (fresh)
200 ml red wine
15g cold butter, chopped

1 savoy cabbage
1 leek
1 tablespoon rapeseed/light olive oil
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
Sea salt & black pepper

Whisk the oil together with lots of fresh thyme and the rind of half a lemon. Season well and add the guinea fowl. Toss well in the marinade, cover and leave for a couple of hours.

Mash the butter with lots of finely chopped parsley and fresh thyme. Season and add the rind of the other half a lemon. Loosen the skin of the guinea fowl and push a knob of butter under each one massaging it all over and then any remaining can also go over the top of the guinea fowl skin.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Remove four large leaves from the cabbage, drop into the water and simmer for two to three minutes until tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Pat dry with kitchen paper.

Slice the leek finely and about 1/4 of the rest of the cabbage. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the leek and cabbage with salt & pepper. Add a dash of boiling water to create steam to help with the cooking. Make sure you boil it all off before stirring in the creme fraiche. Remove from the heat and set aside. Check the seasoning.

Lay the four leaves of cabbage out and cut out any spine. Trim to a circle shape, the size of a large saucer. Lay on a piece of cling film and top with a spoonful of the cabbage leek mix. Bring the sides up to form a ball and use the clingfilm to shape it and then twist the top to hold it in place. Cut off any excess and put twist side up into a steamer. Set aside until ready to cook.

Heat a frying pan and have the oven heated to 180c. Brown the guinea fowl on the skin side and then place onto a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about eight minutes until just cooked through. Add the chicken stock to the pan that you fried the guinea fowl in and boil hard to reduce. Add the wine and seasoning. Simmer for a few minutes until well reduced. Remove the guinea fowl from the oven and keep warm to rest while you steam the cabbage for about three minutes.

Whisk the cold chopped butter into the red wine sauce. Serve the guinea fowl with some potato or celeriac puree, some roast/steamed carrots and the cabbage parcel (removed from it’s cling film!!).

guinea fowl

It’s fair to say that the autumnal weather has been unseasonably mild of late and now that the hazy days of summer, such as they were are really well and truly over I find myself hankering after some of the more comforting recipes. Soup is a staple in our household throughout the colder months and much as I lovely the summery gazpachos and chilled offerings that befit a heatwave, there is nothing that can quite beat a bowl of the steaming hearty goodness that a beautifully balanced, flavoursome soup provides.

Stock is everything in a soup – a good one will make the difference between the mundane and the special. There are many excellent ready made ones available to buy but if you can make your own, especially if you have a carcass left from a good free range chicken then you will be rewarded.

This combination of broccoli, pear and blue cheese is a tried and tested favourite. The flavours work brilliantly together and is simplicity itself to make, as long as you have a good stick blender or liquidiser. It freezes well too, so make extra and you will be very glad as the season goes on to find a tub or two on standby in the freezer.

Serves Four

Rapeseed oil
1 onion
1 large potato
2 pears (any variety, slightly unripe)
Fresh oregano and sage, both or just one
1 medium head of broccoli
800 ml or so of chicken stock
Min 50 grams blue cheese (eg St Agur/roquefort)
Spoonful of creme fraiche
A few tiny leaves of fresh sage
Maldon salt & black pepper

Chop the onion and potato. Heat a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a large saucepan and saute them for a few minutes until beginning to soften but not colour. Add a tablespoon of the herbs.

Peel, core and chop the pears and add those into the pan. Cook for a few more minutes before adding 300ml of chicken stock. Simmer for ten minutes and then add the chopped broccoli and another 300ml of stock. Cover the pan and simmer until the broccoli is tender. This will be about five minutes.

Add the blue cheese and creme fraiche and a good helping of maldon sea salt and pepper and blend the whole lot together, adding a bit more stock until you have reached the right consistency (about the same as double cream). If you like, add more blue cheese until you feel you have the right balance of flavour.

Quickly fry the sage leaves in some rapeseed oil (cover the base of a small saucepan) and then serve the soup in warmed bowls with a garnish of sage leaves and a drizzle of the oil that the sage was fried in.

Perfect with some good crusty bread.

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