Oatmeal Prawns

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It’s only halfway through Chinese New Year, there’s still time to write about it! Last year’s celebrations at home were filled with lots of food, reunions with the extended family and did I mention lots of food? This year was much more muted so I decided to bring a little touch of the incredible food I had last year back into my flat. I love love prawns. I love seafood in general anyway, any sort of shellfish, fish, even raw clams and those little heavenly salmon pink tongues of sea urchin I first ate in Crete but prawns are probably my favourite. Big bonus of this recipe is that it’s easy and quick to make as everything comes together really quickly and the prawns stay incredibly sweet and juicy. You can get this really easily in Chinese restaurants in Malaysia but why do that when it’s so easy to make at home?

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I would say eat it with plain boiled rice to balance out the sweet, salty, spicy nutty flavours of the oats and prawns. It’s pretty much mandatory to suck off the flavoursome coating from the prawn shells before peeling them off. So. Good.

Oatmeal Prawns (modified from kuali.com)

Ingredients

400g large prawns, or 12 large prawns shells on

5 bird’s eye chillies

2 stalks curry leaves

5 dried chillies, cut into sections

3 tbsp butter

80g oats

3/4 cup cornflour

Seasoning

1 tsp chicken stock powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp sugar

Trim away the feelers and spiny protrusion above the eyes with kitchen scissors. Make a slit along the back with a sharp knife and remove the black intestinal tract.

Pat dry and coat with cornflour, shaking off any excess.

Heat a wok to medium high heat and add some sunflower oil to coat the pan about a couple of millimetres.

Fry the prawns in two batches. Turn them over when they shells have turned colour and fry on the other side. Dish out and set aside.

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Don’t clean the wok. Add in half the butter with a little bit of oil to prevent it burning. Stir fry the oats until golden brown. Dish out and set aside.

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Add the remaining butter with another bit of oil. Fry both chillies and curry leaves briskly until fragrant but be careful not to burn them. Add in the seasoning ingredients and oats and mix thoroughly before adding the prawns. Give it a quick stir and serve.

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Honey & Co.

Honey & Co interiorPicture from theguardian.com

Honey & Co. is a warm, cosy (and by that I mean small) place on Warren Street serving Middle Eastern delights. If some of the food pairings remind you of Ottolenghi, that would come as no surprise as Sarit Packer was previously pastry chef for Ottolenghi and executive head chef of Nopi. She runs the place together with husband Itamar Srulovich who professes to prefer eating to cooking, and sleeping to both. A man after my own heart. This is Middle Eastern food stripped back, comfort food at its finest set in a very simple whitewashed room, accented by colourful tiles.

Honey & Co menu

The picture below is to emphasise how close we were sitting next to the other table.

Honey & Co

We started off our meal with the mezze, a crowd pleaser spread of burnt courgette dip, Bulgarian bean salad, kisir (a Turkish version of tabbouleh made out of ground bulgur wheat), beetroot pickle, kalamata olives and bouikos, with a serving of fresh pitta bread.

Mezze

The mains were siniya – spiced lamb and cauliflower baked in yoghurt and tahini sauce, and mushahan – slow-cooked chicken in pomegranate and currants baked in flat bread with a parsley and pomegranate salad. The mushahan was by far the favourite of the two, the siniya we found too rich for our liking with its very generous creamy topping of the yoghurt sauce.

SiniyaLamb shawarmaDessert was delicious, a warm pistachio cake with roasted plums and sour cream. The Ottolenghi team do this particularly well, pairing something rich with something bright and unexpected to really bring a dish together. A lovely end to a meal on a particularly warm late summer afternoon.

Pistachio cake

Christmas Florentines and Blondies

How did everyone celebrate their Christmas? OK, I know it’s a little late, maybe overdue even but better a post on it than none at all. In the weeks and days leading up to Christmas I felt nothing. No bubbling excitement, no childlike delight at counting down the number of sleeps until the big day. I was positively Grinch-like up until the week before Christmas when, planning a dish for a Christmas meal my friend was hosting, something flipped. I was suddenly looking forward to it! Then it struck me, since starting to celebrate it, Christmas has always been to me, associated with togetherness, thankfulness but above all, food, glorious food. Since I left it a little late to buy anything coming close to a meaningful gift, I decided to make little food hampers for my friends. In them popped in these fragrant orange and almond florentines, pecan and raspberry blondies, an assortment of chocolate truffles – plain, pistachio- and coconut-coated ones. I had such a good time baking these scrumptious sweets. To balance out the palate I bought some lovely crab pate and mushroom pate with toasted bruschettini. Do have a go at baking these goodies – they are so easy to make it beats shelling out loads on them in the shops.

Christmas goodiesOrange and almond Florentines

Now, the recipe calls for brushing the baking parchment with vegetable oil. I forgot this presumably important step so a little chiselling work and elbow grease was required to release them from the paper, but actually this worked out pretty well, so I just carried out planting the florentines straight onto the paper. If you wanted to make your life easier you could use the oil. And I reused the same piece of paper for all my batches until the batter ran out. This recipe is from the amazing Ottolenghi book. The quantities can be very easily halved, doubled or even tripled.

Florentines 1Makes about 20

2 egg whites

100g icing sugar

260g flaked almonds

Grated zest of 1 orange

Vegetable oil for brushing

  1.  Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius/Gas Mark 2.
  2. To guide you in making respectable circular and uniform-sized discs, place a mug on the paper and outline the base with a pencil, repeating all over the baking parchment. Line a baking tray with the parchment and brush lightly with vegetable oil (optional in my case!).
  3. Put the egg whites, icing sugar, flaked almonds and orange zest in a bowl and gently mix them together. Use a tablespoon and flatten the each biscuit very thinly within the drawn discs and continue until each circle is filled. Try to make then as thin as possible without creating too many gaps between the almonds flakes. They should be about 8cm in diameter.
  4. Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Check the underneath of one biscuit to make sure they are cooked through. They will still be soft immediately after removing from the oven but will harden as they cool.
  5. Gently remove the biscuits from the baking sheet with a palette knife and store in an airtight container. They will keep for 4-5 days.

Florentines 2

Pecan and raspberry blondies

This one comes from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, another one full of lovely recipes but altogether too sweet. I always reduce the amount of sugar in the recipes I use here. The original recipe used 150g of caster sugar which I cut down to 125g and I’m sure that can be cut down a little further as well. It also used a 33 x 23 x 5cm tray cooked for 35-40 minutes in a 170 degrees celcius pan. Who has a tray of such exact dimensions anyway! I used one I already had, which was 25 x 20 x 5cm so I extended the cooking time to 45-50 minutes in a 160 degrees Celcius fan oven. What I love about blondies or brownies is the fudgy, soft centre with a crisp top which er, mine didn’t have. It was cooked all the way through and had a cakelike consistency, so I called it a tray bake instead! Happy days.

Blondies 1

Makes about 20 small brownies

150g white chocolate, roughly chopped

125g unsalted butter

125g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

200g plain flour

A pinch of salt

120g shelled pecan nuts, chopped roughly

Raspberries, halved to top the blondies

33 x 23 x 5cm baking tray, lined with baking parchment

  1.  Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celcius/160 fan/325 Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Put the white chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, stirring briskly so that you don’t allow the eggs time to scramble. Don’t worry if the mixture looks like it is starting to split. Add the flour, salt and pecan nuts and stir until well incorporated.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the baking tray. Top with the halved raspberries, pressing them down slightly into the mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and the centre is still soft. Remove the whole blondie with the parchment paper and leave to cool slightly on a cooling rack, then peel off the paper and leave to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Blondies 2

 

The Health-Food Diner

In honour of all the feasting we’ll be indulging in this Christmas!

The Health-Food Diner

by Maya Angelou

 

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots

And brussels in a cake

Carrot straw and spinach raw

(Today, I need a steak).

 

Not thick brown rice and rice pilau

Or mushrooms creamed on toast

Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed

(I’m dreaming of a roast).

 

Health-food folks around the world

Are thinned by anxious zeal

They look for help in seafood kelp

(I count on breaded veal).

 

No Smoking signs, raw mustard greens

Zucchini by the ton

Uncooked kale and bodies frail

Are sure to make me run

 

to

 

Loins of pork and chicken thighs

And standing rib, so prime,

Pork chops brown and fresh ground round

(I crave them all the time).

 

Irish stews and boiled corned beef

And hot dogs by the scores,

Or any space that saves a place

For smoking carnivores.

Lacquered duck with oranges and grilled figs

Lacquered spiced duck 1

Do you like duck? I do, quite obviously as this is the third duck recipe I’m talking about! I’ve made this and this so often I wanted something new. A quick search on the bbcgoodfood website found me this recipe that’s simple but delivers on the presentation wow factor.

The original recipe here suggested cooking the duck skin side down first starting from a cold pan which was then heated, and then finishing it in the oven for 8-12 mins. I put it in the oven for 8 mins and rested it for 5 mins. The bottom half of the breast was lovely and medium pink but the top was pretty well done from the initial cooking on the pan.

So! To cut an already long story short, heat the pan up first to a medium high heat and place the duck breast skin side down, sear it until the skin is a lovely golden shade of brown, then put it in the oven skin side up for 7-8 mins for a lovely tender medium level of doneness and up to 10 mins if you prefer your meat well done.

Also the recipe on the website used the syrup for 4 breasts. I used the same amount for just one breast and found it to be just enough to baste it in the oven and some left over to eat with. Feel free to multiply the recipe accordingly for 2, 3 or even 4 breasts.

This is so great to impress your other half or date with! Good luck!

Lacquered spiced duck 2

Ingredients

  • 1 duck breast, weighing about 200g/8oz
  • 1 orange, peeled and sliced across into rounds
  • 2 ripe figs, stalks trimmed
  • 1 tsp olive oil

For the syrup

  • 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 star anise
  • 4 bay leaves, plus extra for garnish
  1. Put all the syrup ingredients in a small, heavy-based saucepan. Add 6 tbsp water, season lightly with salt and pepper and simmer over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes until the syrup has reduced by just over half and is very sticky. Keep warm over a low heat.
  2. Heat a dry pan over medium high heat. Score the duck skin and breasts diagonally one way, then the other to create diamonds. Be careful not to cut through the flesh. Put the duck breasts skin side down and fry until the skin is golden. The fat will render from the duck during cooking, no additional oil is required.
  3. Preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. Sit the duck breasts skin side up in a roasting tin. Spoon a little of the syrup on top and leave for 2-3 minutes until sticky. Continue basting the duck with the syrup in the roasting tin and extra from the pan every 2-3 minutes until there are three or four layers and you have used up most of the syrup. If it gets too thick, just add 1-2 tbsp water. Conversely, if it’s too thin, add another 1 tbsp sugar. Roast the duck for 7-8 minutes for medium done and 10 minutes for well done.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the figs in half lengthways, tip into a bowl and toss with the olive oil. Heat a pan on the hob until very hot, then chargrill the figs until caramelised on both sides.
  5. Once the duck is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it rest covered for 5 minutes, then slice each breast at an angle to 1cm thick slices. Transfer to a plate and serve with the orange slices and figs, top with the leftover syrup and garnish with extra bay leaves and the star anise from the syrup.

Lacquered spiced duck 3

Chocolate chip cookies

Choc chip cookies 1After reading this post on hitherandthither I developed this craving for homemade choc chip cookies. I mean, not a lot of things can beat the smell of freshly baked cookies in the oven wafting through the house, can they? And I do agree with Ashley, I like my cookies to be lovely and crispy around the edges but soft and chewy in the middle.

The recipe for these cookies can be found here. I made some adjustments again! Some of the comments mentioned to halve the amount of chocolate chips and I did that initially but found the cookies to be too sparsely populated. And the level of sweetness probably wouldn’t suffer by halving the amount of granulated sugar to 40g or replacing that completely with 120g of light brown sugar. I only managed to get small measly cookies with teaspoon dollops so on subsequent batches I used a whole heaped tablespoon of batter for each cookie and just pressed down the ball of batter into a thick disc on the baking parchment. You’d get about 16 or so jumbo-sized cookies. I used a 170 degree Celcius fan oven and baked them for 14 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they’ve gone a light brown shade all over, and they’ll still be lovely and chewy inside.

The milk in a glass was only for show! It was too cold, and Earl Grey was so much better in offsetting the sweetness of the cookies. Choc chip cookies 2

Griddled Peaches & Ham Salad

Peach & Ham Salad 1

I tell you, the Ottolenghi cookbook has a wealth of tantalising recipes that I return to again and again. Chief amongst these are the griddled lamb chops with the amazing minty herby salty sweet marinade that doubles up as a sauce (which I should actually post at some point in the future since I’ve done it so many times) and a simple chargrilled broccoli dish with a dressing of oil, fried garlic and chillies. Notice the common factor in these recipes? The griddle pan. The caramelised lines of sweetness add depth and warmth to anything you chuck onto the pan. The only drawback is probably cleaning it after use. Trying to get into all those ridges and clean all the gunk can be a bit of a pain, but I’ve developed a nifty trick of wiping my non-stick pans down with kitchen paper whilst the oil and residue are just off the stove and still warm and therefore softer and easier to remove.

Peaches raw

I got these blushing white-fleshed peaches from the grocer for such great value – 5 for 99p! That they were white instead of yellow peaches were just an added bonus. After having the griddle treatment, the warm and caramel-ly peaches still retained that wonderful light blossom-y peach flavour.

Peaches on griddleGriddled PeachesI’ve tweaked the original recipe a little, more out of necessity than originality because I just used what I had in the fridge! Ottolenghi used endives, watercress and baby chard leaves, and I just decided to chuck all those lovely different flavours out of the window and used rocket leaves instead, and I used Serrano ham instead of speck.

Serves 2 for a starter or 1 for a large main

2 large ripe peaches

1 tbsp olive oil

30g rocket leaves

4 slices of Serrano ham

sea salt and black pepper

Dressing

1 1/2 tbsp orange blossom water

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tbsp maple syrup

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

  1. Place a griddled pan over medium high heat and let it heat up for several minutes.
  2. Cut each peach in half and each half into three wedges. Toss the peaches with the olive oil, salt & black pepper.
  3. Place the peach wedges on the pan and grill them for 2-3 minutes on the first side, until brown charcoal lines form, then flip over and grill them on the other side. Be careful as the pan would have heated up even more by then and the second side will not take as long to cook. Remove them from the pan and leave to cool.
  4. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Toss the peaches in about a third of the dressing.
  5. Artfully scatter the peaches, rocket leaves and ham slices over a serving plate and drizzle the dressing over the salad. There will probably be some dressing leftover, so don’t drench the salad in it. Peach & Ham Salad 2