Thursday, 28 July 2011

Guest blogpost - Same Same but Different

After the amazing success of Elizabeth's blogpost on Swillington Farm meat boxes I'm delighted to share with you a follow up to it from the lovely @RachATheMachine.

A (slightly belated) follow up to @artemisfoul1812 ‘s guest blog on @swillingtonfarm ‘s new monthly meat box scheme. We just received our second meat box and I have to say that I am totally sold on the concept. On a practical note, it helps us to budget, health wise it ensures that we stick to consuming only a healthy amount of meat. The quality of the produce, knowing it’s ethically sourced, combined with the challenge of finding and creating new recipes using whichever cuts you happen to get that month is a foodie’s wet dream. With the surprise ingredients, it’s all a bit ‘Ready Steady Cook’.

Since my trip to Vietnam I’ve been keen to re-create some of the dishes I had on my travels. When I found that we had beef frying steak in our first meat box I immediately earmarked it for one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes.

Here it is accompanied by a starter…..

Same Same but Different

Unless you have visited Vietnam it’s likely that you have never been fortunate enough to experience this amazing cuisine. There are after all only three (as far as I can tell) Vietnamese restaurants in the North (Sheffield’s Pho 68, Manchester’s Vnam CafĂ© and Newcastle’s Little Saigon). Though it shares the hallmarks of its more popular Asian neighbours, China and Thailand; fresh flavours, stir-fries, the use of soy and fish sauce, with rice and noodles the most common accompaniments, Vietnam has plenty to offer in it’s own right, from their breakfast speciality Pho (pronounced ‘fur’), a noodle broth dish with thin strips of meat and vegetables, to perfectly seasoned barbequed meat and hearty hot pots. The French influence means that traditional Vietnamese dishes can be found served in fresh baguettes as street food. It’s a light cuisine, combining a number of different herbs with fresh vegetables to achieve flavour rather than hot spices. Owing to it being a Buddhist country there is a lot on offer for vegetarians.  

If you want to eat Vietnamese in Leeds then you are going to need to cook it yourself. Here is a starter and a main, from two different regions, for you to try. Though obviously this is a Western concept, in Vietnam the dishes would be served together, but getting these two on the table at similar times would be quite a challenge! Both are based on a recent visit to Vietnam.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I picked up this recipe at the Red Bridge Cookery School in Hoi An, a city in the central region, of which this type of spring roll are specific to.


Prawns - chopped up small (just sub with veg if you don't want the prawns. Pork or beef can also be substituted)
2 thinly sliced spring onions
Bean sprouts
Topping mix - mint, coriander, Vietnamese basil (Thai basil is fine), carrot (all finely chopped)
Packet of rice paper

Get started by prepping everything in advance. Personally, I’m not normally big on doing all my chopping before I start cooking, I normally just get stuck in, but you have to do this quickly so it’s necessary. Prep the prawns, veg and topping mix. Chop the prawns and beat the egg and a tiny amount of milk together. It’s easiest to have two bowls, one with the combined veg mix and one with the combined topping mix. The rice paper will also need soaking but be careful not to overdo it. Once ready lay out on a chopping board.

In a small frying pan (it needs to be the same size if not smaller than the size of the rice paper) heat the oil. Add the prawns, spring onions and bean sprouts and fry over a high heat for a few mins, until softened.

Add the egg to the pan with the prawn mixture so that a very thin layer is covering the surface of the pan (the thicker it is the harder it is to roll). It needn’t cover the top of the veg and prawns. Once the omelet is completely cooked through flip it over and fry for a few seconds on the other side. Remove from the pan and place centrally on the rice paper. Add the topping mix to the centre then roll.

Rolling the spring rolls will take some practice. As the pictures show, I haven’t yet mastered it. It will help immensely if the omelette is smaller than the rice paper, for which you will need a tiny frying pan. I got mine from Peter Maturi on Vicar Lane for £4.

Griddled Beef, Rice and Stir-fried Greens

In Vietnam they serve this over an outdoor grill. They bring out the grill which is like a mini wooden BBQ with a mesh top and the marinated meat on a plate which you but on the BBQ yourself using your chop sticks. If in Vietnam, you are most likely seated close to the side of the street whist the world zooms past on scooters. Here is an adapted for indoors version. If you do choose to it on the BBQ (which I’d recommend if you can), accompany it with cold vermicelli noodles, cold veggies and dipping sauce. The perfect combo for a hot summers day!

Rice – get the rice on the hob. When it’s almost cooked, set it to one side with the lid on to steam it. Then…..

For the Stir-Fried Greens:
Sesame seeds
Garlic (finely sliced)
Ginger (finely sliced)
Pak Choi
Cabbage (chopped)
Soy Sauce

Start off by dry toasting the sesame seeds then set to one side. Get the wok with some oil in it on a high heat. In Vietnam veggies are either uncooked or briefly stir -fried so be careful not to over-do it. First, fry the garlic and ginger (approx 1 min) then add the broccoli (approx 2 minutes), finally; add the Pak Choi and Cabbage (approx 2 minutes). Just before serving add sesame seeds and one or two splashes of soy sauce, stirring in thoroughly.

While the greens are cooking get the griddle pan on a very high heat with oil in it. Once the greens have been cooked….

For the beef:
Frying steak cut into small strips
Vietnamese or Chinese Five Spice
Soy Sauce
Garlic - crushed
Ginger – grated
Lime (juice)

Marinate the beef, in advance of cooking by mixing together the oil five spice, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and lime into a paste. Leave to marinate for at least half an hour.

Heat the oil in the griddle pan on a high. Add the beef one strip at a time, cooking for 15 seconds on each side (adjust accordingly to your preference). I used the same technique as for cooking scallops: adding each one, one at a time, once they have all been added go back through them again in the same order turning them over, and back again taking them all off one at a time. You’re done!

Serve with…. Pretty much all of the cities in Vietnam new brew their own lager but they taste pretty much the same as other Asian lagers, so wash it down with the likes of Tiger or Asahi.

Finally, if you are wondering about the title, it’s a rather ubiquitous self-mocking phrase used in Vietnam (and Cambodia and Thailand so I’m told). 

Foot note: Ingredients – Sourcing locally for this meal.
You should be able to get all the ingredients for these dishes from the supermarket but if you want your pennies to stay local, here’s where we got ours from…..

Eggs from at Out of this World (across from the Corn Ex)
Meat from Swillington Farm
All South East Asian ingredients from the Chinese supermarkets
Herbs and other veggies from Leeds Kirkgate Outdoor Market (at a bargain price!)

An absolutely fantastic follow up - I can't wait to have a go at the beef dish, I think that will make it on to next week's menu - I don't know if I'm brave enough to try the spring roll, I'm terrible at omelettes! 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Chickpea Curry and Raita

I didn't really make this to a recipe, I looked at a couple and then decided to just do my own thing.

1 red chilli
1 large knob of ginger
2 small onions
2 cloves of garlic
tsp of turmeric
tsp of ground coriander
tsp of whole cumin
tin of chopped tomatoes
squeexe of tomato puree
boiled water

I boiled off the chickpeas for an hour and a half then drained.  While they were draining I chopped the chilli, garlic, ginger and onion.

I chucked the onions etc in a big pan and let them cook off for a bit and then added the spices and the drained chickpeas and let them combine.  I added the chopped tomatoes, a squirt of puree and then filled the empty tomato can with boiled water and added that to the pan.

I let it simmer off for 15 minutes then served with a splodge of creme fraiche.

The only thing that was missing was some fresh coriander!

I also made some raita to go with the popadoms.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Meal Planning Monday

I'm late again with this - life is getting in the way of being a good blogger at the moment...

So how did I get on with last weeks meals?

Monday - chicken stir fry with leftovers from yesterday's roast chicken
Tuesday - flatmate's bolognese
Wednesday - Swillington Farm sausages and mash with Rich
Thursday - Spicy tomato pasta
Friday - Carvery with Rich - meeting the new inlaws - argh scary!
Saturday - Eating out as part of friend's hen do
Sunday - more than likely any carbs I can lay my hands on....

 Monday I did have the stir fry
 Tuesday was my flatmates spag bol...

Wednesday - I can't remember what we had, but it wasn't the bangers and mash

Thursday - again can't remember what I had, but I didn't have spicy pasta

Friday - the carvery, and the meeting of the inlaws - which went well

Saturday - I was on a 50's themed hen do, and went to Wasabi Tepanyaki - very nice as usual

Sunday - as predicted, lots of carbs... breakfast of potato waffles, beans and scrambled eggs and a pizza for tea!

So, onto this week....

Monday -  Pizza Express (I had an American pizza)
Tuesday - Chickpea curry, coriander & garlic naan, homemade raita and popadoms
Wednesday - Carvery with the inlaws, it's their last night this visit
Thursday - "Budget" Salmon fishcakes, corn on the cob, potato salad
Friday - Whatever the P-Units feed me
Saturday - CAKE - it's Clandestine Cake Club
Sunday - I'll be at the rugby with Rich, who knows what we'll eat!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

An attempt at a Rainbow Layer Cake

Following on from last week's practise session of a layered coffee cake when I saw food colouring on offer in ASDA I knew I had to give it a go!  I've never used food colouring actually in cakes before, but I have used it to colour icing.

I used my box standard cake recipe and doubled the contents, so:

200g Self Raising flour
200g Caster sugar
4 eggs
200g butter

Then used the usual method, creaming the butter and sugar, then sifting in the flour with each of the eggs.

I then divided the mixture (fairly) equally between five bowls.

 I then added some food colouring to each of the bowls, and attempted to mix the red and the blue to get purple.  I ended up with an off mauve.  I transferred the coloured mixture into lined cake tins and cooked them in the oven for 18 minutes.

I wasn't very impressed with the results though - they came out in differing shades of brown!

I sandwiched them together anyway, using buttercream icing and strawberry jam.

You can see some variations on colour when the cake was sliced through - but it wasn't the effect I was going for!

 I'm told I need some food colouring paste, and that will do the trick with it, but unfortunately I won't be able to get my hands on any until Saturday morning, and I need to make my cake on Friday night.  I have a wild idea I might do the layers of icing in different colours rather than the actual cake itself, maybe doing a chocolate cake?

Have you used food colouring in baking before?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Butterscotch sandwiched coffee cake

I was sent a bottle of Butterscotch flavoured treat sauce to review by last week.  I'd intended on using it in a loaf cake, in replace of golden syrup - which I may still do - hangover permitting on Sunday.  

Over the weekend I'd got all the ingredients in to practise making a coffee flavoured layer cake for the next Clandestine Cake Club in Leeds, and intended on taking a lovely creation with me to Leeds Book Club.  All was well apart from forgetting the vital ingredient of icing sugar...   I ummed and ahhed about trying to grind up some of the caster sugar to create the fine sugar that is icing sugar, but then it came to me - I could try and sandwich the cake together with the treat sauce....

Now using this unorthodox method of sandwiching a cake turned out to be fairly successful, and also pretty delicious.  I simply squeezed a generous amount on each of the layers, smoothed over the cake and sandwiched on the next layer.

The only problem was that over the course of the afternoon the sauce ended up sinking into the cake, rather than sticking it.  If you were to eat the cake straight away you'd be fine.

I did actually make 5 layers, but two of the layers were so pitiful I was ashamed to take them with me to book club....

If I was eating the cake straight away I'd certainly use this again, and I can't wait to try and make the loaf cake using the sauce.  Mmmm butterscotch loaf cake.... Of course I'll also use it as it was intended - to go on top of icecream.... The sauce itself is lovely, butterscotchy, sweet and sticky.

Thank you Baking Mad for the sauce, it was a sticky solution to a sticky problem...

You can also find Baking Mad on Facebook.

The recipe for my Coffee Cake will be on the Leeds Book Club site in a few days.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Meal Planning Monday

Well I'm just about in a routine in the new flat this week, so a meal plan is a must.

Monday - chicken stir fry with leftovers from yesterday's roast chicken
Tuesday - flatmate's bolognese
Wednesday - Swillington Farm sausages and mash with Rich
Thursday - Spicy tomato pasta
Friday - Carvery with Rich - meeting the new inlaws - argh scary!
Saturday - Eating out as part of friend's hen do
Sunday - more than likely any carbs I can lay my hands on....

Last week I had spicy bean chilli, very similar to one I made a few weeks ago, but a cheaper version using one can of mixed beans rather than lots of different beans. I'll definitely make this again.

I also had some borscht, I made a big pot of it and did enough to feed me and Sarah, and also to put a couple of portions in the freezer.

On one of my evenings with Rich we had a big pizza, some cous cous and salad leaves, the pizza was so big we could both take some slices to work with us for a naughty midweek lunch.  My work colleagues were shocked....

Check out the other Meal Planning Monday posts from Mrs M's post and links to the others.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Friday night Chicken Curry

I had two chicken breasts to use up as part of our quest to empty the freezer ahead of emergency defrosting, and also a flatmate out at the pub who would need something tasty to soak up the booze....

As I'm still acquiring spices etc I was quite limited in what spices I had available for this....

2 chicken breasts, chopped up
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 can coconut milk
1tsp cayenne pepper
juice of half a lemon
tbsp madras curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
tbsp water
tiny squirt of tomato puree

I mixed the cayenne pepper, lemon juice, curry powder, ground coriander and water in a bowl and then added the chopped chicken pieces to it to marinate for an hour and half, giving the bowl a shake every so often.

After I'd given the chicken time to marinate I fried off the onions and garlic until the onions had some colour and were softened.  I poured in the marinated chicken, making sure any left over marinade went in the pan too and then cooked the chicken for about 10 minutes.

After the ten minutes was up I added the coconut milk, and seasoned with salt, and added a tiny squirt of tomato puree, then brought the curry to the boil and then left to simmer for a further 10 minutes.

I served with rice and some fresh coriander.

The curry was a perfect Friday night meal, especially with the wine I drank with it, and also while doing the cooking - I'm from the school of Keith Floyd cookery....

The only small revision I would make to this would be a tsp of Turmeric - I had to do without as I didn't have any, but the curry would definitely be improved with some.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Kirkstall Festival

Yesterday I went to Kirkstall Festival in Leeds, which isn't too far from my new home held at the impressive Kirkstall Abbey.

Having not been before I wasn't sure what to expect of it, but was pleasantly surprised.  Lots of activities for families to watch or participate in, rides for the kids (I'm disappointed we never made it on the waltzers), bands playing, stalls selling bits and pieces for various charities and local schools etc, the Marvellous Tea Dance Company putting on a tea dance, and selling Pimms, and of course a beer tent.   There were also lots of food vendors, ranging from the box standard burgers and hot dogs right through to vegetarian and then fish and chips with a twist.

I opted for a Mackerel Bap from local food heroes Fish&.  I was torn between that and the taster portion of fish and chips, but having heard so much about the Mackbap I couldn't resist trying one.

I've only had Mackerel once before, when I made an ill-fated attempt at using it for kedgeree. It was vile...  This on the other hand was lovely - crispy, tasty fish with a delicious lemon mayonnaise.  It restored my faith in mackerel....

After the grub we headed to the beer tent, I opted for a cider, Katie had a beer from Kirkstall Brewery.  Both went down well... We had a brief sit down by the river and people watch, and then headed to watch local band Hope and Social, who I'd heard lots about, but never seen before.

The band's enthusiasm was infectious, we all loved them and were nodding, foot tapping and bopping along to the tunes.  They're a bit happier than my usual taste in music, but I really enjoyed it.

I had a lovely afternoon, especially catching up with a few tweeters, @wandapops, @monkeyson, @CatNamedEaster, @Decknologist and of course my guide to Kirkstall from Hyde Park @Katie_Buffalo.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

New home, new kitchen

Due to moving house and being very busy I've neglected my blog lately.  I promise to do better in the future...

I'm all set up in my new home now, internet and telephone connected today.  I've cleaned and cleaned and cleaned and pulled muscles in places I didn't realise I had muscles....

My new kitchen is half the size of the one I used before, but we do have a separate utility room, which is housing some of my Le Creuset collection.  I've also got some herbs on a shelf in the window of our living room.

The cooker is as old as me from the look of it - and has electric hobs...dislike... My flatmate spent a good few hours getting the cooker sparkling clean yesterday.

I've already cooked one proper meal (I don't regard throwing a pizza in the oven and rustling up some salad leaves as cooking).  Yesterday I whipped up some smoked cod fishcakes with roasted vegetables.  I was too tired and hungry to do any photos but they were very nice, and being able to cook made me feel a little bit more at home.

I don't think it's quite sunk in that this is where I live yet.  I suppose it will after I've done my commuting to and from work tomorrow...  Internet research tells me it'll be an hour each way, which is only half an hour longer than it took me previously.  A two hour commute every day isn't nice but I will get used to it.

I haven't got much in my cupboards yet, not even any flour to do a spot of baking.  I can't face another trawl to the supermarket and carrying of heavy bags until at least the weekend.  Tonight I will be having an ENORMOUS jacket potato and cottage cheese for tea, followed by strawberries.

My fruit and veg has all been bought from Leeds Market so far, as was the smoked cod yesterday - £1.60 for a large piece - bargain.  I'm hoping that using the market for my fresh fruit and veg will work out cheaper.  I'll definitely use it for fish.  The only thing I'm not always sure about is meat - I'm not always comfortable having to ask if any of the meat is free range, it makes me feel like a food snob (exactly what I am) and I worry that I'll look stuck up.  So I only tend to buy mince from the market, I've never bought any chicken in there.  I also once got really ripped off by one of those value meat bags, which I'll never buy again.  Most of the meat was so fatty and awful it was unusable.  Perhaps I shouldn't be so worried about what people think of me and just ask about the meat - I can't be the only one doing that?

Friday, 1 July 2011

Clandestine Cake Club

Monday was the latest meet of Clandestine Cake Club.  I managed to go along this time, and was especially looking forward to this one being a bit different.  Cake Club meets Craft Club.

I came to club bearing a Golden Syrup and Ginger Cake, my second cake for club, the first one not doing well in the heat...

A few more cakes arrived after I took my pictures, but I was too busy digging in to the cake to take pictures. Crafting wise I made a flower decoration, which could have been attached to a hairclip, or used as a buttonhole, and I did some sewing!  (I have it in my craft box to complete after I move!).  There were lots of other crafts being done and everyone was really friendly and willing to show you what they were doing and let you have a go too, it was a really nice atmosphere.  I hope there's a cake/craft collaboration again in the future.

Golden Syrup and Ginger Cake
225g Self Raising Flour
110g caster sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarb
1 egg
200 ml skimmed milk
55g butter
110g golden syrup

Put your oven on to 150 and grease and line your loaf tin.

Sieve the flour, ground ginger, bicarb into a large bowl.

Melt the butter into the golden syrup on the hob over a low heat.  Remove from the heat when the butter is melted and set aside.

Beat the egg into the milk and pour this over the bowl of dry ingredients.

Add the butter/syrup mixture to the bowl and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into your loaf tin and cook for 1 hour.

When the cake was slightly cooled I drizzled over more golden syrup and used the stickiness to stick my sugar pearls and silver balls to the top.  I used these as a nod to the theme being cake meets craft - the only crafting I'm good at is jewellery making, and they reminded me of the beads I use for that.

I used skimmed milk because that's what I had to hand - you could use semi or whole if preferred.