Thai Prawn Green Curry

The Thais are generally a slender people, I have to wonder how they do it. I just wanted to continue eating this incredible Thai prawn green curry until I burst. The silky sauce is so full of flavours, each of them entirely distinct from one another, and yet it takes so little time to make. I could have made another batch of this within about 20 minutes; believe me, I was very tempted.

To experience this at its best please make your own Thai green curry paste if you can. It doesn’t take long but the difference in the depth of flavour compared to a shop-bought jar of paste is indescribable.

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RECIPE – serves 4

1 fresh lemon grass stalk

1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tbsp Thai green curry paste

4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (or the finely grated zest of 2 limes)

2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

2 tsp caster sugar

1 400ml tin of coconut milk

500g raw king prawns, peeled but tails on

200g fine green beans, cut into 2cm lengths

a small handful of fresh Thai basil leaves, or ordinary basil leaves, shredded


METHOD

Peel off the tough outer layers of the lemon grass, trim the root end then slice the tender whitish centre finely.

Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is hot, then add the sunflower oil. Now add the green curry paste and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves (or lime zest) fish sauce, caster sugar and coconut milk. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes.

At this point, if you wish, you can turn off the heat and allow the sauce to sit so the flavours can develop for a few hours. If you have the time then it is well worth doing.

When you are ready to serve, add the prawns and fine green beans and cook gently for around 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are just pink on both sides. Take off the heat, add the basil leaves and stir thoroughly.

Serve alongside plain steamed or boiled rice. Beware: this is seriously addictive!

Hyderabadi Fish with a Sesame Sauce (Macchi Ka Salan)

The majority of curries use tomatoes as the basis for the sauce, this one is very different in that it uses toasted sesame seeds as its main ingredient, and is thickened with onions and peanut butter. The result is as fabulous as it is interesting: an almost-bitter nutty undertone overlaid by the almost-sweetness of the dessicated coconut, tempered by the sour edge of the tamarind.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first made it, but I was converted after one mouthful, and by the time I had finished it I was completely in love with it. You can use salmon or any white fish – cod, hake, pollock, haddock, or monkfish is a particular treat – and if you use a mix of fish it is even better.

This is a sauce that is best made early and allowed to sit for a few hours, or even overnight. Like all curries, the ingredients list looks daunting but this is actually a quick and easy dish to make.

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RECIPE – for 4 people

Paste 1:

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp dessicated coconut

4 tsp ground coriander

Paste 2:

2 tbsp chunky peanut butter

5 cm fresh ginger, not peeled, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

3 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tsp salt

For the sauce:

115g sesame seeds

ground nut oil

2 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

12 curry leaves

4 salmon or white fish fillets or loins, or a mix


METHOD

Combine the paste 1 ingredients in a bowl. Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a large pan that is NOT non-stick. When toasted, remove from the heat and add the paste 1 ingredients. The pan will still be very hot, so just agitate the ingredients for a minute or so off the heat, then pour everything back into the bowl and allow to cool. When cool, use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to grind it in to a smooth paste. This will probably have to be done in two batches, and because the sesame seeds are oily it will grind into something more like a paste rather than a powder. Set aside.

Pour ground nut oil into a large pan to a depth of 3mm, get it very hot but not smoking then add the onions and stir-fry for around ten minutes until they are brown and crisp. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen paper; retain the remaining oil for use later.

Put the paste 2 ingredients in a blender, together with the onions and 250 ml of hot water and blend to a thick puree. Add the paste 1 ingredients that you toasted and ground earlier, together with a further 250 ml of hot water. Blend again, check the seasoning and the balance of sourness, adding more tamarind paste if you feel it needs it.

Heat the oil that was set aside earlier, add the mustard and cumin seeds, and when they start to pop add the curry leaves and cook for 15 seconds, then add the blended sauce. Pour another 250ml of hot water into the now-empty blender and swirl it around to wash out the sauce that is left behind, pour into the pan with the rest and bring to the boil before setting it to a gentle simmer.

If you will be leaving the sauce to sit and develop then at this point you can allow the sauce to cool until needed.

Lightly season the fish you will be using, you can leave the fish as whole fillets or cut it into 2 cm wide chunks, whichever you prefer. When ready to cook, gently push the fish into the simmering sauce so that it is just submerged and poach it for 5-7 minutes until it is just cooked.

Serve alongside plain rice and garnish it with fresh coriander. Madhur Jaffrey advises that this is also excellent served with new potatoes and lightly sauteed brocolli, garnished with chopped flat-leaf parsley. Who am I to argue?

Quorn Meatballs in a Rich Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

When my children were young, on the rare occasions that I was called upon to cook for them we had a delicious concoction we called ‘spaghetti and meatballs a la papa’. Truth to tell, although we all loved it and my children have fond memories of it, it actually wasn’t very good, consisting of a couple of tins of Campbell’s meat balls in tomato sauce, a teaspoon of dried oregano and some packet spaghetti.

Like so many things in life, it was the circumstances in which we had it that made it special: It’s spaghetti! Dad is cooking! We can stay up late!

We always had a lot of fun making it; we all mucked in, they were little and I was almost useless so we all muddled through it together. They were happy times.

Every time I make spaghetti and meatballs I am transported, misty-eyed, back to those days, and when my now-adult children come to visit we very often have the new, updated and very much improved meatballs a la papa. I still use meatballs that have been made by somebody else (though I do actually make a pretty good real meatball) but now they are made of quorn and they are enhanced immeasurably by a proper, rich and flavourful tomato sauce which began life as a Jamie Oliver recipe. Many times I have made this for carnivores and they have had no idea that they are eating quorn rather than mince; when they found out they didn’t care and went back for second and third helpings.

I have specified cans of chopped tomatoes here, though you can use canned whole tomatoes. You have to handle them slightly differently though; whole tomatoes are picked and canned before they are fully ripe, because it is easier to remove the skins and keep them whole when they are firm and immature. This means that the seeds can be bitter so when you cook the sauce down don’t break the tomatoes up before the cooking is completed, somehow this completely removes any bitterness. Chopped  tomatoes are picked and canned when they are fully ripe so this problem doesn’t arise.

Please don’t try and shortcut the cooking time, the sauce here is everything and it needs the time to reduce, thicken up and intensify its flavour. Some things can’t be rushed, and you will be glad that you took your time.

This is a sauce that is best made early and allowed to sit for a few hours, or even overnight.IMG_0385.JPG


RECIPE – for 4 people

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp dried oregano

3 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

500g Quorn meatballs

1 ball mozarella

a small handful of basil, leaves only, shredded

salt and pepper

120g of spaghetti per person (a generous serving)


METHOD

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, cook gently for a minute until aromatic, then add the chilli flakes and oregano. Cook for a further minute, allowing the flavours to infuse the oil, then add the tomatoes and fish sauce. Mix thoroughly, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for an hour to allow the sauce to reduce, thicken and intensify.

After an hour, add the red wine vinegar, cook for a couple of minutes then check the seasoning. At this point you can set the sauce aside for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavours to develop further.

In a large pan of salted water at a rolling boil, cook the spaghetti.

Meanwhile, add the quorn meatballs, simmer for 10 minutes, then add the mozarella (cow or buffalo, it doesn’t matter) and shredded basil. Stir well, the cheese will melt and make the sauce stringy and unctuous, the basil will wilt and add lovely flavour and aroma.

Drain the spaghetti, then tip it into the sauce. Toss the spaghetti in the sauce until thoroughly coated.

Serve with a simple green salad dressed with the juice of half a lemon. Lovely!

Sticky Jerk Salmon with a Crunchy Mango and Red Cabbage Salad

Spring has officially sprung here in England, the evenings are long and hot and our garden is in full flower. The weather is so variable here that we take every chance that we can to eat outside. That doesn’t always affect the choice of what we will have to eat, but sometimes the evening is so glorious that all that is required is something light and easy and, perhaps most importantly, quick to make.

I had a small stock of jerk paste that I had made a few weeks ago lurking in the freezer, and decided that if I didn’t use it now it would end up in the bin. I also had a very ripe mango that I picked up yesterday, for no other reason than that it was reduced for a quick sale. Thinking cap on, I searched through my flavour thesaurus, came up with an interesting combination of flavours that ought to work together and was rewarded with one of the most glorious salads I have ever eaten.

We are having a big family barbecue in a few weeks – when we can depend on the weather a little more – and so I have been thinking about what to make to feed a lot of hungry people who will expect something special. This salad just shot to the top of my list; it is wonderful with the salmon here, but would also be great with jerk chicken, or even just as a salad all by itself.

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RECIPE – for 2 people

1 heaped tbsp jerk paste

1 tbsp clear honey, plus 1 tsp

2 salmon fillets

juice of a lime

1/2 red cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced

1 ripe mango, thinly sliced into strips

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

3 spring onions, finely sliced on an angle

a small bunch of fresh coriander, leaves only


METHOD

Mix the jerk paste with 1 tbsp of clear honey. Lightly season the salmon fillets, place on a foil-lined baking tray and spread the paste all over the top of them. Place under a hot grill for 8-10 minutes until just cooked through and the paste is starting to caramelise. Meanwhile make the salad.

Tip: I found that the paste on top of the fish hadn’t quite caramelised as much as I would have liked by the time the fish was done. I finished it off with a cook’s burner, not something I use very often in my kitchen but an extremely handy thing to have available at times like these.

Put the 1 tsp of honey, the lime juice and a little seasoning in a large salad bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the red cabbage, mango, pepper, spring onions and coriander, toss thoroughly with the dressing.

Serve the salmon in a bowl on top of a bed of the salad.

Crusted Baked Hake with Sherry Lentils

I really can’t praise this dish enough, it is one of those dishes where the individual elements are delicious, but when they are put together on one fork the results are sensational. The secret is the sherry vinegar syrup; it ties the different elements together and brightens the earthy flavour of the lentils.

Ah yes, the lentils. Long maligned as the preserve of hippies, health freaks and vegans, they are finally beginning to be recognised as nutritional powerhouses that – cooked correctly – are so delicious that even hardened carnivores will like them. It doesn’t hurt their case that there are many different types for many different purposes, and they are ridiculously inexpensive.

The ones I have used here are green lentils; I have experimented with this dish using different types of lentil and nothing else worked. You’ll find these on the shelves of the major supermarkets, along with the sherry vinegar, another previously exotic ingredient that is now mainstream.

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RECIPE – for 2 people

2 slices of bread, breadcrumbed

50g plain flour, lightly seasoned

1 egg, beaten

2 hake fillets or loins

olive oil

a small bunch of chives, chopped

2 or 3 good handfuls of rocket

a quantity of salsa verde

For the sherry lentils:

100g caster sugar

100ml sherry vinegar

200g green lentils, rinsed

2 banana shallots, or 1 medium red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed


METHOD

Tear up the bread – I like to use sourdough for the extra flavour, but you can use whatever you have, white or wholemeal do the same job – and put it into a food processor; whiz it up until it is fully breadcrumbed. A few small lumps are okay, they add variety to the texture, just don’t go so far that you end up with dust. Often you will be told that you will need stale bread to make breadcrumbs, that’s not strictly true. I always use fresh because that’s all I ever have and it makes no difference that I can detect. It is a good way of using up stale bread though.

Season the fish with a little salt and pepper, then lay out 3 plates with the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in each of them. Coat the fish with flour by laying it in the flour first on one side then the other and dusting any bits that you missed; then coat with beaten egg the same way then coat with breadcrumbs.

Lay each piece of fish on a piece of parchment on a baking tray and chill until ready to cook.

Now make the sherry lentils: heat the vinegar and caster sugar over a medium heat and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes; the sugar should be fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the lentils in a large pan with the shallots and garlic, cover generously with cold water, bring to the boil then simmer for around 15 minutes, until the lentils are soft but retain a little bite.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT season the water when you cook the lentils, it will make the skins tough and they will be inedible.

Drain the lentils, shallots and garlic through a sieve, then empty out onto a large baking tray and spread them out to cool. Drizzle most of the sugar and vinegar syrup over the lentils, retaining a little for later. As the lentils cool they will absorb the flavours of the syrup.

Heat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6. When hot, drizzle a little olive oil over the breadcrumbed fish, then bake for 12-15 minutes until the flesh is just translucent.

To serve: reheat the lentils  so they are warm (not piping hot), put a handful of rocket in each bowl and scatter the lentils all around and over the top. Place the fish on top, with a drizzle of the remaining sugar and vinegar syrup and some chopped chives, and a good helping of the salsa verde alongside.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Anchovies, Basil and Pangrattato

Another super-fast, super-delicious meal. Make the pangrattato first then the rest of it can be cooked in the time it takes for your spaghetti to cook.

Pangrattato is used as a seasoning in some parts of Italy, as an alternative to Parmesan. It isn’t a cheese but seasoned, deep fried breadcrumbs.  It has a double role here; to add an extra layer of flavour but also to add texture and crunch to the silky, cream coated spaghetti. It is a useful trick to have in your repertoire when you need to add an extra dimension to a dish, though be aware that it rarely works with tomato-based sauces.

The anchovies are also used here as a seasoning, they dissolve into the oil when cooked and add a hit of warm umami. If you’re one of those who think they don’t like anchovies so are tempted to give this recipe a miss, try it, you will be surprised how completely they disappear yet how dramatically they affect the overall flavours.

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RECIPE – for 2 people

1 slice of bread, breadcrumbed

75 ml olive oil

1 tsp dried thyme

125g asparagus, woody ends trimmed

1 garlic clove, finely sliced

5 salted anchovy fillets in oil

a small handful of basil leaves, torn

100 ml double cream

225 g spaghetti

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


METHOD

Make the pangrattato first: tear up the bread – I like to use sourdough for the extra flavour, but you can use whatever you have, white or wholemeal do the same job – and put it into a food processor; whiz it up until it is fully breadcrumbed. A few small lumps are okay, they add variety to the texture, just don’t go so far that you end up with dust. Often you will be told that you will need stale bread to make breadcrumbs, that’s not strictly true. I always use fresh because that’s all I ever have and it makes no difference that I can detect. It is a good way of using up stale bread though.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the thyme, don’t get the oil so hot that it is smoking, if you drop a breadcrumb into it and it sizzles then it is hot enough. When the oil is hot, tip the breadcrumbs into it and fry until they are golden brown and crunchy. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on a couple of changes of kitchen paper, season lightly with salt and pepper.

Strain the hot oil, carefully, through a muslin cloth or kitchen paper into a large frying pan. The oil will have been infused with thyme while cooking the breadcrumbs and this will add to the flavour of your sauce.

Bring a large pan of slightly salted water to the boil for your spaghetti and put the spaghetti in when it reaches a strong rolling boil; the brand that I use takes approximately ten minutes to reach al dente. Meanwhile, steam the asparagus for three or four minutes until the stems are just tender. Remove from the steamer and cut them into 1 cm slices at a slight angle.

Heat the oil in the frying pan, add the garlic and cook gently for a minute or so, then add the anchovy fillets and cook, stirring until they have dissolved into the oil. Add the asparagus, basil leaves and double cream, cook gently for 3 or 4 minutes while the spaghetti finishes. Your spaghetti should be just al dente as it will cook on in the final stage.

Retain a little of the spaghetti water, drain the spaghetti and add it to the asparagus sauce, tossing well and adding a little of the cooking water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Cook gently for a couple of minutes then scatter the pangrattato over the top. Check and carefully adjust the seasoning, bearing in mind that the pangrattato adds seasoning by itself, and serve with a simple green salad.

Mushroom Speltotto

Spelt is an ancient grain that has been cultivated in the middle east for around 9000 years, and has been a crop in Britain since 2000 BCE. It is a nutty, firm grain similar to the more familiar barley and in their ‘pearled’ state both are fantastic substitutes for rice. Used here instead of risotto rice, pearled spelt (or pearl barley, you can use either) go exceptionally well with the earthy flavour of mushrooms, making a warming, comforting, healthy yet very filling evening meal. Pearled barley and spelt are not quite whole grains because even though they have not been rolled, broken or ground down, they are still refined in that the pearling process polishes off the outer bran layer. This makes them easier and quicker to cook, and digest, without significantly affecting their nutritional profile.

The health benefits are many and varied, rather than rehash them here, this infographic from organicfacts.net says it all:

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We would normally have this speltotto in the autumn, but the spring weather in the UK recently took a turn for the wet and windy so this dish was the perfect antidote for the cold weather blues.

This recipe is easily adaptable for vegans with little impact on its flavour, simply omit the butter and Parmesan.


RECIPE – feeds 2

10g dried mixed mushroom (porcini, wild, shiitake, whatever you have available)

500ml vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

a sprig of thyme, leaves picked (or 1 tsp dried thyme)

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped or crushed

200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

150g pearled spelt (or pearl barley)

100ml vermouth

juice of half a lemon

15g unsalted butter

a small bunch of finely chopped parsley, leaves only

30g Parmesan, finely grated


METHOD

Soak the dried mushrooms in 150ml of just-boiled water, set aside.

Heat the stock in a saucepan and leave at a gentle simmer.

Heat the oil in a large risotto or frying pan, add the onion and thyme and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion is softened.

Remove the dried mushrooms from the hot water, drain and pat dry on kitchen paper, retaining the liquid in the bowl. Roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms. Strain the mushroom liquid through muslin cloth to remove the grit, set the liquid aside as it has a lot of flavour which you will use in a moment.

Add the rehydrated mushrooms, sliced chestnut mushrooms and garlic to the onion and thyme, cook on for another five minutes or so, then add the pearled spelt and stir thoroughly for a minute or so until the spelt is coated with all the other ingredients. Now turn the heat up and add the vermouth, cook for a  minute while the alcohol burns off, now add the mushroom liquid. The pan should now be set at a heat where it will simmer gently, and the spelt will absorb the cooking liquid. Keep your eye on it, and keep stirring regularly; you don’t want it to catch on the bottom of the pan. When the liquid has almost all been absorbed start to add the simmering stock, a ladleful at a time, and continue to cook and stir. It will look like this:

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Continue to add the stock as it gets absorbed by the spelt, never allow it to dry out. This will take around 20-25 minutes (40 minutes or so for pearl barley), and you will see the grains puff up as they absorb the liquid. If you need to add more liquid than is in your stock pot, just add some more hot water. When ready, the spelt grains should be cooked through and soft, but retaining a little ‘bite’.

To finish, add the butter and stir it through until melted, this will give the dish a nice shine. Stir through the lemon juice, then the parmesan – which acts as a seasoning as well as adding creaminess – and scatter the chopped parsley leaves across the top. Stir once, and serve alongside a simple green salad seasoned with a little lemon juice. It will look like this:

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The flavours are intense, so adjust the seasoning carefully. You can also add a few handfuls of spinach before adding the butter; the flavours marry perfectly.

 

Kung Po Prawns

Stir-fried food is the ultimate fast food, taking literally less than 5 minutes from hot oil to finished dish. Obviously, that means that once you start cooking things move fast so you need to be well organised and have all your ingredients weighed-out, measured and chopped before you even think about turning on the gas. Though the ingredients list looks long there really isn’t much to it, and preparation should only take 15 minutes even if you take your time.

I made this a couple of nights ago; once we had used our fingers to clean every last drop of sauce from our bowls – and the wok, and the serving spoon – my wife said that she didn’t like Chinese food, but she loved this. What she really meant was that she loves Chinese food, real Chinese food, but she doesn’t like the food that you get from Chinese takeaways.

If Chinese takeaway food is your only experience of Chinese-style cooking then you are in for an extremely pleasant surprise, and this dish is an excellent way in to a delicious, filling and healthy cuisine. All the ingredients are readily available from UK supermarkets, so please don’t try and substitute say, black peppercorns for the Sichuan peppercorns, they are very different and it is the interplay of the various aromatic components of the sauce that make this such an amazing dish.

This is excellent served with Beijing rice, or your favourite noodles.

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RECIPE – feeds 2

For the crispy prawns:

1 tbsp sichuan peppercorns, dry-fried and ground

a good pinch of sea salt

2 tbsp cornflour

12 large raw king prawns, tails on

6 tbsp groundnut oil

For the stir-fry:

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 medium red chilli, finely chopped (seeds left in if you like it hot)

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, chopped into 1.5 cm chunks

For the sauce:

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the garnish:

a bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks, chopped

a small handful of dry-roasted peanuts (optional)


METHOD

In a large, NOT non-stick pan over a high heat, dry-roast the sichuan peppercorns until they are aromatic. Be careful not to scorch them, then turn them out on to a plate to cool.

Prepare all the other ingredients.

Once the Sichuan peppercorns are cool, use a small coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind them to a fine powder. In a large shallow dish combine with the cornflour and salt then roll the prawns in the mix until they are thoroughly coated, set aside for now.

Combine the sauce ingredients, set aside.

Heat a wok over a high heat, when hot add the 6 tbsp of groundnut oil and swirl it around the wok to coat all surfaces. Get it very hot then add the prawns, cook for about one minute, the prawns should be just turning pink. Remove from the heat and quickly, using a slotted spoon or ‘spider’  (a large open-mesh spoon, used a lot in oriental and wok cooking), remove the prawns from the wok and set aside on a plate.

Reheat the oil, add the chilli and garlic and stir fry for around 15 seconds, then add the chunks of red and yellow pepper. Stir-fry for 1 minute then add the sauce and bring to the boil, put the prawns back in the sauce and remove from the heat. Garnish in the wok, and serve.

I promise, you will fall in love with this dish.

 

Prawn Etouffee with Cajun Rice

My wife and I both love spicy food; not just Indian curries but also Italian food made with plenty of lemon and chilli, rich and creamy Thai dishes, and our most recent discovery: the Cajun cuisine of Louisiana, which finds yet more interesting ways to use a limited range of spices to make a whole new set of flavour experiences.

Prawn Etouffee is a traditional Cajun dish that uses a very dark, rich roux made from vegetable oil and flour. It was a new way of making a roux for me, and it takes a fair bit of bravery and constant whisking to get it dark and flavoursome without it burning. It’s well worth the effort though, this tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before, and I love it.

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RECIPE – serves 2

For the seasoning mix:

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

For the sauce:

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp plain flour

400 ml fish stock

30g butter

200g raw king prawns, peeled

4 spring onions, very finely chopped

a small bunch of coriander, leaves only, chopped


METHOD

Prepare all of your ingredients before you do anything else, and combine your seasoning mix in a small bowl. Also combine the onion, celery and green pepper in a small bowl.

In a large pan, over a high heat, heat the oil until it just starts to smoke. Add the flour gradually while whisking constantly, keep it on the heat. Keep on whisking over the heat until the flour and oil are fully combined and smooth, by now you should notice that the roux is starting to change colour. The longer you cook and whisk it the darker it will go. You need to get the colour to a very dark brown; be brave, just keep on whisking and if you think you are ever in danger of burning it just lift it away from the heat for a few seconds – just keep on whisking.

When your roux is a very dark brown remove it from the heat and immediately stir in your combined onion, celery and green pepper, and half the seasoning mix. Keep on whisking it all together until the roux and the pan have cooled sufficiently that you can safely leave it for a minute or two and nothing will burn. That should only take a minute or so.

Meanwhile, bring the fish stock to the boil. While continuing to whisk the roux and chopped vegetables, pour the stock in and return to the heat. Keep cooking and whisking until the sauce that you have now made is thick and smooth. Set aside while you cook your prawns.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan then add the spring onions and prawns. Cook over a moderate heat for around a minute, until the prawns just start to go pink, then add the sauce and the remaining half of the seasoning mix. Stir well.

Serve in a bowl with a mound of Cajun rice in the middle, garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Universal Barbecue Bean Burgers

It’s a bank holiday in England, as usual the weather is a bit iffy, and we are off to a barbecue. Not being a fan of greasy burgers and mystery sausages (the mystery being: what meat is this?) we always take a brace of beanburgers with us. Everybody laughs, as if pointing fingers at the weird kid in school: “Burgers? That Vegans can eat? Yeuch!”

Then they try one, and I discover that I didn’t bring enough…


RECIPE – makes 4 large or 6 smaller patties (they are filling) 

1 tin of black beans, drained and roughly mashed

30g butter (or 2 tbsp olive oil if cooking for a vegan)

1 red onion, finely chopped

140g mushrooms, any kind, finely chopped

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed

a bunch of parsley, chopped (stalks and all)

1 sping onion, trimmed and finely chopped

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

4 tbsp gram flour

1 tsp Marmite

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


METHOD

Roughly mash the black beans, ensuring you keep enough texture to make the final burger interesting. Prepare the rest of the ingredients…

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Melt the butter, with a little oil (or just oil if you will be making these for vegans) in a large frying pan and gently sautee the onion for three or four minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the mushrooms and soy sauce, continue cooking until most of the mushroom liquor has evaporated, this should only take another three minutes or so. Now stir in the garlic, spring onion, parsley, chilli and black beans. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes then add the marmite and season to taste with black pepper.

Transfer to a large bowl and stir the gram flour through the bean mixture, the gram flour will act as a binding agent to hold the patty together. Allow the mixture to cool until you can handle it comfortably, then shape into either 4 larger or 6 smaller patties…

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Cover them and chill thoroughly before cooking. They will firm up and can be patted into their final shape when chilled.

They can be pan fried for 1-2 minutes each side until golden brown, grilled for 3 or 4 minutes each side, or barbecued for a minute or so each side. Serve in a bap with your choice of salad and prepare to be quite full – if you can manage two of the larger ones you are a rare breed.