a perfect spring pasta supper: spaghetti with leeks, parma ham and hazelnuts

spaghetti with leeks, parma ham and hazelnuts
Have you ever seen a recipe on a website, or while flicking through a cookbook or magazine and thought, I must cook that? And have you, despite modern technology, mobile internet, digital cameras and other technical fol-de-rols, failed to make a note of it, instead relying on your memory and an ability to substitute those ingredients you haven't got or that are hard to come by? So what happened? Did it turn out as expected, or like me, did it turn out that you had substituted every ingredient such that the recipe was unrecognisable and sadly just not terribly exciting.

fragrant and soothing: thai coconut chicken soup (tom kha gai)

Thai coconut chicken soup (tom kha gai)
Tom kha gai is a rich coconut broth infused with galangal (kha), lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, topped with chicken (gai) and seasoned with fish sauce, tart with lime juice.

what's in season: april

scented clematis armandii - April 2015
April Rain Son
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.
 

Langston Hughes, 1902-1967

Like Langston Hughes, I love the rain too. Of course, I am equally partial to a bit of sunshine too. Which is probably a good thing, since we seem to get both types of weather on the same day in England during April.


indian spiced potato cutlets (aloo tikki)

 indian spiced potato cutlets (aloo tikki)
I am pretty sure that I love snacking more than anything else. (My shame, sorry!)  Most of my favourite snacks are probably Asian. However, my mother used to make these potato cutlets or patties as a way of using up leftover mash and veggies. I suspect she learned some of this when we were living in the Far East. In those days, it never occured to me that they were snacks. It is no wonder that they are a few of my favourite things.

ash-e-reshteh - persian bean and noodle soup

 ash-e-reshteh - persian bean and noodle soup
It is Nowruz, a time to celebrate the Persian New Year and the first day of spring. Ashe-reshteh is a traditional celebratory soup, which is both comforting on a cold blustery day and packed full of fresh green herbs to feel like spring.

vietnamese lemongrass and chilli tofu

 Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli tofu (uncooked)
Think you don't like tofu? I beg you to reconsider. This recipe for Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli tofu could change your mind and have you begging for more.

sambal belacan

sambal belacan
I have mentioned before my love of sambal, a spicy chilli condiment hailing from Malaysia and Indonesia. In the past year or so I seem to have got into the habit of making up large quantities of this, to stick in the fridge, on the basis that firstly, you just never know when you might need it and secondly, that it seems to go with everything. Well everything in my household that is, from curries, noodles and stir-fried vegetables, from burgers and sausages, to salad dressings, scrambled eggs and cheese toasties. Admittedly I would draw the line with say ice cream or cupcakes, but then that's the beauty of lines ... sometimes you just can't help wanting to cross one.

indonesian seafood sate lilit

Indonesian seafood sate lilit
A fabulous sate (satay) from Bali which can be made with a variety of different meats; I love the minced seafood version. What makes it different from the myriad of other sates from Indonesia (and satays from Malaysia) is that firstly it contains coconut and secondly it is not typically served with a peanut sauce.

a fabulous tangy malaysian curry: kari kapitan

kari kapitan
Kari Kapitan (or Captain's Curry or Ayam Kapitan) is a classic Nyonya recipe from Penang in Malaysia and is the perfect combination of Malay and Chinese influences; every family has its own version, passed down across the generations and often served at big family gatherings and celebrations.

what's in season: march

spring garlic and the green shoots of recovery!
Helloooooo. I'm back!

Which might be a strange thing to say if you hadn't noticed I'd gone. Well, I won't bore you with my tales of woe. I had  bit of an accident and I've been recovering. Frankly, I hadn't been doing much cooking either, but now I want to get back in the food saddle and start blogging again. Yippeeaiyay!

christmas mincemeat: and a secret ingredient . . .

Christmas mincemeat 2014
I am curious about how this year's batch of mincemeat will turn out as I've added a "secret" ingredient. Every time you throw a load of mincemeat ingredients into a large bowl, you are stirring up a load of history. It is traditional to have made your Christmas mincemeat on the last Sunday in November, "Stir-Up Sunday" - which gives it a good two weeks to mature before using. While I may be late in posting, I am actually feeling quite smug, as I managed to make mine in early November. That really is a first for me. But this new addition, which is actually a very "old" ingredient has me intrigued . . .

middle eastern arayes (meat stuffed pitta sandwich)

 middle eastern arayes (meat stuffed pitta sandwich)
A cooked pitta bread sandwich popular around the Middle East, these arayes are very easy to make, stuffed with aromatic, spiced minced lamb or kid goat meat. I was recently lucky enough to work with the guys from Gourmet Goat, who gave me some minced kid goat to play with. Not only did I have a lot of fun experimenting . . . dear god, it was utterly delicious!

I served mine with some Turkish pickled chillies (you know the sort you get in a kebab shop), and some coriander chutney. Admittedly that isn't traditional, but it's what I had in the fridge and it worked really well. Hummus would be perfect too.

Serves 5-6
Skill level: Easy

ingredients:
500g minced lamb or kid goat
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
3 tsp Lebanese 7-spice mix (or 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground allspice and half tsp ground black pepper)
half tsp salt
a small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
10-12 baby plum tomatoes, finely chopped
cayenne pepper
sumac or fresh lemon juice
5-6 pitta breads
olive oil

directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. 
  2. Finely chop the onion and combine with minced lamb, together with the ground spices, salt and chopped parsley. Make sure the mix is well-combined.
  3. Cut each pitta, either in half or along the long side. Using a very sharp knife, carefully slice the bread part of the way through to "open" it up. This is easier if the pitta bread has been warmed in the oven first as it will puff up a little.
  4. Spread each piece of pitta with about 2 tablespoons of mixture. Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper and sumac (or lemon juice) and top with a little chopped tomato. Fold back the top part of the pitta and lightly press down.
  5. Lightly brush both sides of the pitta bread with olive oil.
  6. Place the stuffed pitta (arayes) on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, before turning over and cooking for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. I like to serve mine with pickled green chillies and olives, but some herbed plain yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice is pretty good too.